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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7 years 24 weeks ago

February 17, 2011

There is so much more pain to come with the housing industry. It's not possible to burn through so much excess in just a few years. Bloomberg:
A record share of U.S. mortgages were in the foreclosure process at the end of 2010, matching the all-time high, as lenders and servicers delayed home seizures to investigate charges of improper documentation.

About 4.63 percent of loans were in foreclosure in the fourth quarter, up from 4.39 percent in the previous three months, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a report today. The combined share of foreclosures and loans with overdue payments was 14 percent, or about one in every seven mortgages.

Property seizures plunged at the end of 2010 as lenders such as Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. temporarily halted proceedings to review their handling of court documents. That left more homes in the foreclosure process with their status unresolved. Repossessions tumbled 32 percent in the fourth quarter from the prior period, according to data from RealtyTrac Inc. in Irvine, California.

Categories: Politics
What a complete jerk. It's people like this who take the fun out of college sports. It's unfortunate that people like this exist at all of the top level programs. Fans need to focus more on having fun and enjoying their own team instead of attacking every other school that is out there. Regardless of what anyone thinks about Auburn, this is nasty not to mention illegal. I hope they find the guy and send him to jail. Preferably sharing a room with an Auburn fan.
On Jan. 27, a caller to “The Paul Finebaum Show,” a sports talk radio show out of Birmingham, claimed he poisoned the live oaks shortly after the Iron Bowl with an herbicide known as Spike 80DF.

The show re-aired the conversation Wednesday. In the call, the man, who goes by “Al in Dadeville,” said he poisoned the trees as retribution for the actions of students who allegedly rolled the College Street/Magnolia Avenue landmarks when legendary University of Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant died.

“The weekend after the Iron Bowl, I went to Auburn, Ala. – I live 30 miles away – and I poisoned the two Toomer’s trees,” the caller said on the show. “I put Spike 80DF in them.”

Show host Finebaum then asked the caller if the trees had died, to which Al in Dadeville responded, “They have not died yet, but they will die.”The alleged tree poisoner has been arrested. He is a retired Texas state trooper.

Categories: Politics

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Their initial response was bad and the follow up was as bad. How is a soldier who is going to be deployed in Afghanistan going to use a free ticket, if he's fighting in Afghanistan? Did these people study the JP Morgan model of squeezing the military? Someone obviously needs some customer support training.

Categories: Politics
Feeling better now about the TSA? NBC:
Port Authority police busted two Transportation Safety Administration employees for allegedly stealing tens of thousands of dollars from checked baggage at John F. Kennedy Airport, reports.

Comar Persad, 36, and Davon Webb, 30, are expected to each face three felony charges — grand larceny, conspiracy and possession of stolen property — and one misdemeanor charge of official misconduct, authorities said. Persad and Webb have also admitted to other thefts of up to $160,000, the New York Daily News reported.

Police say $39,980 has been recovered in connection with the investigation.

Categories: Politics
How can Wall Street destroy a global economy and walk away unscathed by it? Easy. The revolving door between government and Wall Street. There are plenty of high profile cases such as Orszag to Citi and William Daley from JP Morgan to the White House or even the more recent departure of a senior FDIC official to Goldman, but it happens throughout Washington in Congress as well as the agencies. It's rotting the system to the core and nobody in Washington cares. There are future job prospects to consider after all. Country? How much can it really pay compared to business?

It's a long article but as always with Matt Taibbi, it's worth the investment of your time. Here he's talking with a former SEC official who was sacked when he asked questions about former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack. (He won a lawsuit for his dismissal.) Why isn't Wall Street in jail?
Last year, Aguirre noticed that a conference on financial law enforcement was scheduled to be held at the Hilton in New York on November 12th. The list of attendees included 1,500 or so of the country's leading lawyers who represent Wall Street, as well as some of the government's top cops from both the SEC and the Justice Department.

Criminal justice, as it pertains to the Goldmans and Morgan Stanleys of the world, is not adversarial combat, with cops and crooks duking it out in interrogation rooms and courthouses. Instead, it's a cocktail party between friends and colleagues who from month to month and year to year are constantly switching sides and trading hats. At the Hilton conference, regulators and banker-lawyers rubbed elbows during a series of speeches and panel discussions, away from the rabble. "They were chummier in that environment," says Aguirre, who plunked down $2,200 to attend the conference.

Aguirre saw a lot of familiar faces at the conference, for a simple reason: Many of the SEC regulators he had worked with during his failed attempt to investigate John Mack had made a million-dollar pass through the Revolving Door, going to work for the very same firms they used to police. Aguirre didn't see Paul Berger, an associate director of enforcement who had rebuffed his attempts to interview Mack — maybe because Berger was tied up at his lucrative new job at Debevoise & Plimpton, the same law firm that Morgan Stanley employed to intervene in the Mack case. But he did see Mary Jo White, the former U.S. attorney, who was still at Debevoise & Plimpton. He also saw Linda Thomsen, the former SEC director of enforcement who had been so helpful to White. Thomsen had gone on to represent Wall Street as a partner at the prestigious firm of Davis Polk & Wardwell.Really. Keep reading because it only gets worse. Taibbi next compares SEC officials to young high school basketball stars who are trying to get their chance at the big time in the NBA where they can rake in the bucks. That's who is policing Wall Street. And this is what Washington supports. The problem is a systemic problem and not a matter of Democrats or Republicans. They both are guilty and we're the happy idiots paying the price.

Categories: Politics
Maybe everyone outside of BP thinks that their oil prices are too generous for the oil industry. When you're at the center of the worst environmental disaster in modern US history, you don't get the luxury of deciding what is too generous. Who do they think they are? Wall Street?
The oil giant is arguing that if anything, Mr. Feinberg’s proposed settlements are too generous. The planned payments far exceed the extent of likely future damages because they overstate the potential for future losses, the company insists in a strongly worded, 25-page document that was posted on the fund’s Web site Thursday morning.

Basing its estimates on much of the same data Mr. Feinberg used, the company concluded that there was “no credible support for adopting an artificially high future loss factor based purely on the inherent degree of uncertainty in predicting the future and on the mere possibility that future harm might occur.”

Mr. Feinberg released the rules that will govern final settlements this month. In general, the program announced, damages paid out by the fund would be double the 2010 losses for most of those filing claims, less any money previously paid by the fund.

Categories: Politics
The new head of CPAC, the biggest conservative conference of the year, just said that you're not welcome to next year's conference if you support gays in the military and/or marriage equality for gays.  At first he said "groups" wouldn't be welcome, then he went on to say that individuals would be welcome if they didn't support lifting the ban or marriage.

That means Dick Cheney is banned from CPAC.

As is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

And Ted Olson.

And Laura Bush.

And let's not forget that Sarah Palin tweeted a comment about the gay ban being silly.

CPAC may need to trade that big tent in for a pup tent next year.

The good news, at least the official hate groups may now come back next year.  Pretty clear where the GOP's loyalties lie.  Better to have the attendance of a group listed alongside the Klan than to have some gays (and gay-lovers) show up.

Categories: Politics
There are still massive protests underway in Madison to protest the Governor Scott Walker's draconian plans to slash the budget and bust unions by stripping collective bargaining rights from workers. A vote was expected on the GOP plan today, but Senate Democrats have changed the game: As government workers flooded the state Capitol to protest, Wisconsin legislators were tripped up in attempts to vote Thursday on a game-changing law that would force public employees to pay more for pension and health benefits while limiting their union's power to negotiate.

Police officers were searching for Democratic state lawmakers who had not shown up for a vote on the sweeping legislation. The state Senate Democrats did not show up when they were ordered to attend a midday vote on the legislation. Though Republicans hold a 19-14 majority, they need at least one Democrat present to vote.

CNN reiterated radio reports that indicated Democratic state legislators had boarded a bus and left town. Mike Browne, communications director for Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, told the network he had not been in contact with any Democratic legislators on Thursday. Browne said he was at the state Capitol and that he had seen no Democrats show up. CNN just interviewed the Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller from an "undisclosed location." He blasted the GOP Governor, Scott Walker, for not doing his job and asked for a responsible dialogue. Not sure Walker is capable of anything responsible.

Categories: Politics
It should come as no surprise that the government in Libya responded with the aggressive use of force. Will that force shut down the protests or will it add to the turmoil? Libya doesn't appear to be a country that is up for change, but Egypt certainly didn't have that appearance either a few weeks ago. Al Jazeera:
Protesters in Libya have defied a security crackdown and taken to the streets in four cities for a "day of rage," inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, reports say.

Several hundred supporters of Muammar Gaddafi, the country's longtime leader, have also reportedly gathered in the capital on Thursday to counter online calls for anti-government protests.

Their action comes amid reports that at least 14 people have been killed in clashes between pro and anti-government protesters since Wednesday.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said that Libyan authorities had detained 14 activists, writers and protesters who had been preparing the anti-government protests.

Categories: Politics
What would be even more interesting is to figure out how they manage to sell so much of the stuff. Especially after dumping sugar and replacing it with corn syrup. Who drinks that stuff on a regular basis? About the only time I drink it is when I'm traveling and trying to settle my stomach. The supposed recipe (not that many will whip up a batch) is inside the link.
Glass came across a recipe that he believes is the secret formula in a back issue of Pemberton's local paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, while he was researching an entirely different story. Tucked away on an inside page of the 8 February 1979 edition, he stumbled on an article that claimed to have uncovered the closely guarded 7x formula.

The column was based on an old leather-bound notebook that belonged to Pemberton's best friend and fellow Atlanta chemist, RR Evans. Glass was intrigued and, after some digging, found the notebook had been handed down the generations until it reached a chemist in Georgia called Everett Beal, whose widow still possesses it.

The rediscovered recipe includes extract of coca leaves, caffeine, plenty of sugar (it specifies 30 unidentified units thought to be pounds), lime juice, vanilla and caramel. Into that syrup, the all-important 7x flavourings are added: alcohol and six oils – orange, lemon, nutmeg, coriander, neroli and cinnamon.

Categories: Politics
Pretty good AP story about how the GOP is basically lying about the effect of their budget cutting, and the stimulus, on job creation (their budget cutting will kill jobs, the stimulus created them). But why did AP use the old CBO study of the stimulus bill and not the newest one that shows a heck of a lot bigger impact of the stimulus on job creation?
The Obama administration's 2009 stimulus plan failed to keep unemployment at levels the White House had predicted. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in late 2009 the stimulus "lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.3 and 0.9 percentage points and increased the number of people employed by between 600,000 and 1.6 million compared with what those values would have been otherwise."Here's what the new CBO report says, per Reuters:
The massive U.S. stimulus package put up to 3.4 million people to work and boosted GDP by up to 4.6 percent in the first three months of 2010, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said on Tuesday.Slight difference.

Also, kudos to the Dems for really hammering the GOP on the "where are the jobs?" mantra. As the article notes, the Dems have the GOP on the run on this one. It's about time. Good job.

Categories: Politics
If the House Rs want to cut $100bn out of this year's budget, let them - in their own districts back home.  The Rs would have us believe that this is what people voted for.  Let's call their  bluff, and do a little experiment to see who's right.  Ds don't think that this is what people voted for, so we won't cut spending in our districts.  Rs, on the other hand, will cut programs in their districts to the tune of $100bn, or more if they like.  Then, at the end of the year, let's revisit whose constituents are happier.  After all, if all this money is just being wasted, the Rs surely can't complain about cutting it in their own districts.

I know it sounds like a "modest proposal," but at this point, why not just give the Republicans what they want and see how their constituents like it?  Call their bluff.  And school the true believers, like Rand Paul, in what actually happens when you claim spending is wasted but it's really not.

Oh, and make sure you put the country on notice that if the economy slides backwards it's because of the GOP cuts.

Categories: Politics
This is a very positive change in attitude from the past with the Catholic church. It's a serious problem that needs to be addressed and not swept aside, again. CNN:The Catholic Church in Philadelphia will investigate as many as 37 priests identified in a grand jury report as remaining in "active ministry with credible allegations of child sexual abuse," Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, said Wednesday.

"Sexual abuse of children is a crime. It is always wrong and gravely evil," Rigali said in a news release. "The grand jury report makes clear that for as much as the archdiocese has done to address child sexual abuse, there is still much to do."

He also announced that three priests were placed on administrative leave pending a review.Cardinal Rigali has since suspended three more priests. Rigali was one of the few (perhaps the only) US cardinals to attend a mass by shamed cardinal Bernard Law following the death of Pope John Paul II. Law was forced to resign following the child rape scandal in Boston that resulted in a prison sentences for local priests.

Categories: Politics
Wait, shouldn't we at least expect to see some results before fawning all over this guy? The previously discussed "Texas Miracle" turned out to be a federal government welfare case. Likewise, Christie's actions are already costing the state money and to date, there's little sign of an economic revival. With as much complaining as the GOP did in 2008 campaign about Obama's limited experience, you would think they might hold themselves to their own standard. In the America that I know, we like to see results but maybe I'm old fashioned that way.
"Chris Christie has shown responsible spending cuts can be achieved even in a usually blue state like New Jersey," said Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, one of several likely presidential candidates arguing that the Christie model could — and should — be replicated across the country.

Pundit Ann Coulter elicited cheers in the audience when she said, "If we don't run Chris Christie, Mitt Romney will be the nominee and we will lose." And Christie earned higher support in the conference's presidential preference poll than Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee, who both also skipped the gathering but are far better known.

While 2012 may not be in his sights, Christie is bolstering his national image. He had a major platform for Wednesday's speech, the same day the Republican Governors Association named him a vice chairman of policy.

Categories: Politics
It's no longer only one location in the Bahrain capital as the police move in to crush the protests. Al Jazeera:
An Al Jazeera correspondent, who cannot be named for security reasons, said on Thursday that "clashes were no longer limited to one place...they are now spread out in different parts of the city".

There were also reports of dozens of armoured vehicles moving towards the Pearl Roundabout, the protest site that was raided by the riot police.

Heavily-armed police stormed the traffic circle while the protesters camping overnight were asleep.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Salmaniya hospital, the main medical facility in Manama, Maryama Alkawaka of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said that she saw dozens of injured demonstrators being wheeled into emergency rooms early on Thursday morning.

Categories: Politics
It's an idea that only a right winger could ever think it makes sense. The country just experienced a free-for-all that benefits the rich at the expense of everyone else (the banks) so why would they want to see another? Well done by the activists who blocked this idiotic deal and won over the broad majority of the public. You have to love the opposition jeers when Cameron announced the retreat in Parliament. The Guardian:The U-turn represents a victory for an unlikely coalition of disparate groups launched in October. The grassroots website 38 Degrees started a petition which, by last night, had attracted more than 531,000 signatures. One poll suggested 84% of the country opposed the sale.

Cameron indicated at prime minister's questions that he was backing away from the sell-off when Ed Miliband asked him if he was happy with his "flagship policy on forestry", which could have raised £350m.

"The short answer to that is – no," Cameron said to laughter, and shouts from Labour MPs of "timber". But he denied that the government was embarking on a U-turn. "It is a consultation that was put forward. We've had a range of interesting responses to this consultation. What is important is that we should be making sure that, whatever happens, we increase access to our forests, we increase biodiversity and we don't make the mistake that was made under the last government where they sold forests with no access rights at all," he said.

Categories: Politics
The never ending revolving door continues. Corruption like this is precisely why we never get real reform. Instead, we get something like Dodd-Frank which is a mild upgrade but still not as strong as what was created during the Great Depression. It continues to be a major disappointment that the Obama administration is unable to show improvement over the Bush or Clinton administrations in terms of shutting the revolving door. I expected much more from Obama and am tired of this blatant abuse of the system. It's not just one party, it's both of them. People at too many levels in Washington are too afraid to implement honest reform because it will only hurt their job opportunities.

It's understandable that people are looking for a career path but this is too much. The end result is destruction of the country for their own personal enrichment. It has to stop yet nobody from either party even recognizes it as a problem. As they say, if you can admit that something is a problem, how can you solve it? Until this changes, there is no hope of improving the system. It's clearly a popular career path in Washington (right up to the highest levels), but how does this help the country? This corruption of the system has to stop.One of the chief banking rescue deal guys has decamped the FDIC for the more profitable climes of Goldman Sachs.

As Eric Dash reports in DealBook: "Mr. Jiampietro was previously a senior adviser to Sheila C. Bair, the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, during the throes of the financial crisis, where he helped coordinate more than 100 government-assisted bank deals."

"He was also one of the chief architects of the F.D.I.C.’s policies on private equity involvement in the banking industry and was Ms. Bair’s main liaison to hedge funds and the broader Wall Street community. He left the F.D.I.C. in August, after serving for just over a year."

Categories: Politics

February 16, 2011

If you're a photographer, watch this. Absolutely freaking brilliant.

Categories: Politics
The Republicans, and a few wimpy Democrats, are trying to pass a state constitutional amendment in Indiana banning marriages and civil unions for gay hoosiers. This because Indiana apparently didn't suffer from the recession like the rest of the nation, so that state's legislators have nothing better to do with their time than the traditional Republican pass time of hating on minorities.

But this time, the largest gay blog in the state, and one of the biggest gay blogs in the country, isn't going to stand for it. They're threatening to out family values hypocrites in the state who rail against abortion but secretly have abortions anyway (true story), and who rail against gays but secretly have sex with their male hairdresser instead of their wife (another true story).

They're asking for tips on any family values hypocrites anyone knows in the Indiana state legislature. And good for them.

Categories: Politics
It's interesting that he was a member on the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. I had no idea. His book was fabulous and his recent visit with Dylan Ratigan when they talked about Wall Street corruption was fabulous. Lewis did not sign off on either of the final reports, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you've followed him. He certainly doesn't buy into the Republican world view of Wall Street and he's not about to tone down his criticism to appease the Democrats either. My personal favorite section of his "all you need to know" report is the moral collapse of the middle class. (Before anyone gets in a huff, obviously he's being sarcastic.)AIG head Robert Benmosche has recently pointed out that the reason his firm has enjoyed such great success is precisely because it has avoided selling insurance to the large number of Americans who believe, as Benmosche put it, “that the government is responsible for what happens to me.” (As we know, the government is responsible only for what happens to AIG).

The CEO of JPMorgan, Jamie Dimon, has often called our attention to the outrageous amount of banker bashing by Americans outside the financial sector, who seek to blame their troubles on others.

Wall Street leaders now understand that they made a mistake, one born of their innocent and trusting nature. They trusted ordinary Americans to behave more responsibly than they themselves ever would, and these ordinary Americans betrayed their trust.

Amazingly, these ordinary Americans don’t even appear to feel guilty for their actions. Like wild animals that have lost their fear of humans, they continue to wander down from the hills to rummage through our garbage cans for sustenance.

Categories: Politics