Tag: ek Politics

The Obama Leadership Style

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Obama’s Economic Quagmire: Frank Rich and Adam Moss Talk About What’s Really in Ron Suskind’s Revealing New Book About the White House

By Adam Moss and Frank Rich, The New Yorker

9/17/11 at 4:38 PM

Frank Rich: It’s the most ambitious treatment of this period yet because Suskind integrates the White House story with the Wall Street story, giving them equal weight rather than downsizing one to serve as the backdrop to the other. He is truly after the big picture, not just the petty stuff. He has no agenda of his own that I can detect, he had enormous cooperation from the White House, and he names sources (and avoids blind quotes) far more than the norm for a book of this Woodward genre. And even for someone like me, who’s read most of the overlapping books and reported on some of this myself, there are new revelations and details. A depressing book yes, but savvy and informative. And some of that depression will be temporarily alleviated by the doubtlessly entertaining circular firing squad that is likely to emerge in the next week once Summers, Geithner, Warren, Emanuel, Rubin, Volcker, Orszag, Rouse, Barney Frank (who does not fare well), and perhaps the president get their hands on it.

(T)he buck stops with Obama. There’s a poignant moment of sorts in December 2008 when the North Dakota senator Byron Dorgan implores the president-elect not to go with his economic team. “I don’t understand how you could do this,” he tells him. “You’ve picked the wrong people!” As indeed Obama did, under the tutelage of Robert Rubin, who also tried to finagle a White House guru role for himself, not unlike the perch from which he helped wreak havoc at Citigroup during its subprime orgy. So Suskind’s book often reads like Halberstam’s “Best and the Brightest,” with Summers and Geithner as McNamara and Bundy. But the quagmire isn’t a neo-Vietnam like Afghanistan – it’s the economy, and the casualties are measured in lost jobs. After the stimulus bill passed in February 2009, Suskind writes, “little else happened on the jobs front for a year and a half,” with proposals being “talked to death without resolution.”

What should the White House do? Panic!

By James Carville, CNN Contributor

updated 11:05 AM EST, Sun September 18, 2011

For God’s sake, why are we still looking at the same political and economic advisers that got us into this mess? It’s not working.

Furthermore, it’s not going to work with the same team, the same strategy and the same excuses. I know economic analysts are smart — some work 17-hour days. It’s time to show them the exit. Wake up — show us you are doing something.

Bill Daley struggles to fix Barack Obama’s slump


9/16/11 6:54 PM EDT

The 63-year-old scion of Chicago political royalty was brought in as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff to provide fresh blood, corporate-world experience and adult supervision to a young, free-wheeling White House staff. But critics inside and outside the West Wing are questioning whether he is the tough, competent manager needed to shake up the operation and propel Obama into the 2012 election year.

As a banker and former secretary of commerce, Daley’s ability to soothe relations with Republicans was a major justification for bringing him from Chicago – much to the disgust of many Democrats who wanted Obama to take a more combative approach after the 2010 elections. But Daley’s failure to achieve any negotiating successes has only intensified the chorus of criticism from Democrats that Obama is too willing to compromise.

There’s also a primal scream aspect to the criticism, rooted in deep concerns among many Democrats about 2012, and, perhaps, the desire to find someone other than the man at the top of the ticket to blame.

The irony, of course, is that Daley is doing what his boss wants. He takes his role of gatekeeper seriously, and has restricted the torrent of paper and people into the Oval Office. The decision to downsize and deprioritize Obama’s legislative affairs team was made before Daley ever entered the building on a blueprint from interim chief of staff Pete Rouse.

“I never paid for sex.”

Evidently untrue.

Berlusconi boasts of sleeping with eight women in one night

Silvio Berlusconi was at the centre of further sordid revelations about his sex life on Saturday after the Italian leader was caught boasting of having sex with eight women in one night.

By Nick Squires, The Telegraph

8:58PM BST 17 Sep 2011

The taped conversations also suggested for the first time that Mr Berlusconi gave money to the women he allegedly slept with, contradicting his repeated insistence that he has never paid for sex.

In revelations which are set to test Italian tolerance to the limit, the conversations also offered the strongest evidence yet that the scandal-prone billionaire used taxpayers’ money and state-owned aircraft to fly alleged prostitutes around Italy.

Last week Mr Berlusconi pushed through parliament a 54 billion euro austerity package which will hit pensions, public services and retirement ages, sparking violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators outside parliament in Rome.

The taped conversations revealed in extraordinary detail how parties involving dozens of young starlets and escort girls were organised for the 74-year-old Italian premier by a middleman, Gianpaolo Tarantini, 36, a convicted cocaine dealer. Mr Tarantini is being investigated for allegedly recruiting young women, and has also been accused of blackmailing the prime minister in exchange for his silence over the alleged prostitution ring.

The latest revelations will increase concerns in Italy over whether Mr Berlusconi can concentrate on rescuing Italy from its acute economic problems at a time when the country risks being sucked into the euro zone crisis.

Mr Berlusconi already faces four trials on charges ranging from bribery, tax fraud and false accounting to paying for sex with Karima El Mahroug, a teenage exotic dancer who prosecutors claim was working as an underage prostitute.

Mr Tarantini is currently in custody for allegedly extorting hundreds of thousands of euros from Mr Berlusconi. The premier says he gave money to Mr Tarantini and his wife, who was also arrested, because he is a generous man who was trying to help a “family in need.”

Brag as he might, Silvio is unlikely to beat the record of Wilt ‘The Stilt’ Chamberlain.


Up with Chris Hayes

As disappointing as some of MSNBC’s recent personnel decisions have been, I’m willing to give Chris Hayes a chance.

He has a new show named Up with Chris Haynes on at 8 – 10 am Saturday and Sunday.  Considering the competition it can hardly fail to be better.  Whether it’s good enough to encourage watching any weekend beltway bootlicking gasbag show is up to you.  Courtesy of digby we have a link to yesterday’s debut and the following sample.

About those Space Shuttles.

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Yikes! ISS crew endures comms blackout during re-entry

By: William Harwood, CNET

September 16, 2011 6:33 AM PDT

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying three of the International Space Station’s six crew members suffered an unexpected communications blackout just before plunging back into Earth’s atmosphere, completing a nail-biting descent in radio silence with repeated calls from flight controllers near Moscow going unanswered.

Finally, recovery crews spotted the Soyuz TMA-21’s braking parachute, communications with ground crews were established and the spacecraft touched down in Kazakhstan at 9:59 a.m. local time Friday (8:59 p.m. PT Thursday), tipping over on its side as it closed out an expedition lasting 164 days since launch April 4 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

There was no immediate explanation for the communications dropout. The repeated, unanswered calls from mission control near Moscow were eerily reminiscent of the fruitless calls to the shuttle Columbia during the orbiter’s ill-fated descent to Earth in 2003.

Engineers have traced the Soyuz-U engine failure to a kerosene fuel line blockage that disrupted the operation of a turbopump used to feed propellants to the main combustion chamber. A Russian commission investigating the failure reportedly has raised questions about quality control. But it’s not yet clear how that issue will be resolved.

A (Larry) Summers’ Recovery

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

U.S. Poverty Rate, at 15 Percent, Is the Highest Since 1993


Published: September 13, 2011

46.2 million people now live in poverty in the United States, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it, said Trudi Renwick, chief of the Poverty Statistic Branch at the Census Bureau.

That figure represented 15.1 percent of the population, up from 14.3 percent in 2009, and 11.7 percent at the beginning of the decade in 2001. The poverty line in 2010 for a family of four was $22,113.

And in new signs of economic distress among the middle class, median household incomes adjusted for inflation declined by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year to $49,400. That was 7 percent less than the peak of $53,252 in 1999.

And by that I mean totally… Peccable I guess.

Crossposted from the Stars Hollow Gazette

An Impeccable Disaster

By PAUL KRUGMAN, The New York Times

Published: September 11, 2011

On Thursday Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank or E.C.B. – Europe’s equivalent to Ben Bernanke – lost his sang-froid. In response to a question about whether the E.C.B. is becoming a “bad bank” thanks to its purchases of troubled nations’ debt, Mr. Trichet, his voice rising, insisted that his institution has performed “impeccably, impeccably!” as a guardian of price stability.

(T)he problem is the E.C.B.’s obsession with maintaining its “impeccable” record on price stability: at a time when Europe desperately needs a strong recovery, and modest inflation would actually be helpful, the bank has instead been tightening money, trying to head off inflation risks that exist only in its imagination.

And now it’s all coming to a head. We’re not talking about a crisis that will unfold over a year or two; this thing could come apart in a matter of days. And if it does, the whole world will suffer.

So will the E.C.B. do what needs to be done – lend freely and cut rates? Or will European leaders remain too focused on punishing debtors to save themselves? The whole world is watching.

Understanding Trichet and Conpany: A Note

Brad Delong

September 12, 2011

What are Jean-Claude Trichet and company really thinking right now?

The most likely scenario is this: they bet on mean-reversion in unemployment, on the magic full-employment equilibrium-restoring properties of the market, on their role as prudent stewards of financial rectitude, and on a take-no-prisoners commitment to price stability in all circumstances as the driving force behind the great moderation.

They were wrong.

They now have a choice.

They can admit that they were wrong. Then they will probably have to resign, and then be snubbed worldwide. Nobody likes a loser.

Alternatively, they can double down. Their reputations right now are underwater. What do they have to lose reputationwise by saying more absurd nonsense? And there is a chance that tomorrow the confidence fairy will appear, wave her magic wand, and the V-shaped recovery will start.

That is my guess as to how to understand what Trichet and Company are now saying: they are reputationally-bankrupt zombies gambling for resurrection.

Anal Rape And Stuff

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Accessory After The Fact (Blackstone)-

(W)here a person, knowing a felony to have been committed, receives, relieves, comforts, or assists the felon. Therefore, to make an accessory ex post facto, it is in the first place requisite that he knows of the felony committed.

In the next place, he must receive, relieve, comfort, or assist him. And, generally, any assistance whatever given to a felon, to hinder his being apprehended, tried, or suffering punishment, makes the assistor an accessory. As furnishing him with a horse to escape his pursuers, money or victuals to support him, a house or other shelter to conceal him, or open force and violence to rescue or protect him.

WikiLeaks Cable: Iraqi Interrogators Rape Juveniles to Get Confessions

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Monday September 12, 2011 10:52 am

A US State Embassy cable marked “confidential” and published by WikiLeaks reveals details on the detention of juveniles held in “Site 4” in a Iraqi Interior Ministry (MOI) detention complex. The juveniles allege sexual abuse by Iraqi interrogators, specifically that rapes were being used in the prison to induce confessions. The discovery of widespread abuse and torture, according to the diplomat who wrote the cable, is the worst since the infamous Jadriyah “Bunker” facility was discovered in 2005.

Impunity is typical. If one recalls how the US military coexisted with the Interior Ministry’s Wolf Brigade, a death squad known to have tortured Iraqis, especially Sunnis, the failure of multinational forces to do anything about those likely involved in torture isn’t surprising. A military order, Frago 242, uncovered in the Iraq War Logs published by WikiLeaks shows the military operated under an order not to fully investigate torture or abuse at the hands of Iraqi interrogators. In fact, the military would threaten detainees with the possibility that they might be transferred and subjected to torture by the Wolf Brigade if they didn’t cooperate or confess during interrogations. It is likely the US military has played off Iraqi fears by promising Iraqis they would be detained in US detention facilities instead of Iraqi detention facilities if they did what was asked of them.

The brutality of Iraqi police, which the US and coalition forces are in charge of training, has been clearly documented and the State Department and US military is fully aware of the appalling abuse and torture that is systemic in Iraqi detention facilities. Nothing happens.

The shock is ironic. The US operates Guantanamo, Bagram and various secret prison facilities where detainees are rendered to for interrogations that often involve abuse and torture. The US transformed the Abu Ghraib prison operated by Saddam Hussein into a facility that would become a symbol of US torture and abuse of detainees.

The US has rendered detainees to countries known to commit torture, such as Egypt, or transferred detainees into the custody of forces such as the Iraqi or Afghan police that are known to commit brutality and violence against detainees. The US has had other governments run secret prisons where US agents can come in and interrogate people but not have to take responsibility for the horrors going on in the facility (e.g. Somalia).

With that in mind, it is not shocking that prisons are able to operate where interrogators subject teenagers to anal rape to induce confessions or force juveniles to give them fellatio. The Interior Ministry will not punish the swine who commit such atrocities, therefore, the world can expect to read more accounts of horrific abuse of this nature.

Good Germans.

The Gold Bug

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Edgar Allen Poe

We estimated the entire contents of the chest, that night, as a million and a half of dollars, and upon the subsequent disposal of the trinkets and jewels (a few being retained for our own use), it was found that we had greatly under-valued the treasure.

When, at length, we had concluded our examination, and the intense excitement of the time had, in some measure, subsided, Legrand, who saw that I was dying with impatience for a solution of this most extraordinary riddle, entered into a full detail of all the circumstances connected with it.

Herr Doktor Professor

So what determines the price of gold at any given point in time? Hotelling models say that people are willing to hold onto an exhaustible resources because they are rewarded with a rising price. Abstracting from storage costs, this says that the real price must rise at a rate equal to the real rate of interest.

The logic, if you think about it, is pretty intuitive: with lower interest rates, it makes more sense to hoard gold now and push its actual use further into the future, which means higher prices in the short run and the near future.

(T)his is essentially a “real” story about gold, in which the price has risen because expected returns on other investments have fallen; it is not, repeat not, a story about inflation expectations. Not only are surging gold prices not a sign of severe inflation just around the corner, they’re actually the result of a persistently depressed economy stuck in a liquidity trap – an economy that basically faces the threat of Japanese-style deflation, not Weimar-style inflation. So people who bought gold because they believed that inflation was around the corner were right for the wrong reasons.

And if you view the gold story as being basically about real interest rates, something else follows – namely, that having a gold standard right now would be deeply deflationary. The real price of gold “wants” to rise; if you try to peg the nominal price level to gold, that can only happen through severe deflation.



According to Zap2it, of the 5 major broadcast networks, only ABC is going to carry the Presidential Address on Jobs in front of a Joint Session of Congress.  Even MSNBC is saying that they’re going with a Tweety repeat.  Don’t blink, you might miss it.

The rest?  Entertainment Tonight, Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune.  In short, Local Programming.

I’ll allow you to ponder for a moment what that says about prospects for Electoral Victory in 2012.

NBC is going to be showing Football Night in America without Keith Olbermann and if you don’t care to watch that and are as television addicted as I, here is some other programming to accompany your Season Opening Kickoff party.

It’s the Hypnotoad-

“Television is a vast wasteland”


It should be a fun game, Saints v. Packers– a repeat of last year’s Super Bowl.  If you want, you can discuss that below too.

Credibility Gap

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Obama and Jobs: Why I Don’t Believe Him Anymore

Matt Taibbi, Roling Stone Magazine

POSTED: September 6, 9:17 AM ET

I remember following Obama on the campaign trail and hearing all sorts of promises before union-heavy crowds. He said he would raise the minimum wage every year; he said he would fight free-trade agreements. He also talked about repealing the Bush tax cuts and ending tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas.

It’s not just that he hasn’t done those things. The more important thing is that the people he’s surrounded himself with are not labor people, but stooges from Wall Street. Barack Obama has as his chief of staff a former top-ranking executive from one of the most grossly corrupt mega-companies on earth, JP Morgan Chase. He sees Bill Daley in his own office every day, yet when it comes time to talk abut labor issues, he has to go out and make selected visits twice a year or whatever to the Richard Trumkas of the world.

Listening to Obama talk about jobs and shared prosperity yesterday reminded me that we are back in campaign mode and Barack Obama has started doing again what he does best – play the part of a progressive. He’s good at it. It sounds like he has a natural affinity for union workers and ordinary people when he makes these speeches. But his policies are crafted by representatives of corporate/financial America, who happen to entirely make up his inner circle.

I just don’t believe this guy anymore, and it’s become almost painful to listen to him.

The Same Old Water

Crossposted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

So unpredictable, and by that I mean totally…

Dictable I guess.

A Campaign Challenge: Defining Obama

By JEFF ZELENY, The New York Times

Published: September 6, 2011

Mr. Obama stands at a precarious moment of his term. Public pessimism is at its highest point in nearly three years, and his approval rating has fallen to its lowest, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News Poll, which also found that more than 60 percent of those surveyed disapprove of how he is handling the economy and jobs.

The White House can no longer take comfort in comparing the approval ratings for Mr. Obama with Ronald Reagan’s or Bill Clinton’s in the months after their stinging midterm election defeats. By the time their re-election efforts were intensifying after Labor Day, their respective repositioning had helped elevate their approval above 50 percent.

“If this is just a referendum on economic conditions, then any incumbent is going to struggle with that, but it’s not just that. It’s a contest about what to do about it,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist to the president’s re-election campaign. “I’d be more worried if I saw some compelling new argument for how to lead the country, but these guys are carrying the same old water.”

Speaking of carrying the same old water-

The president intends to offer at least some progressive proposals to help regain a fighting posture that he has not had since the health care debate, but a provision is also being discussed to place a new moratorium on some regulations that affect the economy, excluding health care and financial rules. The proposals are likely to infuriate an already unhappy Democratic base.

So he is going to be Endorsing The Rick Perry Jobs Program.

What else?  The same old, same old tax cuts that are 1) not new and will therefore not improve the economy OR create jobs and 2) are tax cuts which have been consistently proven over the last thirty years do not improve the economy OR create jobs.

Obama Jobs Plan: $300 Billion, Half to Tax Cuts

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Wednesday September 7, 2011 6:10 am

We can divvy it up into five separate components:

  1. tax-side stimulus. There you have the extension of the payroll tax cut, with a new employer-side cut, perhaps targeted only to firms that hire more workers on aggregate, as has been discussed.
  2. infrastructure. Included in this is some amalgam of the surface transportation bill and the national infrastructure bank, along with Jared Bernstein’s FAST proposal for fixing and upgrading American public schools.
  3. direct state aid. This is slightly new for this round, but still desperately needed. Jobs statistics for the past two years routinely show cuts in the public sector offsetting whatever gains exist in the private sector. Teachers and firefighters and cops and nurses are being laid off across the country. Stopping this corrosion is one of the best things the federal government can do right now.
  4. help for the unemployed. Re-upping extended unemployment insurance benefits would be part of this, but also you can expect a program for long-term unemployed modeled after Georgia WORKS, which allows long-term jobless to collect benefits (as well as a small stipend) and essentially intern at local companies for a short-term assignment. This is controversial, as the benefits of Georgia WORKS are mixed at best, and labor leaders have questioned whether it violates federal laws to allow free labor for corporations. If you pushed this envelope further and made it a wage-subsidy policy, you might have something, but this appears tailored to catch the eye of Republicans.
  5. mortgage relief. It’s possible some kind of mass-refinancing scheme gets announced, although there are hurdles, mainly FHFA Acting Director Ed DeMarco, who is reluctant to refi many borrowers who wouldn’t normally qualify as well as negate any representations and warrants liability on the part of the banks. There’s also the fact that banks don’t appear to be able to keep up with the refinancing applications at present, and there should be no faith that they would be able to support a surge in such work.

Let’s briefly look at the numbers. A $300 billion scheme would amount to around 2% of total GDP, and that’s being charitable by saying that this would all be used up in one year. That would have an impact, but half of this would be supply-side solutions that haven’t inspired much confidence during the recession. The question of whether temporary tax cuts are spent is a good one to ask. Especially on the employer side; if minimum wage increases have no effect on jobs, then surely tax subsidies to make hiring cheaper wouldn’t either.

What’s more, $112 billion of this $300 billion would come just from that extension of the payroll tax cut, which is already in place. That’s not stimulative, it’s just an extension of current law. So would be the $55 billion or so for unemployment benefits. Letting them expire might be undesirable, but just keeping them in place would just maintain the status quo, which last month created something on the order of zero jobs. The rest of the items amount to $130-$140 billion, not nearly enough to fill the demand gap hole. Actual direct public works spending is scant, and the supply-side faerie dust irrelevant to the actual problem.

If this is a policy document, it’s both inadequate and dangerous. If it’s a political one, it stays within well-drawn lines, rather than screaming what even the bond markets say the world needs – a complete reordering of fiscal policy to deal with a raging crisis. Yet we still have a Democratic Administration playing mostly on Republican turf.

(h/t lambert @ Corrente)

GOP Debate Open Thread

Well, Obama thought it was important enough to delay his Joint Session of Congress ‘Jobs’ speech for so I expect earth shattering developments of enormous consequence.

Or not.

I’ll not be live blogging it, or probably even watching as I’ll get a chance at the repeats, but if you have any observations of significance (or trivial expressions of snark) feel free to express them below.

Update: In a late breaking development Texas Governor Rick Perry is abandoning his state to be consumed by wild fires (after cutting the budget for fire fighting 70%) to attend this American Idol audition.

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