Archive for June, 2010

Obama, Boehner dispute gravity of Wall Street crisis

House Minority Leader John Boehner, on the financial reform bill now being finalized in Congress for adoption and signing by President Obama:

House Minority Leader John Boehner

House Minority Leader John Boehner

“This is killing an ant with a nuclear weapon. There are faults in our regulatory system, some in terms of transparency, most as a result of ineffective enforcement by the bureaucracy who have no idea what these financial products look like today. That could’ve been fixed, but that’s not what we have here.

This bill institutionalizes too big to fail, puts the government on the hook and gives them the ability to bail out anyone, and allows these unelected bureaucrats to make decisions on behalf of the government in terms of who they’re going to bail out, who they’re going to take over, who they’re going to control, whether they’re a financial firm or not….

I just hope this bill is out there for several weeks so that the American people can see it and the American people can understand it.”

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GOP continues to stiff-arm America’s unemployed

Congressional Republicans continue to block an extension of unemployment benefits for the longterm jobless. Since the last extension expired on June 2, an estimated 1.2 million Americans have lost that economic lifeline, a number that grows every week.

In Georgia alone, an additional 7,000 jobless people are losing unemployment benefits every week because of the GOP’s stance. In fact, 47 percent of unemployed Georgians haven’t had a paycheck in at least six months, which means that by now, most of them have exhausted their savings and have no other resources to draw upon.

According to some, of course, that’s a good thing. They prefer to believe that there are jobs out there going unclaimed because people prefer to live on their unemployment check, which in Georgia maxes out at the princely sum of $330 a week. The fact that on average, there are five job applicants for every job opening doesn’t seem to penetrate the calloused and the smug.

The legislation also includes …

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Daily Kos says it got cheated by fraudulent pollster

Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas has announced that multiple polls conducted for his website were probably fabricated by Research 2000, the company he hired as his pollster.

Initially, Moulitsas says, he decided to fire Research 2000 after an analysis by the website Fivethirtyeight.com concluded that the company’s polling work was inaccurate. Three statistical experts then volunteered to look a little deeper at the Research 2000 numbers, and pretty quickly concluded that something was seriously wrong. “People who have been trusting the R2K reports should know about these extreme anomalies,” they wrote. “We do not know exactly how the weekly R2K results were created, but we are confident they could not accurately describe random polls.”

Writes Moulitsas:

We contracted with Research 2000 to conduct polling and to provide us with the results of their surveys. Based on the report of the statisticians, it’s clear that we did not get what we paid for. We were defrauded by Research …

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Sifting reality from illusion in the politics of Georgia’s water crisis

Georgia’s ongoing water crisis defies an easy solution, or even an easy explanation.

So when you listen to candidates for governor discuss the issue, you’re not hoping to hear a solution to a complex problem, because there aren’t any. At best, you hope to hear evidence that the candidates have educated themselves on the issue and have thought it through intelligently.

For example, consider the positions of the top four GOP gubernatorial candidates.

Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, the front-runner at the moment, brings up Georgia’s claims that if drawn accurately, the border between Tennessee and Georgia would give us water rights to the Tennessee River. As governor, Oxendine says, he would raise that issue in talks with Tennessee.

That’s an easy answer with obvious political appeal. It’s also pretty foolish. Tennessee officials have made it clear they will fight any effort to redraw the centuries-old boundary. Given that we’re already embroiled in a losing …

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The truth behind the nation’s massive fiscal problem

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Political narratives are precious things these days. They give people a story line, an explanation for why the world is as it is and why their side isn’t to blame. And at the moment, the right’s most important narrative is that the nation’s dangerous and unsustainable budget deficit is the fault of Barack Obama.

Well, it isn’t, as the chart on the right demonstrates. “Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years,” Kathy Ruffing and James R. Horney conclude in a study published by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

The CBPI is a liberal policy-analysis group, and those who are more interested in preserving their faith in conservative narrative than in discovering the truth can and will dismiss its findings on those grounds alone.

But numbers are numbers. If the numbers driving this chart are “liberal,” if the assumptions behind those numbers are “liberal,” …

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Civil authorities right to intervene in Catholic abuse inquiry

Detaining church leaders and seizing church documents is not a step that should ever be taken lightly. But angry protestations from the Vatican aside — Pope Benedict XVI called the action “surprising and deplorable” — officials in Belgium seem well within their rights to press their investigation into child abuse at the hands of Catholic priests and coverups by high church officials.

As the AP reports:

“On Thursday, scores of police officers seized documents, computers, DVDs and CDs at the Belgian archbishop’s residence in Mechlin, north of Brussels, and detained a dozen Belgian bishops who were meeting there. Also detained for nine hours and told to surrender his cell phone was the Vatican’s envoy to Belgium.

Using power tools, police also opened up a prelate’s crypt in Mechlin’s St. Rombout Cathedral looking for documents. Simultaneously, police carted off 500 sexual abuse case files against Belgian clergy from the office of Adriaenssens’ panel in Leuven, just east of …

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Latest gun ruling a case of conservative judicial activism

Two years ago, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of ruling that the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms was an individual right rather than a right tied to a “well-regulated militia.” Today, in McDonald v. City of Chicago, it ruled 5-4 that state and local governments are as bound by that interpretation as the federal government, a step that greatly restricts their ability to legislate in that arena.

Symbolically, the ruling is a big victory for the gun lobby. But its practical effect is another matter. A decade or two ago, when hot political battles were still being fought over gun control, rulings such as these would have had significant impact. But the truth is that the single-minded passion of gun-rights advocates long routed their opponents in the political arena, making gun-control arguments in the political arena all but moot.

In that sense, the Supreme Court is merely following the election returns, …

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U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, a story of America

No senator left a more visible legacy in his native state than the late Robert Byrd of West Virginia. He was from Sophia, my father is from nearby Mount Hope, and everywhere you go in that part of the country you see signs proclaiming “Robert Byrd this” and “Robert Byrd that.”

“West Virginia has always had four friends,” Byrd once said, “God Almighty, Sears Roebuck, Carter’s Liver Pills, and Robert C. Byrd.”

Citizens Against Government Waste lists, among other West Virginia projects, the Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam, Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, Robert C. Byrd Drive, Robert C. Byrd Federal Correctional Institution, Robert C. Byrd Center for Hospitality and Tourism and of course the Robert C. Byrd Hardwood Technologies Center.

In effect orphaned at age 1, raised as the foster son of a miner in a home with neither electricity nor running water, Byrd’s story was an American story, from his dalliance with the KKK to his early endorsement of Barack Obama as president.

His …

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Dave Weigel, Stan McChrystal shared a mistake, and a fate

Journalists should report the news, not become the news. But sometimes life doesn’t work that way.

Michael Hastings, for example, has become part of the story that he wrote for Rolling Stone that ended the career of Gen. Stanley McChrystal. The general’s staff feels betrayed by Hastings’ reporting; Hastings believes he has acted professionally.

I have no idea what ground rules were set between Hastings and McChrystal’s staff or in what setting the reported quotes were made. My own rule is that anything said with either party holding an alcoholic beverage is off the record unless it is stated otherwise. (Jamie McIntyre has a good discussion of the dance between source and reporter in such situations.)

To a large degree, a reporter’s decision is driven by what kind of game he or she is hunting. If you’re seeking things such as comprehension, context and explanation to share with your readers, you don’t do what Hastings did. You let the potentially sensationalistic things slide — …

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Travelin’ home with Dr. Hook and his Medicine Show

Well, Stanley McChrystal didn’t actually make the cover of Rolling Stone this week, surrendering that high honor to one Lady Gaga. But back in 1972, when this song hit the charts, McChrystal was 18 and by all accounts a party animal. So I’d say that the odds are pretty good that at one point or another, he had roared out its familiar refrain.

Little did he know the twists that life would take.

The song — a classic of the genre mocking the rock-star life — was written by the amazingly versatile Shel Silverstein, who also wrote this and this and this as well as classic children’s books such as this and this (one of my own kids’ favorites.)

And no, there’s nothing political in the title of that last one.

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