Monday, December 31, 2012

(Shock! Shock! Obama Gives In) Cyber-Sleuths Blocked Rove's Nefarious Election-Stealing Machinations: Deprogramming Progressives

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Yes. Foretold on this blog and many others for a very long while.

The change candidate only changes from his promises to the powerless.

What a Shock: Obama Gives In – Bush Tax Cuts “Extended Permanently”

by Scott Creighton
The mythological "fiscal cliff", the new Red Menace, the Islamo-fascist terrorist hiding under your bed, has done it's work. Obama has been "forced" to cave in and is reportedly working a deal out that conspiracy theorists like me said was going to be the end result all along. And the "liberal" pundits just can't seem to understand why.
The discouraging thing about the “fiscal cliff” negotiations is not that they have gone into the eleventh hour, or that they may go into the new year, or even that they won’t resolve the long-term budget deficit. It’s that President Obama has retreated on his hard line on taxes. In the months before the election, and in the weeks after his victory, Obama had a clear position: The Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000 were ending. He would not sign any extension, and if Republicans refused to extend tax cuts for income below that level, he would hold them responsible for it until they did.
Now, by all accounts, Obama is prepared to extend the Bush tax cuts up to $400,000 a year. Or maybe more. As of Friday, Obama had told Republicans they could have the tax cuts extended on income up to $400,000 if they would accept the estate tax rising from its Bush-set rates. As of last night, Democrats were conceding the estate tax plus the higher exemption on tax rates, which had risen to $450,000. And Republicans still hadn't agreed to it! Why would they, when Democrats keep hurling money at them? By midnight, Republicans might be getting the Saturday Night Live version of Obama's offer ("a 1% raise on the top two Americans — just two people"). Jonathan Chait
Oh gee! I wonder why our CHANGE president who has done nothing but pack his cabinet with corporate CEOs and billionaires since day one would possibly fold up his affected populous stand and give in to the billionaires and corporate CEOs that he hangs out with and vacations with and rubs elbows with on a daily basis? I just don't understand it all...
Over at HuffPuff, they seem to have the skinny on how much to give away to the wealthy, but they don't really have a grasp on how much they are going to hurt the poor. That's because the Great One and the fake left haven't quite hashed out how much they are going to bleed us quite yet...
Left unaddressed, at the moment, are the $1.2 trillion in sequestration-related cuts that will be triggered on Jan. 1. The parties are arguing over how long to stave off the cuts, and whether and how to offset them. HuffPuff
If you are having difficulty understanding what that means, it means poor people programs who can't afford to hire expensive lawyers to give bribes campaign donations to the people in congress and Barack Obama.
"Discretionary domestic spending" refers to "government programs for poor and vulnerable citizens" HufPuff Nov 2012
The Bush tax cuts will be extended forever for up to $450,000 a year and the "death tax" as the neoliberals like to call it for PR sake, will get a small little bump up of 5% over 5 million dollars gifted to Chelsea Clinton (from 35% to 40%)
Of course, to pay for all of this "compromise" we are still waiting to see how badly they will sock it to the poor people across the country.
They did (supposedly) give up their efforts to blast Social Security, I guess because there were too many people who rightly alerted the public that Social Security had NOTHING to do with the horrible debt monster since it is funded by a payroll tax. They'll get that money later I guess.
anyway, there you have it. More "compromise" from the fake left of the Obama administration and his millionaire friends in congress. What a coup it is, heh? What a shock.

So, did you hear the details about what Karl Rove was doing election eve when Rmoney refused to let his exhausted workers go home before the wee hours of the mo(u)rn?

Turns out his vote-changing evening plans were sabotaged by being check-mated by cyber sleuths (Mighty Mice saving the day!) determined to ensure vote reliability.  From the Velvet Revolution:

Karl Rove has a history of rigging elections going back several decades, including in 2004 when he orchestrated a man-in-the-middle attack to change the votes from Ohio. See e.g.,
In 2012, Mr. Rove’s SuperPacs raised and spent hundreds of millions on behalf of GOP candidates. He courted billionaires and promised them that his candidates would win.

Days before the 2012 election, Mr. Rove predicted a strong Romney win. His spinners lionized him in articles that portrayed him as invincible.

On election night, Mr. Rove worked the three states that held the key to the election – Ohio, Florida and Virginia. But when he tried to access the Ohio election website, he kept getting error messages.

Finally, immediately after Ohio was called for President Obama around 11:30 EST, Mr. Rove appeared on FOX News to dispute the call, saying the election there is far from settled and the call was “premature.”

Fox News’s Chris Wallace said the Romney campaign does "not believe Ohio is in the Obama camp,” noting that he got an email from a top Romney aide who said the campaign disagrees with the network’s call. He then asked Rove if he believed Ohio has been settled.

“No, I don’t,” Rove said.

“I think this is premature,” he added. “We’ve got a quarter of the vote. Now remember, here is the thing about Ohio. A third of the vote or more is cast early and is won overwhelmingly by the Democrats. It’s counted first and then you count the election day and the question is, by the time you finish counting the election day does it overcome that early advantage that Democrats have built up in early voting, particularly in Cuyahoga County.”

Rove said the network needs to be “careful about calling things when we have like 991 votes separating the two candidates and a quarter of the vote yet to count. Even if they have made it on the basis of select precincts, I’d be very cautious about intruding in this process.

The Failure Of ORCA On Election Day

The Rove/Romney coalition created Project Orca, which was supposed to enable poll watchers to record voter names on their smart phones, by listening for names as voters checked in. This would give the campaign real-time turnout data, so they could redirect GOTV resources throughout the day where it was most needed. They recruited 37,000 swing state volunteers for this.

According to various sources, however, ORCA totally failed on Election Day: PIN numbers and passwords did not work, reset tools failed, customer support was ineffective and unavailable, Comcast shut down access for fear of a DDOS attack, and the system crashed and had trouble re-booting. “At one point during Election Day, the system had malfunctioned so badly that desperate volunteers wondered if the program had been hacked.” Id.

Anonymous Warned Rove Prior To The Election

Two weeks prior to the November 6th election, the hactivist group Anonymous posted a video warning Karl Rove not to rig the election.

Deprogramming Progressives

By William K. Black, Reader Supported News

28 December 12

little bit of economics can be a truly terrible thing, for the introductory classes in micro and macro-economics are the most dogmatic and myth-filled part of the neoliberal curriculum. Dogmas that have been falsified for 75 years (such as austerity) are taught as revealed truth. The poor indoctrinated student is then launched into the world "knowing" that austerity is the answer and that mass unemployment and prolonged recessions are small prices to be paid (by others) to achieve the holy grail of a balanced budget. Students are taught that national budgets are really just like household budgets.

These dogmas are not simply false, they are self-destructive and cruel. Neoliberal economics is so bad and has gone downhill at such a rapid rate that it now worships the economic analog to bleeding patients -- austerity -- as a response to a Great Recession. Millions of people are indoctrinated annually into believing this long-falsified nonsense, and that includes people who consider themselves progressives.

The remarkable aspect of neoliberal economics is that the power of its myth has survived for many progressives even after its failed dogmas caused massive economic destruction, massive elite fraud with impunity, and crony capitalism so corrupt that it cripples democracy. Indeed, the brainwashing they received is so effective that even after the eurozone ran a massive experiment with austerity that proved (again) to be a catastrophic failure they remain neo-liberal acolytes. This column discusses three examples that exemplify the problem.

The Guardian (U.K.)

The Guardian is the U.K.'s most famous paper of the left, but its finance editor's embrace of the neoliberal austerity myth is passionate and inane. Consider this remarkably incoherent discussion of the "fiscal cliff" by the paper's finance editor.

"The fiscal cliff explained: what to know about the biggest story in Washington

Is America really heading off a cliff? Why can't Congress and the president strike a deal? Get the lowdown with our handy primer."
I chose the Guardian's coverage as the first example because it begins with the most basic and common neoliberal myth supporting austerity: a nation with a sovereign currency is really just like a household.

"So let's start at the beginning: what is the fiscal cliff?

It's not one cliff, but two things: a group of spending cuts and tax hikes that will come into effect on January 2.

Why now?

The US has about $2.3tn of money coming in, and it spends about $3.6tn. So imagine you were making $23,000 a year and spending $36,000. What would happen? You'd be in debt, and you'd have to cut your spending. The US is in the same pickle. Except, instead of a few thousand, it has to cut $1.3tn."
The U.K. did not adopt the euro, so it retains a sovereign currency. The U.K. allows the value of the Pound to float freely and it borrows overwhelmingly in its own currency. The Guardian, therefore, has no excuse for failing to understand a national economy like the U.S. that also has a sovereign currency.

A nation that borrows in its own freely-floating sovereign currency is not a target for bond vigilantes. It can and should spend considerably more than it brings in through tax revenues in response to a recession. That is what "automatic stabilizers" do. Automatic stabilizers greatly reduce the severity and length of recessions. Austerity does the opposite.

Nations with sovereign currencies can create money directly through key strokes on the central bank's computer or by borrowing at exceptionally low interest rates during a recession. The U.S., the U.K., and Japan all borrow long-term (10 years) at interest rates below two percent because they have sovereign currencies. Nations with sovereign currencies typically run budget deficits in most years. The U.S. has run a budget deficit over the great bulk of its history.

If a household reduces its spending because its income falls during a recession there is a negligible effect on the Nation's economy. If a national government cuts spending because a recession reduces its income it directly reduces public sector demand and indirectly reduces private sector demand. A recession occurs when demand is seriously inadequate. Governmental austerity inflicts a far more severe recession on the nation by further reducing demand. A household and a Nation should follow the opposite strategy when their incomes fall sharply.

The Guardian's claim that they should follow the same strategy shows their indoctrination into one of neoliberalism's most destructive myths. The fact that the Guardian is making this claim in December 2012, after seeing the recession that austerity inflicted on the eurozone, proves that the problem is dogma, for only dogma is impervious to facts that repeatedly falsify its predictions.

The Guardian, of course, knows that the eurozone has been forced back into recession by the "troika's" policies, but it reverses the causality. Here is a related piece by the same finance editor about the world's reaction to the failure to reach a deal on the "fiscal cliff."

"Q: What does the rest of the world think of this?

They think we're ridiculous, and that we're playing fast and loose with not just our own economy, but that of the world. IMF chief Christine Lagarde said the US is becoming its own worst enemy by delaying a decision. Still, this is a case of pots and kettles. It's not like Europe can really look down on us: they've been delaying the same hard decisions on spending cuts for over three years and have been on the brink of a meltdown many times since. Should we be smart enough to look at their example and avoid the same troubles? Yes, technically. But this is the nature of negotiations: they go down to the wire."
The Guardian's remarkable explanation of why the eurozone has been forced back into recession is: insufficient and delayed austerity! If only the eurozone had made promptly made deeper "spending cuts" things would have been much better. That "logic" comes from assuming that nations are just like households. The Guardian's answer to the fact that bleeding the patient makes the patient weaker is to bleed them more, and faster.

Note that the Guardian's finance editor also seems to believe that sovereign monetary systems like the U.S. and the U.K. suffer the same risk of "meltdown" that nations that abandoned their sovereign currencies because they adopted the euro experienced "many times." The "meltdowns" that the eurozone nations have suffered "many times" because of the deadly vulnerability of nations that lack a sovereign currency to the toxic mix of recession, austerity, and the debt vigilantes. The Guardian's finance expert's failure to understand such fundamental and critically important features of the financial system is a testament to the danger of dogma.

The U.S. has "avoid[ed] the same troubles" as the eurozone following the Great Recession. It has not suffered financial "meltdowns" "many times." It has not been thrown back into recession and it does not suffer Great Depression levels of unemployment. The U.S. budgetary deficit has been reduced at a record rate over the last three years. The U.S. has been able to "avoid the same troubles" as the eurozone because it has not embraced the austerity dogma and it has not given up its sovereign currency. The U.S. did not provide remotely adequate stimulus of the kind recommended by competent economists, but the modest stimulus has been sufficient to produce a modest, sustained recovery. The Guardian, however, implies that we have failed to avoid the eurozone's troubles after the onset of the Great Recession.

Governor Howard Dean

Governor Dean served as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2005-2009. He was an early opponent of the invasion of Iraq. His self-description is "progressive Democrat." He is a physician. Dean is a frequent guest on MSNBC's evening programs. Dean takes the position that the U.S. should go off the "fiscal cliff" because austerity is desirable. He claims that a "balanced budget" is essential and that "everybody" should pay higher taxes to balance the budget. He thinks, contrary to the history of the U.S., that no nation can continue to run deficits.

On CNBC, Dean cheered for the austerity that the "fiscal cliff" would inflict on the nation. He did so even though he believed it would cause a recession for at least six months. He predicted that the recession would be short and mild and a small cost to reduce the deficit. He assumed that austerity would reduce the deficit even though he conceded it would cause a recession.

Dean, a self-described progressive, and one of the nation's most prominent Democrats, is more dogmatic than Speaker Boehner on austerity.

Andrew Stern (former head of SEIU)

Andrew Stern headed one of the largest unions in America. He made it a growing union and a political force devoted to progressive causes. He was a member of the Bowles-Simpson (BS) deficit reduction commission appointed by President Obama. Obama appointed co-chairs he knew were zealous supporters of austerity and unraveling and privatizing the safety net. Erskine Bowles is a leader of the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party and Alan Simpson is a very conservative Republican. Stern declined to vote in favor of the BS austerity recommendations, but his vote was not based on any rejection of austerity.

"Why I Voted No On Simpson-Bowles

On December 3, 2010, I voted "no" on the Simpson-Bowles report presented to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Here is what I had to say about it at the time:

This Commission report also challenges our President to offer his plan for economic growth, and fiscal responsibility no later than his State of the Union, and challenges Congress to adopt a plan no later than Election Day 2012.

I voted no, despite my admiration for the effort, because any plan, I feel strongly, must tackle both our fiscal and investment deficit needed to create jobs and a dynamic economy. No family would willfully balance its budget by not sending their child to college. No business can successfully compete with outdated equipment. And no nation can simply cut its way into prosperity. I felt the plan should better balance revenues and spending cuts, could balance Social Security while preserving more benefits, made too many short term cuts in health care before full reform was implemented in 2018, and did not have shared corporate responsibility."
Stern now says that he regrets voting against the BS recommendations.

He pushed for the "Super Committee" to "go big" and adopt massive austerity before it statutory deadline in November 2011.

Stern's co-panelists at the conference, organized by one of Pete Peterson's groups, whose participants unanimously urged the "go big" super-austerity plan included the former CEO of the AARP, Bill Novelli. Novelli's support for austerity is particularly noteworthy given the BS plan's proposals to cut and begin to privatize Social Security -- Wall Street's unholy Grail.


Neoliberal economics has devastated the global economy and produced all of the predictive failures and evil consequences that progressives have long attributed to its micro-economic myths. Far too many progressives, however, continue to believe the similarly mythical and self-destructive macro-economic myths about deficits, debt, and austerity. It is hard enough countering Pete Peterson's billion dollar campaign to inflict austerity and unravel and privatize the safety net. Peterson funds myriad front groups. We also have to counter the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party, which dominates Treasury, OMB, the Justice Department, and the office of the Chief of Staff and favors austerity and unraveling the safety net. We should not have to deprogram progressives indoctrinated into repeating neoliberal economic dogmas.

Progressives should be able to observe that the neoliberal macro-economic predictions have been consistently falsified by reality. They should have seen documentaries like Inside Job and Capitalism: A Love Story about the catastrophic failure of neoliberal economics and economists. They should read sites like New Economic Perspectives and Paul Krugman's columns that explain why austerity is self-destructive and why the safety net need not, and should not, be attacked. Progressives need to say "no" to anyone who wants to "bleed" the economy through austerity or cutting the safety net.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Republicans Really Don't Care What Nation Thinks - Gerrymandering Is Again King: How Dark Money Helped Republicans Hold the House

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In my unhumble opinion, they don't care because we the voters have not made them care.

If we did . . .  all this and our lives would immediately change for the better.

Why Republicans Don't Care What the Nation Thinks

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

28 December 12

re House Republicans - now summoned back to Washington by Speaker John Boehner - about to succumb to public pressure and save the nation from the fiscal cliff?

Don't bet on it.

Even if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cooperates by not mounting a filibuster and allows the Senate to pass a bill extending the Bush tax cuts to the first $250,000 of everyone's income, Boehner may not bring it to the House floor.

On a Thursday conference call with House Republicans he assured conservatives he was "not interested" in allowing such a vote if most House Republicans would reject the bill, according to a source on the call.

Democrats are confident that even if the nation technically goes over the cliff January 1, Boehner will bring such a bill to the floor soon after January 3 - once House Republicans have re-elected him Speaker - and it will get passed.

But this assumes Boehner and the GOP will be any more swayed by public opinion than they are now.

Public opinion is already running strongly in favor of President Obama and the Democrats, and against the GOP. In the latest CNN/ORC poll, 48 percent say they'll blame Republicans if no deal is reached while 37 percent blame Obama. Confidence in congressional Republicans is hovering at about 30 percent; Obama is enjoying the confidence of 46 percent. And over half of all Americans think the GOP is too extreme.

Yet Republicans haven't budged. The fact is, they may not care a hoot about the opinions of most Americans.

That's because the national party is in disarray. Boehner isn't worried about a challenge to his leadership; no challenger has emerged. The real issue is neither he nor anyone else is in charge of the GOP. Romney's loss, along with the erosion of their majority in the House and Democratic gains in the Senate, has left a vacuum at the top.

House Republicans don't run nationally. They run only in their own districts - which, because of gerrymandering, are growing even more purely Republican. Their major concern is being reelected in 2014, and their biggest potential obstacle in their way is a primary challenge from the right.

The combination of a weakened national party and more intense competition in primaries is making the Republican Party relatively impervious to national opinion.

This poses a large strategic problem for the Democrats. It could be an even bigger problem for the nation.

(Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers Aftershock and The Work of Nations. His latest is an e-book, Beyond Outrage. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.)

How Dark Money Helped Republicans Hold the House

By Olga Pierce, Justin Elliot, Theodoric Meyer, ProPublica

26 December 12

n the November election, a million more Americans voted for Democrats seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives than Republicans. But that popular vote advantage did not result in control of the chamber. Instead, despite getting fewer votes, Republicans have maintained a commanding control of the House. Such a disparity has happened only three times in the last century.

(Here's a chart comparing 2010 and 2012.)

Analysts and others have identified redistricting as a key to the disparity. Republicans had a years-long strategy of winning state houses in order to control each state's once-a-decade redistricting process. (Confused about redistricting? Check out our song.)

Republican strategist Karl Rove laid out the approach in a Wall Street Journal column in early 2010 headlined "He who controls redistricting can control Congress."

The approach paid off. In 2010 state races, Republicans picked up 675 legislative seats, gaining complete control of 12 state legislatures. As a result, the GOP oversaw redrawing of lines for four times as many congressional districts as Democrats.

How did they dominate redistricting? A ProPublica investigation has found that the GOP relied on opaque nonprofits funded by dark money, supposedly nonpartisan campaign outfits, and millions in corporate donations to achieve Republican-friendly maps throughout the country. Two tobacco giants, Altria and Reynolds, each pitched in more than $1 million to the main Republican redistricting group, as did Rove's super PAC, American Crossroads; Walmart and the pharmaceutical industry also contributed. Other donors, who gave to the nonprofits Republicans created, may never have to be disclosed.

While many observers have noted that mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson backed losing candidates, a close look at the Republicans' effort on redistricting suggests something else: The hundreds of millions spent this year on presidential TV ads may not have hit the mark, but the relatively modest sums funneled to redistricting paid off handsomely.

Where Democrats were in control, they drew gerrymandered maps just like Republicans. They also had their own secretive redistricting funding. (Last year, we detailed how Democrats in California worked to undermine the state's attempt at non-partisan redistricting.) But Democrats got outspent 3-to-1 and did not prioritize winning state legislatures. They also faced a Republican surge in 2010.

Exactly how the Republican effort worked has been shrouded in mystery until now. But depositions and other documents in a little-noticedlawsuit in North Carolina offer an exceptionally detailed picture of Republicans' tactics.

Documents show that national Republican operatives, funded by dark money groups, drew the crucial lines which packed as many Democrats as possible into three congressional districts. The result: the state's congressional delegation flipped from 7-6 Democratic to 9-4 in favor of Republicans. The combination of party operatives, cash and secrecy also existed in other states, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.

Redistricting is supposed to protect the fundamental principle of one-person-one-vote. As demographics change, lines are shifted to make sure everyone is equally represented and to give communities a voice. In order for Republicans to win in North Carolina, they undermined the votes of Democrats, especially African-Americans. (Party leaders in North Carolina say they were simply complying with federal voting laws.)

The strategy began in the run-up to the 2010 elections. Republicans poured money into local races in North Carolina and elsewhere. It was an efficient approach. While congressional races routinely cost millions, a few thousand dollars can swing a campaign for a seat in the state legislature.

The Republican effort to influence redistricting overall was spearheaded by a group called the Republican State Leadership Committee, which has existed since 2002. For most of that time, it was primarily a vehicle for donors like health care and tobacco companies to influence state legislatures, key battlegrounds for regulations that affect corporate America. Its focus changed in 2010 when Ed Gillespie, former counselor to President George W. Bush, was named chairman. His main project: redistricting.

Soon after Gillespie took over, the RSLC announced an effort to influence state races throughout the country, the Redistricting Majority Project, or REDMAP. Fundraising soared. The group raised $30 million in 2010, by far its best year. (Its Democratic counterpart raised roughly $10 million.)

The RSLC is organized as a type of political group that can take in unlimited corporate donations. It must disclose its contributors. But that doesn't mean it's always possible to trace the origins of the money.

Along with Walmart and tobacco companies, the RSLC's largest funders in 2010 were the Chamber of Commerce and American Justice Partnership, which gave a combined $6.5 million. Those two groups raise money from corporations and others but don't have to disclose their donors.

As the 2010 North Carolina legislative elections heated up, the RSLC jumped into local races. But the way they made contributions kept their involvement away from the attention of state voters. Rather than running campaign ads under its own name, the RSLC distributed money to a newly formed local nonprofit. The RSLC declined to comment.

The RSLC gave $1.25 million to its vehicle of choice Real Jobs NC. The group calls itself a "non-partisan organization that believes we need to return to a reliance on the free enterprise system that made our country great for real answers." It was started in 2010 and got a hefty $200,000 boost from dollar store magnate and Republican supporter Art Pope, although Pope denies his donation was related to redistricting or REDMAP.

Real Jobs NC produced ads and mailers slamming more than 20 state Democrats.

"Steve Goss ... nice guy," intoned the voiceover in one such ad in North Carolina, attacking then-Democratic State Senator Goss. "Too bad he's voting with the Raleigh liberals over hometown conservatives."

Goss lost, and Democrats lost control of North Carolina's General Assembly for the first time in a century. The pattern repeated itself across the country.

"Twenty legislative bodies which were previously split or under Democratic control are now under Republican control," said a triumphant RSLC REDMAP post-election analysis, highlighting its spending in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, among other states.

The next step for Republicans was to draw district maps, which can be expensive. The maps require expertise, extensive data and sophisticated software. Skillful map drawers can make even the most partisan gerrymander look reasonable.

To fund the work, the Republican State Leadership Committee used its previously dormant nonprofit arm, the State Government Leadership Foundation. Such dark money groups are increasingly popular because they are allowed to keep secret the identity of their donors. Federal tax law permits them to do this as long as they pledge that politics is not their primary focus.

Flush with anonymous donors' cash, the Foundation paid $166,000 to hire the GOP's pre-eminent redistricting experts, according to tax documents. The team leader was Tom Hofeller, architect of Republican-friendly maps going back decades.

"Our team would be happy to assist in drawing proposed maps, interpreting data, or providing advice," wrote Chris Jankowski, the head of both the RSLC and State Government Leadership Foundation, in a   of introduction to North Carolina legislators. The letter was disclosed as part of the North Carolina lawsuit.

"We are engaged in a number of states and believe we are playing a meaningful role in helping draw fair and legal lines that will allow us to run competitive elections in 2012 and in future cycles," Jankowski added.

The same letter emphasized that the Republican redistricting push was being funded through its dark money nonprofit: "The entirety of this effort will be paid for using non-federal dollars through our 501c(4) organization."

Jankowski, representing both the RSLC and the Foundation, declined to comment.

Because Hofeller's team was paid with dark money and the redistricting process is so secretive, it is hard to know the full extent of its activities. In Wisconsin, the team provided technical assistance to an aide to Rep. Paul Ryan as he drew new districts that favored Republicans. In Missouri, Hofeller was the sole witness called by attorneys representing the Republican legislators who drew the maps there.

In the case of North Carolina, Hofeller made his first trip to Raleigh on Feb. 1, 2011, even before final state Census data had been released, the first of 10 trips that year.

From then on, two parallel redistricting processes unfolded in the state.

Through the spring and summer, legislators in charge of redistricting traveled the state holding public meetings at local colleges, soliciting comment and proposed maps from citizens - though the Republicans on the committee would not produce draft maps themselves.

"We are not here to answer questions. We are not here drawing maps," state Senate redistricting committee chairman Bob Rucho told the crowd at a hearing in Durham. "What we are here for is to basically hear your thoughts and dreams about redistricting."

But that input had little influence on the districts that were eventually drawn.

Instead, the real maps were being produced behind the scenes by a team that based its operations at Republican Party headquarters on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. Armed with advanced mapping software, Hofeller and others crafted districts that would virtually guarantee big gains for the party.

Hofeller did not attend or read transcripts of any of the public meetings, according to his deposition.

Hofeller did not respond to requests for comment.

A mysterious state dark money nonprofit that sprung up just in time for the process, called Fair and Legal Redistricting for North Carolina, hired a technician to operate the mapping workstation day-to-day, and another Republican mapping expert. The group did not respond to our requests for comment.

State-based nonprofits have been a vehicle for Republicans to funnel anonymous money into their map-drawing operations in a number of states, including self-proclaimed nonpartisan groups in Michigan and Minnesota.

Republican state legislators tasked with redistricting frequently visited and consulted with the mapping team, according to depositions. Even Art Pope, the most influential conservative donor in the state, was appointed "co-counsel" to the legislative leadership and allowed in the room to give direct instructions to the technician.

"We worked together at the workstation," said Joel Raupe, the technical expert paid by Fair and Legal Redistricting, in a deposition. "He sat next to me."

Pope, who is a lawyer but does not actively practice, was made co-counsel to the state legislature, offering his services pro bono. Now, because he was technically a legal adviser to the state, he says any information about his involvement in the redistricting is privileged.

(The New Yorker had a sweeping profile of Pope last year, detailing how he has used his fortune to dominate North Carolina politics.)

North Carolina's Republican incumbents in Congress pushed for a so-called "10-3 map," the majority they hoped to win in the state's delegation.

Hofeller, the mapping expert, delivered. His maps kept most of the districts from being competitive - or even remotely winnable - for Democratic candidates.

A key part of the redistricting strategy was to push minority voters into three districts. Republicans insisted their maps were "fair and legal," necessary to conform to laws protecting minority voting rights, although according to a well-known voting rights attorney, the opposite is true.

But federal voting rights law "doesn't require a jurisdiction to pack blacks in districts," said Laughlin McDonald, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Voting Rights Project. "If you tried to pack minority voters into a district, that would arguably be a violation."

In two of those districts, African-American incumbents been already been winning by large margins for years. Republicans' maps added yet more African-Americans to the districts, what's known in redistricting parlance as "packing." As Hofeller wrote in an email about one of the districts, the plan was to "incorporate all the significant concentrations of minority voters in the northeast into the first district."

A third district was 120-miles long, and sea monkey-shaped, connecting pockets of African-Americans from three different, distant cities. Republicans justified it on the basis of a common media market.

The maps were designed to "segregate African-American voters in three districts and concede those districts to the Democrats," says Bob Hall of Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan public interest group that joined the lawsuit against the new maps.

In 2012, Democrats won the three districts by more than 70 percent of the vote. Another effect: the surrounding districts were much more Republican.

Rucho and other Republican legislators had presented the maps as advantageous to Democrats. Indeed, registered Democrats actually outnumbered registered Republicans in seven additional districts beyond those that were clearly slated to be Democratic.

Emails show Republicans decided to make that fact a major talking point.

But the stat was misleading, as the Republicans' own data indicates. An internal analysis of one of Hofeller's later drafts (code name "Blue Horizon 3") obtained by ProPublica shows that those seven allegedly "competitive" districts would have been landslide wins for John McCain in 2008, and for Republican Senator Richard Burr in 2010.

The carefully drawn maps worked. In this year's elections, Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives in North Carolina won 50.6 percent of the total vote. But the state's House delegation now has nine Republicans and just four Democrats. One of the Democrats won by just a few hundred voters, despite the fact that his newly drawn district skewed heavily Republican and that his own home had been drawn out of it. North Carolina's delegation before the election had seven Democrats and six Republicans

In addition to his pay from national Republican groups, invoices show Hofeller billed North Carolina taxpayers $77,000 for his services.

The Republican maps are still under threat by suits filed by Democrats and the NAACP. The lawsuits are headed to the state Supreme Court. But a flood of contributions tied to the RSLC have lowered the risk of the maps' being overturned.

While judicial elections in North Carolina are nominally nonpartisan, it was common knowledge that Republicans held a 4-3 majority on the court. One of those Republican incumbents was facing a tough challenge in 2012, potentially throwing the whole redistricting result in jeopardy.

Justice Paul Newby was running for re-election against appellate judge Sam Ervin IV, grandson of the famous North Carolina senator who investigated Watergate. With a few weeks left until the November election, Newby was trailing Ervin.

But then, in the final stretch, Newby was the beneficiary of a flood of late spending that can be traced back to the Republican State Leadership Committee.

Once again the contributions were funneled through homegrown groups. With only a few weeks to go, the RSLC gave more than $1.1 million to a group called Justice for All NC. Campaign finance filings show Justice for All NC in turn gave nearly $1.5 million to a super PAC running pro-Newby ads, the NC Judicial Coalition.

Most of the money spent by the super PAC went to pay for hundreds of airings of a jingle ad featuring lines like, "Paul Newby / Justice tough but fair / Paul Newby / Criminals best beware" set to infectious banjo music.

The spending didn't end there: and Pope's fingerprints were also on the race. Two dark money groups affiliated with Pope - the state-based Civitas Action and Americans for Prosperity - spent another $300,000 on radio ads and mailers supporting Newby. Pope's company also gave to the RSLC in the run-up to this fall's elections.

Pope says he gave money to Americans for Prosperity for years before the judicial race even came up, and that he was not involved in the decision to run pro-Newby ads.

"I'm Republican, I support Republican groups," Pope said. "But just because you support something doesn't mean you're responsible for all they do."

It was an unusually large amount of outside spending for a judicial race. The outside pro-Newby groups had spent more on the race than the two campaigns combined.

In the end, Newby eked out a 52-48 victory, preserving the court's Republican majority.

When the groups contesting the maps called for Newby to recuse himself from redistricting litigation, lawyers for Republican legislators argued that because the campaign ads were paid for by "independent" groups, they did not jeopardize Newby's impartiality.

On Monday, the state Supreme Court rejected the motion for Newby to recuse himself.

"I've got no control over who contributes to an ad. I have no control over who endorses me," Newby - who did not respond to a request for comment - told a local TV station on the eve of the election. "You've got to put your blinders on like lady justice."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Paid-Off Liars and Those Who Pay Them To Lie About the Deficit And Fraudulent Social Security (Which Controls a 3 Trillion Dollar Already-Paid-For Trust Fund) Woes, Nationwide Monitoring of Occupy By FBI, CIA Security Force Emerges From Shadows, Go Over Cliff?

(Please consider making a contribution to Welcome to Pottersville2 or sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. I really appreciate it. Any contribution will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive.)

I'm pleased to highlight this essay from The Angry Bear, who is always just as outraged as I at the lies and liars who are dominating the current national dialogue (and how sure they remain about hoodwinking the populace into curing the only-frightening-when-caused-by-Democrats deficit (the largest amounts historically always incurred by Republican pursuit of tax breaks for the wealthy resulting in slowing the US economic engine) with required cuts in the safety net/Social Security/Medicare expenditures (mainly utilized by the non-wealthy)).

Fareed Zakaria wrote an essay for Time, The Baby Boom and Financial Doom. Dean Baker responded to Zakaria with Fareed Zakaria Is Unhappy That the American Left Chooses Arithmetic Over Peter Peterson.  Baker makes the point that the increase in the number of people over age sixty five has always been accompanied by an increase in productivity that makes everyone richer despite the costs of feeding the old.

Baker is far too kind to Zakaria. Zakaria’s article is a compendium of lies designed to fool people in order to lead them to their harm. The lies are not original with Zakaria but are the same lies we have been hearing from Peter Peterson sponsored think tank “non partisan expert” liars for years.

I hope that by taking a little harder look at those lies people will learn how not to be fooled by them and others like them. [Note: I have been told that I need to find another word for "liars." I understand that people are put off by it, but they need to understand that is exactly what we are dealing with here: lies and liars: words designed to deceive you by people who mean you harm. It is almost possible to believe that Zakaria doesn't know he is lying, but has merely been fooled by Peterson. But the selection of "facts" presented by Zakaria suggests he knows exactly what he is doing.]

Here is what Zakaria says:   (under the fold)

And in other holiday news . . .

FBI Secret Documents Reveal Nationwide Occupy Monitoring

The FBI and other federal agencies monitored Occupy from the beginning. (photo: Occupy Portland)
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund reports: "FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF's Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat."
 Robert Reich | Call Their Bluff and Go Over the Cliff

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog

Reich writes: "House Speaker John Boehner's failure to persuade rank-and-file House Republicans to raise taxes even on millionaires fits the fanatic's strategy exactly."

The CIA's Secret Security Force Emerges From the Shadows

Greg Miller and Julie Tate, The Washington Post

Miller and Tate report: "The GRS, as it is known, is designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Christmas, Friends! (Are We Headed for Bedford Falls or Pottersville? (Or Are Many Already Trapped In Pottersville?))

If Lionel Barrymore's "Mr. Potter" were alive today he'd call himself a "job creator" and condemn George Bailey as a socialist. He'd be financing a fleet of lobbyists to get lower taxes on multi-millionaires like himself, overturn environmental laws, trample on workers' rights, and shred social safety nets. He'd fight any form of gun control. He'd want the citizens of Pottersville to be economically insecure – living paycheck to paycheck and worried about losing their jobs – so they'd be dependent on his good graces.

The Mr. Potters are still alive and well in America, threatening our democracy with their money and our common morality with their greed.

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)

Are We Headed for Bedford Falls or Pottersville?

By Robert Reich
Robert Reich's Blog
23 December 12

t's easy to feel discouraged about the bullying by right-wing Republicans and their patrons over everything from gun control to taxes and social safety nets to trade unions and jobs.
Every year about now I watch "It's a Wonderful Life" again to remind myself what Frank Capra understood about America -- its essential decency and common sense.
In many ways the nation is better than it was in 1946 when the movie first appeared. Women have gained economic power and reproductive rights; we enacted Civil Rights and Voting Rights and, through Medicare and Medicaid, dramatically reduced poverty among the elderly; we began to tackle environmental devastation; we stopped treating gays as criminals and have even started to recognize equal marriage rights. We elected and then re-elected the first black president of the United States. We have enacted the bare beginnings of universal healthcare.
But we are still in danger of the "Pottersville" Capra saw as the consequence of what happens when Americans fail to join together and forget the meaning of the public good.
If Lionel Barrymore's "Mr. Potter" were alive today he'd call himself a "job creator" and condemn George Bailey as a socialist. He'd be financing a fleet of lobbyists to get lower taxes on multi-millionaires like himself, overturn environmental laws, trample on workers' rights, and shred social safety nets. He'd fight any form of gun control. He'd want the citizens of Pottersville to be economically insecure – living paycheck to paycheck and worried about losing their jobs – so they'd be dependent on his good graces.
The Mr. Potters are still alive and well in America, threatening our democracy with their money and our common morality with their greed.

Call me naive or sentimental but I still believe the George Baileys will continue to win this contest. They know we're all in it together, and that if we succumb to the bullying selfishness of the Potters we lose America and relinquish the future.
Happy holidays.

(Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, was Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration. Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has written thirteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock" and "The Work of Nations." His latest is an e-book, "Beyond Outrage." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause.)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Be careful this holiday, because your tea party family and friends will surely try to convince you that It’s a Wonderful Life is actually the story of the Great and Free Mr. Potter and his grassroots attempt to create Pottersville, a paradise of Right to Work misery befitting the lazy, entitled working class of this country. Moochy and lazy Mr. Bailey is the 47% who clearly thinks he and his fellow citizens are entitled to decent housing. His kids are probably on food stamps, and what’s up with the socialism (helping others? thinking of others?!) pre Kenyan! Bah.

And surely Mr. Potter has an A+ rating from the NRA because nothing helps the elite more than violence and chaos among the 99%.

Me, I’m hanging on to my Bailey Bell for all it’s worth. Hee haw.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Getting Rid of the Welfare State Is the Deadly Aim of the Deficit Fiscal Cliff Madness?

(Please consider making a contribution to Welcome to Pottersville2 or sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. I really appreciate it. Any contribution will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive.)

Unraveling the Welfare State

By Noam Chomsky, Stuart A. Brown, Chris Gilson, European Politics and Policy

23 December 12

hat do you think the use of technocratic governments in Europe says about European democracy?

There are two problems with it. First of all it shouldn’t happen, at least if anybody believes in democracy. Secondly, the policies that they’re following are just driving Europe into deeper and deeper problems. The idea of imposing austerity during a recession makes no sense whatsoever. There are problems, especially in the southern European countries, but in Greece the problems are not alleviated by compelling the country to reduce its growth because the debt relative to GDP simply increases, and that’s what the policies have been doing.

In the case of Spain, which is a different case, the country was actually doing quite well up until the crash: it had a budget surplus. There were problems, but they were problems caused by banks, not by the government, including German banks, who were lending in the style of their US counterparts (subprime mortgages). So the financial system crashed and then austerity was imposed on Spain, which is the worst policy. It increases unemployment, it reduces growth; it does bail out banks and investors, but that shouldn’t be the prime concern.

Europe needs stimulus – even the IMF is coming around to that position – and there’s plenty of capacity for stimulus. Europe’s a rich place, there are plenty of reserves available to the European Central Bank. The Bundesbank doesn’t like it, investors don’t like it, banks don’t like it, but those are the policies which should be pursued. Even writers in the US business press agree with that. If Europe doesn’t change policy, they’re just going to go into a deeper recession.

The European Commission just released its report on expectations for next year, which are for very low growth and increasing unemployment, which is the main problem. It’s a very serious problem: unemployment is destroying a generation, which is not a trivial matter. It’s also economically outlandish. If people are forced into unemployment then that’s not only extremely harmful from a human point of view – to individuals – but even from an economic point of view. It means there are unused resources, which could be used to grow and develop.

Europe’s policies make sense only on one assumption: that the goal is to try and undermine and unravel the welfare state. And that’s almost been said. Mario Draghi, the President of the European Central Bank, had an interview with the Wall Street Journal where he said that the social contract in Europe is dead. He wasn’t advocating it, he was describing it, but that’s essentially what the policies lead to. Perhaps not ‘dead’, that’s an exaggeration, but under attack.

Is the rise of the far-right in countries like Greece and France simply another symptom of the eurozone crisis?

There can’t be any doubt. I mean in Greece it’s obvious, though in France it’s been going on for a while. It’s based on anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim racism. Actually it goes beyond that in France. There are things which, amazingly to me, aren’t being discussed. Suppose that France today began expelling Jews from the country and driving them to a place where they would be attacked, repressed, and driven into poverty and misery.

You can’t even describe the uproar that would follow, but that’s exactly what France is doing: not to the Jews, but to the Roma, who were treated pretty much the same by the Nazis as the Jews were. They were Holocaust victims. They’re being forced out to Romania and Hungary where they’ve got a miserable future ahead of them and there’s barely a word being said about this. And that’s not the far-right, that’s across the spectrum, which is pretty remarkable I think.

But the developments of the far-right are frightening in Europe. Germany is also experiencing something similar. For example there are neo-Nazi groups in Germany, though they don’t call themselves ‘neo-Nazi’, which are now organising to condemn the bombing of Dresden, claiming that 250,000 people were killed: ten times the actual number.

Well, I think the bombing of Dresden was indeed a crime – a major crime – but not the way that neo-Nazi groups are using it. If you go a little farther east, say to Hungary, just last week a legislator, Zsolt Barath from the far-right Jobbik party, made a scandalous speech in which he was denouncing the presence of Jews in decision-making positions: “we’ve got to make a list of them, identify them, get rid of this cancer” and so on. You know, I’m old enough to remember that personally from the 1930s, but we all know what it means. That’s happening in large parts of Europe – mostly through anti-Muslim racism – and it’s a frightening phenomenon.

In the short-term, can you see Europe resolving its crisis?

Right now the eurozone is just putting off its problems – what’s called ‘kicking the can down the road’ – it’s not addressing them. There are serious problems. The eurozone, in my view, is a positive development in general, but it’s being handled in a way that is undermining the promise it should have. I think it’s widely agreed that there has to be more political union.

You can’t have a system in which countries cannot control their own currencies and have austerity imposed on them, when they can’t carry out the measures that any other country would carry out if it were in economic crisis. That’s just an impossible situation and it has to be dealt with.

It should also be recognised that Europe is suffering to an extent from its relative humanity. If you compare Europe with North America, the single currency was agreed upon approximately when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was established, but they were done in very different ways. Before poorer states were brought into the project in Europe there were significant efforts made to raise their standards in many ways, using reforms, subsidies and other measures.

This was done so that they wouldn’t undermine the employment and living standards of workers in more developed European countries. That’s a relatively humane way of moving towards integration. In the United States, something quite similar was proposed by the US labour movement and even by the US Congress research bureau, but it was dismissed without comment. Instead Mexico was integrated, in a fashion, in a way that was quite harmful to Mexicans and also to American and Canadian workers. Europe is suffering from that.

Governmental Criminal Cowardice: If "Everyone Has To "Sacrifice," Why Isn't Congress Eating Catfood?

(Please consider making a contribution to Welcome to Pottersville2 or sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. I really appreciate it. Any contribution will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive.)

Criminal Cowardice 'Even People On Wall Street Were Blown Away By The Result'


Matt Taibbi 
December 22, 2012

"The decision to not prosecute in this instance belies everything that the government has ever done with regard to drug prosecutions everywhere.  I mean, when you think about the way they behave toward ordinary people who get caught up in drug cases, where they seize all your property and they use absolutely the maximum sentences they can possibly avail themselves of, and in this case they catch a bank that launders billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels … for years on end, and they can’t find something to charge these people with?"

"If the law doesn’t apply equally to everybody, then you don’t really have a system of law.  And so you have a built-in defense for everybody in every drug case forever.  I mean, if you get caught with a stem of marijuana, how do you not stand up and say, ‘You’re going to send me to jail for this where a guy who laundered a billion dollars for a bunch of murderers gets nothing?’"
Matt writes:
I had the pleasure of appearing on Eliot Spitzer's Viewpoint last night to talk about the hideous Eric Holder Lanny Breuer HSBC settlement, in which the government elected not to push criminal prosecutions against bank officers who admitted to laundering billions of dollars in drug money. Spitzer was the first guy I thought of when I saw the softball settlement, so it was cool to hear the prosecutorial take on the deal. When I came home after the show, my wife laughed. "It's like you guys were fighting over who was more pissed off.
"Daily Bail"

Saturday, December 22, 2012

If "Everyone Has To "Sacrifice", Why Isn't Congress Eating Catfood?

Maya Rockeymoore of Global Policy Solutions and We Act Radio talked about bad policy like chained CPI - which represents a cut in benefits right now, by the way, not just to "future retirees" - and what it's like to talk to Steny Hoyer, on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd. (Background: Her open letter to Alan Simpson on selling out America's youth.)

Atrios: "Violating The Pledge: If we switch over to the chained-CPI, it isn't just about Social Security cuts. It'll impact other federally set things, including tax brackets, meaning it will be a tax increase on those earning less than $250,000 per year. Like Matt I don't really care about that, but it has been one of the few guiding principles of the administration, so..." Even Yglesias can figure out that it raises taxes on the non-rich, just aside from its other evil qualities. (More on chained CPI from Dean Baker.)

Jon Walker says, "Obama Again Proves Why the GOP Should Always Bet on Him Folding: During this fiscal cliff fight, the Obama team has only drawn two lines in the sand. The first was on raising the tax rate for people making over $250,000 a year. The other was refusing to allow raising the debt ceiling to be used for political gain. On both of these demands Obama has already folded like a tissue in a rainstorm.

A compromise on the tax rate is not that surprising. While the Obama team was firm on this point it always seemed more like a negotiation ploy than a real line in the sand. The fold on the debt ceiling, though, has basically destroyed any negotiating creditability Obama might had left with Congressional Republicans. President Obama repeatedly said he was not going to 'play that game.' His team said they see the debt ceiling issue has have historic significant. The White House claimed they had a duty to the future to break this dangerous habit.

The President used the strongest possible language to say he would not hold on this issue, yet two weeks later he completely folds. This is just the latest in a long pattern of behavior by Obama. Obama always seems to blink first. By this point it would frankly be idiotic for any Congressional Republicans to believe Obama will hold firm during a negotiation.
" And it's a great tactic for Obama, who is plainly playing for the other team.

And, yes, he really is. He has telegraphed this from the moment he entered the White House.
"A Different Kind Of Democrat - A Republican Kind [...]

That's what we're up against - and Obama and his conservative allies have every intention of remaking the Democratic Party in their own image. Standing up to him and pressuring your two senators and your congressman to reject the Obama-Boehner sellout to the wealthy and their mania to balance the budget on the backs of the middle class is going to be very serious over the course of the next few weeks and months. Just think of Obama as Bush and proceed accordingly."

Glenn Greenwald: "Glenn Greenwald: Woman Imprisoned for Life for Minor Drug Offense; Banking Giant Immune to Justice for Massive Drug Laundering."

Erik Loomis used a metaphor. Apparently, the president of the University of Rhode Island doesn't know what one is. (via). Via Thers at Eschaton.

Guns don't kill people. Estrogen kills people.

No one could have predicted that Restrictive laws make it harder for teens to get abortions: "If a 17-year-old girl in the state of Virginia needs to have an abortion, she has the option to bypass the state's parental consent laws by obtaining written permission from a judge. But court employees in many parts of Virginia are overwhelmingly unprepared or unwilling to provide correct information on the judicial bypass option, a new report finds, making it exceedingly difficult for teen girls to exercise their right to abortion care."

Alex Gibney on Zero Dark Thirty's Wrong and Dangerous Conclusion

"Why the Pundits Are Wrong About Big Money and the 2012 Elections" - see, they both spent a lot of money.

Alex Pareen's 2012 Hack List is complete, with the top ten winners correctly skewered.

Were you wondering what would happen to the Olympic Stadium? Yes, it's just like in America - taxpayers pay for this stuff, and the rich guys get the benefit. (And finding this blog was a fascination - just the kind of local reporting I wish we were seeing more of and that we were paying more attention to. A bit disappointed to see the loopy Liberal Fascism as a recommended book on the sidebar, but glad to know someone is keeping an eye on the weird blurring between cops and not-cops, among other things.)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Out of the Woodwork Come the TruthTellers? (Barofsky Speaks First. . . Next . . . ?)

(Please consider making a contribution to Welcome to Pottersville2 or sending a link to your friends if you think the subjects discussed here are worth publicizing. Thank you for your support. I really appreciate it. Any contribution will make a huge difference in this blog's ability to survive.)

The title of his forthcoming book—Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street—sums up his worldview. “The further we dug into the way TARP was being administered, the more obvious it became that Treasury applied a consistent double standard,” Barofsky writes in the book.

“When providing the largest financial institutions with bailout money, Treasury made almost no effort to hold them accountable, and the bounteous terms delivered by the government seemed to border on being corrupt.” (Barofsky declined to comment for this story, saying his publisher asked him to refrain from interviews before the book’s release.)

Want to know what the insiders think about the fraudulent fiscal cliff? How about the fraudulent bank bailout (TARP)? Well, not fraudulent for them as they were bailed out. But the price tag (for the ultimate payers - the taxpayers) is unbelievable.

Unknown to prisoners of the mainstream media, a few participants have been speaking out for quite a while. Don't you wonder what they think of the fraudulent fiscal cliff madness today?

Neil Barofsky, the Democrat Taking Digs at Obama


July 12, 2012

When Neil Barofsky left Washington in March 2011, many in the Obama White House were privately relieved. As special inspector general overseeing the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, Barofsky was a relentless critic of the Wall Street bailout who accused the administration of coddling banks at the expense of taxpayers.

In a 2009 report to Congress, he wrote that the administration’s lack of transparency in spending TARP funds had created “anger, cynicism and distrust.” In his final report, the month before he turned in his resignation, he wrote: “The prospect of more bailouts will continue to fuel more bad behavior with potentially disastrous results.”

These days Obama’s campaign advisers may wish Barofsky had stayed in town. Now a New York University law professor and free from whatever restrictions he might have felt as a government official, he’s become an even harsher scold of the president.

On TV, in public debates, and on Twitter, he excoriates the administration—especially Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner—for failing to rein in the banks and revive the housing market. While Mitt Romney and the Republicans attack Obama from the right, saying he should get off the backs of business and the banks, Barofsky, a Democrat, leads the attack on the administration from the left, urging even more bank regulation.

The title of his forthcoming book—Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street—sums up his worldview. “The further we dug into the way TARP was being administered, the more obvious it became that Treasury applied a consistent double standard,”

Barofsky writes in the book. “When providing the largest financial institutions with bailout money, Treasury made almost no effort to hold them accountable, and the bounteous terms delivered by the government seemed to border on being corrupt.” (Barofsky declined to comment for this story, saying his publisher asked him to refrain from interviews before the book’s release.)

In dismissing the bailouts as a giveaway to the big banks, Barofsky downplays that TARP did what it was supposed to do: “The government saved the financial system from collapse,” says Jim Millstein, Treasury’s chief restructuring officer from 2009-11. Echoing the sentiments of other Obama allies, Millstein says Barofsky’s penchant for “self-promotion, rather than analysis or reflection, obscures that very real accomplishment.” It also drives the White House nuts that TARP critics often make it seem that Obama is responsible for the bailouts, when it was the Bush administration that wrote the largest checks, in 2008.

Barofsky is especially critical of Obama’s handling of the housing crisis. The president promised relief for millions of borrowers in danger of defaulting but has fallen far short of that goal. Only about 1 million borrowers have gotten permanent loan modifications through the TARP-funded Home Affordable Modification Program. Barofsky calls the program a “colossal failure.”

While in Washington, Barofsky was continually at odds with Geithner. In his job as inspector general, he wanted banks to precisely account for how they spent TARP money. Geithner said that was difficult to do because banks commingle all their funds. Barofsky continues to pick these fights from his perch in New York. In June, when Bloomberg News reported that Geithner had challenged bankers to spell out in detail what they don’t like about the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and offered to help streamline cumbersome regulations, Barofsky tweeted: “Shocker: Geithner once again offers to carry the banks’ water.”

In March he got into a Twitter war with Austan Goolsbee, the former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. “Seems Barofsky has agenda,” Goolsbee wrote in response to a Barofsky tweet asserting TARP was losing money on the sale of American International Group (AIG) stock because Treasury was inappropriately counting shares held outside of TARP.

Barofsky fired back: “It’s about counting a non-TARP gain towards TARP. And really? Agenda?”

“Yes, really,” Goolsbee responded. “If you consistently try to highlight anything negative that’s an agenda. That feels like what you’ve been doing.” 

The bottom line: In a new book, the former inspector general who policed the TARP bailout accuses the Obama administration of coddling Wall Street.

Solomon is an editor for Bloomberg View in Washington.