Archive for August 6th, 2011
Three Rupert Murdoch stooges: Piers Morgan with Rebekah Brooks (disgraced former editor of The News of the World) and Andy Coulson (disgraced former editor of the News of the World and recently arrested former communications director for Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron)
Daily Beast: Members of Parliament are calling on the CNN host to return to the U.K. and disclose what he knew about phone hacking at his former paper, the Mirror.
…. Piers Morgan is certain to face official questioning in the U.K. about alleged phone hacking at the Daily Mirror while he was editor.
He will be required to answer claims by a former Mirror journalist, James Hipwell, and by Paul McCartney’s ex-wife, Heather Mills, that Mirror group reporters illegally accessed mobile-phone voicemails in the same manner that prompted the closure last month of Rupert Murdoch’s London Sunday tabloid, News of the World. But his questioners will have bigger, more general suspicions in mind as well.
… Morgan was editor of the Daily Mirror from 1995 to 2004 …. The new allegations leave him on the defensive, but other, more circumstantial evidence has long raised serious suspicions about what went on at the Mirror.
… Morgan is not known as a pillar of journalistic ethics. In 2000, while editor of the Mirror, he was censured by the Press Complaints Commission for his share-buying activities …. And in 2004 he was sacked after publishing photographs of British soldiers abusing Iraqis that turned out to be fake:
At the time, he was criticized for failing to make appropriate checks; later he would mount the curious argument that publication had been justified because later evidence showed that some British soldiers, in different circumstances, did abuse Iraqis.
… The allegations of the past few days make close scrutiny of Morgan’s record a certainty. James Hipwell, a former financial journalist who was jailed in 2004 in the same scandal over share dealings for which Morgan was criticized, told the Independent newspaper that hacking was common at the Mirror. Heather Mills described on BBC television a conversation with a senior Mirror Group reporter, at the time that Morgan edited the Mirror, in which the reporter admitted listening to her voicemails.
If Morgan is not already in close consultation with his British lawyers, he will be very soon.
Full post here
AP (July 20): After remaining on the sidelines of Britain’s phone hacking scandal, Piers Morgan was finally drawn into it, defending himself and his former boss Rupert Murdoch.
While Murdoch testified in London before Parliament, Morgan took to Twitter.
A former editor of the News of the World the CNN host has largely declined to address the scandal on his CNN nightly prime-time show, but he tweeted frequently in support of Murdoch throughout Tuesday’s inquiry.
….Morgan has backed Murdoch during the scandal. He said he was a “big admirer of” Murdoch and he would not “join in the kind of witch hunt that’s been going on”.
While following Tuesday’s hearing, he wrote: “Strong finish by Rupert. Love him or hate him, does anyone genuinely think he’s a crook or condoned crime? Because I don’t.”
Piers? Go hack a murdered kid’s phone. Truly, that’s your ‘journalistic’ level ;-)
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Michael Tomasky (The Daily Beast): With a double-dip recession looming and attacks on Obama mounting, it’s amazing the GOP is still setting the U.S. agenda when its own George W. Bush ran up half the debt we’ve accumulated since Reagan.
… Every time I step back and ponder this sordid history, I am amazed that the Republican Party has any credibility..
The Boston Globe ran a chart last Sunday that I’d buy billboard space to reproduce in every decent-size city in America:
The premise of it was very simple: It showed how many trillions each president since Ronald Reagan has added to the nation’s debt. The debt was about $1 trillion when Reagan took office, and then: Reagan, $1.9 trillion; George H.W. Bush, $1.5 trillion (in just four years); Bill Clinton, $1.4 trillion; Obama, $2.4 trillion.
Oh, wait. I skipped someone. George W. Bush ran up $6.4 trillion. That’s nearly half – 44.7 percent – of the $14.3 trillion total. We all know what did it – two massive tax cuts geared toward the rich (along with other similar measures, like slashing the capital gains and inheritance taxes), the off-the-books wars, the unfunded Medicare expansion, and so on. But the number is staggering and worth dwelling on. In a history covering 30 years, nearly half the debt was run up in eight. Even the allegedly socialist Obama at his most allegedly wanton doesn’t compare to Dubya…
In percentage terms, the case is even more open and shut. This table tells the sad tale (see table at the top of the post)…
The percentages in question here are debt as a chunk of the GDP … Reagan raised it 20 points, to 53 percent from 33 percent. Bush Sr. a gaudy 13 points more. Clinton lowered it by 10 points, back down to 56 percent. Bush Jr.? Up 28 points, to 82 percent of GDP. Obama has raised it nine points. Once again: In a 30-year increase from 32 percent to 93 percent of 61 points, nearly half, 28 points or 46 percent, happened under Bush.
…. I can only laugh when I hear Tea Party conservatives avow today that they have no love for Bush. It is truly an incredible record when you stack it up. First, the party fought tooth and nail against every single move Clinton made that ended up putting us in surplus. Then it got power – and let’s not get into how that happened – and ran up completely unprecedented debts and deficits. Then it put the foxes in command of the henhouses at the SEC and OTC and brought the world to the very brink of total economic collapse.
Then a guy from the other party got back in, tried to do what the vast majority of economists would say should be done in such a situation (the government should spend money while the private sector couldn’t), and they fought him tooth and nail. And now they’ve forced him into a deal (which he should not have agreed to) that will help ensure that the economy remains stuck in neutral until, oh, November 2012, to pick a date out of the air. Next, that guy will identify tax cuts to spur job growth, and they will invent reasons to oppose these measures, just as they once invented reasons why “deficits don’t matter”.
Full article here
President Barack Obama is briefed on the tragedy in Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, and national security staff, at Camp David, August 6. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
BBC: A US helicopter carrying US and Afghan special forces has crashed in Afghanistan, killing 38 people, officials in Kabul say.
Reports say the Chinook helicopter was shot down by the Taliban.
US sources say most of the 31 Americans killed were from the Navy Seal unit which killed Osama Bin Laden, but are “unlikely” to be the same personnel.
President Obama: My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the Americans who were lost earlier today in Afghanistan. Their deaths are a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of our military and their families, including all who have served in Afghanistan. We will draw inspiration from their lives, and continue the work of securing our country and standing up for the values that they embodied. We also mourn the Afghans who died alongside our troops in pursuit of a more peaceful and hopeful future for their country. At this difficult hour, all Americans are united in support of our men and women in uniform who serve so that we can live in freedom and security.
Larger version of chart here
1980: Ronald Reagan runs for president, promising a balanced budget
1981 – 1989: With support from congressional Republicans, Reagan runs enormous deficits, adds $2 trillion to the debt.
1993: Bill Clinton passes economic plan that lowers deficit, gets zero votes from congressional Republicans.
1998: U.S. deficit disappears for the first time in three decades. Debt clock is unplugged.
2000: George W. Bush runs for president, promising to maintain a balanced budget.
2001: CBO shows the United States is on track to pay off the entirety of its national debt within a decade.
2001 – 2009: With support from congressional Republicans, Bush runs enormous deficits, adds nearly $5 trillion to the debt.
2002: Dick Cheney declares, “Deficits don’t matter.” Congressional Republicans agree, approving tax cuts, two wars, and Medicare expansion without even trying to pay for them.
2009: Barack Obama inherits $1.3 trillion deficit from Bush; Republicans immediately condemn Obama’s fiscal irresponsibility.
2009: Congressional Democrats unveil several domestic policy initiatives …. which would lower the deficit. GOP opposes all of them, while continuing to push for deficit reduction.
September 2010: In Obama’s first fiscal year, the deficit shrinks by $122 billion. Republicans again condemn Obama’s fiscal irresponsibility.
October 2010: S&P endorses the nation’s AAA rating with a stable outlook….
November 2010: Republicans win a U.S. House majority, citing the need for fiscal responsibility.
December 2010: Congressional Republicans demand extension of Bush tax cuts ….. GOP continues to accuse Obama of fiscal irresponsibility.
March 2011: Congressional Republicans declare intention to hold full faith and credit of the United States hostage – a move without precedent in American history – until massive debt-reduction plan is approved.
July 2011: Obama offers Republicans a $4 trillion debt-reduction deal. GOP refuses, pushes debt-ceiling standoff until the last possible day, rattling international markets.
August 2011: S&P downgrades U.S. debt, citing GOP refusal to consider new revenues. Republicans rejoice and blame Obama for fiscal irresponsibility…..
Full post here
Tweeters? Tweet it! Please use the direct link to Steve Benen’s blog (here) rather than to mine – the more people who read this guy the better ;-)
First, the President’s weekly address:
Zachary Karabell (The Daily Beast): Math-challenged and politically-driven, S&P’s Friday night credit demotion puts the ratings agency on par with the Tea Party. Zachary Karabell on why that’s dangerous.
…. Let’s be clear: Congress and the White House did not cover themselves with glory during the debt debate throughout July. The United States has a stalled economy and a large amount of debt. But on so many levels, this downgrade is absurd.
…. there is the question of math. When S&P informed the White House of its intention to downgrade on Friday afternoon, the Treasury Department took issue with S&P’s math and claimed that their assessment of the trends of the U.S. debt burden and its ratio to GDP was off by trillions of dollars. No matter. After a brief review, the wizards at S&P went ahead and removed an A.
… I have no criticism of an academic theory about how nations function economically. But when debatable theories become the underpinnings of decisions by unelected individuals who run organizations with significant sway (sway ceded to them by governments throughout the 20th century), then we have a problem …. drawing on theories about the “right” level of debt puts S&P in a strange bedfellow alliance with the Tea Party.
The people who run the ratings agencies are welcome to their analysis, as is the Tea Party. But if Rogoff and Reinhart or the Tea Party announced that they were downgrading U.S. sovereign debt, they would be laughed for their audacity. Yet when it is one of the anointed ratings agencies, there is this sudden need to genuflect.
… The company assailed the Washington culture of “brinkmanship” so in display during the debt ceiling fiasco, and used that as the primary reason to take us down a notch. Excuse me, but since when is a pristine political process a key ingredient to good credit? Are we supposed to have civil politics in order to maintain the rating?
…. There is not a scintilla of evidence that the political process has yet impeded the ability of the United States to meet its debt obligations, even with the debt ceiling brinkmanship….
Finally, as a symbol that the United States is sliding off the rails, the downgrade is potent … the actions of S&P are part of problem and not just an independent verification that one exists.
These agencies have been elevated to heights that should not ascend; they have been chronically wrong and late in the past; and their rationale for a downgrade sounds more like a prim distaste for a dysfunctional political process that a reasoned assessment of the ability of the United States to discharge its obligations. No defense can be offered of our current political system or near-term economic prospects. But S&P – already on overreach as “neutral” judge of American creditworthiness – has no special standing to rule on the political system, and using that as a cudgel to prove their own power is a destructive act.
Full post here
Politicususa: … Reality denying Republicans have already tried to shift the blame to Obama for the debt downgrade, but it is important to state the obvious. If Republicans would have passed a clean debt ceiling extension, the downgrade would have never happened. The GOP’s political recipe for bringing Obama down of one part chaos and one part obstruction was never going to allow that to happen. Many Republicans wanted the debt downgrade because it plays into their political strategy for 2012.
Whether or not S&P’s numbers are off, and with Standard and Poor’s track record they very well could be, the political point can’t be ignored. S&P downgraded our debt because our political leaders can’t agree on anything….
… The S&P can be described as a troubled and flawed organization at best. They took a justified beating from Democrats for their role in helping to cause the financial crash of 2008. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the people at S&P saw this as a chance for a bit of reputation enhancement and political payback.
In economic terms, S&P is one of three ratings agencies. As long as the other two agencies keep the US rating at AAA there should be little impact from S&P’s decision. The biggest impact will be likely felt politically, not economically.
Republicans can try to blame Obama all they want, but they the ones who ginned up a crisis out of thin air, and they are party that has forced the United States of America’s debt to be downgraded for the first time in this nation’s glorious history.
The message to Obama and the Democrats is simple. They can’t fix this. Republicans are hell bent on making sure that the economy doesn’t recover. This reality leaves Democrats with two choices. They can either battle with the Republicans thus adding to the gridlock that is trashing the economy, or they can compromise and flush the economy down the drain.
It is a lose-lose situation that has no hope of improving unless the voters wake up and remove the Republicans from the House majority in 2012. Until then the American people are going to force fed a buffet of embarrassment, humiliation, and failure prepared by the master chefs of economic destruction in the Republican Party.
Eat up America. This is government that you voted for in 2010.
Full article here
Steve Benen: Before we get into Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade United States debt, it’s worth appreciating the events that immediately preceded the announcement.
Officials from Standard & Poor’s provided documents to the Treasury Department, explaining the downgrade. Obama administration officials noticed a problem: the S&P numbers didn’t add up:
…..A Treasury staff member noticed the $2 trillion mistake within the hour, according to a department official. The Treasury called the company and explained the problem. About an hour later, the company conceded the problem but did not indicate how it planned to proceed, the official said. Hours later, S.& P. issued a revised release with new numbers but the same conclusion.
Got that? S&P prepared an analysis to justify a specific conclusion. The analysis was off by $2 trillion. Treasury explained to S&P that the analysis wasn’t even close to being accurate, which led the ratings agency to concede they’d made a mistake.
And a few hours later, S&P decided to reach the same conclusion anyway. The agency wanted to proceed with a downgrade; whether its numbers added up was irrelevant.
That certainly inspires confidence in the integrity of Standard & Poor’s decision making, doesn’t it?
I’m reminded of something Joe Klein said in April, after S&P first started making threats about this.
….. Hey, weren’t you the same guys who gave AAA ratings to the repackaged subprime mortgage-backed securities that, in truth, were utter dreck? And didn’t that help cause the 2008 economic collapse? And didn’t subsequent accounts reveal that you were in bed with the banks whose products you were supposed to be rating? I mean, you guys are still in business? Amazing.
Full post here