Friday, March 29, 2013

The Banksters Still Gamble With the Comfort of Government Guarantees

UPDATE II:  "Financial firms can borrow money . . . more cheaply and with less market scrutiny when they have access to government guarantees of deposit insurance, loans from the Federal Reserve and, ultimately, taxpayer support such as we saw with the Troubled Assets Relief Program in 2008. This safety net was intended to stabilize the financial system by protecting the payments system that transfers money around the country and the world as well as the essential lending that commercial banks provide. But these protections also assure those who lend to banks that they will be repaid regardless of the condition of the bank. Under such circumstances, creditors give the firms a discount on the cost of the funds they borrow.

Things are made more difficult by the fact that the largest financial companies now combine traditional commercial banking with higher-risk activities such as trading so that both their banking and betting activities get access to these government protections and the multibillion-dollar subsidy that comes with them. Using subsidized money to finance the conglomerates’ bets encourages ever-higher levels of debt, risk and interconnectedness not attainable or sustainable in a truly free market. . .

This form of corporate welfare allows the protected giants — those 'too big to fail' — to profit when their subsidized bets pay off, while the safety net acts as a buffer when they lose, shifting much of the cost to the public. For example, the conglomerates can cover — and even double down on — their trading positions for extended periods using insured deposits or discounted loans from the Federal Reserve that come with the commercial bank charter. The subsidy often allows them to stay in the game long enough to win the bet, but it supersizes the loss if the bet should finally fall apart.

This system distorts the market and turns appropriate risk-taking into recklessness. The result is a more concentrated and powerful financial sector — and a more fragile economy."

Read the Washington Post, Stop subsidizing Wall Street.  

UPDATE:  "A couple of years ago, the journalist Nicholas Shaxson published a fascinating, chilling book titled 'Treasure Islands,' which explained how international tax havens — which are also, as the author pointed out, 'secrecy jurisdictions' where many rules don’t apply — undermine economies around the world. Not only do they bleed revenues from cash-strapped governments and enable corruption; they distort the flow of capital, helping to feed ever-bigger financial crises.

One question Mr. Shaxson didn’t get into much, however, is what happens when a secrecy jurisdiction itself goes bust. That’s the story of Cyprus right now. And whatever the outcome for Cyprus itself (hint: it’s not likely to be happy), the Cyprus mess shows just how unreformed the world banking system remains, almost five years after the global financial crisis began. . .

Everyone has seen the damage that runaway bankers can inflict, yet much of the world’s financial business is still routed through jurisdictions that let bankers sidestep even the mild regulations we’ve put in place. Everyone is crying about budget deficits, yet corporations and the wealthy are still freely using tax havens to avoid paying taxes like the little people."

Read The New York Times, Treasure Island Trauma

"Can anyone manage a big bank these days? Should anyone try?

Or should we simply conclude that playing in the modern world of derivatives is best left to those whose survival is not critical to the nation’s economy, and who do not benefit from government-backed deposit insurance?

That question is brought to mind by a reading of the fascinating — well, to me, anyway — story of how JPMorgan Chase got into the mess of the London whale trades that dominated the financial news last year, as told in a report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that was released last week. . .

[The report documents the "sheer incompetence and stupidity" that exists with the government backed financial sector.]

Consider the following presentation written by Bruno Iksil, the whale himself, on Jan. 26, 2012, as the losses were growing. He called for executing 'the trades that make sense.'

He proposed to 'sell the forward spread and buy protection on the tightening move,' 'use indices and add to existing position,' 'go long risk on some belly tranches especially where defaults may realize' and 'buy protection on HY and Xover in rallies and turn the position over to monetize volatility.'

That presentation was made to a JPMorgan group called the International Senior Management Group of the Chief Investment Office, which seems to have approved it.

If the proposal does not make sense to you, don’t despair. It is largely gibberish."

Read The New York Times, Masked by Gibberish, the Risks Run Amok

Bush's Puppet-Master, Bush's War

UPDATE V:  "At the outset of the Iraq war, the Bush administration predicted that it would cost $50 billion to $60 billion to oust Saddam."  

Not even close.

Read the Washington Post, Iraq, Afghan wars will cost to $4 trillion to $6 trillion, Harvard study says.  

This estimate says nothing of the lives lost and shattered.
UPDATE IV:  There was another casualty of the Bush's war, a sort of poetic justice.

Read the Wall Street Journal, Can the Republican Party Recover From Iraq?  

UPDATE III:  "We got our war. More to the point, we got Bush’s war, which was, in the end, the only war on offer. There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was little real planning for the occupation, which led to a huge and senseless loss of Iraqi life in a quasi-civil war that we did too little, at first, to stop, and arguably helped start through the misguided process of 'debaathification.'"

Read Bloomberg, Mistakes, Excuses and Painful Lessons From the Iraq War.  

UPDATE II:  "On Feb. 26, 2003, President George W. Bush gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, spelling out what he saw as the link between freedom and security in the Middle East. 'A liberated Iraq,' he said, 'can show the power of freedom to transform that vital region” by serving “as a dramatic and inspiring example … for other nations in the region.'

He invaded Iraq three weeks later. The spread of freedom wasn’t the war’s driving motive, but it was considered an enticing side effect, and not just by Bush. His deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, had mused the previous fall that the spark ignited by regime-change 'would be something quite significant for Iraq … It’s going to cast a very large shadow, starting with Syria and Iran, but across the whole Arab world.'

Ten years later, it’s clear that the Iraq war cast 'a very large shadow' indeed, but it was a much darker shadow than the fantasists who ran American foreign policy back then foresaw. Bush believed that freedom was humanity’s natural state: Blow away the manhole-cover that a tyrant pressed down on his people, and freedom would gush forth like a geyser. Yet when Saddam Hussein was toppled, the main thing liberated was the blood hatred that decades of dictatorship had suppressed beneath the surface.

Bush had been warned. . ."

Read Slate, The Coming Collapse of the Middle East?

UPDATE:  "Judgments rendered by history tend to be tentative, incomplete and reversible. More than occasionally, they arrive seasoned with irony. This is especially true when it comes to war, where battlefield outcomes thought to be conclusive often prove anything but.

Rather than yielding peace, victory frequently serves as a prelude to more war. Once opened, wounds fester. Things begun stubbornly refuse to end. As the renowned strategic analyst F. Scott Fitzgerald once observed, 'The victor belongs to the spoils.'"

Read the Washington Post, Ten years after the invasion, did we win the Iraq war?

He was "a misguided powermonger who, in a paranoid spasm, led this nation into an unthinkable calamity."

Read The New York Times, Repent, Dick Cheney

You might remember that Cheney 'leaked' a false classified intel report about so-called Iraqi WMDs, then used the leak in press appearances to promote the war.

BTW, today (March 20th) is the 10 year anniversary of that unnecessary war.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reagan the Marxist Democrat

"The Congressional Progressive Caucus’s new [budget] plan, wrongly written off as softheaded by most of the press, calls for 23 percent of GDP in 2023, with deficits coming in then as small as they were in Ryan’s last two 'conservative' budgets. . .

[I]t can never be said often enough that Ronald Reagan ran government at 22 percent of GDP. This means the long-run spending goal of a caucus seen in Washington as impossibly liberal is just a penny on the national dollar higher than that of a conservative hero. Who knew how close the Gipper was to Karl Marx?"

Read the Washington Post, Lessons from the budget bake-off.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dark Days for the Republi-CONs

UPDATE VIII:  The Republi-con dilemma, can't win elections with "the nutters at the base" but can't win elections without the "social issues that anger—nay, motivate—the base."

Read Slate, The GOP, Now With Less Crazy

UPDATE VII:  Have the Republi-cons finally realized that they've been deceiving themselves?

From their 2012 election 'autopsy', which is over 100 pages:

"The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue. . .

On messaging, we must change our tone — especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters. In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters. . .

The number of debates has become ridiculous, and they’re taking candidates away from other important campaign activities. It should be recognized that depending on a candidate’s standing in the polls, some candidates will want to participate in an unlimited number of debates, as early as they can and as often as they can. . .

To facilitate moving up primary elections to accommodate an earlier convention, the Party should strongly consider a regional primary system or some other form of a major reorganization instead of the current system. The current system is a long, winding, often random road that makes little sense. It stretches the primaries out too long, forces our candidates to run out of money, and because some states vote so late, voters in those states never seem to count."
Read the Washington Post, The 10 things you need to know from the “Growth and Opportunity Project” report.  

The Republi-cons forgot: "[t]he man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him."  -- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov 

UPDATE VI:  "The sexy headline out of the new Pew Research Center poll is that more than six in ten Americans view the Republican party as 'out of touch with the American people' while a majority (52 percent) believe the party is 'too extreme.'

And, while those numbers are telling, a look deeper into the poll exposes the bigger problem for the GOP: The party is deeply divided (fractured?) — with many people who describe themselves as Republicans holding decidedly negative opinions about their side."
Read the Washington Post, The Republican party’s family feud, exposed.

UPDATE V:  BTW, Republi-cons do have a plan to avoid younger voters, women and minorities, and win elections with the angry old white man crowd, by changing election rules.

Read the Washington Post, GOP electoral vote-rigging schemes still alive and well.  

UPDATE IV:  If they want to be more than the party of angry old white men, it will be necessary "for more reality-based GOP officials and commentators to stop tolerating the daily diet of The Crazy that other GOPers feed to millions of national base voters on a regular basis. I’m talking about the stuff these officials say that keeps untold numbers of base voters in a state of perpetual delusion — the hints about creeping socialism, the suggestions that Dems are anti-American, the notion that Obama’s modest executive actions reveal him as an enemy of the Constitution, etc. This latest blast of unhinged nonsense from Cruz’s office fits neatly into that category."

Read the Washington Post, Ted Cruz’s neo-McCarthyism doesn’t bode well for GOP "makeover".

UPDATE III:  "The Tea Party isn't going to take Karl Rove's Stab-You-in-the-Back Super PAC lying down -- they need to charge ahead and take even more conservative positions."  Watch the Colbert Report, Conservative Victory Project:

UPDATE II:  "Republicans and Fox News are moving to purge the controversial political creatures they created.

Both were damaged badly in 2012 by loud, partisan voices that stoked the base — but that scared the hell out of many voters. Now, the GOP, with its dismal image, and Fox News, with its depressed ratings in January, are scrambling to dim those voices. . .

One high-profile Republican strategist, who refused to be named in order to avoid inflaming the very segments of the party he wants to silence, said there is a deliberate effort by party leaders to 'marginalize the cranks, haters and bigots — there’s a lot of underbrush that has to be cleaned out.'" (Editors note:  remind you of anyone locally?) . . .

Still, it’s a lot easier to talk about change — and shake up the cast of characters — than to authentically change. A number of conservatives think Rove and establishment bullying are the problem with the GOP — not bombastic personalities on Fox or in isolated campaigns. . .

So a political colonoscopy is going on before our eyes."

Read Politico, The GOP, Fox political purge, which notes that for Hedgehog News "it’s about credibility: The cable network, while still easily the top-ranked in news, has seen its ratings dip since the election, in part, conservatives tell us, because a lot of Republicans felt duped by the coverage."

Imagine that, Republi-cons being conned. You know what they say, what goes around comes around.

UPDATE:  "Something very interesting is happening in the Republican Party. It’s just not entirely clear what it is, or how far it can go.

Dick Morris and Sarah Palin are out at Fox News. Representative Paul Ryan is helping House Speaker John Boehner talk his caucus down from the debt-ceiling ledge. Senator Marco Rubio is going from one conservative talk-radio host to another to sell them on bipartisan immigration reform. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is telling Republicans to cease being “the stupid party.” Tea Party icon Jim DeMint left the Senate, while FreedomWorks, a Tea Party catalyst, went through a nasty, costly divorce with its figurehead, Dick Armey. Karl Rove’s super-PAC is turning its formidable financial artillery toward helping Republicans win primary elections against Tea Party insurgents.

The Republican establishment is reasserting control. It’s purging some of the hucksters who’d taken the party’s reins --or at least the airtime -- in recent years. It’s resisting much of the brinkmanship that marked the last Congress and trying to present a more fearsome, united front against counterproductive strategies favored by the right. All of the major 2016 presidential contenders have made the same political calculation: It’s better to build a reputation as one of the party’s adults than as one of its firebrands. . .

[But will there be any policy changes, shifting away from centering "their identity on the deficit"?]

There are, in corners of the Republican coalition, dissidents calling for a new approach. A surprising number of conservatives have, for instance, begun arguing that Republicans should break up big banks. A few indefatigable thinkers, including Bloomberg View’s Ramesh Ponnuru, continually argue that Republican tax policy should be helping families rather than lowering rates on the rich. A number of important voices in the party, including Ryan, have called for a focus on restoring social mobility, but the concerned rhetoric hasn’t been matched by serious policy. None of these strands of thinking appears close to blossoming into a new, or even slightly different, agenda.

That’s the problem with the Republican establishment reasserting control. They’re still the establishment."

Read Bloomberg, Ditching Palin, Talking Nice Won’t Revive Republicans

The Republi-cons are caving on a host of issues, including the debt ceiling, immigrations, and gay marriage.  Will we soon see a schism in the party? 

Read the Washington Post, Many big GOP voices changing their tune on immigration, Same-sex marriage can help save the institution, and The tea party is losing a few of its revelers

Monday, March 18, 2013

Palin-Colbert 2016

UPDATE:  Belay my last.  Palin's not available, she's no longer a politician (even if she was never a serious politician), she's not even still a celebritician

"What’s clear from Palin’s [CPAC] speech, however, is that her primary concern at this point is promoting her brand — a sort of conservative entertainer-in-chief, the person willing to stick it to Democrats and 'tell it how it is' to Republicans too. What Palin seems far less interested in is laying out a vision for what the GOP should do; contrast the speech she gave with the one delivered at the same event by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in which he sought to point the party in a direction for its future."

Read the Washington Post, Sarah Palin, entertainer.  

Watch The Colbert Report explain, Budget Sequestration, complete with a biblical analogy.

Watch to the end where he proposes a solution "to prevent the next crisis, we just need a worse scenario.  I say we suspend a monkey above the floor of Congress.  No, an ebola monkey!  Then every Senator and Congressperson gets smeared with banana meat.  If they do not reach a budget deal by the deadline, the doors to Congress are locked, the rope is cut, and it is meal time in the monkey house!":

As I've said before, Palin had the potential to "be a real reformer." Imagine her reform policies, and Colbert's advocacy, it couldn't be an worse than it is now.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Mad Tea Party Ride: A Republi-CON 'Obamacare 720', and Other Budget Dishonesty

UPDATE VII:  According to the Tax Policy Center, Ryan-Republi-con budget gap is just $5.7 trillion (vice $6.7 trillion as stated below). 

"By comparison, every itemized deduction in the federal tax code adds up to less than $2 trillion, and that’s with higher rates than Ryan has (which means that deductions are more valuable, and eliminating them raises more revenue). Ryan has set up a rather imposing task for himself."

Read the Washington Post, The price tag on Paul Ryan’s tax reform: $5.7 trillion

No wonder the winner of the 2008 the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, Paul Krugman, an economist and professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, calls Ryan a flimflammier.

FYI, flimflammery is nonsense; humbug; a deception; a swindle.

One reason I call 'em Republi-cons

UPDATE VI:  "Way back in 2010, when everybody in Washington seemed determined to anoint Representative Paul Ryan as the ultimate Serious, Honest Conservative, I pronounced him a flimflam man. Even then, his proposals were obviously fraudulent: huge cuts in aid to the poor, but even bigger tax cuts for the rich, with all the assertions of fiscal responsibility resting on claims that he would raise trillions of dollars by closing tax loopholes (which he refused to specify) and cutting discretionary spending (in ways he refused to specify).

Since then, his budgets have gotten even flimflammier. For example, at this point, Mr. Ryan is claiming that he can slash the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent, yet somehow raise 19.1 percent of G.D.P. in revenues — a number we haven’t come close to seeing since the dot-com bubble burst a dozen years ago.

The good news is that Mr. Ryan’s thoroughly unconvincing policy-wonk act seems, finally, to have worn out its welcome. In 2011, his budget was initially treated with worshipful respect, which faded only slightly as critics pointed out the document’s many absurdities. This time around, quite a few pundits and reporters have greeted his release with the derision it deserves."

Read The New York Times, After the Flimflam, which also discusses "the proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus, titled 'Back to Work,' which calls for substantial new spending now, temporarily widening the deficit, offset by major deficit reduction later in the next decade, largely though not entirely through higher taxes on the wealthy, corporations and pollution.

I’ve seen some people describe the caucus proposal as a 'Ryan plan of the left,' but that’s unfair. There are no Ryan-style magic asterisks, trillion-dollar savings that are assumed to come from unspecified sources; this is an honest proposal. And 'Back to Work' rests on solid macroeconomic analysis, not the fantasy 'expansionary austerity' economics — the claim that slashing spending in a depressed economy somehow promotes job growth rather than deepening the depression — that Mr. Ryan continues to espouse despite the doctrine’s total failure in Europe. 

UPDATE V:  "Republican leaders can’t even begin to acknowledge that Obama has offered them a real compromise, because they can’t sell their base on the idea that the President is being flexible, let alone get them to seriously entertain accepting any compromise with him, because the base sees total victory over Obama as the only acceptable outcome.

In essence, a variety of political constraints prevent Republican leaders from acknowledging the reality of the situation. That makes any reality-based dialog impossible. The press has largely failed to reckon with this basic disconnect . . .

In his meeting with Republican Senators, Obama reportedly presented them with a choice: They can accept a deal that includes Chained CPI for Social Security and means testing of Medicare in exchange for new revenues, or end up with no entitlement reform. Republicans continue to respond by claiming the President is being inflexible — by pretending he hasn’t offered them what he has offered — while refusing to say what could induce them to compromise. "

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s self-defeating strategy in fiscal fight.

UPDATE IV:  "Magical (adj): "delightful in such a way as to be removed from everyday life." [Synonyms: fake, absurd, couldn't-hardly-happen-even-if-Republicans-controlled-both-houses-and-the-presidency]" 

Read The Atlantic, The 2 Most Magical Numbers in Paul Ryan's Magical Budget

One of those magic numbers is $6.7 trillion, as in the unexplained "$6.7 trillion hole in federal revenues" created by the Ryan-Republi-con budget.

UPDATE III:  "Ronald Reagan ran the federal government at 22 percent of gross domestic product when the country’s population was much younger and health care consumed about 11 percent of GDP. . .

Now Paul Ryan says we can run the federal government at 19 percent of GDP as the massive baby-boom generation retires and when health costs (largely for seniors) have already soared to 18 percent of GDP.

Sorry, but Ryan is either deeply confused or doing his best to snooker us"

Read the Washington Post, Paul Ryan is no Ronald Reagan

UPDATE II:  "Ryan’s budget boils down to, 'trust me,' or at least, 'trust the House Republican Conference.' Without the details on tax reform, there’s no way for us to verify that the tax and spending sides of the budget really add up. Without knowing whether he’s got a credible plan for controlling Medicare costs if premium-support fails to deliver the savings he hopes to see, the long-term projections are, similarly, unreliable. Without knowing where the Section 920 spending cuts are coming from, it’s hard to believe they’re real. Ryan often criticizes the Democrats for dodging the 'tough choices,' but there are plenty of tough choices that he too is dodging."

Read the Washington Post, Five huge things we still don’t know about Paul Ryan’s budget

UPDATE:  "Paul Ryan and the Republicans have run a national election campaign (the 2012 presidential election) in which the main theme was bashing the Democrats … for a policy which Republicans support — and indeed are making a key part of the most important policy blueprint that they will roll out this year.

This is no garden-variety flip-flop. It’s a fundamental decision to govern one way and campaign the exact opposite way. . .

I really can’t think of any comparably dishonest episode in recent American political history. To base not one but two campaigns on attacking the other party for a policy which, between elections, they support…it’s well beyond chutzpah. Oh, and that’s without even beginning to reckon with the fact that the House GOP’s larger Medicare plans call for much bigger long-term cuts than Obamacare made."

Read the Washington Post, What do you do when one party is this dishonest?   

They were against them, before they were for them (twice), before they were against them, but now for them.

"Ryan and Republican leaders started off opposing the ACA’s Medicare cuts, then turned around and twice passed budgets that kept them, then campaigned against those cuts in the 2012 election, and are now embracing them again."

Read TalkingPointsMemo, Paul Ryan Reverses Himself Yet Again On Medicare Cuts.

Are you dizzy yet?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Republi-CON U.S. Government Deficits = Higher Interest Rates Myth

For years Republi-cons have claimed that "government borrowing would bring on the bond vigilantes and send rates soaring."  Of course,  nothing of the sort has happened.  Why?

Because "negative real interest rates are the natural state of things in the United States — and with the exception of the 1980s, history seems to bear him out on that — then we don’t have to worry about ever-rising debt-to-GDP ratios. If [that is] right, then ever-rising debt ratios in such a scenario are literally impossible."

Read the Washington Post,  Washington hates deficits. Why it hates them is less clear.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Public Defenders or Criminals?

UPDATE VII:  Now the "Florida Bar [is] examining possible ethics violations."  Read the Pensacola New Journal, Owens' former top man being investigated.   

UPDATE VI:  "Former Public Defender James Owens 'blazed a path of cronyism,' 'wasted state assets' and oversaw a 'four-year blight on the Public Defender’s Office,' according to a Florida state attorney.

But Owens will not face criminal charges for the laundry list of accusations investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to a Wednesday letter from 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Glenn Hess of Panama City.

Hess’ strongly worded letter says the cloud Owens cast over the Public Defender’s Office has 'been cured by his removal from office.'"

Read the Pensacola News Journal, No charges for former Public Defender James Owens.

UPDATE V:  "The former local chief assistant public defender “engaged in a pattern of criminal conduct that renders him unfit for public employment” but will not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations has expired, according to a Florida state attorney.

In a Dec. 18 letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, 14th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Glenn Hess revealed that 'one of the more shocking allegations' against former defender Tony Henderson was that he impregnated a juvenile client he represented in 1993.

Henderson began having sex with the 14-year-old girl, calling her at home after hours, the letter says. In 1996, she gave birth, and Henderson has been making $800 monthly payments since then, 'presumably in child support.'"

Read the Pensacola News Journal, Former defender Tony Henderson allegedly had relations with teen client.

UPDATE IV: Unfortunately for the PD's Office, a picture is worth a thousand words. Read this 443 word editorial at the Pensacola New Journal, Editorial: Animal House, and enjoy this editorial cartoon:

UPDATE III: More lawyer problems at the local Public Defender's Office.

First, a "lawyer who was transferred out of the main Public Defender's Office in September because of a sexual misconduct incident is 'no longer with the office' after a weekend arrest on a noise complaint." Read the Pensacola News Journal, Assistant public defender loses job after weekend arrest.

Also, a judge granted a notorious defendant's "request for a new attorney instead of former friend, assistant public defender [name removed]. Tice alleged [the lawyer] is an 'alcoholic' who 'advised him to break the law.'" Read the Pensacola News Journal, The current case against "Cab" Tice.

UPDATE II: A local I told ya so:

You may remember we discussed this in November 2011 as well as other questionable conduct at the local PD's Office. A regular caller, Clint, who works at the PD's Office called to defend them. During the discussion I asked about Bud Day, who was awarded the Medal of Honor for service in Vietnam. During the hotly contested election, Day endorsed James Owens. After winning the election, Owens hired Day, who was at least 80 years old. I specifically challenged Clint to describe what Day did at the Shalimar office, since it was widely rumored he did little.

Maybe someone was listening. Read the Pensacola New Journal, FDLE questions Bud Day's role at Public Defender's Office.

UPDATE: "IN Exclusive: Victim in Henderson scandal speaks out" and seems to deny key parts of the story in the Sunday paper. Read Rick's Blog, She’s not a stripper, pill-head or deadbeat.

When asked "who was behind this story going public" the alleged vicitm's boyfriend replied "Whoever is wanting to run against Owens is pushing this very hard."

It will be interesting to see if the Pensacola New Journal prints a retraction.

"The No. 2 attorney at the Public Defender's Office is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after a former client's accusation that he requested sexual favors in exchange for effective legal services.

Tony Henderson, whom Public Defender James Owens named chief assistant public defender following Owens' 2008 election, is accused of making harassing telephone calls and lewd comments to the woman he was representing in a prescription drug fraud case.

The FDLE has investigated allegations of sexual misconduct involving both Henderson and Owens on two previous occasions in the past 13 years, and the Public Defender's Office conducted another inquiry of Henderson with Owens as a supporting witness 19 years ago."

Read the Pensacola New Journal, No. 2 public defender faces possible misconduct probe.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Will the Republi-CONs Just Admit Defeat By Decalring Victory?

"The single most important fact about the fiscal battles consuming Washington right now continues to be poorly understood. It’s this: Republicans are not going to get the serious entitlement cuts they say they want unless they agree to new revenues. . .

Here’s why this is key to the current battle. It leaves only two possible conclusions: Either the two sides reach a deal that combines serious entitlement cuts and new revenues via the closing of loopholes, or there is no deal and the sequester continues indefinitely. . .

If Republicans really want to tackle the deficit, they just have to accept Yes for an answer."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s easy route to victory in fiscal fight

Do as I Say (Not as I Do)

"A day after voicing opposition to expanding Medicaid in his inaugural speech of the 2013 session, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford" was forced to admit that "Medicaid paid more than $100,000 in costs" in family medical bills.

Read The Miami Herald, Weatherford's dad was right: Medicaid paid the bills and the Pensacola News Journal, Florida Speaker's family had used Medicaid

Another example of Republi-conism. 

Read more here:

Obama's Failure to Fulfill Republi-CON Predictions

 He's failed to destroy the economy and country.

"Four years ago, as a newly elected president began his efforts to rescue the economy and strengthen the social safety net, conservative economic pundits — people who claimed to understand markets and know how to satisfy them — warned of imminent financial disaster. Stocks, they declared, would plunge, while interest rates would soar. . .

Sure enough, this week the Dow Jones industrial average has been hitting all-time highs, while the current yield on 10-year U.S. government bonds is roughly half what it was when The Journal published that screed. . .

So what the bad predictions tell us is that we are, in effect, dealing with priests who demand human sacrifices to appease their angry gods — but who actually have no insight whatsoever into what those gods actually want, and are simply projecting their own preferences onto the alleged mind of the market."

Read The New York Times, The Market Speaks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

It's the RepubliCONs and Wall Street vs. Main Street

UPDATE II:  "Huzzah! Hang the celebratory banners! Unleash the confetti! Happy days are here again. The Dow Jones industrial average closed yesterday [March 5, 2013] at 14,253.77! . .

But since the initial Obama stimulus has tapered off, and the banks strengthened, the throw-it-all-at-the-wall strategy has given way to a world where Congress sits on its hands and avoids anything that gives off a whiff of being 'stimulus' (even Democrats avoid the term). And the Fed has been the only game in town, trying to spur growth through a series of unconventional steps."

Read the Washington Post, The stock market is back, but the economy isn’t. Blame Congress. 

UPDATE:  It's been "a golden age for corporate profits, especially among multinational giants that are also benefiting from faster growth in emerging economies like China and India. . .

Corporate earnings have risen at an annualized rate of 20.1 percent since the end of 2008, he said, but disposable income inched ahead by 1.4 percent annually over the same period, after adjusting for inflation."

Read The New York Times, Recovery in U.S. Is Lifting Profits, but Not Adding Jobs.

"Here are two things that are true about the economy today.

(1) The Dow Jones industrial average is poised to set a new record as corporate profits stretch to all-time highs.

(2) There are still fewer working Americans today than there were before the start of the Great Recession.

The fact that these two things can be true at the same time might outrage you. But it shouldn't surprise you. In the last 30 years, there has been a great divergence between growth and workers' incomes, as the New York Times reminds us today. Corporate profits have soared, in the last decade especially, particularly because of three things: Globalization has pushed down the cost of labor available to multinational corporations; technology has allowed companies to make more with fewer workers, in general; and Big Finance has gobbled up the economy, as the banks' share of total corporate profits has tripled to about one-third since the middle of the last century."

Read The Atlantic, Corporate Profits Are Eating the Economy, which includes these graphs:

(Remember that bailout, Wall Street say thanks suckers!)

Now do you understand the unholy alliance of the Republi-cons and their corporate overlords
in their war on the middle class?

The Sequester Was the Republi-CON Ransom Payment

UPDATE:  After the 2012 election, "many Republicans interpreted the loss as a message that the GOP’s monomaniacal focus on government spending wasn’t helping the party. But while that might be a convincing political diagnosis, the reality is that the members of the House Republican Conference remain monomaniacally focused on spending cuts, and they’re forcing the GOP even further to the right on the issue."

Read the Washington Post, The GOP’s moving even further right on spending.

And you thought those Republi-cons were crazy before.

The sequester "was created by the Budget Control Act of 2011, the ransom Republican leaders received for agreeing to let the U.S. government pay its bills.

Traditionally, the debt ceiling had been a symbolic cap, an opportunity for members of Congress in the minority party (including a certain Illinois Senator Barack Obama back in 2006) to grandstand about the fiscal irresponsibility of the majority party before the limit was increased. (In Obama’s semi-defense, the irresponsibility of tax-cutting, big-spending Republicans in the Bush era was truly breathtaking.) After their big congressional wins in the 2010 midterms, though, GOP leaders declared that the debt was out of control, so they would not raise the debt limit without an equivalent amount of spending cuts. They threatened to force the U.S. government into default—essentially, to crash the global economy—unless Obama accepted a massive rollback of the welfare state. . .

Incredibly, Republicans (who overwhelmingly voted for the sequester) are now calling it the 'Obamaquester,' like kidnappers claiming the ransom was their victim’s idea because he came up with the method of payment. If they really hate the sequester as much as they claim, they could always just cancel it—but of course, they don’t want to do that."

Read Time, The Sequester Is a Republican-Inflicted Wound.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

This Isn't Funny, It Is Scary

"Guantanamo Bay hosts a one-of-a-kind military tribunal, which is being spied on and controlled by unidentified forces."  Watch the Colbert Report,Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's Trial at Gitmo as he takes a critical look at our "endless borderless war against an emotional state," and its constitutional travesty, the military tribunals "designed by President Bush, implemented by President Obama and inspired by President Kafka":

Also watch the former Acting Solicitor General talk  about the U.S. justice system, courtroom bugging and the future of Guantanamo Bay, where he condemns the torture testimony and secret proceedings while Colbert notes that the U.S. is "nothing like the old Soviet Union, we do not have gulags in Siberia, we have gulags in Estonia."

Government for the Corporation

You can "ignore all the talk about too much government spending and too much aid to moochers who don’t deserve it. As long as the spending ends up lining the right pockets, and the undeserving beneficiaries of public largess are politically connected corporations, conservatives with actual power seem to like Big Government just fine."

Read The New York Times, Mooching Off Medicaid

How's That Republi-CON Alternate Reality Workin Out For Ya

UPDATE:  Even The Great Lecherer has been forced to admit, "conservatives in general got in the habit of talking to themselves. . . they in a sense got isolated into their own little world. . . we believed that the other side was kidding themselves, it turned out in fact in the real world – this is a part of what makes politics so fascinating – it turned out in the real world we were kidding ourselves."  

Read Salon, "In the real world we were kidding ourselves"

"Here it seems to me is the core problem: the big winners under the American fiscal system are the elderly, the rural, and the affluent—Republican constituencies. It's not easy to balance the budget or shrink government spending to any significant degree in ways that don't pinch Republican voters much harder than they pinch Democratic voters.

To escape that reality, some conservative thought leaders have constructed an alternative reality. In this alternative reality, 'welfare' not Medicare is the number one social spending cost.

In this alternative reality, government employment has not fallen by more than 500,000 since 2008.

In this alternative reality, half the country is deemed not to pay any tax—because this alternative reality refuses to count payroll taxes, excise taxes, and state and local taxes as taxes.

In this alternative reality, Medicare is counted as a program that is 'paid for' by its beneficiaries contributions while unemployment insurance is not—even though the latter statement would be much closer to true.

In this alternative reality, we are in imminent danger of losing our freedom—even though, as a matter of daily experience, more Americans of all races and both sexes face fewer legal constraints upon their ability to live as they please than ever before in the nation's history.

Inside this alternative reality, conservative thought leaders have substituted culture war for normal politics. They have succeeded only in isolating themselves from the country in which they live. Conservative politics and the Republican Party are on the wrong track."

Read Claremont Institute, Upon Further Review, A CRB discussion of Political Extremism.

"[I]t’s foolishness that the Republican Party has yoked itself to, and that requires it to make heroically absurd policy assumptions. Even Ryan’s budget can’t credibly argue that Medicare and Social Security spending won’t grow as a percentage of the economy. Both increase under the path he’s laid out. And so he instead argues that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program will fall by half in the coming decades, which is not possible unless we are going to throw many millions of people out of those programs. Even less likely than that, he says that everything that isn’t health-care spending or Social Security will fall by about 75 percent. These aren’t reasonable assumptions, of course, but they’re also not popular ones. In order to protect seniors, he’s gutted everything else in the budget."

Read the Washington Post, How the aging of America is hurting the Republican Party

Monday, March 4, 2013

That Good Ol' Republi-CON 'Lame Stream Media' Myth

You hear it all the time from Republi-cons.

"If only the media were doing its job and accurately reporting on the White House we all would be as disenchanted with the administration as they are. If that argument seems familiar to you, it should. We've been hearing it from conservatives for a long, long time. . .

When Northern press turned its attention to the civil rights movement, the stories and photos they published helped shape the national debate about Jim Crow and arguably hastened its end.

The reaction of Southern conservatives to these news reports, however, was a little different. The problem, they said, isn't segregation, it's the way a Northern press infected with integrationist sympathies reports it. Of course, that was hogwash. Segregation was exposed and, eventually, ended. But in the embers of an ideological defeat, conservatives found a handy bit of linguistic Jujitsu. If the facts prove inconvenient, don't argue them. Instead, shift the focus and question the integrity of the fact-finder. If you're successful, then in one broad stroke you may be able to disqualify the facts without ever having to argue them on the merits.

Impugning the motives of those we've entrusted with separating fiction from fact has proven an effective strategy for the right. Don't agree with a judicial decision? Blame the 'activist' judge. Think an academic paper might be damaging to your cause? No worries. Academia is 'liberal' and 'elitist.' Worried that global warming might prove nettlesome? It's the product of scientists harboring a 'hidden agenda.' . .

Well, one might ask in return, have you taken a look at the ideas conservatives have championed over the years? Segregation is the way to go. Women shouldn't work. The government is filled with hidden communists. People on the lower end of the economic spectrum are there because they are lazy. Cutting taxes for the rich is the best economic program for everyone. America is one step removed from becoming a totalitarian state.  Etc.

In other words, my conservative friends, it may finally be time to come to terms with the following: Its your ideas that leave something to be desired, not the media's coverage of them."

Read U.S. News and World Report, Skepticism of Conservative Ideas Requires No Bias

Republi-CON Civil Rights Hypocrisy

Republi-cons may love one civil right, but disdain most others.

Locally, our Santa Rosa County Sheriff Wendell Hall supports the 2nd Amendment and endorses the right to bear arms to protect our freedoms. Read the Pensacola New Journal, Milton rally supports right to bear arms, Local leaders gather to show support for gun ownership in Saturday’s paper.

Coincidentally, several weeks ago a local law firm sent out an email highlighting a settlement on a high profile lawsuit against the Sheriff regarding another civil rights. The email noted:

“The case arose out of a nighttime confrontation between the Sheriffs' deputies and homeowners, shortly after Hurricane Ivan made landfall, in 2004. A private home, damaged by the storm and temporally abandoned by its owners, was apparently being broken into. Neighbors saw flashlights inside the upstairs of the house. The side door of the house was kicked in, and muddy boot prints were discovered on the door and leading up the stairway.

Neighbors confronted the two intruders with flashlights by asking them to get out of the house. The light-wielding individuals responded by yelling back inappropriate and threatening expletives. Convinced that the home was being looted, one of the neighbors fired a warning shot into the ground, a few feet in front of him, to alert others around, and to defend his neighborhood.

The prowlers brandishing flashlights turned out to be two sheriff's deputies-one from Santa Rosa County, and the other from Pinellas County. The Santa Rosa County Sheriff's office gave conflicting accounts as to why they were inside the house, or even if they were in the house at all. The two deputies abandoned the house and flanked some of the neighbors outside their homes.

The deputies ran at the neighbors in the street, and began to swear, yell and threaten them with their weapons drawn. The deputies did not identify themselves until just a few feet before they reached the homeowners. Once the deputies identified themselves, the homeowners quickly surrendered.

After the two homeowners surrendered by lying flat on the ground with their hands out, the officer from Pinellas County then brutally attacked one of them-a retired New York City Police Captain. The captain's wife reacted to the brutal attacks, and was herself fiercely tackled and permanently injured.

The responding police officers called to the scene attempted to cover up the misconduct and went as far as threatening the witnesses. When the homeowners refused to cooperate with the coverup, the Police Captain and the neighbor who fired the warning shot, a retired Air Force Colonel, were arrested and charged with attempted murder.

Despite formal protests from the Sheriff, all charges were quickly dropped by the State's Attorney's office. The Santa Rosa County Sheriff doggedly refused to even look into whether his deputies had engaged in misconduct that evening. When the two involved homeowners insisted, the Santa Rosa Sheriff retaliated by trying to bring new criminal charges against them.

The Federal Bureau of Investigations opened a case after the homeowners complained that the Sheriff was retaliating against them for filing a legitimate grievance. One Santa Rosa deputy resigned and the Pinellas County deputy went to federal prison for a year for violating the civil rights of the retired NYPD Police Captain.”

The citizens of Santa Rosa County might need those guns to protect themselves from assault, battery, threats, false arrest, fabricated charges, and retaliation by the Sheriff, who apparently has less regard for the 4th Amendment and little respect for the right to be free from unreasonable searches and unlawful arrests.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Budget Deficits Are To Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction As Republi-CON Obsession Is To Republi-CON What?

This is an analogies test,  Here is a hint:

"We’re just a few weeks away from a milestone I suspect most of Washington would like to forget: the start of the Iraq war. What I remember from that time is the utter impenetrability of the elite prowar consensus. If you tried to point out that the Bush administration was obviously cooking up a bogus case for war, one that didn’t bear even casual scrutiny; if you pointed out that the risks and likely costs of war were huge; well, you were dismissed as ignorant and irresponsible.

It didn’t seem to matter what evidence critics of the rush to war presented: Anyone who opposed the war was, by definition, a foolish hippie. Remarkably, that judgment didn’t change even after everything the war’s critics predicted came true. Those who cheered on this disastrous venture continued to be regarded as 'credible' on national security (why is John McCain still a fixture of the Sunday talk shows?), while those who opposed it remained suspect.

And, even more remarkably, a very similar story has played out over the past three years, this time about economic policy. Back then, all the important people decided that an unrelated war was an appropriate response to a terrorist attack; three years ago, they all decided that fiscal austerity was the appropriate response to an economic crisis caused by runaway bankers, with the supposedly imminent danger from budget deficits playing the role once played by Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction."

Read The New York Times, Ben Bernanke, Hippie

See the comments for the answer.

Republi-CON Judcial Activism Hypocrisy

 “THIS IS NOT the kind of a question you can leave to Congress,” Justice Antonin Scalia pronounced during a Supreme Court argument Wednesday.

The subject was the Voting Rights Act, one of the most successful pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history, and in particular its Section 5. That provision requires nine states and assorted jurisdictions in seven others to win Justice Department approval before changing their voting laws. The burden is on these 'covered' jurisdictions, unlike the rest of the country, to prove that such changes won’t adversely affect the right of African Americans and other minorities to vote. Shelby County, Ala., was in court Wednesday arguing that this pre-clearance requirement is an unfair infringement on Alabama’s sovereignty.

Congress adopted the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and has reauthorized it four times since, most recently in 2006. Each time it has extended Section 5 on the grounds that some jurisdictions, mostly but not only in the South, have particularly egregious records of interfering with blacks voting. Originally such interference took the form of 'literacy tests' and other blatant blocks to voter registration; these days it can involve more subtle ways of limiting minority turnout, such as moving polling stations. The reauthorization in 2006 was based on a voluminous record — thousands of pages of evidence — showing that the covered jurisdictions have a propensity toward discriminatory rules. The Senate agreed by a vote of 98 to 0; the House, 390 to 33."

Read the Washington Post, Justice Scalia’s contempt of Congress.

Which proves the point that it's only so-called judicial activism and judicial legislation when the other side does it.