January 11, 2012 archive

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Re-arranging the Deck Chairs

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Glub, glub, glub.

The new WH Chief of Staff and Citigroup

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Tuesday, Jan 10, 2012 4:58 AM Eastern Standard Time

(T)he 2008 financial crisis is the new Iraq War: it does not matter how prominent a role someone played in enabling it, or how much they profited from it, or how centrally they were part of the corrupted machinery that brought it about. If they have the right ideology and good standing in Washington circles, all is forgiven and they do not suffer any consequences at all, even reputationally. Indeed, not only is it no impediment to their advancement, but it’s actually an asset.

The General Accounting Government Accountability Office this week issued a report criticizing the Treasury Department for incomplete and misleading press releases designed to make the results of the TARP program look better than reality warrants. In particular, “GAO’s analysis of Treasury press releases about specific programs indicate that information about estimated lifetime costs and income are included only when programs are expected to result in lifetime income“; “however, press releases for investments in AIG, a program that is anticipated to result in a lifetime cost to Treasury, did not include program-specific cost information.” In other words, Treasury loudly touts in its Press Releases when it makes money from TARP, but excludes the losses.

For his work at Citigroup, work that included betting on the housing collapse, Lew received a salary of $1.1 million. After Citigroup received its $45 billion taxpayer bailout, Lew – two weeks before joining the Obama administration – received another $900,000 from Citigroup as a bonus. This was revealed only in 2010; in 2009, when Lew first joined the administration as a State Department official, both he and the administration refused to say if he had received a post-bailout bonus from Citigroup (at the time, there was a huge political scandal over Wall Street executives receiving large bonuses despite needing taxpayer bailouts). There’s certainly nothing illegal about betting on a housing market collapse, but it’s quite symbolic that those who made millions of dollars from the crisis are now running government policy.

Lew (like so many key Obama officials) also participated in the orgy of Wall Street de-regulation that took place in the 1990s when he served as Clinton’s OMB head; after leaving Citigroup to join the Obama administration, he unsurprisingly said in response to questioning from Sen. Bernie Sanders that he does not believe deregulation contributed to the financial crisis.  The New York Times today says that Lew “has built a reputation as a pragmatic liberal who believes Democrats must compromise with Republicans on long-term deficits in order to forestall draconian cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.” The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein was a bit more blunt: Lew “has emerged as one of the members of the Obama administration Republicans prefer working with.” Whatever else one might want to say, Lew, a fairly standard-issue Democrat with less of a “centrist” reputation than Daley, is a perfect fit for this administration.

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

Pew Research Center

May 4, 2011

(A) growing number of Americans are choosing not to identify with either political party, and the center of the political spectrum is increasingly diverse. Rather than being moderate, many of these independents hold extremely strong ideological positions on issues such as the role of government, immigration, the environment and social issues.

Independents have played a determinative role in the last three national elections. But the three groups in the center of the political typology have very little in common, aside from their avoidance of partisan labels.

Using a statistical procedure called cluster analysis, individuals are assigned to one of the eight core typology groups based on their position on nine scales of social and political values – each of which is determined by responses to two or three survey questions – as well as their party identification. Several different cluster solutions were evaluated for their effectiveness in producing cohesive groups that are distinct from one another, substantively meaningful and large enough in size to be analytically practical. The final solution selected to produce the political typology was judged to be strongest from a statistical point of view and to be most persuasive from a substantive point of view. As in past typologies, a measure of political attentiveness and voting participation was used to extract the “Bystander” group, people who are largely not engaged or involved in politics, before performing the cluster analysis.

Based on your responses, YOU are a…   Solid Liberal!

(h/t Susie Madrak)

Open Thread: A Tale of Two Kitties

On this Day In History January 11

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 11 is the 11th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 354 days remaining until the end of the year (355 in leap years).

On January 11, 1908, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declares the massive Grand Canyon in northwestern Arizona a national monument.

Though Native Americans lived in the area as early as the 13th century, the first European sighting of the canyon wasn’t until 1540, by members of an expedition headed by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Because of its remote and inaccessible location, several centuries passed before North American settlers really explored the canyon. In 1869, geologist John Wesley Powell led a group of 10 men in the first difficult journey down the rapids of the Colorado River and along the length of the 277-mile gorge in four rowboats.

By the end of the 19th century, the Grand Canyon was attracting thousands of tourists each year. One famous visitor was President Theodore Roosevelt, a New Yorker with a particular affection for the American West. After becoming president in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley, Roosevelt made environmental conservation a major part of his presidency. After establishing the National Wildlife Refuge to protect the country’s animals, fish and birds, Roosevelt turned his attention to federal regulation of public lands. Though a region could be given national park status–indicating that all private development on that land was illegal–only by an act of Congress, Roosevelt cut down on red tape by beginning a new presidential practice of granting a similar “national monument” designation to some of the West’s greatest treasures.

Grand Canyon National Park became a national park in 1919. So famous is this landmark to modern Americans that it seems surprising that it took more than thirty years for it to become a national park. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the rim in 1903 and exclaimed: “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison–beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world …. Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Despite Roosevelt’s enthusiasm and his strong interest in preserving land for public use, the Grand Canyon was not immediately designated as a national park. The first bill to create Grand Canyon National Park had been introduced in 1882 and again in 1883 and 1886 by Senator Benjamin Harrison. As President, Harrison established the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve in 1893. Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve by proclamation in 1906 and Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908. Senate bills to establish a national park were introduced and defeated in 1910 and 1911; the Grand Canyon National Park Act was finally signed by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. The National Park Service, which had been established in 1916, assumed administration of the park.

The creation of the park was an early success of the environmental conservation movement; its National Park status may have helped thwart proposals to dam the Colorado River within its boundaries. (Lack of this fame may have enabled Glen Canyon Dam to be built upriver, flooding Glen Canyon and creating Lake Powell.) In 1975, the former Marble Canyon National Monument, which followed the Colorado River northeast from the Grand Canyon to Lee’s Ferry, was made part of Grand Canyon National Park. In 1979, UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site.

The Grand Canyon itself, including its extensive system of tributary canyons, is valued for the combination of large size, depth, and the exposed layering of colorful rocks dating back to Precambrian times. It was created through the incision of the Colorado River and its tributaries after the Colorado Plateau was uplifted and the Colorado River system developed along its present path.

OpEds – Sharks and Shadows: A Crossroad.

A Reply to “OpEds-The Lion and the Ox: The Winter of Our Discontent” by Gary Steven Corseri

Gary, my dear, you can turn a phrase.  This was priceless: “The possibility of war with Iran is a warmonger’s wet-dream now-and the sheets are gross and soggy.”

I am shamed such talent has gone to waste, such obvious intellect has been coopted by the human need for a saviour, and the human ability to delude itself.  Much like your disappointment in President Hopey-McChangey, you have not the ears to hear.

For while some of us were duped by his rhetoric, others among us reminded us that he was candidly a centrist – that he wanted increased War in Afghanistan (the right war) and that he intended to “reach across the aisle” (read reach-around) to those who sponsored his campaign. The right.

Here you are, a grown man, tapping your heels, saying, “there’s no place like home,” and clapping your hands and saying, “I do believe in faeries,” for yet another candidate whose record is clearly illiberal and equally dangerous, Ron Paul.

Yet, I believe you know in your heart of hearts, that this is so many marionettes dancing on a cave wall.  



Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning
The nicest thing is to open the newspapers and not to find yourself in them.

–George Harrison

Strips 2

Late Night Karaoke

Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Oh My

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In 2006, the public policy research organization, The Cato Institute, invited some leading liberal Democratic columnists and bloggers to discuss the question if Libertarians should vote Democratic:

In over a half-decade of Republican political dominance, Americans have witnessed a huge expansion in the scope and cost of government, a questionably just and so-far unsuccessful war in Iraq, serious erosions of civil liberty, and a troubling tendency toward an imperial executive. Is it time for the traditional alliance between libertarians and conservatives to finally end? If Republicans in power have failed so utterly to promote libertarian ideals, would libertarians better advance their cause by supporting Democrats at the polls? Of course, the fact that libertarians have been so badly abused by conservatives doesn’t necessarily imply they will find a more welcoming home among liberals. Is the Democratic tent big enough to include small-government free marketeers. Perhaps libertarians have something to gain by supporting to Democrats, but does the Democratic party have anything to gain by courting libertarians?

Markos “Kos” Moulitsas, proprietor of DailyKos, opened the discussion with the lead article, The Case for the Libertarian Democrat:

It was my fealty to the notion of personal liberty that made me a Republican when I came of age in the 1980s. It is my continued fealty to personal liberty that makes me a Democrat today.

The case against the libertarian Republican is so easy to make that I almost feel compelled to stipulate it and move on. It is the case for the libertarian Democrat that has created much discussion and not a small amount of controversy when I first introduced the notion in what was, in reality, a throwaway blog post on Daily Kos on a slow news day in early June 2006.

Moulitsas went on to describe how the article was attacked by Libertarians unwilling to recognize they were losing their “grasp of libertarian principles” but at the same time were “unwilling to cede any ground to a liberal“. The real surprise came from the general reaction:

[O]f Americans who are uncomfortable with Republican/conservative efforts to erode our civil liberties while intruding into our bedrooms and churches; they don’t like unaccountable corporations invading their privacy, holding undue control over their economic fortunes, and despoiling our natural surroundings; yet they also don’t appreciate the nanny state, the over-regulation of small businesses, the knee-jerk distrust of the free market, or the meddlesome intrusions into mundane personal matters.

The discussion in that introduction continues with Moulitsas explaining why he is, in essence, a Libertarian Democrat, how liberal Democrats relate to Libertarians, the Conservatives’ “war on freedom” and why he believed that there was a rise of Libertarian Democrats. He went on to write three more article for that series:

  • A New Breed of Democrats
  • The Internal Democratic Struggle
  • Don’t Wait for Inspiration, Do Something!
  • They are well worth reading and book marking.

    Since then, Mr. Moulitsas has become a prominent voice for the left and has used the Internet to bring liberal/progressive policies into political mainstream and to the attention of what he calls the “traditional” media.  

    Judge Rakoff and the SEC

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    Recently Federal District Court Judge Jed Rackoff rejected the $285 million settlement that Citibank had negotiated with the SEC over $1 billion in mortgage securities fraud that would also have exonerated the bank of guilt. The SEC acceptance of “neither admit nor deny” language that has been considered “boilerplate” in these settlements has now been, not only rejected by the courts, but dropped by the SEC in securities fraud cases:

    The Securities and Exchange Commission, in a fundamental policy shift, said Friday that it would no longer allow defendants to say they neither admit nor deny civil fraud or insider trading charges when, at the same time, they admit to or have been convicted of criminal violations.

    The change is the first time that the S.E.C. has stepped back from its longstanding practice of allowing companies to settle fraud charges by paying a fine without admitting wrongdoing. The new policy will also apply to cases where a company or an individual enters an agreement with criminal authorities to defer prosecution or to not be prosecuted as part of a settlement.

    Robert Khuzami, the director of enforcement at the S.E.C., said the agency would continue to use the “neither admit nor deny” settlement process when the agency alone reached a deal with a company in a case of civil securities law violations. Those types of cases make up a large majority of S.E.C. settlements.

    As David Dayen at FDL so rightly notes, “This is a first step to stopping this travesty of allowing companies to get off the hook and pay their way out of fraud violations without even admitting they did anything wrong. And this never happens without the work of Jed Rakoff.”

    Dixville Notch

    NH QuarterLive free or die!  I suppose I should mention in the sake of rice wine and full transparency that if I claimed it residency in the first post-colonial sovereign nation in the Americas could be mine.  Instead I’m an adopted son of the State of Benedict Arnold.

    Richard and Emily’s Lake House is in a town just like Dixville and she does go to meeting there in the Congregational Church across from the General Store and next to the Free Library (sadly deficient in Bonapart references for a holiday term paper should you happen to get caught by a storm).

    Outside of slushy ice which happens every winter, quadrennially the Circus comes to town.  Last time she voted for Hillary despite my advice to the contrary.  This year the 30 year veteran educator will not vote at all, once again against my advice.

    I recommended Huntsman since if you’ve got to have a Republican you might as well have a sane one.

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