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Saturday, January 30, 2010

President Obama Takes Questions at GOP House Issues Conference

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Stewart on O’Keefe: Are all his ideas from porn movies?

Jon Stewart Warns Dems: Republicans Are "F**king With You!"

Watch this video in a new windowJames O'Keefe's School Of Reporting

Gotcha Gang facing day in court.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A "threat of a mass killing looming over black students at the community college,"

Several students have withdrawn from an Ohio college after a threat to kill black students was scrawled on a men's bathroom wall.
The FBI has launched a hate crimes investigation into the graffiti threat, which was found in a bathroom at a Hocking College residence hall in Nelsonville, Ohio.
Some 400 of the school's 6,500 students are black, reports the Columbus Dispatch. It's unclear if the date mentioned in the threat -- Feb. 2 -- has any significance to the school or the community.
The Associated Press reports that school officials were also alerted of another note, stating "kill the n-----s." The incidents have left a "threat of a mass killing looming over black students at the community college," AP reports.
At least two black students have withdrawn permanently from school out of fear for their safety, and another dozen have moved out of the dorm where the threat was found, officials at the two-year technical college said. Some students seem unperturbed, but others say the threat has brought simmering racial tensions to the surface. LinkHere

Obama Hammers Supreme Court in Speech

Source: CBS News
Jan. 27, 2009
Obama Hammers Supreme Court in Speech
In State of the Union, President Suggests Court Opened Doors to Foreign Intervention in American Elections
(CBS) This story was written by CBSNews.com political reporter Brian Montopoli.President Obama is taking aim at the Supreme Court's recent decision to roll back limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in his State of the Union address this evening, saying the high court "reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign companies - to spend without limit in our elections."
"Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities," the president will say, according to excerpts provided by the White House. "They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong."
According to CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford, "the rebuke of the Court is extraordinary." Many of the justices involved in the 5-4 decision are expected to be in the House chamber to hear Mr. Obama's speech. LinkHere

Alito shakes heading, mouthing "not true," as Obama says recent Supreme Court decision will let lobbyists and corporations own our elections. Highly inappropriate for Alito to do this. You'll notice the Sup Ct doesn't even clap when the president enters. They are not supposed to respond to anything, lest it show bias. Highly inappropriate. Alito's "You Lie!" moment: LinkHere

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fox News Devastated Over Arrest Of ACORN Pimp, Says The Story Probably Needs ‘A Lot Of Context’

Fox News has been one of the biggest supporters of James O’Keefe, who is infamous for dressing up as a pimp and videotaping ACORN staffers offering to help the supposed pimp and his prostitutes secure funding for a brothel. The network constantly replayed coverage from his operation. In September, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace named O’Keefe his “Power Player of the Week,” calling him an “undercover reporter” and a “fascinating character.”
Yesterday, the FBI arrested O’Keefe and three others — “charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony” — saying that they were plotting to wiretap Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office (D-LA). One of the other men, Robert Flanagan, is the son of William Flanagan, the acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana. Two of the men “dressed as telephone company employees” and showed up to Landrieu’s New Orleans office, saying they had to “fix phone problems.” O’Keefe was already there and was “positioning his cell phone in his hand to videotape the operation”:
After being asked, the staffer gave Basel access to the main phone at the reception desk. The staffer told investigators that Basel manipulated the handset. He also tried to call the main office phone using his cell phone, and said the main line wasn’t working. Flanagan did the same.
They then told the staffer they needed to perform repair work on the main phone system and asked where the telephone closet was located. The staffer showed the men to the main General Services Administration office on the 10th floor, and both went in. There, a GSA employee asked for the men’s credentials, after which they stated they left them in their vehicle. The U.S. Marshal’s Service apprehended all four men shortly thereafter.
Fox News aired a report about the arrests shortly after the news broke. However, reporter Tim Gaughan tried to downplay the news: LinkHere

Why Is Nelson OK With Using Reconciliation For Tax Cuts For Millionaires But Not For Health Care For Americans?

Given the fact that three out of four of the reconciliation bills Nelson has supported mostly benefited the wealthiest Americans, the logical question to ask is why the reconciliation process he has supported in the past is apparently appropriate for siphoning wealth to the richest Americans but not to get health care for tens of millions of Americans who lack it.
Update Sens. Bayh (D-IN) and Lincoln (D-AR) have also said they are against reconciliation. Lincoln has previously voted for a reconciliation bill that gave massive tax cuts for the wealthy, while Bayh voted for the College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, which was passed via reconciliation. LinkHere

How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power

The two Holocaust survivors suing the US government and the Bush family for a total of $40bn in compensation claim both materially benefited from Auschwitz slave labour during the second world war.
Rumours of a link between the US first family and the Nazi war machine have circulated for decades. Now the Guardian can reveal how repercussions of events that culminated in action under the Trading with the Enemy Act are still being felt by today's president
Ben Aris in Berlin and Duncan Campbell in Washington
The Guardian, Saturday 25 September 2004 23.59 BST
Article history
George Bush's grandfather, the late US senator Prescott Bush, was a director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany.
The Guardian has obtained confirmation from newly discovered files in the US National Archives that a firm of which Prescott Bush was a director was involved with the financial architects of Nazism.
His business dealings, which continued until his company's assets were seized in 1942 under the Trading with the Enemy Act, has led more than 60 years later to a civil action for damages being brought in Germany against the Bush family by two former slave labourers at Auschwitz and to a hum of pre-election controversy.
The evidence has also prompted one former US Nazi war crimes prosecutor to argue that the late senator's action should have been grounds for prosecution for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
The debate over Prescott Bush's behaviour has been bubbling under the surface for some time. There has been a steady internet chatter about the "Bush/Nazi" connection, much of it inaccurate and unfair. But the new documents, many of which were only declassified last year, show that even after America had entered the war and when there was already significant information about the Nazis' plans and policies, he worked for and profited from companies closely involved with the very German businesses that financed Hitler's rise to power. It has also been suggested that the money he made from these dealings helped to establish the Bush family fortune and set up its political dynasty.
Remarkably, little of Bush's dealings with Germany has received public scrutiny, partly because of the secret status of the documentation involving him. But now the multibillion dollar legal action for damages by two Holocaust survivors against the Bush family, and the imminent publication of three books on the subject are threatening to make Prescott Bush's business history an uncomfortable issue for his grandson, George W, as he seeks re-election.
While there is no suggestion that Prescott Bush was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, the documents reveal that the firm he worked for, Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), acted as a US base for the German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen, who helped finance Hitler in the 1930s before falling out with him at the end of the decade. The Guardian has seen evidence that shows Bush was the director of the New York-based Union Banking Corporation (UBC) that represented Thyssen's US interests and he continued to work for the bank after America entered the war.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Quit Feeding Stray Animals"

SC Lt. Gov. compares people getting gov’t help to ‘Stray Animals’ who ‘breed’ because they don’t know better.
By Amanda Terkel
January 25, 2010 "Think Progress" --
South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, held a town hall meeting yesterday where he argued government should be tougher on families whose children receive free and reduced-price lunches. Bauer said that parents should be required to “pass drug tests or attend parent-teacher conferences or PTA meetings.” To make this argument, however, he compared people receiving government assistance to stray animals:
“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better,” Bauer said. [...]
Later in his speech, Bauer said, “I can show you a bar graph where free and reduced lunch has the worst test scores in the state of South Carolina,” adding, “You show me the school that has the highest free and reduced lunch, and I’ll show you the worst test scores, folks. It’s there, period.“ LinkHere

A Thorn in the Side of the U.S. Military in Haiti

Middle Eastern and Latin American Media
By Nikolas Kozloff
Watch the U.S. media and its coverage of the crisis in Haiti, and you get the impression that Washington is a benevolent power doing its utmost to help with emergency relief in the Caribbean island nation. But tune into al-Jazeera English or South American news network Telesur and you come away with a very different view. Continue

David Kelly Post Mortem to be Kept Secret for 70 Years

Doctors accuse Lord Hutton of concealing vital information
By Miles Goslett
The body of former United Nations weapons inspector Dr Kelly was found in July 2003 in woods close to his Oxfordshire home, shortly after he was exposed as the source of a BBC news report questioning the Government’s claims that Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, which could be deployed within 45 minutes. Continue

Wind Power Grows 39% for the Year

Source: NYT
Despite a crippling recession and tight credit markets, the American wind power industry grew at a blistering pace in 2009, adding 39 percent more capacity. The country is close to the point where 2 percent of its electricity will come from wind turbines.

While that is still a small share, it is up from virtually nothing a few years ago. Continued growth at such a fast pace could help the nation lower its emissions of the gases that cause global warming.

The American Wind Energy Association, in its annual report to be released on Tuesday, said the amount of capacity added last year, 9,900 megawatts, was the largest on record, and was 18 percent above the capacity added in 2008, also a banner year.

The group said the growth of wind power was helped by the federal stimulus package that passed a year ago, which extended a tax credit and provided other investment incentives for the industry. LinkHere

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Brits Buried Evidence on David Kelly’s Death

By: emptywheel Saturday January 23, 2010 6:49 pm

Jeebus. Larisa just pointed me to this.
A highly unusual ruling by Lord Hutton, who chaired the inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death, means medical records including the post-mortem report will remain classified until after all those with a direct interest in the case are dead, the Mail on Sunday reported.
And a 30-year secrecy order has been placed on written records provided to Lord Hutton’s inquiry which were not produced in evidence.
The Ministry of Justice said decisions on the evidence were a matter for Lord Hutton. But Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, who has conducted his own investigations into Dr Kelly’s death, described the order as “astonishing”.
One of the doctors seeking a full inquest, former assistant coroner Michael Powers, told the Mail on Sunday he had seen a letter from the legal team of Oxfordshire County Council explaining the unusual restrictions placed by Lord Hutton on material relating to his inquiry.
The letter states: “Lord Hutton made a request for the records provided to the inquiry, not produced in evidence, to be closed for 30 years, and that medical (including post-mortem) reports and photographs be closed for 70 years.”
This is just ridiculous. David Kelly has an email exchange in which Judy Miller–fresh off having been leaked Valerie Plame’s identity by the Vice President’s right hand man–saying:
Judy: I heard from another member of your fan club that things went well for you today [with the inquiry]
Kelly: I will wait until the end of the week before judging–many dark actors playing games.
He then dies in what is pretty thinly disguised as a suicide. And now we find out that the guy who certified that bogus suicide claim ordered that all the documentation pertaining to it be sealed until we’re all dead? Really?!?!?
I’ll add one more thing to Larisa’s timeline. One of the things that happened in one of Ari Fleischer’s last briefings (trying to look for it now) is that he was informed by reporters that Tony Blair would be coming for a visit–Fleischer, apparently, had not been told about what was apparently a last minute trip. Which had the effect of–just days after Plame’s identity was leaked and on the day Kelly was suicided–having Blair and Bush having a last minute visit together.
Just in case he needed to be out of town, you know.

Financial Reform Champion Elizabeth Warren Called To White House After Mass. Election

The woman Democrats need
ON THE day after Tuesday’s electoral loss, the Obama administration brought an unfamiliar face to the White House - Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law professor noted for her staunch advocacy on behalf the middle class and fierce criticism of the bank bailouts. Perhaps the administration will take a more aggressive approach to Wall Street, along the lines of what Warren wants. But for Democrats to truly take ownership of the economic crisis, Warren will need to play a more prominent role. Not just her ideas, but the force of her personality is needed.
Warren and the Democratic Party need to think seriously about her prospects for higher office. Going into 2012, Massachusetts Democrats will have no shortage of candidates to choose from, eager, party-trained politicians ready to take a run. Republican Scott Brown’s victory to the US Senate last week made clear that voters crave something besides the norm: someone from outside the traditional political structure who can speak to their everyday, bread-and-butter concerns in a credible way. Warren fits the bill.
Warren has spent her career laying the groundwork for what might be called progressive populism. From her perch in Cambridge, she’s excoriated the unfair credit and lending practices that, in part, gave rise to the current crisis. She was the architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, which, if created, would regulate credit cards and mortgages in the same way home appliances are regulated now. (Full disclosure: Warren once wrote about the agency in the publication I help edit.) And well before the bubble broke in the summer of 2007, when America was still riding high on George W. Bush’s economy, Warren was speaking out against the incredible pressure the 21st century economy was putting on the middle class. She was derided as a Cassandra, but she was right.
If all this made Warren a household name among progressives, it was the economic crisis that catapulted her onto the national stage. As chairwoman of the TARP Oversight Committee, she’s been responsible for examining the bank bailouts and the regulatory response. Warren has vocalized the concerns of many Americans - but not many politicians - who are outraged by the rampant greed that led to the crisis, and the refusal of Wall Street to take responsibility. “I think the problem has been all the way throughout this crisis, that the banks have been treated gently and everyone else has been treated really pretty tough,’’ said an exasperated Warren last fall, echoing what so many others - in both parties - have come to believe.

Court's campaign finance decision a case of shoddy scholarship

By Ruth MarcusSaturday, January 23, 2010
In opening the floodgates for corporate money in election campaigns, the Supreme Court did not simply engage in a brazen power grab. It did so in an opinion stunning in its intellectual dishonesty.
Many of those commenting on the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission have focused on the power-grab part. I agree with them. It was unnecessary for the court to go so far when there were several less-radical grounds available. It was audacious to seize the opportunity to overrule precedents when the parties had not pressed this issue and the lower courts had not considered it. It was the height of activism to usurp the judgments of Congress and state legislatures about how best to prevent corruption of the political process.
"If it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more," a wise judge once wrote. That was Chief Justice John G. Roberts -- back when -- and dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens rightly turned that line against him.
As bad as the court's activism, though, was its shoddy scholarship.
First, the majority flung about dark warnings of "censorship" and "banned" speech as if upholding the existing rules would leave corporations and labor unions with no voice in the political process. Untrue. Under federal election law before the Supreme Court demolished it, corporations and labor unions were free to say whatever they wanted about political candidates whenever they wanted to say it. They simply were not permitted to use unlimited general treasury funds to do so. Instead, they were required to use money raised by their political action committees from employees and members. This is hardly banning speech.
Second, in the face of logic and history, the majority acted as if there could be no constitutional distinction between a corporation and a human being. Untrue. The Supreme Court has long held that corporations are considered "persons" under the Constitution and are therefore entitled to its protections. For more than a century, Congress has barred corporations from making direct contributions to political candidates, with no suggestion that it must treat corporate persons the same as real ones; that prohibition stands, at least for now. The "conceit" of corporate personhood, as Stevens called it, does not mandate absolute equivalence. That corporations enjoy free-speech protections does not mean they enjoy every protection afforded an actual person. Is a corporation entitled to vote? To run for office? LinkHere
International rights body criticizes US Supreme Court ruling on election spending
Source: Associated Press via WHNT-19
3:56 PM CST, January 22, 2010
VIENNA (AP) — ... The criticism comes from a senior official of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The head of its office that monitors democratic practices says the ruling effectively lifting limits on election spending by corporations and unions "threatens to further marginalize candidates without strong financial backing or extensive personal resources" ...

Biden: US To Appeal Dismissal Of Blackwater Case

BAGHDAD — The U.S. will appeal a court decision dismissing manslaughter charges against five Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in a deadly 2007 Baghdad shooting, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday.
Biden's announcement after a meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani shows just how diplomatically sensitive the incident remains nearly three years later. A lawyer for one guard, noting that word of the intended appeal came in Iraq, accused the Obama administration of political expediency and said the U.S. was pursuing an innocent man, rather than justice.
Blackwater security contractors were guarding U.S. diplomats when the guards opened fire in Nisoor Square, a crowded Baghdad intersection, on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.
Biden expressed his "personal regret" for the shooting and said the Obama administration was disappointed by the dismissal. "A dismissal is not an acquittal," he said.
The U.S. rebuffed Iraqi demands that the U.S. contractors face trial in Iraqi courts. After a lengthy investigation, U.S. prosecutors charged five of the contractors with manslaughter and took a guilty plea from a sixth.
But the case fell apart when a federal trial judge in Washington, Ricardo Urbina, said in a Dec. 31 ruling that the Justice Department mishandled evidence and violated the guards' constitutional rights. Prosecutors now face difficult odds getting an appeals court to reinstate the case.
The dismissal outraged many Iraqis, who said it showed the Americans considered themselves above the law. The Iraqi government began collecting signatures for a class-action lawsuit from victims who were wounded or lost relatives.
Lawyers for two of the Blackwater guards – Donald Ball, a former U.S. Marine from West Valley City, Utah, and Dustin Heard, a former U.S. Marine from Knoxville, Tenn. – sharply criticized the U.S. government's planned appeal. LinkHere

The Minds Behind the Meltdown

How a swashbuckling breed of mathematicians and computer scientists nearly destroyed Wall Street
On Thursday, President Barack Obama proposed new rules to curb a number of Wall Street's risky—and highly profitable—trading activities. One target: The secretive trading operations within banks that use large doses of leverage, or borrowed money, to make huge bets on the market. Wall Street says the regulations are unnecessary, and since the financial crisis struck, most banks have cut back on these trading outfits. But when the downturn first hit in the summer of 2007, several of them were among the first to suffer, and collectively they lost billions over a matter of days.
In his new book, "The Quants," Wall Street Journal reporter Scott Patterson suggests how this new breed of mathematicians and computer scientists took over much of the financial system—and the damage they inflicted in the 2007 meltdown.
At Morgan Stanley's investing powerhouse Process Driven Trading on Monday, Aug. 6, founder Peter Muller was AWOL, visiting a friend near Boston. Mike Reed and Amy Wong manned the helm, PDT veterans from the days when the group was nothing more than a thought experiment, its traders a small band of young math whizzes tinkering with computers like brainy teenagers in a cluttered garage.
On Wall Street, they were all known as "quants," traders and financial engineers who used brain-twisting math and superpowered computers to pluck billions in fleeting dollars out of the market. Instead of looking at individual companies and their performance, management and competitors, they use math formulas to make bets on which stocks were going up or down. By the early 2000s, such tech-savvy investors had come to dominate Wall Street, helped by theoretical breakthroughs in the application of mathematics to financial markets, advances that had earned their discoverers several shelves of Nobel Prizes.
PDT, one of the most secretive quant funds around, was now a global powerhouse, with offices in London and Tokyo and about $6 billion in assets (the amount could change daily depending on how much money Morgan funneled its way). It was a well-oiled machine that did little but print money, day after day.
That week, however, PDT wouldn't print money—it would destroy it like an industrial shredder.
The unusual behavior of stocks that PDT tracked had begun sometime in mid-July and had gotten worse in the first days of August. The previous Friday, about half a dozen of the biggest gainers on the Nasdaq were stocks that PDT had sold short, expecting them to decline, and several of the biggest losers were stocks PDT had bought, expecting them to rise. It was Bizarro World for quants. Up was down, down was up. The models were operating in reverse.
The market moves PDT and other quant funds started to see early that week defied logic. The fine-tuned models, the bell curves and random walks, the calibrated correlations—all the math and science that had propelled the quants to the pinnacle of Wall Street—couldn't capture what was happening.
At the time, few quants realized what was happening, but over the next few days a theory would emerge: The U.S. housing market was unraveling, leading to big losses in the mortgage portfolios of banks and hedge funds. One or more of those hedge funds needed to raise cash quickly to make up for the losses, and needed to sell assets quickly to do so. And the easiest-to-sell assets of all were stocks, those held in portfolios highly similar to quant funds across Wall Street.
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