While reading Let Nancy Pelosi Know You Have Her Back, my lobotomy sutures throbbed and failed and I remembered the popular Recommended diary Why Is Speaker Pelosi Boycotting Daily Kos?, in which about 1000 Kossacks acknowledged that Nancy Pelosi has deceived, avoided, and abused the Daily Kos community for what's now more than 4 years, and failed to explain why she didn't have our back.
What happened? Let's try to be fair. After her "pledge" to post a weekly Daily Kos diary about accountability in April 2006, did Pelosi maybe do it under some other handle? Was she actually Speaker Nancy, who appeared to be a snarky satirist but always told the truth? Or was the original pledge made by some right winger out to wreck the real Pelosi's reputation?
As foreclosures drive a record number of Americans into bankruptcy, today's NY Times editorial points out:
Things didn’t have to get this bad.
The best way to modify an underwater loan is to reduce the principal balance, lowering the monthly payment and restoring equity. But for the most part, lenders have refused to reduce principal because it would force them to take an immediate loss on the loan. Lenders also have vehemently — and successfully — resisted Congressional efforts to change the law so that bankruptcy courts could reduce the mortgage balances for bankrupt borrowers.
The administration decided not to press lenders to grant principal reductions in the flawed belief that simply making payments more affordable would be enough to forestall foreclosures. It hasn’t. The administration also didn’t fight for the bankruptcy fix when it was before Congress last year despite President Obama’s campaign promise to do so.
What should we do?
Readers seeking a deeper analysis should see this previous discussion.
By now most literate people who want to know have heard that the key contributor to the economic crisis was the elimination of bank regulations like the Glass-Steagall Act that, going back to 1933, prevented banks from taking the kinds of risks that caused the 1929 Crash and subsequent Depression. As the New York Times recalls, Obama has been eloquent on this subject:
"By the time the Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999, the $300 million lobbying effort that drove deregulation was more about facilitating mergers than creating an efficient regulatory framework," Mr. Obama said in a speech on the economy at Cooper Union in New York in March 2008. "Instead of establishing a 21st century regulatory framework, we simply dismantled the old one," thereby encouraging "a winner take all, anything goes environment that helped foster devastating dislocations in our economy."
Today, more than a year after a finanical crisis that has collapsed much of the economy, our elected representatives are finally heeding candidate Obama's insights.
In his speech Tuesday about preventing Afghani "safe havens", Obama couldn't acknowledge the safe havens the 9-11 attackers used so easily and extensively for planning and flight training - in Hamburg, Germany and San Diego, California - before they attacked. Because that would remind everyone that geography is irrelevant to stateless terrorists. Otherwise we'd have to occupy Hamburg and bomb San Diego - or heaven forbid, treat 9-11 as a crime instead of a territorial, racial or religious war.
The most telling moment in Wednesday's House Committee hearings: when General Jones was quoted as saying there are maybe 100 Al Qaeda in all of Afghanistan, and neither Gates, Mullen nor Hillary disputed it. The Congressman then asked whether there have to be just 50 before we're allowed to admit success and leave. (Who was that fine representative?)
OK - so the US is investing 30,000 new US lives, risking a million Afghani lives and spending $180 billion a year to stop 100 people who could plot terrorism anywhere from doing it in southern Afghanistan? Help me out here.
Pardon the quickie citation: from today's WaPo:
...residents of Maine voted overwhelmingly to allow the sale of medical marijuana over the counter at state-licensed dispensaries.
...the American Medical Association reversed a longtime position and urged the federal government to remove marijuana from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, which equates it with heroin.
In Los Angeles ... more than 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries opened, some employing in-house physicians to dispense legal permission to virtually all comers. The boom town atmosphere brought complaints from some neighbors, but little of the crime associated with underground drug-dealing.
Advocates cite the latter as evidence that, as with alcohol, violence associated with the marijuana trade flows from its prohibition.
"Seriously," said Bruce Merkin [of the Marijuana Policy Project] "there is a reason you don't have Mexican beer cartels planting fields of hops in the California forests."
Why did we learn, only after his pleas had been ignored and he had killed 13 innocent people, that the psychiatrist soldier who did it was being forced against his will to fight in Afghanistan?
And the military Stop Loss policy has not ended either. We just decline to complain about it now that we have a president we want to love. Things are much, much better now except for the Afghanis and for the troops -- our underclass -- that tiny minority of "volunteers" whose fight for freedom could not be more ironic. By the logic of markets, even slaves and indentured servants are never forced to kill and die.
These brave "volunteers" still shoot themselves in the shoulder or foot to avoid being deployed in the middle east to become occupiers and war criminals in nations they realize are not a threat to anyone on US soil. Or they commit suicide each week, in higher numbers than ever before in history.
Thanking them today seems cruelly inadequate. We should more rightly consider them hostages, and find ways to rescue them.
Can we have a civil discussion about the president's policy on marriage rights?
In contrast to his reversals on state secrets, warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention without trial, etc., marriage is an area where the president has not reversed himself since the campaign.
Barack Obama has told us all that "I think marriage is between a man and a woman". When he says this, he isn't saying that if he and Michelle divorced he would never marry a man. He's talking about enforced restrictions on other people's decisions and rights: he does not believe in federal recognition of marriages in Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, California, or Connecticut unless they meet that gender criterion. In this sense he finds himself to the "right" of many Republicans, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Dick Cheney.
Yesterday Obama's quiet, resolute leadership (or to those in denial, his lack of it) helped embolden like-minded Maine voters to narrowly repeal the equal rights legislation there, making it the 30th state with a Jim Crow law that prevents same sex couples and their children from obtaining Social Security benefits, inheriting from a spouse, and enjoying more than 1000 other federal rights.
What do you think?
It may be a good day for health care and The Public Option, but Glenn Greenwald had to call out DKos today, specifically for the obedience and hypocrisy demonstrated in a diary and poll. To say that criticizing Obama's leadership makes Huff Po "conservative" is Orwellian.
As a result, Obama-venerating readers of Daily Kos this morning have declared Huffington Post to be suspect, untrustworthy, and even "right-wing" in a top recommended diary. A poll accompanying that dairy finds that 57% of readers believe that Huffington Post -- which just recently hired Dan Froomkin as its Washington Bureau Chief -- "is turning conservative." In other words, Huffington Post reported on facts which reflect poorly on the leader and which contradict what they are eager to believe. Anyone who does that must be discredited, impugned and declared to be the enemy. That way, the unpleasant facts can be dismissed away by attacking those who point them out, and fantasies of the leader can be blissfully maintained. Doesn't that also sound familiar?
And a more insightful quote, below the fold.
Let's thank the insurance lobby. Two weeks ago they were getting almost exactly what they wanted -- millions of new mandatory customers, the ability to keep the 17 million least profitable (i.e. most needing insurance) Americans out of the market, no serious public alternative, and of course no Single Payer.
But then they got even greedier and tipped their hand. They openly warned they'd raise rates on customers, hoping to get one more concession: heftier fines on healthy young people who don't get insurance! If they'd just kept their greedy mouths shut for a couple more weeks, they could have raised any rate they want and our leaders and Congress would, as always, explain they're powerless to stop them. That's where the spin is wrong: the insurance companies' assessment that they expect rates to go up wasn't a scare tactic - it's the plan. But it wasn't supposed to be public. Now Congress is suddenly in the unexpected position of standing up for us. Christmas in October!
This looks an almost accidental version of oversight. The insurance lobby is in trouble for telling us all what they plan to do. The Congress and White House didn't want to educate you about the anti-trust rules until their partner went public and reneged on a deal.
On the holocaust anniversary yesterday, President Obama spoke eloquently about other holocausts in Rwanda and Somalia. But he steered clear of discussing the human remains and ashes in US run prisons overseas:
there was something about living in cells at Abu Ghraib that never felt right. “We had some kind of incinerator at the end of our building,” Specialist Megan Ambuhl said. “It was this huge circular thing. We just didn’t know what was incinerated in there. It could have been people, for all we knew—bodies.” Sergeant Davis was not in doubt. “It had bones in it,” he said, and he called it the crematorium.
This was reported by award winning journalists in The New Yorker just over a year ago. But for obvious reasons I've never heard any politician mention it.
Now that it's suddenly appropriate to discuss illegal US torture policy - and in honor of the holocaust anniversary - is it possible we can investigate why our soldiers report that Iraqi detainees who were never charged or convicted may have been burned in ovens?
Amazon has sent me an email tersely explaining why hundreds of books on gay and lesbian issues - including many like "Heather Has Two Mommies" aimed at children - as well as books on drug policy -- suddenly were designated as "adult" and lost their Rankings -- while books like American Psycho about brutal sex and murder, and Ron Jeremy's porn autobiography, were child-friendly enough to keep theirs.
Amazon got back to me right away. It turns out it was a "glitch". So it might be a sloppy programmer, a bug in famously flaky Vista, or a loose memory chip. A glitch doesn't sound like a policy change from the top that had to be reversed when Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company got an earful from you and me.
Like when I was growing up, irresponsible computers told the US generals that we'd be safe from Communism as long as we killed at least 15,000 Vietnamese each month. Hints of these "body count" metrics were on the news every day. Boy, were those computers wrong! We killed 2 million and the communists won anyway. It's sad those well-meaning generals trusted those over-rated machines.
I know Eichmann died thinking, "If only I'd had computers."
For all we've heard and learned about the economy lately, it sometimes seems more complicated than it really is because of what we're not allowed to talk about.
For instance - one real reason our financial system went kaboom is this widely accepted financial lie:
When a lender doesn't have evidence that a borrower is a good risk at 5% interest, that borrower is more apt to pay 7%, or 10%, or 20%, or even 400%.
- Millions of foreclosed homes carried Adjustable Rate Mortages whose interest rates that can exceed 20%.
- Millions of underpaid Americans receive, and grow to depend on, credit cards offering quick money at 30% interest and beyond.
- 500% annual interest is an actual rate for "payday loans" by lenders who pray the principle won't be paid back.
Starting in 1978, for the first time since Biblical days, the USA made it all legal.
But unlimited interest rates are a famously corrupt practice known for thousands of years as usury. In less than 30 years it has destroyed the world economy.
What would happen if the Obama administration made usury illegal again tomorrow? For starters, millions of distressed homeowners could stay in their homes, and neighborhood property values would soar.