Obama, Romney, & Reporting Wall St Money

Yesterday there was a Washington Post story on how much money Obama and Romney have gotten from Wall Street which directly conflicted with a New York Times article earlier in the week. The Washington Post story reported that Obama has raised more money from Wall Street than all of the GOP candidates combined. The Times, on the other hand, reported that “Romney has raised far more money than Mr. Obama this year from the firms that have been among Wall Street’s top sources of donations for the two candidates.”

Mike Allen isn’t happy with the Post’s coverage of this. Today he takes a hard shot at the Post:

the Times story got the big picture right, by basing the analysis on contributions to the CAMPAIGNS rather than lumping in PARTY money, which has higher limits ($30,800 per year v. $2,500 per election). And Romney can’t raise party money. The Post could have won by explaining both ends of the telescope.
–PLAYBOOK BEST PRACTICES: Acknowledging complexity makes your story MORE interesting, not less. And the most sophisticated readers have seen what’s been written before, so you can’t pretend it doesn’t exist, or leave them scratching their heads.

But here’s the chaser, from yesterday’s Washington Post article:

“Put aside the DNC money, for example, and Obama’s numbers look much worse: just $3.9 million from the financial sector, compared with Romney’s $7.5 million.”

Before Allen starts talking about “best practices,” he should double check to make sure that the people he’s criticizing didn’t present exactly the facts that he’s demanding they present.

But more importantly, this is all very silly. The DNC exists to fundraise for the the President’s reelection. It is a temporary advantage for the President, as the Republicans don’t have a presidential candidate yet and the RNC can’t fundraise directly for that person until the nominee is set. Both the Times and the Post miss with their stories. The Times accepts the technically correct but functionally incorrect reality that DNC money is not the same as campaign money. The Post fails to recognize that the advantage is a temporary one and not particularly indicative of anything except a snapshot of where things are when the GOP doesn’t have a nominee.

The real crux of the matter is that Wall Street is giving tens of millions of dollars to both parties. When all is said and done, that number will probably be over $100,000,000. The people who broke our economy have completely captured both political parties and helped ensure that they are not held accountable for their crimes, while pushing for more bailouts for themselves, paid for on the backs of poor, working, and middle class Americans.

Sesame Street introduces poverty-stricken, hungry Muppet

A sign of the times:

A new poverty-stricken Muppet will highlight the issue of hunger struggles on an episode of “Sesame Street”, the show said in a statement on Tuesday.

Pink-faced Muppet Lily, whose family deals with food insecurity, will join Big Bird, Elmo and other favorites on a one-hour prime-time special featuring country star Brad Paisley and his wife Kimberly Williams Paisley called “Growing Hope Against Hunger,” to air Oct 9.

The new Muppet will bring awareness to the ongoing hunger struggles that families face in the United States, the show said.

This is a good reminder that culture is deliberate. Whether it’s creating prominent gay characters who have real romantic relationships (with actual kissing!) or a Muppet that highlights how many American families are starving, television show and film writers make conscious choices about what story lines to include. These things don’t just happen on their own. So when these writers and producers make choices which will influence our national culture and create awareness and, hopefully, equality, they should be celebrated. Good job, “Sesame Street”!

NYT editorial says Schneiderman shouldn’t go along with foreclosure settlement

Originally posted at AMERICAblog

This is big. The New York Times editorial board is saying that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman shouldn’t go along with the Obama administration’s, and Iowa AG Tom Miller’s, efforts to have a broad settlement of their ongoing foreclosure fraud investigation.  (John reported on the administration’s efforts to push prosecutors to settle, here.)

The Times ed board then rebuffs HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, who has been pressuring Schneiderman to stop rocking the boat. The Times doesn’t get all their facts right – the settlement in discussion isn’t for a narrow immunization around robosigning. But what’s most impressive, beyond them calling out the Obama administration’s efforts to help Wall Street avoid investigation and accountability, is how the Times accurately calls the settlement inadequate and one of the weakest options out there for helping homeowners.

The administration also says that the proposed settlement would require the banks to write down the principal balance on underwater loans. According to news reports, the banks are likely to pay around $20 billion in the deal. With 14.6 million homeowners owing $753 billion more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, how far does the administration think $20 billion would go?

The administration should pursue principal reductions for stressed borrowers, and it could do so immediately by calling on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to refinance the underwater loans of borrowers who are current in their payments. What it shouldn’t do is pretend that the proposed settlement is the only — or best — way to get quick relief to homeowners.

The numbers being tossed around with the foreclosure fraud settlement are tiny. Even at ten times what’s being talked about, the settlement figure, which would be spread across five major banks, would be inadequate. And the administration already has tools at its disposal to directly benefit underwater homeowners. They’re just refusing to use them.

Phillip Anderson of New York’s top political blog, The Albany Project, suggested that people call and thank Schneiderman for standing up for the rule of law and for homeowners. If you’re in NY, drop his office a line and tell him you stand with him:

Maybe we should all call our AG (800 771-7755 or 212 416-8000) or e-mail him and thank him for standing up to the banksters and their enforcers in DC. I bet he would appreciate the show of support.

Rioting in the UK

Originally via Baratunde Thurston, this video is both a good explanation of how and why the riots in the UK started. There’s profound economic distress, along with decades of racial tension and treatment of black Britons by the police as a suspect underclass.  That dynamic plays out in the interview, between Darcus Howe and his white BBC interviewer. Howe is a journalist himself and a long-time racial justice activist. He’s treated like a criminal by the BBC interviewer and afforded less respect than any individual I’ve ever seen appear on TV.

Lots of folks in the US are linking to this excellent post from London blogger Penny Red. The whole piece is worth a read, as it takes the notion that there are real, meaningful underlying causes seriously. This passage stands out:

Violence is rarely mindless. The politics of a burning building, a smashed-in shop or a young man shot by police may be obscured even to those who lit the rags or fired the gun, but the politics are there. Unquestionably there is far, far more to these riots than the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting sparked off the unrest on Saturday, when two police cars were set alight after a five-hour vigil at Tottenham police station. A peaceful protest over the death of a man at police hands, in a community where locals have been given every reason to mistrust the forces of law and order, is one sort of political statement. Raiding shops for technology and trainers that cost ten times as much as the benefits you’re no longer entitled to is another. A co-ordinated, viral wave of civil unrest across the poorest boroughs of Britain, with young people coming from across the capital and the country to battle the police, is another.

Months of conjecture will follow these riots. Already, the internet is teeming with racist vitriol and wild speculation. The truth is that very few people know why this is happening. They don’t know, because they were not watching these communities. Nobody has been watching Tottenham since the television cameras drifted away after the Broadwater Farm riots of 1985. Most of the people who will be writing, speaking and pontificating about the disorder this weekend have absolutely no idea what it is like to grow up in a community where there are no jobs, no space to live or move, and the police are on the streets stopping-and-searching you as you come home from school. The people who do will be waking up this week in the sure and certain knowledge that after decades of being ignored and marginalised and harassed by the police, after months of seeing any conceivable hope of a better future confiscated, they are finally on the news. In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything:

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

“Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere ‘’’

There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they’re paying attention now.
Tonight in London, social order and the rule of law have broken down entirely. The city has been brought to a standstill; it is not safe to go out onto the streets, and where I am in Holloway, the violence is coming closer. As I write, the looting and arson attacks have spread to at least fifty different areas across the UK, including dozens in London, and communities are now turning on each other, with the Guardian reporting on rival gangs forming battle lines. It has become clear to the disenfranchised young people of Britain, who feel that they have no stake in society and nothing to lose, that they can do what they like tonight, and the police are utterly unable to stop them. That is what riots are all about.

Riots are about power, and they are about catharsis. They are not about poor parenting, or youth services being cut, or any of the other snap explanations that media pundits have been trotting out: structural inequalities, as a friend of mine remarked today, are not solved by a few pool tables. People riot because it makes them feel powerful, even if only for a night. People riot because they have spent their whole lives being told that they are good for nothing, and they realise that together they can do anything – literally, anything at all. People to whom respect has never been shown riot because they feel they have little reason to show respect themselves, and it spreads like fire on a warm summer night. And now people have lost their homes, and the country is tearing itself apart.

Racial tension. A broken economy. Unaccountable elites waging warfare through legislation on working people. A commitment to creating pain amongst the people who had nothing to do with economic collapse while nothing is asked of those who caused economic collapse. It’s not shocking that there are riots in the United Kingdom, though it’s sad that people have been pushed so far as to resort to this to have their voices heard.

…Adding, this Reuters piece is a good read, as it actually includes interviews with a number of rioters, who cite inequality, gentrification, a lack of educational opportunities, and austerity as reasons for the riots.

“The only way we can get out of this is education, and we’re not entitled to it, because of the cuts. Even for bricklaying you need a qualification and a waiting list for a course. I signed up in November, and still haven’t heard back,” the Kurdish man said.

The government has also raised university tuition fees since coming into power, putting a higher education further out of the reach of youths from places like Hackney.

“They’re screwing the system so only white middle-class kids can get an education,” said another man, who declined to be named. He said politicians were the real criminals, and pointed to a 2009 expenses scandal in which several lawmakers were revealed to have cheated the taxpayer out of thousands of pounds.

Just because people are rioting doesn’t mean they’re uninformed or stupid. Political elites in the UK should be responsive to these people and their anger, otherwise the chances of things getting better is extremely low. Desires to succeed, to be educated, to lift oneself and one’s family out of poverty are not criminal. These are normal human aspirations. They should be respected.

Ezra’s World

What world does Ezra Klein live in?

To govern responsibly, Democrats cannot simply raise taxes on the rich and call it a day. That’s a world in which Republicans continuously force crises, refuse taxes, and extract deeper and deeper cuts. Already, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called the GOP’s debt-ceiling brinksmanship “a new template” and promised that “in the future, any president, this one or another one, when they request us to raise the debt ceiling, it will not be clean anymore.”

Um, Ezra, that’s the world we already live in. Republicans continually force crises, refuse to raise taxes and extract deep and deeper cuts. So given that Republicans are already doing what Ezra fears they will do if Democrats suddenly and miraculously started believing in and realizing real tax hikes for the rich, why wouldn’t Democrats do this? Again, not for the reasons that Ezra says, because they are already realized. No, the real reason would be that Democratic elites, including most of the Senate, much of the House and the administration just don’t believe that the rich should have their taxes raised, for the rich are job creators and while a small jet tax here or a slight increase for oil companies there is okay, going back to Reagan’s 1986 top bracket rate of 50% would be class warfare. And today’s Democrats just don’t do class warfare against the rich – they’re too busy doing it against the poor, working, and middle classes of America.

Network, 2011

Cenk Uygur of MSNBC does his best Howard Beale impersonation, explaining to his audience why he turned down an offer from MSNBC that would have paid him more money to have a smaller role that prevented him from being as hard on the Obama administration and other Democrats as he currently is. As Cenk puts it, he was asked by MSNBC’s President to stop being an outsider and start playing ball with the establishment.

I’m sorry to see Cenk leaving MSNBC, but very proud to see him taking a principled stand to defend his principles, his reputation, and his belief in questioning those in power.


In Morning Money this morning, Politico’s Ben White called out President Obama for being mean to big business yesterday in his news conference:

HEAD SHAKER: BIZ BASHING RHETORIC RETURNS – Fairly or not, corporate America continues to disdain the Obama administration following two huge regulatory bills (health care reform and Dodd-Frank) that will increase compliance costs and, in the case of banks, make doing business significantly more difficult. So it seemed odd to hear the President-who is regularly said to be mending fences with the corporate world-lapse back into business-bashing rhetoric at his press conference.

From the presser: “Keep in mind that the business community is always complaining about regulations. When unemployment is at 3 percent and they’re making record profits, they’re going to still complain about regulations because, frankly, they want to be able to do whatever they think is going to maximize their profits.”

It’s certainly fine to think these things and there is undoubtedly truth to them. And maybe it SHOULD be a lot harder for banks to do business. But at time when the President desperately needs companies to start hiring, going out in public and calling corporate executives a bunch of amoral whiners is not going to help and is only going to reinforce the already widely held belief that the President simply does not believe in or trust the profit motive. [Emphasis added]

Shortly after, Mark Halperin went on Morning Joe and explicitly called the President a dick, saying “I thought he was a dick yesterday.” It’s not clear if that’s because the President was mean to big business or mean to Republicans, but clearly Halperin didn’t like having his pals fee fees hurt.

Halperin has already been suspended indefinitely as an analyst by MSNBC, though I assume indefinitely will mean longer than one week but less than two months.

I tend to agree with BooMan and Atrios, as Halperin accurately revealed his viewpoint, which is normally hidden from view. Halperin’s world is ruled by Matt Drudge and he has a strongly Republican viewpoint, which is reflected by his lousy reporting.

The Wire v Dumb Drug Laws


I want to speak directly to [showrunners Ed] Burns and [David] Simon: Do another season of The Wire.

–Attorney General Eric Holder, speaking at a Justice Department anti-child-abuse forum attended by Wire actors Wendell “Bunk” Pierce, Sonja “Kima” Sohn, and Jim “Prez” True-Frost.
The Daily What.


“The Attorney-General’s kind remarks are noted and appreciated. I’ve spoken to Ed Burns and we are prepared to go to work on season six of The Wire if the Department of Justice is equally ready to reconsider and address its continuing prosecution of our misguided, destructive and dehumanising drug prohibition.”

–The Wire creator David Simon, in an e-mail to the Times of London responding to Attorney General Eric Holder demand for an additional season of the acclaimed HBO series.
The Daily What

On Birtherism

I really agree with David Dayen and Baratunde Thurston (see above) in their analysis of the President releasing his long form birth certificate yesterday and what it means about the state of affairs in our country.


And I do think the spectacle of an American President having to debase himself to confront conspiracy theorists registers as a low moment in American politics and a signal of US decline. Not just because of what it says about the media, and the hash they’ve made of the public square over the years. The press is nuts, and they’re not even the press – if by that term you mean the organizations who disseminate important information to ensure a well-informed citizenry.

But more important, I think that this marks the end of anyone calling this a post-racial society. Because this entire issue revolves around race, about the alien aspect of a black man in the White House. The comments telling Obama to get off the basketball court is part and parcel of the same thing. Basically, you have a subset of this country who will never see a black man as an American.

A number of people pointed out that yesterday felt like a return to the Clinton years, where any charge against the President would be treated as valid and worthy of widespread discussion in the media. But I think Baratunde makes clear that while that is certainly happening, the racial backdrop of it happening to this President in this day is much more tragic. This isn’t about politics, it’s about race. I never bought the idea that the election of Barack Obama made America a post-racial society, but I’m sure plenty of people not only held it but were comforted by it. We have a lot of work to do and I think no small part of it will involve shaming the racists and bigots who carried out this campaign against the President and the hacks who pushed it to drive up their ratings or their bosses approval rate.

When hippies punch back

When it comes to hippy punching, the Washington Post’s in-house “liberal,” Dana Milbank, is one of the Beltway press corps’ most accomplished pugilists. His career can be easily defined by his use of his platform as a nominal liberal to say how silly and out of touch liberals are. Milbank’s latest involves mocking the Congressional Progressive Caucus for having the temerity to produce a budget which arrives at a surplus within 10 years. Milbank frames the awful policy choices by the CPC thusly:

Still, it gives a sense of how things would be if liberals ran the world: no cuts in Social Security benefits, government-negotiated Medicare drug prices, and increased income taxes and Social Security taxes for the wealthy. Corporations and investors would be hit with a variety of new fees and taxes. And the military would face a shock-and-awe accounting: a 22 percent cut in Army forces, 30 percent for Marines, 20 percent for the Navy and 15 percent for the airforce. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would end, and weapons programs would go begging.

I hope no one fainted by this brutal vision of reality! Milbank mockingly closes his column:

The Progressive Caucus will win that argument, just as soon as they gain control of the weather. The drizzle, alas, did not let up.

What a dick.

Fed up with Milbank’s ridiculous hippy punching, Jonathan Schwarz at A Tiny Revolution decided to punch back:

First they came for the welfare mothers, but I did not speak out, because I was a member of Skull & Bones.

Then they came for middle-class manufacturing unions, but I did not speak out, because I had to get to a party at Marty Peretz’s.

Then they came for the upper middle class people who didn’t have columns in the Washington Post, but I did not speak out, because Dennis Kucinich is short.

And then they came for me…and I was STILL so fucking stupid that I spent my time making fun of the House Progressive Caucus.

And boom goes the dynamite.