From the MoJo Blog:
— By Kevin Drum | Sat Oct. 9, 2010 10:25 PM PDT
Sen. Susan Collins (R–Maine) writes that the Senate has become increasingly nasty and partisan. For example:
During the past two years, the minority party has been increasingly shut out of the discussion. Even in the Senate, which used to pride itself on being a bastion of free and open debate, procedural tactics are routinely used to prevent Republican amendments. That causes Republicans to overuse the filibuster, because our only option is to stop a bill to which we cannot offer amendments.
It’s true that Harry Reid has filled the amendment tree a little more often than his predecessors: nine times in the 110th Congress vs. six times for Bill Frist in the 109th. And while I can’t find a tally for the 111th Congress, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were higher still. But is Collins seriously trying to suggest that this is the direction that causality runs? That Republicans are only resorting to filibusters and other delaying tactics because they haven’t been allowed to offer serious, substantive amendments more regularly?
I’m willing to be schooled by a congressional expert on this, but reality seems just the opposite: Republicans have adopted a whole host of aggressive delaying tactics since they became a minority party, and one of them is the practice of offering dozens or hundreds of dilatory amendments in order to suck up endless floor time. The only way to avoid that is to fill the amendment tree, invoke cloture, and then try to round up 60 votes. If you don’t, your bill is effectively dead.
From Media Matters:
October 07, 2010 4:45 pm ET
Fox’s Megyn Kelly hosted Dana Perino to portray calls for an IRS audit of a Republican slush fund promoted by Karl Rove as a politically motivated “conspiracy,” ignoring that such calls have been issued by non-partisan organizations that called for similar audits of Democratic-leaning groups in 2004. They also furthered the bogus claim that the White House illegally accessed the tax information of Koch Industries.
October 07, 2010 2:00 pm ET
Conservative media are pushing a deceptively cropped video of Rep. Phil Hare (D-IL) to claim he “doesn’t believe the national debt is real.” In fact, the context of Hare’s remarks make clear he was referring to the “myth” that you can’t “just can’t spend” to put “people back to work” because “this country is in debt,” an opinion with which liberal and conservative economists agree.
October 07, 2010 1:38 pm ET
Fox News hosts and contributors have recently dismissed estimates of food stamp programs’ stimulative effect on the economy as “some strange multiplier effect study,” “liberal math” and a “complicated economic multiplier theory.” In fact, economists agree that food stamps are one of “the most effective ways to prime the economy’s pump.”
Jake Whitney interviews Andrew Bacevich, October 2010
Why fight wars our president doesn’t believe in and we can’t pay for? asks retired colonel and military historian Andrew Bacevich.
Sacrifice. It’s a word Andrew Bacevich uses when discussing U.S. national security policy. While he pays respect to the tiny percentage of Americans who currently fight our wars, he also laments that more Americans don’t help shoulder those wars, and decries our politicians for having stopped asking anything of the American people. Bacevich, though, knows what it means to sacrifice. A retired U.S. Army colonel, Bacevich served in post-war Germany, fought in Vietnam, and taught at West Point. In 2007, he lost his twenty-seven-year-old son, Andrew, Jr., in Iraq. While Bacevich refuses to speak about this in interviews (“what is private ought to remain private”), one can surmise that the tragedy was compounded by Bacevich’s profound opposition to the war. Indeed, Bacevich fundamentally disagrees not only with current U.S. militarism in the Middle East but with the unwieldy behemoth that the American national security state has become.
Bacevich’s opposition, however, was not born of a father’s anger over a lost son. It is the opposition of a scholar, teacher, and author who has spent nearly half his life studying American foreign policy and seeing, sometimes from the inside, its uneven, often terrible results. It is an opposition that gathered particular urgency after 9/11, and since then Bacevich has proved an unrelenting and increasingly influential critic of U.S. national security policy. As Bacevich views it, that policy continues to follow a playbook that was penned sixty years ago and no longer makes sense, if it ever did. Blind adherence to this playbook has resulted in our current predicament: 370,000 troops stationed in more than thirty-five countries, a Middle Eastern war that looks increasingly like a quagmire, a defense budget that is bankrupting the country, and, worst of all, a political system that has become little more than theater.
From the Danger Room:
David B. Buckley, you lucky ducky, you just got one of the most thankless jobs in government. Buckley came on board yesterday as the new CIA inspector general, the internal-affairs watchdog for the nation’s chief spy agency. If history is any guide, he’s in for a world of bureaucratic pain.
CIA Director Leon Panetta was all smiles about Buckley in a statement released this afternoon. Not only did he praise the “absolute integrity and commitment to the rule of law” of the ex-Treasury Department inspector and longtime Hill staffer, but he said a “robust, independent” inspector general is “essential to our success.”
Sure, he says that now. But for practically Panetta’s entire tenure, the agency has been without an inspector general. During that time, the CIA massively upped its drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan, an operation that United Nations officials and some U.S. law professors consider legally dubious.
And the reason why there hasn’t been a CIA inspector general for the last 14 months is instructive when considering the headaches that Buckley is likely to inherit. The last inspector, John Helgerson, conducted a thorough investigation into the CIA’s “enhanced interrogations,” finding that agency interrogators waterboarded a top terrorist 183 times in a single month and staged mock executions to get others to talk.
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
George Soros announced a few weeks ago that he is giving $100 million to Human Rights Watch—conditional on the organization to find a matching $10 million a year from other donors. He’s been rewarded with ringing cheers for his disinterested munificence.
The relationship of “human rights” to the course of empire is nicely caught in two statements, the first by HRW’s former executive director Aryeh Neier: “When we created Human Rights Watch, one of the main purposes at the outset was to leverage the power, the purse and the influence of the United States to try to promote human rights in other countries.”
Set this remark, startling in its brazen display of imperial self-confidence, next to Soros’s recent statement on National Public Radio PR, that in the expansion of HRW prompted by his big new donation “the people doing the investigations won’t necessarily be Americans.… The United States has lost the moral high ground and that has sort of endangered the credibility, the legitimacy of Americans being in the forefront of advocating human rights.”
Soros the international financier made his billions as a currency speculator; he could destroy a country’s reserves, hastening its social disintegration. Then Soros the philanthropist could finance HRW’s investigations into the abuses his operations helped to induce. He offers in his single person an arresting profile of liberal interventionism in our era, in which direct economic and political destabilization (mostly calibrated in concert with the US government) has easy recourse to the moral and political bludgeon of a human rights report, which is in turn used to ratchet up the pressure for a direct imperial onslaught—whether by economic sanctions, covert sabotage, aerial bombing or a blend of all three. The role of human rights NGOs in NATO’s attack on the former Yugoslavia is a prime example.
George Mason University has confirmed that it is investigating allegations of plagiarism by Professor Edward Wegman, author of the hockey stick hatchet job “Wegman Report”. According to USA Today, the investigation began earlier this year after a letter of complaint from Raymond Bradley (as in Mann, Bradley and Hughes) whose textbook Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary was extensively copied and crudely altered in the report to Congress. USA Today credits the investigation by Canadian blogger Deep Climate and the extensive report on errors in Wegman’s document compiled by John Mashey (covered here last month). Wegman declined to comment, but has confirmed that litigation is involved. Informed speculation suggests that this may be related to copyright issues — likely to be a problem for anyone who lifts 30% of a report from other people’s work. The story has also been picked up by the Washington Post, and Andy Revkin at Dot Earth has dubbed the affair SkepticGate. This scandal may be about to go mainstream — and not before time.
A detailed investigation into the genesis of the 2006 Wegman Report — much beloved of climate sceptics because it was critical of the “hockey stick” paleoclimate reconstructions of Michael Mann (et al) — has shown it to be deeply flawed, stuffed with poorly-executed plagiarism, and very far from the “independent, impartial, expert” effort it was presented as to Congress. The new 250 page study, Strange scholarship in the Wegman Report (exec summary, full report) by John Mashey (with considerable assistance from Canadian blogger Deep Climate) finds that:
That isn’t surprising given the relentless and often bi-annual rate hikes imposed by satellite, telcoTV and cable TV providers, which resulted in new and notable cord cutting last quarter. According to the study, Customer satisfaction with the cost of television service averaged 541 out of 1,000 in 2010, down 14 points from 555 in 2009. That isn’t surprising given the relentless and often bi-annual rate hikes imposed by satellite, telcoTV and cable TV providers, which resulted in new and notable cord cutting last quarter. According to the study, Customer satisfaction with the cost of television service averaged 541 out of 1,000 in 2010, down 14 points from 555 in 2009.
35) Stupid people will be in charge, only to be replaced by ever-stupider people. You will live in a world without kings, only princes in whom our faith is shattered.
From Scott Horton, who watches this stuff:
The American decision to rely more heavily on contractors and to downplay the use of uniformed military in Afghanistan has led to a sharp detour in the process of nation-building, a Senate Armed Services Committee report (PDF) has concluded. To meet their security concerns, the contractors have turned to “warlords and strongmen linked to murder, kidnapping [and] bribery.” The report also documents incidents in which contractors have tendered payments to the Taliban.
There’s more detail at Horton’s site, and in the embedded links. Senator Carl Levin’s conclusion: “This situation threatens the security of our troops and puts the success of our mission at risk.” He’s too polite, making it sound like an accident.
[P]rivate security contractors often work at cross purposes with U.S. counterinsurgency policy.
My conclusion? Welcome to money as a motivator, for all parties concerned; sends a tingle up my Galtian spine.
Source: Why It’s Time to Panic
Media Matters – The New York Times ignores key facts about the Chamber of Commerce’s foreign funding
From Media Matters:
October 09, 2010 5:03 pm ET by Chris Harris
Last week, the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Think Progress revealed that partisan attack ads from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are funded in part by foreign corporations seeking to influence America’s midterm elections. Their report clearly ruffled some feathers.
At first, the Chamber attempted to deflect from the story by attempting to discredit Think Progress through talk radio-esque attacks on George Soros. Seeing that wasn’t working, the Chamber’s spokespeople decided to ignore large parts of the allegations, instead focusing on the role of “AmChams,” overseas business councils.
Examining the charges, the New York Times fell for the Chamber’s line, writing:
[The Chamber's chief lobbyist Bruce] Josten said the Chamber of Commerce had 115 foreign member affiliates in 108 countries, who pay a total of less than $100,000 in membership dues that go into its general fund.
The group’s total budget is more than $200 million, and Mr. Josten said the group had safeguards to segregate the small fraction generated overseas from other accounts to comply with federal law and avoid bleeding into political spending.
But these AmChams are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to foreign money lining the Chamber’s pockets. As Think Progress’ Faiz Shakir noted:
In a statement provided to Sargent, the Chamber reveals that foreign-based “AmChams pay nominal dues to the Chamber — approximately $100,000 total across all 115 AmChams.” But “AmChams” are only a small piece of the puzzle.
Most of the Chamber’s foreign sources of funds come from large multi-national corporations who are headquartered abroad, like BP and Siemens. Direct contributions from foreign firms also are accepted under the auspices of the Chamber’s “Business Councils” located in various foreign countries.
Rather than letting the Chamber of Commerce get away with the ol’ AmCham straw man argument, the New York Times should push past the spin and get to the truth. As the “paper of record,” it has a responsibility to tell Americans who is behind the Chamber’s efforts to defeat progressive candidates.
The always-helpful Shakir went ahead and posted some readymade questions for journalists to pose to the Chamber:
1) How many foreign sources of funding does the Chamber have? The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent received this statement from a Chamber spokeswoman: “[Of] the Chamber’s 300,000 members, a relative handful are non-U.S. based companies.” How many is a “relatively handful,” and how much do they contribute?
2) Are the foreign funds being directed into the same general account that is used to pay for partisan attack ads? Again, the Post’s Greg Sargent pressed on this point. The Chamber, which is running more than $10 million in political advertising just this week (the largest expenditure in one week by an outside group), said, “We are not obligated to discuss our internal accounting procedures.”
From Rolling Stone:
Posted: October 8, 2010 2:29 P.M. EDT | By Matt Taibbi
It’s amazing, given the attention the Tea Party allegedly is paying to government waste and government spending, that there hasn’t been more controversy about the now-seemingly-inevitable arrival of “QE2” – a second massive round of money-printing cooked up by the Fed to prop up both the government and certain sectors of the economy. A more overtly anticapitalist and oligarchical pattern of behavior than the Fed’s “Quantitative Easing” program could not possibly be imagined, but the country is strangely silent on the issue.
What is “QE”? The first round of “quantitative easing” was a program announced by Ben Bernanke last March in response to the financial crisis, ending in March of this year. In what will soon be known as “QE1” (i.e. once QE2 is announced), Bernanke printed over a trillion dollars out of thin air, then used that money to buy, among other things, mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Treasury Bonds. In other words, the government was printing money to a) lend to itself and b) prop up the housing market, with Wall Street stepping in to take a big cut.
From Zero Hedge:
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/09/2010 09:17 -0500
True story: A retired couple I know, Brian and Ilsa, own a home in the Southwest. It’s a pretty house, right on the manicured golf course of their gated community (they’re crazy about golf). The only problem is, they bought the house near the top of the market in 2005, and now find themselves underwater. They’ve never missed a mortgage payment—Brian and Ilsa are the kind upright, not to say uptight 60-ish white semi-upper-middle-class couple who follow every rule, fill out every form, comply with every norm. In short, they are the backbone of America. Even after the Global Financial Crisis had seriously hurt their retirement nest egg—and therefore their monthly income—and even fully aware that they would probably not live to see their house regain the value it has lost since they bought it, they kept up the mortgage payments. The idea of them strategically defaulting is as absurd as them sprouting wings. When HAMP—the Home Affordable Modification Program—was unveiled, they applied, because they qualified: Every single one of the conditions applied to them, so there was no question that they would be approved—at least in theory. – Gonzalo Lira
From Zero Hedge:
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/08/2010 13:15 -0500
In the following interview with the WaPo’s Ezra Klein, Janet Tavakoli shares some more information on why every bank is about to shut down all foreclosures, in what she calls the “biggest fraud in the history of capital markets.” Not very surprisingly, we are, so far, spot on in our 29th September projected timeline at this point: “We predict that within a week, all banks will halt every foreclosure currently in process. Within a month, all foreclosures executed within the past 2-3 years will be retried, and millions of existing home sales will be put in jeopardy.”
From Zero Hedge:
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 10/08/2010 11:47 -0500
It is time for the SEC to reissue their flash crash report, and to reconsider their Waddell and Reed scapegoating campaign. Why? Because apparently Schapiro’s pawns never realized that the market is sufficiently intelligent to do a complete forensic analysis on W&R’s trade into the flash crash, and to take the “regulator’s” word for less than face value (after the Madoff catastrophe, what other option is there). We now have prima facie evidence that the SEC is lying. We wonder: just how many pieces of silver did it cost the HFT lobby to bribe Schapiro and her Princeton physicist (what is it about this university and the caliber of “talent” it generates?) Gregg Berman to skew the data so much it is beyond laughable. In our ongoing expose of what really happened on May 6, Zero Hedge is happy to have collaborated with both W&R and Nanex to bring our readers the full truth behind the flash crash. Here it is…
Straight from forensic trade experts: Nanex.
From Crooks and Liars:
By Susie Madrak
Alternet’s Anna Clark interviews Jeff Sharlet about his new book, C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy. (You probably remember his previous book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power .) He has some really interesting things to say about this powerful, secretive movement and how it threatens democracy:
To be sure, George W. Bush provided the perfect bookend to era of modern Republican economic management ushered by Herbert Hoover. The verdict on President Bush’s reign of ruin was pronounced even before Barack Obama took the oath of office. January 9, 2009, the Republican-friendly Wall Street Journal summed it up with an article titled simply, “Bush on Jobs: the Worst Track Record on Record.” (The Journal’s interactive table quantifies his comparative failure.) Just days after the Washington Post documented that George W. Bush presided over the worst eight-year economic performance in the modern American presidency, the New York Times on January 24 featured an analysis (“Economic Setbacks That Define the Bush Years”) comparing presidential performance going back to Eisenhower. As the Times showed, George W. Bush, the first MBA president, was a historic failure when it came to expanding GDP, producing jobs and fueling stock market growth.
But it was the release of a Census Bureau report in September (“Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008″) which in 67 pages laid bare the economic devastation and human toll during the Bush presidency. As The Atlantic (“Closing The Book On The Bush Legacy”) rightly noted, “It’s not a record many Republicans are likely to point to with pride”:
On every major measurement, the Census Bureau report shows that the country lost ground during Bush’s two terms. While Bush was in office, the median household income declined, poverty increased, childhood poverty increased even more, and the number of Americans without health insurance spiked. By contrast, the country’s condition improved on each of those measures during Bill Clinton’s two terms, often substantially.This table (via The Reaction) provides a horrifying snapshot of the scope of the national calamity under George W. Bush:
The extent of the failure by Jeb’s brother was particularly glaring when it came to employment and job creation. The dismal 3 million jobs created under President Bush didn’t merely pale in comparison to the 23 million produced during Bill Clinton’s tenure. As the reliably Republican Wall Street Journal summed up its interactive table on the subject, “Bush on Jobs: The Worst Track Record on Record.” In September 2009, the Congressional Joint Economic Committee charted Bush’s job creation disaster, the worst since Hoover:
Sadly for the Republican message machine, the GOP’s pitiful record on the economy isn’t limited to Bush 43. History shows that from GDP growth and job creation to managing the national debt and producing gains for investors, it is the Democratic Party which is the friend of Wall Street and Main Street alike.
For the investor class so fond of perpetuating the myth of Republicans’ superior economic stewardship, the collapse of the stock marketing during the Bush recession must be particularly galling. The Standard & Poor’s 500 spiraled down at annual rate of 5.6% during Bush’s time in the Oval Office, a disaster even worse than Richard Nixon’s abysmal 4.0% yearly decline. (Only Herbert Hoover’s cataclysmic 31% plunge makes Bush look good in comparison.)