The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Tuesday, Day 115

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell
Video of Quantico protest re Bradley Manning

Headlines for March 22, 2011

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Tuesday, Day 115

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell


Video of Quantico protest re Bradley Manning

Barney Frank calls out Obama on Elizabeth Warren

Are people actually still debating whether Obama has the stomach for a fight of any kind? That ship sailed long ago. In fact, it never left dock. The Hill:

President Obama may not be willing to endure the ideological battle that would result from nominating Elizabeth Warren to head the new consumer protection agency, a top Democrat said Monday.

Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.), who co-authored the law creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said that if she were nominated, Warren might not be confirmed to head the agency. While Frank argued that’s a fight worth having, he cautioned that the president might disagree.

“I think the president is too unwilling to make the kind of fights that don’t necessarily win. And I’m not sure she couldn’t be [confirmed],” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.

The war on Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren, Special Advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, recently testified before Congress (pdf), and the Republicans went after her in force. (Why is she the Special Advisor and not Director? It’s complicated; or not.)

Here’s Paul Krugman on the subject of Warren’s recent testimony:

Last week, at a House hearing on financial institutions and consumer credit, Republicans lined up to grill and attack Elizabeth Warren, the law professor and bankruptcy expert who is in charge of setting up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Ostensibly, they believed that Ms. Warren had overstepped her legal authority by helping state attorneys general put together a proposed settlement with mortgage servicers, which are charged with a number of abuses.

But the accusations made no sense. Since when is it illegal for a federal official to talk with state officials, giving them the benefit of her expertise? Anyway, everyone knew that the real purpose of the attack on Ms. Warren was to ensure that neither she nor anyone with similar views ends up actually protecting consumers. … For people like Ms. Warren — people who warned that we were heading for a debt crisis before it happened — threaten, by their very existence, attempts by conservatives to sustain their antiregulation dogma. Such people must therefore be demonized, using whatever tools are at hand.

Note that Krugman says “conservative dogma,” not “Republican dogma.” Well done.

This Republican questioning is not just a shot across Warren’s bow, but across Obama’s as well, since at some point the people’s Fierce Advocate will have to appoint a Director for the Bureau.

So what about Obama? After heaping much praise on Ms. Warren, Krugman says this:

The interesting question now is whether the Obama administration will see the war on Elizabeth Warren for what it is: a second chance to change public perceptions.

In retrospect, the financial crisis of 2008 was a missed opportunity. Yes, the White House succeeded in passing significant new financial regulation. But for whatever reason, it failed to change the terms of debate: bankers and the disaster they wrought have faded from view, and Republicans are back to denouncing the evils of regulation[.] … By the sheer craziness of their attacks on Ms. Warren, however, Republicans are offering the administration a perfect opportunity to revive the debate over financial reform, not to mention highlighting exactly who’s really in Wall Street’s pocket these days. And that’s an opportunity the White House should welcome.

To which economist Simon Johnson adds:

The next big political battle in Washington – after the budget debate is declared “over” – will likely feature the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in particular the fight to determine whether Elizabeth Warren can become as the agency’s first official head. … But before you set aside time in the early summer for potentially gripping television from Capitol Hill, Ms. Warren has to get past Secretary Geithner.

If anything, Mr. Geithner at this stage is more pro-banking lobby than even [House Republican chair of the House Financial Services Committee, Spencer] Bachus. During the Dodd-Frank reform debate, Mr. Geithner would frequently argue that “capital, capital, capital” was all we really needed to fix the financial system. …

President Obama missed his best opportunity to reform the financial system when advisers – including Mr. Geithner – recommended that he defer to the top 13 bankers in March 2009. His team further punted when they failed to push for real change in spring and summer 2010, when the financial legislation was before the Senate. Mr. Geithner and his people were instrumental in defeating the Brown-Kaufman Amendment[.] … Will Mr. Geithner go for the trifecta?

It seems Mr. Krugman is hopeful that suggesting a course of action to the president might create a good result. It seems that Mr. Johnson is less so. I agree with Johnson.

So I suggest a course of action to you: (1) Pre-emptively remind Mr. Election Coming Up, ahead of her nomination or hearings, that his support for her might strongly influence your support of him. (2) Watch to see if Warren is nominated. (3) If she is, watch to see if she is supported.

And by “his support for her” I mean not just “his success at nominating her” — I mean the President actually pulling out all the stops and trying this time to win the battle, instead of relying on that pesky but ever-popular “I kind of sort of half-heartedly tried at the last minute but they just wouldn’t let me.” Because as Chris in Paris has already noted, that ship sailed long ago.

A polite letter addressed to the White House might be the best route; pen-and-ink beats electrons, for the obvious reason.

Krugman on the state of the economics ‘profession’

Paul Krugman has a wonderfully wonkish post that adds to his assessment of the state of the economics profession, of which he is a part. (After all, if jargon is music, well-written wonkery is song, and the Professor writes well.)

Krugman has a bottom line that’s well worth reading. I’ll humbly offer mine after that. He starts thus:

Brad DeLong, in writing about the dubious state of economics as a discipline (at least in some quarters), offers a useful set of quotes and links from freshwater economists who were shocked, shocked at the idea that anyone imagined that fiscal expansion might be expansionary. Brad stresses these economists’ ignorance of intellectual tradition. But they were and still are amazingly ignorant of what contemporary economists who don’t happen to be part of their hermetic world have been doing.

In my world — and by this I mean my narrowly professional world as a research economist — the big development of the 1990s was the updating of Mundell-Fleming by Maury Obstfeld and Ken Rogoff. …

And then the wonkery begins. Feel free to read without understanding. Not every vorpal blade needs to be parsed; it can be fun just to hear the music.

His conclusion is damning (in that politely damning way; my emphasis):

But in retrospect, it’s quite clear: Lucas and Sargent declared final victory over all things Keynesian in the 1970s, and the closed minds of their followers were such that they didn’t even notice the revival of Keynesianism that took place over the three decades that followed.

And Brad is right: if you’ve reached the point where you don’t pay attention to anything that might disturb your orthodoxy, you’re not doing science, you’re not even pursuing a discipline. All you’re doing is perpetuating a smug, closed-minded sect.

Very “professional” of them. Regarding that assessment, however, I disagree.

I think what they’re doing is either (1) Perpetuating an adolescent erotic fixation on a nerd-trap love goddess whonever really existed (the kinder assessment); or (2) Participating in a cadre revolution by reaping the rewards from billionaires whose think tanks and endowed chairs say “Thank you for your service to my cause” (much less kind).

Or both.

Joe Barton wants to bring back incandescent light bulbs

From the Miami Herald, but I like HuffPost Hill’s take better:

Joe Barton, best known for apologizing to BP executives last year after the Gulf oil spill and now CLEARLY trying to get his face on a coin one day, is making it his life’s mission to do away with government regulation of light bulbs. “This is about more than just energy consumption,” Barton told the Fort Worth Star Telegram (and isn’t it ALWAYS about more than energy consumption with a guy who apologized to a company that devastated an entire aquatic ecosystem?). “Voters sent us a message in November that it is time for politicians and activists in Washington to stop interfering in their lives and manipulating the free market. The light bulb ban is the perfect symbol of that frustration [Editors Note: We shall overcooooomeeeee],” he continued. “People don’t want Congress dictating what light fixtures they can use.” AMEN.

This has nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with three things: 1) Who’s donated money to Joe Barton; 2) Who can Joe Barton get to donate in the future; and 3) An ongoing GOP effort to deny anything having to do with the environment. It’s not entirely clear why the GOP feels the need to pander to the flat-earth crowd (#3), except that of course it reinforces #2.

PS While I use CFLs, mostly, I will say three things: Still creeped out by the warnings about airing out your room for 15 minutes if you break one; still creeped out that they’re too dangerous to throw in the garbage, but I’m not supposed to worry about breaking one in my room; and not at all pleased how they make my bathroom look (it really is hideous), and I’ve tried various kelvin colors, finally went back to incandescent (for now) in the bath. Still, I get that it’s good for the country, and even better for my electrical bill, so I do use CFLs when I can.

Another PS, don’t even both getting dimmable CFLs. Fugly as hell.

Far right makes substantial gains in French local elections

This is a mini-2002, when the elder Le Pen made it through to the second round of the presidential elections. Back then, voters flocked to the left to route Le Pen though it’s not clear that the ruling (center-right) UMP will encourage such efforts this time. It’s clearly a bad sign for Sarkozy and his party though the results are hardly encouraging for either of the main two parties. There’s no shortage of voter discontent in France, as in many countries. The Guardian:

Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party is in disarray after the extreme-right Front National (FN) made historic gains in the first round of local elections in France.

The FN capitalised on the surge in popularity for its new leader, Marine Le Pen, by taking 15% of the vote. The party, which until now had no local councillors, will see around 400 candidates go through to the second-round vote on 27 March. More than 30 FN candidates topped the poll in areas including parts of Nice, Marseille and the Cote d’Azur. Many will face a runoff against Socialist party figures, leaving the right-wing UMP stumped as to whom to tell its support-base to vote for. In the past, the right and left have grouped together in an unofficial republican alliance to block the far right.

But the official party line, led by the UMP leader, Jean-Francois Copé, is not to direct its supporters how to vote. Copé said the party refused any alliance with the FN, but it could not recommend a “republican front” because that meant voting for the Socialist party.

Koch Industries: ‘carbon dioxide is not a pollutant’

Maybe Koch Industries is where Limbaugh came up with his loony “oil is as natural as the ocean water is” remark. These people are nuts and they own the GOP. More from the ThinkProgress Wonkroom:

John Hinderaker, who works for a firm employed by Koch Industries, argues that efforts to regulate the greenhouse pollution of the petrochemical giant are wrong because “carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.” “Climate change is not caused by pollution; history proves that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not control worldwide temperatures,” Hinderaker wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, it is a natural substance that is essential to life on earth.”

State of WI is broke, except for alleged girlfriend of GOP senator

Oh spring love, you cure all problems including supposed budget deficits.

A state worker with ties to Sen. Randy Hopper is being paid $11,000 more annually than her predecessor in a position at the department of regulation and licensing.

State officials said the woman, 26, was hired to a limited term, communications specialist position last month, with a salary equivalent to $42, 328 annually.

State officials Friday said the woman’s predecessor left the position in January, with a salary equivalent to $31,200 annually. No explanation was given for the new hire’s higher pay.

Tea Party convention draws a whopping 300 people

Just a guess, but they probably didn’t expect it to be such an intimate, cozy environment. ThinkProgress

With Fox News host Glenn Beck’s ratings down and the biggest tea party rally eclipsed by a recent pro-labor rally in Wisconsin, could the tea party be losing steam? One new sign: a big tea party convention in Tampa, FL this weekend — headlined by such conservative favorites as Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Fox News Judge Andrew Napolitano, and former GOP Congressman Tom Tancredo — attracted only about 300 people. The Save America Convention’s website lists 25 guest speakers, meaning there was one speaker for every 12 attendees. If one includes the 13 musicians and other performers listed as entertainment, that ratio drops to one for every 7 and a half.

Republicans want ‘In God We Trust’ emblazoned on 9,000 federal buildings, cost could top $100m

This is typical of the nonsense Republicans waste time doing when they’re in power, and the nonsense the Democrats are too afraid to put a stop to. It’s the same way that they unnamed our national airport from George Washington to Ronald Reagan. You’d think a Democrat could find a way to defend, and win, again an attack on George Washington. You’d think wrong. Our airport is now named after Reagan, though no one calls it that. So now we’re going to spend possibly $100m or more chiseling ‘In God We Trust” all over every federal, because that’s the reason divorce is at 50%, our violent crime rate is far too high for a developed country, our infant health figures are far too low, and we pay twice as much as any developed country (with far less return on our money) for health care – all because no one had thought of chiseling “In God We Trust” on a 9,000 buildings.

It’s bread and circus for a populace that’s increasingly uninterested in noticing that our country’s real problems have no thing to do with gays, God, the flag, or taxes. Our real problem is that the rest of the world, Europe especially, has a long-term dream for the future (integration) while far too many Americans dream of getting home in time to watch “Jersey Shore.” Until the Republicans stop pandering to problems that don’t need fixing, and stop denying the real problems our country faces, we will continue our descent from #1 status in a growing number of categories.

This entry was posted in Bradley Manning, Events, Human Rights, Imperialism, Obama, UltraRight, US, US Economy, US Electoral Politics, US Foreign Policy, US Violence. Bookmark the permalink.

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