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Archive for May 17th, 2011

What passes for Courage?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:45 am by HL

What passes for Courage?
How about a little courage over here?

via Martin.farrington at flickr.com

On the one hand, if it involves killing somebody:

President Barack Obama made a “very gutsy call” to send Navy SEALs into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“I worked for a lot of these guys. And this is one of the most courageous calls – decisions — that I think I’ve ever seen a president make,” Gates told CBS in a wide-ranging interview aired on “60 Minutes.”

On the other hand, if it involves something “boring” like fiscal sanity and government working and taking care of things like, oh, Americans — courage is in short supply:

The advisers are deeply concerned about winning back political independents, who supported Obama two years ago by an eight-point margin but backed Republicans for the House this year by 19 points. To do so, they think he must forge partnerships with Republicans on key issues and make noticeable progress on his oft-repeated campaign pledge to change the ways of Washington.

Anybody think the GOP is getting less crazy, smarter, or easier to deal with through this “political” negotiating strategy?

It turns out the six-month spending bill Congress passed in April increased discretionary outlays through the remainder of the fiscal year by a bit over $3 billion.

Late, Late Night FDL: Waimanalo Blues
Waimanalo Blues

Waimanalo Blues

Musicians, left to right: Charlie Kealoha, Arlo Guthrie,? Robert Kekaula, Cyril Pahinui. This is a scene from the short lived ABC TV series, “Byrds of Paradise”.

What’s on your mind tonite…?

Dispatches From Cairo: We Are All Palestinian Now

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:44 am by HL

Dispatches From Cairo: We Are All Palestinian Now
Palestine is the unifying force and focus of the entire Muslim/Arab world. The one thing that always remains on the people’s minds and lips, that pulls this whole wild wave of shift together, is Egypt’s solidarity about Palestine and resentment of Israel.

By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy

Palestine is the unifying force and focus of the entire Muslim/Arab world. The one thing that always remains on the people’s minds and lips, that pulls this whole wild wave of shift together, is Egypt’s solidarity about Palestine and resentment of Israel.

Related Entries

Scott Walker: Wisconsin Domestic Partner Law Unconstitutional

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:43 am by HL

Scott Walker: Wisconsin Domestic Partner Law Unconstitutional
MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker has told a judge he wants to stop defending Wisconsin’s domestic partner registry in court because he doesn’t believe…

T. Boone Pickens’ New Energy Plan
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Obama Tries To Fire Up Frustrated Supporters
WASHINGTON — Angling for a second term, President Barack Obama tried to fire up supporters Monday night, saying failure to get everything they want as…

White House Budget Staffers Seek To Join Labor Union
WASHINGTON — Staffers at the White House budget office filed a petition Monday to join a labor union, seeking to gain more input over their…

Fox Distorts Trustees’ Report To Fearmonger About Social Security And Medicare

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:42 am by HL

Fox Distorts Trustees’ Report To Fearmonger About Social Security And Medicare

Fox & Friends distorted a recent Social Security and Medicare Boards of Trustees report to fearmonger about the programs’ solvency by claiming that the report significantly revised the date at which the Social Security trust fund would no longer be solvent. In fact, the report changed the projected solvency of the Social Security trust fund by just one year, and after that point the fund would continue to pay out benefits at 77 percent; and even without legislative action, after 2024, Medicare payments would continue to be funded for an additional 60 years at levels between 75 and 90 percent.

Kilmeade Distorts Trustees’ Findings About Social Security, Medicare

Kilmeade Bungles Trustees’ Report To Claim Social Security Would Have “Run Out In 2050” Before Report. On the May 16 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, the co-hosts discussed whether or not Congress will vote to raise the national debt ceiling. After a clip of Speaker John Boehner’s comments about the budget and debt, co-host Brian Kilmeade said:

KILMEADE: There’s two things that came out over the weekend I felt were noteworthy leading into the interview. Number one, the trustees in charge of Social Security and Medicare came forward and said, “You know I told you that Social Security was going to run out in 2050? Can we change that to 2036?” OK. I think it’s time to look at that. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/16/11]

Kilmeade: “Medicare” Is “Going To Run Out In 2024” — “If This Doesn’t Spell An Emergency, I Don’t Know What It Is.” From the broadcast:

KILMEADE: And Medicare, remember I told you it’s in trouble?  Can we say it’s going to run out in 2024? I just did the new math through the long recession. Revenue has fallen to — and medical costs have risen to a certain level, that now we’re going to be out. Now if this doesn’t spell an emergency, I don’t know what it is. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/16/11]

But Trustees’ Report Changed Social Security Solvency Projection By Just One Year, Not 14

Trustees’ Report: “Trust Fund Reserves” Will Be “Exhausted In 2036, One Year Earlier Than Was Projected Last Year.” From a summary of the 2011 Annual Report:

Social Security expenditures exceeded the program’s non-interest income in 2010 for the first time since 1983. The $49 billion deficit last year (excluding interest income) and $46 billion projected deficit in 2011 are in large part due to the weakened economy and to downward income adjustments that correct for excess payroll tax revenue credited to the trust funds in earlier years. […] Through 2022, the annual cash deficits will be made up by redeeming trust fund assets from the General Fund of the Treasury. Because these redemptions will be less than interest earnings, trust fund balances will continue to grow. After 2022, trust fund assets will be redeemed in amounts that exceed interest earnings until trust fund reserves are exhausted in 2036, one year earlier than was projected last year. Thereafter, tax income would be sufficient to pay only about three-quarters of scheduled benefits through 2085. [Social Security Administration, accessed 

[The Washington Post5/13/09]

Commissioner Astrue: The Change Is “A Rounding Error In Terms Of Its Significance.” At a press conference on May 13, Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue said the revised estimate is “a rounding error in terms of its significance.” From a transcript of the briefing at the Treasury, as printed by Congressional Quarterly:

Q: Could you explain the distinction between Social Security being in deficit and the trust funds being exhausted? Is it slightly deceptive to talk about Social Security running a deficit currently, considering it takes in less than it pays out until 2036?

MR. ASTRUE: Actually, I’m glad — can you hear me? Good. Actually, I’m glad you asked that — I actually in last year’s press conference stressed the importance of the media understanding the term “exhaustion,” which means something different to the actuaries than it does to the average person, and that what exhaustion in 2036 this year this means is that we’ll have money to pay a little bit more than three-quarters of benefits, with no other legislative changes. Now that’s not good. You know, we need to have the Congress step up and make changes so that that’s not the outcome. But that’s radically different from it’s totally bankrupt, there’s nothing there at all. It’s a constant irritation to me, picking up the news clips and seeing how often the media reports that exhaustion figure as if there would be no money left in the trust fund. So bless you for asking that question.

In terms of cash flow, I have a somewhat similar response. We’ve moved to — from very slightly positive in several of the coming years to very slightly negative. It is a rounding error in terms of its significance, in my opinion, and has no significance in terms of the long-term future of Social Security.

Again, as I stressed last year, what matters in the long run is the exhaustion date and percentage of benefits we can pay after exhaustion.

Whether we are — from — in terms of point of view of Social Security and the stability of the system, there’s really — these tiny swings in the grand scheme of things from one year to another, from slightly cash-flow positive to slightly cash-flow negative, in my opinion, are not significant for the long-term future of the program. [Congressional Quarterly, 5/13/11, accessed via Nexis, emphasis added; Social Security Administration, accessed 5/16/11]

Strengthen Social Security: “With No Action Social Security Will Have Sufficient Income And Assets To Pay All Monthly Benefits … Until 2036.” From a press release from the organization Strengthen Social Security:

Social Security’s surplus is projected to be $2.7 trillion in 2011, and the surplus is projected to peak at $3.7 trillion in 2022.  With no action Social Security will have sufficient income and assets to pay all monthly benefits in full and on time until 2036.

This data shows that Social Security is not in crisis. It also does not contribute to the federal deficit. By law, Social Security cannot borrow and it cannot make benefit payments if it lacks the revenue to cover them. Its only recourse is to cut benefits. That is why Social Security should not be part of any deficit-reduction deal. [Strengthen Social Security, accessed 5/16/11]

And Even Without Changes, Social Security Beneficiaries Would Still Receive 77 Percent Of Benefits After 2036

Trustees’ Report: “After Trust Fund Exhaustion, Continuing Tax Income Would Be Sufficient To Pay 77 Percent Of Scheduled Benefits In 2036 And 74 Percent In 2085.” Looking at both the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance trust funds of Social Security, usually “considered on a combined basis designated OASDI,” the 2011 Trustees’ report found:

The report indicates that annual OASDI income, including payments of interest to the trust funds from the General Fund, will exceed annual cost every year until 2023, increasing the nominal value of combined OASDI trust fund assets. Beginning in 2023, net redemptions of trust fund assets with General Fund payments will be required until assets are exhausted in 2036. After trust fund exhaustion, continuing tax income would be sufficient to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits in 2036 and 74 percent in 2085. [Social Security Administration, accessed 5/16/11]

After 2024, Medicare Will Pay Out 75-90 Percent Of Benefits

Trustees’ Report: After Medicare Trust Fund Exhaustion, “Dedicated Revenues Would … Pay 90 Percent” Of Costs, Then “75 Percent In 2045,” And “88 Percent In 2085.” From the Trustees’ Report:

Relative to the combined Social Security Trust Funds, the Medicare HI Trust Fund faces a more immediate funding shortfall, though its longer term financial outlook is better under the assumptions employed in this report.

Medicare costs (including both HI and SMI expenditures) are projected to grow substantially from approximately 3.6 percent of GDP in 2010 to 5.5 percent of GDP by 2035, and to increase gradually thereafter to about 6.2 percent of GDP by 2085.

The projected 75-year actuarial deficit in the HI Trust Fund is 0.79 percent of taxable payroll, up from 0.66 percent projected in last year’s report. The HI fund fails the test of short-range financial adequacy, as projected assets drop below one year’s projected expenditures early in 2011. The fund also continues to fail the long-range test of close actuarial balance. Medicare’s HI Trust Fund is expected to pay out more in hospital benefits and other expenditures than it receives in income in all future years. The projected date of HI Trust Fund exhaustion is 2024, five years earlier than estimated in last year’s report, at which time dedicated revenues would be sufficient to pay 90 percent of HI costs. The share of HI expenditures that can be financed with HI dedicated revenues is projected to decline slowly to 75 percent in 2045, and then to rise slowly, reaching 88 percent in 2085. Over 75 years, HI’s actuarial imbalance is estimated to be equivalent to 21 percent of tax receipts or 17 percent of program outlays. [Social Security Administration, accessed 5/16/11, emphasis added]

Point By Point: Senate Ethics Committee’s Findings In John Ensign Case

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:41 am by HL

Point By Point: Senate Ethics Committee’s Findings In John Ensign Case
The Senate Ethic Committee’s report on former Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) makes several findings about the Nevada Republican’s affair with the wife of his former chief of staff….

Confederate Group In FL Pushing Hard For Confederate License Plate
As TPM has reported, a number of Confederate groups across the country have been pushing proposals for commemorative confederate license plates. John Adams, First Lt. Commander of Florida’s Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter, wants his state to be next. Adams…

“Forgive us our press passes . . .”

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:39 am by HL

“Forgive us our press passes . . .”
Over the weekend, CBS radio news ran an item about the fact that President Obama had declared that the operations against Libya were “open ended.” The liberal mainstream media, which were so very sarcastic and critical when George W. Bush was in charge of the Endless War on Terrorism, seemed content to let the […]

Thompson Will Run for Senate

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:38 am by HL

Thompson Will Run for Senate
Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) has told friends he plans to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin, Politico reports.

“There’s no chance Thompson would run against Paul Ryan, so the former governor will await the Budget Chairman’s official announcement on the race before jumping in. Ryan has suggested in private conversations with GOP officials in recent days that he will take a pass on the race and focus on his House chairmanship.”

Knife Fight
Democratic consultant Chris Lehane — who the New York Times describes as “a fervent advocate of the dark arts of politics” and who once described the finals days of the 2008 presidential campaign as “a knife fight in a telephone booth” —  is now co-wriitng a movie for release in the fall of 2012 called Knife Fight, which will star actor Rob Lowe.

Said Lehane: “The script is clearly informed by my real-life experiences, and it demonstrates how politics is really played and not how people wish it was portrayed. It will not be The American President or West Wing — it deals with sex; with drugs; with blood spilled but does make clear it is often done for noble ends (depending on your views/philosophy).”

Schwarzenegger Fathered Child with Household Staffer
Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and his wife, Maria Shriver, “separated after she learned he had fathered a child more than a decade ago — before his first run for office — with a longtime member of their household staff,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

“Shriver moved out of the family’s Brentwood mansion earlier this year, after Schwarzenegger acknowledged the paternity. The staff member worked for the family for 20 years, retiring in January.”

His statement: “After leaving the governor’s office I told my wife about this event, which occurred over a decade ago. I understand and deserve the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family. There are no excuses and I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry.”

American Journalism in the Coils of ‘Ressentiment’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:37 am by HL

American Journalism in the Coils of ‘Ressentiment’
The subtitle of William McGowan’s Gray Lady Down — What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means For America – all but ensured its dismissal by book-review editors who aren’t drawn to anything quite so portentous, let…

Obama Now Has The Juice To Push Bibi Hard
On September 12, 2001, the New York Times reported on Binyamin Netanyahu’s reaction to the news of the attacks in New York and Washington: Asked tonight what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu…

Photo the Muslim World Needs to See
Over the last couple of days, I have talked to many senior level correspondents and executives at major Arabic news networks including but not limited to Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. I asked them what they thought their viewing audience…

While John Kasich Cuts Education And Children?s Health Funds, He Spends Millions On Casino Consultants

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:36 am by HL

While John Kasich Cuts Education And Children?s Health Funds, He Spends Millions On Casino Consultants

A deal struck by Gov. John Kasich (R) could cost Ohio taxpayers as much as $15 million over the next year, according to the terms of a state contract with a Los Angeles-based consulting firm that is advising Kasich on his policies regarding the state’s casinos.

Despite forcing widespread cuts on various state programs — including education and children’s health programs — Kasich entered into the agreement with Moelis & Co. in order to help the state “maximize its gaming revenues,” the Columbus Dispatch reports:

Moelis, which along with Spectrum Gaming was hired to advise Kasich on casinos and other gambling-related issues in Ohio, will be paid a monthly retainer fee of $200,000 over the year-long contract. Additionally, the Los Angeles-based company can earn up to $13 million in incentives fees.

According to the contract, which was provided to The Dispatch by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, Moelis is owed 3.25 percent of the state’s added estimated revenue from gaming – capped at $13 million.

Kasich’s spending on casinos comes while he continues to preach fiscal austerity and shared sacrifice to Ohioans. Kasich’s budgetary moves have included deep cuts to education and children’s health programs, a union-busting bill that ended collective bargaining for public workers (including teachers, firefighters and police officers), and privatization efforts that, among other things, would leave prison guard towers unoccupied.

Unfortunately, it seems Kasich’s dubious decisions with taxpayer dollars is becoming a trend. Despite the “shared sacrifice” rhetoric, Kasich used the state-owned airplane more in his first three months in office than his predecessor — Ted Strickland (D) — did in 13 months. He’s also paying his staff more than Strickland paid his, and exempted his own office from much of the pain felt by the state’s austerity measures.

Instead of spending money on vital programs like education and children’s health, Kasich has apparently decided to pin his economic hopes to booze and gambling.

Trump Picks $50 Million Entertainment Career Over Presidential Race

Image used under a Creative Commons license courtesy Gage Skidmore.

Announcing that he wouldn’t run for president on Monday, Donald Trump said in a statement that “business is my greatest passion and I am not ready to leave the private sector.” It’s not surprising that he didn’t choose to run a campaign that he almost certainly would have lost. But Trump’s decision was probably based as much on an ultimatum from NBC, the network that runs The Apprentice, Trump’s one undisputed business triumph, as it was by any particular love of business.

Mike Huckabee’s contract with Fox News pays him $500,000 a year, a sum that’s been quoted often in discussions of his decision not to run for president. But that contract pales in comparison to Trump’s take from his entertainment ventures: in its list of the wealthiest entertainers in 2009 and 2010, Forbes estimated that Trump makes $50 million annually from his entertainment ventures.

Trump might not have to sacrifice all of that income if he ran for president, because some of it comes from speaking fees, books, and products like a menswear line. There are no prohibitions on candidates receiving money for services rendered, so Trump probably could continue doing product endorsements as long as he wasn’t being paid unusually high rates for them, though he might have dropped some clients in order to avoid conflicts of interest or to appear more substantive. And NBC’s president for programming, Bob Greenblatt, told entertainment reporters that if Trump ran for president, the network would replace him but continue the show with a new host, a move they’d likely have been required to make to comply with equal time rules. That very public announcement left Trump with the unpleasant prospect of a campaign that could strip him of the most legitimate business enterprise in his portfolio.

Trump’s brief, incendiary campaign may have long-term negative implications for his brand, especially given how much he harped on President Obama’s citizenship. But continuing The Apprentice, one of the few things NBC knows works in the current lineup, gives Greenblatt desperately-needed breathing room to roll out an ambitious new programming schedule. Trump’s pseudo-run may have set the bar low for ugliness in the 2012 Republican primary, but in the short term, he’s still good business for NBC.

Obama: High school improvement ‘can happen anywhere in America’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on May 17th, 2011 4:35 am by HL

Obama: High school improvement ‘can happen anywhere in America’

President Obama said the success of students at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tenn. could happen anywhere. The school was the winner of the The Race to the Top Commencement Challenge where schools compete to win a visit from the president.

Read full article >>

Donald Trump says he won’t run for president in 2012

So it turns out Donald Trump got the joke after all. Or maybe he was the one who put one over on everyone else.

Either way, the reality-TV star and real estate mogul has concluded that the time has come to end it.

“After considerable deliberation and reflection, I have decided not to pursue the office of the presidency,” Trump announced in a statement Monday. But he added: “I maintain the strong conviction that if I were to run, I would be able to win the primary and, ultimately, the general election.”

Read full article >>

Meaningless ‘strong dollar’

In Washington, undoing isn’t much harder than doing. Laws can be modified or repealed, officials defeated or impeached, rules amended or abolished. But how do you change a word? Or, more to the point, four words? Is there a committee? A complaint box? An incantation?

The issue is the dollar. Or, more specifically, how we talk about it. When its value goes up, we call it a “strong dollar.” And a “strong dollar” sounds great! It sounds like a strong America, like Old Glory waving in the breeze, like our soldiers planting the flag at Iwo Jima. As for the “weak dollar,” well, yech. That’s American decline, compact cars, the Vietnam War. We might as well say “awesome dollar” and “America-hater dollar.”

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Obama administration outlines international strategy for cyberspace

The White House on Monday unveiled an international strategy for cyberspace that stresses developing norms of responsible state behavior to promote a secure, open Internet and other critical computer networks.

Drawing on President Obama’s principle of global engagement, the strategy marks the first time any administration has attempted to set forth in one document the U.S. government’s vision for cyberspace, including goals for defense, diplomacy and international development.

“A new era of global engagement and vigilance has begun,” said Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., one of several senior administration officials who introduced the strategy to an audience of foreign and U.S. officials, as well as representatives from industry and civil society groups.

Read full article >>