It’s Saturday!

Happy Saturday Sky Dancers!! It’s a beautiful fall day here in Indiana, but I’m looking forward to getting back to Boston. I’ll be taking off in a couple of days and I hope to be home by Tuesday or Wednesday. My mom is going along for the ride so she can hang out with her youngest grandsons for awhile. It will be fun, because she’ll be there over Halloween. But enough about my boring life–let’s get to the news.

This story is a couple of days old, but still worth reading. Via BDBlue at Corrente, Which GOP candidate do you think has raised the most money from Wall Street?

Barack Obama!

Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.

Obama’s key advantage over the GOP field is the ability to collect bigger checks because he raises money for both his own campaign committee and for the Democratic National Committee, which will aid in his reelection effort.

As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.

And get this–Obama has raised nearly twice as much as Romney from the Mittster’s old firm, Bain Capital! So don’t believe all those stories in the media about the Wall Street titans switching to Mitt.

Here’s another “breaking news” story from Forbes: US Businesses Not Being Strangled By Regulation And Taxation, World Bank Says. Gee, no kidding? But the Republicans say that’s the main cause of our economic problems, don’t they?

The World Bank uses indicators such as time spent to set up a business to getting credit, among other things, in benchmarking the 183 countries it ranks in “Doing Business”. The report measures and tracks changes in the regulations applied to domestic companies in 11 areas in their life cycle–such as investors rights, taxation, cross border transactions, legality and enforcement of contracts and bankruptcy law. A fundamental premise of doing business is that economic activity requires good rules that are transparent and accessible to all, not just big business. Such regulations should be efficient, the World Bank states, striking a balance between safeguarding some important aspects of the business environment and avoiding distortions that impose unreasonable costs on businesses. “Where business regulation is burdensome and competition limited, success depends more on whom you know than on what you can do. But where regulations are relatively easy to comply with and accessible to all who need to use them, anyone with talent and a good idea should be able to start and grow a business (legally),” the World Bank said.

Where does the supposed regulation and taxation crippled U.S. stand in the rankings? It is number four, trailing behind New Zealand (3), Hong Kong (2) and Singapore (1).

What it looks like from the research desks at one of the most powerful and elite multilateral institutions on the planet is a U.S. that does not have the government in its way, but a U.S. whose government is more out of the way than it is in every other major economy on earth, including mainland China.

Wow, I wonder if Congressman Paul Ryan reads Forbes? Naaaah… probably too far left for him. And speaking of Ryan, he appeared at a town hall meeting in Muskego, WI yesterday and made a complete ass of himself as usual. From Think Progress:

During a town hall today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) was asked by Matthew Lowe, a student, why the GOP wants to cut Pell Grants. Ryan responded by saying that the program is “unsustainable,” before telling Lowe that he should be working three jobs and taking out student loans to pay for college, instead of using Pell Grants:

LOWE: I come from a very middle-class family and under President Obama, I get $5,500 per year to pay for school, which doesn’t come close to covering all of the funding, but it helps ease the burden. Under your plan, you cut it by 15 percent. I was just curious why you would cut a grant that goes directly to the middle- and lower-class people that need it the most.

RYAN: ‘Cause Pell Grants have become unsustainable. It’s all borrowed money…Look, I worked three jobs to pay off my student loans after college. I didn’t get grants, I got loans, and we need to have a system of viable student loans to be able to do this.

That’s funny. I read that Ryan used his father’s Social Security survivor benefits to put himself through college. I’d like to see some documentation on those three jobs he claims he worked while attending classes, writing papers, and studying for exams. Besides, I’ll bet the unemployment rate for college-age kids wasn’t at depression levels back then.

And speaking of paying for college, here’s an interesting piece at Truthout by Ellen Brown: Can the Fed Prevent the Next Crisis by Eliminating Interest on Student Loan Debt?

Among the demands of the Wall Street protesters is student debt forgiveness – a debt “jubilee.” Occupy Philly has a “Student Loan Jubilee Working Group,” and other groups are studying the issue. Commentators say debt forgiveness is impossible. Who would foot the bill? But there is one deep pocket that could pull it off – the Federal Reserve. In its first quantitative easing program (QE1), the Fed removed $1.3 trillion in toxic assets from the books of Wall Street banks. For QE4, it could remove $1 trillion in toxic debt from the backs of millions of students.

The economy would only be the better for it, as was shown by the GI Bill, which provided virtually free higher education for returning veterans, along with low-interest loans for housing and business. The GI Bill had a sevenfold return. It was one of the best investments Congress ever made.

There are arguments against a complete student debt write-off, including that it would reward private universities that are already charging too much and it would unfairly exclude other forms of debt from relief. But the point here is that it could be done and it (or some similar form of consumer “jubilee”) would represent a significant stimulus to the economy.

According to Brown, student loan debt is “the next Black Swan.”

Here’s another stupid Republican story for you. Eric Cantor was scheduled to give a speech yesterday at the elite Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Cantor was to speak on what Republicans plan to do about income inequality. The school was so excited that they opened the talk to the public. In addition, there was to be a protest by several groups, including Occupy Philly.

Guess what Cantor did? He wimped out and cancelled. ROFLOL! From the LA Times:

Cantor was scheduled to speak on income inequity at a lecture hosted by the Wharton business school. The Virginia Republican’s office said he called off the speech after learning that protesters planned to rally outside and attendance would not be limited to students and others affiliated with the school.

Ron Ozio, director of media relations at University of Pennsylvania, said the business school “deeply regrets” that the event was canceled.

“The university community was looking forward to hearing Majority Leader Cantor’s comments on important public issues, and we hope there will be another opportunity for him to speak on campus,” Ozio said in a statement. “The Wharton speaker series is typically open to the general public, and that is how the event with Majority Leader Cantor was billed. We very much regret if there was any misunderstanding with the Majority Leader’s office on the staging of his presentation.”

This is pretty disgusting: Libyans line up to see Gaddafi’s body on display; groups call for probe into death

International human rights groups called Friday for an investigation into the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi as gory new videos showed him being spat at and punched by revolutionaries and as skepticism mounted about official claims that he was shot in crossfire after being captured.

The new cellphone videos cast a shadow over the revolutionaries even as they were celebrating the end of their eight-month struggle to wrest control of the country. NATO had backed the rebels in the name of shielding pro-democracy civilians from Gaddafi’s brutality.

“The government version certainly does not fit with the reality we have seen on the ground,” said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, who has been investigating the capture of Gaddafi in his home town of Sirte. Amnesty International warned that the killing could be a war crime.

Why do I suspect the U.S. Government gave the go-ahead for Gaddafi to be executed, just like Osama bin Laden? You might want to read Joseph Cannon’s take on this one.

Finally, late last night the Volker Rule was number 1 in Google’s top stories. From the NYT:

When Paul Volcker called for new rules in 2009 to curb risk-taking by banks, and thus avoid making taxpayers liable in the future for the kind of reckless speculation that caused the financial crisis and resulting bailout, he outlined his proposal in a three-page letter to the president.

Last year, when the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act went to Congress, the Volcker Rule that it contained took up 10 pages.

Last week, when the proposed regulations for the Volcker Rule finally emerged for public comment, the text had swelled to 298 pages and was accompanied by more than 1,300 questions about 400 topics.

Wall Street firms have spent countless millions of dollars trying to water down the original Volcker proposal and have succeeded in inserting numerous exemptions. Now they’re claiming it’s too complex to understand and too costly to adopt.

Gee, what a surprise. I wonder how many of those millions were taxpayer dollars?

So…what are you reading and blogging about today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! I’m struggling with some kind of viral thing. I don’t know if it’s the flu or what, but I’ve been really tired and my brain hasn’t been working properly. Anyway, I’ve got some odds and ends of news for you, and I hope what I write will make sense.

There’s a good summary of the global nature of the Occupy protests at the Guardian:

In Madrid, tens of thousands thronged the Puerta del Sol square shouting “Hands up! This is a robbery!” In Santiago, 25,000 Chileans processed through the city, pausing outside the presidential palace to hurl insults at the country’s billionaire president. In Frankfurt, more than 5,000 people massed outside the European Central Bank, in scenes echoed in 50 towns and cities across Germany, from Berlin to Stuttgart. Sixty thousand people gathered in Barcelona, 100 in Manila, 3,000 in Auckland, 200 in Kuala Lumpur, 1,000 in Tel Aviv, 4,000 in London.

A month to the day after 1,000 people first turned up in Wall Street to express their outrage at corporate greed and social inequality, campaigners are reflecting on a weekend that saw a relatively modest demonstration in New York swell into a truly global howl of protest.

The Occupy campaign may have hoped, at its launch, to inspire similar action elsewhere, but few can have foreseen that within four weeks, more than 900 cities around the world would host co-ordinated protests directly or loosely affiliated to the Occupy cause.

The exact targets of protesters’ anger may differ from city to city and country to country. But while their numbers remain small in many places, activists argue that Saturday’s demonstrations, many of which are still ongoing – and are pledged to remain so for the foreseeable future – are evidence of a growing wave of global anger at social and economic injustice.

It’s just amazing how this movement has grown.

You know how Dakinikat has been arguing that one of the first things Occupy protesters should be demanding is the restoration of the Glass-Steagall Act? Well, Matt Yglesias says it’s no big deal: Glass-Steagall is Mostly a Red Herring.

Something I’ve heard from participants in the 99 Percent Movement is a revival of interest in rescinding the repeal of the 1932 Glass-Steagall Act. I think this is largely a misunderstanding, and it’s a actually a different — slightly more obscure — banking regulation from the same era that people are interested in.

First off, what did Glass-Steagall do? Well it did a number of things (like establish the FDIC) that were never repealed. But the rule that was repealed in the 1999 Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act were restrictions on the same holding company owning a bank and owning other kinds of financial companies. The thing about this is just that there’s really nothing in particular about co-ownership that you can point to as having been a problem in the financial crisis. And if anything that fact seems to indicate that the repealers were right to think there’s no special problem here — even in a huge financial crisis combined financial firms worked no worse than other kinds.

I’d like to see Matt debate Dakinikat about this on national TV. Here’s what Mark Thoma had to say about it:

I am sympathetic to this point of view, i.e. that the elimination of Glass-Steagall wasn’t an important causative factor in the crash. However, as I said a few days ago:

There is a debate over the extent to which removing Glass-Steagall — the old version of the Volcker rule — contributed to the crisis. However, whether the elimination of the Glass-Steagall act caused the present crisis is the wrong question to ask. To determine the value of reinstating a similar rule, the question is whether the elimination of the Glass-Steagall act made the system more vulnerable to crashes. When the question is phrased in this way, it’s clear that it has for the reasons outlined above.

So there’s still a reason to reinstate some version of the rule even if it wasn’t the main problem in the banking sector this time around.

I have a couple of stories about crazy Republican candidates, well one candidate and one candidate’s wife. First, on Sunday Herman Cain discussed his views on abortion:

“I believe in life from conception, and I do not agree with abortion under any circumstances,” Cain responded. “Not for rape and incest because if you look at, you look at rape and incest, the, the percentage of those instances is so miniscule that there are other options. If it’s the life of the mother, that family’s going to have to make that decision.”

Pressed on the life of the mother exception, Cain stuck to his answer, saying, “That family is going to have to make that decision.”

And check this out (via NPR). Last year Cain wrote a piece for Red State in which he called Jesus “the perfect conservative” and claimed that a “liberal court” was responsible for Jesus being crucified.

He helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He feed the hungry without food stamps. And everywhere He went, it turned into a rally, attracting large crowds, and giving them hope, encouragement and inspiration.

For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check. Nevertheless, he completed all the work He needed to get done. He didn’t travel by private jet. He walked and sailed, and sometimes traveled on a donkey…. And when they tried Him in court, He never said a mumbling word….

The liberal court found Him guilty of false offences [sic] and sentenced Him to death, all because He changed the hearts and minds of men with an army of 12.

Funny, most liberals are opposed to capital punishment… Can you imagine this guy in the White House? That would be proof that there is no god.

Next up, Anita Perry, wife of presidential candidate Rick Perry. It seems she’s the real extremist evangelical behind Governor Goodhair. Last Thursday, she gave a very revealing speech in South Carolina in which she claimed that she and her husband have been “brutalized” by the other Republican candidates because of their “faith.”

The Texas first lady weaved [sic] together religion and politics in a speech at North Greenville University, characterizing her husband’s decision to seek the presidency in August as a calling from God. Perry suggested her husband was being targeted for his evangelical Christian faith.

“It’s been a rough month. We have been brutalized and beaten up and chewed up in the press to where I need this today,” she said. “We are being brutalized by our opponents, and our own party. So much of that is, I think they look at him, because of his faith. He is the only true conservative – well, there are some true conservatives. And they’re there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them too. But I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.”

NPR noted that Mrs. Perry admitted in the speech that she had been the one who pushed Governor Goodhair to throw his hat into the presidential ring.

According to Mrs. Perry, it was she, not her husband, who first heard the divine call that her husband should run for president.

“There was a nagging, pulling at my heart for him to run for president. He didn’t want to hear a thing about running for president. He felt like he needed to see the burning bush. I said ‘Look, let me tell you something. You may not see that burning bush but there are people seeing that burning bush for you.’ “

The “burning bush” was a reference to the Old Testament story found in Exodus 3 where God gives Moses his marching orders to tell Pharoah to release the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.

Among the noteworthy aspects of that Old Testament tale, is that it’s Moses who gets the divine message directly. It doesn’t come via an intermediary like, say, Aaron his older brother.

That’s the thing about such callings. They’re intensely personal. That’s why they’re so often marked by such a profound sense of drive and personal mission and willingness to sacrifice.

If Gov. Perry had doubts, which his wife certainly makes it appear was the case, and had to be persuaded to run, that could certainly help explain what looks to many as a lack of preparation for a national campaign.

Yikes! The burning bush? These people are completely out of touch with reality.

Yesterday Reuters published an in-depth article about Anita Perry, in case you’d like to know more.

Speaking of fundamentalist religions, here’s a bizarre story from The New York Times about Amish “renegades” attacking other Amish people.

BERGHOLZ, Ohio — Myron Miller and his wife, Arlene, had been asleep for an hour when their 15-year-old daughter woke them and said that people were knocking at the door.

Mr. Miller, 45, a stocky construction worker and an Amish bishop in the peaceful farmlands of eastern Ohio, found five or six men waiting. Some grabbed him and wrestled him outside as others hacked at his long black beard with scissors, clipping off six inches. As Mr. Miller kept struggling, his wife screamed at the children to call 911, and the attackers fled.

For an Amish man, it was an unthinkable personal violation, and all the more bewildering because those accused in the attack are other Amish….

The attackers, the authorities said, had traveled from an isolated splinter settlement near Bergholz, south of the Miller residence. Sheriffs and Amish leaders in the region, home to one of the country’s largest concentrations of Amish, had come to expect trouble from the Bergholz group. It is said to be led with an iron hand by Sam Mullet, a prickly 66-year-old man who had become bitterly estranged from mainstream Amish communities and had had several confrontations with the Jefferson County sheriff.

Too weird. So…. What are you reading and blogging about today?