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We've seen the Obama campaign going after Mitt Romney for his time at Bain Capital. I think with the Olympics approaching we're about to hear more about this story from them very soon. From Up With Chris Hayes: Mitt Romney and federal money for the Olympics:
Up host Chris Hayes and his guests talk to former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson about the federal assistance Mitt Romney sought as head of the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
I clipped the interview down to the portions with Anderson. You can watch the entire segment at the link above. Here's more from the Daily KOS on Romney's time running the Olympic games: Romney's Olympics:
Much has been made recently about Mitt Romney's involvement with Bain while he was heading the Salt Lake Olympics Organizing Committee, but what about his actual involvement with the Olympics themselves? Romney has made his "turnaround" of the Olympics that had been tainted by an international bribery scandal a point of his campaign. He regards it as proof of his amazing leadership ability and patriotism. So, how did Romney bail out the Olympics. Well, he didn't. We did.
A September 2000 report from the United States General Accounting Office tells us that tax payers paid nearly $1.3 billion for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. The majority of that, 80% of that, in fact, $1 billion of that, was spent not on the game themselves, but on infrastructure upgrades. With 51% going to improving highways and 28% to improve mass transit. [...]
To put that into perspective, we, the taxpayers, spent roughly $75 million on the Los Angeles Olympics and $609 million on the Atlanta Olympics.
This prompted Senator John McCain to call the Salt Lake game a "pork-barrel" project.
?I think it is a disgrace,? said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who, along with U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., asked the government agency to investigate the escalating expenditures for hosting the Olympic games in American cities.?But this is a logical extension of what you get when you start pork-barrel spending.?
So, here is the question. Did any of that $1.3 billion of taxpayer's money go to benefit Romney or Bain? Read on...
As they noted, there are more questions which might be answered by Mitt Romney releasing his tax returns, which it seems more obvious day by day that he is never going to release. Romney seems to love that government "free stuff" when it benefits himself and his business buddies, but not so much for the working class and the poor.
If there were a suspected al Qaeda operation in Mexico, and the US Government knew that arms dealers in US border states were selling massive quantities of arms for delivery to that al Qaeda operation, what do you think the US government would do to[...]
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Another week, another idiotic headline in the New York Times: “We?re All Climate-Change Idiots.”
Who is to blame for the nation’s inaction on climate?
Who is to blame for the fact that a climate bill that passed the House in 2009 — and that would have put us on a path to take stronger action than any other country in the world — didn’t become law?
Could it be the anti-democratic, extra-constitutional, super-majority “requirement” that only bills that get 60 votes in the Senate can become law?
Could it be the fact that the GOP strategy for dealing with Obama, as explained by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell back in 2010, is to avoid giving any legislation the patina of bipartisanship: ”The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
How about the anti-science, pro-pollution ideologues — many funded by fossil fuel companies — who have spread disinformation and poisoned the debate so much that it is unrecognizable — so much that John McCain, the GOP champion of climate action actually trashed a bill considerably weaker than the one he tried to pass twice?
How about the media’s generally enabling and inadequate coverage – see ?How the status quo media failed on climate change? and How the press bungles its coverage of climate economics: ?The media?s decision to play the stenographer role helped opponents of climate action stifle progress?). See also “Silence of the Lambs 2: Media Herd?s Coverage of Climate Change Drops Sharply ? Again.”
Of course not.
No, this piece ignores or dismisses the groups that deserve 90% of the blame and instead says in the next paragraph:
Yes, there are political and economic barriers, as well as some strong ideological opposition, to going green. But researchers in the burgeoning field of climate psychology have identified another obstacle, one rooted in the very ways our brains work. The mental habits that help us navigate the local, practical demands of day-to-day life, they say, make it difficult to engage with the more abstract, global dangers posed by climate change.
Yes, there is that oh-so-tiny “barrier” called the filibuster. And there is “some” strong ideological opposition, just a bit, though, really none worth devoting even a full sentence to (see National Journal: ?The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe, even conservative ones?).
And so we are subjected to a bunch of psychoanalysis and social science research about how we all have a mental block to solving the climate problem.
Yet the piece never bothers to cite any polling analysis, probably because virtually every poll conducted in 2009 and 2010 and more recentl shows that the American public wants strong climate action. Here are a few:
?Political candidates get more votes by taking a ?green? position on climate change ? acknowledging that global warming is occurring, recognizing that human activities are at least partially to blame and advocating the need for action ? according to a June 2011 study by researchers at Stanford University.?
So yes, we’re all to blame, the “silent majority” of people who want climate action. Or I should say “silenced majority,” since the media mostly ignores us as does the other key player who gets no mention or blame in this piece — the President (see “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 2“).
If we’re climate idiots, Dave Roberts at Grist knows who is to blame — see his great piece “TV news endumbens viewers on climate, again.”
The Times has a lot of choice about what opinion pieces to publish. But it is no surprise at all that they picked one with this final paragraph:
Simply presenting climate science more clearly is unlikely to change attitudes. But a better understanding of our minds? strange workings may help save us from ourselves.
Here’s the thought balloon from the NY Times that should accompany this piece:
See, dear readers, just because we’re doing a wholly inadequate job of covering climate science, we aren’t to blame for climate inaction. You are!
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(h/t David of VideoCafe)
As mayor of liberal Denver, John Hickenlooper was a member of Mike Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns. As governor of Colorado, a state where guns are a religion, he has a dangerous political tightrope to walk, thanks to the NRA. Notice the difference between his response on This Week, compared to his previous response to a shooting in Denver. Make no mistake: Just as Republican politicians are in thrall to Grover Norquist, politicians of both parties - including liberal governors like Hickenlooper - are terrified at the thought of incurring the deep-pockets wrath of the NRA:
STEPHANOPOULOS: [...] As you can imagine, Governor, the debate over whether this could have been prevented has already began. You probably heard the comments of Mayor Bloomberg of New York, who made headlines on Friday with his calls for tougher gun laws. Other people, several in your state, saying that perhaps if someone else in that theater had a gun, the killer could have been stopped. Does it make you think at this point that you need to take another look at Colorado?s gun laws?
HICKENLOOPER: You know, I?m sure that that is going to happen, but I look at this, this wasn?t a Colorado problem, this is a human problem, right? And how we can have such a warped individual and no one around him be aware? You know, I worry that if we got rid all of the guns -- and certainly we have so many guns in this country, we do have a lot more than gun violence than many other countries -- but even if you didn't have access to guns, this guy was diabolical. Right? He would have found explosives, he would have found something else, some sort of poisonous gas, he would have done something to create this horror.
Let's compare Gov. John Hickenlooper's response (which is, basically, that Holmes is some kind of genius super villain and after all, what can you possibly do to stop Lex Luthor without Superman?) and that of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, circa 2008:
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will consider tougher gun laws and adjusted nightclub operating hours after a child was shot in the Curtis Park neighborhood and a gunfight erupted in Lower Downtown over the weekend.
The shootings have alarmed community members who fear a "summer of violence," he said.
"Let me be clear: This community will not accept violence ? not a day of it, not a week of it, not a month of it ? and certainly not a summer of it," the mayor said Monday.
Hickenlooper will look at Denver's gun laws to ensure they are as effective as they can be in keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals and young people.
"There are a number of other cities addressing gun laws," he said. "We want to look at the matrix of our existing laws and see if some of these other laws are able to help."
He offered no specifics but pointed to Philadelphia, where authorities have tried to restrict gun owners to one purchase per month and allow judges to order guns taken from people deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.
The National Rifle Association has gone to court there to overturn the changes.
And here's an NRA "action item" from March 2011 asking members to contact their elected officials:
On March 2, House Bill 1205 passed in the Colorado House by a 20 to 15 vote. House Bill 1205, introduced by state Representative Chris Holbert (R-44), would allow residents to carry a concealed handgun without a permit as long as they are legally eligible to purchase and possess a firearm. The NRA strongly supports the constitutional right of Coloradans to carry for self-defense.
Despite NRA support for this bill, HB 1205 faces an uphill battle as the Democratic leadership in the state Senate has consistently assigned pro-gun bills to the Senate State, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee. Their designated ?kill committee? has predictably defeated pro-Second Amendment bills by 3 to 2 partisan votes during the last several years. In addition, Colorado Governor and former Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) has been a member of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg?s Mayor?s Against Illegal Guns and he would almost certainly veto such legislation.
Fortunately, the state Senate killed the legislation. But look for the drumbeat to build in intensity as the NRA will continue to push the concealed-carry "solution" as a response to this tragedy. Yes, if only numerous armed citizens had opened fire in the dark against a man wearing body armor. I'm sure that would have solved everything!
Informed speculation suggests a whole lot of reasons to demand Romney's tax returns for a number of years. Maybe his wife won't let him?[...]
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SO-CALLED REPORTERS and their pseudo-news outlets are now finally admitting the dirty little secret that’s been known for some time. They are formally informing readers that they now allow our politicians and presidential campaigns to alter the very purpose of the free press. This has been a story unfolding beyond the headlines, which impacts you, the American citizen, a great deal.
From the New York Times about a week ago:
The quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative. They are sent by e-mail from the Obama headquarters in Chicago to reporters who have interviewed campaign officials under one major condition: the press office has veto power over what statements can be quoted and attributed by name.
McClatchy’s Washington bureau has declined to play this game, unlike most every other news organization that you, the reader, once could trust, but is now altering quotes in order to get access.
As you are aware, reporters from The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg and others are agreeing to give government sources the right to clear and alter quotes as a prerequisite to granting an interview.
[...] As advocates of the First Amendment, we cannot be intimidated into letting the government control our work. When The New York Times agreed with Bush Administration officials to delay publication of its story of illegal wiretaps of Americans until after the 2004 election, it did the nation a great disservice. Acceding to the Obama administration?s efforts to censor our work to have it more in line with their political spin is another disservice to America.
Glenn covered this last week.
On another note, as regular readers know, I’ve been attempting to get on the Romney campaign’s press list for months. So, you’ll love this one. All of a sudden I started getting emails from the Fairfax County Republican Committee! Still no press releases from the Romney’s national campaign; as if I’m interested in FCRC’s latest release: “Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to visit new Springfield Victory Center! *Saturyday*.” Even George W. Bush was better than this. Even if I wanted to quote Mitt Romney’s stump speeches verbatim, side by side with Obama’s, I can’t, unless I search out a traditional news organization to do it. It’s truly pathetic.
Restructuring Private Debt May Be Better Option than Austerity or More Stimulus
by Steve Clemons and Richard Vague
In the Spring of 2011, the Obama administration started to rev up a campaign called "The Summer of Recovery" and planned to deploy the President, VP Joe Biden, and the economically connected Cabinet members and advisers to go to all parts of the country, particularly battleground states, and convince Americans that things were getting better, that jobs were being created, and that the vector of the nation was pointing in a great direction.
The Summer of Recovery became a Summer of Anxiety as the jobs machine sputtered and as other parts of the global economy slowed reducing demand for American exports. Voices like Paul Krugman and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich lambasted the White House for not having been Keynesian enough and not opening the government spending spigots to more deeply invest in US infrastructure, shore up deteriorating state balance sheets, and keep more Americans employed and in their homes that were still being foreclosed at record rates.
But Republicans, who under George W. Bush's leadership hatched the conditions of inattentive and lax regulatory attention that contributed significantly to the Great Recession of 2008-2009, decided to convince Americans that the nation's economic malaise was a product of Obama's massive government post-crisis spending. In a dangerous game of government debt limit brinksmanship, House Speaker John Boehner and his Tea Party-fearing Republican caucus took the nation to the brink of default.
Even though the crisis that had unfolded had been a function of behavior in private debt markets, the debate about what to do next has focused entirely on what level of debt the government should deploy or cut back.
The debt-hawks and uber-Keynesians may both be well meaning in their desire to steady the US economic ship and relaunch it towards growth -- but they are distracted by ideology and conventional economic thinking from looking at more compelling causes of major economic crises and more efficacious policy responses.
It's private debt that matters most.
There is about $24 trillion in consumer and business debt held in the United States today and this dwarfs the federal debt, money supply, and the nation's GDP.
In a short report (pdf) we are releasing today that explores the behavior of private debt before and after economic crises -- not only in the US, but in Japan as well as a number of European nations -- we have noted that (1) a fast run-up of private debt combined with (2) a level of private debt more than 150% of GDP were evident in both the Great Recession of 2008-2009 as well as in America's Great Depression.
Federal debt was inconsequential to these crises. Charts in the report (pdf) we are posting today make clear that Spain, economically beleaguered today, was in excellent federal balance sheet health before the recent Eurozone financial quakes started.
So as a predictor of future crises, we suggest that private debt growth rates combined with the absolute level of non-government, private debt are the two most important factors to flag.
Once a private debt-triggered crisis starts, attention turns typically to the government and whether it will reform through austerity programs and conditioned loans or whether the government will inject capital resources of its own to keep the economy primed and liquid.
What is interesting about the recent Great Recession and the American case is that while many economic pundits speak about post-crisis deleveraging, the private debt total only declined by 3% in the US and is now increasing again, essentially reaching today the pre-crisis level of private debt.
That's right. The private debt load in the US today is roughly the same as the private debt load held in early 2008. This is of enormous consequence as consumers and businesses that are overburdened with debt cannot lead an economy to higher growth. Government spending can provide some stimulus, but our analysis shows that this stimulus is significantly less efficient in stimulating GDP growth than re-jiggering and triggering private spending. And while private debt typically matters more than government debt, a total debt load for an economy does matter. Ask Japan.
Federal austerity may be necessary at some point, but austerity in government accounts does not give the private sector any relief from these record high burdens of private debt.
The Great Recession of 2008-2009, from which there are still repercussions in the US and global economies, resulted from a massive surge in consumer loans -- 98% in just five years -- and as just stated but to remind for emphasis, the combined total of US business and consumer loans is basically at the same level as at the moment this crisis hit.
The Great Depression was also caused by a massive private debt buildup. The ensuing implosion of a 36% contraction in the economy tracked an almost-as-massive 25% paydown in debt, since paying down debt uses money that would otherwise have been used for spending or investment.
Clearly, what policymakers wanted and achieved in the contemporary crisis was avoiding a massive private debt paydown and subsequent contraction. Thus, the Great Recession did not become the Great Depression II. But the debt overhang that was retained is also of great cost, stifling growth well into the future.
The Great Depression and the Great Recession were the only two periods in the past century that were preceded by a 40+% decade of growth in private debt-to-GDP while the US had a ratio of overall private debt-to-GDP greater than 150%, territory where the US economy remains floundering in today. The private sector cannot lead the economy to strong growth until it has lower leverage, but it has not de-levered. Some economists invoke inflation or alternatively, "strong growth" as the solution to high debt -- but even with the most optimistic expectations, a private debt correction will require the clock to tick for a generation or more.
The best alternative for reducing debt levels without the economic contraction caused by paydown (as during the Great Depression) is restructuring loans.
Dollar for dollar, a restructuring of problem loans -- with appropriate moral hazard consequences intact -- would provide as much or more stimulus than government spending, without the GDP-suppressing effect of additional government debt. A trillion dollars of private debt restructuring of loans could provide as much stimulus as a trillion dollars of government spending.
Some argue that the political moment for restructuring America's debt load may have passed, and the complexity of large-scale restructuring may be too daunting, but the fact remains that America's high levels of private sector debt will inhibit the private sector from leading the economy out of its malaise.
Commentators like Paul Krugman and others have argued that the US would benefit from more government spending and that higher federal debt levels would be relatively inconsequential. They give two reasons. First, they argue that the US had higher debt levels in 1945 and overcame them. Second, the US government debt level is less than a number of other countries.
However, even though Krugman is right that US federal debt is below 1945 levels, America's total debt level -- government plus private sector debt -- is 65% higher and at an all-time high.
Secondly, even though US federal debt is lower than some other countries, those nations have lower GDP growth than the US while key countries with lower debt loads than the United States have higher GDP growth rates. It strikes us that a lower 'total' debt ratio constitutes a competitive economic advantage globally and that all other things being held equal, high debt levels suppress GDP growth.
Restructuring debt, and writing down assets over ten-year terms could have an enormous impact on economic activity in the United States. More working Americans could remain in their mortgage-stressed homes after those mortgages were written down and banks compelled to take the write-offs over time.
The US government could encourage its mortgage lending operations to essentially write off debt for Americans and allow them to relaunch their financial activity. Such a strategy could replicate the go-go growth in the US in the 1950s after significant deleveraging that occurred in the era previously -- but rather than contracting the economy, these restructured loans could actually immediately kick start growth.
In ancient times and as recorded in the old Testament of the Bible, the Land of Israel forgave all debts periodically, and the economic basis point for lands and slaves was reset in what was called "Jubilee."
Perhaps the economic system we have built today that seems addicted to ever higher levels of private sector debt, not to mention public debt, needs a modern Jubilee as well -- and whether they are working Americans facing impossible economic hurdles or Greek citizens facing a future as permanent serfs in a Germany-dominated Europe, finding a way to restructure and write down debt held by financiers and banks is the fastest and most effective way to bolster healthy economic growth.
-- Steve Clemons is Washington Editor at Large at The Atlantic, where this post first appeared. Clemons can be followed on Twitter at @SCClemons. Richard Vague was co-founder and CEO of First USA Bank and former Chairman and CEO of Juniper Financial and is an expert on consumer credit in the United States.
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A great article, that's been causing some buzz, from a conservative woman who moved to Canada and suddenly found herself in the land of universal health care. Then a funny thing happened - she liked it.When I moved to Canada in 2008, I was a die-hard conservative Republican. So when I found out that we were going to be covered by Canada?s Universal Health Care, I was somewhat disgusted....
The string chorale that bursts out shortly after
the opening of the Adagio of the Bruckner Seventh
As promised in Friday night's preview, our subject today is the seventh of Anton Bruckner's outsize nine symphonies, which unlike the Fourth Symphony, with its remarkably evenly weighted four movements, is cast in the form, as I put it, of "an opening movement and an ensuing slow movement of such emotional weight as to dominate the whole piece." (We heard the whole of the Fourth Symphony in the January 2010 post "Bruckner's Fourth Symphony -- four stories for four movements." We also heard the formative Second Symphony, in the August 2011 post "Bruckner begins to establish his voice, hushed and clear." The latter post, I just discovered, had a broken link to the click-through, which I've fixed -- in case anyone has been waiting all this time to read and hear that post.)
Which means that our obvious focus is going to be on those first two movements, which dramatically counteract the silly image of Bruckner which seems to me to excite the ardor of the composer's devout faithful: Bruckner as a a sort of musical idiot savant, a piously Catholic naïf piously erecting monumental musical cathedrals in the ether. About Bruckner being in some ways naïve I don't think there's much doubt, but I think we would have some serious disagreements, the Bruckner Faithful and I, as to where and how that naïveté kicks in. However, the idea that these symphonies are underpinned by reflexive piety seems to me fairly nutty. (I'm embarrassed to own that I've used one of those cheesy architectural mega-metaphors for the title of this post. It's just so tempting.)
There's a reason why Bruckner's Fourth and Seventh Symphonies, and perhaps also the three movements he completed of the Ninth, are the symphonies of his which are often enjoyed by music-lovers who don't have much use for the rest of his work. And yet it seems to me that it would be hard to think of anything more quintessentially Brucknerian than the orchestral chorale we just heard from near the opening of the Adagio of the Seventh, or the opening two minutes of the symphony which we're about to hear, which already demonstrate Bruckner's dependence on repetition as well as the way he can build the orchestra from the softest hush to the most thundering outburst.
BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 7 in E: opening
IT'S AN ALL-VIENNA PHILHARMONIC POST
The performances we've heard so far, by the way, both feature the Vienna Philharmonic (the orchestra best known to Bruckner), as indeed do all the performances we're going to hear today. The snatch of the Adagio at the top is conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, that of the opening of the symphony by Karl Böhm. (We'll hear the performances of these movements complete in the click-through.)
FOR OUR TRAVERSAL OF THE BRUCKNER
SEVENTH SYMPHONY, CLICK HERE
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Make him give it back. (Reuters)With the November elections roughly three and half months away, we all know what's at stake: the White House, the Senate, and the House.
Elections are run on money. I hate it. You hate it. Even politicians hate it. And that problem has only gotten worse thanks to our activist Supreme Court and its decimation of campaign finance laws.
We can curl up into a fetal position and surrender, or we can keep doing what we have always done in the face of insurmountable odds: fight back. We may not be able to sign million-dollar checks, but we can collectively write a ton of $5 ones to help offset the flood of nefarious right-wing cash.
Our particular fundraising focus at Daily Kos will be at the House and Senate levels, where our smaller dollars can have a bigger impact. And we're going to focus heavily on better Democrats?those candidates who will make for a stronger, more progressive, and more cohesive caucus. We'll do this in three projects, using our Orange to Blue page at ActBlue as our contribution engine:
SPEAKER PELOSI PROJECT
We've seen how Republicans have used their House foothold to push all manner of crazy, from the Holder contempt citation to holding he nation's economy hostage to debt ceiling negotiations. And really, do we need one of the chambers of Congress singularly obsessed with repealing a health care law that won't be going anywhere?
2010 was a tough year for us, but the silver lining was that the Blue Dog Caucus was decimated. Many more of those jerk Democrats are quitting or have been redistricted out. So we already have a better, more cohesive party. Now it's time to build on that.
One last thought?as tough as it may be, if we don't take control of the House after this November's elections, this would likely be the end of Pelosi's leadership. We might have to deal with ... ugh ... Steny Hoyer. Or worse. And that would be a step back.
You can see our Speaker Pelosi Project page here. Note?we are not done adding candidates to our list. In fact, you can guarantee that more will be added.
UPGRADE THE SENATE
More than that, however, we have a chance to help significantly upgrade the quality of the Senate caucus. I've always said that full reform of the Democratic Party is a long-term project. We've begun that, with people like Sherrod Brown, Sheldon Whitehouse and Al Franken. We can continue those efforts this year.
Sherrod Brown is the number one target for Republicans this year. We must defend him at all costs. We're losing Ben Nelson to retirement (yay!), and we can replace him with Elizabeth Warren. A huge upgrade. Hawaii's Mazie Hirono will be a fantastic presence in the Senate ... as long as she can get past Lieberdem Ed Case in the primary. And speaking of Lieberdems, Chris Murphy will be a significant upgrade from the king of the Lieberdems?Joe Lieberman.
And if you need any more motivation?all Supreme Court nominations must go through the Senate. We lose the Senate, you can guarantee that the Court will continue its rightward drift, no matter who might end up vacating over the next four years.
You can see our Upgrade the Senate page here. Note?we are not done adding candidates to our list. In fact, you can guarantee that more will be added.
HELL TO PAY
So here is how it works?during the week, Republicans do their usual craziness. The community helps us choose the craziest of all, and then we use that to do a weekend fundraiser. People come together, they help out a great candidate, talk about how horrible Republicans are, and since it's the weekend, libations are usually involved. It was a real blast, and we look forward to reviving this moribund tradition.
So brace yourself! It's going to be nag time. And yes, you hate it when we nag for contributions. And we hate to nag for contributions. But there's a reason we're doing this, and you don't have to look long into the GOP side of the aisle to remember that reason.
Conservatives are engaged in a systematic campaign to destroy everything that we hold dear?from tolerance, to compassion, to the interests of the 99 percent. If we lie down now, or if we walk away from the challenge ahead of us, we'll end up losing much of what we love about America.