Archive for January, 2010

Bernanke’s future as Fed chair in growing doubt

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, once considered a shoo-in for another term, is apparently in trouble in the Senate. A filibuster has been threatened, and Harry Reid says he not certain he has the 60 votes needed to bring Bernanke’s confirmation up for a vote by the Jan. 31 deadline.

Personally, I think Bernanke’s critics and defenders are both correct. Prior to the housing bust, Bernanke failed to heed the signals of impending trouble and in fact took steps that in hindsight contributed to the problem. But once the scope of the crisis became apparent, Bernanke acted decisively and effectively in cobbling together a plan to contain the damage.

So I’m torn on whether he should be reconfirmed. But as Politico warns, the folks on Wall Street are insistent Bernanke remain:

On Wall Street, executives predicted a dire market reaction if Bernanke’s confirmation fails. “A decision to kill the Bernanke nomination will cause a large and disturbing upset in global financial markets,” said …

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An extra helping, by special request

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Money isn’t speech, but music without words can be eloquent

This is, in my humble opinion, the greatest instrumental piece of the rock era (”Stairway to Heaven” fans … sorry). It has the lilt of country/bluegrass, the inflections of jazz but most of all it flat out rocks. It’s joy undercut with melancholy, it flows like a river flows, fast then slow but always true to its course.

I’ve seen the Allmans do it a couple of times, but never out in a field on a sunny summer day, which I’m sure is the way the good Lord intended it to be experienced.

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A burning fuse in Iraq that so far can’t be extinguished

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, things are getting downright dicey. The Sunni-Shiite feud that once lay dormant has been reignited after a government panel barred more than 500 candidates, many of them Sunni, from the ballot in the March 7 elections. The Sunnis see that move as an effort to deny them a voice in government, and there is every reason to believe they are right. Secular Shiites who might draw votes from religious-based Shiite parties are also among those banned.

In a nightmare that never goes away, the government panel that made that controversial decision is chaired by no other than Ahmed Chalabi, the one-time darling of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Out of favor with the Americans, he has since cast his lot with the Iranians, who maintain close ties to Iraq’s Shiite religious parties.

Tom Ricks, the former Washington Post military writer and author of “Making the Corps” and “Fiasco,” his definitive history of the initial occupation of Iraq, says he received the …

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A Ga. politician willing to sacrifice for the public good

Politicians are criticized a lot these days for looking out for their own well-being rather than that of the people they are elected to represent. That’s particularly true for members of the Georgia General Assembly, which in recent months has suffered repeated blows to its already battered reputation.

Given all that, I think it’s important to note when somebody in politics stands up and does the right thing, especially when doing the right thing comes at a high personal cost.
Take, for example, House Majority Leader Jerry Keen.

Last week, Keen went on record as supporting legislation putting a $100 limit on individual gifts from lobbyists to state legislators. That was mighty nice and ethical of him. It also ought to silence all those cynics out there who claim that our elected leaders aren’t willing to share in the sacrifices that are being demanded of all of us these days. To advance the cause of good government, Keen for one is willing to accept a significant reduction in …

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Corporations are not people; money is not speech

Today’s Supreme Court ruling is an Alice in Wonderland exercise. The five-justice majority reached the outcome it sought — an outcome that greatly expands the legal rights and political power of corporations — by trying to redefine basic reality.

No matter what the Court majority may prefer to argue or believe, corporations are not people and money is not speech. They simply are not.

Nor did the Founding Fathers perceive them as such. The notion that corporations — a useful legal fiction created by government — should have the same rights as natural human beings would have astounded Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Marshall. The theory of natural rights that animated the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that it is people and only people who are endowed with inalienable, natural rights. At the time, they did not even extend that theory to apply to those people who were held as slaves.

Corporations and unions are merely tools. And like any manmade tool, they can …

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Supreme Court tightens grip of the special interests

The tight, suffocating grip of special interests on our national affairs is destined to grow still tighter in the wake of a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling released this morning.

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on their participation in federal campaigns.

By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

It leaves in place a prohibition on direct contributions to candidates from corporations and unions.

Critics of the stricter limits have argued that they amount to an unconstitutional restraint of free speech, and the court majority …

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Obama to embrace ‘the spirit of Glass-Steagall’ banking reforms

While Washington Democrats stare at each other and wonder what to do next in the health-care arena, the action shifts to economics.

From the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama on Thursday is expected to propose new limits on the size and risk taken by the country’s biggest banks, marking the administration’s latest assault on Wall Street in what could mark a return, at least in spirit, to some of the curbs on finance put in place during the Great Depression, according to congressional sources and administration officials.

The past decade saw widespread consolidation among large financial institutions to create huge banking titans. If Congress approves the proposal, the White House plan could permanently impose government constraints on the size and nature of banking.

Mr. Obama’s proposal is expected to include new scale restrictions on the size of the country’s largest financial institutions. The goal would be to deter banks from becoming so large they …

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Democrats take a shot to the nose and run home to momma

I’ve long thought that Democrats have better ideas, an advantage that the Republicans offset by being more committed. That dynamic is playing out once again in Washington over the health-care reform fight.

In any kind of brawl, the real fight doesn’t begin until you get punched in the nose. What do you do at that point? How do you respond? The Democrats took a good shot to the nose yesterday in Massachusetts, and they’re running home to their mommas. A party with a 59-41 margin in the Senate and a 256-178 margin in the House is apparently throwing in the towel on health-care reform.

It makes no sense. Every Democratic congressman and senator who voted for the bill earlier is permanently tagged with it. Come November, it’s going to be part of the campaign against them regardless of whether the bill passes. They’ve already paid the political price, but they’re walking away empty-handed, without their purchase.

In fact, panic has set in among Democrats. By their reaction, …

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Olbermann’s attack on Scott Brown absurd, shameful

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve never watched Keith Olbermann’s show on MSNBC. I don’t even know where MSNBC is on Comcast. But yesterday someone on the blog attributed the following statement to him:

“In short, in Scott Brown we have an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against woman and against politicians with whom he disagrees. In any other time in our history, this man would have been laughed off the stage as an unqualified and a disaster in the making by the most conservative of conservatives. Instead, the commonwealth of Massachusetts is close to sending this bad joke to the Senate of the United States.”

At first, I thought it was so over the top, so absurd and excessive that it had to be a joke. It turns out I was wrong. I know there’s a lot of anger out there on both the right and the left, and that there’s fame and money to be had by offering yourself as the mouthpiece for that anger. But this is shameful …

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