Thursday, December 30, 2010

(CREW) Calls for Criminal Investigation into Christine O'Donnell for Campaign Fraud

(CREW) Calls for Criminal Investigation into Christine O'Donnell for Campaign Fraud

Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed complaints with the Delaware U.S. Attorney's Office and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against newly-minted Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell (R) for using campaign funds for personal living expenses.  By misusing campaign funds, Ms. O'Donnell committed the crime of conversion; by lying about her expenditures on forms she filed with the FEC, she committed false statements; and by failing to include the campaign funds she misappropriated as income, she committed tax evasion.

"Christine O'Donnell is clearly a criminal, and like any crook she should be prosecuted," said Melanie Sloan, CREW Executive Director. "Ms. O'Donnell has spent years embezzling money from her campaign to cover her personal expenses. Republicans and Democrats don't agree on much these days, but both sides should agree on one point: thieves belong in jail not the United States Senate."

CREW's complaint is based, in part, on the affidavit of former campaign aide David Keegan.  Mr. Keegan explained that in 2009, when Ms. O'Donnell was out of money, she paid her landlord, Brent Vasher, two months rent out of her campaign funds. On FEC forms, Ms. O'Donnell called the expenditures "expense reimbursements." Mr. Keegan also attested that Ms. O'Donnell routinely used campaign funds for meals and gas, and even a bowling outing. This is not surprising given that Ms. O'Donnell has not held a steady job or had a discernable source of income for many years.
Poor little conservative can't make an honest living working like most Americans. Conservatives swear the unemployed are lazy and unemployment benefits encourage laziness. So by that logic campaign contributions to conservatives encourage them to be lazy.

Today in incredibly stupid things Jonah Goldberg wrote - Gay marriage will be Bad News for Liberals, Jonah argues, because liberals hate monogamy and ABC sitcoms. Jonah only has a job writing - a profession for which he has no qualifications what so ever because his mom and dad were wealthy. It must be Republican Welfare Day.

Oh, Those Death Panels
You would think that if Republicans wanted to totally mischaracterize a health care provision and demagogue it like nobody's business, they would at least pick something that the vast majority of them hadn't already voted for just a few years earlier. Because that's not just shameless, it's stupid.

Yes, that's right. Remember the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill, the one that passed with the votes of 204 GOP House members and 42 GOP Senators? Anyone want to guess what it provided funding for? Did you say counseling for end-of-life issues and care? Ding ding ding!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Northern Europeans Prove United States Does Not Have to be a Conservative Dystopia

Northern Europeans Prove United States Does Not Have to be a Conservative Dystopia
One of the great challenges of sustainable development is to combine society's desires for economic prosperity and social security. For decades economists and politicians have debated how to reconcile the undoubted power of markets with the reassuring protections of social insurance. America's supply-siders claim that the best way to achieve well-being for America's poor is by spurring rapid economic growth and that the higher taxes needed to fund high levels of social insurance would cripple prosperity. Austrian-born free-market economist Friedrich August von Hayek suggested that high taxation would be a "road to serfdom," a threat to freedom itself.*

Most of the debate in the U.S. is clouded by vested interests and by ideology. Yet there is by now a rich empirical rec-ord to judge these issues scientifically. The evidence may be found by comparing a group of relatively free-market economies that have low to moderate rates of taxation and social outlays with a group of social-welfare states that have high rates of taxation and social outlays.

Not coincidentally, the low-tax, high-income countries are mostly English-speaking ones that share a direct historical lineage with 19th-century Britain and its theories of economic laissez-faire. These countries include Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. The high-tax, high-income states are the Nordic social democracies, notably Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, which have been governed by left-of-center social democratic parties for much or all of the post¿World War II era. They combine a healthy respect for market forces with a strong commitment to antipoverty programs. Budgetary outlays for social purposes average around 27 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the Nordic countries and just 17 percent of GDP in the English-speaking countries.

Friedrich Von Hayek was wrong

On average, the Nordic countries outperform the Anglo-Saxon ones on most measures of economic performance. Poverty rates are much lower there, and national income per working-age population is on average higher. Unemployment rates are roughly the same in both groups, just slightly higher in the Nordic countries. The budget situation is stronger in the Nordic group, with larger surpluses as a share of GDP.

The Nordic countries maintain their dynamism despite high taxation in several ways. Most important, they spend lavishly on research and development and higher education. All of them, but especially Sweden and Finland, have taken to the sweeping revolution in information and communications technology and leveraged it to gain global competitiveness. Sweden now spends nearly 4 percent of GDP on R&D, the highest ratio in the world today. On average, the Nordic nations spend 3 percent of GDP on R&D, compared with around 2 percent in the English-speaking nations.

The Nordic states have also worked to keep social expenditures compatible with an open, competitive, market-based economic system. Tax rates on capital are relatively low. Labor market policies pay low-skilled and otherwise difficult-to-employ individuals to work in the service sector, in key quality-of-life areas such as child care, health, and support for the elderly and disabled.

The results for the households at the bottom of the income distribution are astoundingly good, especially in contrast to the mean-spirited neglect that now passes for American social policy. The U.S. spends less than almost all rich countries on social services for the poor and disabled, and it gets what it pays for: the highest poverty rate among the rich countries and an exploding prison population. Actually, by shunning public spending on health, the U.S. gets much less than it pays for, because its dependence on private health care has led to a ramshackle system that yields mediocre results at very high costs.

Life in the U.S. should be a social-Darwinist slug fest with everyone coping with markets and shadow bankers running the show. The U.S. is socialistic in some respects - those at the top reap the rewards of wealth whether they succeed or fail - while the other 90% have to pay for the mistakes they make.

Democrats and Population Trends, Conservative Prognosticators Get Taken to the Wood Shed

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How The Mainstream Media Loves Right-Wing Republicans and Echoes the Fox World View

How The Mainstream Media Loves Right-Wing Republicans and Echoes the Fox World View

Forget about fake moon landings and Obama's birth certificate. The most enduring unfounded conspiracy theory in America is that our institutions of knowledge – the media, the academy and even science -- are biased in favor of liberals.

The national media is based in large urban centers, so it should come as no surprise that conservatives would rarely see their views on strictly social issues well represented. But on matters of substance, we are talking about a corporate-owned media that pushes relentlessly for "free trade" deals, foreign wars and fiscal "austerity."

In my book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies About the Economy, I discuss how, beginning in the early 1970s, a number of wealthy conservative donors have invested in the development of what I call a parallel “intellectual infrastructure,” ostensibly designed to counter the liberal bias they saw all around them. They funded dozens of corporate-backed think tanks, endowed academic chairs, and created their own dedicated and distinctly conservative media outlets.

But the Right’s messaging isn't confined to the conservative media, in part because of the relentless pressure on newsrooms from conservative activists – it's an example of “working the refs.”

At times, media outlets are open about their attempts to curb criticism from the Right by giving more space to conservatives. Last year, when the Philadelphia Inquirer came under fire for giving a column to torture memo author John Yoo, editorial page editor Harold Jackson told the New York Times, “There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of the Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication ...We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix.”

The Inquirer also hired former Senator Rick Santorum to weigh in on the events of the day. Santorum and Yoo joined right-wing radio host Michael Smerconish. Eric Boehlert of Media Matters noted the context surrounding the move:

    Keep in mind that the Inquirer serves a hugely Democratic city in a state that, according to voting patterns, is galloping away from the GOP. But under pressure from the right, the Inquirer scrambles to hire a discredited voice like Yoo's, and a politician like Santorum, who PA. voters overwhelmingly rejected at the polls.

This week, John Merline, opinion editor for AOL News, offered more evidence that conservative views are more-than-adequately represented in the supposedly “liberal” media. "When it comes to conservatives,” he wrote, “reporters can't seem to get enough of them."

Indeed, a Pew Research Center survey found that of the top 10 most-covered candidates in the midterm elections, conservatives held the top three spots. Here's more evidence. I asked AOL's Relegence team, which tracks more than 30,000 news sites on the Web, to compare coverage of comparable liberals and conservatives over the past 12 months. The results are stark. Conservatives were featured in vastly more stories.

Among the study's findings:

    * In 2010, Sarah Palin, the 2008 GOP vice-presidential nominee who currently holds no power, got three times the coverage that Joe Biden, who is actually a sitting vice president received.
    * The disparity in coverage between conservative talker Glenn Beck and the liberal Keith Olbermann was large. “Month after month, Beck racked up hundreds, if not thousands, of stories, wrote Merline. “In contrast, Olbermann typically only got a few dozen stories a month in which he was featured prominently -- except for the month when he was temporarily suspended.”
    * Fringe candidates get coverage if they're conservative. As Merline put it, “Christine O'Donnell was an unqualified, kooky candidate who took everyone by surprise when she beat a far better known, established candidate for the Republican Senate nomination in Delaware. Liberal Alvin Greene was a completely unqualified, kooky candidate who also shocked everyone by getting the Democratic nomination for Senate over four-term South Carolina state lawmaker Vic Rawl. Both went on to decisively lose their elections.” O'Donnell more than doubled the coverage Greene received.

This echoes a 2006 Media Matters study that analyzed almost 7,000 guests on the broadcast networks' Sunday political shows during Clinton's second term and George W. Bush's first. The balance between Democrats/progressives and Republicans/conservatives was roughly equal during Clinton's second term, with a slight edge toward Republicans/conservatives: 52 percent of the ideologically identifiable guests were from the right, and 48 percent were from the left. But in Bush's first term, Republicans/conservatives held a dramatic advantage, outnumbering Democrats/progressives by 58 percent to 42 percent.

And that's not all. A months-long investigation in 2010 by the Nation’s Sebastian Jones revealed what he called a far-reaching “media-lobbying complex”—dozens of corporate hired guns who appear on network broadcasts without disclosing their ties to the firms they work for. Jones wrote of “the covert corporate influence-peddling on cable news.” Jones found that during just the previous three years, “at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials—people paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests”—had appeared on the major news channels. “Many have been regulars on more than one of the cable networks, turning in dozens—and in some cases hundreds—of appearances,” he wrote.

To be sure, measuring the amount of coverage conservatives get doesn't tell you what the tone of that coverage was, but getting an opportunity to present one's side of a political debate has a lot of value, given the standard-issue he-said/she-said reporting that’s so instinctive to neutral, “unbiased” journalists. Reporters are expected to get “both sides” of every story, even if one of those sides is making factually dishonest arguments.

It's ironic that the heavy coverage of conservatives ultimately results from their constant whining about liberal media bias. As we can see, gaming the ref works.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America).
It is likely true that much of the media lean culturally moderate. That is in line with wealthy elite Republicans. They do not believe the government should interfere with women's personal medical matters and would blow a gasket .if someone meddled in their religious life or lack thereof.  Conservatives exploit those issues to get their base all riled up.The right-wing conservative base has thus been abusing their base for years. let's not shed any tears for them since - if they cared or paid attention - they would know they are being used. At this point one can only assume they are happy to be screwed over economically by their elite Republican masters.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sarah Palin Cites Wikileaks Memo to Justify To Justify Foreign Policy Fantasies

Sarah Palin Cites Wikileaks Memo to Justify To Justify Foreign Policy Fantasies

Sarah Palin sought to build her foreign policy credentials on Tuesday, with a new op-ed arguing that the Obama administration needs to "toughen up" on Iran based on information from leaked diplomatic cables that she had earlier denounced.

The former Alaska Governor writes in USA Today:

    Iran continues to defy the international community in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons. Arab leaders in the region rightly fear a nuclear-armed Iran. We suspected this before, but now we know for sure because of leaked diplomatic cables. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia "frequently exhorted the U.S. to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program," according to these communications. Officials from Jordan said the Iranian nuclear program should be stopped by any means necessary. Officials from the United Arab Emirates and Egypt saw Iran as evil, an "existential threat" and a sponsor of terrorism. If Iran isn't stopped from obtaining nuclear weapons, it could trigger a regional nuclear arms race in which these countries would seek their own nuclear weapons to protect themselves.

The "leaked diplomatic cables" that Palin speaks of are, of course, dispatches released as part of WikiLeaks' latest document dump, an action that she deemed "treasonous," later asking why the group's founder, Julian Assange, was not "pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders."

The general thrust of Palin's op-ed is that the potential danger of Iran -- nuclear or non-nuclear -- is enough to warrant an escalation of the existing United Nations economic sanctions:

    Much more can be done, such as banning insurance for shipments to Iran, banning all military sales to Iran, ending all trade credits, banning all financial dealings with Iranian banks, limiting Iran's access to international capital markets and banking services, closing air space and waters to Iran's national air and shipping lines, and, especially, ending Iran's ability to import refined petroleum.

Palin made another foray into foreign policy over the summer when she blasted out her manifesto via Facebook. In that release, she argued for a sacrosanct defense budget, a reaffirmation of unconditional ties with Israel, and the elimination of a timetable for the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.

Moral or ideological consistency have never been one of the far right's virtues. She seems willing to guide her foreign policy by the litmus test of what Arab Sunni Muslims think is best. maybe this is a kind of progress. Conservatives take a breath in their hatred of all things Islam as long as they agree on bombing the same people into melted sand.

What an "unconditional" relationship with Israel means is scary. Anything that Israel does becomes American policy. How would Jefferson and Madison feel about letting U.S. actions be dictated by a foreign power.

Tantaros thinks Obama should model Bush's vacation schedule?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Conservatives Out of Step With the Voting Public

Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Conservatives Out of Step With the Voting Public

President Obama made his first big pitch under the new order yesterday. Today it was Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's turn. Whereas Obama looked for a middle ground where both parties could meet, McConnell looked for the president to come over to his side. As McConnell sees it, the election was a mandate for Obama to change course.

What course will the Senate Republican leader follow? Simple: the will of the American people. "Listening to the People Who Sent Us Here" was the title of the speech he gave today at the Heritage Foundation. There's a problem, though: The American people don't really agree with him.

McConnell is not one of the politicians who pretends not to read the polls. When he argued that Obama and Democrats were out of touch, he used polls to back up his argument. Using the McConnell standard—that is, reading the polls—the views of the people who gave the GOP such a resounding victory Tuesday do not match up with his priorities of cutting taxes, repealing health care, and reducing spending.

Tax cuts: According to exit polls, only 17 percent of the country thinks tax cuts should be a priority for the new Congress. And those that do want tax cuts oppose the way McConnell wants to do it. More than half the country, 52 percent, either wants the Bush tax cuts extended for those making under $250,000 a year or doesn't want them extended at all. Only 39 percent support the McConnell position of extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone. That 52-39 split is identical to the one McConnell cited at the White House health care summit in February as proof that the American people opposed Obama's health care plan.

Spending cuts: McConnell is opposed to federal spending to create jobs, but nearly as many voters want lawmakers to spend money to create jobs (37 percent) as want them to cut the deficit (39 percent). Voters in McConnell's home state of Kentucky are even more bullish on spending: They say Congress's first priority should be spending to create jobs (39 percent), reducing the deficit (35 percent), and applying tax cuts (21 percent).

Health care: Voters do not list repeal of the health care as a top priority. When asked their opinion, 48 percent support McConnell's plan to repeal the law. This is hardly a mandate. Forty-seven percent want either to keep the law or to expand it.

These are opinions of Tuesday's voters—the people McConnell cited in his speech today. Voter sentiment among the broader population is even more against him. In a recent USA Today/Gallup poll, a new stimulus bill is supported by 38 percent of the country. Cutting spending gets 24 percent support; repealing health care, 23 percent; and extending all income tax cuts, 8 percent.

A possible response to all this, of course, is to say: Ignore the polls. That would undermine McConnell's case, but it's closer to the classic definition of leadership. None other than George W. Bush makes that case in his memoir Decision Points. Obama also made this claim when presented with polls that the country rejecting his stimulus and health care plans.

In general, polls (and elections) present politicians with two choices. Either they can say they're going to follow the will of the American people as expressed in the polls (or at the ballot box) or they can say they're going to lead. They can't do both. There is a third option, of course. You can just claim that the American people agree with you regardless of whether they actually do or not. That's certainly a time-honored political technique. Unfortunately, it usually requires making things up. Polls show the American people don't like that.
 If this were 1860 conservatives might be in tune with the plantation owners. They have been fighting progress for at least that long - do not be fooled by the party of Lincoln crap - modern Republicans yarn for the days of the Confederacy. For the last forty years conservatives have been the party of special interests and Mitch is proud of that record.. A record hat is the antithesis of government by and for the people, and the common good.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What is Liberalism

What is Liberalism? Sometimes it is helpful to see what something is not to define what something is. What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It? by Philip E. Agre

From the pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the self-regarding thugs of ancient Rome to the glorified warlords of medieval and absolutist Europe, in nearly every urbanized society throughout human history, there have been people who have tried to constitute themselves as an aristocracy. These people and their allies are the conservatives.

The tactics of conservatism vary widely by place and time. But the most central feature of conservatism is deference: a psychologically internalized attitude on the part of the common people that the aristocracy are better people than they are. Modern-day liberals often theorize that conservatives use "social issues" as a way to mask economic objectives, but this is almost backward: the true goal of conservatism is to establish an aristocracy, which is a social and psychological condition of inequality. Economic inequality and regressive taxation, while certainly welcomed by the aristocracy, are best understood as a means to their actual goal, which is simply to be aristocrats. More generally, it is crucial to conservatism that the people must literally love the order that dominates them. Of course this notion sounds bizarre to modern ears, but it is perfectly overt in the writings of leading conservative theorists such as Burke. Democracy, for them, is not about the mechanisms of voting and office-holding. In fact conservatives hold a wide variety of opinions about such secondary formal matters. For conservatives, rather, democracy is a psychological condition. People who believe that the aristocracy rightfully dominates society because of its intrinsic superiority are conservatives; democrats, by contrast, believe that they are of equal social worth. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years.

The defenders of aristocracy represent aristocracy as a natural phenomenon, but in reality it is the most artificial thing on earth. Although one of the goals of every aristocracy is to make its preferred social order seem permanent and timeless, in reality conservatism must be reinvented in every generation. This is true for many reasons, including internal conflicts among the aristocrats; institutional shifts due to climate, markets, or warfare; and ideological gains and losses in the perpetual struggle against democracy. In some societies the aristocracy is rigid, closed, and stratified, while in others it is more of an aspiration among various fluid and factionalized groups. The situation in the United States right now is toward the latter end of the spectrum. A main goal in life of all aristocrats, however, is to pass on their positions of privilege to their children, and many of the aspiring aristocrats of the United States are appointing their children to positions in government and in the archipelago of think tanks that promote conservative theories.

Conservatism in every place and time is founded on deception. The deceptions of conservatism today are especially sophisticated, simply because culture today is sufficiently democratic that the myths of earlier times will no longer suffice.

A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Republicans Give 9/11 Responders the Shaft and Media Takes a Nap

Republicans Give 9/11 Responders the Shaft and Media Takes a Nap

Comedy Central's Jon Stewart devoted almost all of his last show of the year to ripping into Republican senators for blocking a bill that would help 9/11 first responders.

House Resolution 847, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, would provide $7 billion in benefits to workers that responded to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Many of those workers are now experiencing health problems such as cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease.

The bill is "win-win-win-win," Stewart said Thursday. "Just fucking do it!"

As the lame duck session began, all 42 GOP senators signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promising to prevent a vote on any legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts had been extended for every American, including those that make over $250,000 a year.

The next week, Republicans staged a successful filibuster to keep the Zadroga bill from coming up for a vote.

Congress approved an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and Obama was expected to sign it on Dec. 17, but there was still no plan to vote on HR 847.

ABC, CBS and NBC have yet to even mention 9/11 responders during their nightly news coverage of the lame duck session.

"This is a job for Fox News, the nation's leading source of 9/11-based outrage," Stewart declared.

But the only Fox News analyst to cover the Zadroga bill conveniently omitted that Republicans were holding up its passage.

Stewart noted that the only network that fully covered the topic was Al-Jazeera.

"Our networks were scooped with a sympathetic Zadroga Bill story by the same network Osama bin Laden sends his mix-tapes to!" Stewart exclaimed. "This is insane!"

Why would conservatives give 9/11 responders one of the biggest middle-fingers in political history - besides the innate conservative contempt for American values? They were holding help for the responders hostage in order to get an extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. The Anti-American Chamber of Commerce was on hand to offer encouragement - ‘U.S.’ Chamber Of Commerce Lobbied To Help GOP Kill Bill To Provide Health Care To 9/11 First Responders  

The Chamber fought to help kill the 9/11 compensation bill because it was funded by ending a special tax loophole exploited by foreign corporations doing business in the United States.

The “U.S.” part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a misnomer. As ThinkProgress reported, the Chamber represents dozens of foreign businesses in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, Bahrain, India, Brazil, and other countries. An investigation of the Chamber turned up recent fundraising documents from the Chamber soliciting foreign contributions to the Chamber’s 501(c)(6), the tax entity the Chamber used to run nasty campaign ads against Democrats earlier this year.

In September, the Chamber sent a letter officially opposing the 9/11 first responders bill, called the “James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010.” The Chamber warned that ending the tax loophole would “damage U.S. relationships with major trading partners” and “aggravate already unsettled financial markets.” A lobbying disclosure filed with the Senate confirms the Chamber contacted lawmakers to help kill the bill.

In typical fashion, the Chamber has not revealed which of its foreign members had asked them to kill the 9/11 bill.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Ghosts of the Financial Meltdown Remain - A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives

A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives

On the third Wednesday of every month, the nine members of an elite Wall Street society gather in Midtown Manhattan.

The men share a common goal: to protect the interests of big banks in the vast market for derivatives, one of the most profitable — and controversial — fields in finance. They also share a common secret: The details of their meetings, even their identities, have been strictly confidential.

Drawn from giants like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the bankers form a powerful committee that helps oversee trading in derivatives, instruments which, like insurance, are used to hedge risk.

In theory, this group exists to safeguard the integrity of the multitrillion-dollar market. In practice, it also defends the dominance of the big banks.

The banks in this group, which is affiliated with a new derivatives clearinghouse, have fought to block other banks from entering the market, and they are also trying to thwart efforts to make full information on prices and fees freely available.

Banks’ influence over this market, and over clearinghouses like the one this select group advises, has costly implications for businesses large and small, like Dan Singer’s home heating-oil company in Westchester County, north of New York City.

This fall, many of Mr. Singer’s customers purchased fixed-rate plans to lock in winter heating oil at around $3 a gallon. While that price was above the prevailing $2.80 a gallon then, the contracts will protect homeowners if bitterly cold weather pushes the price higher.

But Mr. Singer wonders if his company, Robison Oil, should be getting a better deal. He uses derivatives like swaps and options to create his fixed plans. But he has no idea how much lower his prices — and his customers’ prices — could be, he says, because banks don’t disclose fees associated with the derivatives.

“At the end of the day, I don’t know if I got a fair price, or what they’re charging me,” Mr. Singer said.

Derivatives shift risk from one party to another, and they offer many benefits, like enabling Mr. Singer to sell his fixed plans without having to bear all the risk that oil prices could suddenly rise. Derivatives are also big business on Wall Street. Banks collect many billions of dollars annually in undisclosed fees associated with these instruments — an amount that almost certainly would be lower if there were more competition and transparent prices.

Just how much derivatives trading costs ordinary Americans is uncertain. The size and reach of this market has grown rapidly over the past two decades. Pension funds today use derivatives to hedge investments. States and cities use them to try to hold down borrowing costs. Airlines use them to secure steady fuel prices. Food companies use them to lock in prices of commodities like wheat or beef.

The marketplace as it functions now “adds up to higher costs to all Americans,” said Gary Gensler, the chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates most derivatives. More oversight of the banks in this market is needed, he said.

But big banks influence the rules governing derivatives through a variety of industry groups. The banks’ latest point of influence are clearinghouses like ICE Trust, which holds the monthly meetings with the nine bankers in New York.

Under the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, many derivatives will be traded via such clearinghouses. Mr. Gensler wants to lessen banks’ control over these new institutions. But Republican lawmakers, many of whom received large campaign contributions from bankers who want to influence how the derivatives rules are written, say they plan to push back against much of the coming reform. On Thursday, the commission canceled a vote over a proposal to make prices more transparent, raising speculation that Mr. Gensler did not have enough support from his fellow commissioners.

The Department of Justice is looking into derivatives, too. The department’s antitrust unit is actively investigating “the possibility of anticompetitive practices in the credit derivatives clearing, trading and information services industries,” according to a department spokeswoman.

Indeed, the derivatives market today reminds some experts of the Nasdaq stock market in the 1990s. Back then, the Justice Department discovered that Nasdaq market makers were secretly colluding to protect their own profits. Following that scandal, reforms and electronic trading systems cut Nasdaq stock trading costs to 1/20th of their former level — an enormous savings for investors.
So much for that tea party populism which wanted Wall Street to pay. All just a bunch of people shouting and ultimately meaning nothing. The same players at still at it. Either trying to undermine what financial reform Democrats passed or fighting against transparency. So once again Wall Street is putting trillions of dollars of the nation's wealth at risk because of they want to trade derivatives in utter secrecy. What have they got to hide and why are conservatives helping them hide what they're up to. Since everyone is now against bailing out the financial sector under any circumstances what happens to the economy when these secret deals cause another multi-trillion dollar loss of the nation's wealth and the economy has another collapse.

Conservative Republican members of a panel investigating the financial crisis vote to blame the poor instead of Wall Street

GOP members of a panel investigating the financial crisis vote to ban the words "Wall Street" and "deregulation"
By Andrew Leonard

In May 2009, President Obama signed into the law the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, which created the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC). The FCIC's mandate was to "examine the causes, domestic and global, of the current financial and economic crisis in the United States." Many hoped the FCIC would end up serving a role analogous to the famous Pecora Commission that investigated the causes of the Great Depression and laid the groundwork for numerous reforms, including the creation of the Securities and Exchange Commission. At the time, Robert Kuttner wrote in the Huffington Post that the new investigative body "could be one of those rare, historic commissions that changes the course of history -- or it could be window-dressing."

Today, it's looking a lot like the FCIC will be remembered for decades to come -- but only as an example of how the partisan divide is utterly crippling any attempt by the U.S. government to rationally confront our economic challenges. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that the four Republican appointees to the ten-person panel had decided to release their own report on what caused the crisis, eschewing any accusations of Wall Street recklessness and putting all the blame for the financial crisis squarely on the government's efforts to increase homeownership through the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act and the subsidization of low interest mortgages through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. At the Huffington Post, Shahien Nasripour takes the story one step further, reporting that last week, the four Republican commissioners voted to ban the words "shadow banking," "Wall Street," "interconnected" and "deregulation" from the entire panel's final report.

   The fact that the Republican appointees want to pin all the responsibility for the crisis on government actions will come as no surprise to anyone who watched any of the Congressional hearings held over the last two years rehashing the events that led up to the economic meltdown. And it is important to concede that they are not entirely wrong. Fannie and Freddie did play a part in the drama. But the involvement of Fannie and Freddie doesn't come anywhere close to explaining the whole story. Any honest appraisal of the causes of the financial crisis has to acknowledge that many different elements came together to create the mess.

And that's why the Republican vote on what language to use in the final report (and dutifully implemented in their own report) should be deeply distressing to anyone who cares about the future of this country. Deregulation of derivatives trading clearly played a role in allowing Wall Street financial institutions to gamble recklessly on complex financial instruments. The rise of the "shadow banking" system -- financial institutions that play an economic role similar to banks but aren't regulated by banks -- is essential to understanding the nature of the modern beast. The incredible interconnectedness of financial markets -- in which the failure of any single major financial institution can set off ripple effects that immediately threaten a daisy-chain of falling dominos -- is not a controversial insight. And "Wall Street" -- to absolve Wall Street of responsibility to the point where the words may not even be uttered is simply breath-taking.

But as a taste of what we're going to get when Republicans take over the House, it's likely all too real. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., the prospective chair of the House Financial Services Committee, wasted no time in pushing the party line.

    "The FCIC Republican commissioners plainly stated what most Americans have known all along but that Democrats have failed to acknowledge: that lax lending standards and moral hazard promoted by misguided government policies put our entire financial system at risk. Vice Chairman Thomas and his fellow Republican commissioners should be commended for their important contribution to the debate over how to avoid such financial crises in the future."

The truth could not be more different. By willfully refusing to acknowledge that multiple factors contributed to the financial crisis and that government and the private sector share responsibility for the disaster, we are all but guaranteeing a repeat performance.

Some more background information here - Did Liberals Cause the Sub-Prime Crisis? - Conservatives blame the housing crisis on a 1977 law that helps-low income people get mortgages. It's a useful story for them, but it isn't true. and here American Dream Downpayment Act, New federal program to increase home ownership On December 16, 2003  

In a nut shell - Why Derivatives Caused Financial Crisis

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Anti-American Republicans block 9/11 first responders bill media ignores the story

Anti-American Republicans block 9/11 first responders bill media ignores the story

It was kind of a big deal.

The bill is officially known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010 and is named after a first responder who died from a respiratory disease attributed to his rescue efforts on the morning of the Sept. 11 terror attack. The bill easily passed the House in September with a rare bout of bipartisan support. The bill's backers expected passage in the Senate, as well.

But yesterday, every Republican senator voted against the bill. The action was part of the GOP's obstructionist strategy of not allowing any senate action to proceed until the chamber votes on a bill that will continue to Bush era tax cuts, including those for the very wealthy.

The fact that the 9/-11-related legislation was defeated was news. Period. The fact that it was defeated as part of the larger Republican strategy to tie the Senate in knots made yesterday's vote even more newsworthy.

But not at ABC, CBS or NBC. Last night, all three evening newscasts failed to report on the fact that Republicans had voted down a previously bipartisan bill designed to provide medical coverage for Sept. 11 emergency workers. At the major networks, that development was not considered newsworthy.

That's pretty remarkable. But the larger point here is that Republicans are now practicing an unprecedented brand of obstructionism and they're doing without having to pay much of a political price. Why? Because the press is giving them a pass. The press is pretending what Republicans are doing is normal and everyday. It's not. It's radical.

UPDATED: Guess which show last night did cover the fact that Republicans voted down the 9/11 first responders bill? The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

Conservative Republicans who have made their contempt for America, democracy and morality well known decide to hold firefighters, police and EMTs hostage so the filthy rich don't have to pay their fair share to support America's infrastructure. The corporate media largely ignores it. Sounds like just another day in the plutocracy.