Confusion between total and marginal tax rates.
Confusion between small business revenue and small business profits.
Stories about how in some places $350,000 isn't all that wealth.
Too bad Think Progress can name all the czars Rove's boss appointed while in office.
Former Insurance Industry Executive Wendell Potter was on Bill Moyers Journal last night. I cannot recommend this hour enough. Wendell exposes the insurance industry for all its despicable behavior and behind-the-scenes tactics to influence Congress and thwart real reform.
He talks about Cigna's handling of the Nataline Sarkisyan case and the insurance industry's media and political strategies to discredit Michael Moore's "Sicko."
A congressionally-mandated report by Inspectors General of five separate intelligence agencies confirms that the Bush administration carried out “unprecedented,” massive surveillance activities beyond the warrantless wirteapping program that had previously been revealed. The Bush administration authorized the program without fully notifying Congress:
Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., told The Associated Press she was shocked to learn of the existence of other classified programs beyond the warrantless wiretapping.
Former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made a terse reference to other classified programs in an August 2007 letter to Congress. But Harman said that when she had asked Gonzales two years earlier if the government was conducting any other undisclosed intelligence activities, he denied it.
“He looked me in the eye and said ‘no,’” she said Friday.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey?s testimony before Congress implied that ?other programs exist for domestic spying? outside of the NSA program. Gonzales even stated in 2007 that ?other intelligence activities? existed. The new report found Gonzales’ statements to be “incomplete and confusing” and “inaccurate,” though not intentionally misleading.
Attorney General John Ashcroft had originally given authorization for the program based on a ?misimpression? of what activities the NSA was actually conducting. The lack of full disclosure led to the showdown in Ashcroft’s hospital room in 2004, which almost caused a mass resignation at DoJ.
According to the report, top Cheney aide David Addington could personally decide who in the administration was “read into” the classified program. The inspectors general interviewed more than 200 people inside and outside the government. But because the inspectors general “lacked the authority to compel testimony,” five former Bush administration officials — Ashcroft, John Yoo, George Tenet, Andrew Card, and Addington — refused to be questioned.
Most of the intelligence leads generated under what was known as the “President’s Surveillance Program,” which began shortly after 9/11, did not have any connection to terrorism, the report said. Moreover, the information produced was of “limited” value to intelligence officials.
According to a senior government official? ?There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ?enemies of the state? almost instantaneously.? ? One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.
Glenn Greenwald notes that there likely “will be no consequences” for any of this “rampant and blantant” lawlessness because the Obama administration “opposes all Congressional investigations into Bush-era crimes and, worse, is engaged in extraordinary efforts to block courts from adjudicating the legality of Bush’s surveillance activities by claiming that even long-obsolete and clearly criminal programs are ’state secrets.’”
Powerful video from Physicians for Human Rights discussing the appalling massacres in Afghanistan in 2002 that have been systematically covered up by both the Bush and now the Obama administrations. From the NYT After a mass killing of[...]
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Okay, let's see if I'm following this. The administration is talking about lending money to small businesses because the banks to which they've already funneled billions didn't do the thing all that money was supposed to do: make them open up the taps and lend working capital to businesses.
Are we clear now?
The Obama administration is developing an initiative to take money from the $700 billion program for the banking system and make it available to millions of small businesses, which officials say are essential to any economic recovery because they employ so many people, according to sources familiar with the plan.
The new effort -- which would represent a striking shift from the rescue program's original mandate -- would direct billions of bailout dollars toward a program that aims more at saving jobs than righting the financial system.
A proposal being floated by senior Treasury Department officials calls for using the bailout funds to expand an existing government program that helps small companies borrow money from banks a low rates to keep their businesses going, the source said. These "working capital" loans would come with few restrictions and could be used for buying inventory, holding onto employees and paying off short-term debt.
The initiative would expand a Small Business Administration lending program called 7(a), the agency's most popular lending program. Lines of credit for small companies could greatly increase in size. If the firm failed despite receiving this help, the government would cover most of the losses on the federal loan, perhaps as much as 90 percent. Lines of credit act like the credit cards for companies -- short-term revolving debt used to pay a variety of immediate expenses.
Discussions about the plan have reached the highest levels of the administration. In a meeting at the White House last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner expressed support of his staff's proposal, while National Economic Council director Lawrence Summers was more skeptical. Neither has made up his mind, officials said.
"Larry has supported every small business idea we have implemented so far," said Gene Sperling, a counselor to Geithner, who has been working on small business issues. "When we have a brainstorming session on new ideas, Larry as always asks the toughest questions in the room."
The debate over the proposal has centered on whether taxpayers would be protected and whether banks that make these loans would lower their standards if the government promises to cover most of any loan losses, according to participants present or briefed on the discussions. The spoke on condition of anonymity because the conversations were considered private.
On one hand, administration officials want to prevent healthy small businesses from closing their doors and adding their workers to the growing ranks of the unemployed. But small companies have poorer record of repaying loans compared to large corporations and would be the riskiest investment made under the bailout program to date.
The officials said the discussions are in the early stages and that no plan is expected before the fall. Ideas currently on the table may evolve or be scrapped altogether, they said.
Anything that creates or maintains jobs is good, but I wonder if this will really do that. I think too many of those small businesses are already gone.
Not only was Ceci Connolly slotted to "host" the Pay2Play dinner, but she was also asked for contact info for invitees.[...]
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Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), due to increasing pressure from TV ads running in Arkansas, has recently written an op-ed to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in support of a public option for health care. Since the letter requires a subscription, I can only post the key highlights after the jump.
The problem is, this endorsement is half-hearted at best. She endorses the public option, while at the same time alludes to the co-op plan saying "or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan."
It remains to be seen if Sen. Lincoln will hold to her position on advocating real health care reform, but as a member of the Finance Committee, which seems hesitant to provide a public option and advanced a proposal not including said option, her support for real health care reform is questionable. Nonetheless, this represents a small victory for the Obama administration and her vote, if favorable, could be key in passing the President's health care proposal. After the jump, I will post the only part of the letter that is available without a subscription, and the ad that leveled enough pressure to lead to the writing of the op-ed.
"Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan." -Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)
To watch Arnold Schwarzenegger over the past few weeks, you'd think he was running for office again. Thankfully, that's not the case and in a little under a year and a half the musclebound jerk can hie himself back to Southern California to reap the rewards of his "stewardship" of the state from the only ones who actually benefited from having him in office.
Nonetheless, he's out there on the stump almost daily, giving the same speech and babbling the same old talking points tinged with total contempt for the elderly, for the disabled, for the kids whose parents are unfortunate enough not to be able to afford private schooling and especially the poor. These are all groups that Arnold and his Yacht Party cronies would like to see just go away.
Oh he has his moments when he at least makes an effort. Actually, there are times when he tries very hard to pretend that the Terminator is just a big old teddy bear when forced to actually talk about the plight of the elderly, disabled and poor but the fact that he's such a lousy actor gets in the way a lot.
One example... which is actually the best if not the only... piece of real acting this two bit B movie action hero ever put forth was in an address to the legislature a couple of months ago when he intoned with a straight face, "I see the pain in their eyes and I hear the fear in their voice.". I've got to admit, he managed to keep from laughing out loud as he delivered that line.
I'd dearly like to know who wrote that piece for him because all I've ever seen in HIS eyes or heard in HIS voice is utter and complete contempt for those he considers a drain on the state's economy or... more accurately... a hindrance to his ability and that of his cronies to sock even more money into those off shore tax shelters that are so fashionable among the nobility these days.
Perhaps more indicative of his REAL attitude was the occasion when asked by a reporter during last year's budget debacle if the state would run out of cash and he hauled out a wad of bills and said HE was doing fine. That's HE... personally. And if HE'S doing fine, what else could possibly matter?
It's like he's got some kind of political Tourette Syndrome. We get crap like all in one breath, "I firmly believe that the State of California should be committed to helping the elderly and disabled___F**k the damned old cripples!". He's just not a good enough actor to pull off the concern routine.
The latest example of his lack of connection to the people in this state was last weekend when he told the New York Times Magazine that he intended to just light up a stogie and "lay back in his jacuzzi" and not be depressed by the consequences of any of the the choices he's making. Pretty easy to do when those consequences don't befall you or any of yours. It also completely contradicts "I see the pain in their eyes and I hear the fear in their voice.", wouldn't you say? And yet the media lets him get away with it again and again.
I have no doubt that's exactly what he did too. After all, you have to have a conscience in order to feel anything remorse in regard to what you're doing to others and if you can't feel remorse, what's to be depressed about. Typical elitist bullpuckey.
Now he's harping on the "massive" welfare fraud being committed on a daily basis and has specifically targeted In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) which, as the name implies, helps disabled seniors to maintain themselves in their own homes instead of being... as was formerly the case... institutionalized either in state hospitals (that no longer exist) or rest homes and the CAL-WORKS program which provides training, placement and other forms of assistance for poor people without skills who have trouble entering the job market, especially important at a time when people just like the governor have virtually destroyed that job market.
So far, we have yet to see the big brave action hero take on anyone his own size. His wont is to... like all bullies everywhere... repeatedly slam the poorest and weakest among the citizens of California, the ones who have no way to fight back. Even the massive cuts in public education affect only those much less affluent than the governor and his fellow yachters since none of their own children ATTEND public schools and kids who go to public schools will never be worth anything anyway.
From a recent article in one of the Silicon valley papers....
"I've never liked when people pick on the poor because they haven't got the ability to fight back," said John Burton, the state Democratic Party chairman and former Senate leader known as a fierce advocate for the poor. "It's a Republican syndrome. It isn't tough for Republicans to beat up on poor people. When finances are terrible, they go after the poor and blame the poor. Republicans constantly use that and don't worry about all the benefits government gives to businesses."
And there it is in a nutshell. It's what all good little Republican and not few enough Democratic running dogs for the nobility do to increase the take for their Corporate and Wall Street masters and therefore themselves. It's the uniquely American political system, in which participants are blatantly for sale to the highest bidder and totally contemptuous of the vast majority of people who can't afford to bid but who ultimately pay the price for the sale.
And as far as I'm concerned, Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is the cheapest flipping whore of the bunch.
Remember when Bush's warramtless wiretapping program became public knowledge? The then-president stood in front of the American people and lied his ass off when he told us that the program had saved lives and prevented attacks and Cheney is lying his ass off when he insists so now.
Like so many things Bush said, once scrutinized, the lies crumble and the ugly truth is left standing before us, naked and trembling.
The report, mandated by Congress last year and produced by the inspectors general of five federal agencies, found that other intelligence tools used in assessing security threats posed by terrorists provided more timely and detailed information.
Most intelligence officials interviewed "had difficulty citing specific instances" when the National Security Agency's wiretapping program contributed to successes against terrorists, the report said.
While the program obtained information that "had value in some counterterrorism investigations, it generally played a limited role in the F.B.I.'s overall counterterrorism efforts," the report concluded. The Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence branches also viewed the program, which allowed eavesdropping without warrants on the international communications of Americans, as a useful tool but could not link it directly to counterterrorism successes, presumably arrests or thwarted plots.
The report also hinted at political pressure in preparing the so-called threat assessments that helped form the legal basis for continuing the classified program, whose disclosure in 2005 provoked fierce debate about its legality. The initial authorization of the wiretapping program came after a senior C.I.A. official took a threat evaluation, prepared by analysts who knew nothing of the program, and inserted a paragraph provided by a senior White House official that spoke of the prospect of future attacks against the United States.
The threat assessments were critical to renewing the program every 45 days, and intelligence officials soon were mocking the administration, calling the treat assessments the "scary memos." Analysts quickly realized that "if a threat assessment identified a threat against the United States," the wiretapping and related surveillance programs were "likely to be renewed."
The report released yesterday also found that the level of secrecy surrounding the program had probably diminished it's effectiveness. So few working-level C.I.A. officers were allowed to know about it that the agency frequently failed to make full use of the leads the wiretapping generated, and leads that came from the operation were frequently "vague or without context."
The findings raise questions about assertions from Mr. Bush and his most senior advisers that the warrantless wiretapping program was essential in stopping terrorist attacks. In January 2006, for example, Mr. Bush said the surveillance program "helped prevent attacks and save American lives." Former Vice President Dick Cheney has made the same point, most recently in his public defense of the administration's campaign against terrorism.
The report provided previously undisclosed details about the legal and operational schisms that dogged the program in its five years of existence. The 38-page document released Friday was an unclassified version. The bulk of the findings remain classified in separate reports from each of the five inspectors general, who represent the Justice Department, the N.S.A, the C.I.A., the Defense Department and the Office of National Intelligence.
The inquiry included interviews with about 200 government and private-sector personnel, but a number of key players - including David Addington, a top aide to Mr. Cheney; George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director; John Ashcroft, the former attorney general; and John Yoo, a Justice Department lawyer who endorsed the wiretapping program - declined to be interviewed.
Congressional Democrats who had been critics of the program said they found the report's conclusions disturbing.
"While former Bush administration officials continue to argue that their policies made the country safer," said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, "I believe this report shows that their obsession with secrecy and their refusal to accept oversight was actually harmful to U.S. national security, not to mention the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans."
The mess that was made by the Bush administration is going to take years to clean up and set right - if indeed it ever can be cleaned up and set right - I don't think it is a foregone conclusion that it can be. The damage done is that pervasive. Don't get me wrong - I haven't gone defeatist and I am not throwing in the towel - I'm just being realistic. The damage they managed to do in eight short years will take decades to repair in any meaningful way. What we know is just the tip of the iceberg, and we have only just begun to learn of the abuses they engaged in.
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Below is the weekly roundup of the Texas Progressive Alliance. The TPA is a confederation of the best political bloggers in Texas.Above is a picture of a town called Texas in the Queensland State in Australia. Looks a lot like a Texas town you might see in Texas, U.S.A.Here is some information about this town. It has [...]
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