Wall Street's best friends, the Republican Senate, are stepping up to protect Wall Street from the mean Democrats. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn, still not fessing up on what they promised Wall Street execs in their backroom meeting are making no secret of their intent to obstruct reform. Even Susan Collins is going to filibuster.
But it takes some chutzpah to suggest that maybe the case against Goldman Sachs isn't really about the massive fraud they committed on investors, but perhaps about politics. I give Orrin Hatch:
"This whole Goldman Sachs thing, isn't that a little odd that all of a sudden, right at the height of this legislative period, we suddenly have the SEC filing suit against Goldman Sachs?" Hatch asked.
"I think the timing is very suspect," he said....
"There's something terribly wrong here and I don't know what it is, but to do that right at this particular time, you know, the timing is very suspect in my eyes."
Leave Goldman Sachs alloooooonnnnne!!!!
This is pretty astounding. Republicans didn't even stand up to defend WellPoint when they chose to raise premiums through the roof in the middle of the health insurance reform debate, so that they're throwing their lot in with Wall Street now is baffling. But more of this, please. The more blatant Republicans are about which side of this fight their on--Wall Street's or Main Street's--the better.
CHAIRMAN KANJORSKI: And now we’ll hear from Mr. William K. Black, Associate Professor of Economics and Law, the University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law. Mr. Black.
BILL BLACK: Members of the Committee, thank you.
You asked earlier for a stern regulator, you have one now in front of you. And we need to be blunt. You haven’t heard much bluntness in hours of testimony.
We stopped a nonprime crisis before it became a crisis in 1991 by supervisory actions.
We did it so effectively that people forgot that it even existed, even though it caused several hundred million dollars of losses — but none to the taxpayer. We did it by preemptive litigation, and by supervision. We broke a raging epidemic of accounting control fraud without new legislation in the period of 1984 through 1986.
Legislation would’ve been helpful, we sought legislation, but we didn’t get it. And we were able to stop that because we didn’t simply consider business as usual.
Lehman’s failure is a story in large part of fraud. And it is fraud that begins at the absolute latest in 2001, and that is with their subprime and liars’ loan operations.
Lehman was the leading purveyor of liars’ loans in the world. For most of this decade, studies of liars’ loans show incidence of fraud of 90%. Lehmans sold this to the world, with reps and warranties that there were no such frauds. If you want to know why we have a global crisis, in large part it is before you. But it hasn’t been discussed today, amazingly.
Financial institution leaders are not engaged in risk when they engage in liars’ loans — liars’ loans will cause a failure. They lose money. The only way to make money is to deceive others by selling bad paper, and that will eventually lead to liability and failure as well.
When people cheat you cannot as a regulator continue business as usual. They go into a different category and you must act completely differently as a regulator. What we’ve gotten instead are sad excuses.
The SEC: we’re told they’re only 24 people in their comprehensive program. Who decided how many people there would be in their comprehensive program? Who decided the staffing? The SEC did. To say that we only had 24 people is not to create an excuse — it’s to give an admission of criminal negligence. Except it’s not criminal, because you’re a federal employee.
In the context of the FDIC, Secretary Geithner testified today that this pushed the financial system to the brink of collapse But Chariman Bernanke testified we sent two people to be on site at Lehman. We sent fifty credit people to the largest savings and loan in America. It had 30 billion in assets. We had a whole lot less staff than the Fed does.
We forced out the CEO. We replaced the CEO. We did that not through regulation but because of our leverage as creditors. Now I ask you, who had more leverage as creditors in 2008? The Fed, as compared to the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, 19 years earlier? Incomprehensible greater leverage in the Fed, and it simply was not used.
Let’s start with the repos. We have known since the Enron in 2001 that this is a common scam, in which every major bank that was approached by Enron agreed to help them deceive creditors and investors by doing these kind of transactions.
And so what happened? There was a proposal in 2004 to stop it. And the regulatory heads — there was an interagency effort — killed it. They came out with something pathetic in 2006, and stalled its implication until 2007, but it ’s meaningless.
We have known for decades that these are frauds. We have known for a decade how to stop them. All of the major regulatory agencies were complicit in that statement, in destroying it. We have a self-fulfilling policy of regulatory failure
because of the leadership in this era.
We have the Fed, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, finding that this is three card monty. Well what would you do, as a regulator, if you knew that one of the largest enterprises in the world, when the nation is on the brink of economic collapse, is engaged in fraud, three card monty? Would you continue business as usual?
That’s what was done. Oh they met a lot — they say “we only had a nuclear stick.” Sounds like a pretty good stick to use, if you’re on the brink of collapse of the system. But that’s not what the Fed has to do. The Fed is a central bank. Central banks for centuries have gotten rid of the heads of financial institutions. The Bank of England does it with a luncheon. The board of directors are invited. They don’t say “no.” They are sat down.
The head of the Bank of England says “we have lost confidence in the head of your enterprise. We believe Mr. Jones would be an effective replacement. And by 4 o’clock that day, Mr. Jones is running the place. And he has a mandate to clean up all the problems.
Instead, every day that Lehman remained under its leadership, the exposure of the American people to loss grew by hundreds of millions of dollars on average. Auroroa was pumping out up to 300 billion dollars a month in liars’ loans. Losses on those are running roughly 50% to 85 cents on the dollar. It is critical not to do business as usual, to change.
We’ve also heard from Secretary Geithner and Chairman Bernanke — we couldn’t deal with these lenders because we had no authority over them. The Fed had unique authority since 1994 under HOEPA to regulate all mortgage lenders. It finally used it in 2008.
They could’ve stopped Aurora. They could’ve stopped the subprime unit of Lehman that was really a liar’s loan place as well as time went by.
[Kanjorski bangs the gavel]
Thank you very much.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez is right:
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) member has strongly criticized the administration’s policy on deportation and questioned its commitment to far-reaching reform.
Some Democrats have felt little urgency in pursuing the controversial issue, partly because they see no risk that Hispanic voters will bolt the party for the GOP. But Gutierrez says they are missing the real political consequence of inaction.
“We can stay home,” Gutierrez said in an interview with The Hill. “We can say, ‘You know what? There is a third option: We can refuse to participate.’ ”
Democrats are suffering from an intensity gap, and it can ill afford to have one of its key constituencies stay home because the party welched on a key campaign promise.
In our last weekly State of the Nation poll, we found that Democrats still faced a disturbing intensity gap:
In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?
Def Vote Not Lik Def Not Not Sure
REP 31 38 12 3 16
DEM 27 34 23 4 12
Def Vote Not Lik Def Not Not Sure
20 27 23 7 23
If Democrats fail to make a push for immigration reform, not only will those "not sure" slot in under the non-voters, but we'll lose a chunk of the 47 percent of still say they will vote. And in a close election, where getting Democrats to the polls will mean the difference between massive losses and holding our ground, we can't afford to lose any of our base.
One of the most curious documents turned over in last week’s FOIA dump is the last one, titled “The CIA Interrogation of Abu Zubaydah” (PDF 110-122). While these are just wildarsed guesses, I suspect it may either have been a summary developed for the CIA Inspector General’s office for use in its review of the torture program or a summary to prepare Stan Moskowitz, then head of CIA’s Office of Congressional Affairs, to brief the Gang of Four in early February 2003.
This document must have been written between January 9 and January 28, 2003. On PDF 117, the document describes CIA’s Office of General Counsel completing its review of the torture tapes; that report was finalized on January 9. The same page describes the “Guidelines on Interrogation Standards,” which was ultimately signed by George Tenet on January 28, as not yet having been approved. The document makes no mention of the Inspector General’s plan to review the torture tapes impacting the decision on destroying the torture tapes, that decision was initiated in early February. It also refers to the need to brief Congress on the torture tapes in the future.
The document includes a long Top Secret section, followed by a short summary of the document classified Secret. That suggests that the audience of this document might in turn have its own audience with which it could use the Secret summary. So, for example, if the IG were the audience, it might be permitted to use the summary description in its final report. If Gang of Four members were the audience, they might be permitted to keep the Secret summary but not to see the Top Secret report.
The Top Secret section of the document has the following sections (each section has its own classification mark, which shows in the margin, which is how we know where redacted titles appear):
The Hand-Written Notes
Curiously, this document showed up in the January 8, 2010 Vaughn Index but not–as best as I can tell–in the November 20, 2009 Vaughn Index (or, if it showed up in the earlier Index, John Durham had not yet protected it under a law enforcement privilege). That means that the document existed as an electronic document. Yet, as the Vaughn Index tells us, this document has “handwritten marginalia” on it. These are presumably what the redactions are to the right of the main text on PDF 111 and 112. The redactions on PDF 113 are also wider than other sections, suggesting there is marginalia there, too.
In other words, the reader of this document made notes in response to the following claims (in addition to whatever appears in the long redacted section on PDF 113):
The first and third of these claims, of course, are somewhat dubious (though the first is more restrained than the CIA was publicly making at the time). So the reader may have been questioning these claims. And the notation next to the claim about AZ’s “adequate” medical care reminds me of the Ron Suskind report that George Bush got enraged when he learned AZ had been given pain killers. In any case, these notations suggest the reader of this document may have had a very high level of information on AZ.
Here are notable contents, by section:
Abu Zubaydah: Terrorist Activities
As I said above, the claims made in this section are more restrained than the CIA was making publicly in January 2003. Rather than call AZ the number 3 guy in al Qaeda, it calls him a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden (a claim that is still incorrect, however). The description of AZ as “an external liaison and logistics coordinator,” however, is a much more accurate description of AZ’s true role than CIA has traditionally given.
Injuries at Time of Capture
The report describes two bullet wounds: one, in his leg. The description of the second is redacted (but I believe this was a gut wound, though it might refer to him losing a testicle, which AZ described in his CSRT). There is a separate bullet point describing another physical issue; I wonder whether this is a description of the lingering effects of his 1992 head wound?
Highlights from Reporting by Abu Zubaydah
There are seven bullet points of information here. Perhaps most telling is the admission that “Over time, he had become more willing to cooperate on many issues.” You’d think someone might have questioned whether AZ’s cooperation increased as he got further from his torture?
First redacted section
This section would be the logical sequitur between AZ’s past interrogation and the techniques used to interrogate him. I wonder whether they discussed either inaccuracies in his information, or described the things he had not yet revealed (such as the location of Osama bin Laden) that they thought he knew? Alternately, it might describe what they had planned for his interrogation going forward.
Interrogation Techniques Used on Abu Zubaydah
By far the most interesting detail in this section is the redaction in the section on which torture techniques they’ve used on Abu Zubaydah:
The Agency sought and received Department of Justice approval for the following [redacted] enhanced techniques. [Four and a half lines redacted] the waterboard.
What should lie behind those redactions are the word “ten” and the names of the techniques approved in the Bybee Two memo. The fact that the passage is redacted must mean that that’s not what this passage says–which suggests that this document claimed DOJ had approved techniques they had not actually approved (or, that DOJ approved techniques verbally that were not ultimately approved in the Bybee Two memo). Given that we know this document is one John Durham considered important to his investigation, it may support the notion that some things shown on the videos–perhaps things like mock burial–were one of the things CIA was trying to hide by destroying them.
Also, as I noted earlier, this passage suggests how AZ’s sleep deprivation got out of control in the early days. But it doesn’t admit how long they did use sleep deprivation with him.
This section makes the ludicrous claim that AZ “is the author of a seminal al Qaida manual on resistance to interrogation methods,” presumably referring to the Manchester Manual. (Though AZ would describe “the Encyclopedia” in interrogations in June 2003.)
I find this description of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen laughable:
Agency employees engaged in the interrogation are complemented by expert personnel who possess extensive experience, gained within the Department of Defense, on the psychological and physical methods of interrogation (SERE) and the resistance techniques employed as countermeasures to such interrogation. These expert medical personnel were present throughout the interrogations.
I find it curious that this passage makes no mention that Mitchell and Jessen developed the torture program, nor that they were contractors. And I’m amused that they are described as “medical” personnel, as if they had any concerns for AZ’s medical condition.
I find it really telling that this passage boasts of having done medical examinations before and during the torture, but not psychological evaluations before and after.
Medical evaluations were conducted on Abu Zubaydah before and during the interrogations. In addition, a psychological profile was conducted on him before the interrogation began.
You’d think someone at CIA would order up a psychological evaluation after all this torture, huh? But what this passage seems designed to do, instead, is spin the medical monitoring that was part of the experimental side of AZ’s torture as good medical care (which is also what the description of Mitchell and Jessen as “medical personnel” seems designed to do).
Which may be what the following section is designed to do, too:
It is not and has never been the Agency’s intent to permit Abu Zubaydah to die in the course of interrogation and appropriately trained medical personnel have been on-site in the event an emergency medical situation arises.
Let’s unpack this. First, the denial that the Agency ever intended to let AZ die suggests perhaps the denial itself is untrue. I’m curious why this passage describes these personnel as “appropriately trained medical personnel” and not something like “doctor,” “nurse,” or “medic”? Is it a way to try to explain away the presence of people collecting medical research information, to suggest that they had to have that kind of training? And the reference to “an emergency medical situation,” when we know that they had real concerns about AZ’s injuries and were closely tracking whether torture caused severe pain, is just cynical. The whole passage is one of the creepiest in the entire document!
This section describes the terms of approval for torture from DOJ. But it never once mentions the Bybee memos (perhaps because it might lead someone to discover that the ten techniques in the Bybee Two memo don’t match the techniques listed in this section)?
Finally, look at how underwhelming this claim about the effectiveness of torture is:
The use of enhanced interrogation techniques proved productive; Abu Zubaydah provided additional useful information.
It’s telling, too, that they make this claim in an entirely different section from where they boast of all the good intelligence AZ provided. They chose not to tie the specific pieces of intelligence he gave to the techniques use.
Redacted title–probably on management controls on interrogation
As I said, the title of the section that includes the videotapes and training is redacted, along with three primary and two secondary bullet points (which span a page and a half) before the videotape section, and two more after the training section (which take up another half page). I’m wondering if this redacted section talks about the reporting from the Field to HQ?
The section on videotapes makes a claim that–from what we see of the McPherson interview report–appears to be false.
The attorney concluded that the cable traffic did in fact accurately describe the interrogation methods employed and that the methods conformed to the applicable legal and policy guidance.
At the time of his interview, it appears that McPherson said he’d have to review the guidance again before he could say whether the torture portrayed in the videotapes matched the guidance (which, the IG team concluded, it did not). And here’s how this document describes the state of the discussion on destroying the torture tapes.
After his review, the General Counsel advised the DCI that OGC had no objection to the destruction of the videotapes, but strongly recommended that the new leadership of the committees first be notified about the existence of the tapes and the reasons why the Agency has decided to destroy them.
Boy, I guess Jane Harman really screwed up their plans when she objected, in writing, to the destruction of the tapes? This passage is one of the things that makes me wonder whether this document wasn’t written to fill in Stan Moskowitz before he briefed Congress; though I’m inclined to think CIA wouldn’t give the Gang of Four this much information, even though it is very deceptive in parts.
The Secret Summary section covers the following four areas:
Of note, the intelligence section includes this language, which is either redacted or not present in the Top Secret description of the intelligence he gave.
[AZ] has provided information on Al Qa’ida’s CBRN program and on individuals associated with that program.
Also compare how the Top Secret report refers to AZ’s intelligence on Padilla and Binyam Mohamed…
Abu Zubaydah identified Jose Padilla and Binyam Muhammad as al-Qa’ida operatives who had plans to detonate a uranium-topped “dirty bomb” in either Washington, DC, or New York City. Both have been captured.
…to how the Secret summary refers to it:
Information from AZ was instrumental in the capture near Chicago of Jose Padilla, a “dirty bomb” plotter, explosives expert, and terrorist trainer at Qandahar.
I’m interested, then, in what this says about Durham’s investigation. Obviously, it provides a great snapshot of what CIA claimed it believed at the time it first planned to destroy the torture tapes. It may show CIA claiming it had approval for torture techniques it did not have approval for. Oddly, the document doesn’t appear to explain why the tapes were first made–it appears that the first mention of them comes in the description of McPherson’s review.
This document has three sets of Bates stamps on it: the five-number series, the six-number series, and the IG series from 2007. So it has been reviewed several times in a legal context.
Yesterday, Illinois GOP Senatorial candidate Mark Kirk announced that he would return contributions from Goldman Sachs.
Mark Kirk of Illinois's campaign spokeswoman, Kirsten Kukowksi, said he would voluntarily return campaign contributions made by Goldman employees not accused of wrongdoing. ... The US Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit Friday accusing Goldman of "defrauding investors by misstating and omitting key facts" about a financial product based on subprime mortgage-backed securities.
That doesn't make Kirk a better candidate, and he's not returning money he got from Goldman employees during his Congressional race, but at least it makes him smart enough not to roll in the mud while the cameras are running.
But cheer up, Goldman. You still have one friend.
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said Tuesday she won't return contributions she's received from Goldman Sachs employees.
Lincoln, who's authoring a section of the Wall Street reform bill that regulates derivatives markets, said she'd hold onto contributions from employees of the company, which was charged last week with fraud.
Doesn't it make you feel better to know that the reform bill is being written in part by someone who's more than willing to take money generated through playing Goldman's customers for fools?
In honer of 4/20, CBS News has released a new poll on the nation’s opinions about marijuana legalization. The poll found that, across the country, marijuana legalization is opposed by just a slim majority of Americans, and that support for legalization has been steadily growing over time:
While 44 percent of Americans support the idea of making marijuana use legal, 51 percent oppose it, according to the poll, conducted March 29 – April 1.
The percentage supporting legalization is similar to what it was last summer, but it has grown from 30 years ago when just 27 percent thought the use of marijuana should be made legal.
The interesting thing is looking at the regional breakdown of opinions:
SHOULD THE USE OF MARIJUANA BE MADE LEGAL?Yes No Don’t Know Northeast 44% 52 4 Midwest 36% 54 10 South 40% 55 5 West 55% 41 4
In the Western part of the US, legalizing cannabis is supported by a solid majority, 55%, and opposed by only 41%. This is important because citizens of California will be voting on a state ballot initiative to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in November. Groups in Washigton state and Oregon are also working to gather the necessary signatures to get similar marijuana legalization initiatives put on the ballot in those states as well.
Not unexpectedly, there is a serious age divide on the issue of legalization. 54% of American under 35 support legalization while only 29% of Americans over 65 share the same view. With a strong majority of people on the West coast in favor marijuana legalization, the success of the California ballot initiative (and possibly in Washington and Oregon) will likely hinge on the demographics of who turns out for the midterm election.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has put another $6 million into Proposition 16, its self-funded ballot initiative that would require the approval of two-thirds of local voters to create new local electricity districts.
The latest contribution, reported Friday, brings PG&E’s contributions to $34.5 million – the entire amount of reportable donations to the campaign.
All of the nine donations listed in state financial disclosure documents came from PG&E. Four of the donations were in seven figures, and there was one eight-figure donation -- a $13 million contribution on Feb. 26.
The opponents of Proposition 16, The Utility Reform Network consumer group, have raised about $36,000.
In short, the PG&E monopoly is tired of municipalities trying to create their own public electricity operations, so it's pushing this ballot initiative, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, in order to essentially block cities from opting out of their monopoly.
The company believes it was strategically better to try to resolve the issue in a single ballot measure, rather than fight the same battle over and over again each time a local municipality seeks to create a new public-power authority. In a March 1 conference with shareholders, PG&E’s CEO Peter Darbee and President Chris Johns discussed the issue, according to a transcript.
“The idea was to diminish (it), rather than year after year different communities coming in and putting this up for vote and us having to spend millions and millions of shareholder dollars to defend it repeatedly,” the company said. “We thought this was a way we could diminish that level unless there was a very strong mandate from voters that this is what they wanted to do.”
Fucking sleazebags. If I could afford it, I'd go solar today, just to deny them my little bit of money.
When all of the company's speed data was sorted by city, three US locations top the list before South Korea and Japan begin to dominate.
Those three spots are Berkeley (average speed: 18.7Mbps), Chapel Hill, North Carolina (average speed: 17.5Mbps), and Stanford, California (average speed: 17.0Mbps). The next US city on the list is Durham, North Carolina (average speed: 13.6Mbps) in eighth place, followed by Ithaca, New York; Ann Arbor, Michigan; College Station, Texas; Urbana, Illinois; Cambridge, Massachusetts; University Park, Pennsylvania; and East Lansing, Michigan.
If you're not from the US, you might not see the pattern: each of these cities houses a major research university. Akamai obtained these results by filtering out all cities with less than 50,000 unique IP addresses, to make sure that the averages weren't affected by outlying small cities. The result was that "so-called 'college towns' are some of the best connected in the United States."
[W]hy make the [Supreme Court] selection based on a bipartisan "consensus" that won't materialize anyway? If a mainstream, center-left jurist will be labeled a "wild-eyed liberal radical" by conservatives, why try to placate conservative hysteria?
Because Obama remains obsessed with his "bipartisanship" magic pony. Republicans know this, and continue to use that obsession to their advantage. Whether it was watering down health care reform, or watering down financial services reform, Obama and his congressional allies will continue giving concessions to obstructionist Republicans with zero reciprocity.
I don't mind concessions in exchange for votes. But concessions in exchange for nothing more thatn continued GOP lies and smears? I can't, for the life of me, understand why Democrats keep doing this.
It’s hard therefore to imagine much in the way of Hollywood products that wouldn’t seem “biased”, aka liberal, to conservatives, since the official values of our society are liberal. Programs promoting intolerance openly would be horrific. Even conservatives would blanch at a character making a speech supporting the idea of colonist war for the hell of it. Greedy CEOs exploiting the working classes are so commonly regarded as villains, it would be hard to reposition them as heroes. Imagine trying to portray a group of young men beating the shit out of a gay person as heroes; it can’t be done. I’m trying to imagine a show like the one that Big Hollywood seems to want, where a major religious figure is portrayed as a hero for helping rapists elude justice, and I’m guessing that even they wouldn’t be happy with the results.
It’s not like there are no right wing plots in the standard Hollywood fare. Hollywood has managed to repackage a lot of reactionary stuff in liberal-sounding arguments to that it can sell it to the public without audiences turning away in disgust. Vigilantism or authoritarianism is an easy sell, as long as the hero’s motivations are fundamentally about justice, which means wrapping it up in a liberal package.
You know what would be really great? If all the fantastic (and they are fantastic) liberal/left Christians would spend five minutes a day writing angry letters to the Christian right wing about how unchristian they are instead of complaining to atheists about how much bad press you all are getting from the overt bad actions of your co-religionists.
The Family Research Council, James Dobson's operation, claims in its mission statement that it...
shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society."[
To be clear, their "Judeo-Christian worldview" doesn't refer to the real Biblical Jesus, but to Conservative Jesus, who would fight to the death for the right of Wellpoint to increase its health care premiums by 39 percent, while rejecting care to millions of others via rescissions and pre-existing conditions. Conservative Jesus would carry an AK-47, and tell the poor to go fuck themselves. He'd waterboard Obama until Obama admitted he was actually born in Kenya. He and Glenn Beck would be tight.
Anyway, the crazies at FRC are frothing mad about the health care law, because Conservative Jesus doesn't want people to have health care because it infringes on the liberty of Blue Cross Blue Shield to rake in obscene profits. And they're going to do something about it.
The Family Research Council has included a handful of pro-life Democrats in its political action committee's list of 20 Congressional targets for the 2010 election season. The move is the latest one from a pro-life group seeking to defeat those members whose votes resulted in the pro-abortion health care bill.
On their list:
Representative Chris Carney (Pa. 10th)
Representative John Boccieri (Ohio 16th)
Representative Kathy Dahlkemper (Pa. 3rd)
Representative Steve Driehaus (Ohio 1st)
Representative Gabriel Giffords (Ariz. 2nd)
Representative Baron Hill (Ind. 9th)
Representative Paul Kanjorski (Pa. 11th)
Representative Mary Jo Kilroy (Ohio 15th)
Representative Ron Klein (Fla. 22nd)
Representative Betsy Markey (Colo. 4th)
Representative Walt Minnick (Idaho 1st)
Representative Alan Mollohan (W.Va. 1st)\
Representative Glen Nye (Va. 2nd)
Representative Tom Perriello (Va. 5th)
Representative Earl Pomeroy (N.D. AL)
Representative Carol Shea Porter (N.H. 1st)
Representative Ciro Rodriguez (Texas 23rd)
Representative John Spratt (S.C. 5th)
Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz. 1st)
Representative Alice Titus (Nev. 3rd)
I don't know who Alice Titus is. I wonder if that's the sister or cousin of Rep. Dina Titus, who actually represents NV-03? And FRC should be ecstatic about Minnick and Nye, since they both voted against the health care reform bill. Heck, Minnick is such a whackjob, that he's the only Democrat to have earned the endorsement of the crazy teabaggers.
Of course, as we've noted ad infinitum, the health care law was not "pro-abortion". Aside from the fact that the original Hyde Amendment prohibition of public funds is in the law, fact is that universal health care tends to cut the abortion rate. Even Conservative Jesus should be interested in that.
But apparently the only thing that matters is "freedom".
"As pro-life and pro-family voters, we must work together to change the Congress, state governments and ultimately the White House in 2012. We cannot afford to put hard earned dollars into campaigns of people who 'grow in office' or cannot see their way under the pressure of party politics. It's time to replace this Congress, repeal the government takeover of health care and restore our Constitutional freedoms," she said.
Freedoms like the freedom to die from lack of health care, and the freedom to not have freedom of choice.
In other words, freedom -- American Taliban style.
If today’s drug laws were in force during the 1970s, Barack Obama might not be President.
In his autobiography, Obama admitted to experimenting with marijuana during his high school years in the ’70s. He then went on to college and law school with the help of student loans.
Last year, New York City arrested and jailed 40,300 people for possessing small amounts of marijuana — mostly teenagers and young people in their twenties. Whites represent over 35% of the city’s population, but only 10% of those arrested for marijuana possession. Latinos were arrested at four times the rate of whites, and African Americans at seven times the rate.
And thanks to a 1998 law authored by Rep. Mark Souder that denies financial aid to any student convicted of even a misdemeanor drug offense, over 200,000 students have lost their access to student loans over arrests like these. They produce a permanent criminal record, easily accessed on the internet, that can also keep applicants from getting a job, a loan or even an aparement. As the Drug Policy Alliance notes, “Given the racially disproportionate enforcement of drug laws, the Souder-amendment has a greater impact on people of color than whites.”
What if Barack Obama had been one of those 200,000 students? And how many future Barack Obamas have been robbed of their chance to achieve their full potential?
The time has come to change our antiquated drug laws, the relics of the culture wars which no longer serve the country’s needs. As former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper writes today at the Seminal:
Look at what’s happening across the country. Formerly timid state legislatures, admittedly driven in some instances by economic hard times, are actually considering the legalization of marijuana. Cannabis is, after all, the biggest (untaxed, unregulated) cash crop in the country.
Congress has announced it doesn’t intend to do much for the next year, but there are active efforts at the state level to change drug laws across the country. Marijuana-related ballot measures have already qualified in California and South Dakota. Arizona needed 153,000 signatures to get a medical Marijuana measure on the ballot, and last week submitted over 250,000 signatures. The Arizona Senate just passed a bill in anticipation of its passage that would tax medical marijuana. Even the Alabama Senate is getting in on the action — they just passed a measure that would legalize medical marijuana for patients in serious pain.
At a time of serious budget concerns, it’s time to assess our national priorities. Do we want to end the educational careers of young people of color, or do we want to use our resources to hire teachers and create jobs? According to Harvard Economics Professor Jeffrey Miron, if marijuana were taxes at the same rate as alcohol, it would yield $6.4 billion in tax revenue and save $13.7 billion in law enforcement expenditures.
Marijuana legalization would also devastate the drug cartels. As Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune observes, “Criminal organizations would no longer be able to demand huge premiums to compensate for the major risks that go with forbidden commerce. . . . So the drug cartels would see a large share of their profits go up in smoke. Those profits are what enables them to establish sophisticated smuggling operations, buy guns and airplanes, recruit foot soldiers and bribe government officials.”
But there is still a terrible stigma surrounding the marijuana conversation. We think we can help. There are many of the fine groups that are organizing around drug policy reform, including DPA, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and others. We’ve been talking to many of them and learning how we can help them in their efforts, not only by getting their message out, but also with the online tools and organizational skills that we have.
We’re kicking off our campaign with a “name our Pot Campaign” contest tonight during Late Nite, which starts at 11pm ET. We haven’t done anything like it since the Dick Cheney Poetry Contest of 2006. It’s a return to the “FDL Late Nite” of old, hosted by yours truly. So, please join us.
Guess who just discovered he has subpoena power as a committee chair?
The leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee subpoenaed Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday provide more information about the events leading up to the Ft. Hood shooting.
Last week, Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ranking Republican Susan Collins of Maine said the administration has for months stymied their attempts to fully investigate the gaps that may have enabled the murder of 13 people at the Texas Army base on Nov. 5....
Pentagon officials are reviewing the subpoena before determining their next step, spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters Monday.
The Defense Department, he said, believes that it has responded to requests from Congress, “in keeping with the need to protect the integrity of the criminal prosecution and longstanding privacy practice.”
“We will continue to cooperate with the committee in every way, with that caveat, that single caveat, that whatever we provide does not impact upon our ability to prosecute,” he said, echoing comments made by Gates last week.
Defense officials add that as members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, both senators can view Nidal Hasan's personnel files, which seems to be at the core of what Lieberman is trying to get. Additionally, they note that they are still pursuing Hasan's conviction for mass murder, and that the public release of materials relating to this case might actually jeopardize it.
In case you're wondering, no, Lieberman didn't use his subpoena power as committee chairman while he held the seat under the Bush administration. Steve Benen:
Questions arose, for example, into internal White House deliberations from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and senators were prepared to subpoena the administration. Lieberman rejected the effort. When his House counterpart, Henry Waxman, delved into the Pentagon's propaganda operation, Blackwater's activities in Iraq, and the controversy surrounding missing emails from the Bush White House, Lieberman chose not to do any oversight at all.
But he's with us on everything but the war.
Credit where credit is due. Today on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Mark Halperin of Time Magazine not only refused to defend the Republican party's anti-finance reform talking points, he calls them out:
Via The Plum Line:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Just this once, defend the Republican position.
MARK HALPERIN: I cannot defend what they’re doing.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Oh, please.
SCARBOROUGH: Look at you! Look at you!
HALPERIN: They are willfully misreading the bill or they are engaged in a cynical attempt to keep the president from achieving something.
Exactly right. As was pointed out later in the show by White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee:
Everybody knows a consultant just handed them that line and they’re just reading it. It doesn’t matter what’s in the bill. It could be a bill about breakfast cereal and they’re going to say this is a bailout bill.
Everybody does know it. It's just refreshing to see a journalist report it.
Anyone remember the endless Village/wingnut concern-trolling about how Ned Lamont running against Joe Lieberman was going to destroy the Democratic Party?
On ABC’s This Week, Cokie Roberts asserted that it would be “a disaster for the Democratic Party” and would lead to “chaos” if businessman Ned Lamont were to defeat Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary on August 8, thereby “pushing the party to the left” and sending a message to other senators that “[t]he only smart thing to do here is play to your base.“
Funny how that stuff never seems to apply to Republicans, isn’t it?De facto GOP White House favorite Mitt Romney endorsed [Marco] Rubio yesterday, and, as Josh Green noted, Romney got beat up over this: it’s easy to endorse Rubio now that he leads his Senate primary against Gov. Charlie Crist, the former frontrunner, by more than 20 percentage points. What about when Rubio was a mere conservative upstart, trailing Crist by 20 last fall–when his biggest backers were the influential blogger Erick Erickson and the free-enterprise DC interest group the Club for Growth? This morning, another big-time Republican hopped on the Rubio train: House Minority Whip Eric Cantor.
I’m so looking forward to hearing how Republicans are on a purity witch hunt, how they’re following their extreme right-wing base off a cliff, how they’re pandering to a bunch of stupid bloggers who don’t know anything about how the “real world” works, how awful it is that they’re throwing a popular, talented and honorable two-term Republican governor under the bus, and in the process, hurting their party with moderates — not only in Florida — but nationally.
Should be coming any time now, right?
Nate Silver debunks the widely held view that Rasmussen's GOP-leaning "house effect" is a result of its use of a likely voter screen earlier in the cycle than other polling outfits. He observes:
The bottom line is this: the sample included in Rasmussen's polling is increasingly out of balance with that observed by almost all other pollsters. This appears to create a substantial house effect, irrespective of whether Rasmussen subsequently applies a likely voter screen.
It also appears to be a relatively new facet of their polling. If one looks at the partisan identification among all adults in polls conducted in September-November 2008, Rasmussen gave the Democrats at 6.5-point edge, versus an average of 8.7 points for the other pollsters; their house effect was marginal if there was one at all.
It's interesting that the gap between Rasmussen's 2008 generic ballot polling and everybody else's was fairly small at the tail end of 2008, but it might not prove that the "house effect" we're seeing today is new. I haven't looked at generic ballot data, but I have looked through McCain-Obama polling and it appears that the gap between Rasmussen's polling and everybody else's narrows as election day approaches.
For example, from February to April of 2008, Rasmussen showed John McCain leading by an average of 2.6%. Meanwhile, every other poll of likely voters during that time period showed Barack Obama with a 2.6% lead. So from February to April, there was a 5.2% gap between Rasmussen and everybody else.
From September through election day, however, the gap was significantly smaller. The average Rasmussen poll taken during that time showed Obama leading by 3.8% while the average of all other polls of likely voters showed Obama leading by 5.8%, resulting in a gap of 2%.
So in the early months of 2008, the gap between Rasmussen and everybody else was 5.6% compared with 2% late in the cycle. Another important point here is that early in the cycle, Rasmussen's polling accounted for a far larger share of overall polling, meaning that their results played a more important role in shaping horse race narratives in the early stages of the campaign than they did in the latter stages of the campaign.
The shifting size of the "house effect" is certainly something worthy of additional exploration.
[Ed. note: Norm Stamper, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com), served as Seattle's chief of police from 1994-2000. He is the author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.]
[additional Ed. Note: You can join us during Late Night tonight (8pm PDT/11pm EDT) when we pick up our pens, or, at least, our keyborads, and kick off FDL's Cannabis Campaign naming contest! Please stop by for fun, fun, pot, and fun.]
A year ago I wrote a piece on 420, contrasting legalized booze and illicit pot. It generated a good deal of reader feedback. A common thread:
“The war against drugs is a money making business. Prisons are a money making business. How are you going to replace all those jobs for the DEA…prisons, prison officers, other suppliers?”
“This is America, people. Europeans are socially enlightened, we are not. Europeans are progressive, we are not…frustrating, sure, but it’s not going to change in my lifetime…”
“We Americans love to talk the talk, but never seem to have the time or energy to walk the walk.”
“…it won’t change any time soon. As long as the majority of people are ignorant and vote accordingly, our politics and laws will reflect that ignorance.”
“I would not expect a sitting President or Senator to take up your cause until there is a MASSIVE public cry for it.”
In other words, say these readers, no matter what common sense and science have to offer on the subject it’s not going to happen. The willful inflexibility of special interests (namely those profiting from the drug war: drug cartels, drug warriors, Big Pharma, prison industrial complex, et al) is simply too powerful to overcome.
Given slavish governmental allegiance to the drug war (over the course of eight presidencies), skepticism is understandable. But unwarranted.
Look at what’s happening across the country. Formerly timid state legislatures, admittedly driven in some instances by economic hard times, are actually considering the legalization of marijuana. Cannabis is, after all, the biggest (untaxed, unregulated) cash crop in the country.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco — before the recession hit with full force, and with only three months on the job — introduced a bill in the California State Assembly that would have allowed adults to grow, buy, sell, and possess cannabis. While it passed the assembly’s public safety committee, by a 4-3 vote, AB 390 died when the health committee failed to act on it by January of this year. Reintroduced as AB 2254, the identical bill, in its current or a future incarnation, promises to get continuing play at the state capitol and in the national media.
We’ve witnessed a veritable explosion of cannabis law reform in other states and local communities: medical marijuana; decriminalization; pot as a city’s lowest law enforcement priority.
But the eyes and the imagination of the nation remain fixed on California. As lawmakers wrestle with conscience and courage, the voters of that state are taking matters into their own hands. “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis 2010,” the brainchild of Oaksterdam University founder Rich Lee, has qualified for the November ballot. Support is polling at 56 percent.
Enthusiastic editorial backing from across the country, along with the endorsement of a vast array of trade unions, professional associations, and drug policy reform organizations bodes well for the connected causes of liberty, justice and economic recovery: According to the State Board of Equalization, California’s tax collector, the initiative will net the state a cool $1.4 billion a year.
The campaign is meeting pitched resistance from opponents, which will only intensify as election day nears. Conventional wisdom suggests a softening of support as undiscerning voters succumb to the scare tactics of forces determined to keep pot illegal.
We all know that the federal government trumps the states when it comes to drug laws, and that against all concepts of sanity, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug (in the company of PCP and China White) — and therefore a top enforcement priority. But Attorney General Eric Holder, with the blessings of President Obama, has promised to honor the will of lawmakers in the individual states, whether those lawmakers be legislators or citizen activists.
You don’t have to be a Californian to strike a blow for freedom and justice. As a voter and/or a toker, perhaps at 4:20 on 4/20/10 you’ll pick up a pen and compose a letter to the editor and/or write a check to the campaign. What happens in the nation’s largest state will certainly reverberate throughout the other forty-nine.
Norm Stamper, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com), served as Seattle’s chief of police from 1994-2000. He is the author of Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing.
Ethan Mccord and Josh Stieber, Iraq veterans, were in the Army unit responsible for the incident in the WikiLeaks "Collateral Murder" video have released an open letter to Iraqis injured in the attack.
Ethan was on the ground at the scene of the shooting, and is seen on the video rushing one of the injured children to a U.S. Vehicle; "When I saw those kids, all I could picture was my kids back home". Ethan applied for mental health support following this incident and was denied by his commanding officer.
Josh Stieber was not at the scene of the shooting but says similar incidents happened throughout his 14-month tour; "The acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war." Josh states that these casualties demonstrate the impact of U.S. military policy on both the civilians and the soldiers on the ground.
From the letter:
There is no bringing back all that was lost. What we seek is to learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to tell others of our experiences and how the people of the United States need to realize we have done and are doing to you and the people of your country. We humbly ask you what we can do to begin to repair the damage we caused.
We have been speaking to whoever will listen, telling them that what was shown in the Wikileaks video only begins to depict the suffering we have created. From our own experiences, and the experiences of other veterans we have talked to, we know that the acts depicted in this video are everyday occurrences of this war: this is the nature of how U.S.-led wars are carried out in this region.
We acknowledge our part in the deaths and injuries of your loved ones as we tell Americans what we were trained to do and what we carried out in the name of "god and country". The soldier in the video said that your husband shouldn't have brought your children to battle, but we are acknowledging our responsibility for bringing the battle to your neighborhood, and to your family. We did unto you what we would not want done to us.
More and more Americans are taking responsibility for what was done in our name. Though we have acted with cold hearts far too many times, we have not forgotten our actions towards you. Our heavy hearts still hold hope that we can restore inside our country the acknowledgment of your humanity, that we were taught to deny.
The value of the WikiLeaks video is just this: bringing to light the nature of war and what the men and women fighting it experience. The value in the release of the video is the value in these veterans being able to talk about what they witnessed, what they participated in openly. It's truth that we as an entire nation needs to face, if nothing else than to understand what these scarred veterans experienced as we welcome them home.