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Archive for the ‘Midmorning Refill’ Category

Today’s Flickr photo:

Flickr photo from BP America

If you read one thing today…

Dave Barry’s annual year in review is out. How did 2010 measure up? It wasn’t pretty. From the oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico to Toyota’s runaway cars, 2010 was a rough year.

On the BP oil spill:

The perfect symbol for the awfulness of 2010 was the BP oil spill, which oozed up from the depths and spread, totally out of control, like some kind of hideous uncontrollable metaphor. The scariest thing about the spill was, nobody in charge seemed to know what to do about it. Time and again, top political leaders personally flew down to the Gulf of Mexico to look at the situation first-hand and hold press availabilities. And yet somehow, despite these efforts, the oil continued to leak. This forced us to face the disturbing truth that even top policy thinkers with postgraduate degrees from Harvard University — Harvard University! — could not stop it…

…the Deepwater Horizon oil spill officially becomes, according to the news media, the worst thing that has ever happened, with environmental experts reporting that tar balls have been sighted on the surface of the moon. Just when all appears to be lost, BP announces that it has stopped the leak, using a 75-ton cap and what a company spokesperson describes as “a truly heroic manatee named Wendell.” Although oil is no longer leaking, much damage has been done, so this important story remains the focus of the nation’s attention for nearly 45 minutes, after which the nation’s attention shifts to Lindsay Lohan.
If you have a better attention span than that, feel free to check out Public Citizen’s work on the BP oil spill from throughout the year.
At the very least, Barry can make you laugh, shake your head, and then hope that 2011 will bring us some better news. Let’s see what the new Congress and the Obama administration have in store for us this year…

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Today’s Flickr Photo

On Fort Lauderdale beach in Florida. Flickr photo by ticktockdoc.

If you read one thing today . . .

Politico’s David Rogers sat down with outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and talked about the highlights of her term — passing health care legislation and financial reform.

“We came here to do a job, and we did the job. … Those two issues, Wall Street reform and health care, were two that changed the leverage for the American people. Whether you were a consumer or a patient, the leverage is now with you. And that, for me, is why I am a Democrat: to have the leverage to be with the average person.”

There’s some denial to be sure. In the course of an interview, Pelosi repeatedly spoke of her ranking Democrats as committee “chairmen” when they won’t be in the new Congress. Four years of restrictive rules on House debate seem a lost memory: “I’m thoroughly agnostic. If Republicans have a good idea, let’s go with it.”

And by her reckoning, little or nothing about November’s losses can be attributed to the enactment of health care reform.

“If we had never passed the bill, we would still have had these losses. We were told a year ago: ‘If you’re anywhere near 10 percent unemployment, there’s no chance you can hold the majority.’”

“Nothing compares — in anything I have ever done — with passing the health care bill.”

Overheard:

Someone should really do something about those damn environmentalists and their need to protect us from companies that want to pollute our air and water.  Have no fear, Rep.-elect Bill Flores (R-Texas) is here and he’s ready to shut down the Environmental Protection Agency. Think Progress has a snippet from his appearance on something called the Tea Party Internet Radio:

I can tell you the House as a whole, the Republicans in the House as a whole want to get the EPA shut down on these bunny trails that’s going down that are throwing people out of work — particularly the way it’s abusing Texas. And I think that Texas can count on getting some relief from the EPA within the first few months of this Congress because they really have gone overboard.

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Today’s Flickr photo

A winter postcard from Cambridge, England. Flickr photo by .mush_king.

 

If you read one thing today . . .

Economist Dean Baker in the Talking Points Memo builds the case for a financial speculatin tax on stock market trades — a move that could raise $150 billion a year from Wall Street banks. It only seems fair that when the rest of us are worrying about our jobs and making mortgage payments that Wall Street “share the pain.” Not likely. Despite the recession, the banks, thanks mostly to a government bailout, are turning out huge profits and once again ready to  pay out obscene bonuses.

What is really great about a financial speculation tax is that the Wall Street banks would pay almost the entire tax. The economics on this is very simple. If a tax makes trading shares of stock, options, or other assets more expensive than people will trade less. For example, if a tax doubles the price of trading shares of stock, research shows that people will trade roughly half as much.

This means that investors will spend roughly the same amount on their trading with the tax as they did without the tax. They will pay twice as much per trade, but since they trade half as frequently, they end up paying the same amount on their trading.

Instead the cost of the tax will be born by Wall Street. The banks will have to absorb pretty much the full cost of the tax. This explains why prominent people in Washington have so little interest in financial speculation tax.

Overheard

Adam Liptak in the NYT looks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s success arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, big business has done extremely well.

“The Roberts court appears to be a mainstream, traditional, modern Republican, conservative court,” said Bradley W. Joondeph, a law professor at Santa Clara University and a former law clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. “Part of its constellation of commitments is against the regulation of business and, in particular, the regulation of business through litigation.”

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Today’s Flickr photo

The Barkhor in Lhasa, Tibet. Flickr photo by Alex '77.

If you read one thing today . . .

This is a late entry but this gem from Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) might very well be the quote of the year. Bachus, the incoming chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, clearly gives a new meaning to the phrase “letting the fox guard the hen house.” Bachus told Mary Orndoff of the Birmingham News , it’s the banks, not Congress that should be calling the shots. This despite the fact it’s those same Wall Street bankers who drove our economy into the ground with their reckless deal making.

Bachus, in an interview Wednesday night, said he brings a “main street” perspective to the committee, as opposed to Wall Street.

“In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks,” he said.

He later clarified his comment to say that regulators should set the parameters in which banks operate but not micromanage them.

Overheard

Kevin Sessums with The Daily Beast interviewed Kevin Spacey about his new film “Casino Jack,” which is about everybody’s  favorite disgraced K Street lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Spacey on fact being stranger than fiction:

But these kinds of stories based on real events—like Recount and now Casino Jack—are filled with characters that are so larger than life and the decisions and judgments are so outrageous and the excesses even more outrageous when money and power and influence become such an integral part of the political process. All of that is so crazy that it is inherently funny. You couldn’t f*#king write this shit. It’s far more funny because it is real. We’re not making this stuff up. This shit happened.

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If you read one thing today

A Virginia judge’s ruling against the Obama health care plan shows that the constitutional challenges to the law “can no longer be dismissed as frivolous,” writes the NYT’s Kevin Sack. Judge Henry E. Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond came down strongly against the health care reform, just as two other judges in other states had upheld it.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court will have to resolve the conflict, and many court watchers already expect a characteristically close decision. But what is now clear is that the challenges from dozens of states to the law’s constitutionality can no longer be dismissed as frivolous, as they were earlier this year by some scholars and Democratic partisans.

“All the insiders thought it was a slam dunk,” said Randy E. Barnett, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University who supports the health care challenges. “Maybe a slam dunk like weapons of mass destruction were a slam dunk.”

“All the insiders thought it was a slam dunk,” said Randy E. Barnett, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University who supports the health care challenges. “Maybe a slam dunk like weapons of mass destruction were a slam dunk.”

Overheard

And this from Politico on how President Obama feels he’s perceived by the American public:

“I don’t think there’s a sense that I’ve been successful,” Obama told Colorado’s 9NEWS. “I think people still feel that over all, Washington is about a lot of politics and special interests and big money, but that ordinary people’s voices too often aren’t represented, and so my hope is that we’re going to continue rebuilding a trust in government.”

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Today’s Flickr photo

Wikileaks supporters rally in Sydney, Australia. Flickr photo by MrReebDoog.

If you read one thing today . . .

Count David Corn,  Mother Jones’ D.C. bureau chief, as one of the few progressives coming to the defense of President Obama over his acquiescence in extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. In his Politics Daily column, Corn says that after gaining insights from high-level administration sources, he’s of the mind that the president’s decision was less about giving in to GOP demands and more about salvaging something for beleaguered middle-class Americans.

But come this point, Obama had to play a lousy hand — even though it was a hand he had a hand in dealing. And here comes the sympathy.

In meeting after meeting, during which the president and his aides discussed his options, Obama repeatedly asked if anyone could guarantee that were he to put up his dukes, go to the mat, and play chicken with the GOPers, mid- and low-income Americans would end up with the breaks and benefits he believed they need. If he went nose-to-nose, mano-a-mano, and the R’s didn’t blink, they’d be nothing for nobody — and the Bush tax cuts would end for the middle class, mean that come Jan. 1, hard-working Americans would see a smaller paycheck. To make matters worse, this might have an anti-stimulative effect on the economy.

Then what would happen? He might be able to win the blame-game against the Scrooge-ish Republicans — which would be a significant victory, especially heading into the next Congress. But there would be no action until next year, and any tax-related bill would have to originate in the Republican-controlled House and pass a Senate with a larger and more tea party-ish GOP caucus. It could take weeks or months to hammer out a package. What were the odds it would contain as much assistance for the non-rich? In the meantime, working-class Americans would be contending with less money. That is, hurting more.

Overheard:

The progressive uproar over President Obama’s decision to cave to GOP demands over extending the Bush tax cuts extends beyond the president’s shaken grassroots base and outspoken liberal members of Congress — now the voices of dissent are coming from some of his big financial backers. Matea Gold in the L.A. Times writes that Obama’s lack of fight is hurting the Democratic fund-raising effort.

“I would say I’m not a happy camper,” said Paul Egerman, a software entrepreneur in Boston, who said this was the first time he felt Obama reversed himself on a significant policy issue. “That troubles me. I need to be convinced he really had no alternative.”

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Today’s Flickr photo

Thousands of demonstrators marched in Cancún to ask UN negotiators to achieve a fair deal against climate change. Flickr photo by Oxfam International.

If you read one thing today . . .

Got to love the piece from the WaPo’s Dan Eggen who points out that the political circle is once again complete — the upstart GOP candidates who ran “against” Washington are now filling their staffs with corporate lobbyists from K Street. Public Citizen’s Craig Holman told Eggen that the situation benefits the former corporate clients of the new congressional staffers.

“Lobbyists for the most part are hired guns that represent corporations and other special interests that pay for them,” Holman said. “Those lobbyists now have direct access to the political agenda of these lawmakers.”

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Today’s Flickr photo

Elizabeth Edwards. Flickr photo by Tony the Misfit.

If you read one thing today . . .

A lot of well-deserved tributes today to Elizabeth Edwards, who passed away Tuesday after a six-year battle with cancer. The WaPo’s Patricia Sullivan writes:

Describing herself as the “anti-Barbie” for her real-woman figure and her serious intellect, Ms. Edwards’s public stature was greatly defined by how she coped with cancer. She talked about it, wrote about it and managed the conversation in much the same way she managed her husband’s political career.

She first learned that she had breast cancer just after Election Day 2004, when her husband’s running mate, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), lost the presidential race to incumbent George W. Bush.

“The same day our campaign ended at Faneuil Hall, we saw Elizabeth head off to Mass General to confront this terrible disease,” Kerry said Tuesday. “America came to know her in a different and even more personal way, as she fought back with enormous grace and dignity. She became an inspiration to so many.”

Overheard:

President Obama praised Edwards’ tenacity as an advocate for improving health care and fighting poverty. From  her hometown Raleigh News and Observer:

“In her life,” Obama said, “Elizabeth Edwards knew tragedy and pain. Many others would have turned inward; many others in the face of adversity would have given up. But through all that she endured, Elizabeth revealed a kind of fortitude and grace that will remain a source of inspiration.”

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Today’s Flickr photo

Flickr photo by Pranav Prakash.

If you read one thing today . . .

Wouldn’t it be great if all of these “outsiders” who campaign against “business-as-usual” would actually do things differently when they arrive as newly-minted members of Congress? Alas, the WashPo’s Dan Eggen says that the incoming freshmen are already awash in K Street cash. A preliminary tally of contributions collected since the election shows that newly elected House members have raised at least $2 million:

The aggressive fundraising efforts underscore the financial pressures facing new members of Congress even before they take their seats. The contributions also represent a symbolic challenge for the Republican class of 2010, many of whom gained office by running against the ways of official Washington and monied interests.

“The lobbyists are all saying, ‘Welcome to Washington; let me help pay off your debt,'” said Nancy Watzman, who tracks political fundraisers for the Sunlight Foundation, a watchdog group. “It’s particularly interesting when so many of this year’s freshmen were running against Washington. But as soon as they get elected, they come to Washington and put out their hand.”

Overheard:

Tea Party Nation leader Judson Phillips says if the GOP establishment is unwilling to fully embrace the Tea Party, then the simple solution would be to take over the Republican Party. Phillips has written Sarah Palin, urging her to run for chairman of the Republican National Committee.

“We need you as Chairman of the RNC. You have shown in the past no hesitation to take on the establishment. You did it in Alaska,” Phillips writes in the letter. “If we end up with establishment control of the GOP and their support for an establishment candidate in 2012, Obama and the socialists will have won…We need someone who will put conservatives in control of the party apparatus, not RINOs.”

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Today’s Flickr Photo:

Flickr photo by Sifu Renka

If you read one thing today . . .

The wining and dining that lobbyists imparted on lawmakers hardly surprise Washington insiders. But when a glimpse of the influence infiltrated outside the Beltway during the trial of former House majority leader Tom DeLay, Texas jurors didn’t like what they saw. They learned of DeLay’s flights on corporate jets, meetings at resorts and a flood of corporate cash fluffing his campaign coffers. In the end, they convicted him on felony charges of conspiracy and money-laundering. What does this mean on a larger scale?

“We tried to present the context,” Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis, Texas, district attorney who oversaw the prosecution, told The Washington Post. This included DeLay’s role in founding the PAC and its solicitations of corporations, as well as the political rewards that he reaped. She said, however, that while it’s true “citizens are tired of the large amounts of money and particularly corporate money that are being put into the political arena,” the jury’s judgment was based on evidence that such funds were sent to Washington and then brought back to Texas in a deliberate effort to evade the state’s absolute prohibition on their use in elections.

Overheard:

Wikileaks again topped headlines this week when the group released a host of cables revealing insights into American diplomacy. What’s on tap next for the controversial nonprofit media organization? Rumor has it, Bank of America is on deck to be Wikileaks’ next target. Although BofA refutes the whispers, that didn’t stop its shares from tumbling 3 percent yesterday. As financial blogger Barry Ritholtz put it,

Here is the sad reality: Can you really embarrass any of these banks? They were incompetently run, with criminally inept risk management. They blew themselves up, and exist today only due to the largesse of the taxpayer. They gratefully took all they could grab and more.

What else can you release to embarrass them?

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