Tuesday Reads: The Daily Drumpfistan Detritus

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I’m trying not to count the days and ways our country has been held hostage by a Russian and NAZI installed madman.  I really think we’re beginning to witness an implosion of the Republican party.  They have so many niche interest groups that there are nothing but internecine battles between them. The only way they hold it all together is by a group gestalt of hating what they perceive as “other”.

Most of us fall into the group of other one way or another.  People of color, people not practicing the right form of Christianity or not Christian at all,  the GLBT community, the creative class, intellectuals and professors, recent immigrants from certain countries, any one not fixated on the second amendment to the exclusion of all others, or people not deemed symbolically patriotic enough all make the enemies’ list one way or another.   It’s the season for attacking the wonderful work of Planned Parenthood too.  Nothing like lies and strawmen to whip up the country’s basket of deplorables.

Here’s today’s news in Republican acts we despise.  Let’s start with her ickinesss Marcia Blackburn. Blackburn specializes in being a gender traitor.

Twitter is barring a top Republican Senate candidate from advertising her campaign launch video on the service because a line about her efforts to investigate Planned Parenthood was deemed “inflammatory.”

GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Bob Corker, launched her campaign last week with a video proclaiming herself “a hard core, card-carrying Tennessee conservative.” In her announcement video, she boasts: “I fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts. Thank God.”

Twitter decided the line violated its ad policies, according to an email obtained by POLITICO. A Twitter spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a request for comment. The video is still on Twitter, but the campaign is barred from paying to promote it.

The line refers to her work leading a House select committee investigating Planned Parenthood following a 2015 controversy in which videos shot by undercover conservative journalists appeared to show the group profiting from the sale of fetal body tissue. Democrats have argued the panel’s inquiry was a waste of taxpayer funds, intended to concoct a reason to shut down the group.

Planned Parenthood consistently denied wrongdoing and never faced criminal charges.

Then, there’s this white supremacist in the White House who continues to push the Bannon agenda.  Stephen Miller represents the worst of the modern Republican party.

Miller, a staunch immigration hawk, was conspicuously left out of the bipartisan dinner meeting where that DACA framework had been formed. By the morning after the dinner, Miller, sources say, was already in discussions with Capitol Hill offices about how to ensure conservative policy gains ended up in the final deal his boss might cut.

A hard-lined anti-immigration advocate, Miller strategized with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) about a more specific, more conservative, set of extractions the White House would demand in the deal. Cotton was the natural choice—he is one of the Senate’s most conservative members on the immigration issue, and the co-author of legislation, dubbed the RAISE Act, to significantly limit the number of legal immigrants to the U.S.

Miller is a jerk for all jerks.  He’s one of those folks that believe in their superior genes while the rest of us look at him and wonder if he ever got laid by anything he didn’t pay for. 

Whenever Donald Trump gives a speech and you find yourself thinking, “I can’t believe anyone could be this hateful,” there’s a good chance that the man behind that speech was Stephen Miller, the prematurely balding 32-year-old who must have made a deal with the devil at some point wherein he traded his youth and morals for power. Well, The New York Times has a new profile of Miller that gives us a glimpse of his youth in liberal haven Santa Monica, California. And it turns out that he’s always been just the absolute worst. Some of the anecdotes in the piece have circulated before. A young Stephen Miller running for student government and getting booed for complaining about having to pick up his own trash when they have janitors to do that for them? Absolutely gross, but we’ve heard it. Miller calling a classmate and telling him that they could no longer be friends because of, among other things, said classmate’s Latino heritage? Awful, but already part of the Miller narrative. But the stories in this profile we haven’t heard before? Oh god, they’re…something.

Like the story of his weird “striptease” for the school newspaper editor?

Mr. Miller set off on a patriotic semi-striptease before the editor of the student newspaper, according to the editor, Ari Rosmarin, theatrically removing a button-down to reveal an American flag T-shirt in protest of an article he found inconsistent with the national interest. (The White House denied any symbolic unbuttoning, though officials confirmed Mr. Miller’s fondness for the T-shirt.)

Who does that? What an odd and bizarre thing to do, especially over an article in a school newspaper. Really? You found an article in your high school paper “inconsistent with the national interest”? It’s high school! Didn’t Miller have high school things to do? Like go on dates or work for minimum wage at a video store? But in fairness to Stephen Miller (I know, I know, he doesn’t deserve it, but hear me out), this particular story is more weird than infuriating. But make no mistake, Miller has plenty of infuriating stories. And perhaps none more so than this next anecdote from the piece.

He jumped, uninvited, into the final stretch of a girls’ track meet, apparently intent on proving his athletic supremacy over the opposite sex.

This is obviously insanely disrespectful, and just such a gross “look at me” stunt, but it’s also just super dumb. If I wait at the last stretch of a marathon and, being well-rested, “beat” the people who have run the previous 26 miles, that obviously doesn’t make me athletically superior to them. Anyone who thinks that it does would have to be a complete moron

We all know that Trump’s on a daily search for his manhood and gets away with most of it because of his money and sheer audacity. Trump hates the narrative that makes him look like anything less than the superior master race.  He’s such a nitwit he offered to prove the “moran” narrative wrong by taking an IQ test. Do we really believe he’d achieve a score above room temperature?

President Donald Trump, scorned by reports that Rex Tillerson called him a “moron” earlier this year, told Forbes in an interview released Tuesday that he has a higher IQ than his secretary of state.

The comment underscores the volatility between the two men after multiple reports that their relationship has frayed over the secretary of state’s comment. Trump and Tillerson, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will have lunch together at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

“I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests,” Trump said. “And I can tell you who is going to win.”

I really haven’t wanted to delve very deeply into this swamp but here’s a bit on sexual predator Harvey Weinstein. The Drumpf history of predation has been tough enough to read.  This man is a nightmare waiting to happen.  Most of the time women warn each other about the pussygrabbers.  I was warned early in the 1980s to never get in the Senator’s elevator with Strom Thurmond.  He was a notorious ass grabber.  Hollywood is full of these kinds of stories. I really hope we can eventually rid ourselves of this but since we got the Pussy Grabber elected knowing what we know about him, I’ve given up all hope of any one treating any one with respect and kindness from the Republican Klan.

And now  …  “RNC chairwoman calls on Clinton to speak out about Weinstein”.  Weren’t they just telling her to shut up and go away?

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel suggested on Saturday former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should speak out about the sexual assault allegations against former campaign donor and film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“Whose side is Hillary Clinton on: Harvey Weinstein’s or his victims?” McDaniel said in a tweet.

So, we just continue to learn that some people were just not raised right.   Here’s yet another example and go read the byline from WAPO as well as the rest of the article.

Frustrated by his Cabinet and angry that he has not received enough credit for his handling of three successive hurricanes, President Trump is now lashing out, rupturing alliances and imperiling his legislative agenda, numerous White House officials and outside advisers said Monday.

In a matter of days, Trump has torched bridges all around him, nearly imploded an informal deal with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, and plunged himself into the culture wars on issues ranging from birth control to the national anthem.

In doing so, Trump is laboring to solidify his standing with his populist base and return to the comforts of his campaign — especially after the embarrassing defeat of Sen. Luther Strange in last month’s Alabama GOP special election, despite the president’s trip there to campaign with the senator.

Sen. Bob Corker’s brutal assessment of Trump’s fitness for office — warning that the president’s reckless behavior could launch the nation “on the path to World War III” — also hit like a thunderclap inside the White House, where aides feared possible ripple effects among other Republicans on Capitol Hill.

After a caustic volley of Twitter insults between Trump and Corker, a Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, few GOP leaders came to the president’s defense Monday — though few sided openly with Corker, either. The most vocal Trump defender was the one under the president’s direction, Vice President Pence.

Trump in recent days has shown flashes of fury and left his aides, including White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, scrambling to manage his outbursts. He has been frustrated in particular with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was reported last week to have earlier called the president a “moron.” Trump’s Sunday morning Twitter tirade against Corker caught staffers by surprise, although the president had been brooding over the senator’s comment a few days earlier about Trump’s “chaos” endangering the nation.

One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. “I think we are in pressure cooker territory,” said this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly.

Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are dying and California is burning and people are missing and dying.  Maybe Kremlin Caligula should take a lesson from Nero. Ah, I forget!  He doesn’t read.

Powerful wildfires fanned by strong winds ravaged parts of Northern California’s wine country on Monday, killing at least 11 people and destroying some 1,500 structures.

More than a dozen blazes continued to burn across eight counties since the weekend, while over 20,000 people in the paths of the fast-moving infernos fled their homes, fire officials said.

With increased resources headed to the region to battle the wildfires, “hopefully we’ll start seeing some turnaround throughout the course of today and into tomorrow,” Scott McLean, deputy chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire, said Tuesday on “TODAY.”

It’s autumn which is the time to reap what you sow.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

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Monday Reads: Adult Day Care

Good Morning!!

Is this finally the beginning of the end? Trump has been attacking fellow Republicans for months, and this time one of them finally hit back hard. Yesterday Trump lashed out at Tennessee Senator Bob Corker on Twitter.

Of course none of that is true. Corker’s office said that Trump had repeatedly asked him to run for reelection, and offered to endorse him. As for the Secretary of State job, Corker withdrew his name from contention after his interview with Trump.

Corker’s Twitter response:

Then last night Corker gave a stunning interview to the New York Times: Bob Corker Says Trump’s Recklessness Threatens ‘World War III’

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Mr. Corker’s comments capped a remarkable day of sulfurous insults between the president and the Tennessee senator — a powerful, if lame-duck, lawmaker, whose support will be critical to the president on tax reform and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal….

 

The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.

Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

There’s more:

…Mr. Corker, speaking carefully and purposefully, seemed to almost find cathartic satisfaction by portraying Mr. Trump in terms that most senior Republicans use only in private….

Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.

All but inviting his colleagues to join him in speaking out about the president, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican.

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Two Media reactions:

ABC News The Note: What’s dangerously serious about Trump’s feud with Corker

What happened to the calm part? The storms have begun, and just might spill over into real wars before they’re done. Sen. Bob Corker’s public feud with President Trump is no mere war of words, even in the Trumpian insult era. Corker is blowing the lid off of months of private frustrations and worries, harbored by erstwhile allies of the president, that the commander-in-chief is reckless, dishonest and could put the nation “on the path to World War III,” as Corker told The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation,” Corker said. Combine that with the tensions between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Trump and Chief of Staff John Kelly, and this has far bigger consequences than your typical Twitter feud. Just words? Perhaps. But they are words that are spurring confrontation with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and more words will come this week that could lead Iran to restart its own nuclear program. Corker’s reference to the White House as an “adult day care center” suggests that grown-ups are ultimately in charge. This may be the week that tests that proposition, and sorts out high-level presidential strategy from absolute and dangerous recklessness.

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post, referring to the NYT interview: Bob Corker just confirmed it: Republicans know Trump is unfit.

Corker declined to answer when asked if he believes Trump is unfit for the presidency. But the only reasonable way to read all these comments is as a declaration that Trump is indeed unfit — and that most Republicans know it. After all, Corker had previously said that Trump’s inner circle is helping to “separate our country from chaos.” Now he has added that Trump needs to be restrained by his inner circle from devolving into conduct that could end up unleashing untold global destruction — and that most Republicans know it.

Corker is getting a lot of press plaudits for his unvarnished appraisal. But as James Fallows writes, there is a good deal that Corker can actually do right nowif he wants to mitigate the threat that he himself says Trump poses. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has a range of powers that could help constrain Trump, including the power to hold public hearings to draw public attention to the ways in which Trump’s temperament threatens untold damage. At a minimum, Corker can be asked whether he intends to do these things, and if not, why not.

But whatever Corker says and does now, his new comments should precipitate a fundamental change in the way the press treats the ongoing GOP enabling of Trump. Corker has forced out into the open the fact that Republicans recognize the sheer abnormality and danger to the country of the situation we’re in, which opens the door for much tougher media questioning of them about their awareness of — and acquiescence to — this state of affairs.

This can start with a simple query: Do Republicans agree with Corker that Trump regularly needs to be constrained by his top advisers from engaging in conduct that threatens severe damage to the country and the world? If so, what are Republicans prepared to do about itrgent mentions.

People are still talking about Mike Pence’s ridiculous display at the Indianapolis Colts game yesterday on a day that was supposed to be dedicated to honoring long-time Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Trump and Pence cooked up a public relations stunt. Knowing that a number of players for the Colts’ opponent the SF 49ers would kneel during the national anthem, the two agreed that Pence would fly to Indy from Las Vegas and then abruptly walk out on the game after the anthem. The press knew this, because Pence told them to wait outside for him because he’d be leaving soon. Pence then flew back out to California for a fund-raiser for Putin’s favorite Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and other Republicans.

Pence is getting plenty of criticism for using taxpayer money to fly back and forth across the country for a political stunt.

CNN: The price tag for Pence’s trip to Indianapolis.

How much did Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Indianapolis to watch — and then abruptly leave — a football game Sunday between the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers cost?

Holier than thou

Here is an estimate of just the air costs (which does not include costs of advance personnel, Secret Service or support on the ground):According to the Air Force, flying a C-32, the model of plane used for Air Force 2, for one hour costs about $30,000. Pence’s flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis Saturday took about three hours and 20 minutes, so it cost about $100,000.\

Pence then flew from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday, which took about four hours and 45 minutes, costing about $142,500.Some costs of the flight into Los Angeles will be reimbursed by the Republican National Committee because Pence is attending a political event there.

If he had flown just from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, a trip lasting about 90 minutes, the cost would have been about $45,000.

I don’t usually like Connor Friedersdorf, but he has a good reaction at The Atlantic: Mike Pence’s Flagrant Waste of Taxpayer Money.

On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence made a big show of leaving an NFL game early. He declared himself upset that some players knelt during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. “I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our flag, or our national anthem,” he declared, as if attacking those things was the intent of the athletes.

The NFL players knelt in protest because they believe that African Americans are being denied their self-evident rights to life and liberty by a prejudiced criminal-justice system.

“This is not about the military, this is not about the flag, this is not about the anthem,” 49ers Safety Eric Reid later told reporters. “My mother served in the armed forces. Three of my uncles served … I have the utmost respect for the military, for the anthem, for the flag … This is about systemic oppression that has been rampant in this country … I will keep doing what I feel is necessary, to use the platform that I have, to make changes. It’s really disheartening when everything you were raised on, everything I was raised on, was to be the best person I can be, to help people who need help, and the vice president of the United States is trying to confuse the message that we’re trying to put out there. I don’t know what to say about it.”

Pence is not compelled to agree with how players protest. But by fleeing the entire NFL game, he adopted the tactics of a childish, petulant snowflake who reacts to speech he dislikes by misrepresenting it, expressing umbrage, and retreating to a “safe space.”

The major difference?

When an immature teenager makes a show of fleeing from expression that he regards as politically incorrect, he’s typically evading ideas he ought to confront on his own dime. Whereas Pence spent taxpayer money to get to that NFL game. Lots of it.

There is so much more news, and so little time and space to discuss it. Most notably, Puerto Rico is still in agony, and the Trump administration seems determined not to help.

The Daily Beast: Without Power Until Next Year, Puerto Ricans Are Leaving—Maybe Forever

VIEQUES, Puerto Rico—Joe and Maria Bernard cook in the dark over a gas stove outside their small hotel, the Tropical Guest House. “The days feel shorter,” says Maria, “we just have 12 hours of daylight to get everything done.”

When it gets dark, the entire island of Vieques is dark.

Turnkey Hotel

This is life on the world-renowned tourist island. And it’s going to be life for at least the next six to eight months, if not longer, before electricity is restored here.

“We’re in denial,” says Maria, “we’re going to give it another two weeks maybe a month, then maybe we’ll have to go back to the States.”

In 2005, the couple traded in the bustle of New York and jobs in the television industry for a more rewarding future in Puerto Rico, which offered triple-tax exemption for resettling here. With their savings, they got a loan to buy their turnkey hotel.

Read more painful stories at the link.

Oh, and today is Columbus Day. From the New York Times: Why People Have Protested Columbus Day Almost From Its Start.

A reverend at Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan appeared on the front page of The New York Times after he criticized Christopher Columbus, the Italian navigator who sailed to the Americas on behalf of Spain in 1492.

The reverend, R. S. MacArthur, said Columbus was “cruel, and guilty of many crimes.”

That complaint may sound familiar to those who condemn the explorer for opening a door to European colonialism, which brought disease, destruction and catastrophic wars to the people who already lived here.

But Mr. MacArthur said those words more than a century ago, in 1893. His comments suggested he was more affronted by Spain, which he called “the poorest and most ignorant country in Europe,” than concerned about Native Americans.

He was one of many to have questioned the legacy of the explorer, whose arrival in the Americas has been celebrated in the United States for hundreds of years.

Read the rest at the NYT.

What’s left of Hurricane Nate has arrived in New England this morning giving us lots of rain and 40mph winds. I’m glad because it has been hot here for the past few days.

What’s happening where you are? What stories are you following today?


Thursday Reads: Beating the Benghazi Horse to Death and Other News

coffee shop bike

Good Morning!!

I got an e-mail this morning from Dakinikat saying that she arrived safely late last night and is completely exhausted. Hopefully, she’ll get to see her Dad today and give him a great big hug.

Now let’s see what’s going on in the world this morning.

I’ve got to be honest, I’m confused about the latest GOP Benghazi hearings. I have no idea what the fuss is all about, and I really don’t even want to try to figure it out. Apparently, car thief and arsonist Darrell Issa just can’t let go of Benghazi, and is going to keep right on harping on it until someone figures out a way to stop him. I’m going to highlight some articles on this “controversy,” but, as I said, I can’t really explain it.

First, the allegations of wrongdoing:

NYT: Diplomat Says Questions Over Benghazi Led to Demotion

A veteran diplomat gave a riveting minute-by-minute account on Wednesday of the lethal terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11 and described its contentious aftermath at a charged Congressional hearing that reflected the weighty political stakes perceived by both parties.

During a chaotic night at the American Embassy in Tripoli, hundreds of miles away, the diplomat, Gregory Hicks, got what he called “the saddest phone call I’ve ever had in my life” informing him that Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was dead and that he was now the highest-ranking American in Libya. For his leadership that night when four Americans were killed, Mr. Hicks said in nearly six hours of testimony, he subsequently received calls from both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and President Obama.

But within days, Mr. Hicks said, after raising questions about the account of what had happened in Benghazi offered in television interviews by Susan E. Rice, the United Nations ambassador, he felt a distinct chill from State Department superiors. “The sense I got was that I needed to stop the line of questioning,” said Mr. Hicks, who has been a Foreign Service officer for 22 years.

He was soon given a scathing review of his management style, he said, and was later “effectively demoted” to desk officer at headquarters, in what he believes was retaliation for speaking up.

BBC News: Benghazi attack: Hicks ‘stunned’ at Rice explanation

After the disrupted phone call with Ambassador Stevens, Mr Hicks said he received calls from Libyans using the ambassador’s phone who said they had the envoy with them.

But Mr Hicks decided not to act on the calls, fearing an ambush.

So the “whistleblower” chose not to do anything? What is his complaint then?

UN Ambassador Susan Rice has been the focus of outrage from Republicans in Congress, for giving the news media what has been acknowledged as an incorrect explanation for the attack.

She said on a Sunday chat show on 16 September that the attack had grown out of an anti-US protest, while other officials have said they knew at the time it was an organised, armed assault, possibly by an Islamist militant group.

“My jaw dropped and I was embarrassed,” Mr Hicks said on his reaction to her interview.

coffee shop 2

I guess it’s still about Susan Rice. . . Or more likely, it’s about Hillary Clinton and attempts to hobble any plans she may have to run for president.

Washington Post: At Benghazi hearing, State Dept. officials challenge administration review of attacks

Three State Department officials on Wednesday provided a riveting, emotional account of last year’s fatal attack on U.S. installations in eastern Libya as they accused senior government officials of withholding embarrassing facts and failing to take enough responsibility for security lapses.

The testimony provided new details on the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults on U.S. installations in Benghazi and their aftermath. But the new information failed to break the political logjam the attacks spawned, with Republicans and Democrats offering starkly different interpretations of what happened and who within the U.S. government is to blame.

Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) opened the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing by saying that panel Democrats had “mostly sat silent” while Republicans tried to wrest the truth from an uncooperative Obama administration.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.), the senior Democrat on the committee, countered that Issa’s GOP majority had launched a “full-scale media campaign . . . of unfounded accusations to smear public officials.”

But in expanding the narrative of the intensely politicized episode, the witnesses raised fresh questions about whether then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her deputies were sufficiently engaged in assessing the security posture of diplomatic posts last year.

Time Magazine’s Michael Crowley: Terror, Security, and Hillary 2016: Making Sense of the Benghazi Hearings

The hearing by the Republican-led House Government Oversight & Reform Committee was not the first on the events surrounding the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans. Hillary Clinton, who was running the State Department at the time of the attack, testified for hours back in January. But the story was given fresh dramatic life and new narrative details through the testimony of two self-described whistle blowers who had not previously spoken in public: Mark Thompson, acting deputy assistant secretary for counterterrorism; Gregory Hicks, the former deputy of mission in Libya. Joining them was Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer in Libya, who had previously testified on the issue.

But “[c]ould the U.S. military have done more to help?”

Not according to the Pentagon – and the hearing’s key witness. Aircraft that might have buzzed the compound where the second pair of Americans died – and scared the militants away — were 900 miles north in Italy. “Time and distance are a tyranny of their own,” Admiral James Stavridis, who responded to the attacks as the NATO commander, told Congress earlier this year. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated it would take as long as 20 hours to get the planes above Benghazi. Hicks testified that he asked the U.S. defense attaché in Tripoli if planes could be scrambled to help those under attack in the CIA annex in Benghazi, a battle that unfolded hours after the initial assault on the nearby U.S. consulate, which killed Stevens, and led to two more American deaths. “He said that it would take two to three hours for them to get on site, but that there also were no tankers available for them to refuel,” Hicks said Wednesday. “And I said, ‘Thank you very much,’ and we went on with our work.” Hicks also testified that a four man team of Green Berets in Tripoli were denied a request to deploy to Benghazi the morning after the attack began, though officials doubt they could have arrived early enough to save lives at the CIA annex.

Apparently the complaint is that the State Department didn’t order all military resources to get to Benghazi even though there was no way they could have gotten there in time to do anything to help?

So we’re back to preventing Hillary 2016?

Whether or not Republicans intended it, the shadow of national politics loomed over Wednesday’s hearing. Hillary Clinton completed a generally well-reviewed tenure of Secretary of State, as evidenced by her sky-high public approval ratings. But Benghazi is a clear black mark on her Foggy Bottom record, one that could haunt Clinton if she runs for president in 2016. Conservatives seized on Hicks’s testimony that, in a call with Clinton on the fateful night, he told her that a terrorist attack was underway–a fact that was slow to appear in the administration’s public rhetoric. Still, despite repeated discussion about what Clinton knew and when she knew it, no smoking gun emerged from Wednesday’s hearing, leading one Congressional Democrat to dismiss questions about her role as a “witch hunt.”

Hillary

I guess that’s pretty much what it’s all about . . . A few more links:

Think Progress: Benghazi Review Board Chair Says Notion Of Cover Up Is ‘Pulitzer Prize Fiction’

“I think the notion of a quote, cover up, has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it,” former Ambassador Thomas Pickering said on MSNBC. He also rebutted claims that the review board tried to protect former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from scrutiny:

PICKERING: I saw no evidence of it. She did publicly take responsibility for what happened below her and indeed one of the things the Congress did in preparing the legislation that established the Accountability Review Board was to say we don’t want a situation where heads of agencies take responsibility and then nobody who made the decision in the chain has to suffer any consequences for failure for performance. I believe in fact the Accountability Review Board did it’s work well. I think the notion of a quote, cover up, has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it.

Pickering offered to testify at the latest hearing, but Chairman Issa wouldn’t let him.

Think Progress: GOP Star Witnesses Debunk Right-Wing Benghazi Conspiracy Theories

The “whistleblowers” at today’s House Oversight Committee hearing on what really happened in Benghazi, Libya last September were supposed to break the dam that would lead to President Obama’s eventual downfall, in the eyes of conservatives. Instead, these witness actually served to debunk several theories that the right-wing has pushed on Benghazi, leaving the hearing a fizzle for the GOP.

Read the explanations at the link.

TPM: Top Republican ‘Fairly Satisfied’ With White House’s Account Of Benghazi

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) said Wednesday that he’s “fairly satisfied” with the Obama administration’s account of events that led to the deaths of American diplomats in Benghazi last year.

“We need to know were these people culpable or not. If they were, why are they still on the payroll? Other than that, I’ve been able to read all the cables. I’ve seen the films,” Corker told MSNBC. “I feel like I know what happened in Benghazi. I’m fairly satisfied.”

He cautioned House Republicans to be “respectful” if they probe the issue further.

“Look, if the House wants to have hearings,” he said, “I hope they’re done in a respectful way and hopefully it will shed some light on what happened.”

I guess that’s enough about Benghazi. I apologize for giving it so much space, but I thought if I were confused about this, some of you might be too.

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A bit more news in the form of a link dump:

There has been another factory fire in Bangladesh! Reuters reports: Bangladesh factory fire kills eight; collapse toll tops 900

A DailyKos diary deals with a question that has been rattling around in my head: How did Jason Richwine Get a PhD from Harvard?

WBUR Boston University (NPR): Markey Edges Gomez In WBUR Senate Poll

The Hill on Suffolk University Poll: Markey builds strong lead over Gomez in Mass. Senate race

I realize the media is dying for another Scott Brown surprise, but it’s just not gonna happen.

Politico: Lindsey Graham faces down primary challenge

Unfortunately, it looks like Huckleberry Closetcase will be back in 2014.

Politico: Excessive student loan debt drains economic engine

Chicago Tribune: Cleveland kidnapping: Bond for Ariel Castro set at $8 million

Why is he getting any chance of getting out on bail??

Reuters: Wrigley halts production of caffeine gum following FDA concern

Could there be a worse idea by the candy industry? Kids would be getting that gum!

NYT: Hospital Billing Varies Wildly, Government Data Shows

Sooooo . . . what’s new with you? What are you reading and blogging about today? Please share your links on any subject in the comment thread!


Thursday Reads: A Little Bit Of This, A Little Bit Of That

Boris Karloff reads with friend

Boris Karloff reads with friend

Good Morning!!

Now that Congressional Republicans have successfully shot down President Obama’s rumored first choice for Secretary of State–Susan Rice–they are working on nixing the president’s possible pick for Secretary of Defense, Republican Chuck Hagel. Aaron Blake at The Fix:

Former senator Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) potential/likely nomination as Secretary of Defense looms this week amid a growing chorus of criticism over his past comments about Israel and his policy positions on issues including the defense budget.

It seems some are bent on defeating Hagel’s nomination before it can even become official — much as Republican senators did with potential Secretary of State pick Susan Rice just last week. In fact, the same GOP senators who scuttled the Rice pick are now expressing doubts about Hagel.

A battle over Hagel would be highly unusual — both because we just had one over Rice and because both senators nominated to Cabinet posts and Secretary of Defense nominees generally sail to confirmation.

Obama should have stuck with Rice and fought it out. Senate Republicans smell blood now. The only reason John Kerry may be approved for State is that Republicans fantasize that Massachusetts voters will repeat their past mistake of electing Scott Brown to fill an open Senate seat. This president is the worst negotiator ever. He really needs to get someone else to make deals for him. He just can’t accept the reality that Republicans hate his guts and will never give him a break, ever.

Meanwhile Rep. Darrell Issa must be drooling over the “scathing report” on the Benghazi attacks

Four State Department officials were removed from their posts on Wednesday after an independent panel criticized the “grossly inadequate” security at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi that was attacked on Sept. 11, leading to the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, resigned. Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and another official in the diplomatic security office whom officials would not identify were relieved of their duties. So was Raymond Maxwell, a deputy assistant secretary who had responsibility for the North Africa region. The four officials, a State Department spokeswoman said, “have been placed on administrative leave pending further action.”

The report by the independent panel has criticized officials in State’s bureau for Diplomatic Security displaying a “lack of proactive leadership.” It also said that some in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs “showed a lack of ownership of Benghazi’s security issues.”

The report did not criticize more senior officials, including Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary for management, who has vigorously defended the State Department’s decision-making on Benghazi to the Congress and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At a news conference at the State Department on Wednesday, Thomas R. Pickering, a former ambassador who led the independent review, said that most of the blame should fall on officials in the two bureaus.

But that isn’t going to stop Republicans from trying to hang the blame around Hillary Clinton’s neck.

Sen. Bob Corker, R- Tenn., slated to be the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee in 2013, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell Wednesday that Clinton “has to come before us. I think it’s imperative.” ‘

Corker and other members of Congress were given a classified briefing on the report and afterwards he insisted that Clinton must testify before she leaves her post and the Senate votes on confirmation of her successor.

The secretary was slated to attend briefings on the Hill this week but has been recovering from the flu and a concussion she suffered in a recent fainting episode.

Of course the right wing conspiracy nuts are accusing Clinton of faking her illness. And in the House:

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the unclassified version of the report “omits important information the public has a right to know. This includes details about the perpetrators of the attack in Libya as well as the less-than-noble reasons contributing to State Department decisions to deny security resources.”

He also said, “In light of the report, I am concerned that the carefully vetted testimony of senior State Department officials at the October hearing was part of an intentional effort to mislead the American people.”

Hey Darrell, have you hot-wired any cars or burned down any businesses lately?

While Pentagon officials struggle to figure out how to protect foreign outposts without using Blackwater-type hired guns, they are dealing with a worldwide Military day care abuse scandal.

The Defense Department has launched a worldwide investigation into hiring practices at military child-care centers after a criminal probe of employees at an Army base near the Pentagon sparked a review that found more than 30 staffers who officials say should have been barred from contact with children.

Two civilian employees at the Child Development Center at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall appeared in federal court Wednesday in Alexandria to face charges of assaulting 2-year-olds in their care.

The president immediately urged a thorough investigation and a “zero tolerance policy when it comes to protecting the children of service members from abuse.”

Two workers at the day-care center at the base known as Fort Myer were recorded by surveillance cameras dragging, pinching, kneeing and taunting toddlers, according to federal court records. The center is the military’s largest day-care center, with more than 400 children ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years old. It is used by Pentagon employees and other service members in the Washington area.

A personnel review at Fort Myer began in the fall after a parent complained about an allegedly abusive caregiver.

The inquiry turned up evidence that at least 31 staffers had potentially disqualifying factors in their records, including history of drug use and past allegations of assault, a U.S. official familiar with the investigation said. The staffers have been suspended.

“This is not just one or two or three people,” the official said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of an ongoing inquiry. “This is a severe lapse in the background checks system.”

In police state news, two women in Texas are suing the Texas State Police for subjecting them to an “illegal roadside cavity search.”

A federal lawsuit filed by two Irving women claims that Texas State Troopers humiliated them by performing illegal cavity searches on the side of the road after a cigarette butt was thrown out of their car window.

State Trooper David Farrell called in a female trooper to perform cavity searches of Angel Dobbs, 38, and her 24-year-old niece, Ashley Dobbs, because he said that he smelled marijuana and the women were “acting weird,” attorney Scott Palmer told KTVT on Tuesday.

Angel Dobbs recalled that the female trooper, Kelley Helleson, asked for her permission to perform the search and then told her to “shut up and just listen.”

Unbelievable.

Dashcam video shows Helleson searching the anuses and vaginas of both women with the same latex gloves in full view of other passing cars.

“At this point, I’m in clear shock. I can’t even believe this is happening,” Angel Dobbs explained. Turns me around goes down into the front of my pants into my inner thigh and at which point she goes up with two fingers. I just look at her and say ‘oh my God, I’ve just been violated.’”

And then the trooper performed the same procedure on Ashley Dobbs without changing her gloves.

“She went down, then turned me around, and went down my front and then she actually dug,” Ashley Dobbs said. “I didn’t know what I could say, what I could do. I felt hopeless.”

Is it time for Texas to secede from the union and become part of Mexico (except for Austin, Ralph)? Nah, Mexico probably wouldn’t want to get involved.

The TSA is “Finally Investigating Cancer Risk of X-Ray Body Scanners” now that millions of Americans have been used as guinea pigs in the nation’s airports.

Following months of congressional pressure, the Transportation Security Administration has agreed to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to study the health effects of the agency’s X-ray body scanners. But it is unclear if the academy will conduct its own tests of the scanners or merely review previous studies.

The machines, known as backscatters, were installed in airports nationwide after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009 to screen passengers for explosives and other nonmetallic weapons. But they have been criticized by some prominent scientists because they expose the public to a small amount of ionizing radiation, a form of energy that can cause cancer.

The scanners were the subject of a 2011 ProPublica series, which found that the TSA had glossed over the small cancer risk posed by even low doses of radiation. The stories also showed that the United States was almost alone in the world in X-raying passengers and that the Food and Drug Administration had gone against its own advisory panel, which recommended the agency set a federal safety standard for security X-rays.

The TSA maintains that the backscatters are safe and that they emit a low dose of X-rays equivalent to the radiation a passenger would receive in two minutes of flying at typical cruising altitude.

Winter has arrived in the Midwest: Outages in Iowa as season’s first blizzard starts journey in the Plains.

(CNN) — Tens of thousands of people lost power in Iowa on Thursday as the first major storm of the season swept in, bringing blizzards, high winds and severe thunderstorms to the central United States.

The storm prompted the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard warning for a huge swath of the Midwest stretching from eastern Colorado to Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan shoreline, including virtually all of Iowa.

The declaration warned of snow accumulations of up to 12 inches, complemented by 25- to 35-mph winds that will occasionally gust to 45 to 50 mph.

Oh goody.

The storm will race into western Illinois, the weather service said. Rain will quickly change to snow as the storm advances northeast, with the heaviest snow occurring overnight.

“Snow drifts several feet deep will be possible given the strong winds,” the blizzard warning states.
Wrapping around the blizzard warning on the north, south and east is a winter storm warning, which will be no picnic either. The winds won’t be quite as strong, but residents should expect a strong dose of rain, sleet and snow, with a few hail-packing thunderstorms thrown in for good measure.

Hmmm…what about my neck of the woods?

The “intense cyclone” will crawl across the Great Lakes region Thursday and slog into northern New England by Friday evening, the National Weather Service predicted.

Ugh…just what I needed.

I have three longer reads for you on the possible motivations behind mass shootings. I haven’t read any of these carefully yet, so I’m not sure if I’ll agree with the conclusions.

Scientific American is highlighting an article from 2007: Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings? The article focuses on the revenge fantasies of young shooters.

A Time article from July (written after the Aurora theater shootings) asks about “The Overwhelming Maleness of Mass Homicide.”

At Alternet: “What Is it About Men That They’re Committing These Horrible Massacres?”

I’ll be reading these articles after I publish this post. Let me know what you think.

Finally, Senators Diane Feinstein and John McCain are “condemning” the new movie about the killing of Osama bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty for falsely suggesting that torture led investigators to bin Laden’s hideout.

Now what are you reading and blogging about today?


Thursday Reads: GOP Wars on Democracy, Social Safety Net; Russia and Syria; MacDonald Follow-Up; and Ancient Cheese making

dog_reading

Good Morning!!

Now that Rick Snyder has succeeded in turning Michigan into a right-to-work-for-less state, he and his Republican House have passed a supposedly “new and improved” emergency manager law. The Detroit Free Press reports:

The House passed the Local Financial Stability and Choice act in a 63-46 vote late Wednesday, with Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, as the only Republican to join Democrats in voting against it.

Immediate effect for the new bill was rejected 63-45, meaning it would take effect around the end of March if passed by the Senate, likely to happen Thursday, and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, as expected.

The legislation introduced by Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, is similar to a draft Treasurer Andy Dillon and Gov. Rick Snyder had released. The administration said it’s designed to address shortcomings in Public Act 4 by giving local officials in financially troubled cities and school district more input in decisions.

Incoming House Minority Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said it is a “mirror image” of what voters just rejected and “another slap in the face to democracy perpetrated by this House.”

It appears that both Wisconsin and Michigan are now totally owned by the Koch Brothers. Think Progress reports on How Michigan Voters Can Repeal The GOP’s Anti-Union Powergrab, but this is starting to feel like whack a mole. Republicans seem determined to kill democracy one state at a time.

The New York Times Fed Ties Rates to Joblessness, With Target of 6.5%

The Federal Reserve made it plain on Wednesday that job creation had become its primary focus, announcing that it planned to continue suppressing interest rates so long as the unemployment rate remained above 6.5 percent.

It was the first time the nation’s central bank had publicized such a specific economic objective, underscoring the depth of its concern about the persistence of what the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, called “a waste of human and economic potential.”

To help reduce unemployment, the Fed said it would also continue monthly purchases of $85 billion in Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities until job market conditions improved, extending a policy announced in September.

But the Fed released new economic projections showing that most of its senior officials did not expect to reach the goal of 6.5 percent unemployment until the end of 2015, raising questions of why it was not moving to expand its economic stimulus campaign.

Ben Bernanke indicated there isn’t much more the Fed can do at this point. Perhaps its time for GOP lawmakers to quit trying to destroy the economy?

I couldn’t believe this story about cops gone wild in New Hampshire. Raise your hand if you knew it was illegal to buy “too many” iPhones.

Police in Nashua, New Hampshire say they were forced to use a Taser on a 44-year-old Chinese woman who does not speak English after she was told to leave an Apple Store because she was trying to buy too many iPhones.

Through a translator, Xiaojie Li told WMUR that she had bought two iPhones from the Pheasant Lane Mall Apple Store on Friday and returned on Tuesday to buy more to send to her family in China.

“The manager of the Apple Store came and told her something, but she didn’t understand,” Li’s daughter explained.

Soon after that, shoppers captured cell phone video of police — who were providing security at the store’s request — using a stun gun on Li as she laid on the mall floor screaming.

The Apple store employees had to call the police because a customer was spending too much money in their store? That’s just one more reason I’ll never buy an Apple product.

Senator Bob Corker has introduced a bill that would cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid by nearly $1 Trillion in reture for raising the debt ceiling.

Corker said the Dollar For Dollar Act would include $937 billion in savings from Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, with an equivalent, dollar-for-dollar hike to the debt ceiling.

Corker offered some details about his bill during a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday. Corker said his bill would raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and would include the Medicare Total Health package that would increase private-sector competition for covering the elderly. Corker also said there would be a form of means-testing, making wealthy Medicare recipients pay more of their healthcare needs.

Corker said he’d also “slowly” raise the age of eligibility for Social Security benefits, but did not specify an age.

“We should address [Social Security] now because it’s causing the government to spend more than it takes in,” Corker said. “It will be bankrupt by 2017 if we do nothing.”

Izzat so. Social Security will be “bankrupt” five years from now? Prove it, Corker. What an asshole. And this is the guy the corporate media has been presenting as a GOP moderate who is willing to work with Obama.

According to the Washington Post, Russia is admitting that: Assad is losing control and rebels might win in Syria

MOSCOW — Syria’s most powerful ally, Russia, said for the first time Thursday that President Bashar Assad is losing control of his country and the rebels might win the civil war, dramatically shifting the diplomatic landscape at a time of enormous momentum for the opposition.

While Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov gave no immediate signal that Russia would change its stance and agree to impose international sanctions on Assad’s regime, his remarks will likely be seen as a betrayal in Damascus and could persuade many Syrians to shift their loyalties and abandon support for the government.

Russia’s assessment could also further strengthen the hand of the rebels, who have made some significant gains in their offensive, capturing two major military bases and mounting a serious challenge to Assad’s seat of power, Damascus.

“We must look at the facts: There is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory,” Bogdanov, the Foreign Ministry’s pointman on Syria, said during hearings at a Kremlin advisory body, the Public Chamber. “An opposition victory can’t be excluded.”

Here’s an interesting follow-up to Gene Weingarten’s excellent story about the Jeffrey MacDonald case, which I wrote about recently. Weingarten did a live chat at the WaPo on Tuesday in which he was a little more revealing of his own opinions. I learned that he had the same incredulous reaction when he heard the words supposedly chanted a by “hippie intruder” to MacDonald’s home, “Acid is groovy…kill the pigs.”

This is an odd thing to say about a 6,400-word story, but I found myself without the space to tell it as completely as I’d have liked. The introduction to this chat is mostly for those of you who have read the story and are still not persuaded, beyond a reasonable doubt, that MacDonald killed his family and that “A Wilderness of Error” is a deeply flawed and manipulative book. All the rest: Feel free to plow ahead into the questions.

I remember the killings. I was an 18-year-old hippie at the time, roughly the same age as Helena Stoeckley. I didn’t do as many drugs as she did, but I did plenty, including mescaline, LSD, and heroin. When I read in the newspaper that Jeffrey MacDonald – still presumed an innocent victim – told police that his attackers had been vicious hippie intruders who chanted “acid is groovy – kill the pigs,” I knew he had done it. As did every hippie in every city who read that statement with any degree of analytical thought. No self-respecting killer hippie would ever have uttered, let alone chanted, that uncool, anachronistic thing as late as 1970. That was exactly what some ramrod-straight 26-year-old Ivy League frat-boy doctor who was contemptuous of the counterculture would have thought a hippie would say.

Not to mention that hippies, um, didn’t kill people, at least not while stoned in drug-induced trances. The Manson gang were not hippies. They were weirdo murderers. They went around murdering people, not just Sharon Tate and her friends. They did not come out of the dark, descend on a house, do their savage thing, and then disappear back into the world never to be heard of again. That’s not how it works with murderous gangs who would kill sleeping children. Oh, and hippies also don’t arrive at a house intent on mass murder without remembering to bring along any weapons, relying on whatever knives and pieces of wood they might happen to find inside the house. The Manson people brought a shotgun.

But, okay. Forget all that. That’s just me bloviating. Maybe the MacDonald killers were different from all other killers. Maybe they were really disorganized, absentminded murderous hippies who talked funny and only killed just this once. Oh, and who came to hassle the doctor for drugs because they were drug addicts, and who killed his family, but never opened a closet to discover a big stash of syringes and drugs, including amphetamines. Or maybe they saw that stuff but didn’t steal it because murder may be one thing, but stealing is just plain wrong.

After that, he goes through the evidence and responds to readers’ questions. Check it out if you’re interested.

A fragment of a sieve that researchers say were used as cheese strainers.

A fragment of a sieve that researchers say were used as cheese strainers.

Finally, the Wall Street Journal had a fascinating science story yesterday: Europe’s First Cattle Farmers Quickly Added Cheese to Menu.

Researchers on Wednesday said they found the earliest known chemical evidence of cheese-making, based on the analysis of milk-fat residues in pottery dating back about 7,200 years. The discovery suggests Europe’s early farmers added a cheese course to their diet almost as soon as they learned to domesticate cattle and started regularly milking cows.

Scientists led by geochemist Richard Evershed at the U.K.’s University of Bristol tested ancient, perforated clay pots excavated at sites along the Vistula River in Poland, and found they had likely been used by prehistoric cheese mongers as strainers to separate curds and whey—a critical step in making cheese.

The pots have long puzzled archeologists, but their new analysis, reported in Nature, revealed unique carbon isotopes of milk in the traces of fatty acids that had soaked into the ceramic sieves.

“It is a no-brainer,” said Dr. Evershed. “They have to be cheese strainers.”

No one knows exactly when or where cheese-making began, but experts said the traces of milk fat on these unglazed clay strainers are the clearest evidence yet of the origins of this basic biotechnology, which launched a dairy trade that today produces more than 11 billion pounds of cheese every year and as many as 5,000 different named varieties world-wide, from Appenzeller to Zamorano.

As a cheese lover, I was very interested to learn about this.

That’s all I have for you today. What are you reading and blogging about?


Put a Cork in Corker

If you want a good example of politics-as-usual as well as something that is not in the interest of the public, this is it. Payday lenders are loan sharks without the kneecapping thugs. Senator Bob Corker wants them exempted from regulations aimed at protecting consumers from predatory and unfair lending practices. Senator Chris Dodd is basically going along with it. This is an egregious example of crony capitalism that enriches an industry by taking advantage of the poor and uninformed.

Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who is playing a crucial role in bipartisan negotiations over financial regulation, pressed to remove a provision from draft legislation that would have empowered federal authorities to crack down on payday lenders, people involved in the talks said. The industry is politically influential in his home state and a significant contributor to his campaigns, records show.

This is really bad. If you have a congress critter sitting on Dodd’s committee, now is the time to write and scream. Here’s information on from the Center for Responsible Lending on just exactly how bad this particular brand of predators can get.

Twenty or so years ago, some finance companies figured out how to make loans of a few hundred dollars to people who were barely getting by. That may sound generous, but when you look deeper, the practice they developed amounts to nothing more than legal loan sharking.

The problem for the borrowers—and the payoff for the lenders—is that the terms of these loans are cleverly designed to be very difficult to meet. The borrower must keep coming back and renewing their loan because they aren’t allowed to pay it down and can’t afford to pay it off. They pay the lender another chunk of interest each time, about $50 for a $300 loan. How the debt trap works

These loans carry annual interest rates of 400%, and the industry relies for 90 percent of their revenue on borrowers who repeatedly renew or re-open their payday loans. The typical borrower ends up paying about $500 in interest for a $300 loan, and still owes the principal.

Corker has already damaged the bill that was designed to stop a repeat of the subprime lending crisis that triggered so much trouble back in 2007. Dodd is going along with everything like the lobbyist he surely will become in a short amount of time. We’ve already seen the take down of the new consumer agency that was originally created by the bill. The duties will now be given to the Fed. This is something that Fed Chair Ben Bernanke originally opposed but later accepted under duress from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The Fed is a conservative organization that is more reactive than proactive. Under this new term, it is unlikely any one will activate regulation for this set of loans should they get any worse than they already are today. This basically ghettos the poorest of the poor (mostly the unbanked who rely heavily on checking cashing places and pay day loans) into the least controlled debt instruments. In other words, it’s going to take the most money and fees from those least able to pay for them. It perpetuates the loan trap. Most of the brick and mortar of the pay day loan industry is located in the poorest parts of cities where no bank will go any more. The industry says that it’s providing a much needed service. What’s really happening is that it’s ensuring there is no place else to go.

Under the proposal agreed to by Mr. Dodd and Mr. Corker, the new consumer agency could write rules for nonbank financial companies like payday lenders. It could enforce such rules against nonbank mortgage companies, mainly loan originators or servicers, but it would have to petition a body of regulators for authority over payday lenders and other nonbank financial companies.
Consumer advocates said that writing rules without the inherent power to enforce them would leave the agency toothless.

The consumer groups that seek to protect borrowers from the worst of abuses appear to have given up on Dodd and his committee. They’ve gone straight to the FED for help. The hope is that Bernanke can convince the committee to give the FED broader powers than just ensuring compliance with the Truth in Lending Act.

Consumer groups, however, say that enforcement is crucial to curbing abusive, deceptive or unfair practices.
On Tuesday, while Mr. Dodd and Mr. Corker continued negotiating other provisions of the regulatory overhaul — notably, the extent to which state attorneys general would be able to enforce consumer protection rules against banks — the Federal Reserve’s chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, met with National People’s Action, an activist group that wants the Fed to restrict the banks it oversees from financing payday lenders.
Mr. Bernanke, who had met with the group twice before, is trying to fend off proposals in the Senate to strip the Fed of much of its power to supervise banks. A recommitment to protection consumers is part of that strategy

It is just unbelievable to me that some of the very people who nearly brought the economy to the knees by taking on unbelievable risks, securitizing them and then passing the trash to the market will still be able to carry on like nothing ever happened. This is terrible news. The only hope now is that Barney Frank will stop the senate from changing the tougher language originally introduced by the White House and put through by the House. It certainly doesn’t look like the White House will stand up for its own bill.