Wednesday Make-Up: A Laugh and Two, Ending on a Sharp Note.

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Uh, Boy!

 

I slacked off on Friday…with Christmas and all…there was no Friday Nite Lite thread. Well, I will make-up for it now with a comic filled post. I’ll throw some links in that you might find interesting.

 

 

12/29/2015 Cartoon by John R. Rose

Cartoon by John R. Rose -

 

Trump Cards: 12/29/2015 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Trump Cards

 

This next one is a local NC cartoon, but the same could be said for the GOP asswipes in any double red State:  12/29/2015 Cartoon by John Cole

Cartoon by John Cole -

 

In Louisiana and several other states: 30,000 Louisianans Scheduled to Lose Food Stamps | Al Jazeera America

Joanika Davis relies on the $194 per month she receives in food stamp benefits every month to help her get by as she searches for employment.

But on Jan. 1, Davis is set to lose that financial lifeline — one of approximately 31,000 Louisianians set to suffer as a result of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s decision to reinstate the work requirement for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in his state.

SNAP rules typically allow full benefits to single able-bodied adults only if they have jobs or are enrolled in a job-training program. Otherwise, they may access food stamp benefits for no more than three months every three years. States with high unemployment can apply for a federal waiver, dropping that work requirement and allowing single adults to access full benefits regardless of their job status.

Since the beginning of the Great Recession, nearly every state in the country sought and was granted a federal waiver at some point. But recently, a number of states with Republican governors have allowed their waivers to expire, citing improved economic circumstances and a desire to get their food stamp recipients back to work. Jindal, a Republican, allowed Louisiana’s waiver to lapse on Oct. 1.

“We continue to seek opportunities for SNAP recipients to increase their self-sufficiency. Engaging in work activities is a key step in that transition,” said Suzy Sonnier, the head of Louisiana’s Department of Children and Family Services, in a Sept. 30 statement.

Starting in January, Davis, who told Al Jazeera that she is still hunting for a job, will have to find ways to make up a monthly shortfall of nearly $200. “Why should I have to fight for food right now?” she asked. “Why should I have to fight to drink water?”

And it is not only people in Louisiana who are losing out.

Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming have recently allowed the work requirement to be reimposed, leaving 28 states with their food stamp waivers intact in fiscal year 2016.

The people affected by the reinstatement of the work requirement tend to be among the poorest of the poor, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an economic think tank. In 2014 able-bodied, childless, unemployed adults on food stamps had an average of $2,200 in gross income, the center found.

It also found that states that reimpose the work requirement tend to see a sudden sharp drop in SNAP participants, suggesting that thousands of unemployed recipients are unable to find work and maintain their eligibility.

“The idea that anybody is choosing not to work because of $190 dollars a month in food stamps — that’s really kind of a stereotype,” said Steve Spires, a senior policy analyst for the Louisiana Budget Project. “The reality is a lot of people want to work. There simply aren’t jobs…”

 

Clay Bennett editorial cartoon: 12/29/2015 Cartoon by Clay Bennett

Cartoon by Clay Bennett - Clay Bennett editorial cartoon

On the latest Trump news: 25% of Donald Trump’s political spending goes to his own companies – Quartz

“It’s very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it,” Donald Trump told Fortune in 2000, during his first abortive run for president.

He was referring to a $1 million motivational speaking deal he got from Tony Robbins that he timed to coincide with his campaign stops. Then, he didn’t dominate the headlines—apparently the Clinton-Bush-Gore psychodrama was more compelling—and Trump’s greatest accomplishment was winning the Reform party nomination in California with a scant 15,311 votes. (His bon mots haven’t changed much—Fortune refers to “his usual critiques of Pat Buchanan (‘a Hitler lover’), Bill Bradley (‘a total disaster’), George W. Bush (‘no Einstein’), Fidel Castro (‘a bad guy’), North Korea (‘run by some very bad people’), and Russia (‘totally mixed up’).”)

This time around, as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, he operates on a more rarified and lucrative plane: Trump’s companies have already earned $1.4 million from his campaign.

The billionaire builder often argues that his wealth guarantees his political independence, and describes his campaign as “self-funding.” That’s no longer true: While he was the main source of campaign funds during the early part of his run, the most recent financial disclosures through the end of September 2015, show Trump put less money into his campaign than his donors—and he stands to profit in particular from their backing.

Like the article says…”Follow the money.” And read the rest at the link.

 

Bruce Plante Cartoon: That Drone: 12/29/2015 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: That Drone

12/29/2015 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

 

The storms this Christmas have been terrible….The Mississippi River Is About to Have a Record Flood Completely Out of Season

The Mississippi River is flooding in a big way right now, at the wrong time of year, and is forecasted to match or break 22-year-old crest records over the next few days. Meteorologists are calling it “insane.”

Over the next three to four days, the Mississippi is predicted to reach a crest height of 49.7 feet at Chester, Illinois, one of several locations where the National Weather Service records data about the river. As of Tuesday afternoon, the river has already risen to 40.8 feet. According to Taylor Trogdon, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Memphis, that is an “absolutely remarkable” forecast.

 

The “great flood of 1993,” as it has come to be known, was “one of the most significant and damaging natural disasters ever to hit the United States,” according to a National Weather Service hydrologist, writing in 1996. “Damages totaled $15 billion, 50 people died, hundreds of levees failed, and thousands of people were evacuated, some for months.”

TRUMPNADO: 12/29/2015 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - TRUMPNADO

JEB RESOLUTION: 12/28/2015 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - JEB RESOLUTION

NAUGHTY LIST: 12/24/2015 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - NAUGHTY LIST

THE DONALD: 12/17/2015 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - THE DONALD

Cruz’s Daughters: 12/27/2015 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Cruz's Daughters

 

A few links regarding Cruz:

Cruz supporters are just as bonkers as Trump’s: Obama ‘ruined our country, ruined Christmas’

A woman spoke to C-SPAN at a recent Cruz rally in Mechanicsville, Virginia, where she explained that she intended to vote for the Texas Republican to drive President Barack Obama, who is constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term, from office.

“I don’t like Obama no more,” the woman explained. “He’s ruined our country, ruined Christmas. He’s let the Muslims in. We can’t say that word, we’ve got to be ashamed of it — and we’re not ashamed people. We’re a proud people, and we’re gonna take our country back. So watch out, Obama! We’re coming.”

The reporter asked the woman to explain how Obama had ruined Christmas.

“He’s scared the little children,” she said. “They’re not allowed to have Santa Claus in the schools where, you know, it might offend the Muslims. But what about us?”

The woman’s loopy rant was reminiscent of remarks made earlier this month by Trump supporter Susan DeLemus, a New Hampshire state representative, during a CNN focus group.

“We’ve got people in positions of power who I know for a fact are liars. Liars!” DeLemus said. “I watch the TV — My president comes on the TV and he lies to me! I know he’s lying. He lies all the time.”

Cruz himself is a nut:

Via Conservative Tribune. com (I won’t quote the thing cause I don’t want any crazy Cruz troll nuts here making trouble…) you can look it up by the title of the article: Ted Cruz Issues Huge Statement on What the Bible Says About Killing Muslims… This Is Brutal

Sen. Ted Cruz said that he would not be violating his Christian faith if he followed through on his vow to “carpet bomb” Islamic State group militants — a statement that’s sure to upset liberals across the country.

The Texas Republican and presidential candidate told Newsmax Wednesday: ”Let’s be clear, the Bible says, ‘Thou shalt not murder,’ which is different from ‘Thou shalt not kill.’”

“Defending yourself is an obligation of any president. It is not murder,” Cruz added in the interview with Ed Berliner on “The Hard Line.”

What the fuck is that? Justified killing for “Jesus.” Sounds like what a religious zealot says after shooting and killing a bunch of innocent people at a Planned Parenthood Clinic.

But wait there is more:

Cruz pointed out that while America killed Nazis in World War II, it wasn’t murder.

“When you have the face of evil that has declared war … then it is the essence of duty to defend your nation, to defend the innocent,” he said. “When it comes to jihadists, they have declared war on us, and that’s what President Obama and Hillary Clinton refuse to acknowledge.”

The leader of the United States should fight radical Islam the same way President Ronald Reagan fought the Soviets when bringing an end to the Cold War, Cruz said. Reagan aimed his foreign policy around the notion of defeating communism — a strategy of “we win, they lose.”

Reagan “championed tax reform and regulatory reform,” Cruz said, which “unchained the American economy.” The economic growth that resulted from from his reform allowed the former president to rebuild the military and challenge Soviet communism “on every front, strategically we bankrupted the Soviet Union and won the Cold War.”

There is recorded sound from the interview at the conservative tribune link…if you must hear it. Five fucking minutes of this shit. Of course the CT (cuntservative tribune) is all hard for Cruz.

Speaking of Reagan…up next, a link sent to me from Boston Boomer: Behind the Ronald Reagan myth: “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed” – Salon.com

Reagan embarrassed himself in news conferences, Cabinet meetings. Recalling how GOP cringed at his lack of interest

I always thought Reagan was much further gone with Alzheimer’s than we’re all led on now to believe…if that makes any sense. (As I am probably in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s myself.)

For BB: The Six Most Interesting Psychology Papers of 2015 – The New Yorker

I thought many of you would find this a good read: Sudan’s midwives take on Female Genital Mutilation

And this: 15 Remarkable Women of Color Who Rocked 2015 | Colorlines

This little tidbit: 8 Crazy Cuban New Year’s Eve Traditions — My Big Fat Cuban Family: A Cuban-American Blog

My Granny would throw a bucket of water out the back door, to wash away the bad luck from the last year…I don’t remember if it was dirty water or not.  Actually…I think she would toss a big pot of water. (One of her big cooking pots full…) So it would not be “dirty” and maybe that is why it never worked? She always had terrible luck…

 

Bruce Plante Cartoon: Bill and Hillary; Running Mates: 12/27/2015 Cartoon by Bruce Plante

Cartoon by Bruce Plante - Bruce Plante Cartoon: Bill and Hillary; Running Mates

12/26/2015 Cartoon by John Branch

Cartoon by John Branch -

Trump’s Flying Monkeys: 12/28/2015 Cartoon by Paul Fell

Cartoon by Paul Fell - Trump's Flying Monkeys

 

After U.S. Refuses Entry To British Muslims, Indian Students Are Being Turned Away In Droves | ThinkProgress

Twenty Indian students carrying valid student visas for colleges in California were denied entry in Chicago and put on planes back to India on Sunday, following other incidents of the U.S. turning away people from certain countries.

The U.S. is in a heightened state of vigilance since the terror attacks in Paris, France and San Bernardino, California. One of the shooters in San Bernardino came in on a fiance visa, prompting concern that potential terrorists could find loopholes to enter the country on valid visas or through the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of friendly countries to visit the United States without visas.

Some foreigners have already been barred from entering the country without being told why. Last week, a British Muslim family planning a trip to Disneyland was told by United Kingdom border officials that they wouldn’t be allowed to board a plane to the United States. Another 20 British Muslim families were reportedly denied entry into the United States without explanation.

 

12/28/2015 Cartoon by Randy Bish

Cartoon by Randy Bish -

Present Danger: 12/24/2015 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Present Danger

Jingle Trump: 12/22/2015 Cartoon by Rob Rogers

Cartoon by Rob Rogers - Jingle Trump

All Purpose Hate Speech: 12/24/2015 Cartoon by Monte Wolverton

Cartoon by Monte Wolverton - All Purpose Hate Speech

So Long to the Year of Trump: 12/24/2015 Cartoon by Sage Stossel

Cartoon by Sage Stossel - So Long to the Year of Trump

From Riese via AutoStraddle.com: Our Picks For 2015’s Best Longform By Women

Hey, so, maybe you’ve heard about this gender byline gap? Like how in print, men make up about 62% of bylines in the most widely circulated newspapers, and 58% of those at the top four online news sites, (according to the Women’s Media Center). Or how women head fewer major US newspapers today than they did 10 years ago and are underrepresented in op-eds, book reviews and photojournalism. Or maybe you read that article by Dayna Evans on Matter about the otherwise progressive Gawker Media’s treatment of women, which noted that if Jezebel was excluded from the company’s editorial statistics, its staff would be 28% female. (It’s 38% female with Jezebel included.) Perhaps you’re aware that racial diversity in media is even worse — people of color account for only 13.34% of journalists at daily newspapers.

I’ve been assembling weekly, and then bi-weekly, lists of the web’s best longform for Autostraddle for four years now, and because of all those reasons above (and because we love women around here), I wanted to do a year-end round-up of the best longform written by women. I qualified “longform” as containing 3,000 words or more, but there are ten or so articles I included despite falling under that word count. I wanted a racially diverse group of writers and I wanted to represent as many independent and women’s publications as possible — which was tougher than I’d hoped, as most mainstream women’s magazines and even some of the most hyped new media sites for women rarely publish articles over 2,000 words. Independent women’s publications, like ours, face serious budget constraints when it comes to commissioning longer pieces outside of personal essays. But even well-funded properties go light on women’s longform; it remains far easier to find longform by women in major men’s magazines like GQ and Esquire than their female counterparts, like Elle and Vogue. As Amanda Hess wrote in Slate following a controversy regarding a male-dominated Port Magazine feature about the future of print media, “I hope we can also take this opportunity to question why women’s writing is aligned so heavily with personal essays and service journalism — the forms that are the cheapest and ad-friendliest to produce.”

That being said, it wasn’t hard to find women writing amazing shit all over the internet. Longreadswas an incredible resource for me when putting this together, and if you don’t follow them, you really ought to. Specifically, Emily Perper does some incredible work over there. And although I remain bitter that Longform.org has yet to include our site on their app or website, I’m madly in love with their app and their website, and have been for years.

In some of the reporting pieces, men also were writers of the piece. I only selected a piece that had men involved if there were equal or more women involved.

In other news dealing with Women and GLBT’s Issues:

Hospital Refuses Pregnancy-Related Care Again Because of Religious Directives | American Civil Liberties Union  Another Catholic Hospital..

Religious Universities Get Exemption to Discriminate Against LGBTQ Students, Faculty

Forty-three religious universities applied for waivers in 2015 that will allow them to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Department of Education approved twenty-two of those requests, and the rest remain pending,BuzzFeed reported.

The number of schools seeking these waivers has spiked in recent years, jumping from one school in 2012 to 43 this year, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign.

Another story not getting much notice: Manning: Healing Continues 125 Years After Wounded Knee Massacre – ICTMN.com

This year marks the 125thanniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre. On December 29, 1890, as many as 300 innocent and unarmed Lakota men, women, children, infants, and elders were gunned down by the United States 7thCavalry at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota. After the bloodshed, Chief Big Foot (Spotted Elk) and his band lie dead in the snow where they remained frozen for three days, until all were buried in a mass grave.

For decades, the Wounded Knee massacre was masqueraded as a battle, and marked in many American history books as such. A few months following the massacre, the United States government awarded 20 troops of the U.S. 7thCavalry with the Medal of Honor, and to this day, those medals have yet to be rescinded.

 

12/24/2015 Cartoon by Chan Lowe

Cartoon by Chan Lowe -

12/23/2015 Cartoon by Chan Lowe

Cartoon by Chan Lowe -

12/24/2015 Cartoon by John Cole

Cartoon by John Cole -

12/24/2015 Cartoon by Tim Eagan

Cartoon by Tim Eagan -

Now some other links…Science, History and Art, oh…and a huge ass natural gas leak in California:

Training The Immune System To Fight Cancer Has 19th-Century Roots : Shots – Health News : NPR

Ancient DNA sheds light on Irish origins – BBC News

Genetic Study Traces the Origins of the Irish – Archaeology Magazine

Fishermen Report Medieval Shipwreck Off Italy’s Southern Coast – Archaeology Magazine

We Ask Some Art World Luminaries to Pick the Best & Worst of 2015

Here’s what the English language sounded like 500 years ago

“Unstoppable” California gas leak being called worst catastrophe since BP spill

 

Gas is escaping through a ruptured pipe more than 8,000 feet underground, and it shows no signs of stopping,” as according to the California Air Resources Board, methane – a greenhouse gas 72 times more impactful in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide – has been escaping from the Aliso Canyon site with force equivalent “to a volcanic eruption” for about two months now.

New infrared footage exposes the massive leak…

Go to link to see that video…also looks like Erin Brockovich is working on this…

Infographic of leak (and potential solution)

As TheAntiMedia.org’s Claire Bernish details, methane gas continues spewing, unchecked, into the air over southern California from a fractured well to an underground storage site — at such an alarming rate that low-flying planes have necessarily been diverted by the FAA, lest internal combustion engines meet highly volatile gas and, well, blow the entire area to hell.  

This is, indeed, the biggest environmental catastrophe since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010; and for now, there is no way to stop it.

This methane disaster is worse than can be sufficiently described in words, because while it’s estimated well over 100,000 pounds of methane spew into the atmosphere every hour, the leak can’t be halted, at least until spring. Even then, that stoppage depends entirely on the efficacy of a proposed fix — which remains a dubiously open question.

Yeah, I am ending it on that disturbing note. There is plenty more at the link…it is a very long read. (I will say it is via a website called intellihub.com. I am not familiar with that site, however…they do quote from reliable sources i.e. LATimes, CBS News, NY Daily News, court documents etc., which you can also verify by clicking those links within the article itself.)  In fact I would also suggest you read the comments…it may lead you to research into more natural gas leaks you can look up on Google…some fun for ya on the crust of the shitty year “2015” as we head over the cusp of the new year “2016.”

12/28/2015 Cartoon by Ann Cleaves

Cartoon by Ann Cleaves -

 

That does it for this Wednesday’s post…y’all enjoy this last couple of days of 2015!

What is going on in your part of the world? This is an open thread…


Tuesday Reads: Philippines Disaster, Economics News, and the Concern Troll Media

November snow1

Good Morning!!

Boy did I ever get a shock when I looked out my window this morning and saw a mix of snow and rain coming down outside. Noooooo! It’s way too early for winter weather. I hope this isn’t a sign of things to come.

Now that I’ve looked at this morning’s news from the Philippines, I’m ashamed to be complaining about a little bit of freezing rain. The disaster following Typhoon Haiyan is beyond belief. ABC News talked to a 19-year-old American woman who who survived the massive storm.

Rebecca Ruth Guy, 19, was living in the city of Tacloban, which bore the full force of the winds and the tsunami-like storm surges Friday. Most of the city is in ruins, a tangled mess of destroyed houses, cars and trees.

“When the storm hit, our apartment was flooding so we tried opening the door but the flooding was already rising up to our chest,” Guy told ABC News.

Faced with a life-and-death situation, Guy’s friend smashed the window so they could climb to the roof and escape the storm surge, which is being blamed for a large part of the destruction and death.

“We got out to the roof,” she said. “The rain was coming, the winds were crazy and it was getting cold. So we ended up sandwiching together and holding onto one another for warmth, praying for protection of the people.

“The most harrowing was when I saw women and children piled under tarpaulin, and when I saw dogs skewered on gates, cars thrown into buildings, people trying to find something to eat, water to drink,” she added.

According to the article, the U.S. sent planes to evacuate Americans living in the Philippines; other residents aren’t so fortunate.

CNN is reporting that 1,774 people are dead; but that number will continue to rise.

Cebu, Philippines (CNN) — Typhoon Haiyan has killed too many people to count so far and pushed to the brink of survival thousands more who have lost everything, have no food or medical care and are drinking filthy water to stay alive.

By Tuesday, officials had counted 1,774 of the bodies, but say that number may just be scratching the surface. They fear Haiyan may have taken as many as 10,000 lives.

The storm has injured 2,487 more since it made landfall six times last Friday, the government said. It has displaced at least 800,000 people, the U.N. said Tuesday.

Unfortunately a new storm and an earthquake have hindered rescue efforts.

As authorities rush to save the lives of survivors four days after Haiyan ripped the Philippines apart, a new tropical low, Zoraida, blew in Tuesday delivering more rain, the Philippine national weather agency PAGASA reported.

Zoraida is not a strong storm, but has dumped just under four inches of rain in some places, CNN meteorologists say….

An earthquake also rattled part of the affected area. The 4.8 magnitude temblor shook San Isidro Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

Here are a few more links about the storm and its aftereffects:

An aerial view of a coastal town in Samar province on Monday, Nov. 11. (REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

An aerial view of a coastal town in Samar province on Monday, Nov. 11. (REUTERS/Erik De Castro)

The Week: The terrible destruction of Typhoon Haiyan. This one has a number of shocking photos like the one to the left.

CNN: How it happened: Tracing Typhoon Haiyan’s havoc in the Philippines (lots more photos at this link)

NPR: WHO Rates Typhoon’s Medical Challenges ‘Monumental’

NPR: ‘It Looks Like A 50-Mile Wide Tornado’ Hit The Philippines

CTC News: Typhoon Haiyan: Before and after photos of storm’s damage

In other news, here’s one that will interest Dakinikat: Obama to Tap Treasury Official as Top Derivatives Regulator. From The New York Times Dealbook blog:

President Obama will nominate Timothy G. Massad as the new chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on Tuesday, a White House aide said, choosing the senior Treasury Department official to run an agency that polices some of Wall Street’s riskiest activity.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Massad will succeed Gary Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs banker who overhauled the agency in the wake of the financial crisis. Mr. Gensler, credited with turning one of Wall Street’s laxest regulators into one of its most aggressive, must leave office at the end of the year when his term officially expires.

Mr. Massad, an assistant secretary of the Treasury who oversaw the unwinding of the government’s bailout program stemming from the financial crisis, would join the agency as it undergoes a makeover.

Bart Chilton, the agency’s most liberal commissioner, announced last week that he would soon depart. David Meister, the enforcement director who led actions against some of the world’s biggest banks, departed the agency last month. And Jill E. Sommers, a Republican commissioner, left months ago.

The vacancies have raised the stakes for Mr. Massad’s nomination. If Mr. Chilton and Mr. Gensler depart before their successors are confirmed, the five-member commission will be down to just two members: one Republican, Scott D. O’Malia, and one Democrat, Mark Wetjen.

That would not be good. I know Dakinikat is busy today, but here’s another article for her to weigh in on if she has time: Confessions of a Quantitative Easer. From Andrew Huszar at the Wall Street Journal:

I can only say: I’m sorry, America. As a former Federal Reserve official, I was responsible for executing the centerpiece program of the Fed’s first plunge into the bond-buying experiment known as quantitative easing. The central bank continues to spin QE as a tool for helping Main Street. But I’ve come to recognize the program for what it really is: the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time.

Five years ago this month, on Black Friday, the Fed launched an unprecedented shopping spree. By that point in the financial crisis, Congress had already passed legislation, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, to halt the U.S. banking system’s free fall. Beyond Wall Street, though, the economic pain was still soaring. In the last three months of 2008 alone, almost two million Americans would lose their jobs.

The Fed said it wanted to help—through a new program of massive bond purchases. There were secondary goals, but Chairman Ben Bernanke made clear that the Fed’s central motivation was to “affect credit conditions for households and businesses”: to drive down the cost of credit so that more Americans hurting from the tanking economy could use it to weather the downturn. For this reason, he originally called the initiative “credit easing.”

Huzar claims that Janet Yellen will likely continue Bernanke’s policies.

Even when acknowledging QE’s shortcomings, Chairman Bernanke argues that some action by the Fed is better than none (a position that his likely successor, Fed Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen, also embraces). The implication is that the Fed is dutifully compensating for the rest of Washington’s dysfunction. But the Fed is at the center of that dysfunction. Case in point: It has allowed QE to become Wall Street’s new “too big to fail” policy.

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More pundits are joining the anti-Hillary ranks. According to The Hill’s Alex Bolton:

Liberal leaders want Hillary Clinton to face a primary challenge in 2016 if she decides to run for president.

The goal of such a challenge wouldn’t necessarily be to defeat Clinton. It would be to prevent her from moving to the middle during the Democratic primary.

“I do think the country would be well served if we had somebody who would force a real debate about the policies of the Democratic Party and force the party to debate positions and avoid a coronation,” said Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America’s Future, an influential progressive group….

Clinton raised concern among the Democratic Party’s populist base when she recently accepted an estimated $400,000 from Goldman Sachs for two speeches.

Influential progressives wonder whether someone who accepted such a large sum from one of Wall Street’s biggest investment firms could be expected to hold corporate executives accountable if elected president.

They also wonder how aggressively she’d call for addressing income inequality, which many see as one of the biggest economic problems facing the nation.

That’s odd, since Obama ran to Hillary’s right in 2008 and received more contributions from Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms than either Hillary or John McCain. But let’s not get caught up in facts…

Politico has taken up the suggestion from Noam Scheiber at The New Republic that Dakinikat wrote about yesterday that Elizabeth Warren should run against Hillary. Concern trolls Ben White and Maggie Haberman write:

There are three words that strike terror in the hearts of Wall Street bankers and corporate executives across the land: President Elizabeth Warren.

The anxiety over Warren grew Monday after a magazine report suggested the bank-bashing Democratic senator from Massachusetts could mount a presidential bid in 2016 and would not necessarily defer to Hillary Clinton — who is viewed as far more business-friendly — for the party’s nomination.

And the fear is not only that Warren, who channels an increasingly popular strain of Occupy Wall Street-style anti-corporatism, might win. That is viewed by many political analysts as a slim possibility. It is also that a Warren candidacy, and even the threat of one, would push Clinton to the left in the primaries and revive arguments about breaking up the nation’s largest banks, raising taxes on the wealthy and otherwise stoking populist anger that is likely to also play a big role in the Republican primaries.

So what does Warren think about all this?

A spokesperson for Warren declined to comment on whether she would consider a presidential bid against Clinton, though Warren has previously said she has no plans to run. People close to Warren note that she signed a letter from female Democratic senators urging Clinton to run in 2016. And Warren associates, mindful of any appearance of creating the narrative of a Warren-for-president campaign, have corresponded with Clinton associates to stress that they didn’t fuel the New Republic story by Noam Scheiber.

Assholes. Hey, I have an idea–why not get Kirstin Gillibrand to run against Hillary too? Of course Chris Cillizza is also rooting for Warren and Clinton to destroy each other’s chances to do anything positive about the economy:

Quick, name someone who would have a realistic chance of beating out Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential nomination. Martin O’Malley? Nope. Joe Biden? Maybe but probably not. Howard Dean. No way. There’s only answer to that question that makes even a little sense. And that answer is Elizabeth Warren.

And so on… bla bla bla… Don’t these idiots have anything important to write about? Like maybe jobs, children without food or health care, or the upcoming battle over the debt limit?

Thank goodness for TBogg at Raw Story: What if Elizabeth Warren went back in time and smothered Baby Hitler in his crib?

If you have been  perambulating about the internet these past few days, the above is exactly the kind of linkbait bullshit narratives that are being peddled by people who have wearied talking about President of New Jerseymerica Chris Christie or whether Rand Paul was the real life inspiration for the J.L. Borges short story, Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. It seems that frustrated  writers lacking hobbies have turned their lonely eyes to the Democratic side of the 2016 presidential election which is just around the corner, if by corner, you mean: three years from now. But with Hilary “Killary” Clinton pretty much chillaxing with the nomination ripe for the taking (providing she doesn’t rehire Mark Penn, aka The Man Who Could Fuck Up A Baked Potato) there isn’t a whole lot of  tension the likes of which you can find on a daily basis on the Republican Wingnut Flavor of the Week side.

So naturally, Noam Scheiber felt obligated to create some Democratic conflict. T-Bogg responds:

I love Elizabeth Warren. I would totally have her baby if she would have me. You love Elizabeth Warren. We all love Elizabeth Warren. Someday Elizabeth Warren t-shirts may very well become as ubiquitous as Che T’s. But, outside of the hazy crazy patchouli-scented fever palaces that are the comment sections of the manic progressive websites, nobody really thinks that Warren could, would, or should run an insurgent primary campaign against Clinton. And, to be quite frank, those who think Warren should run to in order to “start a conversation” are the  kind of people who have attempted this kind of thing in the past and , as my grandmother used to put it, “don’t have dick to show for it”.

Read his replies to Politico and Cillizza at the link. BTW, I wrote comment before I discovered T-Bogg’s piece. Great minds think alike, but T-Bogg expressed my reactions so much better than I could.

That should be enough to get us started on the day’s news. What stories are you following? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Tuesday Reads: Crime and Movies, Obama’s Second Term, How the Wisconsin Uprising Got Hijacked, and Other News

Good Morning!!

I’ve got a selection of interesting reads for you today.

Late last night, the top story on Google news was this:

Coroner rules dingo to blame for Australian baby’s death.

A coroner ruled Tuesday that a dingo, a wild dog native to Australia, caused the death of a baby more than 30 years ago.

Azaria Chamberlain was just two months old when she disappeared from a tent during a family holiday to Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, sparking one of the country’s most sensational and enduring murder mysteries.

“The cause of her death was as the result of being attacked and taken by a dingo,” Elizabeth Morris, coroner for Northern Territory, announced to Darwin Magistrates court early Tuesday. “Dingos can and do cause harm to humans.”

The girl’s mother, Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, long maintained that a dingo took her baby, even as she was sentenced to life in jail for daughter’s murder, a conviction that was later quashed.

Meryl Streep played Lindy in a movie about the case, A Cry in the Dark.

The movie was satirized in a Seinfeld episode.

Seriously, though, I’m glad that Lindy has finally received justice.

Another long-ago crime story has been in the news: the mysterious escape from Alcatraz by three convicts 50 years ago yesterday, June 11, 1962.

Fifty years ago, on the night of June 11, 1962, the three convicts were locked down as usual. Guards walking the tier outside their cells saw them at 9:30 and checked on them periodically all night, looking in at the sleeping faces, hearing nothing strange. But by morning, the inmates had vanished, Houdini-like.

Guards found pillows under the bedclothes and lifelike papier-mâché heads with real hair and closed, painted eyes. Federal agents, state and local police officers, Coast Guard boats and military helicopters joined the largest manhunt since the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932, scouring the prison complex on Alcatraz Island, the expanse of San Francisco Bay and the surrounding landscape of Northern California.

A crude raft made of rubber raincoats was found on a nearby island. But the fugitives were never seen again. Federal officials said they almost certainly drowned in the maelstrom of riptides, undertows and turbulent, frigid waters of the 10-mile-wide bay, their bodies probably swept out to sea under the Golden Gate Bridge.

But for aficionados of unsolved mysteries, the fantasy that Frank Lee Morris and the brothers Clarence and John Anglin had successfully escaped from the nation’s most forbidding maximum security prison and are still alive, hiding somewhere, has been a tantalizing if remote possibility for a half-century now.

The escapees would be in their 80s if they are still alive. According to this NPR story, there was a legend that they would meet again at the prison on the 50th anniversary of their escape. Believe it or not, U.S. Marshalls were there to meet them just in case. I haven’t heard of any old men being captured yet, but I’m writing this at 11:30PM, so I guess it could still happen.

Fifty years ago, three men set out into the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay in a raft made out of raincoats. It was one of the most daring prison escapes in U.S. history.

As one newsreel put it: The spoon proved “mightier than the bars at supposedly escape-proof Alcatraz prison.”

“Three bank robbers serving long terms scratched their way through grills covering an air vent, climbed a drainage pipe and disappeared from the forbidding rock in San Francisco Bay,” the report continued.

The men — Frank Morris and two brothers, John and Clarence Anglin — were never seen again. It was a brilliant plan, carried out with meticulous care and patience, but with such an unsatisfying ending. Did they make it? Or are they, as most people assume, at the bottom of the bay?

The legend has always held that if the men are alive, they will return to Alcatraz on the 50th anniversary of their breakout. There’s little chance that’s going to happen. But the anniversary is Monday, and I’m headed to the island to see if they show up. The U.S. Marshals say they will be there, too.

There have been a number of movies made about the daring escape. Clint Eastwood made a good one.

In political news, I’ve got a couple of long reads for you.

Ryan Lizza has a piece in The New Yorker about Obama’s second term: What would Obama do if reelected? In case you don’t want to plow through the whole thing, Atlantic Wire has a Reader’s Digest version: Obama’s Advisers Want You to Know He’ll Be a Lame Lame Duck President

If The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza is right, we might be in for four more years of compromise on things like climate change and nuclear proliferation. Lizza has an article this week forecasting Obama’s second term, or rather, what Obama’s advisers want you to know about the President’s second term.

Don’t expect much. Obama and his team aren’t revealing their cards on the pressing issues like the economy (Lizza mentions there’s time for one big policy change) or inflammatory issues like same-sex marriage. And their lack of specifics about the President’s second term has been a story in itself, especially when contrasted with Mitt Romney who has already imagined his first days in the White House. As Lizza reports, the message that the president’s team wants out there is that Obama will be banking on bipartisan support (a word that’s peppered the president’s first term) to maybe get things done in the short time he has.

It sounds a lot like the first term.

At TomDispatch, Andy Kroll has a lengthy article about how Wisconsin was hijacked.

The results of Tuesday’s elections are being heralded as the death of public-employee unions, if not the death of organized labor itself. Tuesday’s results are also seen as the final chapter in the story of the populist uprising that burst into life last year in the state capital of Madison. The Cheddar Revolution, so the argument goes, was buried in a mountain of ballots.

But that burial ceremony may prove premature. Most of the conclusions of the last few days, left and right, are likely wrong.

The energy of the Wisconsin uprising was never electoral. The movement’s mistake: letting itself be channeled solely into traditional politics, into the usual box of uninspired candidates and the usual line-up of debates, primaries, and general elections. The uprising was too broad and diverse to fit electoral politics comfortably. You can’t play a symphony with a single instrument. Nor can you funnel the energy and outrage of a popular movement into a single race, behind a single well-worn candidate, at a time when all the money in the world from corporate “individuals” and right-wing billionaires is pouring into races like the Walker recall.

Colin Millard, an organizer at the International Brotherhood of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Iron Workers, admitted as much on the eve of the recall. We were standing inside his storefront office in the small town of Horicon, Wisconsin. It was night outside. “The moment you start a recall,” he told me, “you’re playing their game by their rules.”

Check it out. It’s well worth the read.

In other news,

Yesterday the Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from some detainees at Guantanamo. At Mother Jones, Adam Serwer asks: Did the Supreme Court Just Gut Habeas Rights?

The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday not to hear appeals from a group of Gitmo detainees leaves the remaining 169 detainees at the facility with little chance of securing their freedom through US courts.

In the 2008 case Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled detainees at Gitmo could challenge their detention in US courts. That decision was seen as effectively ending the Bush administration’s attempt to carve out a legal black hole for suspected terror detainees. Shortly thereafter, Gitmo detainees began appealing their detentions—and frequently winning in court. But in the years since the decision, conservative judges on the DC Circuit have interpreted the law in a way that assumes many of the government’s claims are true and don’t have to be proven in court. By not taking any of these cases, the Supreme Court has ensured these stricter rules will prevail. Civil-libertarian groups say that essentially leaves detainees at Gitmo with habeas rights in name only, since the rules make it virtually impossible for detainees to win in court. A Seton Hall University School of Law report from May found that, prior to the DC Circuit’s reinterpretation of the rules, detainees won 56 percent of cases. Afterwards, they won 8 percent.

The march toward fascism continues. In other cheery news, a new Federal Reserve report says that the “Great Recession erased nearly 40% of family wealth.”

The Great Recession took such a heavy toll on the economy that the typical American family lost nearly 40% of its wealth from 2007 to 2010, shaving the median net worth to a level not seen since the early 1990s.

The Federal Reserve said in a new report Monday that median family net worth, the point smack in the middle of those richer and poorer, fell to $77,300 in 2010 from $126,400 three years earlier after adjusting for inflation.

The fall came with the collapse in the housing market and massive layoffs that slashed people’s incomes, and the pain was felt by families across the board — young and old, well-educated and less so, with children or not.

But the biggest impact was felt by young middle-age families, those headed by people ages 35 to 44. For this group, the median net worth — total assets minus debts — fell a whopping 54% in the three-year period to $42,100 in 2010. Such was their financial hardships that only 47.6% of these families said they had saved money in 2010; that was the lowest among all age groups, where an overall average of 52% of families saved some money that year.

Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) is “‘worried’ by influx of dark money” in the 2012 election because of the Citizen’s United decision.

“The thing that worries me frankly the most is the huge amount of hidden money which is going to get into — it already is in — the Romney campaign,” he said on Current TV’s War Room.

“The Super PAC money worries me. The fact that Mr. Romney will not disclose who is bundling his money, he is keeping that secret as well… It’s bad enough that we have these unlimited amounts of money that go into Super PACs.”

Levin says that Congress could force SuperPacs to reveal the names of donors, but so far the Republicans have blocked his bill to do that.

At The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart asks why Bashar al-Assad isn’t on President Obama’s “kill list.” After all, he claims the right to kill just about anyone in the name of terrorism. If Assad isn’t a terrorist, who is?

Fine, you say, but there’s an executive order against assassinating heads of state. That’s true, but we don’t exactly abide by it. During the Cold War, the United States helped orchestrate coups that led to the deaths of South Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem and Chile’s Salvador Allende. The Bush administration launched the 2003 Iraq War with a decapitation strike aimed at killing Saddam Hussein. And whether or not the United States had a hand in Muammar Gaddafi’s death last fall, it was the predictable—and perhaps desired—result of the war we launched.

But doesn’t assassinating foreign leaders set a worrisome precedent? If we can kill Bashar al-Assad, what’s to stop the Syrian government from trying to kill Barack Obama? We might ask the same question about the sanctions we impose and the wars we launch. The point is that the U.S. violates other countries’ sovereignty in all kinds of ways we wouldn’t appreciate if they did it to us. And the reason they don’t is not because they lack a precedent; it’s because they lack the power.

I’m speechless.

So what is on your reading list today?


Broken Windows And The Stealing Of Hearts

Yesterday I read an interesting essay by William Black over at New Economic Perspectives.  In the essay, Black, who headed the forensic audit team during the S&L crisis, pulls forward the Broken Window Theory, a criminological model based on a simple and some have said simplistic idea.  The theory was introduced by James Q. Wilson and received a fair amount of popularity during the 1990s, particularly in conservative circles.

Readers might remember Rudy Giuliani’s ‘war against graffiti,’ his zero-tolerance campaign in NYC.  That effort, the elimination of the squeegee men and the crack down on street prostitution among other things were based on the broken window philosophy, which uses an abandoned building metaphor.

Imagine a building in any neighborhood [although Wilson focused exclusively on what he termed ‘blue-collar crime.’]  The first broken window of our abandoned building if left unrepaired sends a clear message to antisocial types:  no one cares about this building.  So, it’s open season on all the other windows, on anything of value that’s been left behind.  If the owner doesn’t care about the integrity of the building then the street tough is encouraged to vandalize and take whatever’s not nailed down.

The attitude feeds on itself or so the theory goes. Honest citizens are less likely to confront the petty thief, which only encourages others to act out in destructive, antisocial ways.  Honest citizens begin to feel overwhelmed and outnumbered and stop safeguarding their own neighborhoods.   What’s the point? they say.    No one cares.  Communities begin to self-destruct.

Now whether you buy into this crime theory or not, I think the metaphor holds when you consider what we’ve been witnessing in the degradation of our financial markets, our legal system, even the refusal to admit that ‘there’s trouble in River City.’

As Professor Black points out, if we were to take Wilson’s theory and apply it to the explosion of ‘white collar crime’ within our financial system, it would be a major step in restoring the integrity of our system and bolstering peer pressure against misconduct.   As it stands now, Wall Street movers and shakers and their DC handmaidens have implemented business-as-usual policies that reward the thief and punish the whistleblower.  As Black points out in the essay:

We have adopted executive and professional compensation systems that are exceptionally criminogenic. We have excused and ignored the endemic “earnings management” that is the inherent result of these compensation policies and the inherent degradation of professionalism that results from allowing CEOs to create a Gresham’s dynamic among appraisers, auditors, credit rating agencies, and stock analysts. The intellectual father of modern executive compensation, Michael Jensen, now warns about his Frankenstein creation. He argues that one of our problems is dishonesty about the results. Surveys indicate that the great bulk of CFOs claim that it is essential to manipulate earnings. Jensen explains that the manipulation inherently reduces shareholder value and insists that it be called “lying.” I have seen Mary Jo White, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who now defends senior managers, lecture that there is “good” “earnings management.”

My husband had some unsettling experience in this area.  Early in his career, he worked as a CPA [the two companies will remain nameless].  But in each case, he was ‘asked’ to clean up the numbers, make them look better than they were.  He refused and found himself on the street, looking for employment elsewhere.  I remember him saying at the time, ‘Look, I’m a numbers guy.  I’ve never been good at fiction writing.’  This was back in the late 70s early 80s, so this attitude has been a long time in the making.  Now, we’re seeing accounting fraud that is literally off the charts.  Is it any wonder the country’s financial system is on life support?

We can see the destructive results of this careless, corrupt posturing all around us.  Professor Black continued:

Fiduciary duties are critical means of preventing broken windows from occurring and making it likely that any broken windows in corporate governance will soon be remedied, yet we have steadily weakened fiduciary duties. For example, Delaware now allows the elimination of the fiduciary duty of care as long as the shareholders approve. Court decisions have increasingly weakened the fiduciary duties of loyalty and care. The Chamber of Commerce’s most recent priorities have been to weaken Sarbanes-Oxley and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. We have made it exceptionally difficult for shareholders who are victims of securities fraud to bring civil suits against the officers and entities that led or aided and abetted the securities fraud. The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PSLRA) has achieved its true intended purpose – making it exceptionally difficult for shareholders who are the victims of securities fraud to bring even the most meritorious securities fraud action.

Reading this, I immediately sensed we could apply the metaphor just as easily to our legal predicament.  Dak wrote to this yesterday—about the disheartening disrepair of our justice system, which was badly wounded during the Bush/Cheney years with the help of eager lawyers like John Yoo, stretching, reinterpreting, rewriting the parameters on the subjects of torture, indefinite detention, rendition, etc.

Not to be outdone, Eric Holder stood before Northwestern University’s Law School the other day and with the same twisted logic, explained away due process, otherwise known as ‘how to justify assassination.’  In this case, American citizens, those the President deems are a threat to the Nation, can be killed on native ground or foreign soil. Jonathon Turley, law professor at George Washington University and frequent legal commentator in the media, headed a recent blog post as follows:  Holder Promises to Kill Citizens with Care.

Sorry, this does not make me feel better.  What it does make me think is lawlessness simply breeds more lawlessness.  The Broken Window theory writ large.  As Turley explained:

The choice of a law school was a curious place for discussion of authoritarian powers. Obama has replaced the constitutional protections afforded to citizens with a “trust me” pledge that Holder repeated yesterday at Northwestern. The good news is that Holder promised not to hunt citizens for sport.

Holder proclaimed that “The president may use force abroad against a senior operational leader of a foreign terrorist organization with which the United States is at war — even if that individual happens to be a U.S. citizen.” The use of the word “abroad” is interesting since senior Administration officials have asserted that the President may kill an American anywhere and anytime, including the United States. Holder’s speech does not materially limit that claimed authority. He merely assures citizens that Obama will only kill those of us he finds abroad and a significant threat. Notably, Holder added “Our legal authority is not limited to the battlefields in Afghanistan.”

Turley went on to comment that Holder was vague, to say the least, when it came to the use of these ‘new’ governmental/executive powers, claiming that the powers-that-be will only kill citizens when:

“the consent of the nation involved or after a determination that the nation is unable or unwilling to deal effectively with a threat to the United States.”

And as far as ‘due process?”  Holder declared that:

“a careful and thorough executive branch review of the facts in a case amounts to ‘due process.’”

Chilling!  As Turley grimly noted in an earlier post, this is no longer the land of the free.

Seemingly unrelated was this report from the New York Times: the heart of Dublin’s 12th-century patron saint was stolen earlier this week from Christ’s Church Cathedral.  The heart of Laurence O’Toole had been housed in a heart-shaped box, safely secured [or so church authorities believed] within an iron cage.  The relic’s disappearance was preceded by a rash of reliquary robberies from churches, monasteries and convents around Ireland.  According to the article:

The small cage hosting the heart-shaped box containing the relic was tucked away in an innocuous alcove at the side of a small altar. Visitors to the cathedral on Monday stared at the twisted bars and the empty space behind. The bars themselves were sundered evenly.

According to Dermot Dunne, dean of Christ Church, the box had lain undisturbed for centuries.  He had no idea why someone would take it.

Whether it’s the heart of a saint or the heart of a Nation, the theft is a grievous insult. The crime betrays the public trust and our basic sense of decency.  But the thieves of O’Tooles’s heart performed a curious act before exiting.

The Irish culprits lit candles at two of the Cathedral’s altars.  Which means the perpetrators possessed, at the very least, an ironic sense of tradition.

The same cannot be said of our homegrown hooligans. Crass greed and the lust for unlimited power have their own dark tradition.  As Americans, we do not expect vice to be confused with virtue.  In the past, we could not imagine a blatant disrespect for the Rule of Law–crimes ignored, excused, then openly declared necessary for whatever raison du moment.

Not here, we told ourselves repeatedly.  Not in the United States.

Perhaps, we should light candles of our own.  A small devotion for the lost and dying.


William Black Goes Ballistic

I’ve been reading William Black’s essays and posts, watching his video interviews and You Tube presentations, ever since I saw him on Bill Moyers Journal speaking frankly, no holds barred, about how the financial industry had brought the country to its knees and gotten away with it.  He spoke frankly again during his Congressional testimony last year when he came right out and called the mortgage debacle that nearly finished the US economy . . . fraud.  Yes he used the ‘f’ word!  This was unlike other ‘experts’ who insisted there was no inkling of trouble on the horizon, that the financial meltdown was ‘an act of the economic gods,’ a huge surprise, the product of overly optimistic financial predictions.

No, Black said.  It was fraud.  It was criminal.  In case you missed that testimony, you can watch below.  It’s worth a second go-around.

Too bad Black’s comments were basically ignored, caught up in the razzle-dazzle of excuses, half-truths and political posturing that’s become all too familiar to anyone paying attention.  Business as usual is still the acceptable mantra.  In case, you’ve forgotten [time flies when we’re having so much fun], William Black headed Poppy Bush’s forensic audit team during the S&L scandal, which ultimately led to 1000 elite felony convictions.

Black’s investigative team wasn’t kidding around.

William Black came out yesterday morning with his own take on President Obama’s SOTU announcement of a Task Force [The Let’s Try It Again Task Force], quoting POTUS:

And tonight, I am asking my Attorney General to create a special unit of federal prosecutors and leading state attorneys general to expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis. This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.

Black suggests we look at the wording, the avoidance of using the ‘f’ or ‘c’ word.  That would be fraud and criminal.  His response to this and Eric Holder’s follow up memorandum:

The working group will not “investigate … abusive lending” and it will not “hold accountable those who broke the law … [by defrauding] homeowners.” It will not “speed assistance to homeowners.” It will not “turn the page on an era of recklessness” – and fraud, not “recklessness” is what prosecutors should prosecute. The name of the working group makes its crippling limitations clear: the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group. Attorney General Holder’s  memorandum about the working group makes clear that the name is not misleading. The working group will deal only with mortgage-backed securities (MBS) – not the fraudulent mortgage origination that drove the crisis (the only exception is federally insured mortgages).

Clearly, he’s not impressed.  No, instead he’s disgusted and enraged.  In fact, the essay nearly jumps off the page with genuine anger.  He goes on to say:

The working group is a symbolic political gesture designed to neutralize criticism of the administration’s continuing failure to hold accountable the elite frauds that drove the crisis. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has convicted a single elite fraud that drove the crisis. This is a national disgrace and represents the triumph of crony capitalism. Remember that the FBI warned in September 2004 that there was an “epidemic” of mortgage fraud and predicted that it would cause a financial “crisis.” There are no valid excuses for the Bush and Obama administrations’ failures. The media have begun to pummel the Obama administration for its failure to prosecute. The administration could not answer this criticism with substance because it has nothing substantive to offer in prosecuting elite mortgage origination frauds. The ugly truth is that we are three full years into his presidency and Holder could not find a single indictment to bring that Obama could brag about in his SOTU address. Who doubts that Holder and Obama would have done so if they had anything in the prosecutorial pipeline? Why do Holder and Obama have nothing in the pipeline?

One of the other things that deeply disturbs Black is President Obama’s willingness to play politics in this matter, float the gambit of the Task Force /Working Group and the reputation of Eric Schneiderman to create the appearance of a genuine hands-on effort.  But this move is not genuine as far as Black is concerned and contradicts the very essence of President Obama’s SOTU address, conjuring up the Seal Team that took out Osama Bin Laden—a team effort, concentrating on the mission.

This is no more than vulgar propaganda, Black claims.

He also refers to a disclosure made by Scot Paltrow for Rueters 10 days ago, revealing that US Attorney General Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer, heading the DOJs criminal division [also a co-chair of the ‘Let’s Try It Again Task Force], had been partners at Covington and Burling, a well-established and well-heeled law firm that represented many of the largest banks, providing cover for their clients through key arguments on the MERS debacle.

Conflict of interest anyone?

The state Attorney Generals?  They were lobbyied, leaned on, even offered [as was the case of AG Kamala Harris, CA] $8 billion to assist damaged California homeowners in a bid to agree to the original deal, which would have offered the big banks immunity from liability.  All so the President could announce ‘a deal’ in his State of the Union address, even though homeowners would be left out to dry and bank executives, who led deliberate “accounting control frauds,” could continue their conduct with absolute impunity.

This is ugly, made all the uglier in that it was sanctioned through and by the White House.  Black suggests that Eric Schneiderman recognized the leverage he had, agreed to join the Task Force as a co-chair with the stipulation that the original deal be modified, specifically concerning civil liability in mortgage origination fraud.

This might explain Jamie Dimon’s whine last Friday, pouting and claiming bankers are the objects of unfair discrimination.  Really?  Here’s the average American’s response:

Of course, you would think that this mess would be a window of opportunity for Republicans in an election year.  What an incredible club to use on President Obama to win the WH, maybe the House and the Senate by gargantuan majorities.

No fear there because for every compromised Democrat there is an equally compromised Republican.  Both the Democrats and Republicans rely heavily on campaign contributions from the financial sector.  Neither side is willing to cut their bankers [crooked or not] off at the knees.

What to do?  What better reason to support any and all actions to get money out of the political arena.  Until we do?  The world belongs to the highest bidder.


Wednesday Reads: Criminals, Whistleblowers, Journalists and Artists…

Good Morning!

Wednesday is upon us again, and today we have some interesting reads for you…as the title teases, we cover just about everyone.

At least the European parliament hasn’t forgotten the Wikileak Whistleblower who has been held captive in a US military jail. The MEP’s are asking questions about Bradley Manning, and want to send a UN special reporter on torture to visit Manning and check on his condition. So here are a couple of links about this request.  Bradley Manning treatment in custody concerns MEPs

More than 50 members of the European parliament have signed an open letter to the US government raising concerns about the treatment of Bradley Manning, the US soldier in military detention for allegedly leaking classified US documents to the whistleblowing site WikiLeaks.

The call on the US government comes before a pre-trial hearing – Manning’s first appearance in court – which begins on 16 December.

The MEPs said internal investigations into Manning’s treatment in custody, which included solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day, inspections by officers every five minutes from 5am onwards and removal of his clothes, had been marred by “clear conflicts of interest”.

They call for US authorities to grant Juan Méndez, the UN special rapporteur on torture, access to Manning.

Mendez has made repeated requests for access to the military base where Manning is held, all of which have been refused by US authorities.

That the US authorities are refusing to allow Mendez visitation, it makes one think, “What are they trying to hide?”

The open letter from European parliamentarians, which follows another signed by several hundred US legal scholars, questioned the charges against Manning and warned that his pre-trial treatment may harm the UN’s work elsewhere, “particularly its mandate to investigate allegations of torture and human rights abuses”.

“In order to uphold the rights guaranteed to Bradley Manning under international human rights law and the US constitution, it is imperative that the United Nations special rapporteur be allowed to properly investigate evidence of rights abuses. PFC Manning has a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. People accused of crimes must not be subjected to any form of punishment before being brought to trial,” they wrote.

“We certainly do not understand why an alleged whistleblower is being threatened with the death penalty, or the possibility of life in prison. We also question whether Bradley Manning’s right to due process has been upheld, as he has now spent over 17 months in pre-trial confinement.”

You can read the entire letter for yourself here:  Bradley Manning: MEPs’ open letter to the US government

Manning will attend an Article 32 hearing, the US military equivalent of a pre-trial hearing, on 16 December. This is expected to last five days. Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, has indicated he wishes to call 50 witnesses at the hearing, but military authorities are considered unlikely to grant such a request.

The Article 32 hearing then makes a recommendation to a general as to whether to proceed to a full trial.

Now, compare this to recent news from China…Ai Weiwei’s wife detained by police. 

 The wife of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei was detained by police yesterday, the latest move in what has been seen as a concerted campaign to silence one of the government’s most vocal critics.

Speaking to The Independent, the artist, whose works include the Sunflower Seeds exhibition at London’s Tate Modern last year, described his wife Lu Qing’s three-hours of questioning as “ridiculous. They accused her of being a criminal suspect. When she asked them what crimes, they said it was a secret.”

Four policemen took Ms Lu, also a high-profile artist, from the couple’s Beijing studio to a local police station where she was questioned about a design company that manages Ai’s art, which is currently the focus of a £1.5m tax-evasion case.

“She is quite hurt. She’s very innocent; she doesn’t know anything about politics.” Mr Ai said.

Her cameraman and assistant has also been detained for questioning, in regards to one of Lu’s photographs that is now being labeled by the police as “pornography.”

What can you say, it does not seem to be much difference between China and the US.

In fact, this next link from the ACLU has information on the process of detaining US Citizens using the ICE’s Secure Communities.  Detain First, Investigate Later: How U.S. Citizens Are Unlawfully Detained Under S-Comm

Detain first, investigate later — that is Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) mantra when it comes to its Secure Communities (“S-Comm”) program, a program designed to immediately ensnare any immigrant in the deportation pipeline the moment they come into contact with the criminal justice system.

Under S-Comm, the fingerprints of every person arrested by the police are shared with ICE at the moment they are booked into police custody. Without investigating the person’s immigration status, ICE immediately sends an “immigration detainer” or a request back to the police if they want the person to continue to be detained for immigration purposes. Detain first, investigate later.

See a problem with this? Not only does it violate the Fourth Amendment’s basic prohibition against detaining a person without probable cause to do so, but it commonly ensnares the wrong people, including people who are not even immigrants, but United States citizens, causing them to be unlawfully detained.

The post goes on to describe personal experiences with the policy of Detain First, Investigate Later.

ICE, quite clearly, has no business arresting and detaining American citizens. But as described in a recent report by the Warren Institute at University of California — Berkeley, they do so over and over again through the fundamentally-flawed S-Comm program. (ICE’s own data in the first year of S-Comm activation revealed that five percent of persons identified by S-Comm were in fact U.S. citizens.) And they do so by enlisting the unwitting participation of local jail authorities in these unconstitutional practices.

The costs and consequences of S-Comm’s detain first, investigate later are borne out every day in the jails and police stations across the country where non-deportable citizens and noncitizens suffer needless detention, while they beg for ICE to finally investigate their cases so that they may be released from jail.

Which makes me think of the recent Immigration Law passed in Alabama. Via Atrios:  But The Law Was Only Supposed To Apply To Brown People

…many foreign manufacturers, including Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Honda, have set up there. Its business-friendly reputation took a serious blow with the arrest in Tuscaloosa of a visiting Mercedes manager who was caught driving without his license and taken to jail as a potential illegal immigrant.

You see, you aren’t business friendly when you’re locking up the people who run the business, only when you’re locking up the people who work for it.

I know it isn’t funny, but the fact that they treated this Mercedes executive like an illegal immigrant made me laugh out loud.

Now here are some links involving Journalism and Journalists…which according to one link, calling some of the media’s reports “journalism” is rather a large leap.

First, this report about Lynsey Addario, New York Times Journalist, Strip Searched By Israeli Soldiers.

Israel’s Defense Ministry apologized Monday for the treatment of a pregnant American news photographer who said she was strip searched and humiliated by Israeli soldiers during a security check.

Lynsey Addario, who was on assignment for the New York Times, had requested that she not be forced to go through an X-ray machine as she entered Israel from the Gaza Strip because of concerns for her unborn baby.

Instead, she wrote in a letter to the ministry, she was forced through the machine three times as soldiers “watched and laughed from above.” She said she was then taken into a room where she was ordered by a female worker to strip down to her underwear.

Wait, they forced her to take the x-ray three times and then made her strip?

In the Oct. 25 letter sent by the newspaper said Addario, a Pulitzer Prize winner who is based in India and has worked in more than 60 countries, had never been treated with “such blatant cruelty.”

The ministry said an investigation found that the search followed procedures but noted that Addario’s request to avoid the X-ray machine had not been properly relayed.

Addario said she made the request not to go through the X-ray machine before arriving at the crossing.

“We would like to apologize for this particular mishap in coordination and any trouble it may subsequently have caused to those involved,” the statement said.

Hopefully, the x-ray screening did not harm her fetus…

Here in the US, CBS and CNN is getting flack for its recent “Exclusive Interviews” that are not real interviews, but video of a reporter knocking on the door and being told to f-off. Laurie Fine Interview On CNN

On Nov. 15, CBS touted an exclusive interview with Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary, the man who allegedly saw and reported Jerry Sandusky abusing a boy in the locker room shower. The interview with Armen Keteyian lasted a whopping 24 seconds and its only legacy was a brief “shaken like a snowglobe” Internet meme. To say it was roundly mocked by anyone watching would be an understatement.

On Monday, CNN — with far less lead-up fanfare — touted an exclusive interview with Laurie Fine, wife of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, who is accused of molesting team ball boys. This interview lasted 18 seconds, and consisted of AC 360‘s Gary Tuchman knocking on the door of the Fine house, and swatting down “no comments” from Laurie Fine by asking more questions. He eventually got the door shut in his face as a dog barked at him.

The Mediate post goes on to breakdown these “interviews” and honestly it is a laugh.

Keteyian’s interview consisted of 68 words, 29 of which were McQueary’s. Tuchman’s was 70 words, 21 of which were Fine’s…And we never see Laurie Fine’s face. Just a voice from inside the house, caught on a microphone that Tuchman had on him.

Video at the link above.

I’m giving you another link to Mediaite, this time highlighting a segment on Colbert: Stephen Colbert On CNN iReporters: ‘This Bold Move Will Help You Get Rid Of Your Remaining Viewers’

On Monday night’s The Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert deftly tore into CNN for laying off dozens of its employees and choosing instead to rely more heavily on free (and, as one might be inclined to point out, often irrelevant) viewer-produced “iReports.”

“Why buy the cow,” Colbert mused, “when you can have it shakily videotape its own milk for free?”

Perhaps if CNN used an iReporter for the Fine interview, it would have been better than the professional one Tuchman taped?/snark

Colbert also noted that readers are reimbursed for their efforts with badges, which, he assumes, can probably be used to pay for food and rent. So far, readers have submitted personal vacation footage, a little girl’s weather report, and footage of some rambling man who calls himself “Blitz” or some such.

[…]

“Bravo CNN,” added Colbert, “for getting rid of all those pesky professionals. Hopefully this bold move will help you get rid of your remaining viewers.”

Too damn funny!

Okay, now this next journalism link is serious…and very interesting. h/t Susie Madrak: Tehelka – India’s Independent Weekly News Magazine

‘Journalism, not truth, is the first casualty of war’

WAR IS a well-produced reality show. Embedded journalism is the star cast. Yes, there are innocents dying, but why let that interfere with what the boss wants reported? Award-winning documentary filmmaker-journalist John Pilger is like the Censor Board in reverse. He hunts down secret footage and uses it as damning evidence, countering what war mongers want you to believe. His 2010 documentary The War You Don’t See had its Indian premiere in Delhi recently. Its footage of a US chopper firing on unarmed Baghdad residents and injured children being ignored as collateral damage raises questions about the media’s engage ment with war. Ironically, the journalists were conspicuous by their absence. For someone who has covered every major war of our times, even Pilger, 72, underneath his composed exterior, seemed disappointed. He tells Karuna John that journalists owe their loyalty to telling the truth. Period.

The link takes you to a Q & A with John Pilger, and after reading the “crap” being called “journalism” at CNN…it is refreshing to read about the real thing.

Just a few more links for you this morning. I find it curious that in Georgia, Herman and Newt’s extra-marital affairs are actually illegal. Map: Is Adultery Illegal? Why is the religious right so silent? Hasn’t both of these presidential candidates broken a few of those laws written on stone that folks like Pat Robertson are so passionate about?

Times are tough, the economy sucks ass and it doesn’t look like any help will be on the way soon.

Hard Times Generation: Families living in cars  This is a video link to a segment from this week’s 60 Minutes.

More than 16 million children are now living in poverty and, for many of them, a proper home is elusive. Some cash-strapped families stay with relatives; others move into motels or homeless shelters. But, as Scott Pelley reports, sometimes those options run out, leaving an even more desperate choice: living in their cars. 60 Minutes returns to Florida, home to one third of America’s homeless families, to find out what life is like for the epidemic’s youngest survivors.

Add to this an article from the New York Times that highlights the loss of jobs within the black community.  As Public Sector Sheds Jobs, Black Americans Are Hit Hard

Though the recession and continuing economic downturn have been devastating to the American middle class as a whole, the two and a half years since the declared end of the recession have been singularly harmful to middle-class blacks in terms of layoffs and unemployment, according to economists and recent government data. About one in five black workers have public-sector jobs, and African-American workers are one-third more likely than white ones to be employed in the public sector.

“The reliance on these jobs has provided African-Americans a path upward,” said Robert H. Zieger, emeritus professor of history at the University of Florida, and the author of a book on race and labor. “But it is also a vulnerability.”

A study by the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California this spring concluded, “Any analysis of the impact to society of additional layoffs in the public sector as a strategy to address the fiscal crisis should take into account the disproportionate impact the reductions in government employment have on the black community.”

Jobless rates among blacks have consistently been about double those of whites. In October, the black unemployment rate was 15.1 percent, compared with 8 percent for whites. Last summer, the black unemployment rate hit 16.7 percent, its highest level since 1984.

Economists say there are probably a variety of reasons for the racial gap, including generally lower educational levels for African-Americans, continuing discrimination and the fact that many live in areas that have been slow to recover economically.

Hmmm…maybe Obama’s lack of attention to African-Americans high unemployment also is not helping matters…please give the entire article you time. The story is a sad one, and many of us are familiar with the stresses a family will go through when jobs are lost and people are in survival mode. The holidays make it even more difficult.

This next link discusses how the Recession hits families hard as half of Americans fear they won’t be able to do their holiday shopping . The article points out that one in five American families do not have disposable income.

Worried: Financial troubles are dampening people's expectations this season

Worried: Financial troubles are dampening people’s expectations this season.

While the deals in stores and online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are meant to encourage shoppers, many people’s bank statements are having the opposite effect.

As a result of the difficult financial times and the diminishing disposable cash in many American households, half of the country is concerned that they will not be able to buy the gifts they want for family and friends this holiday season.

A CBS poll reports that 33 per cent of those polled will not have enough money for holiday shopping.

Okay, very depressing news…and very depressing numbers. Let’s end this post with some geeky news about True Random Numbers Created by Firing Lasers at Diamonds

True random numbers are very hard to come by, as this article from Geeosystem points out:

Computers have an especially hard time creating random numbers since they operate by algorithm. Sure, you can get a pseudo-random number by using a “randomly” selected seed and running a whole bunch of operations on it, but that’s still not random. For that matter, neither is rolling dice. Granted, we generally don’t have enough information to predict the outcome, so rolls are effectively random, but not actually random. Now, Ottowa physicist Ben Sussman has come up with a way to create large quantities of true random numbers, with science!

The process works a little something like this. Sussman takes a big old beam of science a laser, and fires a several-trillosecond burst through a diamond. In the process of going through the diamond, the laser fundamentally changes in completely random ways, providing those true random numbers everyone craves. That’s right. Ben Sussman makes random numbers by shooting lasers at diamonds, for science. This is exactly the kind of experiment I imagined scientists doing when I was about 6 years old. The only way this could be cooler is if it were all going down in space.

At this point you’re probably thinking, “So what’s so random about this? After all, if dice rolls aren’t random because we theoretically could predict them, what makes this laser-diamond stuff any different?” Well, we theoretically can’t predict these numbers. It’s not that we don’t know how the light changes inside the diamond. It’s that we can’t know. It is unknowable. To know would defy the very laws of physics.

As you can probably guess, quantum physics is to blame for this one. While traveling through the diamond, the laser experiences a quantum fluctuation, and according to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, it is literally impossible to figure out what happened in there; all we can do is take a look at what’s coming out the other side. Basically, when you shoot a laser through a diamond, quantum physics does a whole bunch of stuff that is literally impossible to know, ever. Are you getting this?! This is science, baby!

Yeah Baby!

What are you all reading about this morning!


The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Nor apparently will it be discussed or reported in anything but negative terms.  Take a quick spin over to Memeorandum’s page.  The Portland Occupy group is fighting off cooties [head and body lice].  According to the New York Post, Zuccotti Park has devolved into anarchy, a mad den of rapists, vigilantes and wild men demanding free food at McDonalds. Occupy protesters, anti-capitalists all, are beating up elderly women, according to another reasoned report. The Sun Journal leads with the headline: The Lawless Heart of Occupy Wall St. , and then questions the legitimacy of a group that “would interrupt the flow of commerce” in a time of recession [referencing the Oakland port takeover last Wednesday]. And then, there’s the repeating, oh so familiar meme: the protesters are a bunch of Leftist radicals, dedicated to the overthrow of democracy.

Did I mention that they’re all hippies?

What we’re not seeing on the television is this:

War Veterans.  These are our men and women who are deified in the press, while shedding blood [frequently their own] in wars of no end and seemingly no point. What are their prospects once home?  Not good.  Not good at all.  According to US News:

And a Department of Labor report shows that unemployment tops 20 percent among 18-to-24-year-old veterans, compared to a national rate of about 9 percent.

Veteran unemployment is projected to worsen after 10,000 servicemen and servicewomen return from Afghanistan and 46,000 come home from Iraq by year’s end — many wounded or suffering from mental trauma.

Nor do we see much of this:

Hummm.  Not enough dirty hippies in the group, I guess. This was the “Surround the White House Action,’ to protest the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline yesterday.  Crowd estimate?  Around 10,000.

We’ve certainly had full coverage on the violence last Wednesday, in the waning hours of the General Strike in Oakland.  The bonfires, the group in black hoodies breaking windows, spray-painting walls, the suggestion that civilization was about to end.  But I haven’t seen much coverage of this recent incident [although I see Dak picked this up in the Morning Reads]:

While filming, the cameraman was shot with a rubber bullet. It appears that taking photographs of the Oakland PD is a criminal and/or a violent act, requiring defensive action.

But here’s the thing.  Images like this:

Aren’t terribly different from this:

The first is from Occupy Oakland.  The second is from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. And if you flip through images of the 1930 Labor protests, the similarities are there as well—people coming together, voicing grievances, demanding resolution.  Movements demanding social and economic justice have never been neat and tidy.  Nor short.  Not in the 60s, not in the 30s.  And not now.

So, the song is prophetic.  The Revolution will not be televised. No re-runs, brother. It will be live–growing, evolving.  For better or worse, morphing into what it will become.

Or not.