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Archive for June 14th, 2009

Congress OKs Anti-Smoking Bill

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 14th, 2009 4:39 am by HL

Congress OKs Anti-Smoking Bill

Butts

Congress gave final approval to a bill that gives the federal government far-reaching power to try to decrease smoking in the U.S. Positioned to be much more effective than those stupid tobacco company-sponsored “Truth” commercials, the bill would limit nicotine levels and use of words like mild and light.

Updated

The Wall Street Journal:

A bill allowing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco is on the way to the White House for President Barack Obama’s signature.

A day after the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure, the House passed it Friday on a 307-97 vote.

Obama supports the bill. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday that her agency looked forward to implementing it.

The FDA now will take on an unprecedented role overseeing the production and marketing of cigarettes.

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Iranians Flock to the Polls

ENTER_ALT_TEXT

Millions of Iranians headed to the polls Friday in what appeared to be record numbers for a presidential election. Voters will decide between incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and three opposition candidates, the most popular of which, the reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi, has gained lots of attention from young people and women.

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Lakers Victory Parade: LA Officials Say They Don’t Have The Money For It

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 14th, 2009 4:38 am by HL

Lakers Victory Parade: LA Officials Say They Don’t Have The Money For It
The Los Angeles Lakers need only one more win to capture a 15th National Basketball Association Championship, but some city officials are already saying they…

Funniest Press Release Ever: Senator Howell Heflin And Pink Panties
But there are some artifacts that you come to realize are real treasures. Like my favorite press release of all time. It is dated July…

Fareed Zakaria: The Capitalist Manifesto
A specter is haunting the world–the return of capitalism. Over the past six months, politicians, businessmen and pundits have been convinced that we are in…

Leno Told Similar Joke About Palin’s Daughter
Alan Colmes (former co-host of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes) makes a great a catch regarding the current feud between David Letterman and Governor Sarah…

How A US Passport Is Made (VIDEO)
From the State Department’s YouTube channel: “Under Secretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy and State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack discuss the production process for creating…


Disappearing Bush: WSJ falsely suggests Obama admin. took over Fannie, Freddie, AIG

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 14th, 2009 4:37 am by HL

Disappearing Bush: WSJ falsely suggests Obama admin. took over Fannie, Freddie, AIG

A June 13 Wall Street Journal article falsely suggested that the Obama administration’s policies resulted in the government takeovers of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG. In fact, as the Journal itself has repeatedly noted, the Bush administration — along with the Federal Reserve, in the case of AIG — took over those institutions in September 2008. Moreover, the Journal distorted comments made by White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, falsely suggesting that Summers had implied the Obama administration was responsible for those takeovers.

The Journal article, which reported that Summers “defended White House economic policies against criticism that they amounted to ‘a kind of back-door socialism,’ ” contained no references to the Bush administration whatsoever. In it, reporter Jonathan Weisman wrote that “Summers’s remarks come as mainstream critics of Mr. Obama’s use of government mechanisms to revamp big segments of the economy are increasingly finding their voice,” subsequently adding:

While Mr. Summers’s speech was billed as a prelude to next week’s efforts on financial-market regulation, most of it was devoted to defending the administration’s aggressive economic policies.

Those policies have seen the government take control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and insurer American International Group Inc.; take large stakes in General Motors and Citigroup; and usher Chrysler into and out of bankruptcy while shifting the balance of power between creditors and unions.

Such “extraordinary actions” were done out of necessity, not choice, Mr. Summers said. And just as history has judged Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as saving capitalism, not destroying it, Mr. Obama’s efforts eventually will be seen as pro-free market, he said.

But as video of Summers’ speech makes clear, Summers was not suggesting that the Obama administration was responsible for the government taking control of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and AIG. Rather, in the passage Weisman quoted from, Summers was referring to “extraordinary actions” taken by the “U.S. government” during “the last two years”:

SUMMERS: This morning, I’m going to concentrate more intensively on policies towards individual institutions. The events of the last two years have been remarkable. U.S. government has found itself compelled to take extraordinary actions in a number of different spheres, including significant equity positions in such iconic institutions as Citigroup, AIG, and General Motors.

Indeed, as Media Matters for America has noted, it was the Federal Housing Finance Agency under the Bush administration, with the financial support of the Bush Treasury Department, that made the decision to “take control” of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In a September 8, 2008, article headlined “U.S. Seizes Mortgage Giants; Government Ousts CEOs of Fannie, Freddie; Promises Up to $200 Billion in Capital,” the Journal itself reported:

In its most dramatic market intervention in years, the U.S. government seized two of the nation’s largest financial companies, taking direct responsibility for firms that provide funding for around three-quarters of new home mortgages.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced plans Sunday to take control of troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replace the companies’ chief executives. The Treasury will acquire $1 billion of preferred shares in each company without providing immediate cash, and has pledged to provide as much as $200 billion to the companies as they cope with heavy losses on mortgage defaults. The Treasury’s plan puts the two companies under a conservatorship, giving management control to their regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, or FHFA.

With that, the U.S. mortgage crisis entered a new and uncharted phase, potentially saddling American taxpayers with billions of dollars in losses from home loans made by the private sector. Bush administration officials argued that the cost of doing nothing would be far greater because of the toll on the economy of falling home prices and defaults in the $11 trillion U.S. mortgage market.

A separate September 8, 2008, Journal article reported:

The federal takeover of two mortgage giants could eventually be a boon for Wall Street, by jump-starting a faster rebound in mortgage securities issues, and by gradually diminishing Wall Street’s two largest competitors in the $6 trillion market for packaging and reselling mortgage-backed bonds.

[…]

The plan outlined by the Treasury Department and the Federal Housing Finance Agency calls for the agency to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with the two companies cutting mortgage assets on their books by 10% annually beginning in 2010.

And contrary to Weisman’s suggestion that the Obama administration’s policies led the government to “take control” of AIG, the Journal itself has noted that the Bush administration made that decision last September along with the Fed.

A September 16, 2008, Journal article was headlined “U.S. to Take Over AIG in $85 Billion Bailout; Central Banks Inject Cash as Credit Dries Up” and sub-headlined “Emergency Loan Effectively Gives Government Control of Insurer; Historic Move Would Cap 10 Days That Reshaped U.S. Finance.” That article reported:

The U.S. government seized control of American International Group Inc. — one of the world’s biggest insurers — in an $85 billion deal that signaled the intensity of its concerns about the danger a collapse could pose to the financial system.

[…]

It puts the government in control of a private insurer — a historic development, particularly considering that AIG isn’t directly regulated by the federal government. The Fed took the highly unusual step using legal authority granted in the Federal Reserve Act, which allows it to lend to nonbanks under “unusual and exigent” circumstances, something it invoked when Bear Stearns Cos. was rescued in March.

As part of the deal, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson insisted that AIG’s chief executive, Robert Willumstad, step aside. Mr. Paulson personally told Mr. Willumstad the news in a phone call on Tuesday, according to a person familiar with the call.

Mr. Willumstad will be succeeded by Edward Liddy, the former head of insurer Allstate Corp.

AIG’s bailout caps a tumultuous 10 days that have remade the American financial system. In that time, the government has engineered rescues that insert it deep into the housing and insurance industries, while Wall Street has watched two of its last four big independent brokerage firms exit the scene.

The U.S. on Sept. 6 took over mortgage-lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as they teetered near collapse. This Sunday, the U.S. refused to bail out Wall Street pillar Lehman Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy-court protection and is now being sold off in pieces. That same day, another struggling Wall Street titan, Merrill Lynch & Co., agreed to sell itself to Bank of America Corp.

From Weisman’s June 13 Journal article:

President Barack Obama’s chief economist on Friday defended White House economic policies against criticism that they amounted to “a kind of back-door socialism.”

[…]

Mr. Summers’s remarks come as mainstream critics of Mr. Obama’s use of government mechanisms to revamp big segments of the economy are increasingly finding their voice. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week announced that it would launch a national advocacy campaign to defend free enterprise against “anti-business activists,” referring to administration initiatives.

Mr. Summers also laid out an ambitious goal ahead of Mr. Obama’s Wednesday speech on the re-regulation of financial markets: ending a decades-long barrage of financial crises.

“If we can reform our financial system, we will minimize the recurrence of the situation we all find ourselves in today,” he said, reciting a litany of crises from the savings-and-loan collapse in the late 1980s to last year’s housing-market bust.

While Mr. Summers’s speech was billed as a prelude to next week’s efforts on financial-market regulation, most of it was devoted to defending the administration’s aggressive economic policies.

Those policies have seen the government take control of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and insurer American International Group Inc.; take large stakes in General Motors and Citigroup; and usher Chrysler into and out of bankruptcy while shifting the balance of power between creditors and unions.

Such “extraordinary actions” were done out of necessity, not choice, Mr. Summers said. And just as history has judged Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal as saving capitalism, not destroying it, Mr. Obama’s efforts eventually will be seen as pro-free market, he said.

“If you take one message from what I say today, take this: Only if government is no longer a major presence in these companies in short order will we have fully succeeded in achieving our critical objectives,” Mr. Summers said.

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia, the chamber’s second-ranking Republican, on Friday likened the president’s economic policies to those of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“It is stunning to see someone in the position of Larry Summers having to defend the president’s commitment to free-market capitalism,” Mr. Cantor said in an interview. “By giving this speech, this administration has signaled perhaps we are losing that America we all know.”


Congress To Bernanke: Hand Over Docs On BofA-Merrill Deal

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 14th, 2009 4:36 am by HL

Congress To Bernanke: Hand Over Docs On BofA-Merrill Deal
Congress has subpoenaed the Federal Reserve, to force it to hand over documents about its role in Bank of America’s takeover of Merrill Lynch during the financial crisis last fall, reports Reuters. Staffers for the House Oversight committee, chaired by…

Latest Right-Wing Meme: Von Brunn’s A Lefty
It’s hardly been 24 hours since James Von Brunn allegedly walked into the Holocaust Museum and shot museum guard Stephen Johns. But already conservatives from Rush Limbaugh to Red State have started advancing their latest up-is-down meme: Von Brunn –…


The Right-Wing Hate Machine

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 14th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

The Right-Wing Hate Machine


Health Insurance Coop

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 14th, 2009 4:34 am by HL

Health Insurance Coop
Moderate Democrats, perhaps cowed by Limbaugh’s “socialized medicine” trope seem to be backing away from the public plan option. Their substitute is a non profit insurance cooperative. “I am inclined, and I think the committee is inclined, toward a co-op,”…





Neocons Using Iran Election To Push For War
It helps that the neocons in both the United States and Israel made emphatically clear how much they wanted Ahmedinejad re-elected. If they had kept their mouths shut — and pretended that they preferred the moderate Moussavi — they would…


ThinkProgress?s Amanda Terkel goes on MSNBC and weighs in on the Palin-Letterman fight.

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 14th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

ThinkProgress?s Amanda Terkel goes on MSNBC and weighs in on the Palin-Letterman fight.
This morning, ThinkProgress’s Amanda Terkel and Sabrina Schaeffer of the Independent Women’s Forum went on MSNBC to talk about the controversy between comedian David Letterman and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). Both Terkel and Schaeffer said that Letterman’s jokes were inappropriate, but added that Palin should turn back to policy issues and not dwell on […]

This morning, ThinkProgress’s Amanda Terkel and Sabrina Schaeffer of the Independent Women’s Forum went on MSNBC to talk about the controversy between comedian David Letterman and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). Both Terkel and Schaeffer said that Letterman’s jokes were inappropriate, but added that Palin should turn back to policy issues and not dwell on this controversy for too long. While Schaeffer said that there was a different standard for conservative and liberal women, Terkel pointed out that President Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, was also the target of frequent attacks (e.g. Rush Limbaugh calling her the “White House dog” when she was 13 years old). Watch it:


Sunday Morning Talk Show Guests

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 14th, 2009 4:32 am by HL

Sunday Morning Talk Show Guests
Guests to be interviewed today on major television talk shows:


Administration Plans to Replace Controversial Real ID Initiative
Yielding to a rebellion by states that refused to pay for it, the Obama administration is moving to scale back a federal law passed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that was designed to tighten security requirements for driver’s licenses, Homeland Security Department and congressional officials…

Trims to Medicare, Medicaid Are Proposed to Help Fund Reform
President Obama yesterday outlined measures to trim spending on federal health programs for the elderly and the poor by an additional $313 billion over the next decade, bringing his total proposed savings close to the amount necessary to cover the cost of his signature health-care plan, a top…


A New Zimbabwe?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 14th, 2009 4:29 am by HL

A New Zimbabwe?

Gordon Brown is Running Out of Time
Catherine Mayer, Time

Sotomayor’s Grievance-Focused Mind-Set
Stuart Taylor, National Journal

Ahmadinejad Wins in Landslide
Ian Black, The Guardian

Wealth Creation Under Attack
Francis Cianfrocca, Commentary