Wednesday, September 30, 2009

US secretly tried to make deal with Goldman Sachs in wake of financial crisis

Warren Buffett balked at conflict of interest

BREAKING 10:08 AM ET:Vanity Fair will report in the next issue of the magazine that US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson -- a former head of the investment bank Goldman Sachs -- tried to orchestrate secretive deals in the midst of the financial crisis but got blowback from prominent investor Warren Buffett. The following press release was obtained by Raw Story; the magazine appears today on newsstands in New York and Los Angeles.

Economists for an Imaginary World

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"The worldly philosophers" was economist Robert Heilbroner's term for such great economic thinkers as Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter. Today's free-market economists, by contrast, aren't merely not philosophers. They're not even worldly.

Has any group of professionals ever been so spectacularly wrong? Pre-Copernican astronomers and cosmologists, I suppose, and for the same reason, really: They had an entire, internally consistent, theoretically rich system that described the universe. They were wrong -- the sun and other celestial bodies save the moon didn't actually revolve around the Earth, as they insisted -- but no matter. It was a thing of beauty, their cosmic order. A vast faith was sustained in part by their pseudo-science, a faith from which such free thinkers as Galileo deviated at their own risk.

Thomas Frank: Obama and the K Street Set

Whatever happened to 'change'?

By Thomas Frank

There is something uniquely depressing about the fact that the National Portrait Gallery's version of the Barack Obama "Hope" poster previously belonged to a pair of lobbyists. Depressing because Mr. Obama's Washington was not supposed to be the lobbyists' Washington, the place we learned to despise during the last administration.

But our anger diminished while K Street kept on going. Now the Washington Post, that great barometer of the capital's consensus, has taken on what can only be described as a worshipful attitude toward the lobbyist set. And as its journalistic leader ushers in a new era, the attitude of the capital changes: Let us give thanks that our lobbyists are prosperous.

Why Are We Lying to Ourselves About Our Catastrophic Economic Meltdown?

By Arun Gupta, AlterNet
Posted on September 29, 2009, Printed on September 30, 2009

Over the last year, the world has received a crash course in real-world capitalism as the follies of Wall Street nearly torpedoed the global economy, which had to be rescued by a trillion-dollar government handout.

Economics, the study of systems of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services, touches virtually facet of our lives from work, recreation and home life to entertainment, culture and social relations.

Off with their blinkered heads

By Julian Delasantellis

The Quaker adage to "speak truth to power" can frequently seem easier in theory than in practice. If you doubt that, ask Sir Thomas Moore. For most of his life he was King Henry VIII's teacher and guide to the disciplines we now call the enlightenment, but after Sir Thomas refused to go along with Henry's creation of the Church of England in order that the monarch could legally marry Anne Boleyn, it was off with Tommy's head, on July 6, 1535.

But that was 475 years ago, before the execution of Charles I for treason in 1649, before the Glorious Revolution of 1688 that made England forevermore a parliamentary democracy. Surely, in this enlightened time, a courtier can offer a true and heartfelt opinion, within the bounds of good taste and propriety, and not have to worry about those hard to remove bloodstains from his shirtcollar.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Newsmax columnist: Military coup "to resolve the 'Obama problem' " is not "unrealistic"

September 29, 2009 5:57 pm ET by Terry Krepel

From John L. Perry's September 29 Newsmax column:

There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America's military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the "Obama problem." Don't dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn't the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn't mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it.


Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a "family intervention," with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

Are Insurers Exploiting Health Care Debate To Mislead Seniors And Drum Up Business?

A mailer being sent by health insurers to seniors, and obtained by TPMmuckraker, seeks to exploit fears about Congressional changes to the health care system to sell supplemental insurance. And it contains false claims about "new" reductions in Medicare benefits imposed by Congress.

Yesterday, 66-year-old Donna Price of Battle Ground, Washington, received this official-looking mailer in a pull-apart envelope from direct mail firm Target Leads (aka TL Service Center).

An Inside Look at How Goldman Sachs Lobbies the Senate

The SEC is holding a public round table Tuesday to explore several issues around securities lending, which has expanded into a big moneymaker for Wall Street firms and pension funds. Regulation hasn’t kept pace, some industry participants contend.Securities lending is central to the practice of short selling, in which investors borrow shares and sell them in a bet that the price will decline. Short sellers later hope to buy back the shares at a lower price and return them to the securities lender, booking a profit. Lending and borrowing also help market makers keep stock trading functioning smoothly.

via SEC Weighs New Rules for Lending of Securities –

Later on this week I have a story coming out in Rolling Stone that looks at the history of the Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers collapses. The story ends up being more about naked short-selling and the role it played in those incidents than I had originally planned — when I first started looking at the story months ago, I had some other issues in mind, but it turns out that there’s no way to talk about Bear and Lehman without going into the weeds of naked short-selling, and to do that takes up a lot of magazine inches. So among other things, this issue takes up a lot of space in the upcoming story.

Democrats help Republicans kill public healthcare option in committee

WASHINGTON – Liberal Democrats failed Tuesday to inject a government-run insurance option into sweeping health care legislation taking shape in the Senate Finance Committee, despite widespread accusations that private insurers routinely deny coverage in pursuit of higher profits.

The 15-8 rejection marked a victory for Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the committee chairman, who is hoping to push his middle-of-the-road measure through the panel by week’s end. It also kept alive the possibility that at least one Republican may yet swing behind the bill, a key goal of both Baucus and the White House.

Pollution Travels the Globe, Study Confirms

By LiveScience Staff

posted: 29 September 2009 03:23 pm ET

Smog and air pollution from factories can have a negative impact on the air in faraway regions of the world, a new report finds.

In the coming decades, man-made emissions are expected to rise in East Asia and a growing number of countries may feel the effects even as industrialized countries work to tighten environmental protection standards, according to the National Research Council report.

Researchers analyzed meteorological and chemical data and discovered that some pollutant plumes in the United States can be traced back to Asia. One study found that a polluted air mass took about eight days to travel from East Asia to central Oregon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Public Option Is Nothing To Fear

Republican opponents of a public option for US healthcare are defending the insurance industry, not conservative principles

by Dean Baker

Back in the good old days, the conservatives were the folks who favoured individual choice. Not any more. In the current healthcare debate, the top priority of the so-called conservatives is to deny people choice. They want to make sure that Americans do not have the option to buy into a Medicare-type public healthcare plan. These alleged conservatives have come up with a variety of arguments against allowing people the Medicare-type option, but the only one that makes sense is that they work for the insurance industry.

The argument against a Medicare-type option always begins with the assertion that the government can't do anything. This is a peculiar claim given the popularity of Medicare, but it also makes no sense as an argument against giving people a buy-in option. Suppose the government gives people the option to buy into its really bad plan. Everyone would just stick with the good private plans we have now, right?

The Case of the Missing Torture Documents

Did ten classified Bush-era documents go missing from a super-secure government facility?

Mon September 28, 2009 4:00 AM PST

Classified Bush-era documents on the administration's controversial interrogation and rendition programs are missing, according to a recent court filing submitted by the Obama Justice Department. But a Justice Department spokeswoman says the documents may not actually be gone; they may never have existed—even though Bush administration records say that they do. Welcome to the Case of the Disappearing Torture Documents. This is more than just a bureaucratic whodunit. There's a possibility that government officials purposely destroyed records pertaining to detainee abuse.

Right-Wing Conference Tells Activists To Get Their Guns Ready For ‘Bloody Battle’ With Obama The Nazi

At the How To Take Back America Conference last weekend, conservative speaker Kitty Werthmann led a workshop called “How to recognize living under Nazis & Communists.” Announcing the panel in a column preceding the conference, talk show host Janet Porter gushed how Werthmann’s description of Austria in the 1930s is a “mirror to America” today — noting “They had Joseph Goebbels; we have Mark Lloyd, the diversity czar.” The room was packed over capacity to hear Werthmann, who grew up as a Christian in Austria and serves as Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum South Dakota President.

Fed to work with lawmakers on naming borrowers

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve is willing to work with U.S. lawmakers on ways to release names of companies that borrow from the central bank after a time lag so the disclosures do not disrupt markets, a Fed official said.

Scott Alvarez, the Fed's general counsel, told the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Friday that the idea was "something that we're giving serious consideration with and we'd be happy to work with you on."

Paul Krugman: Cassandras of Climate

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

What’s driving this new pessimism? Partly it’s the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it’s growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.

In failed bid to salvage O'Keefe's credibility, Wallace attacks Media Matters

September 27, 2009 3:01 pm ET — 78 Comments

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace helped videographer James O'Keefe defend his dwindling credibility by advancing several of O'Keefe's claims without noting that they are contradicted by readily available evidence. Wallace suggested that O'Keefe "denies reports" by Media Matters that O'Keefe, in Wallace's words, "got any money from conservative backers" -- without noting that the evidence Media Matters highlighted consisted of public statements by conservatives that they had funded O'Keefe in the past or planned to raise money for O'Keefe and his partner, Hannah Giles, in the future.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Can the Right Kinds of Play Teach Self-Control?

“Come on, Abigail.”

“No, wait!” Abigail said. “I’m not finished!” She was bent low over her clipboard, a stubby pencil in her hand, slowly scratching out the letters in the book’s title, one by one: T H E. . . .

“Abigail, we’re waiting!” Jocelyn said, staring forcefully at her classmate. Henry, sitting next to her, sighed dramatically.

“I’m going as fast as I can!” Abigail said, looking harried. She brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes and plowed ahead: V E R Y. . . .

The three children were seated at their classroom’s listening center, where their assignment was to leaf through a book together while listening on headphones to a CD with the voice of a teacher reading it aloud. The book in question was lying on the table in front of Jocelyn, and every few seconds, Abigail would jump up and lean over Jocelyn to peer at the cover, checking what came next in the title. Then she would dive back to the paper on her clipboard, and her pencil would carefully shape yet another letter: H U N. . . .

Morals Class Is Starting; Please Pass the Popcorn

Published: September 25, 2009

Many of the 14,000 or so students who have taken Harvard’s wildly popular course “Justice” with Michael J. Sandel over the years have heard the rumor that their professor has a television avatar: Montgomery Burns, Homer Simpson’s soulless ghoul of a boss at Springfield’s nuclear power plant.

The joke, of course, is that Mr. Sandel — who at one time or another taught several future writers for Fox’s “Simpsons” and shares a receding hairline with the evil-minded cartoon character — is the anti-Burns, a moral philosopher who has devoted his life to pondering what is the right thing to do.

Who's Paying to Kill Health Reform?

In watching town hall after town hall, many of us have looked at attendees frantically spouting nonsense about "death panels" and comparing the public health insurance option to Hitler and wondered, "where do they get these people?"

The Mystique of 'Free Market' Obama

Editor’s Note: There is a debate forming between those on the Left (like Michael Moore) who believe that it’s a mistake to think that President Obama can implement change while progressives mostly sit on their hands and a more critical faction that wants to demand that Obama do what he promised in Campaign 2008.

Moore’s side believes that Obama (an African-American male raised by a single mother) wants to do the right thing for average Americans but faces enormous obstacles from an entrenched political/media structure anchored in the econmic status quo. This structure possesses a potent propaganda machine that can stir up lots of mischief, while the progressives have largely ignored the need for a countervailing media structure.

The Moore side takes the view that it is unrealistic to expect that Obama can defeat this legion of powerful adversaries as a lone ranger. Appearing on television (to promote his new documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story”), Moore wondered what happened to the millions of Americans who voted for Obama but have since retreated into the shadows.

In this guest essay, media critic Jeff Cohen takes the opposing view, suggesting that progressives should get much tougher on Obama:

When he compromises, it’s not Obama’s fault – it’s the opposition. Retreat is never a sell-out but a shrewd tactic, part of some secret long-range strategy for triumphant reform.

He’s been in the White House eight months. It’s time for activists take a harder look at Obama. And a more assertive posture toward him.

U.S. Job Seekers Exceed Openings by Record Ratio

Despite signs that the economy has resumed growing, unemployed Americans now confront a job market that is bleaker than ever in the current recession, and employment prospects are still getting worse.

Job seekers now outnumber openings six to one, the worst ratio since the government began tracking open positions in 2000. According to the Labor Department’s latest numbers, from July, only 2.4 million full-time permanent jobs were open, with 14.5 million people officially unemployed.

And even though the pace of layoffs is slowing, many companies remain anxious about growth prospects in the months ahead, making them reluctant to add to their payrolls.

As Subprime Lending Crisis Unfolded, Watchdog Fed Didn't Bother Barking

By Binyamin Appelbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 27, 2009

The visits had a ritual quality. Three times a year, a coalition of Chicago community groups met with the Federal Reserve and other banking regulators to warn about the growing prevalence of abusive mortgage lending.

They began to present research in 1999 showing that large banking companies including Wells Fargo and Citigroup had created subprime businesses wholly focused on making loans at high interest rates, largely in the black and Hispanic neighborhoods to the south and west of downtown Chicago.

The groups pleaded for regulators to act.

Frank Rich: Obama at the Precipice

THE most intriguing, and possibly most fateful, news of last week could not be found in the health care horse-trading in Congress, or in the international zoo at the United Nations, or in the Iran slapdown in Pittsburgh. It was an item tucked into a blog at George Stephanopoulos reported that the new “must-read book” for President Obama’s war team is “Lessons in Disaster” by Gordon M. Goldstein, a foreign-policy scholar who had collaborated with McGeorge Bundy, the Kennedy-Johnson national security adviser, on writing a Robert McNamara-style mea culpa about his role as an architect of the Vietnam War.

Bundy left his memoir unfinished at his death in 1996. Goldstein’s book, drawn from Bundy’s ruminations and deep new research, is full of fresh information on how the best and the brightest led America into the fiasco. “Lessons in Disaster” caused only a modest stir when published in November, but The Times Book Review cheered it as “an extraordinary cautionary tale for all Americans.” The reviewer was, of all people, the diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whose career began in Vietnam and who would later be charged with the Afghanistan-Pakistan crisis by the new Obama administration.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Meet the Hazzards

By Nomi Prins & Christopher Hayes

September 23, 2009

As we mark the end of the first year of the financial bailout, the public seems to regard the government's actions with a toxic combination of rage and confusion. People are pissed off but too bewildered to know what to do with that anger. The confusion isn't an accident. The government hasn't exactly been forthcoming about how it's made buckets of money available to the banking sector. When it does disclose some information--such as in July's SIGTARP report from the Treasury or the Federal Reserve's weekly balance sheet--it's in the form of intimidating descriptions, accounting mumbo jumbo and technical reports that do little to illuminate just what the hell is going on.

What's worse, banks and the establishment press have portrayed TARP as the sum of the banking industry's federal subsidies. An August 30 New York Times article, "As Banks Repay Bailout Money, U.S. Sees a Profit," gives the impression that taxpayers should be happy to have made $4 billion on the deal, as if our checks were in the mail. But when the government became Wall Street's bank, it wasn't just $700 billion of TARP money that flew north to Wall Street. TARP was but a small fraction (roughly 4 percent) of the full $17.5 trillion bailout and subsidization of the financial sector. [See image.] The details of this total bailout are complicated, but the basic mechanisms aren't beyond the average citizen's grasp. We're going to walk you through it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Roots of Right-Wing Populist Rage -- Reds to Beds

By Chip Berlet
Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:40:56 PM EST

Today Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa said Gay Marriage was part of socialist plan. Why does this make sense in a Christian Right worldview?

How did the post WWII Christian Right shift from a focus on the military defeat of godless global communism to a policing of our bedrooms—straight or gay? What happened? Why care? How do they justify vilifying President Obama?

Here is the report that broke the story: Congressman: Same sex marriage part of push for socialism By Michael O'Brien, The Hill.

Grassroots activists in the Christian Right are part of the tea bag & town hall right-wing populist revolt. This post will expose the roots of some of the right-wing slogans and poster signs that seem so far-fetched.

Revealed: the hidden army in UK prisons

More veterans in justice system than soldiers serving in Afghanistan - study

  •, Thursday 24 September 2009 20.52 BST

The number of former servicemen in prison or on probation or parole is now more than double the total British deployment in Afghanistan, according to a new survey. An estimated 20,000 veterans are in the criminal justice system, with 8,500 behind bars, almost one in 10 of the prison population.

The proportion of those in prison who are veterans has risen by more than 30% in the last five years.

The study by the probation officers' union Napo uncovers the hidden cost of recent conflicts. The snapshot survey of 90 probation case histories of convicted veterans shows a majority with chronic alcohol or drug problems, and nearly half suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as a result of their wartime experiences on active service.

Supreme Prejudice: Scalia Says Government Can Promote Religion

By Rob Boston
Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:17:42 AM EST

The U.S. Supreme Court is gearing up to come back into session Oct. 5, and just in time for that, Justice Antonin Scalia has decided to pop off in the media about how much he hates church-state separation - again!

In what is billed as an "Historic Exclusive Interview" in the Brooklyn-based Orthodox Jewish newspaper Hamodia, Scalia attacks one of the core concepts of church-state separation - the idea that government must remain neutral between religion and non-religion.

To Scalia, this is all stuff and nonsense. He believes the government should be able to prefer religion. Government neutrality on religious matters, he says, "is not an accurate representation of what Americans believe."

Paul Krugman: It’s Easy Being Green

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?

If so, you’ll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change.

The House has already passed a fairly strong cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, which if it becomes law would eventually lead to sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But on climate change, as on health care, the sticking point will be the Senate. And the usual suspects are doing their best to prevent action.

Some of them still claim that there’s no such thing as global warming, or at least that the evidence isn’t yet conclusive. But that argument is wearing thin — as thin as the Arctic pack ice, which has now diminished to the point that shipping companies are opening up new routes through the formerly impassable seas north of Siberia.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Critics: TARP Has Failed to Halt Foreclosures or Job Losses

Obama will bypass Congress to detain suspects indefinitely

By John Byrne

President Barack Obama has quietly decided to bypass Congress and allow the indefinite detention of terrorist suspects without charges.

The move, which was controversial when the idea was first floated in The Washington Post in May, has sparked serious concern among civil liberties advocates. Such a decision allows the president to unilaterally hold "combatants" without habeas corpus -- a legal term literally meaning "you shall have the body" -- which forces prosecutors to charge a suspect with a crime to justify the suspect's detention.

Glenn Greenwald: Glenn Beck and left-right confusion

Last night during his CBS interview with Katie Couric, Glenn Beck said he may have voted for Hillary Clinton and that "John McCain would have been worse for the country than Barack Obama." This comment predictably spawned confusion among some liberals and anger among some conservatives. But even prior to that, there had been a palpable increase in the right-wing attacks on Beck -- some motivated by professional competition for the incredibly lucrative industry of right-wing opinion-making, some due to understandable discomfort with his crazed and irresponsible rhetoric, but much of it the result of Beck's growing deviation from GOP (and neoconservative) dogma. Increasingly, there is great difficulty in understanding not only Beck's political orientation but, even more so, the movement that has sprung up around him. Within that confusion lies several important observations about our political culture, particularly the inability to process anything that does not fall comfortably into the conventional "left-right" dichotomy through which everything is understood.

Anti-Choice Zealots' Latest Bizarre Ploy

By Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check
Posted on September 24, 2009, Printed on September 24, 2009

For those of us who hoped that the attempts to sneak in bans on abortion, hormonal contraception, and IVF under proposed laws called “personhood amendments” would disappear after the first attempt at passing such a law on a ballot initiative was thoroughly trumped at the polls in Colorado, well, I hate to tell you, but the anti-choice extremists aren’t going away. The next new battlefield is Florida, where anti-choicers hope they can use the invisibility of most female reproductive processes to convince the voters that there’s little people lurking inside your neighbor’s ladyparts, even if there’s no biological evidence to support that proposition, and that this law will save the wee mythical people.

10 Ways the U.S. Military Has Shoved Christianity Down Muslims' Throats

By Chris Rodda, Talk To Action
Posted on September 23, 2009, Printed on September 24, 2009

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was founded in 2005 by Mikey Weinstein, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and Reagan administration White House counsel, after the harassment his own sons faced as Jewish cadets at the academy led him to discover that the fundamentalist Christian takeover of the Air Force Academy was far from an isolated problem.

It was a militarywide issue that needed to be confronted head on. But it quickly became apparent that MRFF's initial mission of protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform was only addressing part of the problem.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Al Franken Reads the 4th Amendment to Justice Department Official

By Daphne Eviatar 9/23/09 12:16 PM

Just in case he wasn’t familiar with it, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) decided to read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution to David Kris, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, who was testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee today to urge reauthorization of expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act.

Franken, who opened by acknowledging that unlike most of his colleagues in the Senate, he’s not a lawyer, but according to his research “most Americans aren’t lawyers” either, said he’d also done research on the Patriot Act and in particular, the “roving wiretap” provision that allows the FBI to get a warrant to wiretap a an unnamed target and his or her various and changing cell phones, computers and other communication devices.

Patriot Act Renewal Debate Kicks Off Over Party Lines

Democrats Not Falling In Line Behind White House on Keeping Controversial Amendments

By Daphne Eviatar 9/23/09 6:00 AM

Eight years after it was passed, the USA Patriot Act remains among the most controversial pieces of counterterrorism legislation in the so-called “war on terror.” On December 31 of this year, some of its more controversial provisions will expire, forcing Congress to revisit it and decide whether to reauthorize the expiring provisions, amend them, or re-work the entire law.

The sections set to expire give the government the authority to access business records, operate roving wiretaps and conduct surveillance on “lone wolf” suspects with no known link to foreign governments or terrorist groups. A justice Department official last week told Congress that the Obama administration supports their renewal. Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote to Senator Patrick Leahy (D- Vt.) that the administration would consider stronger civil rights protections “provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important (provisions).”

The Great Recession: It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

The world economy is growing; stock markets are up; talk of recovery, not world depression, fills the business pages. As the leaders of the 20 leading economies gather in Pittsburgh this week, they might well feel the euphoria of someone who has survived a near-death experience. (For an insightful report on Pittsburgh and the G-20, go here [1])

Well, hold the champagne. Don't declare victory while the enemy is still advancing. Bush's calamitous folly in Afghanistan—celebrating victory and invading Iraq while the Taliban and al-Qaeda were regrouping in the mountains—should have taught us that much. Let's not go Bush on the economy.

The question is one of jobs. The reality is companies are still shedding workers; unemployment is still rising. There is no recovery until jobs are being generated. Before the leaders deal with what comes after the recovery, they better secure it. Pittsburgh should be first and foremost a summit on jobs.

Media hypes terror plot, despite the fact no one is charged with terror

It has a familiar ring: “Investigators are looking for about a dozen more people in connection with a wide-ranging terror investigation that has already netted arrests in Colorado and New York City, a source familiar with the investigation said Tuesday.”

That’s the lead sentence of a CNN “breaking news” report filed Tuesday about a frantic search for alleged terrorism plotters within the United States. But a closer inspection of the story — and that of others in the past week — reveals that despite the hoopla, federal authorities have yet to charge the men they’re accusing of a terror-related crime.

New study shows simplifying financial aid process improves college access for low-income students

More low-income students would make it to college if changes were made to streamline the complicated financial aid process, according to a groundbreaking study released today by researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Stanford University School of Education, the University of Toronto, and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The new study, conducted by Stanford University Associate Professor Eric Bettinger, Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Bridget Terry Long, and University of Toronto Associate Professor Philip Oreopoulos, tracked nearly 17,000 low-income individuals and determined that cumbersome financial aid forms and lack of information about higher education costs and financial aid prevented access to higher education.

Why the Dow is Hitting 10,000 While Everyone Else is Cutting Back

So how can the Dow be flirting with 10,000 when consumers, who make up 70 percent of the economy, have had to cut way back on buying because they have no money? Jobs continue to disappear. One out of six Americans is either unemployed or underemployed. Homes can no longer function as piggy banks because they're worth almost a third less than they were two years ago. And for the first time in more than a decade, Americans are now having to pay down their debts and start to save.

Waking up to discover the mortgage market was a giant criminal enterprise

A landmark ruling in a recent Kansas Supreme Court case may have given millions of distressed homeowners the legal wedge they need to avoid foreclosure. In Landmark National Bank v. Kesler, 2009 Kan. LEXIS 834, the Kansas Supreme Court held that a nominee company called MERS has no right or standing to bring an action for foreclosure. MERS is an acronym for Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, a private company that registers mortgages electronically and tracks changes in ownership. The significance of the holding is that if MERS has no standing to foreclose, then nobody has standing to foreclose – on 60 million mortgages. That is the number of American mortgages currently reported to be held by MERS. Over half of all new U.S. residential mortgage loans are registered with MERS and recorded in its name. Holdings of the Kansas Supreme Court are not binding on the rest of the country, but they are dicta of which other courts take note; and the reasoning behind the decision is sound.

via Landmark Decision: Massive Relief for Homeowners and Trouble for the Banks.

This is a potentially gigantic story. It seems that a court has ruled that about half of the mortgage market has been run as a criminal enterprise for years, which would invalidate any potential forelosure proceedings for about, oh, 60 million mortgages.

Neocon Judge's History of Cover-ups

On Sept. 11, the eighth anniversary of the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Silberman issued a 2-to-1 opinion dismissing a lawsuit against the private security firm, CACI International, brought by Iraqi victims of torture and other abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.

Silberman declared that CACI was immune from prosecution because its employees were responding to U.S. military commands. The immunity ruling blocked legal efforts by 212 Iraqis, who suffered directly at Abu Ghraib or were the widows of men who died, to exact some accountability from CACI employees who allegedly assisted in the torture of prisoners.

While You are Minding Your Own Business, The U.S. is Constantly Making War Around the Globe

By Tom Engelhardt,
Posted on September 22, 2009, Printed on September 23, 2009

"War is peace" was one of the memorable slogans on the facade of the Ministry of Truth, Minitrue in "Newspeak," the language invented by George Orwell in 1948 for his dystopian novel 1984. Some 60 years later, a quarter-century after Orwell's imagined future bit the dust, the phrase is, in a number of ways, eerily applicable to the United States.

Last week, for instance, a New York Times front-page story by Eric Schmitt and David Sanger was headlined "Obama Is Facing Doubts in Party on Afghanistan, Troop Buildup at Issue." It offered a modern version of journalistic Newspeak.

ACORN: The Most Cost-Effective Investment the Government (and Foundations) Have Ever Made

By David Morris, AlterNet
Posted on September 23, 2009, Printed on September 23, 2009

To understand the current attacks on ACORN, and the organization itself, we need to go back more than 60 years, to the 1930s and the New Deal, when for the first time, the federal government accepted responsibility for directly helping the non-working poor.

These programs were expanded in the 1940s, but in the 1950s, a backlash erupted against the poor, driven by several factors.

Energy at the Xtreme edge

By Michael T Klare

The debate rages over whether we have already reached the point of peak world oil output or will not do so until at least the next decade. There can, however, be little doubt of one thing: we are moving from an era in which oil was the world's principal energy source to one in which petroleum alternatives - especially renewable supplies derived from the sun, wind, and waves - will provide an ever-larger share of our total supply. But buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride under extreme conditions.

It would, of course, be ideal if the shift from dwindling oil to its climate-friendly successors were to happen smoothly via a mammoth, well-coordinated, interlaced system of wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, and other renewable energy installations. Unfortunately, this is unlikely to occur. Instead, we will surely first pass through an era characterized by excessive reliance on oil's final, least attractive reserves along with coal, heavily polluting "unconventional" hydrocarbons like Canadian oil sands, and other unappealing fuel choices.

Thomas Frank: Liberals and Civility

Why Democrats should welcome a rough debate.


Now that their summer of bluster is over, conservatives may congratulate themselves on a job well done. The stout-hearted defenders of freedom declared that government could never work, sometimes citing examples of misgovernment drawn from periods of conservative rule to make their case.

They deplored the prospect of government intrusion into the economy, ignoring the fact that our current troubles are the consequence of government's withdrawal from the economy. They insisted that every government action, due to some mysterious law of freedom physics, produces an equal and opposite diminution of personal liberty.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Can the Townhallers Be Left, Rather Than Left Behind?

by: Dean Baker, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

The size and energy at the anti-health care reform protests last weekend were impressive. While some of the leaders are clearly racist nutballs, who can't accept that an African-American is in the White House, many of the tens of thousands who showed up in Washington and elsewhere came out in response to their perception of a government that does not respond to ordinary people.

Exclusive: FBI may have destroyed files on Walter Cronkite

FBI spokesman: 'We would need warehouses to keep everything we've collected'

WASHINGTON -- Officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they may have destroyed files on legendary newsman Walter Cronkite in an October 2007 document purge.

Blogger and San Francisco-based gay activist Michael Petrelis filed a Freedom of Information Act request after the CBS anchorman's death in mid-July for access to FBI documents containing Walter Cronkite's name. The FBI restricts third-party access to information about individuals while they are still alive, but makes it possible for people to request copies of someone else's FBI files after they have passed away.

With Global Capitalism Exposed as a Sham, All the Global Elite Have Left Is Pure Force

By Chris Hedges, Truthdig
Posted on September 22, 2009, Printed on September 22, 2009

The rage of the disposed is fracturing the country, dividing it into camps that are unmoored from the political mainstream. Movements are building on the ends of the political spectrum that have lost faith in the mechanisms of democratic change. You can't blame them. But unless we on the left move quickly this rage will be captured by a virulent and racist right wing, one that seeks a disturbing proto-fascism.

Every day counts. Every deferral of protest hurts. We should, if we have the time and the ability, make our way to Pittsburgh for the meeting of the G-20 this week rather than do what the power elite is hoping we will do-stay home. Complacency comes at a horrible price.

McChrystal: More Forces or 'Mission Failure'

Top U.S. Commander For Afghan War Calls Next 12 Months Decisive

By Bob Woodward
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 21, 2009

The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan warns in an urgent, confidential assessment of the war that he needs more forces within the next year and bluntly states that without them, the eight-year conflict "will likely result in failure," according to a copy of the 66-page document obtained by The Washington Post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal says emphatically: "Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) -- while Afghan security capacity matures -- risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stories and Stats--The truth about Obama’s victory wasn’t in the papers

Each American presidential election eventually turns into a story. In 1960 Nixon stumbled in the debates and lost to a more vigorous Kennedy; in 1988 Dukakis was self-defeatingly passive in response to an aggressive Republican campaign; in 1992 Bush lost core supporters when reneging on his “read my lips” pledge came back to haunt him. These stories about the meaning of the election begin to coalesce during the campaign. Once the votes are counted, the stories solidify into conventional wisdom and supply convenient ways to judge what the election was about, why it came out the way it did, and what the result suggests about the future. Because these stories become part of the public understanding, they have real political importance. And because they are so important, there is strong pressure to provide explanations as soon as the election is over; people debate the future by arguing about what just happened.

Break Up America's Banks

The populist anger about Obama's bank bailouts transcends politics. We need a banking system accountable to the public

by Dean Baker

The large number of people who protested against Barack Obama's healthcare plan in Washington last week drew an enormous amount of media attention. Clearly some of the leaders are certifiably crazy, questioning whether Obama is an American and likening him to Hitler. But many of the protesters had reasonable concerns about how the plan would affect the quality of care that they and their loved ones receive.

It was also striking how often the protesters complained about a government that was out of control and not responsive to ordinary people. One of the items that often came up in the interviews reported in the media was the bank bailout. Clearly this is an enduring and deeply felt cause of resentment.

Bradblog: Exclusive: Upcoming Cover Story on Edmonds 'Outs' Video-taped, 'Blackmailed' Dem Congresswoman; Alleges State Dept. Mole at NYTimes

'American Conservative' mag's description of interview with previously-gagged FBI whistleblower as 'explosive' may prove to be a gross understatement
Blackmail, bribery, infiltration, theft and sale of nuke secrets by Turkey, Israel explained in clearer detail than ever before...

On Friday, we reported on the coming exclusive American Conservative cover story interview with formerly-gagged FBI translator turned whistleblower Sibel Edmonds by quoting the magazine's own teaser description of the piece as "explosive". Over the weekend, we received an embargoed look at the final version of the AmCon interview by former CIA officer Phil Giraldi, and yes, "explosive", may be a vast understatement. At least if the U.S. corporate media bothers to notice it this time.

Paul Krugman: Reform or Bust

In the grim period that followed Lehman’s failure, it seemed inconceivable that bankers would, just a few months later, be going right back to the practices that brought the world’s financial system to the edge of collapse. At the very least, one might have thought, they would show some restraint for fear of creating a public backlash.

But now that we’ve stepped back a few paces from the brink — thanks, let’s not forget, to immense, taxpayer-financed rescue packages — the financial sector is rapidly returning to business as usual. Even as the rest of the nation continues to suffer from rising unemployment and severe hardship, Wall Street paychecks are heading back to pre-crisis levels. And the industry is deploying its political clout to block even the most minimal reforms.

The good news is that senior officials in the Obama administration and at the Federal Reserve seem to be losing patience with the industry’s selfishness. The bad news is that it’s not clear whether President Obama himself is ready, even now, to take on the bankers.

You can't trust a tortured brain: Neuroscience discredits coercive interrogation

According to a new review of neuroscientific research, coercive interrogation techniques used during the Bush administration to extract information from terrorist suspects are likely to have been unsuccessful and may have had many unintended negative effects on the suspect's memory and brain functions. A new article, published by Cell Press on September 21st in the journal, Trends in Cognitive Science, reviews scientific evidence demonstrating that repeated and extreme stress and anxiety have a detrimental influence on brain functions related to memory.

Battle Looms Over the Patriot Act

WASHINGTON — As Congress prepares to consider extending crucial provisions of the USA Patriot Act, civil liberties groups and some Democratic lawmakers are gearing up to press for sweeping changes to surveillance laws.

Both the House and the Senate are set to hold their first committee hearings this week on whether to reauthorize three sections of the Patriot Act that expire at the end of this year. The provisions expanded the power of the F.B.I. to seize records and to eavesdrop on phone calls in the course of a counterterrorism investigation.

Laying down a marker ahead of those hearings, a group of senators who support greater privacy protections filed a bill on Thursday that would impose new safeguards on the Patriot Act while tightening restrictions on other surveillance policies. The measure is co-sponsored by nine Democrats and an independent.

Bill Moyers: Conservative Radicals and the Politics of Vengeance

By Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal
Posted on September 21, 2009, Printed on September 21, 2009

Editor's note: In the following interview, Bill Moyers and powerhouse NYT editor and author of "The Death of Conservatism Sam Tanenhaus discuss the last gasps of the conservative movement. Tanenhaus says that far from signifying a resurgence of conservative ideals, the Tea Party protesters and shock jocks like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh spell the doom of the conservative movement. The interview starts with some scenes from journalist Max Blumenthal's video of last weekend's right-wing protests in Washington. Check out the video, which features exclusive footage of the Tea Party protesters that swarmed the Capitol, at the end of this article.

BILL MOYERS: Conservatives were out in force in Washington last weekend. They had come to express their opposition to big government, to taxes and wasteful spending, and health care reform they fear would lead to a nightmare of bureaucracy. Max Blumenthal, author of REPUBLICAN GOMORRAH waded into their midst to sample opinions.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: So you're saying if the government eliminates Social Security and Medicare then you'll get out of the program?

WOMAN: No, I said if they get out of my life.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Glenn Beck: No stranger to right-wing radicalism

-- by Dave

The centerpiece of Glenn Beck's incessant attacks on "White House czars" like Van Jones, as well as his attacks on ACORN, is his claim that this is all about rooting out the deep-seated radicalism within the Obama White House -- and ultimately, the deep-seated radicalism of Obama himself. He's been quite explicit about this.

But what about Glenn Beck himself? Beck has shown a powerful affinity for right-wing radicals dating back at least to his days at CNN's Headline News, when he declared his sympathy for the John Birch Society (in its campaign to stop the non-existent "NAFTA Superhighway") and warned that Al Gore's real purpose behind his "global warming campaign" was to install a global government. (Back then, it was Gore, not Obama, who was just like Hitler.)

The Recession Is Over — for Now

SPEAKING at the Brookings Institution last week, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, remarked that the recession in the United States is “very likely over.” He’s surely right that a recovery is under way; in fact, the short-term bounce back may actually turn out to be faster than he thinks — rapid growth is not uncommon right after a severe financial crisis.

Mr. Bernanke commands great respect because of his impressive efforts to head off financial collapse, but his speech was deeply worrisome on the bigger questions: what caused the financial crisis, and how can we prevent another such calamity?

Mr. Bernanke still refuses to acknowledge the Fed’s role in creating financial boom-bust cycles, and therefore his diagnosis and solutions sound overly technocratic and somewhat hollow. He has called for requiring banks to hold more liquid assets and increase their equity cushions, and passing legislation that would permit the Fed to effectively close large financial institutions when they are failing. He also wants the Fed to be responsible for regulation of such large banks.

Poppy Bush Not Joining Other DCIs Opposing Investigation of W Bush’s Torture

By: emptywheel, Friday September 18, 2009 1:10 pm

There are a number of fascinating details in this letter from seven former living CIA Directors opposing DOJ's torture investigation--starting with the fact that Poppy is one of just two three living CIA heads who didn't sign (the others are Carter's Stansfield Turner and close Poppy ally Robert Gates who, as Secretary of Defense, also has to weigh how our torture puts service men and women at risk). (h/t Ambinder)

Michael Hayden
Porter Goss
George Tenet
John Deutch
R. James Woolsey
William Webster
James R. Schlesinger

But that's not all.

Note that these men are asking the President to intervene in a DOJ investigation.

We respectfully urge you to exercise your authority to reverse Attorney General Holder’s August 24 decision to re-open the criminal investigation of CIA interrogations that took place following the attacks of September 11.

They're not asking Obama to pardon those CIA officers under investigation, which would be a proper request of the President; they're asking Obama to spike an investigation the Attorney General has deemed necessary.

American Indian Exceptionalism

Max Baucus' bill makes you pay a fine if you don't have health insurance—unless you're American Indian.

By Christopher Beam

The health care plan released by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus on Wednesday includes a requirement that every nonsenior American either buy insurance or pay a fine. There are exceptions, however, for anyone below the poverty line, people who face extreme hardship, and American Indians. (Read the bill summary here.) Why are American Indians exempt?

Because they have their own health care system. The Indian Health Service, which operates under the Department of Health and Human Services and whose funding comes out of the federal government's annual budget, provides care to any person who is a member or descendant of one of the 560 federally recognized tribes. Because they're covered by IHS, Indians don't need to purchase private insurance. (Many do anyway—more on that later.)

Jack Straw calls for heroin on NHS

JACK STRAW, the justice secretary, has called for the NHS to give out heroin on prescription to addicts for whom other forms of treatment have failed.

He claims “imaginative” solutions to hard-drug abuse are needed and believes there could be “huge benefits” to issuing the drug to chronic addicts.

Straw said: “For the most problematic heroin users it may be the best means of reducing the harm they do themselves, and of stamping out the crime and disorder they inflict on the community.”

Forty percent of U.S. junk bonds to default by 2013: BofA

NEW YORK (Reuters) - About 40 percent of all U.S. junk bonds outstanding in late 2008 will likely default by 2013 as government aid measures end and a wall of corporate debt comes due, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said on Thursday.

By contrast, the cumulative five-year default rate was about 30 percent in the last two default cycles, Bank of America said in a report.

America Has Been Here Before

by Eric Margolis

We should hang a huge neon sign over Afghanistan: "CAUTION: DEJA VU."

Afghanistan's much ballyhooed recent election staged by its foreign occupiers turned out to be a fraud wrapped up in a farce -- as this column predicted a month ago. It was as phony and meaningless as U.S.-run elections in Vietnam in the 1970s.

Canada played a shameful role in facilitating this obviously rigged vote.

Meanwhile, American and NATO generals running the Afghan war amazingly warn they risk being beaten by Taliban tribesmen in spite of their 107,000 soldiers, B-1 heavy bombers, F-15s, F-16s, F-18s, Apache and AC-130 gunships, heavy artillery, tanks, radars, killer drones, cluster bombs, white phosphorus, rockets, and space surveillance.

Acne, Pregnancy Among Disqualifying Conditions

By David S. Hilzenrath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 19, 2009

A proposal to make preexisting health conditions irrelevant in the sale of insurance policies could help not just the seriously ill but also people who might consider themselves healthy, documents released Friday by a California-based advocacy group illustrate.

Health insurers have issued guidelines saying they could deny coverage to people suffering from such conditions as acne, hemorrhoids and bunions.

One big insurer refused to issue individual policies to police officers and firefighters, along with people in other hazardous occupations.

Preventing a Social Security benefit cut

By Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) - 09/18/09 11:41 AM ET
Unless Congress acts soon, for the first time since 1975 senior citizens will not be receiving a cost-of-living adjustment in their Social Security benefits in the coming year. This would mean that monthly Social Security payments would drop for millions of retirees because Medicare prescription drug premiums, which are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to increase. We cannot allow that to happen.

A failure to provide a Social Security COLA in 2010 for seniors could not come at a worse time. As a result of the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression, our nation's seniors are experiencing a decline in their living standards. Many have seen their savings disappear, their pension funds in severe decline, the value of their homes dramatically diminished – all while poverty among seniors has gone up, as has the number of seniors declaring bankruptcy. At the same time, the costs of prescription drugs and health care continue to increase. Seniors deserve a fair increase in benefits to keep up with these added costs and economic hardships.

Frank Rich: Even Glenn Beck Is Right Twice a Day

IF only it were just about the color of his skin.

With all due respect to Jimmy Carter, the racist component of Obama-hatred has been undeniable since the summer of 2008, when Sarah Palin rallied all-white mobs to the defense of the “real America.” Joe Wilson may or may not be in that camp, but, either way, that’s not the news. As we watched and rewatched the South Carolina congressman’s star turn, what grabbed us was the act itself.

What made the lone, piercing cry of “You lie!” shocking was that it breached a previously secure barrier. It was the first time that the violent rage surging in town-hall meetings all summer blasted into the same room as the president. Wilson’s televised shout was tantamount to yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater. When he later explained that his behavior was “spontaneous” rather than premeditated, that was even more disturbing. It’s not good for the country that a lawmaker can’t control his anger at Barack Obama. It gives permission to crazy people.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Nine Questions for Ben Bernanke

He'd better answer them before the Senate confirms him to another term as Fed chairman.

The one-year anniversary of the end of the financial world as we knew it has come and gone. Yet, quite remarkably, the financial world as we knew it is still here—absent a few laggard investment banks and several million jobs.

While regulatory proposals flutter in the wind, big banks have reconstituted themselves, and profits and bonus pools have returned. In numerous articles and books, banking and government leaders applaud themselves for having staved off a crisis that could have been worse. Many of these accounts give us second-by-second depictions of sweat dripping from furrowed brows as tough decisions were made. And, as if to validate these histories, Ben Bernanke has been nominated to serve another term as chairman of the Fed, certifying that his tenure is one of glory gained by defeating the crisis rather than glory lost because of responsibility for its onset.


Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right
By Jennifer Burns, (Oxford University Press, 459 pp., $27.95)

Ayn Rand and the World She Made
By Anne C. Heller, (Doubleday, 559 pp., $35)


The current era of Democratic governance has provoked a florid response on the right, ranging from the prosaic (routine denunciations of big spending and debt) to the overheated (fears of socialism) to the lunatic (the belief that Democrats plan to put the elderly to death). Amid this cacophony of rage and dread, there has emerged one anxiety that is an actual idea, and not a mere slogan or factual misapprehension. The idea is that the United States is divided into two classes--the hard-working productive elite, and the indolent masses leeching off their labor by means of confiscatory taxes and transfer programs.

You can find iterations of this worldview and this moral judgment everywhere on the right. Consider a few samples of the rhetoric. In an op-ed piece last spring, Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, called for conservatives to wage a "culture war" over capitalism. "Social Democrats are working to create a society where the majority are net recipients of the ‘sharing economy,' " he wrote. "Advocates of free enterprise . . . have to declare that it is a moral issue to confiscate more income from the minority simply because the government can." Brooks identified the constituency for his beliefs as "the people who were doing the important things right--and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong." Senator Jim DeMint echoed this analysis when he lamented that "there are two Americas but not the kind John Edwards was talking about. It's not so much the haves and the have-nots. It's those who are paying for government and those who are getting government."

As ACORN grew, so did its clout and its problems

WASHINGTON — Long before two conservative young activists strode into an ACORN office wearing a hidden camera, the grassroots organization had been racking up kills in its decades-long quest to protect working-class people from what it saw as wrongheaded corporate interests.

ACORN -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- was founded in 1970 by a 21-year-old organizer who wanted to try a new way of lifting up low- and moderate-income workers.

We Must Stop the 'Vulture Funds' that Feed on the World's Poor

by Johann Hari

Would you ever march up to a destitute African who is shivering with Aids and demand he "pay back" tens of thousands of pounds he didn't borrow - with interest? I only ask because this is in effect happening, here, in British and American courts, time after time. Some of the richest people in the world are making profit margins of 500 per cent by shaking money out of the poorest people in the world - for debt they did not incur.

Here's how it works. In the mid-1990s, a Republican businessman called Paul Singer invented a new type of hedge fund, quickly dubbed a "vulture fund." They buy debts racked up years ago by the poorest countries on earth, almost always when they were run by kleptocratic dictators, before most of the current population was born. They buy it for small sums - as little as 10 per cent of its paper value - from the original holder and then take the poor country to court in Britain or the US to demand 100 per cent of the debt is repaid immediately, plus interest built up over years, and court costs.

Only Obama, it seems, fails to get the message that we’re losing Afghanistan

by Robert Fisk

Obama and Osama are at last participating in the same narrative. For the US president's critics - indeed, for many critics of the West's military occupation of Afghanistan - are beginning to speak in the same language as Obama's (and their) greatest enemy.

There is a growing suspicion in America that Obama has been socked into the heart of the Afghan darkness by ex-Bushie Robert Gates - once more the Secretary of Defense - and by journalist-adored General David Petraeus whose military "surges" appear to be as successful as the Battle of the Bulge in stemming the insurgent tide in Afghanistan as well as in Iraq.

Selective deficit disorder

Friday, September 18, 2009

Watching the health care debate unfold these days is a little like watching scenes from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" - the ones showing a collage of strung-out, deranged or otherwise incapacitated patients rotting away in a squalid psychiatric ward.

As the insurance industry's Nurse Ratched lurks in the background, congressional Democrats cower in the corner, fearing the phantom menace of their own shadows. Standing next to the window, suicidal Republican leaders rant about "death panels" and threaten to splatter their electoral prospects onto the pavement below. Nearby, White House officials struggle with multiple-personality ailments as they mumble contradictory statements about the public option. Meanwhile, Tea Party protesters lie on the floor in a fetal position, soiling their hospital diapers as they throw incoherent tantrums about everything from socialism to communism to czarism to Nazism. And, not surprisingly, Washington reporters just stare off into the distance, having been long ago lobotomized in the wake of their Watergate heyday.

CNN's Sanchez Slams Fox 'News': 'You Lie!'

Destroys Republican news organization for WaPo ad falsely alleging CNN failed to cover Fox's 9/12 teabagger protest...
UPDATE: CNN pushes back with 'Distoring Not Reporting' ad...

Some must-see video here. CNN's Rich Sanchez stood up for his news organization on air today, against Fox "News" after they ran an add today in the Washington Post alleging that CNN didn't cover Glenn Beck's political rally last week in D.C.

After slamming Fox by showing clips of CNN's extensive (some might say gratuitous, frankly) coverage, and even a clip showing Bill O'Reilly on Fox discussing the fact that CNN covered the event, Sanchez went for the jugular:

Here's the facts. We did cover the event. What we didn't do is promote the event.

Why We Need a Government Agency to Defend the Pursuit of Happiness

By Walter Mosley, The Nation
Posted on September 18, 2009, Printed on September 19, 2009

We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Americans are an unhappy, unhealthy lot. From the moment we declared our independence from the domination of British rule, we have included the people's right to pursue happiness as one of the primary privileges of our citizens and the responsibility of our government. Life and liberty are addressed to one degree or another by our executive, legislative and judicial branches, but our potential for happiness has lagged far behind.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Evangelicals Divorce More Often Than "Godless" Europeans? Exploring America's Strange Relationship With Marriage

By Amy DePaul, Bookslut
Posted on September 14, 2009, Printed on September 18, 2009

The Marriage-Go-Round, an analysis of the state of matrimony and partnering in the U.S., owes some small part of its success to timing. It arrived in bookstores amid a string of high-profile marital meltdowns, i.e. Jon and Kate, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, et al. None of which has been a bad thing for author Andrew Cherlin, whose book recently won prominent mentions in Time, Newsweek and The Atlantic.

Lost in the commentaries and essays about marital crisis, however, are some of the surprising findings to emerge from The Marriage-Go-Round, such as this one, for example: Americans prize marriage more highly than do people in other wealthy countries, and they consider it the hallmark of a successful life. Yet they divorce at higher rates, just as they re-partner in higher numbers, causing turnover that may be highly destabilizing for children. The statistic Cherlin likes to cite is that a child in the U.S. has a greater chance of seeing his married parents break up than a child of unmarried parents in Sweden.

Paul Krugman: Baucus and the Threshold

So Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has released his “mark” on proposed legislation — which would normally be the basis for the bill that eventually emerges from his committee. And serious supporters of health care reform will soon face their long-dreaded moment of truth.

You see, it has been clear for months that whatever health-care bill finally emerges will fall far short of reformers’ hopes. Yet even a bad bill could be much better than nothing. The question is where to draw the line. How bad does a bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for?

Now, the moment of truth isn’t here quite yet: There’s enough wrong with the Baucus proposal as it stands to make it unworkable and unacceptable. But that said, Senator Baucus’s mark is better than many of us expected. If it serves as a basis for negotiation, and the result of those negotiations is a plan that’s stronger, not weaker, reformers are going to have to make some hard choices about the degree of disappointment they’re willing to live with.

Remarks By The President At Rally On Health Insurance Reform

University of Maryland
College Park, Maryland

11:49 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Maryland! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, College Park. (Applause.) Thank you so much. It is good to be back at the University of Maryland. (Applause.) I want to start by wishing The Fridge and the Terps good luck on the game this weekend. (Applause.) Maybe I’ll even rub Testudo’s nose before I leave. (Applause.)

We've got a number of extraordinary elected officials who are here. I just want to introduce them real quick. Your Governor, Martin O'Malley, is in the house. (Applause.) The two outstanding senators from Maryland, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin are in the house. (Applause.) One of the finest leaders that we have in Congress, Steny Hoyer is in the house. (Applause.) Lt. Governor Anthony Brown is here. (Applause.) Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson is here. (Applause.) Mayor Stephen Brayman is here. (Applause.) State Senate Majority Leader Tom Miller is in the house. (Applause.) Congresswoman Donna Edwards is here. (Applause.) Congressman Elijah Cummings. (Applause.) Congressman Chris Van Hollen. (Applause.) Congressman Sarbanes is here. (Applause.) Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger is here. (Applause.)

Paranoia Strikes Deep in America ... Over and Over

By Michael Kazin, The Nation
Posted on September 16, 2009, Printed on September 18, 2009

"If something is not done shortly, this country is going the way of Italy, Germany or Russia, and it is high time we did something," exclaimed Irenee du Pont, one of the more prominent conservatives of the 1930s. Many of his fellow Americans agreed there was good cause to be alarmed: a new Democratic president was proposing an unprecedented expansion of federal power that would increase taxes on the well-off and dole out benefits to the jobless and other unfortunates.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Return of the Repressed

It should come as no surprise that with the election of Barack Obama, the right has returned to a politics of racial resentment.

Michelle Goldberg | September 15, 2009

Now that popular conservatism has given itself over so avidly to racial resentment, it's curious to remember how hard the right once tried to scrub itself of the lingering taint of prejudice. Indeed, for a decade and a half the Christian right -- until recently the most powerful and visible grassroots conservative movement -- struggled mightily to escape its own bigoted history. In his 1996 book Active Faith, Ralph Reed acknowledged that Christian conservatives had been on the wrong side of the civil rights movement. "The white evangelical church carries a shameful legacy of racism and the historical baggage of indifference to the most central struggle for social justice in this century, a legacy that is only now being wiped clean by the sanctifying work of repentance and racial reconciliation," wrote Reed.

Shielded-Obama's smart decision to scuttle Bush's European missile-defense plan.

By Fred Kaplan

President Barack Obama's scuttling of George W. Bush's plan to deploy a missile-defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland—or, more particularly, the way he scuttled it—amounts to a remarkably shrewd bit of politics and statesmanship.

The decision, which he announced this morning after completing a six-month review of the program, removes the biggest obstacle in U.S.-Russian relations—a step that could clear the way for cooperative measures on a wide range of international issues—without scrapping the general idea of some sort of "missile shield" for Europe.

Bush came up with the plan to put 10 anti-missile interceptors and radars on Czech and Polish soil in 2007, and the Russians have been clamoring about it ever since. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Bush of trying to upset the balance of power.

The Distracting Benefits of ACORN Hysteria

by Glenn Greenwald

Earlier this week, I wrote about [1] how the Fox-News/Glenn-Beck/Rush-Limbaugh leadership trains its protesting followers to focus the vast bulk of their resentment and anxieties on largely powerless and downtrodden factions, while ignoring, and even revering, the outright pillaging by virtually omnipotent corporate interests that own and control their Government [2] (and, not coincidentally, Fox News). It's hard to imagine a more perfectly illustrative example of all of that than the hysterical furor over ACORN [3].

ACORN has received a grand total of $53 million [4] in federal funds over the last 15 years -- an average of $3.1 million per year. Meanwhile, not millions, not billions, but trillions of dollars of public funds have been, in the last year alone, transferred to or otherwise used for the benefit of Wall Street. Billions of dollars in American taxpayer money vanished into thin air, eaten by private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan [5], led by Halliburton subsidiary KBR [6]. All of those corporate interests employ armies of lobbyists and bottomless donor activities that ensure they dominate our legislative and regulatory processes, and to be extra certain, the revolving door between industry and government is more prolific than ever, with key corporate officials constantly ending up occupying the government positions with the most influence over those industries.

Banner Week for Big Insurance

This is turning out to be a very good week for the private health insurance companies (or as I like to think of them, the bloodsucking middle-men of the health care system). Yesterday, AP/Forbes reported on the uptick in insurer stocks, which jumped from 3 to 6 percent in a single day:

Shares of health insurers jumped Wednesday after an key Democrat released a much anticipated Senate version of a health care reform bill that excluded a government-run insurance option.

The so-called public option had been a contentious issue with health insurers, with the industry viewing it as unfair competition. Instead, Sen. Max Baucus released a proposed bill that would require every American to obtain health insurance, which would be a financial boon for the health insurance industry.

It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out why the Baucus bill is great for the insurance industry: If there’s no public alternative to compete with private insurance companies, guess where all those people will have to go to buy their government-mandated insurance?

Is the U.S. Really on the Brink of Budget Collapse?

By Robert Pollin, AlterNet
Posted on September 17, 2009, Printed on September 17, 2009

Is the United States government facing “fiscal suicide?” Are U.S. Treasury Bonds “heading for the dumpster?” Such claims have been published regularly in the mainstream media following the passage of the Obama economic stimulus program, which became law last February (these particular quotes were in the New York Times and Bloomberg News last May). Of course, the Obama stimulus program was implemented to counteract the economic disaster that was already at hand as of last February and continues to the present.

In fact, the stimulus program is too small relative to the magnitude of the crisis and too loaded with corporate tax breaks. But it is still among the most progressive pieces of economic legislation since the 1960s. Of the $787 billion total in new government spending being pumped into the economy over the next two years, major funds are flowing into clean energy and traditional infrastructure investments, health care, and education, as well unemployment insurance, food stamps and similar measures to support people who are suffering most severely from the crisis. Overall, the stimulus program aims to generate about 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, to compensate at least in part for the nearly 7 million jobs the economy has shed since January 2008.

Toxic Chemicals in Everyday Products: Find Out What's in the Stuff You Use

By Jeff Gearhart, AlterNet
Posted on September 16, 2009, Printed on September 17, 2009

Guess how I spent my summer? Testing over 900 everyday consumer products to find out what hazardous chemicals they might contain. Our team tested everything from pet collars and chew toys, to women's handbags, sedans and SUVs. Yet, despite all of the attention in 2008 to lead in toys, we are still universally finding elevated levels of lead, mercury, arsenic and other chemicals that can be hazards to human health, especially for children and pets.

At our new website,, consumers can find over 15,000 test results on over 5,000 common items including pet products, back-to-school items, children's toys, and the latest on cars and children's car seats.

Obama gets the Clinton treatment

Anybody shocked by nasty GOP attacks on Obama must have forgotten what happened to the last Democratic president

By Gene Lyons

Sep. 17, 2009 |

From a political standpoint, the worst thing about blaming President Obama's perceived difficulties on racism is that there's not a damn thing anybody can do about it. Determined bigots can't be shamed, while many see invoking race as more an excuse than an explanation.

Democrats who cry racism risk looking like whiners fearful they're losing the argument. Not to mention illogical. If Obama's approval rating among white voters has dropped from 63 to 43 percent, as the Los Angeles Times recently documented, it's not because they suddenly heard about his African father.

Nor should there be any reason to panic. As Joan Walsh has pointed out, 43 is the exact percentage of whites that supported Obama in 2008. Rep. Joe Wilson's, R-S.C., rude outburst during the president's speech to Congress spoke for itself, along with his longtime support for flying the Rebel flag over South Carolina's capitol.

Would You Know How to Survive After the Oil Crash?

By Tara Lohan, AlterNet
Posted on September 17, 2009, Printed on September 17, 2009

Do you know how to make shoes? Can you build a house? How about grow food? Do you have a doctor and a dentist in your circle of friends?

These are the questions that Andre Angelantoni thinks you should be able to answer in order to plan for the next 10 to 15 years. Angelantoni believes there are radical changes ahead for our society -- and no, it's not the rapture he sees coming, but a post-peak-oil world.

Teen Birth Rates Higher in Highly Religious States

Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer
Wed Sep 16, 7:08 pm ET

U.S. states whose residents have more conservative religious beliefs on average tend to have higher rates of teenagers giving birth, a new study suggests.

The relationship could be due to the fact that communities with such religious beliefs (a literal interpretation of the Bible, for instance) may frown upon contraception, researchers say. If that same culture isn't successfully discouraging teen sex, the pregnancy and birth rates rise.

Mississippi topped the list for conservative religious beliefs and teen birth rates, according to the study results, which will be detailed in a forthcoming issue of the journal Reproductive Health. (See the full top 10 below.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meet the man who changed Glenn Beck's life

Sept. 16, 2009 | On Saturday, I spent the afternoon with America's new breed of angry conservative. Up to 75,000 protesters had gathered in Washington on Sept. 12, the day after the eighth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, sporting the now familiar tea-bagger accoutrements of "Don't Tread on Me" T-shirts, Revolutionary War outfits and Obama-the-Joker placards. The male-skewing, nearly all-white throng had come to denounce the president and what they believe is his communist-fascist agenda.

Even if the turnout wasn't the 2 million that some conservatives tried, briefly, to claim, it was still enough to fill the streets near the Capitol. It was also ample testament to the strength of a certain strain of right-wing populist rage and the talking head who has harnessed it. The masses were summoned by Glenn Beck, Fox News host and organizer of the 912 Project, the civic initiative he pulled together six months ago to restore America to the sense of purpose and unity it had felt the day after the towers fell.

A Republican Trap for Democrats on Health Care?

Are the Democrats about to walk into a Republican trap on health care? As I monitor the latest back and forth, I feel as if I'm watching a cheesy horror flick and some poor unsuspecting person is about to open the wrong door--and you want to scream, "Hey, don't open that door!" But....

In the Senate, the Democrats (presumably with President Barack Obama's blessings) are still trying to win one to three Republican votes for a health care reform package. So as the Gang of Six--that bipartisan group of senators--has continued to negotiate, Senator Max Baucus, the Democratic chairman of the finance committee, has released a "framework" that he says is aimed to address Republican concerns. Yet Democrats should be concerned about his bill.

POWER WITHOUT CREDIBILITY, Part 3 Politics of the financial crisis

By Henry CK Liu

This article concludes a three-part report.
Part 1: Bogged down at the Fed
Part 2: A lost decade ahead

United States Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke is visibly frustrated that many in Congress do not give the Fed what he believes is enough credit for what it has accomplished in responding to the economic crisis, even as Wall Street heaps praise on his bold actions and steady hand in pulling the financial system out of an impending meltdown.

Bernanke, whom President Barack Obama this month appointed for a second term as Fed chairman, faces a far from smooth passage through calmer seas over his next four years in the post. All the structural weaknesses that caused the economy to implode two years ago are still in the financial system, albeit swept under the rug into the Fed's balance sheet and masked by massive amount of new money and public debt not backed by any new wealth creation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Short Sellers: The Unsung Heroes of the Financial Crisis

Last year, as the collapse of the housing bubble was threatening to turn Wall Street into a pre-industrial economy, many leading financial commentators were blaming short-sellers for the meltdown. They argued that the fundamentals of the financial industry were essentially sound. The only problem was that evil short-sellers had teamed up to push the price of the stock of Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and the rest into the toilet. In response this outcry, the Securities and Exchange Commission actually took steps to limit the shorting of financial stocks.

As should be very clear in retrospect, the problem was not the shorts. The problem was that the clowns who ran these institutions somehow failed to see the largest asset bubble in the history of the world. As a result, they made huge bets that went bad, and drove their companies into bankruptcy.