AMERICAblog

AMERICAblog NewsA straight-shooting look at US Politics, with a focus on the Obama administration, the religious right, and civil rights, from DC-based political strategist and writer John Aravosis.

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6 years 38 weeks ago

February 19, 2011

23:20
Elizabeth Warren is better than most but this same old story is nonsense. One gets the impression the Wall Street types come back into Washington to help smooth the path to their next job, back on Wall Street. In theory, sure, they probably know the tricks from Wall Street better than anyone but in practice it's hard to find an example of where they've utilized that knowledge to help improve the situation for most Americans. This is an abusive system that is only open to the governing elite, who use it to maintain power and privilege.

The country has been screaming for more representation from Freddie Mac and Deutsche Bank and their prayers have been answered.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chair Elizabeth Warren has named a former Freddie Mac official alongside two bankers as senior hires at the organisation.

Categories: Politics
20:22
The last round was met with a massive police force and this one will likely be the same. The dynamics in Algeria are somewhat different in than in neighboring countries. While there's no doubt about the firm grip on power at the top, Algeria has struggled with extreme violence for years from radical extremists. If anything, that violence has helped the government look reasonable. It's not to say people wouldn't like a better government, but with what the country has been through, anything stable looks better. Al Jazeera:
Algerians are planning an anti-government protest in the capital, Algiers, a week after thousands of demonstrators were confronted by 30,000 riot police at the same venue.

The protest, scheduled to take place on Saturday around May 1 Square, the site of last week's rally, has been organised by the National Co-ordination for Change and Democracy (CNCD).

The month-old umbrella group is made up of the political opposition, the Algerian human rights league and trade unions.

Categories: Politics
18:03
Politics is largely a lizard-brain thing. That means most politicians act or react in response to simple impulses -- pain or pleasure. Deliver unto them one or the other and watch them scurry this way or that.
That's what came to mind when I read a post over at DailyKos today. The idea in the post -- launching a recall drive against those state senators supporting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's effort to destroy public-employees' collective bargaining rights -- struck me as exactly the right idea. First-time DK diarist fcphantom makes it clear and concise, so I won't recreate it here -- just go read it.

And the idea excited a lot of other people, too, judging by the recommendations and number of comments. And be sure to read the comments, too, where the diarist's idea gets massaged, refined and improved. They convinced me: such a recall effort, whatever the outcome, is sure to help the progressive cause. Flexing muscles build strength. Make no mistake: hitting the pavement, turning out in the thousands in Madison, is tangible work. But the gathered masses need something productive to pursue amidst the chanting and sign waving and after they go home. Recall makes it real.

Categories: Politics
14:55
As Matt Taibbi said, they are the unjailables. The US system of justice becomes more of a sad joke by the year. Torture? No problem. Invade a country based on lies and kill 100,000? Things happen. Spy on American citizens and then continue the program from one administration to the next? It's fine. Trigger a global economic meltdown causing the loss of trillions plus millions of jobs? For gosh sakes, don't worry about it. Justice usually only works if it's the elite screwing everyone else. What a pathetic system of justice.Federal prosecutors have ended a criminal investigation of Countrywide Financial Corp. co-founder Angelo Mozilo, a person close to the investigation said Friday.

The federal official told The Associated Press that the probe launched in 2008 into the actions of the former chief executive of the housing giant during the mortgage meltdown has been closed with no indictments. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was never publicly announced, and the Department of Justice as a policy does not announce the closing of investigations.

In October, Mozilo agreed to a $67.5 million settlement to avoid civil trial on fraud and insider trading charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission, but prosecutors pursuing the criminal case against him found that his actions did not amount to crimes.And as you may recall, a substantial portion of the $67.5 million dollar settlement was funded by Bank of America and not out of Mozilo's pocket. Bank of America has been one of the biggest government welfare queens in the banking business, which means the taxpayers funded much of this.

Categories: Politics
11:41
But we all know the Republicans couldn't care less about the deficit. They proved that during the Bush years when government and spending (and the deficit) soared -- remember, Clinton handed Bush a budget surplus. For the GOP, it's all about their protection of business and their odd fixation on social wedge issues. If they were serious about the deficit they would have been much more serious about job creation instead of abortion. The New Republic:
The Congressional Budget Office has delivered an official estimate of what repealing the Affordable Care Act would do to the federal budget. According to CBO's estimates, the deficit would rise by $210 billion in the first decade:

H.R. 2 would, on net, increase federal deficits over the next decade because the net savings from eliminating the coverage provisions would be more than offset by the combination of other spending increases and revenue reductions.

In total, CBO and JCT estimate that H.R. 2 would reduce outlays by about $604 billion and reduce revenues by about $813 billion over the 2012-2021
period.

This is twice the estimate the CBO made last year, when it projected the effects of a similar repeal bill. Why the difference? Because it's a year later and the projection period extends through 2021 rather than 2011. Remember, the law is designed to save more money as time goes on.

Categories: Politics
09:08
The royal family of Bahrain is murdering the people of his country. This is beyond stunning, especially from a close U.S. ally. Al Khalifa's government is trying to prevent coverage of the carnage, but the story is getting out.

Nicholas Kristof is in Bahrain -- and he's witnessing the carnage first-hand. His column today is especially compelling:A column of peaceful, unarmed pro-democracy protesters marched through the streets here in modern, cosmopolitan Bahrain on Friday. They threatened no one, but their 21st-century aspirations collided with a medieval ruler — and the authorities opened fire without warning. There are many people in Bahrain who want this story told:It turns out that members of Bahrain’s medical community have been reading my Twitter postings, and doctors and nurses rushed me from patient to patient so I could see and photograph the injuries and write messages to the world and get the news out right away. They knew that King Hamad’s government would wrap its brutality in lies.

The doctors spoke in enormous frustration about what they termed butchery or massacres, but they encountered evidence of the danger of speaking publicly. In the midst of the crisis, a democracy activist staggered in for treatment from a fresh beating by security forces. He had made public statements about police brutality he had witnessed, and so, he said, the police had just kidnapped him and brutalized him all over again.

The hospital’s ambulance drivers had been beaten on Thursday morning by Bahrain’s army and police for attempting to rescue the dead and injured, and some had been warned that they would be executed if they tried again to help protesters. But they showed enormous courage in rushing to the scene of the carnage once again.

Categories: Politics
06:43

It's rainy but still relatively mild over here. The weather forecast for the coming week looks like more of the same as well. If we had a few days of sun, the daffodils would surely open but with this gloomy weather, we're still probably a week or so away. Our forsythia has a few flowers that have opened. Last year we didn't see them until later in March because of the long, cold winter. It looks like we're still two weeks out for the camellia blooms, but the buds are growing. Even on a soggy day, seeing signs of spring is a real charge.

Categories: Politics
04:35
The Egyptian military was hardly neutral during the uprising, but they were not nearly this violent. It's amazing to think that the UK government did a deal with that government last year for the return of a convicted murderer. Al Jazeera:Security forces in Libya have killed scores of pro-democracy protesters in demonstrations demanding the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, the country's long time ruler.

Human Rights Watch said on Saturday that 84 people had died over the past three days.

A doctor in Benghazi told Al Jazeera that he had seen 70 bodies at the city's hospital on Friday in one of the harshest crackdowns against peaceful protesters thus far.

"I have seen it on my own eyes: At least 70 bodies at the hospital," said Wuwufaq al-Zuwail, a physician.

Categories: Politics

February 18, 2011

21:44
First off, the stock market increase has hardly translated into much of anything for anyone outside of Wall Street. Bernanke's Quantitative Easing II has been a blessing for traders but not much else. They are the privileged class who must be propped up at all costs, after all. As for the enormous gains - nearly 100% from the bottom - some are questioning how much more it can grow before it tumbles. The only other times the market saw such rapid growth was in 1934 and 1937. Since we know the Great Depression didn't end at that time, you can guess that there were a few hard tumbles following the bubble gains.

So how would a market collapse impact most Americans since the upside has not translated? Think about how the employers reacted when the market dropped the last time. It will provide them with a new excuse to either hold steady with hiring or cut back, again. Who will be there for Wall Street in their next hour of need? Probably all of Washington. Technical analysis from Barry Ritholtz.

Categories: Politics
20:20
You have to love it when the tables are turned and someone gives the banks a taste of their own tactics. Wells Fargo allegedly overcharged the homeowner for insurance on his house but they overvalued the property, triggering a much higher than expected annual premium. The homeowner fought back and thanks to the lack of response by the bank and some solid research, he has started proceedings against the bank to foreclose on one of their properties. According to the RESPA law, banks must respond to specific requests. Wells Fargo failed to respond.
Wells Fargo finally responded with two checks – $1,078 on Jan. 14 and $95 on Jan. 26 – but he said he still had not received a response to his letters.

So he turned to the Philadelphia sheriff's office to initiate a sale of the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage office in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday the court placed a temporary stay on the sale, and ordered a hearing on Feb. 23 to determine the final status.

Rodgers said he is now awaiting $50 from Wells Fargo for the cost of initiating that sale. He said the sheriff's sale can continue until then, barring an unfavorable judgment from the hearing, which he does not expect.

Categories: Politics
18:58
As I predicted, the Republicans are calling the President's bluff and adding all sorts of what I call "hate pork" to the continuing resolution, the legislation needed to keep the government open through the rest of this fiscal year (aka until October 1).  They've already added amendments taking money away from Planned Parenthood, banning implementation of health care reform, and gutting the EPA's ability to regulate dangerous greenhouse gasses.

Note the chutzhpah.  New congress, they don't even wait before they pander to the far right that controls their party.  And note how none of these amendments has anything to do with creating jobs - the thing the Republicans were supposedly elected to do (so they claimed right before the election, now they're less interested in the whole job thing).

And what does this all mean?  It means that either the Senate needs take all of this extraneous garbage out of the spending bill, or the President will be forced to veto the bill and risk sending the government into a shutdown, all because the Republicans decided that their first month on the job had to pander to the Palin/Bachmann/Limbaugh wing of the party, rather than focus on the American people.

Categories: Politics
17:35
The American Taliban is at it, again.
It gets worse. Franklin wants to create a Uterus Police to investigate miscarriages, and requires that any time a miscarriage occurs, whether in a hospital or without medical assistance, it must be reported and a fetal death certificate issued. If the cause of death is unknown, it must be investigated. If the woman can't tell how it happened, than those Uterus Police can ask family members and friends how it happened. Hospitals are required to keep records of anyone who has a spontaneous abortion and report it. Yup, we've been waiting for someone to suggest this--and Franklin has.

Needless to say, there are no exceptions allowed. Not for rape victims. Not for incest victims. Not to save the life and health of the mother (the fetus must get equal care).

Categories: Politics
16:15
The protests in Wisconsin are spreading to Ohio, where the GOP is also trying to shut down unions. The Republicans are obsessed with making the middle class pay the price for the Wall Street economic crisis. It's sickening to watch the attacks against unions, as if that is the problem. Bloomberg:
In what union leaders say is becoming a national fight, protests against legislation to restrict public employees’ collective-bargaining rights spread from Wisconsin to Ohio.

In Madison, Wisconsin, crowds that police estimated at 25,000 engulfed the Capitol and its lawns yesterday during a third-straight day of protests as Democratic senators boycotted the legislative session. In Columbus, Ohio, about 3,800 state workers, teachers and other public employees came to the statehouse for a committee hearing.

Firefighters Dave Hefflinger and Jerry Greer stood near hundreds of workers elbow-to-elbow in the Ohio statehouse atrium and listened to the Senate hearing through speakers. Chants of “Kill the bill” echoed.

Categories: Politics
14:54
They lied early and they lied often. It's what they did on every subject, though especially the charge to war. Who really can believe anything that George Tenet has to say? Saddam Hussein's spokesman is more believable so it shouldn't be a surprise that the former German minister is calling out Tenet on "Curveball."
Reprinting an extract from his autobiography, Tenet claimed he only found out in 2005, two years after the Iraq invasion, that the BND had doubts about Curveball's claims to have witnessed first-hand Saddam Hussein's bio-weapons programme.

Asked by the Guardian whether Tenet's claims were plausible, Fischer said: "No. I don't think so."

Fischer said the BND realised some time before the war that Curveball was not a watertight source, and passed on his testimony to the CIA with warnings attached.

"Our position was always: [Curveball] might be right, but he might not be right. He could be a liar but he could be telling the truth," said Fischer at a press conference in Berlin to promote his memoir about the Iraq war.

Categories: Politics
12:10
Thankfully, he quit before he could be fired but this is getting to be too much. It's as bad as the nutty pharmacists who refuse certain customers because of religious differences. What are these people thinking and why do they enter these professions? The initial report mentioned his political disagreements though he later changed that to "distracted" and unable to assist. Uh huh.
A city firefighter refused to respond to the Jan. 8 shooting spree that left six people dead and 13 wounded, the Arizona Daily Star reported, citing city memos.

The firefighter, Mark Ekstrum, quit the force two days later as management was considering possible disciplinary action against him, the Daily Star reported.

Fire Capt. Ben Williams wrote in a memo that when Ekstrum told him he would not go on the call, "he mentioned something about 'political bantering' and he did not want to be part of it," the newspaper reported.

Categories: Politics
11:00
Is this a competition to see who can bring on more crazy? Let's just call it a dead heat and admit they're both nuts. Is Sarah Palin honestly suggesting that cow's milk is better for babies than a mothers breast milk? That doesn't seem to match what any doctor has to say but she probably thinks doctors are socialist plots as well. CNN:
"No wonder Michelle Obama is telling people to breast feed their babies, because the price of milk is rising so high."

She then warned the dozens of reporters at her question and answer event, "That better not be the takeaway here."Note from John: Huh?  Since when do mothers feed their newborns milk from the store?  I thought it was either breast milk or formula.  What does the price of milk from the grocery store have to do with breast feeding your child?

Of course, that would mean you'd accept mothering advice from a woman who went into labor halfway around the country, ignored it, slept the night, then gave a speech, and only THEN flew back on a ten hour (est.) flight to give birth back home to a special needs baby (when she shouldn't have been flying at all).  Oh yeah, and then left the baby behind while she decided to campaign for the vice presidency.  And that doesn't even get into the issues of Palin's first child being born 8 months after she was married, and her daughter having a kid out of wedlock.  It's simply not the kind of track record that usually makes you a family values guru on the right.

Categories: Politics
09:22
Want to take a guess whose side they're on? Yes, the Democrats are pretty lame on all of these issues but the GOP is now taking these weak positions to the extreme. It's yet another business feeding frenzy government. It's a government for business, by business. Consumers be damned.Lawmakers also on Thursday defunded the Federal Communications Commission's efforts to enact new so-called "Net neutrality" rules, which give the agency regulatory power over Internet service providers.

Republican lawmakers also agreed to cut funding to eight "czars," or top presidential or federal agency advisers who aren't confirmed by the Senate, including the pay czar charged with watching executive compensation at TARP-funded banks. And they also blocked an effort to blunt some $50 million in cuts to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Categories: Politics
09:20
That's what it looks like to some. There was a budget surplus when he arrived yet suddenly, he's talking about a financial crisis. Somehow the massive deficit that he references is about the same amount of money as new contracts that he just rewarded to campaign supporters. Hmmmmm.In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance -- Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit -- it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes -- or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues -- the “crisis” would not exist.

Categories: Politics
06:18
For the moment, the protests are over in Bahrain. The government actions yesterday moved the protesters out of their camp and they are now banning all activity.Troops and tanks have locked down Manama, the Bahraini capital, and a ban has been announced on public gatherings as pro-reform supporters bury their dead, a day after a violent security crackdown.

Tanks and armoured personnel carriers were patrolling the streets of Manama on Friday, where checkpoints have been set up by the country's military.

Riot police using clubs and tear gas broke up a crowd of protesters in the city centre in a pre-dawn swoop on Thursday, killing at least four people.

Al Jazeera's correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, reported from Manama on Friday that thousands of people observed the funerals of three people killed in the police raid on the protesters' tent in the city's Pearl roundabout area.In Libya, the protests were also violent. Al Jazeera reported rumors that the government released prisoners and paid them to attack protesters.

Categories: Politics
04:44
The Conservatives were quite open about removing hundreds of thousands of government jobs in the UK but they did assure people that for the health care system, they would protect the system. That now looks like another empty promise. Imagine how many jobs the US conservatives will eliminate beyond what they're already saying they will cut. This will have a chilling effect on the system as more losses are discovered. Having employment as high as possible and receiving tax income is much more important than any benefits received from chopping programs.

The Tories have been chomping at the bit to chop the NHS and now it looks as though that's what they are doing. What bad surprises are up next, because surely more cuts like this will emerge?The government's repeated pledges to protect frontline NHS services have been dramatically undermined by the announcement that two hospitals are to axe almost 1,000 jobs, including hundreds of nursing posts.

St George's hospital in south London announced that it was shedding 500 personnel, including nurses and – unusually – consultants, its most senior doctors.

It is also closing three wards, with the loss of about 100 beds, and reducing the number of women allowed to give birth there from 4,200 to 3,000, as part of an attempt to save £55m in 2011-12.

Categories: Politics