Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I can hardly believe we’re headed into the last quarter of 2011.  Such  a year we’ve had!

So, the GOP is going after some of the things for which I will happily contribute tax dollars.  They’ve got some pretty whacked values as far as I’m concerned.

Setting a collision course with Democrats that could drag out for months, House Republicans on Thursday unveiled plans to cut federal money for job training, heating subsidies and grants to better-performing schools.

The draft measure for labor, health and education programs also seeks to block implementation of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, cut off federal funds for National Public Radio and Planned Parenthood, and reduce eligibility for grants for low-income college students.

Democrats and tea party Republicans opposed the bill, blocking it from advancing through even the easy initial steps of the appropriations process on Capitol Hill. Instead of moving through the Appropriations Committee and the House as a whole, the $153 billion measure is instead expected to be wrapped into a larger omnibus spending bill this fall or winter that would fund the day-to-day operating budgets of Cabinet agencies.

Negotiations between Republicans controlling the House, the Democratic Senate and the White House are sure to be arduous. The measure is laced with conservative policy “riders” opposed by Democrats that would affect worker protections under federal labor laws and block the Education Department from enforcing rules on for-profit colleges that are often criticized for pushing students to take on too much debt.

“It looks like we’re in for a long, difficult process,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said excessive and wasteful spending over the years had put many programs and agencies on “an irresponsible and unsustainable fiscal path.”

Actually all of those Dubya Tax cuts and wars and letting Wall Street Run amok with speculation instead of investment is what put us on that “irresponsible and unsustainable fiscal path” and most of them voted for all of it.  I’m not willing to bail out any more of their donor base with my hard earned dollars by defunding the future of our children.  What on earth can we do about these evil people and the feckless dems that won’t fight them?

The court fights over the new health care law have been stepped up and SCOTUS has come into play in a big way.  Which of the justices are likely to uphold AEIcare-cum-ChafeeCare-cum-DoleCare-cum-RomneyCare-cum-Obamacare?

The four more liberal justices on the court — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Obama appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — should have no trouble reading the Constitution as bestowing broad powers on the federal government to regulate all manner of commerce. Although the court in recent years has pinched back congressional efforts to use the Commerce Clause to promulgate laws prohibiting guns near schools and those targeting violence against women, these were clearly non-commercial activities and quite different from the health-care law and its regulation of the medical insurance marketplace. Stronger and more directly applicable precedents remain, in which the court blessed the government’s regulation of wheat and marijuana production because these activities had an impact on interstate commerce.

The marijuana case (known formally as Gonzales v. Raich) may be particularly important because two of the more conservative justices — Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy — joined with their more liberal colleagues to uphold the law under the government’s Commerce Clause powers.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito — both George W. Bush appointees — shouldn’t be counted out either. Roberts and Alito joined an opinion in 2010 that recognized the government’s “broad authority” to enact a civil detention scheme for sexual predators under a different constitutional provision. This provision allows federal lawmakers “to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper” to uphold the powers assigned to Congress — including the power to regulate interstate commerce.

Michelle Bachmann’s campaign is running out of cash.  Even the NY Post thinks she may not make it to the Iowa Caucuses.

Will Michele Bachmann make it to Iowa? Insiders are whispering that the Tea Party darling’s financials are grim and she may be out of the race before she makes it to the Iowa caucus in February, even though she has a strong base in the state. Sources tell us say Bachmann’s skeletal staff are holding their collective breath until the deadline to disclose her fundraising report on Oct. 15. Meanwhile, we hear a computer vendor has called her campaign headquarters threatening to shut down the power due to an outstanding bill. Sources say she had about $400,000 at the beginning of September, but also stacks of bills. “She does not like to ask for money. She should have been focusing on big donors about three months ago,” a source said. “She’s only cultivated low dollar donors with direct mailings and that’s hurt her.” But at a rally in Virginia yesterday, Bachmann declared that she does not intend to back out of the race. “We intend to be the comeback kid in this race,” she said. Her rep said, “None of that is true.”

There’s a two part series at Bloomberg written by Collin Woodard on how the U.S. is really a country of regions.  Part One is here.   Part Two is here.  It’s a really interest read and something I have thought about for some time as I’ve tried to find some place in this country where I can live in peace.  For one, I’m trying to leave any region that’s described as bible buckle, bible belt, or bible anything!

Forget the state boundaries. Arbitrarily chosen, they often slash through cohesive cultures, creating massive cultural fissures in states like Maryland, Oregon and New York. Equally burdensome are the regional designations with which we try to analyze national politics — the Northeast, West, Midwest and South. They’re illusions masking the real forces driving the affairs of our sprawling continent: the 11 regional cultures of North America.

These 11 nations — Yankeedom, Tidewater, New Netherland, New France, Deep South, Greater Appalachia, the Midlands, First Nation, the Far West, the Left Coast, El Norte — have been hiding in plain sight throughout our history. You see them outlined on linguists’ dialect maps, cultural anthropologists’ maps of material culture regions, cultural geographers’ maps of religious regions, campaign strategists’ maps of political geography and historians’ maps of the patterns of settlement across the continent. I’m not the first person to have recognized the importance of these regional cultures. In 1969, Kevin Phillips, then a Republican campaign strategist, identified the distinct boundaries and values of several of these nations and used them to accurately prophesize the Reagan Revolution in his “Emerging Republican Majority,” a political cult classic.

More and more groups are joining the move to take on and occupy Wall Street. The New York Transportation Workers are the latest to announce they will join the protest today.

Occupy Wall Street has been picking up some decent support from unions in the past few days. Yesterday we reported that the Teamsters Union declared their support for protestors, and we also found out that the United Pilots Union had members at the protest demonstrating in uniform.

Today we learned the Industrial Workers of the World put a message of support on their website as well.

UPDATE: Verizon union workers have joined the protestors in NYC.

McClatchy reports that mortgage modification are still a mess even after four years. Quelle surprise!

Today there are at least 4.2 million homeowners who, like Palomo, are late on their mortgage payments or somewhere in the delinquency and foreclosure process. The first wave of foreclosures came during the 2008 financial crisis as subprime mortgages given to weak borrowers imploded. Now the subsequent economic downturn and high unemployment keep housing depressed.

The administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama both offered incentives for lenders to help homeowners modify their mortgages. Those efforts haven’t achieved much.

And four years into the housing crisis, banks and their bill collectors, known as mortgage servicers, are still under fire for their response to troubled borrowers.

“I would say they are somewhat better than they were three years ago, but still woefully inadequate to meet the demand, given the still remarkably high levels of distressed borrowers they are attempting to deal with,” said Paul Leonard, director of the California office of the Center for Responsible Lending, a Durham, N.C.-based advocacy group.

From December 2009 through June, more than 1.6 million government-backed mortgage modifications had been started, but only 791,000 became permanent. These numbers remain well below the goal of 4 million modifications that the Obama administration set for itself.

That should give you a few juicy bits to chew on with some coffee!! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

18 Comments on “Friday Reads”

  1. Minkoff Minx says:

    Yemen says al Qaeda cleric Awlaki killed | Reuters

    U.S.-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki killed: Yemeni officials –

    Jeffrey Toobin was on CNN this morning and disregarded the question about how US citizenship plays a role in the killing of Awlaki. If I can find the video I’ll post a link.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality – Glenn Greenwald –

      What’s most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What’s most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government’s new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government. Many will celebrate the strong, decisive, Tough President’s ability to eradicate the life of Anwar al-Awlaki — including many who just so righteously condemned those Republican audience members as so terribly barbaric and crass for cheering Governor Perry’s execution of scores of serial murderers and rapists — criminals who were at least given a trial and appeals and the other trappings of due process before being killed.

      From an authoritarian perspective, that’s the genius of America’s political culture. It not only finds way to obliterate the most basic individual liberties designed to safeguard citizens from consummate abuses of power (such as extinguishing the lives of citizens without due process). It actually gets its citizens to stand up and clap and even celebrate the destruction of those safeguards.

  2. Minkoff Minx says:

    I’ve got one more link, Bank of America to Charge $5/Month for Any Debit Card Use; Financial Reform Blamed « naked capitalism

    Banks don’t like it when their imperial right to loot customers runs into interference, do they?

    The Los Angeles Times reports that Bank of America intends to start charing customers $5 per month for any debit card use starting next year. The exceptions will be certain customers that the bank regards as sufficiently profitable otherwise so as not to be worth annoying, such as those with a $200,000+ mortgage or an account at Merrill Lynch with balances over $20,000.

    Narrowly, of course, the argument is accurate. The Charlotte bank is trying to preserve margins by circumventing the intent of new legislation, which was intended to stop what amounted to bank price gouging for debit cards (you can drive a truck between the cost of providing the service and what banks charged). That’s why it’s such a shame our bank regulatory apparatus has been co-opted by the industry. A competent regulator would beat back a brazen effort like this to game new rules.
    Consumers should brace themselves for a brave new world of lots of bank fees. Bank of America is no doubt hoping that it will be a price leader and the other major banks will copy its move. Now that banks can borrow at pretty close to zero, cheap sources of funding, like interest-free checking accounts and float aren’t as valuable as they once were. When I lived in Australia, it was pretty much impossible to have a relationship with a bank and pay less than $25 a month for it. The US banks are moving in that direction.

    • CinSC says:

      Kind of along this line, I would like someone to introduce some consumer protection legislation that allows people to get the advertised discounts in retail stores without having to hold the store credit card. It just doesn’t seem fair that someone (ok… me) paying cash has to pay 15 to 30% more for the same item at Penneys, Kohls, Belk etc. because they don’t have the store credit card. It used to be a now and then promotional thing but has morphed into everyday business practice.

    • bostonboomer says:

      If my bank does that, I’m going to take out all my money in cash and find another bank. And BOA should be out of business and the executives should be on trial for what they have done to homeowners.

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    This may be O/T but I have been reading a lot of negative comments this morning concerning the Red Sox huge loss on Wed. Many of the disappointed commentators are “calling for heads” to be chopped. In some ways I can’t blame them but I do offer a somewhat different take.

    Anyone who knows me knows that I have been a diehard fan from way back. I even watch their pre season games for heaven’s sake! Each year I manage to attend one home game at Fenway and it takes my breath away.

    And as sorry as I am that they “sucked big time” during September I do want to add that they did give me many a thrill this season which has to count for something. Watching my team climb up in the win column was a pleasure.

    I feel the same disappointment that many of those commentators are experiencing but for me I can only measure that against the thrills of those evenings spent watching some of my favorites play out their skill and strength in front of sold out crowds who love them regardless.

    So we must once again “wait until next year” but I just want to express a small sense of gratitude to the hours of pleasure they gave me throughout the season. This much at least cannot be washed away in a bucket of tears of regret.

    Thanks for the memories that allowed us to turn away from some of the unrest that pervades our every day lives.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Hi Pat,

      I’m happier that they aren’t going to be in the post-season and then lose right away. Unfortunately, when you don’t have the pitching, you can’t win a lot of games. I thought it was an entertaining season too, and I don’t feel like hurling insults at the players or management right now.

  4. Sweet Sue says:

    That Nobel Peace Prize is looking a tad tarnished these days, say what?

    • dakinikat says:

      Was watching Desmond Tutu and Ahn sang suu kyi interviewed on Charlie Rose at the Clinon Global Initiative last night. Plus, HHDL is a huge role model and spiritual leader for me. You have to wonder how they feel about all this.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Police need to stop focusing on what women wear and more on catching rapists. via @ATurkel

    Note to women in the South Park Slope and surrounding Brooklyn: You might want to think twice before wearing shorts or skirts when you walk home alone at night.

    That’s the message some women say police officers are spreading as they step up patrols in the area in response to at least 10 unsolved sexual attacks that have taken place since March.

    In a neighborhood with a reputation for liberal and feminist tendencies, the message is, as to be expected, not going over so well.

    • bostonboomer says:

      When will police begin to understand that rapists will attack any woman, regardless of clothing or appearance. Women in their 80s have been raped, and it’s not all that rare either.