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Leader of the Christo-Fascist Zombie Brigade, Robertson, Says God is Saying There's a Cloud of "God's Wrath" Over America

Sunday, January 10, 2010

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The Other Plot to Wreck America

By Frank Rich
The New York Times

THERE may not be a person in America without a strong opinion about what coulda, shoulda been done to prevent the underwear bomber from boarding that Christmas flight to Detroit. In the years since 9/11, we’ve all become counterterrorists. But in the 16 months since that other calamity in downtown New York — the crash precipitated by the 9/15 failure of Lehman Brothers — most of us are still ignorant about what Warren Buffett called the “financial weapons of mass destruction” that wrecked our economy. Fluent as we are in Al Qaeda and body scanners, when it comes to synthetic C.D.O.’s and credit-default swaps, not so much.

What we don’t know will hurt us, and quite possibly on a more devastating scale than any Qaeda attack. Americans must be told the full story of how Wall Street gamed and inflated the housing bubble, made out like bandits, and then left millions of households in ruin. Without that reckoning, there will be no public clamor for serious reform of a financial system that was as cunningly breached as airline security at the Amsterdam airport. And without reform, another massive attack on our economic security is guaranteed. Now that it can count on government bailouts, Wall Street has more incentive than ever to pump up its risks — secure that it can keep the bonanzas while we get stuck with the losses.

The window for change is rapidly closing. Health care, Afghanistan and the terrorism panic may have exhausted Washington’s already limited capacity for heavy lifting, especially in an election year. The White House’s chief economic hand, Lawrence Summers, has repeatedly announced that “everybody agrees that the recession is over” — which is technically true from an economist’s perspective and certainly true on Wall Street, where bailed-out banks are reporting record profits and bonuses. The contrary voices of Americans who have lost pay, jobs, homes and savings are either patronized or drowned out entirely by a political system where the banking lobby rules in both parties and the revolving door between finance and government never stops spinning.

It’s against this backdrop that this week’s long-awaited initial public hearings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission are so critical. This is the bipartisan panel that Congress mandated last spring to investigate the still murky story of what happened in the meltdown. Phil Angelides, the former California treasurer who is the inquiry’s chairman, told me in interviews late last year that he has been busy deploying a tough investigative staff and will not allow the proceedings to devolve into a typical blue-ribbon Beltway exercise in toothless bloviation....(Remainder.)

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Bubble and the Banks

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Health care reform is almost (knock on wood) a done deal. Next up: fixing the financial system. I’ll be writing a lot about financial reform in the weeks ahead. Let me begin by asking a basic question: What should reformers try to accomplish?

A lot of the public debate has been about protecting borrowers. Indeed, a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to help stop deceptive lending practices is a very good idea. And better consumer protection might have limited the overall size of the housing bubble.

But consumer protection, while it might have blocked many subprime loans, wouldn’t have prevented the sharply rising rate of delinquency on conventional, plain-vanilla mortgages. And it certainly wouldn’t have prevented the monstrous boom and bust in commercial real estate.

Reform, in other words, probably can’t prevent either bad loans or bubbles. But it can do a great deal to ensure that bubbles don’t collapse the financial system when they burst.

Bear in mind that the implosion of the 1990s stock bubble, while nasty — households took a $5 trillion hit — didn’t provoke a financial crisis. So what was different about the housing bubble that followed?

The short answer is that while the stock bubble created a lot of risk, that risk was fairly widely diffused across the economy. By contrast, the risks created by the housing bubble were strongly concentrated in the financial sector. As a result, the collapse of the housing bubble threatened to bring down the nation’s banks. And banks play a special role in the economy. If they can’t function, the wheels of commerce as a whole grind to a halt.

Why did the bankers take on so much risk? Because it was in their self-interest to do so. By increasing leverage — that is, by making risky investments with borrowed money — banks could increase their short-term profits. And these short-term profits, in turn, were reflected in immense personal bonuses. If the concentration of risk in the banking sector increased the danger of a systemwide financial crisis, well, that wasn’t the bankers’ problem....(Remainder.)

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Sen Ron Wyden Demands IP Treaty Details

By David Kravets
Wired.com

That a U.S. senator must ask a federal agency to share information regarding a proposed and “classified” international anti-counterfeiting accord the government has already disclosed is alarming. Especially when the info has been given to Hollywood, the recording industry, software makers and even some digital-rights groups.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is demanding that U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk confirm leaks surrounding the unfinished Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, being negotiated largely between the European Union and United States. Among other things, Wyden wants to know if the deal creates international guidelines that mean consumers lose internet access if they are believed to be digital copyright scofflaws.

He also wants to know whether internet service providers could lose “safe harbor” protection for failing to police their customers’ digital content for copyright infringement violations. Such a move would heap copyright liability onto the ISP, and fundamentally alter U.S. copyright law.

What “legal incentives,” Wyden asked Kirk in a Wednesday letter, would “encourage Online Service Providers (OSPs) to cooperate with copyright owners to deter the unauthorized storage or transmission of copyrighted materials.”...(Remainder.)

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Educate to Innovate: High School Robotics

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President Obama Weekly Address: Health Reforms Benefits in 2010

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Rachel Maddow: Rudy Giuliani, a Noun, a Verb, and No Clue

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Same-Sex Marriage Is an American Value

By Michael A. Jones
Change.com

Same-sex marriage makes anti-gay folks cringe. It sends conservative churches into hysteria. It even makes some Democrats squirm. But the principles behind same-sex marriage -- that relationships are good, and that people deserve to be treated equally -- are as American as apple pie, baseball, and jazz music.

So says one member of the legal team bringing the first federal court case challenging bans on gay marriage. That dude is Ted Olson, and he's a conservative heavyweight. In addition to being a former U.S. Solicitor General under President George W. Bush, he was the man in charge of GWB's legal team during the infamous Bush v. Gore litigation. A federalist through and through, Olson thinks that the anti-gay marriage crowd needs to get with the program. Same-sex marriage doesn't threaten anything. In fact, it embodies the best of American values.

Olson writes for Newsweek that constitutionally speaking, there's no good case to be made for outlawing gay marriage. Blasting gay marriage is just a knee-jerk reaction that might make for good religious tent revival talk, but bad news for the democratic principles that lie at the heart of America's founding documents.

"Many of my fellow conservatives have an almost knee-jerk hostility toward gay marriage. This does not make sense, because same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize," Olson writes. What are those values?

That loving relationships form the backbone of America. They are the foundation of families, and the cornerstone of neighborhoods.

For Olson, same-sex marriage isn't a liberal issue. It's a conservative issue -- at least in the sense that it promotes stability and "thinking beyond one's own needs." Those are bedrock soundbytes when it comes to the family values crowd. So why can't they apply them to the issue of gay marriage?...(Remainder.)

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President Obama Continues to Disregard Laws He Finds Objectionable, Unless the Laws Discriminate Against Gays - Then He's Fine With Them

By John Aravosis
AMERICAblog

Today's NYT notes that not only does the Obama administration continue to disregard laws that it finds objectionable, but it's doing so in a manner that's even less transparent than what George Bush did, and for which Bush was routinely castigated by, among others, candidate Obama.

At the same time, the Obama administration, and its apologists in Congress (Frank, Baldwin, Polis) and the Democratic Party (Tobias), have the temerity to lecture the gay community on how the President simply couldn't put a temporary stop to the two-a-day discharges of gay service members, couldn't provide federal employees with health benefits for their family members, couldn't permit the foreign partners of gay Americans to enter and stay in the United States, couldn't even argue against DOMA and DADT in a court of law - all because we simply must respect the rule of law, to hell with how 'wrong' we think that law is.

Now we know that this was a lie. From the NYT:
[T]he approach will make it harder to keep track of which statutes the White House believes it can disregard....

[T]he administration will consider itself free to disregard new laws it considers unconstitutional....

Mr. Obama, whose advisers sided with the latter camp, has characterized Mr. Bush’s use of signing statements as an abuse and pledged greater restraint.

Mr. Obama nevertheless challenged dozens of provisions early last year. The last time was in June, when his claim that he could disobey a new law requiring officials to push the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to adopt certain policies angered Congress....

Last year the Obama administration disregarded a statute that forbid State Department officials to attend United Nations meetings led by nations deemed state sponsors of terrorism. Congress has included that restriction in several recent bills.

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