Labor's Pains

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Michael Moore: Supreme Court Healthcare Ruling a Victory on the Path to ...

Will Obamacare move the ball forward to get us to single payer lets hope so.

Hilter Finds Out Obamacare Upheld

Another in a great line of bunker video. This one looks like a feed from Fox news though.

The Palatucci Papers: Greedy NJ Gov. Chris Christie's 'Halfway House' Pr...

Privatized jails. Corruption doesn't truly flourish to it's fullest without government and business.

Bill Maher Suggests Zimmerman For Romney VP ( New Rules )

Newt Gingrich: Frankly, not Mitt Romney's biggest supporter.

Supreme Courting! Pun Intended? Absurdity Today June 30, 2012

Obama Health Care Law: Republican Governors, Legislators Not Ready To Fully Commit

Obama Health Care Law: Republican Governors, Legislators Not Ready To Fully Commit:

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“We’re not going to start implementing Obamacare,” Gov. Jindal told reporters on a Friday morning conference call, before saying, “We’re going to work very hard to get Governor Romney elected so this law will be repealed long before the effective dates.”
On the specific issue of creating a state health insurance exchange -- which states have the choice to either set up and run themselves with government funding, or defer to the federal government to create and control -- some state lawmakers have signaled immediate opposition. Their unwillingness comes despite a January 2013 deadline for states to establish health exchange plans before the federal government does it for them.
“Senators do not intend to take up legislation this year to create a health benefit exchange,” said North Carolina Republican State Senate leader Phil Berger, “the General Assembly needs time to process and understand this mixed ruling on Obamacare.”
Though no longer mandatory, the expansion of Medicaid coverage has drawn equal ire in states. Though the ACA offers full federal funding for expanded coverage for the first three years before state contributions eventually rise to 10 percent of Medicaid costs, some Republican state lawmakers have wasted no time portraying the law as a burdensome mandate.
“If this unfunded Medicaid expansion is implemented,” said Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman in a released statement, “state aid to education and funding for the University of Nebraska will be cut or taxes will be increased. If some state senators want to increase taxes of cut education funding, I will oppose them.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, whose state helped lead the legal charge against President Obama’s health care law, told WOKV in Jacksonville that he opposed an expansion of Medicaid coverage on the grounds that his state could not afford it.
Not all Republican state lawmakers took such a hardline against the ACA’s implementation. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert plans to follow federal health care mandates for the time being, while refusing “to do something that is going to bust our budget” in the future.
Former Office of Management and Budget director and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who plans to step down at the end of his term, took what on the surface seems a more moderate approach. Daniels said he would leave the decision on a possible Medicaid expansion to future state legislators.
LP - haven't we gone through this before. I think it was called the civil war.

Full story:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Daily Kos: Analysis: 98.4% of voters on Rick Scott's first purge list are eligible voters

Daily Kos: Analysis: 98.4% of voters on Rick Scott's first purge list are eligible voters:

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The statistics that we've seen from the first round of Republican Gov. Rick Scott's Florida voter purge are pretty disturbing. The Miami Herald uncovered the fact that 58 percent of the people on the initial list sent out to supervisors to be scrubbed off the voting rolls were Hispanic, even though they represent just 13 percent of the voting population. According to the paper's analysis, in addition to Hispanics, Democratic and independent voters were more likely to be on the list.
That's bad, but further analysis from ElectionSmith, Inc. makes it even worse. They've found that 98.4 percent of the 2,625 people included on that first list as "potential noncitizens" are eligible voters. That's quite an error rate.
Only 41 registered voters residing in 13 counties–this is out of the 2,625 names flagged by the Florida SOS as “potential noncitizens”–were removed from the rolls.
In other words, 98.4% of the 2,625 people identified by the Florida SOS as “potential noncitizens” remain on the rolls because the Supervisors of Elections found insufficient evidence that they were ineligible to be registered voters.
That's a really crappy list. It's hard to imagine how many on Scott's secret list of suspected non-citizens are eligible voters. But if it's consistent with the failure rate on the smaller sample, it'd be about 177,000. That's a lot of voters not committing voter fraud.

LP - I'm shocked, just shocked...I thought it was about fraud.

Spoof: Reaction of President Obama over Victory on ObamaCare

From Tonight show.

CNN News Staffers Revolt Over Blown Coverage

CNN News Staffers Revolt Over Blown Coverage:

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And a half dozen top on-air reporters and producers within the esteemed news organization told BuzzFeed they are furious at what they see as yet another embarrassment to a network stuck in third place in the cable news race, and torn between an identity as the leader in hard news and the success of their opinionated, personality-driven rivals, Fox News and MSNBC.
“Fucking humiliating,” said one CNN veteran. “We had a chance to cover it right. And some people in here don’t get what a big deal getting it wrong is. Morons.”
“Shameful,” another long-time correspondent told BuzzFeed.
"It's outrageous and embarrassing,” a third CNN staffer vented. “Maybe this will shake the company into understanding that CNN has not been the 'most trusted name in news' for a very long time."
A fourth CNN source noted simply “obviously, it’s embarrassing,” but defended legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and stressed that it’s the challenge of breaking news.
“It looked to all the world like the chief justice was going to strike down the law,” legal analystToobin later said on air, seeking to explain the CNN confusion.
It took CNN seven minutes to correct the error, from Bolduan's initial report at 10:07 am, a warning from Wolf Blitzer at 10:11 am, and finally an on air correction at approximately 10:14 am. Inside the network, staffers debated blame, and some of Bolduan's colleagues described her as a skilled professional who was misinformed by the veteran producer.
CNN also released a statement explaining the mistake: "In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts initially said that the individual mandate was not a valid exercise of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause. CNN reported that fact, but then wrongly reported that therefore the court struck down the mandate as unconstitutional. However, that was not the whole of the Court’s ruling. CNN regrets that it didn't wait to report out the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate. We made a correction within a few minutes and apologize for the error."
In recent weeks, CNN had been defending its slide in the ratings by staking its pride on excellent news coverage, while criticizing Fox and MSNBC’s partisan slant.
The mistake was not missed by its rivals. Tweeted NBC’s PR director Erika Masonhall: "Important to underscore something I said at @NBCNews social media workshop last week: We'd rather be right than first."
Original story here:

Bloomberg Reversal of Fortune: Union Wins on Closing Schools Suit

DOE “closures” of 24 schools violate union contracts, says arbitrator

The Department of Education has tried to “close” 24 schools and immediately re-open them under new names. An independent arbitrator has found that, for purposes of our contracts, the “new” schools that the DOE claims it is creating this way are in reality not new schools.
As such, the DOE’s attempts to remove half the personnel in these schools are a violation of the school district’s contracts with the unions.
Based on this decision, the current staff in these schools has the opportunity to remain there for the next school year, though those who have found new positions elsewhere are free to go to those new jobs if they choose.
This decision is focused on the narrow issue of whether or not the mayor’s “new” schools are really new. The larger issue, however, is that the centerpiece of the DOE’s school improvement strategy — closing struggling schools — does not work. Parents, students and teachers need the DOE to come up with strategies to fix struggling schools rather than giving up on them.

Colbert broken up about man crush for Chief Justice Roberts

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare Ruling Media Coverage HORRIBLE!

According to Daily Kos Scott Walker again puts himself above the law... again

Labor's Pains:

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Not missing a beat, corporate tool Gov. Scott Walker said shortly after the Supreme Court ruled that the ACA was Constitutional:
[I] would have preferred the court strike down the law, but [I am] holding out hope that a new president and Republican-controlled Congress will overturn it next year. In the meantime the state will not proceed with setting up a health care exchange as is required.
What an arrogant fool. I had hoped that post recall he would have changed from the extreme partisian hack that he is to someone less offensive. That is the Wisconsin in me, always hoping for the best in people. Not only did he say he will not implement the law in Wisconsin he also stated:
[T]he law will be a massive tax increase on the people of Wisconsin and America...[T]he decision creates uncertainty for Wisconsin businesses and that's bad for job growth. He then went on to say, "businesses will be bullish about adding jobs since he won the recall election."
I don't see how this is a "massive tax increase," nor do I understand his conflicting statements. The healthcare law creates uncertainty for Wisconsin businesses and that is bad for job growth, yet businesses will be bullish about adding jobs in the post recall era.First, there would be no uncertainty if he would do HIS JOB and set up a healthcare exchange. Second, my guess is that when his policies cause further job losses in the state he will blame the ACA.

The Last Word - Romney campaign demands WaPo retraction

President Obama Speaks on Health Reform

Victory. Now we ne3ed to move to single payer.

Supreme Court Health Care Decision: Individual Mandate Survives

Supreme Court Health Care Decision: Individual Mandate Survives:

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WASHINGTON -- The individual health insurance mandate is constitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, upholding the central provision of President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act.
The 5-4 majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, upheld the mandate as a tax, although concluded it was not valid as an exercise of Congress' commerce clause power. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined in the majority.
The decision in Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services comes as something of a surprise after the generally hostile reception the law received during the six hours of oral arguments held over three days in March. But by siding with the court's four Democratic appointees, Chief Justice Roberts avoided the delegitimizing taint of politics that surrounds a party-line vote while passing Obamacare's fate back to the elected branches. GOP candidates and incumbents will surely spend the rest of the 2012 campaign season running against the Supreme Court and for repeal of the law.
The decision looks like a political compromise among the justices, letting the mandate stand without wading into the contentious question of whether the provision is a valid exercise of Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. The majority concluded that the mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, falls within Congress' power under the Constitution to "lay and collect taxes."

original story here:

Texas Republican Party Calls For Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Corporal Punishment In Schools

Texas Republican Party Calls For Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Corporal Punishment In Schools:

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Early this month, Texas Republican delegates met in Fort Worth to approve their 2012 platform, notable parts of which take aim at the state's education system.
In the section titled "Education Our Children," the document states that "corporal punishment is effective" and recommends teachers be given "more authority" to deal with disciplinary problems.
Additionally, the document states the party opposes mandatory pre-school and kindergarten, saying parents are "best suited to train their children in their early development."
The position causing the most controversy, however, is the statement that they oppose the teaching of "higher order thinking skills" -- a curriculum which strives to encourage critical thinking -- arguing that it might challenge "student's fixed beliefs" and undermine "parental authority."
The party also notes its encouragement of legislation that prevents "non-citizens unlawfully present in the United States" from enrolling in public schools, a stance that federal officials have previously deemed against the law.
In March, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told Bloomberg he felt "very, very baldy" for Texas students.
The following weekend, former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs gave his own criticism of the state's education system.
"I think when it comes to someone like Rick Perry, [voters are] going to wonder why a place like Texas has one of the worst education systems," Gibbs said on "Meet the Press."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Black caucus to stage walkout during Holder contempt vote in House -

Black caucus to stage walkout during Holder contempt vote in House -

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Members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) plan to stage a walkout during Thursday’s vote on whether to place Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. 
The CBC is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday to discuss the details of the walkout and is planning to circulate a letter to House Democrats requesting that they join them on the Capitol steps for a press conference during the contempt vote. 
The move comes less than 24 hours before the House plans to vote for the first time in history to hold a sitting attorney general in contempt of Congress for not complying with a congressional subpoena. Holder is the first black attorney general in U.S. history.
The walkout is reminiscent of a similar move made by Republicans in 2008 during a Democratic-led vote on whether to hold two senior staffers in President George W. Bush’s administration in contempt of Congress. 
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — then the minority leader — led the walkout with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) following closely behind him. Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, is the sponsor of the contempt resolution against Holder.
“The House floor is the scene of a partisan, political stunt,” said Boehner at the time. House Democrats have been expressing similar comments about the Holder contempt measure.  
On Wednesday evening, in a last-minute effort to stop the vote, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) hand-delivered a letter to Boehner signed by 65 Democrats who asked the Speaker to cancel the contempt resolution.
“The House Leadership’s actions are destructive election-year politics pure and simple," said Jackson Lee in a statement. 
The House Rules Committee reported the contempt resolution on Wednesday along party lines, designating 2 hours and 20 minutes of time for floor debate on Thursday. 
Issa has led Congress’s investigation of Operation Fast and Furious, a program that might have contributed to the killing of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in 2010.
At the center of the dispute is a letter that the Justice Department sent last year to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) stating the agency does everything in its power to stop guns from going into Mexico. Ten months later, the DOJ took the rare step of withdrawing the letter because of false information.
Issa subpoenaed Holder for documents related to the DOJ letter, but the attorney general has refused to fully comply.
originally from:

Darwin has been re-written

Obama Bain Attacks On Mitt Romney Leave Swooning Democrats In Love Again

Obama Bain Attacks On Mitt Romney Leave Swooning Democrats In Love Again:

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For a presidential campaign that endured days of second-guessing over its decision to attack Bain Capital at the general election's onset, the numbers are being treated as nothing short of vindication. And for those Democrats who watched as their colleagues in the Northeast Corridor openly fretted about attacks on wealth, it was a chance to wonder aloud about the party's backbone.
"We are pussies, good God you can quote me on that," said David "Mudcat" Saunders, the longtime Democratic consultant. "There is nothing wrong with having a fine car and a fine house and living the American dream. But the greed! Bain Capital is about greed. ... It stinks morally."
Added another top Democrat, who lobbied the campaign privately to continue the Bain attacks: "It was surprising and disappointing that these folks who are politically on the tour -- they aren't novices -- would not understand that what they said had the potential to undercut the president's strongest message. It was like, 'Don't you realize you are in the fight of our life here?'"
Known for his ability to reach blue-collar voters, mainly in his home turf of Virginia, Saunders said he's seen a shift in voter perceptions of Romney since the Bain line started. A similar testimonial was offered by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who made the case well before Romney was the presumptive Republican nominee that the private equity work wouldn't play well with Buckeye State voters.
"Look, closing factories is a big deal. I think the vice president would say it's a big fucking deal," said Strickland. "I think the president should continue to bear down on that and I think it is having an effect. ... I think we've moved beyond [the argument over whether Bain is fair game] at this point. I would be surprised to see a round two from these folks." 

Interviews with officials on both the Obama campaign and its allied super PAC confirm Strickland's theory of Bain's endurance. Privately, the president's political aides have long argued that focusing on Romney's private equity career was part of a more elaborate line of attack they hoped to stretch out through the summer. The design was to turn Bain into a liability before arguing that Romney applied those lessons to his time as governor and would do the same if elected to the White House.

If The Supreme Court Strikes Down The Affordable Care Act, The Conservative Justices Will Do Lasting Damage To The Institution's Legitimacy | The New Republic

If The Supreme Court Strikes Down The Affordable Care Act, The Conservative Justices Will Do Lasting Damage To The Institution's Legitimacy | The New Republic:

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Before this week, the well-being of tens of millions of Americans was at stake in the lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act.
Now something else is at stake, too: The legitimacy of the Supreme Court.
Nobody knows how the justices will rule. And nobody can know, not even the justices themselves. On Friday morning, perhaps by the time you read this, they will meet privately to take their first vote. More often than not, this first vote determines the final verdict. But there are exceptions and Anthony Kennedy, on whose decision the outcome presumably depends, has a reputation for long deliberation and changes of heart—particularly in major cases like this one.
That’s good. With the result apparently in doubt—smart money still says the chances of the full law surviving are about 50-50—Kennedy should think long and hard about how he wants the Court to rule. So should Chief Justice John Roberts, who appeared more skeptical of the government’s case during oral arguments but nevertheless indicated that he, like Kennedy, understood the government’s premise—that health care was a special market, perhaps requiring special intervention.
If that concern is not enough to sway the chief justice, than perhaps his frequently professed concern for the court’s respectability will.
Even now, I have trouble wrapping my mind around what I saw in the courtroom this week and what a majority of the justices may be contemplating. Kennedy’s second question, the one that so unnerved supports of the law, was whether the government had “a heavy burden of justification to show authorization under the Constitution.” But the heavy burden in this case is on the justices threatening to strike down health care reform. They have not met it.
Rarely in American history has the Court struck down laws in decisions that would have such quick, widespread impact. In the modern era, only two cases come to mind: Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade. Both were acts of ambitious, even audacious judicial activism. But, in two key repsects, they were different from a potential ruling against the Affordable Care Act.
Brown was a unanimous, nine-to-zero decision. Roe was a lopsided seven-to-two. These margins mattered: The justices knew that their decisions would be controversial, in part because they were overruling democratically elected majorities—in these cases, state legislators who’d passed laws enforcing segregation and prohibiting abortion. The justices’ authority in these cases derived, in part, from their moral authority. A closely divided bench would have made that impossible.
Virtually everybody agrees that a vote to strike down the Affordable Care Act would be five to four—a bare majority. And it would be a bare partisan majority, with the five Republican appointees overruling the four Democratic appointees. The decision would appear nakedly partisan and utterly devoid of principle. Appearances would not be deceiving.
The second distinction is even more more significant. Today Brown is a nearly universal icon of social progress, while Roe remains an object of great controversy. But, for better or for worse, both cases represented efforts to change the everyday reality of American life. With Brown, the justices were tearing down barriers to racial equality; with Roe, the justices were eliminating laws that prevented access to abortion.
But in this case, nobody has said they want to stop government from providing universal access to health care. On the contrary, the plaintiffs have stated that a program like Medicare, in which the government provides citizens with insurance directly, would be clearly constitutional. They’ve also stated that a scheme of compulsory private insurance would be constitutional if somehow the government could make people buy it when they show up at the hospital—suggesting, as Elena Kagan stated, that the only problem with the Affordable Care Act is temporal. 
Most amazing of all: The plaintiffs have conceded that a universal health insurance program would be constitutional if, instead of penalizing people who decline to get insurance, the government enacted a tax and refunded the money to people who had insurance. As Sonia Sotomayor noted, functionally such a scheme would be exactly the same as the Affordable Care Act. Both the plaintiffs and some of the skeptical justices have also indicated that the Affordable Care Act would be constitutional if the law's architects had simply used the word "tax" to describe the penalty.
Think about that for a second: If the justices strike down the Affordable Care Act, they would be stopping the federal government from pursuing a perfectly constitutional goal via a perfectly constitutional scheme just because Congress and the Preisdent didn’t use perfectly constitutional language to describe it. Maybe labels matter, although case law suggests otherwise. But do they matter enough for the Court to throw out a law that will provide insurance to 30 million people, shore up insurance for many more, and help to manage one-sixth of the American economy? It wouldn’t seem so.
Of course, the conservative justices who would invalidate the Affordable Care Act may not hold the law in especially high regard. Samuel Alito, in particular, suggested during oral argument that he had serious problems with younger, healthier people subsidizing, via their insurance premiums, the medical expenses of older, sicker people—which just happens to be the defining feature of Medicare, Social Security, and every other social insurance scheme on the planet.
Alito is entitled to his opinion about what makes for good legislation. But he’s not entitled to impose that opinion on the country and his colleagues aren’t, either. Their job is to determine whether a law is constitutional, not whether a law is wise. And the more significant the law, the more unambiguous their judgment ought to be.
follow me on twitter @CitizenCohn
Originally published:

Romney still won't comment on papers please law

Elizabeth Warren Rips Into Romney at Obama Fund-Raiser in Boston -

Elizabeth Warren Rips Into Romney at Obama Fund-Raiser in Boston -

'via Blog this'

“This election will be about whose side you stand on,” said Ms. Warren, repeating a line that she frequently uses on the campaign trail. “Over the past few years, I’ve seen whose side the president stands on.”
Drawing on her work as a special aide in the Obama administration, where she created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Ms. Warren praised Mr. Obama’s work on financial reform.
“Big banks and Republicans fought tooth and nail against us, they vowed this agency would never become law. And when the money poured in, when the pressure mounted against us and when we were on the ropes, President Obama stood firm,” Ms. Warren said. “He planted his feet, he squared his shoulders, and he said, We will stop the cheating, we will stop the tricks and traps.”

Ms. Warren used the theme of financial regulation a second time to deride Mr. Romney.
“They want to repeal all of the financial reforms,” Ms. Warren said of Mr. Romney and Congressional Republicans.
“Mitt Romney tells us in his own words, ‘I think corporations are people.’ No, Mitt, corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs,” Ms. Warren said. “Learn the difference.”
“And Mitt, learn this,” she continued, delivering one of the night’s strongest lines, “We don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”
Ms. Warren did not mention Mr. Brown, her Senate rival, during her speech, but her campaign has worked to depict him as an ally to Mr. Romney. “A vote for Scott Brown is a vote for President Mitt Romney, the Republican Party, Wall Street, and the big corporations,” read a campaign e-mail sent in April.
original post:

Great ideas in privatization

Daily Kos: Rick Scott has secret purge list of 180,000 'non-eligible' voters

Daily Kos: Rick Scott has secret purge list of 180,000 'non-eligible' voters:

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott has a list of 180,000 more voters he wants to purge off of the voting rolls, but he refuses to release the list to news organizations and advocacy groups who have requested it.
His Secretary of State Ken Detzner says it's because the state wants to be "very careful."
"It's individuals' names on there, and I want to make sure that people are treated respectfully. I want to be abundantly cautious about that."
Detzner says that he's asked Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi (who wants to make surethat only the "proper" people are voting) for a ruling on whether or not the list is public information and should be released. His concern for treating these individuals respectfully might come as a surprise to the people who were on the original purge list targeting 2,625 potential non-citizens. For example, Bill Internicola, the 91-year-old World War II veteran and Bronze Star recipient targeted, probably doesn't feel respected by his state.
The rampant problems with that initial list is undoubtedly behind the state's refusal to make this list public. It makes for bad press. And lawsuits. And pissed off elections supervisors. All of those factors make an actual massive purge less likely, but if Scott and Detzner can figure out any way to do it secretly, you can bet they will.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Congressman Denied the Right to Vote

Robert Mundell, evil genius of the euro | Greg Palast | Comment is free |

Robert Mundell, evil genius of the euro | Greg Palast | Comment is free |

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The idea that the euro has "failed" is dangerously naive. The euro is doing exactly what its progenitor – and the wealthy 1%-ers who adopted it – predicted and planned for it to do.
That progenitor is former University of Chicago economist Robert Mundell. The architect of "supply-side economics" is now a professor at Columbia University, but I knew him through his connection to my Chicago professor, Milton Friedman, back before Mundell's research on currencies and exchange rates had produced the blueprint for European monetary union and a common European currency.
Mundell, then, was more concerned with his bathroom arrangements. Professor Mundell, who has both a Nobel Prize and an ancient villa in Tuscany, told me, incensed:
"They won't even let me have a toilet. They've got rules that tell me I can't have a toilet in this room! Can you imagine?"
As it happens, I can't. But I don't have an Italian villa, so I can't imagine the frustrations of bylaws governing commode placement.
But Mundell, a can-do Canadian-American, intended to do something about it: come up with a weapon that would blow away government rules and labor regulations. (He really hated the union plumbers who charged a bundle to move his throne.)
"It's very hard to fire workers in Europe," he complained. His anfull stioryswer: the euro.
The euro would really do its work when crises hit, Mundell explained. Removing a government's control over currency would prevent nasty little elected officials from using Keynesian monetary and fiscal juice to pull a nation out of recession.
"It puts monetary policy out of the reach of politicians," he said. "[And] without fiscal policy, the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business."
He cited labor laws, environmental regulations and, of course, taxes. All would be flushed away by the euro. Democracy would not be allowed to interfere with the marketplace – or the plumbing.
As another Nobelist, Paul Krugman, notes, the creation of the eurozone violated the basic economic rule known as "optimum currency area". This was a rule devised by Bob Mundell.
That doesn't bother Mundell. For him, the euro wasn't about turning Europe into a powerful, unified economic unit. It was about Reagan and Thatcher.
"Ronald Reagan would not have been elected president without Mundell's influence," once wrote Jude Wanniski in the Wall Street Journal. The supply-side economics pioneered by Mundell became the theoretical template for Reaganomics – or as George Bush the Elder called it, "voodoo economics": the magical belief in free-market nostrums that also inspired the policies of Mrs Thatcher.

Monday, June 25, 2012

WaPo Finds Many Connections Between Congressional Actions and Their Investment Portfolios | Crooks and Liars

WaPo Finds Many Connections Between Congressional Actions and Their Investment Portfolios | Crooks and Liars:

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I'm so very shocked. Aren't you? To think that our Congress members would personally benefit from their positions is just unthinkable -- if you're a moron. Nah, the real shocker is that it's perfectly permissible under Congressional "ethics" rules.
I learned this the hard way during my reporter days. Crazy Curt Weldon (PA-7) was trying to pass a piece of legislation that would have the feds pick up the bulk of the cost of major earthquake damage. At the time, he was on leave from CIGNA -- which, quite coincidentally, was the only company writing earthquake coverage in California at that time. I had a chat with a staffer on the House Ethics Committee and was surprised to learn this wasn't enough of a quid pro quo for them to care. Apparently you have to catch a member taking an envelope of cash before the ethics committee will even bother:
One-hundred-thirty members of Congress or their families have traded stocks collectively worth hundreds of millions of dollars in companies lobbying on bills that came before their committees, a practice that is permitted under current ethics rules, a Washington Post analysis has found.
The lawmakers bought and sold a total of between $85 million and $218 million in 323 companies registered to lobby on legislation that appeared before them, according to an examination of all 45,000 individual congressional stock transactions contained in computerized financial disclosure data from 2007 to 2010.
Almost one in every eight trades — 5,531 — intersected with legislation. The 130 lawmakers traded stocks or bonds in companies as bills passed through their committees or while Congress was still considering the legislation. The party affiliation of the lawmakers was almost evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, 68 to 62.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) reported buying $25,000 in bonds in a genetic-technology companyaround the time that he released a hold on legislation the firm supported. Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) sold between $50,000 and $100,000 in General Electric stock shortly before a Republican filibuster killed legislation sought by the company. The family of Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) bought between $286,000 and $690,000 in a high-tech company interested in a bill under his committee’s jurisdiction.
The trades were uncovered as part of an ongoing examination by The Post of the intersection between the personal finances of lawmakers and their professional duties. Earlier this year, Congress responded to criticism of potential conflicts of interest by passing the Stock Act,which bars lawmakers, their staffs and top executive branch officials from trading on inside information acquired on Capitol Hill.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Notes on Wall Street's Bid-Rigging Scandal | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone

Notes on Wall Street's Bid-Rigging Scandal | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone:

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For space reasons we had to leave a few interesting bits out of my latest magazine piece, "The Scam Wall Street Learned From the Mafia," about widespread corruption in the municipal bond markets. The odd thing is, we might actually have undersold the damage done by this sort of cartel-style corruption.
When we called around to towns and cities affected by the rigged auctions discussed in the trial, many of the local officials were quiet, mainly because there’s still pending civil litigation in many of those cases. But a few of them pointed out a little-discussed flip side to the damage caused by Carollo­-esque bid-rigging.
Bid-rigging skims from towns after they’ve already borrowed money through bond issues. But some communities insist they’re being skimmed before they borrow as well. The central complaint is that the credit ratings of municipalities are excessively low, compared with counterparts in the corporate market who have the same risk of default. If true, this would artificially hike borrowing costs for cities and towns.
"Municipals virtually never, never default," says Rebecca Kaplan, a city councilwoman in Oakland, one of the cities listed as a victim in the Carollo trial (the defendants rigged an auction for a Port of Oakland bond deal). "And yet munis receive ratings that, if you were comparing them to corporate ratings, you would think you were talking about a significant risk of default."
The statistics bear this out. If you look at this report prepared by the House of Representatives four years ago – look at page 5 in particular, in the table for "Cumulative Historical Default Rates" – you’ll see that munis consistently receive significantly lower ratings than comparable corporate bonds.
The ostensible reason for this is that ratings agencies like Moody’s use different methodologies for rating munis versus corporate bonds. Muni ratings are based upon the financial strength of the issuer, while corporate bond ratings are based upon risk of default. And who knows, maybe that makes sense. But the end result is that towns, when they borrow money, get clipped coming and going: they pay more to borrow the money in the first place, and then – thanks to rigged auctions for bond service – they earn less on the money they borrow. 
A few other notes on the piece. The muni bid-rigging investigation described in the article, as large as it is in scope, is likely just the appetizer for an even broader and more serious investigation into another cartel-style corruption scheme, the manipulation of LIBOR, the interbank exchange rate often used to determine variable interest rates for things like mortgages.
Regulators in at least four different countries – the U.S., Canada, Japan, and the U.K. – are conducting a probe into the manipulation of LIBOR. At least one bank, UBS, is cooperating with authorities, and Wall Street has been abuzz with rumors in recent months that another major cooperating witness has come forward. That, coupled with news this winter and spring of dismissals of rate traders at several major banks in connection with these probes, suggests that these investigations are gaining momentum.
Many of the bigger banks have been targets. J.P. Morgan Chase, for instance, has been targeted by the Canadian probe (not that you would have heard about that in the recent congressional hearings with Jamie Dimon), along with Deutsche and HSBC. Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Citigroup, and a host of others are also being investigated.
There have been a number of major civil lawsuits filed over the LIBOR issue, and as in the muni bid-rigging scandal, the list of defendants in these civil cases (see here for example) reads like a Who’s Who of the top banks in every major western country: Bank of America, Citigroup, Chase, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, Barclays, Lloyds, Rabobank, Credit Suisse, and Royal Bank of Canada, among others.
If the allegations of LIBOR manipulation turn out to be true, it would present governments with the mother of all regulatory dilemmas: when virtually all the top banks in all places have been fixing something as elemental as interest rates, what do you do? Issue more fines?
In any case, anyone who wants an even more in-depth look into the bid-rigging business should check out some of the primary materials in the various cases. The second consolidated class action complaint in the major civil suit on the bid-rigging case, led by Hausfeld LLP (whom some readers may recognize as the firm that is leading the brain damage suit filed by over 100 retired NFL players), is a good place to get an overview of the problem, and to see a list of defendants.
There are also a number of government settlements with private companies worth checking out. There’s the $160 million settlement with UBS, the $137 million deal with Bank of America, the $148 million settlement with Wachovia/Wells Fargo, the $228 million settlement with Chase (again, not mentioned in the recent Dimon hearings), plus lesser settlements with GE Funding Capital Markets Services and CDR, the two firms discussed in the article.
To me the most disturbing thing that came out in the Carollo trial was how easy it is for financial companies to rip off cities and towns once they start cooperating. Municipalities really have no defense against this sort of behavior; it’s not like they can arrange the bond issues themselves. So it surprises me that there hasn’t been more of an uproar from local officials over this behavior. One can hope the only reason for that is that they don’t know about it.

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Curt Schilling: Money From Baseball Gone, Blames Gov. Chaffee For Scaring Off Investors | Crooks and Liars

Curt Schilling: Money From Baseball Gone, Blames Gov. Chaffee For Scaring Off Investors | Crooks and Liars:

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It's always intrigued me that people who are very successful in one area believe that particular success validates their judgment in every other area. Classic case in point: Curt Schilling. From what I read from insiders in the video game industry, he pretty much did everything wrong.
And now, of course, he blames the government for his own lack of business sense:
Curt Schilling told the Providence Journal today that he stands to lose all of his savings on a failing video game company called 38 Studios.
The company — which Schilling founded and moved to Rhode Island in 2010 because of a $75 million loan guarantee — fired its entire staff last week.It's effectively out of business, and now RI taxpayers are on the hook for $112 million, according to CNN.
Today, Schilling spoke publicly about the failing business for the first time — blaming the government for refusing to give the company tax credits, claiming a video-game maker backed out of a deal with 38 Studios after public comments made by Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and saying that he put everything he's ever saved into the company.
[...] But here's an excerpt that the AP pulled out:Schilling, 45, told the newspaper he stands to lose all the money he saved while playing baseball, and rejects criticism that he is seeking a public handout.
"I have done whatever I can do to create jobs and create a successful business, with my own income. Fifty million dollars, everything I've ever saved, has been put back into the economy.The $49 million from Rhode Island has been put back in the economy. I've never taken a penny and I've done nothing but create jobs and create economy. And so how does that translate into welfare baby? I've tried to do right by people."

UVA Teresa Sullivan Ouster Reveals Corporate Control Of Public Education

UVA Teresa Sullivan Ouster Reveals Corporate Control Of Public Education:

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For more than two weeks, the University of Virginia has been in an uproar over the abrupt resignation of school President Teresa Sullivan. Sullivan stepped down after just two years in office, citing "philosophical differences" with the institution's governing Board of Visitors.
The June 10 announcement shocked students and faculty, who had just finished graduation festivities and had begun settling in for a hot, quiet summer surrounded by the Charlottesville school's neoclassical columns and red brick architecture. Sullivan is highly regarded within the academic community, and her supporters have rallied to her defense, rocking the campus with massive protests demanding her reinstatement.
"She is an extraordinary academic leader, with superb administrative abilities, the heart of a faculty member, and evident strength of character,” the school’s top faculty wrote in a letter to the board on June 11.
While the school was stunned by Sullivan's ouster, a plot to force her out had been building in secret for months, according to emails released by UVA at the request ofthe Cavalier Daily, the student newspaper.
Members of the board, steeped in a culture of corporate jargon and buzzy management theories, wanted the school to institute austerity measures and re-engineer its academic offerings around inexpensive, online education, the emails reveal. Led by Rector Helen Dragas, a real estate developer appointed six years ago, the board shared a guiding vision that the university could, and indeed should, be run like a Fortune 500 company.
The controversy, which threatens to seriously damage one of the country's oldest and most prestigious public universities, has implications beyond its own idyllic, academic refuge. For some, it is emblematic of how the cult of corporate expertise and private-sector savvy has corralled the upper reaches of university life, at the expense of academic freedom and "unprofitable" areas of study.
"There is this sort of shift in the zeitgeist," says Tal Brewer, chair of UVA's Philosophy Department. Brewer sees a new, heightened cultural "adoration of the business mind as capable of bringing clarity, organization and efficiency to any kind of institution...I just think that's a deep mistake."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Starving Greeks queue for food in their thousands as debt-wracked country finally forms a coalition government... but how long will it last? | Digg Topnews

Starving Greeks queue for food in their thousands as debt-wracked country finally forms a coalition government... but how long will it last? | Digg Topnews

Starving Greeks queued around the block for free food handouts yesterday as the country's politicians managed to end a crippling stalemate to form a coalition government.
Young children as well as the elderly waited in line in Athens to collect the parcels of fruit and vegetables donated by farmers from Crete to help ease the devastating austerity faced by many Greeks.
But as hungry people collected food, a few miles away a new conservative-led alliance was formed, vowing to renegotiate the country's strict European bailout in a bid to breath economic life back into the debt-stricken country.

Lifeline: Hundreds of poverty-stricken Greeks are queuing for free vegetable handouts as politicians finally agree to form a coalition government

Vow: Antonis Samaras, right, crosses himself during a swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace as at the background Greek president Karolos Papoulias looks on

Misery: A young mother with her two daughters carries away a box full of vegetables to help feed her family in the debt-stricken country


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Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith

Image: death due to lack of health coverage

Chart on deaths by state for lack of health insurance
Image from Daily Kos. Proud to come from Massachusetts in this. The question is how many more people does the Supreme Court feel like killing.

Romney Stares Uncomprehendingly At $1 Bill | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Romney Stares Uncomprehendingly At $1 Bill | The Onion - America's Finest News Source:

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POCATELLO, ID—A $1 bill somehow made its way into the hands of Mitt Romney during a campaign stop Thursday, reportedly causing the Republican presidential candidate a moment of uncomprehending fascination. "What am I looking at here? What is this?" said Romney, squinting at the bill as he turned it over and over in his hands. "It almost looks like money, but it's missing the zeroes. Huh. Do people try to buy things with this?" Romney finally crumpled up the bill and threw it away, chuckling as he told reporters that "whoever thought that one up must be a real wiseacre."