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Chernynkaya On January - 26 - 2012

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.

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BUSINESS

Obama is right: Rebounding automakers adding jobs

USA Today:

After rounds of plant closures as the economy headed into recession — and some automakers headed into bankruptcy court — a resurgent auto industry is helping lead the way out with a hiring surge of an estimated 60,000 jobs this year.

President Obama underscored the point Tuesday night in his State of the Union address, pointing to the auto industry as an example of a U.S. factory-floor rebound.

“Tonight, the American auto industry is back,” Obama declared, noting that General Motors is again the world’s largest automaker […]

Total jobs at all U.S. auto plants and parts factories will rise 10% to about 650,000 this year, says the Center for Automotive Research, and hit 756,800 by 2015. That’s up from about 550,000 in the depths of the recent recession, but still well below more than a million a decade ago.

The job surge reflects better U.S. auto sales. But for the domestic makers, it also shows how UAW concessions have helped make Detroit automakers more competitive. With new hires getting pay that will rise to about $19 per hour plus benefits under the four-year contract negotiated last year, GM’s average compensation is now close to Toyota’s in the U.S., the center says.

Meanwhile, foreign makers such as Kia, Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen have added thousands of U.S. jobs for new or expanded plants. “The (jobs) graph is going in the right direction,” says Randy Jackson, a vice president at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia.

Examples of auto job growth:

  • Ford Motor. About 5,500 workers are being added this year at plants in Wayne, Mich., Louisville and Chicago.
  • General Motors. GM announced last year a series of new jobs totaling more than 7,000, with many to come this year, such as at the revived Spring Hill, Tenn., assembly plant.
  • Chrysler Group. New shifts of 1,100 each are being added next year at plants in Detroit and Toledo, Ohio.
  • Nissan. About 1,200 jobs will be added this spring to a truck line and 1,300 for electric cars in Tennessee and 150, mostly engineers, in Michigan.
  • BMW. It’s adding 300 jobs this year in Spartanburg, S.C.
  • Daimler truck. The German maker’s truck unit will add 1,100 jobs this year in Cleveland.

 

 

 

Longread: Why All the Robo-Signing? Shining a Light on the Shadow Banking System 

 

 

 

ECONOMY

Krugman: “Obama’s auto bailout, just by itself, saved a lot more jobs than Apple’s US employment.” 

Mitch Daniels Doesn’t Read the New York Times

From the Daniels reply to the State of Union:

Contrary to the President’s constant disparagement of people in business, it’s one of the noblest of human pursuits. The late Steve Jobs — what a fitting name he had — created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the President borrowed and blew.

From Sunday’s Times:

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Instead, they work for foreign companies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, at factories that almost all electronics designers rely upon to build their wares.

Steve Jobs designed great products. It’s very, very hard to make the case that he created large numbers of jobs in this country. Obama’s auto bailout, just by itself, saved a lot more jobs than Apple’s US employment.

 

 

 

WH.gov: Everything You Need to Know About the President’s Blueprint for Manufacturing 

Since the end of 2009, business investment has grown by a rate of 18 percent, and exports have increased by 32 percent — for a total of $2 trillion.

That’s good news for American manufacturing, which has added 334,000 jobs in the past two years.

Last night, in the State of the Union, President Obama said that his Blueprint for an America that lasts begins with manufacturing. He talked about the revival of the American auto industry and said that what is happening in Detroit can happen in Cleveland, Pittsburgh, or Raleigh.

To achieve that vision, the President focused on three key themes.

TAX REFORM

President Obama told Congress that the U.S. needs to push for comprehensive corporate tax reform. “It is time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs overseas,” he said. “And start rewarding companies that create jobs right here in America.”

Right now, a company that packs up its factories and relocates production to another country can write off that expense from its taxes. The President said that practice should end. He also pushed for an international minimum tax, and he said we should lower rates for companies that create jobs in America.

In Cedar Rapids today, the President offered more details about his plan to reform taxes. The package he’s presenting is fully paid for—the tax credits he’s proposing would be offset by closing loopholes on companies that encourage the shielding of profits overseas. And the objective isn’t to raise taxes on business. In fact, one of the overarching goals would be to simplify the tax code so businesses can focus on investing and creating jobs, instead of filling out tax forms.

Specifically, President Obama is proposing a 20 percent income tax credit for companies that bring jobs back to the United States. He’s asking Congress to create a new credit to provide $2 billion per year in incentives for three years for businesses that invest in communities that affected by job loss. He’s pushing to extend tax credits to drive nearly $20 billion of investment in domestic clean energy manufacturing and a provision that allows companies to expense the full cost of their investments in equipment. The President plans to pay for those proposals with the $23 billion the government would raise from closing the loophole that allows corporations to expense outsourcing.

Get more details here. 

TRADE ENFORCEMENT

A changing global economy means that there are customers the world over who are interested in buying new products. Those consumers represent a huge opportunity for American manufacturers and President Obama has made opening new markets to U.S. business a top priority. Just last year, he signed trade agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea that are expected to support tens of thousands of jobs.

But President Obama has no intention of standing by while our foreign competitors refuse to play by the same rules as the United States. As of this week, the Commerce Department has 285 trade enforcement actions in place, covering over 120 products from 38 countries.

To ramp up those efforts, the President announced a plan to create a Trade Enforcement Unit that will investigate trading practices in countries that attempt to circumvent international law.

He also called on Congress to do more to help American companies access financing and explore new markets.

REBUILDING AMERICA

For too many companies the state of American infrastructure creates a competitive disadvantage. We need to rebuild roads and upgrade bridges. We need to retrofit our electrical grid and expand access to high-speed broadband.

And to pay for that construction, the President offered a commonsense proposal — use the money we’ll save by ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Half the money would go to pay down the deficit, the rest to rebuilding America.

AN AMERICA THAT LASTS

Taken together, these ideas represent one part of President Obama’s blueprint for the future. To see more details from that plan, go here.

To look at the data and charts that helped to inform the thinking that went into the State of the Union, go here.

All week, President Obama is on the road, talking about how to deliver an America that lasts. Keep visiting WH.gov for more information.

 

 

 

WH.gov: National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security Announced 

International trade is vital to the American economy and supports our way of life.  Businesses today have global footprints and are supported by an ever evolving global supply chain system. As a number of recent events remind us, this system is dynamic and complex but also vulnerable to numerous threats.  These threats, such as pandemics, natural disasters, or attacks involving weapons of mass destruction could undermine the continuity of the global supply chain system as a whole.  Also, because of the interconnectedness of the system, even smaller, localized events could escalate rapidly and cause significant disruptions.

Today, with the announcement of the National Strategy for Global Supply Chain Security, we take an important step to strengthen and protect this vital system. The Strategy, focused on the worldwide network of transportation, postal, and shipping assets and supporting infrastructures, articulates our national vision and approach, and encourages collaborative implementation with key State, local, tribal, territorial, private sector and international stakeholders.

This Strategy provides an integrated United States Government perspective on a complex and global issue.  It recognizes that we can and must promote security and efficiency in the supply chain system rather than seek to “balance” them as mutually exclusive ends.  It emphasizes our need to foster a resilient system that can absorb shocks and recover rapidly from disruptions. And it endorses an overall approach that involves integrating efforts to manage risk, leverage a layered defense, and identify and resolve threats as early as possible.

As much of the global supply chain is owned and operated by entities outside of the United States Government, the success of this strategy will depend upon our ability to work with other stakeholders.  We are committed to working in coordination with industry partners, the international community, and others around the globe to translate this strategic vision into concrete action.  Ata time when budgets are constrained, we will seek to develop smarter solutions and new efficiencies by enhancing our information sharing procedures and capabilities, synchronizing standards and procedures, prioritizing and aligning activities according to risk management principles, and leveraging the expertise and resources of industry and foreign partners in pursuit of our shared interests.

Additional information on opportunities for engagement and on the process for submitting recommendations specific to the implementation of the Strategy is available via the Department of Homeland Security’s website.

Learn more: Read the Fact Sheet

 

 

 

Five Good Economic Policy Ideas From Obama’s State Of The Union 

ThinkProgress:

During last night’s State of the Union, President Obama unveiled a series of proposals aimed at addressing growing income inequality, a shrinking middle class, and abuses by the nation’s biggest banks. “We will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last,” Obama said. Here are five economic proposals Obama laid out that, though they don’t have high prospects of getting through the Republican House, would help achieve the goal of making the economy work for everyone:

– WIDESPREAD MORTGAGE REFINANCING: Obama called for a program to give “every responsible homeowner” the chance to refinance their mortgage at lower interest rates. The plan aims to expand a previous administration refinancing effort so that it applies to those homeowners with privately backed mortgages, instead of only those with government backed mortgages. “It’s going to help homeowners who are struggling and it’s likely to be a first step to really opening up the market to more normal credit standards,” said Columbia Business School professor Christopher Mayer. Incidentally, the ten districts that could benefit most from mass refinancing are all represented by Republicans.

– MINIMUM TAX FOR MILLIONAIRES: Due to the preferential treatment of investment income and the widespread use of tax deductions, loopholes, and tax havens, one quarter of millionaires are able to drive their tax rates down to a level below that of middle class families. In 2009, nearly 1,500 millionairespaid no income tax at all. To rectify this, Obama proposed a minimum 30 percent tax rate for millionaires.

– MINIMUM TAX FOR CORPORATIONS: Many of the country’s largest, most profitable companies have been able to avoid paying corporate income tax on billions in profits, driving corporate tax revenue down to historic lows. Though not as straightforward as simply eliminating the ability of multinational corporations to delay paying taxes on offshore profits, Obama’s proposed minimum tax would limit the ability of corporations to exploit low-tax havenslike Ireland or the Cayman Islands.

– FINANCIAL FRAUD COMMISSION: Obama last night announced the creation of a commission, co-chaired by New York Attorney General Eric Schneidermann,to investigate and prosecute fraud committed by the financial industry. The administration had been taking some heat for its possible willingness to settle foreclosure fraud charges with the country’s five largest lenders, but this commission is a change of course (assuming it does more than the three year old Financial Fraud Task Force, which has done precisely nothing).

– BANK TAX TO FUND AID FOR HOMEOWNERS: The mortgage refinancing plan Obama proposed would be paid for in part by a fee on the nation’s biggest banks (those with more than $50 billion in assets), akin to the Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee that the administration had previously proposed, but dropped due to Republican intransigence.

 

 

 

Davos Man Is Trembling in His Armani Boots 

Kevin Drum:

George Soros thinks we’re in for some bad times:

He doesn’t just mean it’s time to protect your assets. He means it’s time to stave off disaster. As he sees it, the world faces one of the most dangerous periods of modern history—a period of “evil.” Europe is confronting a descent into chaos and conflict. In America he predicts riots on the streets that will lead to a brutal clampdown that will dramatically curtail civil liberties. The global economic system could even collapse altogether.

“I am not here to cheer you up. The situation is about as serious and difficult as I’ve experienced in my career,” Soros tellsNewsweek. “We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”

Is Soros just a naturally gloomy guy? Or are things really that bad? Felix Salmon is roaming the corridors of the Davos conference and says that gloomy or not, Soros is no outlier:

No one but Soros will actually say these things, at Davos — but everybody here fears them, which is one reason why we have the slightly ludicrous sight of billionaires bellyaching about the global burdens of inequality.

Security this year is tighter than ever — the first rule of security at these events is that it can only get ratcheted up, rather than loosened at all — and there’s a besieged feeling to this Alpine town I haven’t felt before. The financial crisis concentrated minds and was seen as a big problem to be addressed and even maybe solved. But the current breakdown of trust in global institutions cuts at the heart of the World Economic Forum’s founding principle — that if you get a bunch of important people together in the same place, they can actually make a difference.

I doubt that it’s time to stock up on canned food or anything, but it’s an interesting observation. Are the world’s governing elites losing confidence in their own abilities? I wouldn’t blame them if they were, considering how they’ve responded to the events of the past few years. When the big test finally came, they didn’t do very well.

 

 

 

ENERGY

WaPo: Explaining Obama’s clean energy standard 

In his State of the Union address, President Obama noted that a climate bill can’t pass Congress: “The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now.” But he did ask lawmakers for “a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation.” Is that a close substitute? And could it pass?

Various proposals for a clean energy standard (PDF) have been knocking around the Senate for years. Early versions required electric utilities to get a certain portion of their power solely from renewable sources like wind or solar (something that 24 states currently do). More recent versions have expanded the list of options to things like nuclear power or natural gas. But a large standard could do a lot to reshape the nation’s electricity supply. For instance, the Energy Information Administration recently modeled a proposal by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that would require utilities to get 80 percent of their power from low-carbon or zero-carbon sources by 2035. The EIA found that greenhouse-gas emissions from the power sector would drop 43 percent by 2035 with a very small effect on economic growth (the hit to GDP would be about 0.02 points per year).

Now, Bingaman’s proposal wasn’t just focused on renewable sources like wind or solar. It would’ve also allowed utilities to build new nuclear plants or replace coal with natural gas. (Since natural gas emits about half of the carbon dioxide that coal does, utilities would get half as much credit for using it as they would for deploying, say, carbon-free geothermal power.) Coal power plants could even get partial credit forburning biomass along with their coal, which is a fairly straightforward and cheap way to reduce carbon emissions.

As the EIA chart below projects, the standard would lead to a sharp reduction in coal use across the United States by 2035, compared with a business as usual case. It would also lead to a big uptick in natural gas, hydropower and renewable energy, and a small reduction in nuclear power. (Since the standard only gives power companies credit for new nuclear plants, rather than current ones, utilities would be expected to retire some of their aging plants rather than work to extend their lifespans.)

Whether this actually works, however, depends on the gritty details.

 MORE>>>

 

 

 

TPM: As GOP Pushes Keystone XL Oil Pipeline, Navy Pushes Solar Power 

Republicans are still smarting from the Obama Administration’s decision to reject construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline — even holding a hearing on Wednesday attempting to circumvent the decision.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is pushing ahead on a massive solar project designed to lower its long-term energy costs, one that happens to be backed by a company that conservatives have deemed “Solyndra 2.0.”

The U.S. Navy last week broke ground a gigantic 13.8 megawatt solar power installation at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California as part of a broad strategic program to transition U.S. military facilities out of dependence on both domestic and foreign sources of oil.

The project is noteworthy because it’s the first time a federal agency has financed a solar project through a 20-year power purchase agreement, and because Republican lawmakers targeted the company during the Solyndra investigation.

Power purchase agreements are becoming a routine way to finance solar installations with no money down. The property owner pays only for the electricity used on site, at a lower rate than conventional energy. In some cases the installer, or its partners, can generate additional income by selling excess electricity back to the grid.

The Navy expects to save about $13 million over the 20-year life of the contract, significantly more than it would save on a standard ten-year contract.

But the company its chosen to partner with has come under the crosshairs of conservatives online and Republicans in Congress.

SunPower Corp. was branded “Solyndra 2.0” by conservative writers in the Fall of 2011, based on the facts that the company received a $1.2 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy for a project in California, had debt totaling 80 percent of its market value, and that the company was represented by the son of Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who writers admitted had no proven connection to the Energy Department’s decision to grant the loan guarantee.

Meanwhile, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which spearheaded the Republicans’ investigation into the Solyndra bankruptcy, both sought documents from the Energy Department on its loan guarantees to SunPower.

This was around the same time that Republican-led hearings into Solyndra failed to reveal evidence of political favoritism or other misdoings over Solyndra’s $535 million federal loan guarantee, so the conservative media was looking around for other examples of Obama’s green jobs initiative gone awry.

However, the SunPower issue gained even less traction than Solyndra — no hearings were held into SunPower specifically, although the team at Fox News was up in arms about it — and it appears to have dropped from the conservative radar, at least for now.

It’s also worth noting that the groundbreaking at China Lake coincided with last week’s Army Net Zero Energy Installations Conference in Chicago, which highlighted the Army’s progress toward transitioning out of oil dependency.

The Army’s Net Zero “vision” literally calls for Army facilities to be able to operate using energy generated on site in case of outside power disruptions, which effectively promotes the installation of renewable energy sources on site including solar, wind and geothermal.

In addition to improving domestic energy security by reducing fossil fuel use at home bases, the Department of Defense is also engaged in a “hard push” to reduce battlefield risks by cutting down on its use of fossil fuels overseas. In a recent American Forces Press Service article, Oliver Fritz of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, explained the connection between a smaller carbon footprint and troop safety:

“Historically, energy has been a decisive factor in warfighting, … most recently in Afghanistan and Iraq, where you see fuel not only being needed in increasing quantities, but being moved over a battlefield without front lines… [renewable energy] technologies are cleaner and do have a lower carbon footprint, and in a way, that carbon footprint is a metaphor for some of the logistics risks that we’re trying to reduce.”

Putting that concept into action, the Navy and Marine Corps have been integrating renewable energy and other new energy strategies into an experimental forward operating base in Afghanistan. As described by the Marines, “our priority is to save lives by reducing the number of Marines at risk on the road hauling fuel and water.”

Against this backdrop, House Republicans’ efforts to gain approval for the Keystone XL Pipeline appear to be directly at odds with the Pentagon’s long term strategy for energy security.

More to the point, Republicans seem to be running into their own circular logic.

Before Wednesday morning’s hearing on the North American Energy Access Act, which would take the Keystone XL approval process out of the President’s hands, a key witness, Mike Linder of the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, was pulled by Republican committee members at the last minute over a scheduling dispute, The Hill reported.

Kerri-Ann Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, didn’t mince words in her written testimony, though.

After detailing the review process undertaken prior to a sixty-day deadline imposed by Republicans in Congress late last year, Jones stated:

“We decided — based not on the merits but on the inadequate time period and incomplete review — to recommend that the President deny the permit. Last week the President concurred with our recommendation that the Keystone XL project would not serve the national interest at this time.”

Jones also takes House Republicans to task over the North American Energy Access Act:

“This new legislation… imposes narrow time constraints and creates automatic mandates that prevent an informed decision. The legislation raises serious questions about existing legal authorities, questions the continuing force of much of the federal and all of the state and local environmental and land use management authority over the pipeline, and overrides foreign policy and national security considerations implicated by a cross border permit, which are properly assessed by the State Department.”

Given these obstacles, it seems likely that today’s hearing was another show designed to put President Obama on the spot over job creation and energy policy.

While that is what it is, House Republicans may be inadvertently setting themselves up for a fight against the armed services in the longer-term.

The Navy’s China Lake installation and the Army’s Net Zero initiative are only the first few programs in a long string of renewable energy projects that the Department of Defense is rolling out this year, highlighted by the deployment of an entire “Green Strike Force” for the Navy’s participation in the Rim of the Pacific international maritime exercise this summer.

 

 

 

ENVIRONMENT

NASA releases amazing high def “Blue Marble” image

{You really have to go to the link to see it in a larger size. So beautiful!}

 

 

 

HEALTH

School lunches have to be healthier, according to new guidelines

Time:

The first major nutritional overhaul of school meals in more than 15 years means most offerings, including popular pizza, will come with less sodium and more whole grains, with a wider selection of fruits and vegetables on the side, first lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced during a visit Wednesday with elementary students.

Pizza won’t disappear from lunch lines, but will be made with healthier ingredients.

Mrs. Obama, also joined by celebrity chef Rachael Ray, said youngsters will learn better if they don’t have growling stomachs at school.

“We have a right to expect the food (our kids) get at school is the same kind of food we want to serve at our own kitchen tables,” she said.

After the announcement, the three went through the line with students and ate turkey tacos with brown rice, black bean and corn salad and fruit — all Ray’s recipes — with children in the Parklawn Elementary lunchroom.

The new rules aren’t as aggressive as the Obama administration had hoped. Congress last year blocked the Agriculture Department from making some of the desired changes, including limiting french fries and pizzas.

A bill passed in November would require the department to allow tomato paste on pizzas to be counted as a vegetable, as it is now. The initial draft of the department’s guidelines, released a year ago, would have prevented that. Congress also blocked the department from limiting servings of potatoes to two servings a week. The final rules have incorporated those directions from Congress.

Among those who had sought the changes were potato growers and food companies that produce frozen pizzas for schools. Conservatives in Congress called the guidelines an overreach and said the government shouldn’t tell children what to eat. School districts also objected to some of the requirements, saying they go too far and would cost too much.

The new guidelines apply to lunches subsidized by the federal government. A child nutrition bill signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 will help school districts pay for some of the increased costs. Some of the changes will take place as soon as this September; others will be phased in over time.

The guidelines will limit the total number of calories in an individual meal and require that milk be low in fat. Flavored milks will have to be nonfat.

While many schools are improving meals already, others still serve children meals high in fat, salt and calories. The guidelines are designed to combat childhood obesity and are based on 2009 recommendations by the Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences.

Vilsack said food companies are reformulating many of the foods they sell to schools in anticipation of the changes.

“The food industry is already responding,” he said. “This is a movement that has started, it’s gaining momentum.”

The subsidized meals that would fall under the guidelines are served as free and low-cost meals to low-income children and long have been subject to government nutrition standards. The 2010 law will extend, for the first time, nutrition standards to other foods sold in schools that aren’t subsidized by the federal government. That includes “a la carte” foods on the lunch line and snacks in vending machines.

Those standards, while expected to be similar, will be written separately and have not yet been proposed by the department.

JUSTICE

Obama Creates Unit to Probe Mortgage Misconduct by Banks

Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama’s mortgage investigation unit will probe bank conduct that created the housing bubble and bust, including the packaging of loans into securities, the New York Attorney General said.

The president announced the unit in his State of the Union speech yesterday.

“Our working group is focusing on conduct related to the pooling and creation of mortgagebacked securities, issues related to conduct that created the crash, not abuses that happened after the crash,” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said today in Washington.

Schneiderman will co-chair the unit, which includes officials from the Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and Internal Revenue Service. Obama said in his speech that the unit “will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.”

State and federal officials have been negotiating with the five largest mortgage servicers –Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co. and Ally Financial Inc. — to settle claims they used so-called robo- signing and faulty documentation to justify foreclosures. All 50 states announced an investigation into the practices in 2010.

The deal with the banks could be worth as much $25 billion in loan forgiveness, interest rate reductions and other aid for homeowners, said a person familiar with negotiations who declined to be identified because the terms weren’t public.

Fraud Task Force

The joint federal-state mortgage investigative unit will be part of a task force Obama created in 2009 by executive order to investigate and prosecute financial fraud cases. The task force, led by Attorney General Eric Holder, is made up of 20 federal agencies, including the Justice, Treasury, Commerce and Labor departments, 94 U.S. attorneys and state and local agencies.

The new unit is an attempt to better coordinate efforts among the federal and state agencies in the task force, according to the Justice Department. Schneiderman said the unit will also investigate mortgage origination.

Since its formation, the task force has charged more than 1,200 defendants for crimes related to mortgage fraud, including schemes that resulted in financial losses to homeowners and banks, and attempts to illegally obtain government money, according to the Justice Department.

Foreclosure Talks

Representatives of Democratic attorney general offices met at a Chicago hotel Jan. 23 to discuss the negotiated terms in the foreclosure settlement talks with banks and ask questions, said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller. Miller, who is helping to lead the negotiations, said after the meeting that an agreement with the banks was getting closer.

In August, Schneiderman was removed from the executive committee representing the states in negotiations with the mortgage servicers. Schneiderman “actively worked to undermine” the multistate group’s efforts, Miller said in a statement at the time.

Schneiderman and California Attorney General Kamala Harris have said any settlement shouldn’t protect banks from claims that haven’t been fully investigated, such as claims stemming from the packaging of mortgages into securities sold to investors.

“My concern with that has always been to make sure that we’re not releasing claims that obviously now are even more important to me because I’m investigating them,” Schneiderman said.

‘Steadfast Commitment’

Schneiderman’s office has been conducting its own investigation into the mortgage operationsof major banks.

“In coordination with our federal partners, our office will continue its steadfast commitment to holding those responsible for the economic crisis accountable, providing meaningful relief for homeowners commensurate with the scale of the misconduct, and getting our economy moving again,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

Harris in California, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden are also running mortgage-related investigations. Biden won’t sign on to the proposed multistate agreement as drafted, Delaware Deputy Attorney General Ian McConnel said in a Jan. 23 phone interview.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has sued the five banks involved in the talks.

Those calling for a full investigation into bank home lending and the creation and the sale of mortgage-backed securities include the Campaign for a Fair Settlement, a coalition of labor unions, consumer advocates and political activists including MoveOn.org.

The group said in a statement after Obama’s speech that a full investigation into banks’ role in the financial crisis will protect taxpayers “by making it much harder for Wall Street CEOs to again act lawlessly in pursuit of profits at the expense of regular Americans.”

 

 

California calls $25-billion mortgage settlement ‘inadequate’

Los Angeles Times:

Calif. Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris’ office has called a proposed $25-billion settlement with the nation’s mortgage industry “inadequate.”

“We’ve reviewed the details of the latest settlement proposal from the banks, and we believe it is inadequate for California,” Shum Preston, a spokesman for Harris, said in a statement. “Our state has been clear about what any multistate settlement must contain: transparency, relief going to the most distressed homeowners and meaningful enforcement that ensures accountability.  At this point, this deal does not suffice for California.”

Many analysts consider California’s participation to be key to a strong deal. Harris walked away from talks with the banks last year, saying not enough was being offered by the financial institutions for California homeowners.

Since then, certain terms have been added to lure the Golden State back to the table, and Harris has opened separate inquiries into the mortgage business.

State attorneys general have received drafts of a $25-billion settlement with the nation’s biggest banks that would overhaul foreclosure and mortgage servicing practices. No deal has been officially reached among the states, federal agencies and the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers: Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co.,Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc. Individual states must decide whether they will join a settlement or pursue independent lawsuits and investigations.

The proposed $25-billion settlement would cover only mortgages held by the banks privately and exclude those from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The biggest component of the deal would be a $17-billion principal reduction program that the Center for Responsible Lending this week said would “provide an important template for ways banks can use principal reduction to reduce unnecessary foreclosures and put the country back on a path to economic recovery.”

That money would go toward writing down the principal of homeowners who are “underwater,” on their mortgages, or owe more on their properties than they are currently worth. Negotiators estimate that about 1 million homeowners could benefit, with an average principal reduction on those loans of $20,000.

In addition, $5 billion would go to a reserve account for state and federal programs and to individual homeowners harmed by bad servicing practices. Negotiators estimate about 750,000 people could receive checks for about $1,800. An additional $3 billion would help homeowners refinance their loans at a rate of 5.25%.

In exchange, attorneys general would agree to release the banks from further action related to the improper servicing of loans as well as claims against originating mortgages. Several attorneys general, including New York’s Eric Schneiderman and California’s Harris, have voiced concerns that those releases are overly broad and would preclude them from carrying out ongoing investigations.

Schneiderman was appointed Tuesday by President Obama as co-chairman of a new investigative effort that will try to coordinate existing federal and state probes into mortgage practices before the financial crisis. Schneiderman promised Wednesday to move aggressively.

A spokesman for Schneiderman said in a statement that the New York attorney general would not sign onto a foreclosure settlement that would limit his ability to carry out investigations of the mortgage crisis.

Iowa Atty. Gen. Tom Miller, who has led negotiations of states with the nation’s banks, has said that the deal would not release banks from claims of securitization.

 

 

 

MEDIA

They Still Don’t Know What a Fact Is

Balloon Juice:

The weasels at Politifact have backed down somewhat from last night’s epic failure:

EDITOR’S NOTE: Our original Half True rating was based on an interpretation that Obama was crediting his policies for the jobs increase. But we’ve concluded that he was not making that linkage as strongly as we initially believed and have decided to change the ruling to Mostly True. The original article is archived here.

They’ve now given him a “mostly true” rating, showing they just can’t help themselves. Here is the Obama statement:

“In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005.”

There are two items to fact check whether this statement is true or not. Let me break it down for you, Politifact:

1.) Did business create more than 3 million jobs in the past 22 months? Yes or No.

2.) Did businesses create the most jobs last year in any year since 2005? Yes or No.

On question one, Politifact discovers the following:

We checked Obama’s claim by using data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal agency responsible for compiling employment data. We found that the U.S. economy has seen 22 consecutive months of private-sector job growth, beginning in Feb. 2010. During that 22-month period, the number of jobs grew by almost 3.16 million, or about 143,000 per month.

So the answer is a resounding “YES.” This statement is not a little true, kinda true, partially true, or mostly true, it’s TRUE.

On question two, Politifact discovers the following:

As for whether 2011 was the best job-producing year since 2005, he’s right if you’re counting private-sector jobs, and slightly off if you’re counting all jobs.

In 2011, the number of private-sector jobs rose by about 1.83 million (if you count from the January amount to the December amount) or 1.92 million (if you count from December to December). Either way, the increase in 2011 represented the highest one-year total since 2005, when the number of private-sector jobs increased by either 2.22 million or 2.31 million, depending on the time period used.

Considering he specifically stated BUSINESSES, of course he is talking about private sector jobs, you wankers. Again, by Politifacts own admission, this statement is not a little true, not a lot true, not maybe sorta kinda true, it’s just TRUE. Period.

So now that we have right here in front of us that the two claims in Obama’s statement are absolutely, unquestionably true, how does the Politifact assign this statement a “Mostly True?” How do these rocket scientists put together two facts and come up with a partial falsehood? Here’s their weak kung fu:

Obama is correct on the numbers. By mentioning his policies, he’s making a modest linkage that they deserve credit for the improvement when economists say they are just one factor. On balance, we rate the claim Mostly True.

That’s some magical thinking there. Again, here is the statement they claim they are analyzing: “In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005.” As you can see, there is simply no mention of policy whatsoever. It was a simple declaration of fact. Deciding that this is untrue because of something he said later on in a speech is like calling me a liar when I said I had a hamburger for dinner because later on in the night I ate cake. It makes no sense whatsoever.

There are your factcheckers, folks. They don’t know what facts are, they don’t know how to interpret their own findings, and they want to police our public discourse. Awesome.

 

 

 

More on Politifact from Krugman

[…] Unfortunately, Politifact has lost sight of what it was supposed to be doing. Instead of simply saying whether a claim is true, it’s trying to act as some kind of referee of what it imagines to be fair play: even if a politician says something completely true, it gets ruled only partly true if Politifact feels that the fact is being used to gain an unfair political advantage. In the case of Obama’s job statement, Politifact first called it only half true, then upgraded that to mostly true, not because Obama said anything factually incorrect, but because Politifact perceived Obama as trying to imply that he was responsible for the gains.

 

 

 

Slate:  The U.S. dropped 27 places in annual Press Freedom Index b/c of reaction to OWS coverage. 

The United States tumbled 27 places in the latest edition of the annual Press Freedom Index, thanks in large part to the rough treatment of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street protests that took place around the country this past year.

Last year, the United States came in 20th, sandwiched between the United Kingdom and Canada at 19th and 21st place, respectively. After 2011, however, the United States finds itself tied for 47th place with Romania and Argentina on the list, which is compiled by Reporters Without Borders, a not-for-profit advocating for press freedom around the globe.

“The crackdown on protest movements and the accompanying excesses took their toll on journalists,” the group explains in the annual report. “In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation.”

The drop is not unprecedented, however. In 2005, the United States ranked 53rd on the list as a result of the imprisonment of journalists and what the group called the “deteriorated” relationship between the press and the George W. Bush administration.

Of course, put in a broader context, the Press Freedom Index documents much more severe violations of press freedom around the world, many of which were exacerbated by visible expressions of opposition movements, like those of the Arab Spring. Reporters Without Borders explains:

Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them.

You can read the full report here.

 

 

MILITARY

More On the Navy SEALs Rescue in Somalia

Bob Cesca:

Mother Jones has a great post that will get you up to speed on what went down in Somalia the other night:

The latest example of Obama-era military badass-ery transpired last night while you were probably asleep or detoxing from the president’s third State of the Union address: Just moments before President Obama took the podium, a team of US Navy SEALs rescued two hostages from a group of Somali pirates. By the end of the raid, nine Somalis were dead, three were detained, and the two kidnapped aid workers—32-year-old American Jessica Buchanan and 60-year-old Dane Poul Hagen Thisted—were safely extracted from the camp where they were being held.

(read the rest)

What’s most amazing is that President Obama reportedly ordered the raid on Monday because Jessica Buchanan suffers a medical condition that might have resulted in her dying in captivity.  (A medical condition separate and apart from being held hostage by Somali pirates, that is.)  President Obama then got word that the mission had been successful, sauntered on to the House floor, gave Defense Secretary Panetta props, and delivered a near perfect State of the Union address with the following poignant closing:

One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates, a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary, and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.

All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. One of the young men involved in the raid later told me that he didn’t deserve credit for the mission. It only succeeded, he said, because every single member of that unit did their job—the pilot who landed the helicopter that spun out of control; the translator who kept others from entering the compound; the troops who separated the women and children from the fight; the SEALs who charged up the stairs. More than that, the mission only succeeded because every member of that unit trusted each other—because you can’t charge up those stairs, into darkness and danger, unless you know that there’s someone behind you, watching your back.

He then called Jessica Buchanan’s father immediately after the State of the Union address to tell him that his daughter was safe, and probably helped a few old ladies cross the street before calling it a day.

Bad. Ass.

I don’t ever want to hear anyone complain that President Obama is a coward or has no balls.

And I mean, ever.

Here, President Obama calls the family of the hostage just rescued by Seal Team Six.  In just minutes, he would face a joint session of Congress and the nation to deliver the State of the Union address.

As far as the significance of the imagery, if you get it, you get it.  Let’s just say this is an iconic photograph for African Americans.  I’ll leave it there.

 

 

 

Special Ops Are Spared as the Army Cuts 80,000 Combat Troops 

 

 

 

POLITICS

 

 

The trouble with being the Swiss bank account guy

Steve Kornacki, Salon:

[…] That Gingrich feels comfortable stoking resentment of an opponent’s affluence and privileged lifestyle in a Republican primary campaign tells us something about the demographic evolution of the GOP. After all, when he first began blasting Romney’s private equity history, a chorus of prominent conservative voices tore into him for engaging in the sort of “class warfare” that they associate with Barack Obama.

But Gingrich seems to have noticed that the key to his South Carolina landslide last weekend was overwhelming support from blue-collar and middle-class Republican voters. With those making between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, Gingrich crushed Romney by 20 points. With those making between $50,000 and $70,000, the margin was 16. But at the top end of the scale, it was a completely different story: Romney won by 15 points with voters making more than $200,000.

As I noted the other day, this same basic dynamic was evident in New Hampshire and Iowa, where exit polls found a direct relationship between enthusiasm for Romney and income level. The heart of the GOP base is increasingly composed of less-educated blue-collar whites, and it seems that — even before Romney’s Bain Capital record and tax returns became major media stories — these voters already felt a powerful aversion to the former Massachusetts governor.  Romney’s biggest Achilles’ heel in the GOP race may end up being this income gap.

But his problem could extend well past the GOP primaries. AsGreg Sargent wrote on Tuesday, the details of the latestWashington Post/ABC News poll show a similar income gap developing among the general election audience. In just the last month, Romney’s unfavorable score among whites earning between $30,000 and $50,000 has soared from 29 percent to 49 percent — a major reason why his overall favorable/unfavorable rating suffered a net negative loss of 23 points in the same period. As Sargent pointed out, blue-collar white voters represent a crucial swing constituency; they rallied hard to the GOP in 2010 but if they defect in measurable numbers this year, it will be tough for Republicans to unseat President Obama.

Clearly, the attention being paid to Bain and Romney’s tax status is a major reason for the sudden jump in Romney’s negatives among general election voters. But the source of his problem probably goes deeper, and Gingrich got at it with his Miami comment about Swiss bank accounts: Just about everything about Romney — his upbringing, his education, his career, his lifestyle, his bearing — exudes top 1 percent-ness. This may explain why his struggle to win over blue-collar Republican voters began long before the media obsessed over his tax returns. And it suggests that even when the current uproar dies down, the same basic image problem will (if he wins the nomination) haunt him with blue-collar swing voters in the fall.

There’s some irony here, of course. After all, Romney’s actual policy proposals are marginally less hostile to the middle class than any other GOP candidate’s. As Romney tried to point out in Monday’s debate, Gingrich actually wouldn’t let every American pay the same tax rate as Romney — because Gingrich’s plan calls for the complete elimination of the capital gains tax. But Gingrich (even with the Tiffany account) just doesn’t exude 1 percent-ness the way Romney does.

No matter whom they settle on as a candidate, Republicans will be attacked relentlessly by Obama for promoting an agenda that would pamper the super-affluent. The question they have to answer is how severely their defense will be complicated if they nominate a representative of that protected class.

 

 

Romney’s kids pay an even lower tax rate than he does

Mother Jones:

[…] But it turns out there’s another interesting tidbit about carried interest that I’ve never heard of before: it’s a great way of passing along a huge inheritance to your kids without paying any taxes. David Cay Johnston explains:

Johnston: The Romneys gave $100 million to their sons and paid not one penny of gift tax. They were able to take assets they have that are producing enormous income and, under the law, give that money to their children and not pay any taxes on it.

Sambolin: Is that something you specifically found in what has been released to you?

Johnston: Yes. I have suspected this and written about it in my column that this is what happened, and last night, Brad Malt, the attorney for the Romneys, confirmed to Reuters that we were correct. They have not paid a penny of gift tax. That’s because Congress allows a very tiny group of people — the Romneys by their income are in the top 1% of the top 1% — to not count as having any value the real source of their income, something called carried interest, if they give it to their children.

Welcome to the wonderful world of estate planning for the super wealthy. The Romney kids will have to pay taxes when they start taking income from the trust their father set up for them — at the usual 15% rate paid by millionaires, of course — but the inheritance itself is blissfully tax free. It’s just another of the many benefits of running a private equity firm.

 

 

This is a new site. I love it!

howmuchhasromneymadesofar.com

 

 

 

Watch Mitt Romney claim his tax rate is closer to 50%

MORE>>>

 

 

Mitt Romney wants you to know that banks are ‘feeling the same thing that you’re feeling’

Daily Kos:

Did anyone honestly think that Mitt “Corporations are people too, my friend” Romney would turn out to be such a bad candidate? Over the past couple of days, he’s sat down with voters in an effort to humanize himself by talking about the housing crisis. But instead of humanizing himself, he’s unleashed junk like this:

“Well, the banks aren’t bad people. They’re just overwhelmed right now.”

No, Mitt. They aren’t bad people. Because they aren’t people! For Pete’s sake, Bank of America is not a person.

“The banks are scared to death, of course,” he said. “They’re feeling the same thing that you’re feeling…

No, they aren’t feeling the same thing we’re feeling. They don’t stay awake at night worried about how to pay the mortgage. They aren’t worried about being forced to spend the night in their car because they’ve just lost their home. In fact, they aren’t feeling a damn thing. Because they aren’t human. They aren’t even robots. They are companies. And the last thing we need is a president who can’t tell the difference!

 

 

Romney on State of the Union: Obama ‘adopted a lot of thoughts’ from my campaign (video)

 

 

US Treasury Secretary Geithner says he doesn’t expect Obama to ask him to stay in a 2nd term – Bloomberg 

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, the last member of the Obama administration’s original economic team, said he doesn’t expect to remain in office if the president is re-elected.

“He’s not going to ask me to stay on, I’m pretty confident,” Geithner said in an interview with Bloomberg Television yesterday in Charlotte,North Carolina. “I’m confident he’ll be president. But I’m also confident he’s going to have the privilege of having another secretary of the Treasury.”

Geithner, 50, has led President Barack Obama’s efforts to pull the U.S. economy out of the worst recession since World War II, including overseeing bailouts of automakers General Motors Co. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC, which have since emerged from bankruptcy. Before joining the administration in 2009, Geithner was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, playing a key role in the government’s rescue packages for banks such as Citigroup Inc. (C)and Bank of America Corp. (BAC)

In the interview, Geithner said he would do “something else” after leaving the Treasury Department, without specifying what that would be. In August, an administration official said Geithner would stay in his job at least through this year’s presidential election.

Erskine Bowles, chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, and Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota could be among the potential candidates to succeed Geithner, said Mark Calabria, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute in Washington.

MORE>>>

 

 

 

 

 

Obama’s and Bush’s effects on the deficit in one graph

Wonkblog:

What’s also important, but not evident, on this chart is that Obama’s major expenses were temporary — the stimulus is over now — while Bush’s were, effectively, recurring. The Bush tax cuts didn’t just lower revenue for 10 years. It’s clear now that they lowered it indefinitely, which means this chart is understating their true cost. Similarly, the Medicare drug benefit is costing money on perpetuity, not just for two or three years. And Boehner, Ryan and others voted for these laws and, in some cases, helped to craft and pass them.

To relate this specifically to the debt-ceiling debate, we’re not raising the debt ceiling because of the new policies passed in the past two years. We’re raising the debt ceiling because of the accumulated effect of policies passed in recent decades, many of them under Republicans. It’s convenient for whichever side isn’t in power, or wasn’t recently in power, to blame the debt ceiling on the other party. But it isn’t true.

 

 

 

Obama Is on the Brink of a Settlement With the Big Banks—and Progressives Are Furious 

The Nation:

[…] There are several reasons why this is could be a terrible deal. For one, the dollar amount is inadequate in relation to both the tremendous loss of wealth via mortgage fraud and the hefty balance sheets of these massive companies. Furthermore, the banks might be allowed to use investor money instead of their own funds—this makes the penalty even lower. Beyond all that: it’s extremely hard to justify the absence of investigations and punishment for mortgage fraud that was so widespread and so damaging to people’s lives.

There are also many other, more serious problems besides a lack of punitive action. The small amount of money—and the federal government’s recent inability to truly help underwater mortgage holders, of which there are currently 11 million—means that the victims of mortgage fraud might not see enough relief. And perhaps most importantly, with no real punishment for widespread damaging fraud, what are the incentives on Wall Street not to engage in similarly destructive practices once again?

On a major conference call this morning, many leading progressive voices inside Washington and out blasted the deal.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio characterized the rumored deal as “not much more than a slap on the wrist,” and added that while banks were always know to be too big to fail, they were now apparently “too big to jail.”

“When laws are broken there need to be full investigations,” Brown said. “Wall Street should not get another bailout.”

Brown urged Obama to reject the deal and order investigations into the banks’ practices immediately. Simon Johnson, an economist at MIT and well-known progressive voice, also called for no deal and immediate investigations.

“This is not just the right thing do, and not just good politics, it’s good economics,” Johnson said. “What’s at stake here is the rule of law.”

Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, blasted the rumored deal as well and urged the administration to consider the political optics.

“No one who robbed a bank would be offered immunity, a modest fine, and no admission of guilt before there was an investigation,” Borosage said. “Americans are increasingly cynical with the ability of democracy to deal with special interests.

“The president’s campaign will sensibly highlight his commitment to fairer rules,” he continued. “Needless to say, a sweetheart deal with the banks will contrast with that.”

As we noted last week, many progressive groups havebegun a massive petition drive to push back against the settlement and demand fair investigations. Moreover, attorneys general in California, New York, Delaware, Nevada and Massachusetts have previously said they won’t be a part of any deal that offers civil immunity.

So the deal is far from done—but it’s certainly moving towards an undesirable conclusion. We’ll have plenty more in this space all week.

 

 

 

Gabby Giffords Redux? More Democratic Women Threatened With Crosshairs 

Mother Jones:

[…] Just hours before Giffords made her way into the nation’s Capitol, an unknown provocateur was stalking the halls of the Missouri Capitol, tagging the doors of lawmakers—most of them Democratic women—with images of rifle crosshairs. From the Columbia Daily Tribune:

Orange stickers with an image of rifle crosshairs were found Tuesday on the office doors of several Democratic state senators, prompting an investigation by Missouri Capitol Police, Senate Administrator Jim Howerton said. The stickers were on the doors of all four Democratic women in the Senate—Jolie Justus and Kiki Curls, both of Kansas City, and Maria Chapelle-Nadal and Robin Wright-Jones, both of St. Louis, Justus said. One similar sticker was found on the nameplate outside the door of state Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, R-Washington.

“If anyone thinks this was a prank, it is not a prank,” Justus said after discussing the discovery of the stickers on the Senate floor. “You don’t joke about someone’s personal safety.” A sticker also was found on the door of Sen. Victor Callahan, D-Kansas City and the Democrats’ floor leader.

Columbia-based reporter Sherman Fabes posted photos of the stickersthat showed up at the lawmakers’ offices:

Sen. Chapelle-Nadal herself weighed in on Twitter and didn’t mince words, emphasizing her disapproval with “#DisgracefulCowards.” (Her tweets are “protected” but one was posted by St. Louis Activist Hub.)

It’s an apt moment to recall that Giffords once criticized Sarah Palin for using a map that literally put political enemies in the crosshairs. “We need to realize that the rhetoric…for example, we’re on Sarah Palin’s ‘targeted’ list, but the thing is, the way she has it depicted, we’re in the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district,” Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC in spring 2010. “When people do that, they’ve gotta realize that there are consequences to that action.”

We all know what followed.

Palin and other conservatives strongly rejected the notion that their imagery and rhetoric had anything to do with the bloodbath in Arizona a year ago. And no one can know what was truly in the deranged mind ofJared Loughner. But common sense says that when enough targeted political vitriol mixes with enough guns, bad things will eventually happen.

 

 

 

Gingrich: My Affairs Make Me ‘More Normal,’ More Electable 

 

 

 

Shut Up and Eat Your Benefit Cuts

Booman Tribune:

Mistermix:

Do you remember when one of the big MSM critiques of Democrats was the lack of optimism they showed, how they were always scolding and negative about our future, and how Americans, who are fundamentally optimistic, couldn’t identify with the party and its candidates because of it? I do, but apparently [Eric Cantor] doesn’t, because I’ll be damned if he cracked more than a reluctant smile last night.

It’s not just Cantor and Boehner at the SOTU, it’s also Gingrich, Romney, Santorum and Paul in the debates. Those twice-weekly pissing matches are glum, overly serious affairs contrasting the grim meathook future of another four years of Barack Obama with an even darker apocalypse of program cuts and never-ending austerity under the Republicans….

I remember that critique of Democrats, too, and it wasn’t limited to the media. Recall Poppy Bush at the 1984 vice presidential debate:

Almost every place you can point, contrary to Mr. Mondale’s – I gotta be careful – but contrary of how he goes around just saying everything bad. If he sees — If somebody sees a silver lining, he finds a big black cloud out there. Whine on harvest moon!

But mistermix is absolutely right about contemporary Republicans being decline-obsessed miserabilists — and you really, really don’t want that to be your party’s public posture going into a presidential election, because in presidential elections Americans very much prefer to vote for hope.

And in addition to the people mistermix names, I’d add the guy Republicans think might save them. Really, wingnuts — this guy makes you say, “A star is born”?

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=u7P2548d2J4

“…On these evenings, Presidents naturally seek to find the sunny side of our national condition. But when President Obama claims that the state of our union is anything but grave, he must know in his heart that this is not true….

“In our economic stagnation and indebtedness, we are only a short distance behind Greece, Spain, and other European countries now facing economic catastrophe. But ours is a fortunate land. Because the world uses our dollar for trade, we have a short grace period to deal with our dangers. But time is running out, if we are to avoid the fate of Europe, and those once-great nations of history that fell from the position of world leadership.

“So 2012 is a year of true opportunity, maybe our last, to restore an America of hope and upward mobility, and greater equality….

The mortal enemies of Social Security and Medicare are those who, in contempt of the plain arithmetic, continue to mislead Americans that we should change nothing. Listening to them much longer will mean that these proud programs implode, and take the American economy with them…”

Ready to kill yourself yet? I would be if I took this seriously.

 

 

Billionaire Bill Gates calls for higher taxes on the rich: “That’s just justice.

 

 

Bachmann will seek re-election to the House 

 

 

Santorum: ‘Obama Wants Every Kid to Go to College… It Is Indoctrination’ 

 

 

 

POLLS

CBS Poll: 91% approve of President Obama’s state of the union speech

 

 

Round of Democratic Polls Show Competitive House Races

[…] Public Policy Polling, a Democratic survey firm, conducted the polls. Here’s a roundup of the results:

• In Illinois’ 8th district, polling showed Rep. Joe Walsh (R) trailing a generic Democratic opponent, 35 percent to 49 percent. Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth and former Illinois Deputy Treasurer Raja Krishnamoorthi are seeking the Democratic nomination in the March 20 primary. The district heavily favors Democrats.

• In Iowa’s 4th district, polling showed Rep. Steve King (R) ahead of former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack (D), 49 percent to 43 percent. The northwestern Iowa district leans Republican.

• In Michigan’s 1st district, polling showed freshman Rep. Dan Benishek (R) trailed his 2010 Democratic opponent, Gary McDowell, 41 percent to 46 percent. The northern Michigan district leans Republican, but House Democrats have indicated they will target the seat.

• In Ohio’s 7th district, polling showed freshman Rep. Bob Gibbs (R) in a statistical dead heat with a generic Democratic opponent. The Republican is favored to hold the west-central Ohio district.

• In Maryland’s 6th district, polling showed Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) tied with a generic Democratic challenger at 42 percent. Two Democrats, state Sen. Robert Garagiola and wealthy businessman John Delaney, are seeking their party’s nod in the April 3 primary. The district leans Democratic.

• In Ohio’s 16th district, polling showed freshman Rep. Jim Renacci (R) tied with Rep. Betty Sutton(D) at 46 percent. When Republicans redrew the Ohio map during redistricting last year, the GOP moved the two Members into the Republican-leaning seat.

• In Colorado’s 3rd district, polling showed freshman Rep. Scott Tipton (R) leading state Rep. Sal Pace (D), 46 percent to 39 percent. That district is a tossup following the court-ordered redraw of the state’s Congressional map.

• In Ohio’s 6th district, polling showed freshman Rep. Bill Johnson (R) virtually tied with former Rep.Charlie Wilson (D) in their rematch, 42 percent to 41 percent. Nonetheless, that district is likely to be held by Republicans.

PPP polled 500 to 974 registered voters in each district from Jan. 18-23, and the range of margin of error in each of the polls is 3.1 points to 4.4 points.

 

 

Gallup Econ News — Americans Divided on Whether U.S. Economic System Is Unfair: About half (49%) of Americans agree.

 

 

Not so fast, Newt. New polls show Gingrich not yet running away with Florida 

 

 

Romney’s Favorability Drops 18 Points Among Independents

 

 

ppppolls: Even w/ GOP only 40% think Romney has strong principles while 44% think he’ll say anything to get elected

 

 

TAKE ACTION

Take Action! Tell Congress: Make Millionaires and Corporations Pay Their Fair Share 

 

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates—a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary; and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for President.

All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves. ~~~President Barack Obama


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.

13 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. Khirad says:

    You probably already did this, but damn I loved this:

    One of my students shared this parable: A rich white man sits with a poor white man and poor black man at a table laden with cookies. The rich white man snatches all the cookies but one, then turns to the poor white man and says, “Watch out for that darky. I think he wants to take your cookie.”

    It works every time.

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/01/24/2606032/practicing-the-politics-of-racial.html

  2. SallyT says:

    Cher, I don’t tell you enough how I appreciate your articles and having everything together for me to read. I do appreciate it! I love the picture of the President and Mrs. Obama making that call to tell another daddy that his little girl (which they are to their daddy’s no matter the age) is alright and coming home. That had to have meant so much to her father and I know it meant a lot to the President to be able to tell him. Sometimes that job has moments that make it all worth it, I’m sure.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      That’s so sweet, Sally--thanks!

      Sometimes, there’s a jaded part of me who thinks, “Oh, was that all for show.” But I can’t maintain that attitude. Call me naive but I really feel the Obamas are caring and incredibly decent people--really good-hearted.

  3. Nirek says:

    I especially liked the interpretation of what he said.
    Very well written article.Thanks for it.

  4. Some ahole at AOLHP is at it again calling Obama a Faux populist like Clinton his second term. WTF?!

    Let’s look at Clinton’s second term which included draconian welfare reform, deregulating banks, no renewable energy and capital gains tax cuts.

    After re-regulating banks including establishing the CFPB, ending Clinton’s DADT and passing Universal healthcare, Obama’s agenda is taxing the rich (minimum tax), getting rid of tax loopholes to ship jobs overseas, passing the Dream Act and comprehensive immigration reform, huge investments in clean energy, etc.

    There is nothing worse than a emoprog hack.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      I don’t know why you bother with those morons, KQ. They are just like Baggers as far as I’m concerned. Both of them are fact-averse and ideologues. And there’s an element of racism from the Left too. Look, there are some things I’d like in a more perfect country too, but what blows my mind is, have they looked around at where this country is at?! Have they looked at the Congress for Christ’s sake?! I’m freaking amazed at how much good stuff this Administration has managed to accomplish EVERY FREAKING DAY. What planet do these Emos live on?!

      • I guess I must at least in a small way be a masochist Cher. 👿

        Really I have for the most part ignoring the columns but things like this just catch my eye.

        It was either funk or KT who posted the 1996 Dem platform and it was a completely a moderate GOP platform back then. Clinton passed the GOP agenda his second term and nary a Dem said boo because the economy was ‘great’. Obama is setting a clear contrast between him being for the 99% and the GOP kowtowing to the 1% trying to end the greed is good era. We all know what Obama is proposing is just the start to turn this country around but to call it a faux populist stance, especially like Clinton’s is more BS both parties are the same meme. I’ve never seen so many people that wanted change so bad ignore the real changes that have happened already and can happen more in Obama’s second term.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Well, we’re not alone in our disgust:

          Terrific piece by @miltshook-
          “Pro Lefties’ and Advanced ODS (Obama Derangement Syndrome): bit.ly/zkBCKZ


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