• RSS
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
Chernynkaya On July - 12 - 2011


You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

________________________________________

BUDGET

 

 

President Obama’s News Conference on Deficit Reduction

 

 

WH Blog: President Obama on Deficit Reduction: “If Not Now, When?”

Transcript of press conference and video

The questions below are paraphrased from the questions asked by reporters during the news conference:

 

Debt Ceiling, Crystal Balls, and Kabuki Theater

Karoli:

For weeks now we’ve heard about how urgent it is to get a debt ceiling deal done — a deal that should include only spending cuts according to Republicans, and should include tax increases according to Democrats. Here’s a key piece of the President’s press conference today:

OBAMA: If not now, when? We keep on talking about this stuff, and, you know, we have these high-minded pronouncements about how we’ve got to get control of the deficit and how we owe it to our children and our grandchildren. Well, let’s step up. Let’s do it.

I’m prepared to do it. I’m prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done. And I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing if they mean what they say, that this is important.

And let me just then comment on this whole issue of tax increases, because there’s been a lot of information floating around there. I want to be crystal clear: Nobody has talked about increasing taxes now, nobody has talked about increases — increasing taxes next year.

What we have talked about is that starting in 2013 that we have gotten rid of some of these egregious loopholes that are benefiting corporate jet owners or oil companies at a time where they’re making billions of dollars of profits.

What we have said is, as part of a broader package, we should have revenues.

OBAMA: And the best place to get those revenues are from folks like me who have been extraordinarily fortunate, and that millionaires and billionaires can afford to pay a little bit more, going back to the Bush tax rates.

And, what I’ve also said to the Republicans is, if you don’t like that formulation, then I’m happy to work with you on tax reform that could potentially lower everybody’s rates and broaden the base, as long as that package was sufficiently progressive so that we weren’t balancing the budget on the backs of middle-class families and working-class families, and we weren’t letting hedge fund managers or authors of best-selling books off the hook.

That is a reasonable proposition.

So when — when you hear folks saying, “Well, you know, the president shouldn’t want, you know, massive, job-killing tax increases when the economy’s this week, nobody’s looking to raise taxes right now. We’re talking about potentially 2013 and the out-years.

That, along with this, laid out the boundaries for the meeting taking place in the White House right now:

So what I’ve said to the leaders is, bring back to me some ideas that you think can get the necessary number of votes in the House and in the Senate. I’m happy to consider all options, all alternatives that they’re looking at. The things that I will not consider are a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day or a 180-day temporary stopgap resolution to this problem.

That parameter was preceded by acknowledgement that all leaders agree that default is not an option. All leaders. Not just Democrats. All.

Forget about all the pundit and partisan noise for a minute and pay attention to what he just said. He laid out clear boundaries for the discussion. These are the options available to Republicans right now:

  • Bifurcate budget/deficit discussions and approve an increase to the debt limit that will extend our credit for 12 months. Of course, doing such a thing means that the next discussion — barring any debt negotiations in the interim — lands right in the middle of the 2012 elections.
  • Give up the Bush tax cuts or bring a package to the table that otherwise places the revenue burden on wealthy earners in the country.

That’s it, right there. For all of the sackcloth and ashes being worn by the left and right alike, those are the options. Period. And right now, the leverage is with Obama, not the Republicans. He reclaimed the hostage from the hostage-takers.

This is why, by the way, he is using Republican frames to discuss these issues. As frustrating as that might feel to many, the ones who need convincing right now are conservatives, and not fringe conservatives from the Tea Party. Despite the gnashing of teeth over the fact that he didn’t emphasize job creation or other worthy goals, the fact is that he has a House of Representatives which is, for the most part, irrational. I don’t think anyone expects them to get on board. The only way to deal with irrational voters is to go over their heads to their bosses. Their bosses aren’t the Tea Party at this point; they’re the independents who turned away from Obama to vote Republican because of the noise and heat generated by the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, and other legislation in the 111th Congress. Those independent voters want good-faith negotiation, and the President just let them know that there is none of that happening right now.

It’s easy to read online blogs and Facebook posts and Twitter streams and assume the entire world is all one ideology or the other, when in fact, most people come at things with mixed feelings. They like social security but are worried about the national debt, too. They’re worried about the economy and their jobs but can’t put their finger on exactly why the economy isn’t picking up, either. Then they look at Washington DC’s daily theater and say, well gosh…it’s gotta be their fault.

Wall Street isn’t going to countenance a default. Neither should we. So at this point, the options are to push hard for minimal adjustments to Social Security/Medicare spending while hammering the GOP for hanging onto tax cuts for the rich, or else start calling loud and clear for a clean vote to increase the debt ceiling substantially, while continuing to hammer out some kind of acceptable agreement for everything.

Today is July 11th. The date to have an agreement is July 22nd. A lot can happen between now and then, but right now I would say odds are pointing to a clean debt ceiling vote with no strings attached, because in the end, progressives are going to be the deal makers, not the tea party. It’s up to them to grab the ring and use it.

 

If Republicans stand firm against any and all tax increases, they could miss the chance for their biggest victory yet on spending cuts.

National Journal:

[…] But even $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years would be historic. The budget deal passed by President George H.W. Bush and a Democratic Congress in 1991 netted $482 billion in savings over 10 years by cutting spending by $265 billion and increasing taxes by $168 billion. In 1993, President Clinton’s Democrats appeased the bond markets with $433 billion in savings over five years by combining spending cuts and tax increases. In 1997, Clinton brokered a deal with then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich to cut the deficit by $180 billion over five years. […]

 

 

Once more, with feeling: There was no ‘deficit commission report’

The Very Serious People seem to be Very Seriously Committed to Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson and their catfood commission. To the point that they continue to spread Very Serious Lies about that commission.

There was no report from President Obama’s deficit commission. The rules under which the commission could issue a report were very clear. It had to have the support of 14 of the 18 members in a vote that took place by December 1, 2010. There was no vote taken by that date, although 12 of the 18 members did indicate their support for a report produced by the commission co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, on December 2.

This means that there was no commission report. Therefore, when Dan Balz tells Washington Post readers about the recommendations of the deficit commission, he either has no clue what he is talking about or he is deliberately deceiving Washington Post readers. If he wants to be honest, he is welcome to refer to it as a report of the co-chairs and to even point out that the report had support of 12 of the 18 commissioners, but it is simply not accurate to describe it as a report of the commission.

It’s not just Dan Balz and his buddy punditry. It’s every politician who wants to sound Very Serious about the deficit, so that they can do things like raise the eligibility age for Medicare, or the retirement age for Social Security. But that doesn’t mean it’s not a lie.

 

 

BUSINESS

 

 

Want a free credit score? Get rejected

As part of an effort to pull back the curtain on how creditors go about making their lending decisions, consumers are soon going to find out exactly why they got rejected for a credit card or loan.

Beginning later this month, lenders and creditors who deny a consumer’s application for a loan or credit card — or who give less favorable terms for one of these products — will be required to disclose the credit score and other factors that they used to make their decision. […]

Part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the new rules will go into effect July 21 — when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officially takes over the reins on enforcing new regulation.

Your bank is profiling you!

In addition to the credit score and several other factors on their credit report that the lender used to make their decision, the consumer will also be notified about the date of the inquiry and the name of the consumer reporting agency the lender used. If a lender uses its own credit-scoring model instead of FICO, the consumer will be told that the score doesn’t come from a reporting agency and will be given the range of the scoring model the lender used.

The new disclosures amend rules that were put in place earlier this year that required lenders to notify consumers when they weren’t given the best terms on a loan or credit card. The notices didn’t include credit scores unless the lender chose to include them.

 

 

ECONOMY

 

 

Amazingly, a smaller % of Americans experienced unemployment in 2009 than in early 60s — and much less than in early 80s

Leonhardt, NYT:

[…]One set of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics makes the case. In 1982, the unemployment rate averaged between 9 and 10 percent — and fully 22 percent of the labor force experienced unemployment at some point during the year. In 2009 (the most recent year of data), the unemployment rate also averaged between 9 and 10 percent, but only (or maybe “only”) 16.4 percent of the labor force experienced unemployment at some point during the year.

Just as surprising, the share of the labor force that experienced unemployment in 2009 was lower than in the early 1960s, when the unemployment rate was generally below 7 percent. Why? Among other things, temporary layoffs were more common in the past than today.

[…]In 1982, the share of people who experienced unemployment was more than one-third larger than in 2009.

I discussed the phenomenon in more detail in two previous columns, including one in 2009:

Instead of doing lots of firing and some hiring, many companies have done only some firing and virtually no hiring, the statistics show. And that isn’t all bad.

Try thinking of it this way: All of the unemployed people in the country are gathered in a huge gymnasium that’s been turned into a job search center. The fact that this recession is the worst in a generation means that there are many, many people in the gym. The fact that the economy is churning so slowly means that there is not much traffic into and out of the gym.

If you’re inside, you will have a hard time getting out. Yet if you’re lucky enough to be outside the gym, you will probably be able to stay there. The consequences of a job loss are terribly high, but — given that the unemployment rate is almost 10 percent — the odds of job loss are surprisingly low.

The reasons for the slow churn are obviously complex. The baby boomers are moving out of the ages at which people typically start businesses. The economy has shifted away from sectors, like manufacturing, in which temporary layoffs are common. Educational gains have slowed, which affects innovation. And the federal government was not willing, at least until recently, to make the kind of investments that spurred entrepreneurship in the past — building the highway system, supporting scientific research, creating the Pentagon computer network that turned into the Internet.

But whatever the causes, the effects of the slow churn are clear: the pain of this recession has been concentrated.

 

 

WSJ: 94% of the world millionaires worry about “global unrest” among masses

[…] A new survey from Insite Security and IBOPE Zogby International of those with liquid assets of $1 million or more found that 94% of respondents are concerned about the global unrest around the world today.

Fully 90% of respondents have a negative view of the current global economic climate and 41% say they have little or no faith that the U.S. will be able to right itself in this fiscal climate.

More than a third said security concerns have negatively affected business or investment plans.

“The survey found a seismic shift in the attitudes of the wealthy and how they are living their lives, the way they travel and how they are running their businesses,” said Christopher Falkenberg, President of Insite Security.

Of course, Insite has an interest in getting the paranoid rich to beef up their security. Still, the numbers are backed up by other trends seen throughout the world of wealth today: the rich keeping a lower profile, hiring $230,000 guard dogs, and arming their yachts, planes and cars with military-style security features.

Granted, America isn’t a country conducive to class wars in the streets (even a mention by the President of rolling back the private-jet tax breaks sparked denunciations of class warfare). But at a time when most of the country is mired in unemployment, weak housing prices and a stack of bills from the bailouts, the rich have reason to fear public resentment. And some fear even worse.

 

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

 

14 U.S. States Suffer Drought

The New York Times:

The heat and the drought are so bad in this southwest corner of Georgia that hogs can barely eat. Corn, a lucrative crop with a notorious thirst, is burning up in fields. Cotton plants are too weak to punch through soil so dry it might as well be pavement.

Farmers with the money and equipment to irrigate are running wells dry in the unseasonably early and particularly brutal national drought that some say could rival the Dust Bowl days.

“It’s horrible so far,” said Mike Newberry, a Georgia farmer who is trying grow cotton, corn and peanuts on a thousand acres. “There is no description for what we’ve been through since we started planting corn in March.”

The pain has spread across 14 states, from Florida, where severe water restrictions are in place, to Arizona, where ranchers could be forced to sell off entire herds of cattle because they simply cannot feed them.

In Texas, where the drought is the worst, virtually no part of the state has been untouched. City dwellers and ranchers have been tormented by excessive heat and high winds. In the Southwest, wildfires are chewing through millions of acres.

 

 

HEALTH

 

The U.S. rules marijuana has no medical use. What does science say?

Time:

[…] The DEA ruled that marijuana has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States,” has a “high potential for abuse,” and “lacks an acceptable level of safety for use even under medical supervision.”

Not only does this decision conflict with state laws, however, it also conflicts with a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the branch of the National Academy of Sciences charged with answering complex medical questions for Congress. Way back in 1999, the IOM said:

Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs, primarily THC, for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation; smoked marijuana, however, is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances.

Despite the issue of smoking marijuana, the IOM said that medical use of the drug is acceptable when other alternatives have failed.

In addition, in 2006 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an investigational new drug application, or IND — which grants permission to study a drug with the goal of approving it for marketing if it is safe and effective — for Sativex, an inhalable marijuana-derived drug, which includes both THC and CBD, the main active components of cannabis. So, while one federal agency says the drug is too risky for use even under medical supervision, another is studying it for possible approval for marketing.

The synthetic marijuana-based drugs nabilone and dronabinol (both used to treat nausea and vomiting) are already approved in the U.S. and have been placed in Schedules II and III, respectively. Schedule II includes drugs with high abuse potential like Oxycontin, while Schedule III includes milder painkillers like codeine combined with Tylenol.

MORE>>>

New Type designed for dyslexics

 

JUSTICE

 

Obama administration approves ATF rule to crackdown on gun trafficking

Amid ongoing probes of the ATF Fast and Furious scandal, the Obama administration announced Monday that they are asking gun dealers in four border states to report when they sell two or more semi-automatic weapons to an individual in a period of five business days.

The rule, enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), is meant to slow the trafficking of weapons across the Southern border and into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

“The international expansion and increased violence of transnational criminal networks pose a significant threat to the United States,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a statement.

“This new reporting measure — tailored to focus only on multiple sales of these types of rifles to the same person within a five-day period — will improve the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations,” Cole said.

Cole said the “targeted information requests” would occur in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. The administration sought comments on the rule in the Federal Register in April.

“Federal, state and foreign law enforcement agencies have determined that certain types of semi-automatic rifles – greater than .22 caliber and with the ability to accept a detachable magazine – are highly sought after by dangerous drug trafficking organizations and frequently recovered at violent crime scenes near the Southwest Border,” Cole said.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) quickly slammed the new measure, calling it the “height of hypocrisy for the Obama administration to restrict the gun rights of border state citizens, when the administration itself knowingly and intentionally allowed guns to be trafficked into Mexico.”

 

 

MEDIA

 

Coverage of Jobs vs. Deficit

I’ve suggested several different explanations for why the jobs crisis has gotten so little attention in Washington, especially compared to the deficit. In response, a lot of frustrated readers e-mailed me to argue that I’d left out one other explanation: the media. Major news organizations have devoted much more air time, ink and pixels to America’s debt concerns than to the 14-million-person army of jobless workers, they argued.

As a reader named Cindy writes:

If any of these big media conglomerates really cared about the millions of people that are being tossed like road kill, they would be doing something to help us organize and give us the coverage we need to be heard once and for all.

Another reader, Virgil, writes:

People hear in the media that it is not that bad out there, so they turn on their friends that are unemployed and call them deadbeats and state that their taxes are so high because they have to pay for those that won’t get a job.

Complaints about media coverage do appear to be supported by a cursory review of articles from the last two years.

In May, the National Journal published a report on economic coverage in the five largest newspapers in the country by print circulation: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Washington Post. They did this by searching for the words “unemployment” and “deficit” (excluding articles that also used the words “Europe,” “European,” “Greece” or “Greek”). This was not the most scientific (or comprehensive) study ever conducted, but it did show that over the last two years, the number of articles on “unemployment” had fallen while those on the “deficit” had exploded.

One can argue about the extent to which policy makers guide news coverage, and whether news coverage guides policy makers. Whichever way (or ways) you think that relationship works, it appears that both Washington and news organizations have been emphasizing long-term debt reduction over near-term job growth.

That balance may change, though, in light of Friday’s weak employment report, and as more workers exhaust their jobless benefits.

 

 

Dear media: Time to define the term “fiscal conservative.”

Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the ongoing battle over the debt ceiling is that Republicans who remain intransigent about tax hikes continue to be referred to in the media as “fiscal conservatives.”

Jonathan Bernstein noted over the weekend that this is a perennial problem in the media. Exhibit A: A Washington Post article that said this:

Democrats were demanding more than $800 billion in new tax revenue, causing heartburn among the hard-line fiscal conservatives who dominate the House Republican caucus.

Bernstein replied that their opposition to new tax revenue doesn’t make them fiscal conservatives: “Fiscal conservatives are deficit hawks. They don’t want the federal budget to run a deficit. That’s what fiscal conservative has pretty much always meant.” The opposition to new revenues makes it more likely that the federal budget will run a deficit.

Another misuse of the term “fiscal conservatives” can be found here, courtesy of Time’s Jay Newton-Small.

The GOP of today isn’t so much committed to not running a deficit as it is to cutting the social safety net, which is why the debt ceiling talks are stalling over tax increases. It’s a miracle of messaging that Republicans have managed to persuade reporters to continue referring to them as “fiscal conservatives, ”since the label implies a level of responsibility that the GOP simply hasn’t shown. Republicans refuse to raise taxes at all despite the fact that rates are at historically low levels.

Meanwhile, the Post also reports today that the president continues to want a $4 trillion deficit reduction deal, which would include politically disastrous cuts to entitlement programs:

His proposal, which he has said would bring certainty to an economy constrained by anxiety over the nation’s fiscal condition, would involve spending cuts to agency budgets, including the Pentagon’s; ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans; and changing entitlement programs in ways his party has traditionally opposed.

Now, I’m not one to find the label “fiscal conservative” particularly impressive since I think there are times the government needs to run a deficit. But to the extent there’s someone operating with a “fiscal conservative” viewpoint in these negotiations, it’s the president. That’s much to the chagrin of liberals, who argue correctly that the last thing the country’s anemic recovery needs is more cuts to government spending. But if we are going to continue to use terms like “fiscal conservative,” we should be clearer about what they actually mean.

 

 

Amy Lee Firing by Huffington Post Exposes Hypocrisy When it Comes to Site’s News-Stealing Business Model

LA Weekly:

It only took us a matter of seconds to find a story on the Huffington Post’s Los Angeles page that is based on the work of another news organization and contains no link to said organization.

In its piece on a proposal for a SoCal breakaway state the Huffington Post seems to rely mostly on a Los Angeles Times piece (with a little AP thrown in for good measure). But there were no links that we could find.

Now, that’s not unusual in blogland (ahem). What is unusual, or perhaps unseemly, is that the Post today claimed that it has …

” … zero tolerance for this sort of conduct,” according to a statement by HuffPo executive business editor Peter Goodman, sent to Romenesko.

This after a business writer, Amy Lee, was caught liberally rewriting an AdAge article (six grafs or so) before linking. So what?

Goodman continued:

We have made a very substantial investment in original reporting here, bringing in dozens of new writers in recent months. And while we will continue to curate the news for our audience, what occurred in this instance is entirely unacceptable and collides directly with the values that are at work in our newsroom.

Really now, Peter. Seems to us that every other time we tune in to HuffPo we see such aggressive aggregation, e.g. other peoples’ stories rewritten with substantially buried links toward the end.

Now, that’s a staple in blogland. Love it or hate it. Let’s debate it by saying it’s a prominent model and we all do it. We’ve been the beneficiary of HuffPo aggregation, and we’re fine with it.

But let’s not bullshit our way out of it and claim that it has no part in the business when in fact the Huffington Post built its $300 million ass mostly on this kind of aggregation.

In fact, Gawker gets an ex-HuffPo writer to say that the aggressive aggregation is the company model:

That is what we were taught and told to do at HuffPost. Arianna and the higher ups made a decision to stop linking out directly as much and rewrite stories “the way the AP does.” They even hired people specifically to rewrite other people’s work. Whenever they get caught they just blame an underling. These poor kids right out of school who have no experience get told to do XY and Z and then get punished for doing it.

And it gives other examples of HuffPo’s liberal usage of others’ reportage.

It’s unconscionable for the HuffPo to have build itself up via other news org’s reporting and then burn kids for towing the company line (and then, on top of all that, being dishonest about it).

No wonder kids think the corporate world sucks.

 

Newsweek.com Will Cease to Exist on July 19

Right now if you go to newsweek.com, you’ll see a basic magazine website, updated with content from the print version of the mag and a top navigation bar that directs you to content on its sister site, dailybeast.com. But starting July 19, we hear, newsweek.com will no longer exist. Instead that URL will redirect users to a channel on the Daily Beast site, like its current “politics,” “entertainment,” and “fashion” verticals. The Newsweek channel will still have all the archived magazine content from before (unlike Time, Newsweek puts all of its print content online), and it will be edited and updated once a day to rotate features. Newsweek/Daily Beast editor Tina Brown and Chief Digital Officer Daniel Blackman decided it made the most sense to have all-new non-magazine content appear on the Beast homepage. As it is, that’s how the system has been working for some weeks now, but the death of the newsweek.com URL marks the official end of what was once a fully staffed and hugely trafficked site in its own right.

Why won’t the NYTimes call George Tiller ‘s assassination terrorism?

Slate:

[…] The words “terrorism”, “terrorist” or even the grating term “terror” never crop up once in this article, even though it’s a story about a woman facing down threats of domestic terrorism from the same community that produced a man who walked into a church and shot a man in the head in order to stop him from performing legal abortions.  By any reasonable measure, the assassination of Dr. Tiller was an act of domestic terrorism, defined here and pretty much anywhere else as acts of violence committed to intimidate a civilian population or a government into changing policy.  Both are true in the case of Dr. Tiller’s murder.  And as Sulzberger makes incredibly clear in this piece, the anti-choice community of Wichita is eager to frame the murder as sending a signal to other providers that they, too, risk their lives if they dare perform abortions in Wichita.  There’s some official, half-hearted denunciations of Roeder’s actual crime, but then those denunciations are framed in this way:

Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, based in Wichita, said that abortion opponents were committed to blocking another clinic here, and that the level of protest facing anyone who participated in such an efforts [sic] would be “beyond anything anyone could imagine.” He spoke with particular disdain for Dr. Means.

“We will ensure that this community remains abortion free,” he said.

I’m trying to imagine what would happen if a Muslim terrorist killed a specific target, and a local Muslim group said, “While we don’t think he should have shot the target, we’re glad the target is dead and hope that anyone else who intends to do the work the target was doing thinks twice about it.  If they persist, we will ensure they are unable to continue in this work.”  Not only would they be called, bare minimum, “terrorist sympathizers,” the FBI would be all over them and there would probably be some arrests made in short order.  Especially if, as has happened in the case of Dr. Means, the members of the group started showing up at the second target’s house, researching and publicizing her movements amongst the group, and sending death threats to the second target.  If the government shrugged its shoulders and said there was nothing it could do about this, the country would be in uproar.

But if our radical fundamentalists who embrace violence and threats in order to get their way make sure to call themselves “Christian,” I guess all bets are off.

 

Turner Classic Movies Host to Take a Break

Robert Osborne, the longtime host of the Turner Classic Movies channel, plans to take a three-month leave of absence, the channel said in a statement Monday. Mr. Osborne, 79, will be undergoing minor surgery, the channel said, without specifying for what, as well as taking a vacation.

Perhaps assuaging viewers’ concerns, the channel noted that Mr. Osborne, who has been the channel’s host since 1994, recently renewed his contract. In his place, guest hosts including Robert Wagner, Jane Powell and Tippi Hedren will step in, with others to be announced “in the coming weeks,” the statement said. In the interim, Mr. Osborne will still appear in taped features like the channel’s guest programmer series and “The Essentials,” a weekly showing of a must-see film.

 

 

MILITARY

 

 

Military Leaders From U.S. and China Meet

The leaders of China’s and America’s militaries sought on Monday to cast aside decades of hostility between the two establishments, pledging at a joint news conference here to pursue what they separately called a “great opportunity” to create a “shared vision” of cooperation.

But neither indicated that his government was willing to alter positions on issues like Taiwan and the South China Sea that have long hamstrung better relations. And the Chinese leader, Gen. Chen Bingde, quickly voiced a string of complaints about American military policies that suggested their shared vision remained a distant dream.

General Chen and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were midway through three days of talks on Monday, following up on a visit to Washington in May by General Chen, the chief of the People’s Liberation Army general staff. Both men are under orders to improve the military relationship, one outcome of a summit last January between President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao of China.

 

 

POLITICS

 

Bachmann was a tax collector for what she’s called “the most heartless organization that anyone knows of”

 

 

Roll Call Politics: Club for Growth Warns Lugar, Hatch on Debt Ceiling

 

 

Schumer and DSCC chair Murray privately warn fellow Dems: Deep Medicare cuts risk squandering major advantage

Top Democrats in charge of keeping the Senate in Dem hands and maintaining the political health of the party — DSCC chair Patty Murray and messaging chief Chuck Schumer — have privately expressed frustration that deep Medicare cuts risk squandering the major political advantage Democrats have built up on the issue, people familiar with internal discussions say.

Senators Murray and Schumer, along with other Dems like Debbie Stabenow and Mark Begich, have warned against deep cuts in recent leadership meetings, a source familiar with the meetings says, another sign of the unrest that the possibility of serious entitlements cuts is creating among Congressional Democrats.

“We shouldn’t be giving away our advantage on Medicare,” said a source familiar with Murray’s thinking, in characterizing her objections in private meetings. “We should be very careful about giving away the biggest advantage we’ve had as Democrats in some time.”

“For the first time in the past two and a half years we have an unmitigated advantage on a single issue where our entire caucus is united,” the source continues. “This is a case where the whole morale of our party was lifted by the fact that we were taking the fight to Republicans.”

The frustration on the Senate side is mirrored on the House side. Sam Stein reported on Friday that DCCC chair Steve Israel privately vented his frustration that serious Medicare cuts would hamper his ability to recruit good Dem candidates to challenge House GOP incumbents. And a number of Dem challengers have already launched their campaigns by alluding to the GOP’s unpopular Medicare plan, a reminder of just how central top Dem strategists want it to remain through 2012.

In red states like Montana, Nebraska, and Missouri, one key to good Dem performance is maintaining good standing among seniors. The Dems took a shellacking in 2010 in part because of the swing in seniors in such states. One measure of this is that Ben Nelson, a conservative Dem who opposes tax hikes as part of any deficit deal, has also come out against any cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

“Schumer has consistently expressed the most concern,” a source familiar with recent leadership meetings says. “Schumer has been on this bandwagon for weeks.” The source adds that a recent meeting at which Stabenow and Begich sounded the alarm about cuts ”got pretty heated.”

Concludes the source: “There’s a high degree of frustration within the caucus.”

So far 25 House Dems and counting have signed that letter from Friday drawing a hard line against any entitlements benefits cuts, a House Dem source says.

GOP Leaders Say Raising Debt Limit Is Imperative, But Also A Concession On Their Part

[…] Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) agreed that this is what he considers a “balanced” agreement: “Most Americans would say that a balanced approach is a simple one: the administration gets its debt limit increase, and the American people get their spending cuts.” In fact, a recent Pew poll found that 60 percent of Americans — and 50 percent of Republicans — say it is more important to keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are than to reduce the deficit.

Boehner and Cantor’s justification is extraordinary since GOP leaders have conceded that raising the debt ceiling is an economic imperative. At the same press conference today, Boehner said, “I agree with the President we can not allow our nation to default on our debt.” Just days ago, he said that failing to raise the limit by Aug. 2 “puts our economy in jeopardy, risking even more jobs.” Just yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed “no one is talking about not raising the debt ceiling.”

So how can it be both an imperative and a gift that Republicans deign to give?

During the Bush presidency, Republicans voted to increase the debt limit 19 times without ever demanding cuts in exchange for their votes.

 

To Those Who Consider President Obama a Disappointment; You’re Just NOT Paying Attention!

One of the most comprehensive list of President Obama’s accomplishments, with links to sources.

If you think President Obama is a failure, or you’re “disappointed” in him, the problem pretty much has to be you. So far, this president has done most of what he said he would do, and he’s only halfway through his first term. Not only is he NOT a “failure,” he’s pretty much the opposite. Hell; he even took out Osama bin Laden, something Bush couldn’t do in eight years. Of course, Bush also said several times that he really didn’t care bout bin Laden, anyway…

Is he perfect? No, he’s human. Does he deserve some criticism? Sure. But criticism about certain specific problems is one thing; taking on an overall “Obama sucks” meme not only has the potential to put another Bush into power, but it’s also a lie to say, or even imply, he’s a lousy president.

Here is a PARTIAL list of Obama’s accomplishments so far. Unlike many lists, I actually include a link to details. I also update this list regularly, so check back often.

Anytime someone, right OR left, tells you Obama sucks, or is a “disappointment,” show them this list and tell them to kiss a part of your body not usually considered pleasant to kiss.

The first section alone should make them sit down and shut up.

MORE>>>

 

 

Democrats like compromise. Independents like compromise. Republicans don’t like compromise.

Ezra Klein:

Substantively, I’d want to see everything in the $4 trillion deal before making a global comment on how good or bad it is. But politically, a deal that raised less than half as much in taxes as the fiscal commission, lifted the Medicare eligibility age and cut Social Security benefits by more than $200 billion would lead to a liberal backlash that dwarfs anything we’ve seen so far. I think it might well spark a (futile) primary challenge.

Which is not to say it wouldn’t be good politics for the White House. Whenever you think about the Obama administration’s political incentives, you need to keep this graph in mind:


Democrats like compromise. Independents like compromise. Republicans don’t. That’s an asymmetry between the two parties that the White House would be very happy to exploit going into 2012.

POLLS

 

 

New WaPo poll: 42% more worried about impact of not raising debt ceiling, 47% more worried about impact of raising it.

 

 

Gallup: Congress’ Approval Entrenched at 18% as Debt Talks Continue

 

 

Pew: Public Now Divided on Debt Limit Debate

Default Concerns Rise among Independents

[…] The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, conducted July 7-10 among 1,007 adults, finds that independents are now evenly divided in concerns over the debt limit: 46% say their greater concern is that raising the limit would lead to higher government spending while 45% say their bigger concern is that not raising the limit will lead to a default. Two months ago, independents by 49% to 34% expressed more concern over raising the debt limit.

[…] The new survey finds that many Americans continue to say they do not have a good understanding of what would happen if the government does not raise the debt limit. A narrow majority (55%) say they understand the consequences very (18%) or fairly well (37%). This is little changed from May (50% very/fairly well). Those who say they understand this issue at least fairly well are divided in their concerns: 49% express more concern about raising the debt limit while 46% say they are more concerned over not raising the debt limit. In May, those who felt they understood the issue, on balance, were more concerned about raising the debt limit (by 52% to 37%).

SCIENCE

 

NOVA: Newton’s Dark Secrets

In 1936, a huge collection of scientific documents and personal papers was put up for auction at Sotheby’s in London. These papers had never been seen by the public, and a large number of them were bought by the famous British economist John Maynard Keynes. Many were written in secret code, and for six years, Keynes struggled to decipher them. […]

But what Keynes found shattered his image of Isaac Newton. For, in these manuscripts, Keynes discovered an Isaac Newton unknown to the rest of the world, an Isaac Newton who seemed obsessed with religion and devoted to the occult.

STEPHEN SNOBELEN (University of King’s College): He is known, today, as a sort of a high priest of the Age of Reason, but this is a misconstruction of Newton.

MORE>>>

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

 

 

Hasidic Sleuth’s Beat: Mean Streets of Brooklyn

JOE LEVIN, a private investigator in Brooklyn, was waiting to meet a new client in the parking lot of a kosher supermarket in Borough Park one recent morning. Glancing in the side-view mirror of his chauffeured sport utility vehicle, Mr. Levin said he liked this particular spot because he knew the manager, the delivery man and the security guard, who lets him borrow footage from the lot’s surveillance equipment.

Most of the time, though, Mr. Levin does his own snooping. On his iPad, he scrolled through photographs of people he was being paid about $100 an hour to follow, including a rebellious Hasidic girl in a white miniskirt and a long-bearded rabbi lighting a cigarette on the sidewalk.

“He’s a bad guy,” Mr. Levin said, enlarging the rabbi’s image. “A very bad guy.”

Not your usual private eye, Mr. Levin is a practicing Orthodox Jew, a member of the Bobov Hasidic sect and the founder of T.O.T. Private Investigation and Consulting, a New York-based company that specializes in Orthodox-related cases worldwide. The company, whose focus is uncommon — and perhaps unique in the United States — hires forensic experts, former homicide detectives, photographers and even pilots, mostly on a per-case basis. Its services range from investigations into international banks and Israeli investment companies to local background checks for prospective Shidduchim, or Orthodox marital arrangements.

Since Mr. Levin started the business 12 years ago, his life has often resembled the plot of a TV crime drama. He has trailed unwitting subjects into synagogues and strip clubs, sat beside them on international flights and tracked them down in remote areas of Puerto Rico and Brazil.

While he usually wears the black frock coat and fedora of the Hasidim, when undercover he has donned stocking caps and Yankees jerseys to conceal his brown knit skullcap and tzitzit, the ritual fringes worn by observant Jews.

His organization’s mission is encoded in the name T.O.T., an acronym for the Yiddish expression “Tuchis afn tish.”

“It means ‘Put your tuchis on the table,’ ” said Mr. Levin, a bearded, powerfully built man in his late 30s, who shaved off his side locks years ago out of personal preference. “In other words, ‘Show me the proof.’ And that’s what I do. I bring my proof to the people.”

MORE>>>

 

An instructional video for cowboy hip-hop dancing.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

A child of five would understand this. Send someone to

fetch a child of five.
Groucho Marx

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

48 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. escribacat says:

    Cher, I got sucked into that Newton link — and I have work to do! Fascinating stuff. My favorite quote from the article:

    SIMON SCHAEFER (University of Cambridge): I’m extremely skeptical about the role of fruit in Newton’s life.

  2. Oh cher, the Hip-Hop/country dancing video is frickin hilarious! It reminds me of that super straight couple on the Lawrence Welk show singing “One Toke Over The Line.” Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

  3. I think, regardless of Newton’s purported interest in the occult, that this does not take away from the huge scientific contributions to The Age of Reason. I think, as a scientist, Newton was probably interested in the metaphysical as well as the physical. Or the corporeal and incorporeal, just as the Stoics before him.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      To be honest, it didn’t surprise me either. And frankly, at the time, something like magnetism might have been sen as occult.

      • Khirad says:

        It was more than that. He was a Rosicrucian and Freemason. His name comes up a lot in books on magick and the occult… not that I’d know anything about that sort of thing.

        Edit. This guy is relatively obscure, but represents much the same curiosity (or at least what we consider it to be now) of the mystical and scientific mind existing in one brain.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dee_%28mathematician%29

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Yes, but I don’t see those as necessarily anti-science by the standards of that period. As you mentioned, alchemy was a precursor to science in the day. He may have been interested in the esoteric and metaphysical, but again, for the time they were part of legitimate--if not Church sanctioned--inquiry, I think.

    • Khirad says:

      The two are actually complimentary as far as I’m concerned. People’s understanding of alchemy focuses too much on the superficial transmutation of gold, when that itself was a metaphor.

      I’m just kinda wondering why this is supposed to be a surprise. Didn’t we already know this about Newton?

  4. Emerald1943 says:

    Hi jkkFL! Nothing would please me any more than for Cantor to get caught for insider trading. I heard something about this several days ago and hope that one of those “liberal media” types picks up the story and runs with it…and how dare that little pr*ck walking out on the Biden budget talks!! What a total ass! (Hang around and I’ll tell you how I really feel!) :-)

    Of course, they all feather their little nests while they have the chance…nothing unusual about that. It’s just that so many of them get away with all the corruption and it would do my poor ol’ heart good to see this little pompous ass get popped! He is salivating at the prospects of taking the Boner down and getting his job…let’s hope the SEC or somebody notices his little conflict of interest before the “tan man” is toast.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Hey Emerald! So good to see you!!

    • jkkFL says:

      Hey Emerald!
      I think they should add his name to people they have so eagerly censured in the past.
      He’s a greasy little weasel who wins either way- he gets a huge tax break if he loses, and he makes a bundle if he wins.
      He’s a total toad. (with apologies to toads..)

  5. Khirad says:

    Cowboy Hip-Hop Dancing is one of those things you can’t un-see.

  6. Khirad says:

    I hate to draw attention to anyone’s alter ego, but PPOV was mentioned on Bob Cesca’s blog in the comments to this:

    Firebagger Insanity of the Day
    http://bobcesca.com/blog-archives/2011/07/firebagger-insanity-of-the-day.html#comment-247672076

  7. ADONAI says:

    1.)Just legalize weed already. Not because it can be used as medicine. Not because it’s non addictive and “harmless”, not because it’s “better” than cigarettes and alcohol. Simply because there is no good reason to keep it illegal and it costs way too much money to do so.

    2.)Is it really that surprising that Newton held deep religious beliefs? People can say all day that the Founders weren’t religious, but they’re wrong. It doesn’t mean they weren’t educated. Doesn’t mean they didn’t value reason and human determination. We think of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment as the age when religion and spirituality were put on the back burner, but nothing could be further from the truth. It shaped every theory produced during this time. Was there more real science involved? Yes. But religion was along for the ride.

    3.)Apparently Republicans feel that “compromise” is a 4 letter word. Compromise can be bad. When you give too much and accept too little, you have failed at compromise. But it is one of the most necessary components of any democracy.

    4.)I’ve seen Obama’s list of “accomplishments” before. Just about every time I criticized the man on Huff Po.

    This one made me chuckle: “He oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in eight years.”

    So, we’re basically saying he’s better than nothing. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Wake me when that list includes an end to illegal wiretapping, extraordinary rendition, no more escalations of illegal wars, an actual statement in support of gay marriage, an apology to every person in GITMO AFTER their release, and the immediate end of the National Emergency Act. But I agree. It’s not like he’s done nothing. I have criticisms but I can’t throw him under the bus. He doesn’t deserve it.

    5.)I would love to see America and China become closer. They’re nearing a lot of the “growing pains” we had as an emerging superpower. i think we will aid them. Not because we owe them but because we need them. And we definitely need to be on the same page. China is no threat to us. We’re better off extending an olive branch.

    6.)Debt, debt, debt. Is there some kind of problem with our debt? Cause I don’t get that from politicians and the media. It just seems like another political fight. Surely Republicans and Democrats won’t flush us all down the toilet to win a political argument? Perish the thought. I mean, if it’s that important, why spend a dozen hours or more each day taking apart the silly pledge Bachmann signed? Makes me think the only people who will suffer from a debt collapse are the poor and the lower middle class. And who gives a shit about them?

    • Chernynkaya says:

      I thought there was hope for legalization when it was put on the ballot here in Cali, but it got defeated due to the money the liquor industry put into the race. But even so, how could it be defeated here?? Now I realize that there is too much opposition from idiots to even become even decriminalized in my lifetime. Bah.

    • Adonai, the thinkers of The Age of Reason, as far as religion goes, were concerned more about theocracies than theology itself. They saw firsthand the dangers inherent in theocratic aristocracies and monarchies. Many of them believed in god, but did not believe that god took an active role in the everyday activities of men/women. Many of them were influenced by the Stoics, who believed that “right living,” was a means to prohibit or cancel-out “bad emotions,” such as jealousy, hatred, envy…..etc. By “right living,” they were referring to the use of reason, the acts of courage and bravery, selflessness in helping others….etc.
      Enlightenment thinkers were more concerned with spirituality as opposed to religious dogma and were concerned about the negative effects that such dogmas placed on the limits of individual thought.

  8. agrippa says:

    Good articles here today.

    I did notice that Republicans like congressmen who “stick to their principles”.

    I call that: “does not work well with others.”

  9. whatsthatsound says:

    For Cher, who loves scary, creepy things


    • kesmarn says:

      You mean you don’t recognize the “lovable” Wiggles, from Australia?

      They were the kings of kiddie television for a while, even here in the U.S. (The real guys, I mean. I had never seen the puppets before either.)

      I have to say — as unnerving as the real guys were — the puppets have them beat. And people wonder why it’s hard to get kids to settle down and go to sleep at night…? (Sweet dreams….)

      • whatsthatsound says:

        thankfully, these Tim Burton-esque things never made it over to Japan. I find it hard to imagine that whoever created these puppets didn’t realize how frightening they are.

        • jkkFL says:

          I only like Sesame Street ones!
          However you would be amazed how many kids are afraid of the characters at Disney.
          Even though they try to use small women-(for Minnie and Mickey,) you can bet that when they appear; there will be wails all around!

          • whatsthatsound says:

            I know, I know. Tokyo Disneyland has the same thing happen, though not nearly as much. Japanese kids are trained to love all things “kawaii” from a very young age, and never stop.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Whts-- that is right up my ally. Totally creepy! I have never seen these puppets but they are the stuff of which nightmares are made. I mean, WTF?

      • whatsthatsound says:

        One of the comments below says it’s like if H.P. Lovecraft did kids’ shows.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          When my son was about 4 or 5, he told me of a nightmare he had in which I had a radio which produced monsters (which, from what I could gather, looked like these puppets). In his dream, I could turn the dial on the radio and make these guys appear at will, terrifying my son. Analyze THAT!

          And as I mentioned in another post, I had puppets hanging in our hallway, so there’s that too. He’s forgiven me, mostly.

          He was an imaginative but kinda literal kid. On another occasion, he told me that when he was very little, I had warned him that he should never put his finger in an electric socket, lest he die. So once he did put his finger in the socket and then, remembering what I’d said, went to his room and waited to die (whatever that meant). Poor kid! BAD mom!

    • jkkFL says:

      Where DO you find this stuff???????!

  10. invient says:

    The WSJ article on wealthy fearing public violence is amusing because of their reaction. I could see the logic in it if it was an attack by one or two people, but if social unrest gets to the point where a mass of people rise against them, then how will your team of unarmed guards deal with that scenario. I do not care how many armed or unarmed guards, military weapons,or whatever other “defense” mechanisms they have if there is solidarity there will be vengeance Bastille style.

    Anyway, Randy Rhodes on radio program mentioned that Eric Cantor is shorting US treasuries (http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/06/27/eric_cantor_conflict_of_interest/index.html) … I do not know how unethical this is as he stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if the US tanks in his other investments.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Invient, thanks for the link about Cantor. I have been reading more people outraged about this, as they should be.

    • jkkFL says:

      I saw that too- do you think he’s betting the odds that he will instead win Big??
      Wonder how close that could come to manipulation, considering he’s one of the dogs in the hunt???

      • invient says:

        For me it really is not whether he wins or loses money, it is just the fact that he has any bets against US treasuries.

        A comment on the Salon article states that many people do not know they are invested in these funds because it is part of a mutual fund (or something like that) and therefore Cantor may have not known about it. Now that he likely does know, he should sell it, but has not so far.

        • jkkFL says:

          I agree totally! Is that not the ‘Ultimate Insider Trading”???
          If you have the capacity to influence the outcome- your butt better not be messing with the paper!!


Leave your Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


Back to top
PlanetPOV Tweets
Ongoing Stories
Features