Well, the extremist Christianists are still at it. While our military is off fighting against religioust extremism in the middle east, we need to start fighting it at home. Once again, religious hysteria overtakes reason, reality, and women’s and medicine’s ability to make decisions.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) announced today that he will not veto an anti-abortion bill that restricts doctors and hospitals from performing an abortion on a “viable fetus.” The new law eliminates Missouri’s “general health exception” that allowed abortions to preserve the life or health of the woman. Come Aug. 28 when the law goes into effect, abortions will only be allowed “to save the woman’s life or when the pregnancy poses a serious risk of permanent physical harm to a major bodily function.” This narrow exception effectively eliminates a woman’s mental health as a justifiable reason and runs headlong into the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey which only permits such bans “provided the life or health of the mother is not at stake,” a much more comprehensive definition of a woman’s health. Doctors who violate this new law “could face prison sentences of up to seven years, fines up to $50,000 and the loss of their medical licenses.”
This week the NRC has released a report outlining the problems with the nation’s aging nuclear plants that could give us a Fukushima-style meltdown.
Last month, we reported on the widespread deficiencies found in the procedures and equipment the country’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors are supposed to rely on in the event of a catastrophe like the one that hit the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant in Japan.
This week, a special task force of Nuclear Regulatory Commission experts proposed to do something about those problems and other safety issues raised by the Fukushima disaster, where the fuel in three reactors melted down and an unknown amount of radioactive materials escaped into the surroundings.
The NRC’s Japan Task Force said that U.S. nuclear plants are safe but called for potentially sweeping and costly changes to protect against catastrophic events like earthquakes and long-term blackouts.
The panel’s 83-page report calls for upgrades at many plants and broad revisions to what it called a “patchwork” of NRC regulations governing catastrophic events that need to be streamlined.
Groups ranging from nuclear industry representatives to nuclear power critics and regulators cautioned that the NRC report is only the first step in what will almost certainly be a long process of adopting lessons from the Fukushima disaster, where three reactors partially melted down.
That’s not very high on the list of priorities for GOP rep Sandy Adams from the backwoods of Florida. She’s shocked and upset that the DOE teaches children about energy efficiency and those damned light bulbs. Out! OUT! Damned light bulbs!
Rep. Sandy Adams (R-Fla.) has introduced an amendment to the Energy and Water spending bill that would limit funds for any DOE website “which disseminates information regarding energy efficiency and educational programs to children or adolescents.”
The “Energy Kids!” site has a potpourri of energy-related information for kids, parents and teachers, ranging from science fair project suggestions to puzzles, an activity book and scavenger hunt. Kids can even earn a certificate for completing an expedition with “Energy Ant.”
In introducing her amendment Thursday night, Adams flipped through blown-up charts of cartoons and jokes from various DOE websites, including the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s “Kids Saving Energy.”
“How did Benjamin Franklin feel when he discovered electricity? He was shocked,” she said, reading from a poster.
It’s unclear how much money taxpayers would save from removing the sites, and Adams said she was frustrated with Energy Secretary Steven Chu for not providing her with those details.
The House is set to vote on the amendment Friday.
The House is adding this important issue to it’s agenda that includes passing a Dirty Water Act and evidently those damned lightbulbs that Republicans like Adams and Bachmann have become obsessed with have to go too!! I guess caring about the environment is an act of Satan.
On Wednesday, the House approved the cynically named “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act,” a bill that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to oversee state water quality standards and to take action when the states fail to measure up. This bill is not about protecting states’ powers. It is about allowing industries, farmers and municipalities to pollute.
Among its chief sponsors are John Mica, Republican of Florida, who is angry at the E.P.A.’s recent crackdown on the agricultural pollutants that are destroying the Everglades, and Nick Rahall, Democrat of West Virginia, who is furious at the agency’s effort to stop mountaintop mining from poisoning his state’s rivers and streams.
President Obama has rightly threatened to veto the bill if it survives the Senate. Absent federal oversight, states are likely to engage in a race to the bottom, weakening environmental rules to attract business.
This assault on the Clean Water Act reminded us, briefly, of 1995, when a Republican-controlled House under Newt Gingrich tried to undermine the same law. That effort enraged independent voters and energized moderate Republicans.
One of the most interesting stories is the seemingly inevitable fall of the media empire built by Murdoch. The FBI has opened an inquiry on wiretapping if 9-11 families similar to ones that plague Murdoch’s holdings in the UK. Murdoch is using the Wall Street Journal as his mouthpiece at the moment.
While it is unclear if the review will expand into a full investigation, the FBI’s involvement heightens the scrutiny faced by the media giant, which is under intense fire in Britain over allegations that its journalists hacked into the phones of thousands of people.
The FBI probe also raises the politically delicate possibility that the Obama administration— which has questioned the objectivity of News Corp.’s Fox News — could bring criminal charges against employees of the network’s parent company. Murdoch is a political conservative, and last year he directed a $1 million contribution to the Republican Governors Association on behalf of News Corp.
U.S. officials cautioned that it is too soon to tell if charges will be filed, and they indicated that the probe could face a range of complexities, including jurisdictional issues and statutes of limitation that may have expired. Federal investigators also are expected to consult with their counterparts in Britain, which could slow their pace.
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is unfolding.
Here’s hoping we lose enough Murdoch franchises in the world to bring back some truth and honesty in media. If Roger Ailes goes down in all of this, that will just be frosting on the triple chocolate brownies. Speaking of Fox and egos from the fascist right, Bill O’Reilly has offered to broker the debt talks. What’s next? Rush Limbaugh painting smoke messages across the skies of Tripoli stating surrender Ghadafi?
“So now I am offering to broker the debt compromise. I’ll go down there. I’m ready to answer the call. Because I’m looking out for you. Not some crazed ideology or political party,” O’Reilly said.
Earlier in the segment, O’Reilly bashed the president and congressional Democrats’ “spending madness” as well as Michele Bachmann and other tea party-affiliated Republicans, whose current stance is against raising the U.S. debt limit no matter the deal.
O’Reilly’s debt plan would eliminate tax loopholes — with no increase in income taxes — as well as at least $2 trillion in immediate spending cuts. He believes discussion on entitlement spending must wait until after the 2012 election.
On Wednesday, Carney name-dropped the influential commentator as a constructive voice during the discussions.
“There is a growing chorus out there, of Republicans and Conservatives who acknowledge that we need to do this in a balanced way,” Carney said. “Bill O’Reilly on Fox News expressed that sentiment last night.”
Okay, with that, I’ll ask what’s on your blogging and reading list today?
It seems as though our nation’s “leaders” are looking to bring down our country. It’s the only explanation that I have. Also, I’m at the point where I think Joe Biden is the only sane one in the room. Pinch me! Please!
Headlines of note to prove my case:
Speaker of the House John Boehner introduced a new argument to the debt ceiling and deficit reduction talks Tuesday, saying raising the borrowing limit is Republicans’ concession in the negotiations.”This debt limit increase is [Obama’s] problem,” he said.
Boehner is trying to force a deficit reduction package entirely based on spending cuts, saying Obama’s demands for new revenues would only be considered if Obama accepted deep cuts to entitlements.
My guess is that Boehner has absolutely no control over the Republicans in the House. Some one from Wall Street needs to take a few of them to the wood shed. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell appears to be interested in nothing but political play. Some senate Republicans would obviously join the president but it appears that will happen over McConnell’s dead mind and conscious. McConnell still refuses to admit the Republicans lost the White House 3 years ago. He’s become some kind of Captain Queeg who gets in front of the press then rattles ball bearings in his fist while muttering “one term president, strawberries, one term president, it’s the strawberries, I tell you …” repeatedly.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Tuesday said a comprehensive deficit-reduction deal is not attainable as long as Barack Obama is president.
McConnell declared that deficit-reduction talks have come to an unsolvable deadlock.
“After years of discussions and months of negotiations, I have little question that as long as this president is in the Oval Office, a real solution is unattainable,” he said.McConnell has called for reforms to curb the future growth of Social Security and Medicare since taking over as Republican leader at the end of 2006.
So, what’s the response of the leader of the free world? Would you call this riling up or scaring seniors?
President Obama on Tuesday said he cannot guarantee that retirees will receive their Social Security checks August 3 if Democrats and Republicans in Washington do not reach an agreement on reducing the deficit in the coming weeks.
“I cannot guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven’t resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley, according to excerpts released by CBS News.
The Obama administration and many economists have warned of economic catastrophe if the United States does not raise the amount it is legally allowed to borrow by August 2.
This is insane. No one’s made any sense in this discussion since Joe Biden told his gang of six to get real. Meanwhile, we’re beginning to see financial economists question this game of chicken.This extremely good analysis is written by Jeffrey Frankel the James W. Harpel Professor of Capital Formation and Growth at Harvard’s Kennedy School.
In the 1955 movie Rebel Without a Cause, James Dean and a teenage rival race two cars to the edge of a cliff in a game of chicken. Both intend to jump out at the last moment. But the other guy miscalculates, and goes over the cliff with the car.
This is the game that is being played out in Washington this month over the debt ceiling. The chance is at least 1/4 that the result will be similarly disastrous.
It is amazing that the financial markets continue to view the standoff with equanimity. Interest rates on US treasury bonds remain very low, barely above 3% at the ten-year maturity. Evidently it is still considered a sign of sophistication to say “This is just politics as usual. They will come to an agreement in the end.” Probably they will. But maybe not. (I’d put a ½ probability on an agreement that raises the debt limit, but just muddles through in terms of the genuine long term fiscal problem. That leaves at most a ¼ probability of a genuine long-term solution of the sort that President Obama apparently proposed last week – described as worth $4 trillion over ten years.)
My advice to investors is to shift immediately out of US treasuries and into high-rated corporate bonds. If the worst happens, you will probably save yourself from a big capital loss within the next month. If not, there is no harm done.
The game is not symmetric. The Republicans are the ones who are miscalculating. Evidently they are confident of prevailing: they rejected the President’s offer, even though he was willing to cut entitlement programs.
The situation is complicated because there are a number of different people crammed into the Republican car. There is one guy who is obsessed with the theory that, come August 3, the federal government could retain its top credit rating if it continued to service its debt by ceasing payment on its other bills. But this would mean failing to honor legal obligations that have already been incurred (paying suppliers for paper clips that have already been bought, paying soldiers their wages for last month’s service, sending social security recipients their checks, etc.). This is like observing that the cliff is not a 90 degree drop-off, but only 110 degrees. It doesn’t matter: the car would still go crashing into the ocean far below. The government’s credit would still be downgraded and global investors would still demand higher interest rates to hold US treasuries, probably on a long-term basis.
There are other guys (and gals) in the car who are even more delusional. They are dead set on a policy of immediately eliminating the budget deficit (e.g., those opposed to raising the debt ceiling no matter what, or those campaigning for a balanced budget amendment), and doing it primarily by cutting nondefense discretionary spending. This is literally impossible, arithmetically. But they honestly don’t know this. It is as if they were insisting that the car can fly. Sometimes it can be a good bargaining position to adopt a very extreme position. But if you are demanding that the car flies, you are not going to get your way no matter how determined you are.
What we have here are a group of rebels with self-serving causes. Again, the President should just invoke the 14th amendment,pay the bills, and send the DOJ after the many folks here that appear to be willing to tank our country for their personal political gain. Threatening seniors’ social security is not leadership. It’s just a matter of time before the financial markets start noticing these folks are not acting in the best interest of our country, our economy, or our ability to deal with our economic challenges. We’re lucky that they still think this is the chicken dance right now instead of a chicken race. It’s going to be a lot harder to pay off the debt with the interest rates that go along with junk bonds. This is not the place for political grandstanding.
update: Okay, this is weird … what’s McConnell up to now?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has proposed a sort of escape hatch for Congressional Republicans, who have threatened not to raise the national debt limit — and trigger a default — if Democrats don’t agree to trillions of dollars in cuts to popular social programs.
The plan is designed to give President Obama the power to raise the debt limit through the end of his first term on his own, but to force Democrats to take a series of votes on the debt limit vote in the months leading up to the election.
This still leaves me wondering if Boehner can deliver enough Republican votes to actually head off a purposeful debt default.
Good Morning!! I’ve got a variety of interesting reads for you today, so let’s get right to it. Imagine the guy who wrote these words:
“Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.”
John Lennon, the long-haired British peacenik who was investigated by the FBI in 1972 after he allegedly contributed $75,000 to a group suspected of planning to disrupt the Republican National Convention later was a closet conservative….Fred Seaman, who was Lennon’s personal assistant from 1979 until the singer’s assassination in 1980, claims the former Beatle and anti-war activist favored Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter and would have voted for the Gipper if he could have.
“John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on Jimmy Carter,” Seaman told Seth Swirsky, who is making a film about the Fab Four.
Seaman said the guitarist “met Reagan back, I think, in the ’70s at some sporting event.”
“Reagan was the guy who had ordered the National Guard, I believe, to go after the young [peace] demonstrators in Berkeley, so I think that John maybe forgot about that,” Seaman told Swirsky in excerpts published in the Toronto Sun. “He did express support for Reagan, which shocked me.”
I don’t even know how to respond to this stunning news. Lennon was apparently a Reagan Democrat. If he’d lived he probably would have been an Obot too….
Confrontations between the police and protesters reached a violent climax here on Wednesday as armored riot officers beat back demonstrators and fired volleys of tear gas into the crowds who had gathered outside Parliament. Inside, lawmakers approved a package of austerity measures aimed at helping Greece avoid a default.
On the second day of a two-day general strike called by unions, rogue protesters also attacked the Finance Ministry on Syntagma Square across from Parliament and set fire to a post office in the ground floor of the building. The King George Palace, a luxury hotel that faces the square, was evacuated in the afternoon.
A police spokeswoman said that 31 police officers were injured and that 30 people had been detained, leading to 11 arrests. Local news media reported that dozens of protesters were hospitalized, and video clips showed the police striking people with their batons.
Amnesty International released a statement on Wednesday condemning the “repeated use of excessive force by police in recent demonstrations, including the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of tear gas and other chemicals against largely peaceful protesters.”
Is this what’s coming for the U.S.? At a press conference today President Obama warned Republicans to wake up and smell the tax increases (aside: I’m not holding my breath for Obama to follow through).
President Obama pressured Republicans on Wednesday to accept higher taxes as part of any plan to pare down the federal deficit, bluntly telling lawmakers that they “need to do their job” and strike a deal before the United States risks defaulting on its debt.
Declaring that an agreement is not possible without painful steps on both sides, Mr. Obama said that his party had already accepted the need for substantial spending cuts in programs it had long championed, and that Republicans must agree to end tax breaks for oil and gas companies, hedge funds and other corporate interests.
In a 67-minute news conference, Mr. Obama cast the budget battle as a tug of war between the interests of the rich — like owners of corporate jets, who he said get generous tax breaks — and those of the middle class, the elderly and children.
But Obama himself offered at best very weak tea:
Mr. Obama, under assault from Republicans on the campaign trail for an unemployment rate that remains above 9 percent, asked voters to understand that the economic recovery would take time but said that Washington, even in its current financial straits, could still do more to help. He expressed support for extending a reduction in payroll taxes for an extra year, providing loans for road and bridge-building and approving trade pacts that could help spur exports.
Big whoop. Why didn’t he fight to end the Bush tax cuts then?
Ezra Klein explains “How you know the negotiations have truly failed.”
The best advice I’ve gotten for assessing the debt-ceiling negotiations was to “watch for the day when the White House goes public.” As long as the Obama administration was refusing to attack Republicans publicly, my source said, they believed they could cut a deal. And that held true. They were quiet when the negotiations were going on. They were restrained after Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl walked out last week. Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We are confident that we can continue to seek common ground and that we will achieve a balanced approach to deficit reduction.” But today they went public. The negotiations have failed.
“The primary goal of President Obama’s presser, which just wrapped up, was obvious,” writes Greg Sargent. “He was clearly out to pick a major public fight with Republicans over tax cuts for the rich.” That’s exactly right. But he didn’t want this fight. He wanted a deal. And he wasn’t able to get one that the White House considered even minimally acceptable. After putting more than $2 trillion of spending cuts on the table, they weren’t even able to get $400 billion — about a sixth of the total — in tax increases.
The conventional wisdom is that now this fight moves to the people. I’d put it differently. Now this fight moves to the consequences. Neither side is going to give in the face of purely rhetorical salvos. The White House is expecting Republicans to accuse them of wanting to raise taxes. The Republicans are expecting the White House to accuse them of putting the interests of large corporations and wealthy donors in front of the needs of seniors, children and the poor. Both parties have seen the poll numbers behind their positions. If a few news conferences were going to be sufficient to end this, it would never have started.
Climate experts warn that “epic weather” will continue because of climate change
Epic floods, massive wildfires, drought and the deadliest tornado season in 60 years are ravaging the United States, with scientists warning that climate change will bring even more extreme weather.
The human and economic toll over just the past few months has been staggering: hundreds of people have died, and thousands of homes and millions of acres have been lost at a cost estimated at more than $20 billion.
And the United States has not even entered peak hurricane season.
“This spring was one of the most extreme springs that we’ve seen in the last century since we’ve had good records,” said Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
While it’s not possible to tie a specific weather event or pattern to climate change, Arndt said this spring’s extreme weather is in line with what is forecast for the future.
The Boston Globe reveals that fishermen in Gloucester, MA and up and down the Atlantic coast were the victims of abuse of power by NOAA.
About a decade ago, the Commerce Department’s fish police started a fight with Larry Ciulla, who owns and operates the Gloucester Seafood Display Auction with three other family members. Claiming that the auction had exceeded the day’s catch limit by one 60-pound fish, the regulators levied a $120,000 fine and ordered a 90-day shutdown.
Outraged, Ciulla challenged the penalty. He turned to Gloucester lawyer Ann-Margaret Ferrante, who is now a state representative and whose grandfather, father, and uncle were fishermen. Together, they decided to take on the agency known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In need of political backup, they went to US Representative John Tierney, whose district covers Gloucester. Eventually, their grass-roots effort drew in the mayors of Gloucester and New Bedford, the Bay State congressional delegation, and a bipartisan string of lawmakers from Maine to the Carolinas.
This year, federal officials finally acknowledged their own regulators had gone rogue. They were guilty of overzealous, abusive, and targeted enforcement, a series of independent investigations revealed. Regulators were levying crippling fines for invented or inflated offenses, as they relentlessly bullied an entire industry. They were using the fishermen’s money to finance a fleet of cars, a luxury boat, and assorted foreign junkets.
Please read the whole sordid story.
Twitter has released fascinating data on the number of tweets and direct messages during and after the Japan earthquake.
“On Twitter, we saw a 500% increase in Tweets from Japan as people reached out to friends, family and loved ones in the moments after the March 2011 earthquake,” said the company on its blog.
Kirstin Powers interviewed Michele Bachmann, and learned that the Tea Party queen is no feminist.
Unlike Sarah Palin, who has brandished the feminist moniker and spoken of an “emerging conservative feminist identity,” Bachmann told me in an interview Tuesday that she wouldn’t call herself a feminist—instead, she simply described herself as “pro-woman and pro-man.” When I pressed her on the matter, the Minnesota congresswoman said she sees herself as an “empowered American.”
Bachmann seemed loath to engage in the kind of girl-power rhetoric utilized by Palin and Hillary Clinton, who both invoked the perennial—and so far unbreakable—presidential glass ceiling.
Said Bachmann: “I’m a woman comfortable in her own skin. I grew up with three brothers. My parents didn’t see us [as] limited [by gender]. I would mow the lawn and take out the trash; I was making my own fishing lures. I went along with everything the boys did.”
Bachmann is still doing everything the boys do, but as a female candidate she endures indignities that are foreign to your average male pol. Yet she takes it all in stride.
Don’t you just love it when smarmy, self-righteous people are brought low? I know I do. Despite the fact that I loathe pedophiles, I’ve always been turned off by Chris Hansen and his obnoxious TV show “To Catch a Predator.” Now Hansen himself has been caught on “candid camera.”
Chris Hansen has found himself on the receiving end of his own hidden camera tactics, after the married NBC anchor was secretly filmed on an illicit date with a blonde television reporter 20 years his junior.
Hansen, 51, has allegedly been having an affair with Kristyn Caddell, a 30-year-old Florida journalist, for the last four months.
Secret cameras filmed the couple as they arrived at the hotel for dinner and then drove back to her apartment – where the pair left, carrying luggage, at 8am the following day.
Hansen lives in Connecticut with his wife Mary, 53, but he has been spending more and more time in South Florida investigating the disappearance of James ‘Jimmy T’ Trindade – and allegedly sleeping with Miss Caddell.
The cameras belonged to The National Enquirer. Fortunately for Hansen, Miss Caddell is slightly beyond the age of consent.
Finally, here’s a nice summery story to get you ready for the upcoming long weekend: Work’s a Day at the Beach for Sand-Castle Consultants
CANNON BEACH, Ore.—On a recent weekend, sand creatures were sprawled across this Pacific Coast beach. There were sea horses by a giant squid, with an “Attackin’ Kraken” sea monster nearby, along with several pigs, some giant mice and an amputee octopus.
Many of the sand sculptures had the same point of origin: They had been built by people who at one time or another were advised by Bert Adams, one of the nation’s handful of professional sand-castle consultants.
“They did well,” said Mr. Adams, a 51-year-old former electrical engineer, as he surveyed the array of creations made by his onetime students at Cannon Beach’s 47th annual sand sculpting tournament.
“He’s a great mentor,” says Amos Callender, an Olympia, Wash., architect who took a course—Sand 101—that Mr. Adams taught two years ago. Mr. Callender and his team took first place at Cannon Beach last year, while this year they built a sand sculpture depicting “the good life”—a wine lover sporting a beret; a mouse tucking into a giant wheel of cheese—that finished second.
What a great idea. Now if only I could find a niche that would pay me big bucks for something I love doing!
So what are you reading and blogging about today? Hit me with it!
Well, I hate to keep having to read about states out to get women’s health clinics, but here we go again!
The Texas Legislature approved a bill Monday that would both compel the state to push the Obama administration to convert Texas’s Medicaid program into a block grant and defund abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.
The omnibus health bill also includes a number of other controversial provisions, including plans to save $400 million over the next year by increasing the use of Medicaid managed care.
The legislation now goes to the desk of Gov. Rick Perry, who has been generally supportive of both the Medicaid reforms, as well as anti-abortion language.
Here’s so more details on the Texas situation from the Dallas News.
The bill would deny $34 million to Planned Parenthood from family planning grants, curb abortions at public hospitals and promote use of adult stem cells from the patient’s own body in new medical treatments.
“Early in the session, I didn’t dare dream that we could make the gains this bill would accomplish,” said Joe Pojman of Texas Alliance for Life.
Also, under the bill, Texas could join Georgia and Oklahoma in creating a health care compact. Under the proposal, if Congress approved, the states could agree to cap the federal government’s contribution to several health care programs, including Medicaid and Medicare. In return, they would be freed from current federal laws on eligibility and benefits.
Planned Parenthood is asking a federal court to block Kansas from cutting off its federal funding, after winning a similar injunction Friday in Indiana.
Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri filed a lawsuit Monday that seeks to prevent Kansas from implementing a provision of the state budget that would cut off federal funding.
According to the group’s brief, Kansas blocked federal money from going to organizations that specialize in family planning without also providing primary and preventive care. The provision would cut off funding to all Planned Parenthood clinics, even those that do not provide abortions, the group says.
This is really getting serious folks! States are trying all kinds of things because they know think the courts might rule in their favor. The amount of money going to defend nuisance laws in these states must be astounding.
The President is signalling that a ‘significant’ deal with the Republicans might be in the works about the federal budget and deficit. Better check your passport status! It’s likely we’re about to get fleeced and you may want to head for a country that appreciates its middle class for a stay!
President Barack Obama plunged into deadlocked negotiations to cut government deficits and raise the nation’s debt limit Monday, and the White House expressed confidence a “significant” deal with Republicans could be reached. But both sides only seemed to harden their positions as the day wore on, the administration insisting on higher taxes as part of the package but Republican leaders flatly rejecting the idea.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for about 30 minutes at the White House, and then met with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for about an hour in the early evening.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama reported after the morning session that “everyone in the room believes that a significant deal remains possible.” But Carney also affirmed that Obama would only go for a deficit-reduction plan that included both spending cuts and increased tax revenue, an approach that Republicans say would never get through Congress.
It has increasingly fallen to institutional investors to hold mortgage lenders, investment banks and other large financial institutions accountable for their role in the mortgage crisis by seeking redress for shareholders injured by corporate misconduct and sending a powerful message to executives that corporate malfeasance is unacceptable. For example, sophisticated public pension funds are currently prosecuting actions involving billions of dollars of losses against Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, Countrywide, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, among many others. In some instances, litigations have already resulted in significant recoveries for defrauded investors.
Historically, institutional investors have achieved impressive results on behalf of shareholders when compared to government- led suits. Indeed, since 1995, SEC settlements comprise only 5 percent of the monetary recoveries arising from securities frauds, with the remaining 95 percent obtained through private litigation as demonstrated by several examples in the chart at right.
Institutional investors must continue to lead the charge and prosecute fraud to send a strong message that such misconduct will not be tolerated and to guarantee that shareholders are fairly compensated for their losses. Both the courts and Congress have recognized that meritorious private securities litigation is “an indispensable tool with which defrauded investors can recover their losses[,]…promote public and global confidence in our capital markets and help to deter wrongdoing.” While originally intended as a supplement to government regulation, recent events demonstrate that institutional investors may now be the entities best positioned to protect investors’ rights. Without such protection, and if Wall Street bankers are permitted to profit from their frauds without a proportionate retributive response, we may be fated to repeat the same economic calamity that has defined our generation.
The state Capitol Police Chief, Charles Tubbs, said Monday that he is turning over the case to local law enforcement.
“After consulting with members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, I have turned over the investigation into an alleged incident in the court’s offices on June 13, 2011 to Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney,” Tubbs said in a statement. “Sheriff Mahoney has agreed to investigate this incident and all inquiries about the status of the investigation should be made with the Sheriff’s Department.”
Mahoney issued a concurrent statement declaring that he has directed detectives to investigate the incident.
“Beginning today, detectives will work diligently to conduct a thorough and timely investigation,” Mahoney said. “Because this case is in the very early stages, no further information is available at this time.”
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism first revealed the June 13 incident on Saturday, reporting that Prosser put his hands on Bradley’s neck during debate over the legality of the “budget repair bill,” which the court’s conservative majority ruled is legal in a 4-3 decision June 14.
Reaction on the Web — where partisans have been arguing Wisconsin politics for months — was swift.
At ThinkProgress, Ian Millhiser surmised four ways Prosser can be legally removed from office.
“Should the allegations against Prosser prove true, it is tough to imagine a truer sign that our political system has broken down than if the calls to remove him from office are not unanimous,” he wrote.
Natural disasters in our country have triggered concern about nuclear facilities. The latest facility to be jeopardized is Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab in New Mexico. Add this to the two nuclear power plants in Nebraska surrounded by the flooded Missouri River.
The Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab in New Mexico has been shut down for the day due to a fast-moving wildfire that is endangering the lab and surrounding area. The fire began around 12 miles southwest of Los Alamos, charring about 6,000 acres. Fire officials say none of the fire is under control yet. Lawrence Lujan of the Santa Fe National Forest said, “We have homes and we have the labs, so it’s a very, very big concern, not only locally, but nationally and globally.”
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner--Argentina’s president–has announced she’ll run for a second term in office in October.
Her announcement marks the beginning of Argentina’s presidential election campaign. Ms Fernández is in good shape to secure another term. She is comfortably ahead in the opinion polls, thanks in large part to Argentina’s strong economic performance: GDP grew by an annualised 10% in the first quarter of 2011, due in no small measure to growing international demand for soya, now the country’s biggest export.
Ms Fernández faces no challenges from within her governing Peronist Party. And despite months of attempts to form a coalition of opposition, her political adversaries remain hopelessly split. Her strongest opponents are likely to be Eduardo Duhalde, a former president, and Ricardo Alfonsín, the son of a former president. But her biggest problems lie elsewhere.
One is a corruption scandal surrounding the Association of Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, a group of women campaigning to discover what happened to their children under Argentina’s military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. Ms Fernández and her husband allied themselves to the group, providing them with millions of dollars of state funds with which to build houses for the underprivileged and without seeking any guarantees. The Mothers have now been caught up in a fraud investigation, which some think could cause problems for Ms Fernández.
One last bit of good news! Southern Right Whales Return to New Zealand After a Century of overhunting and being on the brink of extinction.
Southern right whales were once a common sight along the coast of New Zealand, though in the 19th century overhunting brought the species to the brink of extinction. But now, after a decades of being virtually non-existant off New Zealand’s shores, wildlife experts are seeing endangered right whales finally returning to their ancestral calving grounds — offering hope that the whales’ are rediscovering a ‘cultural connection’ to this region after a century-long hiatus.
Before they were brought to near-extinction by whalers who considered them to be the best whale species to target — hence the ‘right’ in their name — southern right whales are thought to have numbered in the tens-of-thousands in the waters off New Zealand. In the decades that followed, however, the few surviving whales limited their calving grounds to the sub-antarctic regions to the south, despite the fact that closer to the New Zealand mainland had ancestrally been where they raised their young.
But recently a team of researchers from the University of Auckland and New Zealand Department of Conservation made a remarkable discovery; right whales seemed to be heading home.
“With the increase in numbers observed around the Auckland Islands over the last decade, we think that some individuals are re-discovering the former primary habitat around the mainland of New Zealand,” researcher Scott Baker tells The New Zealand Herald.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Monday Reads: Bachmann’s Federal Subsidies, Nebraska Nuke Plants, and Cuomo vs. Obama on Marriage EqualityPosted: June 27, 2011
Good morning!! This is going to be a quickie morning post, because I kind of wore myself out yesterday obsessing on the Casey Anthony trial and another “tabloid” story I’ve been following about woman–Lauren Spierer, an IU student–who disappeared in Bloomington, Indiana three weeks ago. I grew up in Indiana and my sister lives in Bloomington, so I’ve been reading a lot about the case.
I promise I’ll get back to obsessing on politics as soon as some real news starts happening again.
The LA Times had a couple of stories about Michele Bachmann and her husband getting federal money for his clinic and his parents’ farm.
Rep. Michele Bachmann has been propelled into the 2012 presidential contest in part by her insistent calls to reduce federal spending, a pitch in tune with the big-government antipathy gripping many conservatives.
But the Minnesota Republican and her family have benefited personally from government aid, an examination of her record and finances shows. A counseling clinic run by her husband has received nearly $30,000 from the state of Minnesota in the last five years, money that in part came from the federal government. A family farm in Wisconsin, in which the congresswoman is a partner, received nearly $260,000 in federal farm subsidies.
And she has sought to keep federal money flowing to her constituents. After publicly criticizing the Obama administration’s stimulus program, Bachmann requested stimulus funds to support projects in her district. Although she has been a fierce critic of earmarks — calling them “part of the root problem with Washington’s spending addiction” — the congresswoman nonetheless argued recently that transportation projects should not be considered congressional pork.
Rep. Michele Bachmann deflected allegations Sunday that she and her immediate family had benefited from government assistance despite her demands to cut the federal budget, saying hundreds of thousands of dollars for her family farm and a counseling clinic went to employees and her in-laws.
“My husband and I did not get the money,” the Minnesota Republican said on Sunday news shows one day before officially opening her presidential campaign in Waterloo, Iowa — her birthplace.
Except she did get the money, as shown by her disclosure forms. See the previous story. Bachmann claimed that the money for the clinic went for employee training. Wouldn’t training of employees also help the business?
The New York Times has a pretty good article about the two Nebraska nuclear plants that are endangered by flooding from the Missouri River–the Ft. Calhoun and Cooper reactors. If you haven’t read Dakinikat’s post on this scary situation, please do. From the NYT piece:
Like inhabitants of a city preparing for a siege, operators of the nuclear reactor here have spent days working to defend it against the swollen Missouri River at its doorstep. On Sunday, eight days after the river rose high enough to require the operators to declare a low-level emergency, a swarm of plant officials got to show off their preparations to the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The reactor, Cooper Station, is one of two nuclear plants on the Missouri River that are threatened by flooding. The second reactor, Fort Calhoun, 85 miles north, came under increased pressure for a brief period on Sunday. Before dawn, a piece of heavy equipment nicked an eight-foot-high, 2,000-foot-long temporary rubber berm, and it deflated. Water also began to approach electrical equipment, which prompted operators to cut themselves off from the grid and start up diesel generators. (It returned to grid power later Sunday.) Both nuclear plants appeared prepared to weather the flooding, their operators and federal government regulators said.
Fort Calhoun was shut down in April for refueling and stayed closed because of predictions of flooding. Plant officials say the facility is designed to remain secure at a river level of up to 1,014 feet above sea level. The water level stabilized at 1,006.5 feet on Sunday, according to the Omaha Public Power District, the operator of the Fort Calhoun plant.
Unfortunately the Times doesn’t mention that large amounts of nuclear tritium are leaking from these plants into the groundwater or say whether any testing of drinking water is being done. What happens if the Missouri becomes contaminated by nuclear material?
CNN reports that a huge water-filled berm that was being used to protect the Ft. Calhoun plant burst yesterday.
Some sort of machinery came in contact with the berm, puncturing it and causing the berm to deflate, said Mike Jones, a spokesman for the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), which owns the Fort Calhoun plant.
Authorities say this was just a back-up measure and the plant is still safe.
Parts of the grounds are already under water as the swollen Missouri River overflows its banks, including areas around some auxiliary buildings, Jones said.
The 8-foot-tall, water-filled berm, 16 feet wide at its base, surrounded the reactor containment structure and auxiliary buildings, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
“We built the plant up high enough based on history, based on the flooding in the past. If the flood would rise for some reason above that level we have taken precautions, again, per our procedures to sandbag the important equipment for the reactors,” said Dave Van Der Kamp, with the Nebraska Public Power District.
He said the chances of floodwater getting into the building where the core is kept are almost zero.
I sure hope that’s true.
The NYT has an interesting article on how Andrew Cuomo helped shepherd the gay marriage bill through the New York legislature.
In the 35th-floor conference room of a Manhattan high-rise, two of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s most trusted advisers held a secret meeting a few weeks ago with a group of super-rich Republican donors.
Over tuna and turkey sandwiches, the advisers explained that New York’s Democratic governor was determined to legalize same-sex marriage and would deliver every possible Senate vote from his own party.
…the donors in the room — the billionaire Paul Singer, whose son is gay, joined by the hedge fund managers Cliff Asness and Daniel Loeb — had the influence and the money to insulate nervous senators from conservative backlash if they supported the marriage measure. And they were inclined to see the issue as one of personal freedom, consistent with their more libertarian views.
Basically, Cuomo acted more presidential than Obama did. I wonder if Cuomo would like to primary Obama? Just kidding….
Here’s an interesting piece at the WaPo: Votes that pushed us into the red. There is a chart that shows how various politicians rationalized supporting big spending projects–although some of them might have actually provided some economic stimulus.
Finally, there’s going to be some kind of cost-cutting change to the electric power grid that will make our electric clocks run fast.
A yearlong experiment with the nation’s electric grid could mess up traffic lights, security systems and some computers — and make plug-in clocks and appliances like programmable coffeemakers run up to 20 minutes fast.
“A lot of people are going to have things break and they’re not going to know why,” said Demetrios Matsakis, head of the time service department at the U.S. Naval Observatory, one of two official timekeeping agencies in the federal government.
Since 1930, electric clocks have kept time based on the rate of the electrical current that powers them. If the current slips off its usual rate, clocks run a little fast or slow. Power companies now take steps to correct it and keep the frequency of the current — and the time — as precise as possible.
The effect will be greater in some areas than others.
The North American Electric Reliability Corp. runs the nation’s interlocking web of transmission lines and power plants. A June 14 company presentation spelled out the potential effects of the change: East Coast clocks may run as much as 20 minutes fast over a year, but West Coast clocks are only likely to be off by 8 minutes. In Texas, it’s only an expected speedup of 2 minutes.
Some parts of the grid, like in the East, tend to run faster than others. Errors add up. If the grid averages just over 60 cycles a second, clocks that rely on the grid will gain 14 seconds per day, according to the company’s presentation.
That’s it for me. I’ve gotta go see what Judge Belvin Perry has to say this morning. What are you reading and blogging about today?