Archive for July, 2010

July 30, 2010

Okay, Now I Want One – Kindle For Only $139

by Ben Hoffman

There’s a lot of good stuff to read on the Internet, but sitting in my favorite reading chair reading a laptop computer just doesn’t cut it. Next month, Amazon is going to start selling a Kindle with built-in Wi-Fi (no direct Internet access) for $139. At $300, it was worth it for me to still go to the library for my reading material, but now… Hmmmmm…

Read more…

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July 29, 2010

Republicans Deny Health Coverage For 9/11 Responders

by Ben Hoffman

This is the summary of the bill Republicans are blocking in the House:

Official Summary
2/4/2009–Introduced.James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009 – Amends the Public Health Service Act to establish within the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health the World Trade Center Health Program (WTC program) to provide:
(1) medical monitoring and treatment benefits to eligible emergency responders and recovery and cleanup workers who responded to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001; and
(2) initial health evaluation, monitoring, and treatment benefits to residents and other building occupants and area workers who were directly impacted and adversely affected by such attacks. Requires the WTC program administrator to:
(1) implement a quality assurance program;
(2) establish the WTC Health Program Scientific/Technical Advisory Committee;
(3) establish the WTC Responders Steering Committee and the WTC Community Program Steering Committee;
(4) provide for education and outreach on services under the WTC program;
(5) provide for the uniform collection of data related to WTC-related health conditions;
(6) conduct research on physical and mental health conditions that may be related to the September 11 terrorist attacks; and
(7) extend and expand arrangements with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to provide for the World Trade Center Health Registry. Authorizes the administrator to make grants to the Department to address mental health needs relating to the terrorist attacks.Amends the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act to:
(1) make individuals eligible for compensation under the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 for harm as a result of debris removal; and
(2) extend the deadline for making a claim for compensation.

Republicans are scum. Right-wingers live in a bizarro world where they’re told to believe that making health insurance affordable is a bad thing, where regulating the banks that brought down our economy is a bad thing, where providing funding for rebuilding our country’s infrastructure is a bad thing, where repealing tax cuts for the uber-wealthy is a bad thing, and now I guess right-wingers are being told to believe that helping the responders to 9/11 is a bad thing.

Anthony Weiner had this great response:

July 28, 2010

Bush’s Memoir Entitled Decision Points: Drudge Retort Has An Excerpt!!!

by Ben Hoffman

Bush has written a book! Most of us doubted that he had ever read a book, but now he has written an actual book. And we have obtained an excerpt! This is from chapter three where he describes the time he took off before running for Governor of Texas:

The first day on my vacation, what I did on my summer vacation, the first day on my vacation, I woke up. Then, I went downtown to look for job. Then I hung out in front of the drugstore. The second day on my summer vacation, I woke up, then I went downtown to look for a job. Then I hung out in front of the drugstore. The third day on my summer vacation, I woke up…

It appears to be a real page turner! I’ve already ordered my copy from Amazon.

July 17, 2010

Alan Greenspan Agrees With Democrats: End Bush Tax Cuts!

by Ben Hoffman

Congress should let all of former president George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire to cut the long-term budget deficit, former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan has said.

Mr Greenspan’s support helped persuade Congress to pass the tax cuts in 2001 and his comments thrust him into a heated political battle over whether to extend them beyond the end of 2010. “They should follow the law and let them lapse,” Mr Greenspan said in an interview.

“The problem is, unless we start to come to grips with this long-term [budget] outlook, we are going to have major problems. I think we misunderstand the momentum of this deficit going forward.”

The Bush cuts lowered income tax rates; created a new 10 per cent tax bracket; raised tax credits for children; and lowered taxes on dividends and capital gains. A “sunset” provision means that all the cuts will expire at the end of this year unless Congress extends them. Doing so would increase the federal budget deficit by cumulative $2,567bn between 2011 and 2020, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Read more…

The tax cuts were irresponsible and resulted in the doubling of our national debt. They did little to stimulate our economy and extending them would cause irreparable damage to our country, if we’re not past that point already.

July 16, 2010

Major Test For Obama’s Backbone: Elizabeth Warren As Head of the New Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

by Ben Hoffman

Elizabeth Warren was one of the few who forecasted the disaster that would result from the late 90s deregulation. Geithner and Greenspan were violently apposed to her dissenting views. It turned out, they were wrong and she was right.

Now Geithner is blocking her appointment to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and lying about it. Here is Simon Johnson’s take on it:

It’s one thing to block Elizabeth Warren from heading the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

It’s quite another thing to deny in public, for the record, that any such blocking is going on (e.g., see this report; Michael Barr apparently said something quite similar today).

There is a strong groundswell of opinion on this issue from the left – see the BoldProgressives petition. But the center also feels strongly that, given everything Treasury has said and done over the past few months, it would be a complete travesty not to put the strongest possible regulator in change of protecting consumers. (See Ted Kaufman on the NYT’s DealBook, giving appropriate credit to the SEC, and apply the same points to broader customer issues going forward.)

This can now go only one of two ways.

1. Elizabeth Warren gets the job. Bridges are mended and the White House regains some political capital. Secretary Geithner is weakened slightly but he’ll recover.
2. Someone else gets the job, despite Treasury’s claims that Elizabeth Warren was not blocked. The deception in this scenario would be nauseating – and completely blatant. “Everyone was considered on their merits” and “the best candidate won” will convince who exactly?

Despite the growing public reaction, outcome #2 is the most likely and the White House needs to understand this, plain and clear – there will be complete and utter revulsion at its handling of financial regulatory reform both on this specific issue and much more broadly. The administration’s position in this area is already weak, its achievements remain minimal, its speaking points are lame, and the patience of even well-inclined people is wearing thin.

Failing to appoint Elizabeth Warren would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It will go down in the history books as a turning point – downwards – for this administration.

Read more…

Here’s a video of Warren grilling Geithner

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July 15, 2010

Right-wingers Complain About Obama Going On Vacation – Republicans Filibuster EVERYTHING So They Can Complain That Obama Isn’t Doing Enough

by Ben Hoffman

Right-wingers are outraged that Obama has the balls to go on a weekend retreat to Maine while the economy is in tatters and oil is spewing in the Gulf.

The number one reason for the collapse of our economy was the deregulation of the late 90s that allowed banks to become high-stakes gamblers and for speculators to drive up the price of oil. Democrats in the House and Senate have been working on reform to prevent another catastrophe, but all the Republicans can do is obstruct and complain.

And the little right-wing sheep complain Obama isn’t doing enough. If they really wanted Obama to do more, they’d protest all the Republican filibusters, but they really just want to complain.

July 15, 2010

Oil leak at least temporarily stopped

by Ben Hoffman

This is great news:

BP says it has finally halted the geyser of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

After two days of delay, BP on Thursday started a critical test of a new fitting that at least temporarily has stopped the leak. The company announced that the well had been fully “shut in” at 3:25 p.m. — meaning no oil was leaking from a blown-out well that has spewed nearly 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf over three months.

BP Vice President Kent Wells cautioned that this was only the begining of a test intended to assess whether its damaged well was strong enough to withstand the increased pressures created by 75-ton piece of plumbing designed to either siphon most of the crude to ships or even — potentially — shut off the flow altogether.

The tests, which were expected to last six to 48 hours, began after the company was forced to halt an earlier effort late Wednesday night to fix a leaky valve. A seeping seal on the “choke line” was discovered as BP was closing the last of three valves on a massive new “stacking cap” the company has placed on the raging well.

“We had just started to crank it down when we saw the leak,” retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, commander of the federal response, said during a Thursday news conference.

The company, federal officials and drilling experts believe the new fitting offers the first realistic shot at dramatically reducing or even ending the flow of oil into the Gulf.

On Wednesday, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and a team of federal and industry experts — in what Allen termed an “overabundance of caution” — ordered a halt to the testing until BP provided more analysis and safeguards to address concerns that raising pressure in the well also raised the nightmare risk of an underground rupture.

Read more…

Finally, something worked.

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July 15, 2010

Wall Street Reform Bill – The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly

by Ben Hoffman

Wall St. Reform has passed the House and the Senate and is now ready to be signed by Obama. The Democrats had to appease a few Republicans and watered down the bill in order to get the 60 votes now needed to pass any kind of bill, since Republicans filibuster EVERYTHING, so it’s not a great bill, but better than nothing. It’s the Republicans blocking American exceptionalism in Congress and the American people have to settle for mediocrity.

Overall

The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010, H.R.4173, is a step forward, but it does not go nearly far enough to prevent another financial crisis and to get Wall Street to invest in the productive job-creating economy instead of gambling on risky investments.

Too Big To Fail

This bill does not break-up too big to fail banks that nearly drove the entire economy off of a cliff nearly two years ago. Incredibly, three out of the four largest financial institutions in this country (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo) are bigger today than they were before the financial crisis.

Credit Card Interest Rate Caps

Unfortunately, this bill does nothing to cap credit card interest rates. It is immoral and wrong that a quarter of American credit card holders are paying more than 20% interest on their credit cards.

Fed Transparency

On the positive side, the legislation includes Sanders’ amendment lifting the veil of secrecy at the Federal Reserve. This is a major victory for American taxpayers. Beginning on December 1st, the American people will finally know all of the names of the financial institutions, corporations, and foreign central banks that received over $2 trillion in secret loans and other financial assistance from the Fed. We will know the exact terms of this unprecedented financial assistance. And, in a little over a year from now, a comprehensive independent audit of all of the Federal Reserve’s emergency actions will let the American people will know if there were any conflicts of interest involving these secretive actions by the Fed.

In addition, we will also know the names and details of banks receiving assistance through the Fed’s discount window about once every two years which is also a positive step forward.

Sadly, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has refused to release any of this information to the American people, despite repeated requests from me and others that he do so. By adopting Sanders’ provision, Chairman Bernanke will finally have to understand that this money does not belong to the Federal Reserve, it belongs to the American people and the American people have a right to know where their hard earned taxpayer dollars are going.

Lincoln/Derivatives

This bill does not do enough to stop too big to fail banks from gambling trillions of dollars in risky derivatives and credit default swaps. This gambling led to the $182 billion bailout of AIG, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the downfall of Bear Stearns and precipitated the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Sen. Lincoln had a very good provision in this bill that passed the Senate to force big commercial banks to make a choice: stop gambling in risky derivatives, or lose access to cheap loans from the Fed and deposit insurance from the FDIC. Instead of doing this, banks will still be able to keep gambling a substantial amount of money in derivatives while having access to the discount window at the Fed and deposit insurance protecting them if their risky bets don’t pay off.

Credit Ratings Agencies

Sen. Franken had a very good provision to prevent conflicts of interest at the Credit Ratings Agencies that passed the Senate 64-35. Sanders co-sponsored this amendment. 92 percent of the AAA ratings issued in 2006 and 2007 by Standard and Poors, Moody’s, and Fitsch, later turned into junk status. The reason for that is mainly because Wall Street pays the ratings agencies a lot of money to issue these AAA ratings – and if they don’t receive a AAA rating, the Credit Ratings Agencies lose a lot of money. It’s like the movie industry paying critics for favorable reviews. The Franken amendment would have eliminated these conflicts of interest. Instead, the conference committee chose to study this issue for two years and after that period, conflicts of interest may still not be eliminated. That is unfortunate.

Volker Rule

The bill does a decent job banning most proprietary trading by banks (banks betting on derivatives for their own benefit) and that is a plus. This is known as the Volker Rule and Senators Merkley and Levin deserve a great deal of credit inserting this piece.

Consumer Financial Protection Agency

The Consumer Financial Protection Agency is good, but it could be much, much better. Unfortunately, it will be housed at the Fed which is kind of like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Sanders is disappointed that it won’t regulate interest rates on credit cards. But, it could have been much worse.

Read more…

July 14, 2010

Keeping Dick Cheney In Our Thoughts As He Recovers From Heart Surgery

by Ben Hoffman

WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Dick Cheney disclosed Wednesday that he has undergone surgery to install a small pump to help his heart work, as the 69-year-old enters a new phase of what he called “increasing congestive heart failure.”

“The operation went very well and I am now recuperating,” a still-hospitalized Cheney said in a statement.

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Yes, when we hear about all the oil gushing into the Gulf due to Cheney’s crippling of the MMS, we’ll keep him in our thoughts.

When we hear about young men being killed in a war that has no good solution, we’ll keep Cheney in our thoughts.

When we hear about how Halliburton has screwed over our country, we’ll keep Cheney in our thoughts.

When we look at the astronomical debt that resulted from the irresponsible tax cuts during the Bush administration — one of which Cheney cast the deciding vote when Republicans couldn’t even get a simple majority in the Senate, we’ll keep Cheney in our thoughts.

Yes, let’s pray for Cheney. Or better yet, let’s pray we never get another SOB like Cheney in our government.

July 13, 2010

BP: Aiding and Abetting Terrorists

by Ben Hoffman

WASHINGTON (AP)– The four senators from New Jersey and New York are asking the State Department to investigate whether oil giant BP played a role in winning last year’s release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie airliner bombing.

The request to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came a day after the same senators asked her to press the British government to look into the circumstances surrounding the release of the convicted bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

In the second letter, the four Democrats said they were concerned BP may have put profits ahead of justice in the al-Megrahi case, given the petroleum giant’s current handling of the Gulf oil spill.

“Evidence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster seems to suggest that BP would put profit ahead of people — its attention to safety was negligible and it routinely underestimated the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf,” according to the letter from Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York and Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey. “The question we now have to answer is, was this corporation willing to trade justice in the murder of 270 innocent people for oil profits?”

The aim of the investigation, they wrote, was to “fully determine the legitimacy of the decision to release this mass murderer and to fully understand the source of revenue streams for this corporation, which owes American taxpayers and coastal families billions of dollars.”

BP signed a $900 million exploration agreement with Libya in May 2007, the same month that Britain and Libya inked a memorandum of understanding that paved the way for al-Megrahi’s release from a Scottish prison. At the time, BP said it told British officials to quickly seal a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya but did not mention al-Megrahi.

Read more…

July 13, 2010

Greta Van Susteren Gets Gang Goosed By George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton

by Ben Hoffman

I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it:

July 12, 2010

Eric Cantor Says Republicans Could Take Back The House In November – Four Reasons Why They Won’t

by Ben Hoffman

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) hopped on the GOP-could-take-control-of-the-House bandwagon on Monday — a prediction offered by none other than White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs over the weekend.

“I think we’re going to retake the House, as Mr. Gibbs suggested yesterday,” Cantor said on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “That’s going to change the dynamic for sure.”

“When we regain the House — because I do think that we’ll retake the majority — the president will have to deal with us,” Cantor said, speaking more optimistically about the GOP’s political fortunes than his colleagues have in the past.

Read more…

Here are four reasons why they won’t take back the house:

  1. Republicans are pathological liars. Therefore, if Cantor says they’re going to take back the House, he doesn’t actually believe that will happen.
  2. Republicans are dumb-f*cks. We’ve all seen what happens when you have dumb-f*cks running the country. People need time to forget the damage done by the Republicans during the Bush administration.
  3. Republicans have no ideas. Most people are aware that taxes have never been lower, and lowering taxes are Republicans’ answer to every question.
  4. Democrats are trying to fix the problems created by the Republicans and all the Republicans are doing is obstructing them. That doesn’t help our country.
July 10, 2010

How To Stop Illegal Immigration — Stop The Hiring Of Illegal Aliens

by Ben Hoffman

Mexicans come to the United States for jobs and when they can’t do so legally, they sneak across our borders. All the walls, fences, and patrols aren’t going to stop that. The only way to stop illegal immigration is to eliminate the reason they come here and crack down on the hiring of illegal aliens.

That is what Obama appears to be doing with his new enforcement strategy.

BREWSTER, Wash. — The Obama administration has replaced immigration raids at factories and farms with a quieter enforcement strategy: sending federal agents to scour companies’ records for illegal immigrant workers.

While the sweeps of the past commonly led to the deportation of such workers, the “silent raids,” as employers call the audits, usually result in the workers being fired, but in many cases they are not deported.

Over the past year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has conducted audits of employee files at more than 2,900 companies. The agency has levied a record $3 million in civil fines so far this year on businesses that hired unauthorized immigrants, according to official figures. Thousands of those workers have been fired, immigrant groups estimate.

Employers say the audits reach more companies than the work-site roundups of the administration of President George W. Bush. The audits force businesses to fire every suspected illegal immigrant on the payroll— not just those who happened to be on duty at the time of a raid — and make it much harder to hire other unauthorized workers as replacements. Auditing is “a far more effective enforcement tool,” said Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League, which includes many worried fruit growers.

Immigration inspectors who pored over the records of one of those growers, Gebbers Farms, found evidence that more than 500 of its workers, mostly immigrants from Mexico, were in the country illegally. In December, Gebbers Farms, based in this Washington orchard town, fired the workers.

“Instead of hundreds of agents going after one company, now one agent can go after hundreds of companies,” said Mark K. Reed, president of Border Management Strategies, a consulting firm in Tucson that advises companies across the country on immigration law. “And there is no drama, no trauma, no families being torn apart, no handcuffs.”

Read more…

July 9, 2010

Support America! Buy American! Hire American! Bring Jobs Back To America!

by Ben Hoffman

There needs to be a push to support America by bringing jobs back and buying American made goods. We need to get back to American exceptionalism where we’re leaders in technology and innovation.

Obama needs to spread the message just like Reagan restored pride in America and called on Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.

Increasing import tariffs wouldn’t be a bad idea, either, to put us on an even footing with China.

July 7, 2010

Thank God. Louisianians Can Now Bring Their Guns To Church.

by Ben Hoffman

Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed into law one of the more controversial bills from the recent legislative session, one allowing guns to be carried into houses of worship.

Including the “gun-in-church” bill, House Bill 1272 by Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, Jindal has signed into law 940 of the 1,067 bills the Legislature sent him, vetoed 12, and used his pen to line-item spending measures in four different budget bills.

Burns’ bill would authorize persons who qualified to carry concealed weapons having passed the training and background checks to bring them to churches, mosques, synagogues or other houses of worship as part of a security force.

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I guess they don’t have much confidence in the Lord protecting them. Really, the only ones who are in danger are the abortion doctors, so at least they’ll be able to protect themselves now. And it’s just a matter of time before some religious nut attacks a Mosque, so the Muslims will now be able to arm themselves.