Wednesday Reads: Obama Talks, BP Rigs, and Looney does a bit of soul searching.Posted: May 2, 2012
President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan yesterday:
…the document Mr. Obama signed with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan during the whirlwind visit was formally titled the “Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement.” It is meant to address the United States’ role even after the American-led alliance ends its combat role in 2014.
You can read the text of the Presidents speech here:
The latest out of the mouths of Romney supporters, and by that I am talking the kind of supporters who show that support with moola. Via Think Progress:
Income inequality in the United States has skyrocketed over the last several decades and especially since the Great Recession, so much so that it is now worse than in Ivory Coast and Pakistan. It may even be worse than it was in Ancient Rome, a society built on slave labor.
That income inequality is crushing the middle class and its political power. But don’t tell that to Edward Conard, a top donor to presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who gained notoriety during the campaign as a million-dollar mystery donor who set up a shell company to shield his identity. Conard, a former director at the Romney-founded Bain Capital, is working on a new book in which he argues that income inequality is a good thing, and what the U.S. really needs is more of it, the New York Times’ Adam Davidson reports…
Romney’s Former Bain Partner Makes a Case for Inequality – Here is the article that is mentioned up top. I wanted to bring this chunk of crap to your attention first…I wonder what Dak will think about Conrad’s explanation of what happened in 2008:
Every once in a while, this system breaks down. For one reason or another, the savers panic and demand all their money back. This causes a massive problem because the money isn’t sitting at the bank; it’s out in the world in the form of long-term loans. “A lot of people don’t realize that what happened in 2008 was nearly identical to what happened in 1929,” he says. “Depositors ran to the bank to withdraw their money only to discover, like the citizens of Bedford Falls” — referring to the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” — “that there was no money in the vault. All that money had been lent.”
In 2008 it was large pension funds, insurance companies and other huge institutional investors that withdrew in panic. Conard argues in retrospect that it was these withdrawals that led to the crisis — not, as so many others have argued, an orgy of irresponsible lending. He points to the fact that, according to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, banks lost $320 billion through mortgage-backed securities, but withdrawals disproportionately amounted to five times that. This stance, which largely absolves the banks, is not shared by many analysts. Regardless, Conard told me: “The banks did what we wanted them to do. They put short-term money back into the economy. What they didn’t expect is that depositors would withdraw their money, because they hadn’t withdrawn their money en masse since 1929.”
Conard concedes that the banks made some mistakes, but the important thing now, he says, is to provide them even stronger government support. He advocates creating a new government program that guarantees to bail out the banks if they ever face another run. As for exotic derivatives, Conard doesn’t see a problem. He argues that collateralized-debt obligations, credit-default swaps, mortgage-backed securities and other (now deemed toxic) financial products were fundamentally sound. They were new tools that served a market need for the world’s most sophisticated investors, who bought them in droves. And they didn’t cause the panic anyway, he says; the withdrawals did.
Hmmmmm…Wasn’t there a song in Mary Poppins about causing a “run on the bank” with some old white guys singing about the importance of saving your toppins?
Anyway, here is the money quote from the Think Progress article:
Unlike his former colleagues, Conard wants to have an open conversation about wealth. He has spent the last four years writing a book that he hopes will forever change the way we view the superrich’s role in our society. “Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong,” to be published in hardcover next month by Portfolio, aggressively argues that the enormous and growing income inequality in the United States is not a sign that the system is rigged. On the contrary, Conard writes, it is a sign that our economy is working. And if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off. This could be the most hated book of the year.
Conard instead argues that income inequality helps everyone because investors grow wealthy by creating products that benefit the 99 percent. Though that is certainly true to an extent, Conard’s line of thinking leads to the supply-side policies that are proven failures at “growing the pie” for everyone. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, for instance, were supposed to create jobs and spark economic growth for everyone. They did neither, instead saddling the nation with unsustainable debt and deficits that Republicans are now using to justify massive budget cuts to programs that benefit the lower- and middle-classes.
And while investors like Conard made luxuries available to some Americans, they also bankrupted companies and left workers without jobs, pensions, or health care. Bain Capital, in fact, made billions of dollars for people like Romney and Conard while bankrupting nearly a quarter of the companies in which it invested.
Moving on to Texas, Ralph posted a comment yesterday about the decision which benefited Planned Parenthood. I had hoped it was a good thing, but then Republican Judge Jerry Smith Blocks Pro-Planned Parenthood Order Just Hours After It Was Issued
Yesterday afternoon, a federal trial court in Texas granted a preliminary injunction preventing the state from cutting off women’s health funds to Planned Parenthood. The trial court’s opinion was written by Judge Lee Yeakel — a George W. Bush appointee — and it is 24 pages long, including substantial analysis of difficult constitutional doctrines such as the scope of the First Amendment right to free speech and the “unconstitutional conditions” doctrine. Significantly, the Bush-appointed trial judge was concerned that Texas stripped funds from Planned Parenthood because it disapproved of the organization’s advocacy in favor of women’s health — a direct attack on Planned Parenthood’s First Amendment rights if Yeakel is correct.
This morning, less than 24 hours after Yeakel handed down his decision, Judge Smith handed down a two sentence decision of his own:
IT IS ORDERED that appellant’s motion for stay pending appeal is GRANTED pending further order of this court. This order is entered by a single judge pursuant to FED. R. APP. P. 8(a)(2)(D).
Several things are significant about this very brief order. First, Judge Smith is a court of appeals judge, and it is very rare for an appeals judge to act alone in this way. Federal appeals courts almost always act as three judge panels, and for very good reason. Judge Yeakel is no less a federal judge than Judge Smith, and he is no less competent that Smith to interpret the Constitution. A court of appeals’ legitimacy generally flows from the fact that it brings more minds to a legal question than a trial court — but this cannot happen when a single judge acts alone.
This is a very unusual turn of events…
More importantly, it’s unlikely that Smith gave his order much thought at all before handing it down. Judge Yeakel handed down his order weeks after this case was filed, and he produced a 24 page explanation of why it was justified. Smith spent, at most, a few hours — and he offered no explanation whatsoever.
If nothing else, today’s order highlights the foolishness of Smith’s partisan tantrum several weeks ago. Unusual orders — even unusual orders handed down by single judges — are sometimes justified even if the legal reasoning behind such an order is not immediately apparent. Nevertheless, the legitimacy of such orders flows from the public’s trust that they are motivated by obedience to the law and not by partisanship, ideology or personal grievances. Judge Smith thumbed his nose at that trust when he lashed out at Obama last month, and undermined the legitimacy of the entire judiciary in the process.
I know that we have discussed the new drilling permits given to BP, well here is an update on that: BP to Erect 3 More Rigs in the Gulf
You read that correctly. Two years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 people and spilling nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the company got the go-ahead to build three new rigs in the region.
A BP representative—Bernard Looney—said that “after much soul-searching,” abandoning the undeveloped submarine oil fields would constitute “walking away” from “a key component of our future.” He said BP would work hard to prevent “such an accident from ever happening again.”
Looney, yup…you read that guy’s name correctly, the only response I have about this “soul searching” comment is…WTF?
There’s a new sheriff in town: Richard Myers Named New Sanford Police Chief Amid Discord Between Officials, Cops
(Well, technically he is not a sheriff, but it had a good ring to it. )
Sanford officials have selected a new interim police chief following several shakeups in the department in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting. Norton Bonaparte, the city manager, picked Richard Myers, a former chief of police in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Appleton, Wisc., to be the town’s new top cop.
He replaces Bill Lee…and we all know what happened on his watch.
Myers’ hiring comes amid growing tension between the department and city government, as officers and city officials have complained that Lee has been unfairly treated.
According to one city official, nearly 40 police officers met privately with the mayor and the city commission to voice their anger over the decision to force Lee from the department. Velma Williams, the city’s lone black commissioner, characterized the tone of the meeting as rancorous.
“They disrespected me and they disrespected the mayor,” she said.
Community leaders and many black residents said that Bonaparte jeopardized his political future by dragging his feet in making a decision on Lee’s fate early on. While the police chief serves at the pleasure of the city manager, the city manager serves at the pleasure of the city commission.
There were some separation agreements in the works between Bonaparte and Lee, and not only that, the letter that Lee gave as resignation had a questionable tone.
Williams said the April 23 vote was called moments after the group received the letter.
“When we arrived there at 4 o’clock, none of us had seen the letter of resignation,” Williams said.
Williams, who voted to accept Lee’s resignation, said that she voted on it sight unseen and didn’t read it until she arrived home later that night. But had she read it at the meeting, she said, “I wouldn’t have voted in support of Lee, but I would have said, ‘There’s no way that I can vote one way or another on this particular letter of resignation.’”
She said that when she and the other commissioners finally did read through Lee’s letter, red flags started going up. Among them, the letter seems to imply that Lee is being forced out and stipulates that he has violated no laws and that he would willingly return to his position if asked to do so.
Excerpts from Chief Lee’s resignation letter read in part:
It was an honor to be selected to serve the City of Sanford as its Chief of Police. Since taking the position, it is clear that while working with the men and women of the Sanford Police Department, we have moved the organization toward becoming a more effective and professional organization capable of providing a higher level of service to our community. Through this process, I have seen an increase in the morale of the men and women at the Department.
I have followed the law and acceptable law enforcement practices in performing my duties and responsibilities and have not taken any action or engaged in any conduct that would adversely impact the men and women of the Police Department, who so diligently and bravely serve the citizens of Sanford. I am willing, ready and able to continue to perform the duties of Chief of Police for the City of Sanford and have not been found to have committed any wrongdoing. However, in response to the City Manager’s suggestion that I resign from my position and solely to allow the city to move beyond recent events, I have decided that I can no longer serve as Police Chief.
Williams said of the letter, “You don’t say in your letter of resignation that they are forcing you out. Once people read it, people were in awe about what was in there, wondering, ‘What kind of resignation is that?’”
There are some who are questioning the choice of Myers, because Myers has issues:
Yet Myers comes to Sanford’s beleaguered police department with baggage of his own.
According to reports, Myers was forced out of the Colorado Springs police department in 2011 upon news of two scandals there, one of which involved an officer arrested for molesting children and another in which an officer lied to get an ex-boyfriend arrested.
That does not instill confidence does it?
Sanford interim police chief: Sanford hires interim police chief Richard Myers -According to this article from Orlando Sentinel:
…controversy surrounded much of Myers’ time in Colorado Springs, including the arrest of two officers, one of whom was charged with molesting children. Another controversy involved a botched sting at the restaurant chain Hooters. In June 2011, officers cited a waitress for serving an intoxicated patron. However, a video raised questions about whether the officers had lied in a report. The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Myers resigned in October, and The Gazette, a newspaper in Colorado Springs, reported that Myers was forced out of the job as a result of the mayor’s desire to “change direction.” Myers then became interim chief in Manitou Springs, Colo., a suburb of Colorado Springs.
Sanford officials have scheduled a news conference for Friday morning at City Hall to introduce Myers. He will be the fifth person to act as police chief in Sanford in the past two years.
I guess time will tell.
Anyway, that is all I can muster this morning. What is going on in your world this morning?