Stir the eggnog, lift the toddy, Happy New Year, everybody.
A month ago Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father told the American consulate that his son had taken up with radical Islamists. The Homeland Security Department did what they should have done and placed him on a terrorist watch list, meaning that he would be subjected to additional security measures if he tried to board a plane. Only the TSA didn't communicate with the Dutch authorities, who failed to detect explosive material on Abdulmutallab when he passed through a security inspection in Amsterdam.
Why didn't the TSA do it's job? MAYBE BECAUSE THERE IS NO ONE AT THE HELM? That's right, the position of TSA director is vacant.
There is a nominee, and a counter-terrorism expert at that. The person the Obama administration nominated for the job is Errol Southers, who is eminently qualified to deal with terrorism, as a former special agent with the FBI, the Los Angeles airport assistant chief for security and intelligence, the associate director of the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events and most recently the deputy director of homeland security for the state of California.
Two Senate committees have already approved Southers by a bipartisan vote. This should be a no-brainer.
Enter DeMint, one of the most combatative conservatives in the Senate. He has single-handedly blocked the nomination over the specific issue of preventing TSA workers from exercising their right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a collective bargaining agreement.
So thanks to DeMint, instead of having a highly qualified expert on terrorism running the TSA, someone who certainly would have attended to the detail of letting the Dutch know who they should pay closer attention to during an inspection, we instead have a vacancy in this critical position.
Thankfully, no one lost their life in this attack. But had 279 passengers and crew in the plane, and perhaps hundreds more on the ground died in the attack, it would be fair to ask whether Jim DeMint was at fault.
The Senate should vote to confirm Errol Southers IMMEDIATELY!
Labels: health care reform
Republican lawmakers and far-right activists have suddenly discovered, after eight years of dramatic fiscal irresponsibility, that they care deeply about deficit reduction again. Worse, they're absolutely convinced that President Obama and those free-spending Democrats are responsible, putting a terrible burden on future generations.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report today, analyzing the existing deficit in detail, and what factors created it. Here's hoping Republicans and Teabaggers are paying attention. [...]
This isn't just about pointing fingers for self-satisfaction or partisan vanity. It's important for the public to realize who's responsible, in large part because it's important for the public to weigh policymakers' credibility. If GOP lawmakers embraced policies that are almost entirely responsible for the deficit those same lawmakers are now complaining about, it's a relevant detail.
And on a related note, for those who believe deficit reduction must be a top national priority -- a group that's apparently pretty large -- it's important to recognize which party's proposals are effective in improving, or not, the fiscal landscape.
President Obama will deserve plenty of blame over the course of his presidency, but holding him responsible for getting us into this budgetary mess doesn't make sense.
Special Series: Economic Recovery WatchSome critics charge that the new policies pursued by President Obama and the 111th Congress generated the huge federal budget deficits that the nation now faces. In fact, the tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the economic downturn together explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years (see Figure 1).
The deficit for fiscal 2009 was $1.4 trillion and, at an estimated 10 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was the largest deficit relative to the size of the economy since the end of World War II. Under current policies, deficits will likely exceed $1 trillion in 2010 and 2011 and remain near that figure thereafter.
The events and policies that have pushed deficits to astronomical levels in the near term, however, were largely outside the new Administration’s control. If not for the tax cuts enacted during the Presidency of George W. Bush that Congress did not pay for, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that began during that period, and the effects of the worst economic slump since the Great Depression (including the cost of steps necessary to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term.
While President Obama inherited a bad fiscal legacy, that does not diminish his responsibility to propose policies to address our fiscal imbalance and put the weight of his office behind them. Although policymakers should not tighten fiscal policy in the near term while the economy remains fragile, they and the nation at large must come to grips with the nation’s deficit problem. But we should all recognize how we got where we are today.
For eight years, President Bush and his Republican allies ignored growing risks in the financial markets as Wall Street and big banks exploited loopholes and harmed America’s families and small businesses. Their failure to regulate financial markets and control these risks left Wall Street and the big banks to gamble with our money, which compromised our future, our savings, and the American Dream. We know what happened: the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Wall Street reform is the next critical step to create jobs and grow the economy. As we rebuild our economy, we must put in place common-sense rules to ensure big banks and Wall Street can't jeopardize our recovery and hurt hard-working families and small businesses once again. Wall Street may be bouncing back, but we know from experience that left to their own devices they’re not going to police themselves.
On December 11th, the House passed the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (HR 4173) by a vote of 223-202. This comprehensive financial regulation reform bill will enact common-sense reforms including ending bailouts by helping ensure taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall Street’s risky behavior and bad bets; protecting families’ retirement funds, college savings, and homes and businesses’ financial futures from unnecessary risk by Wall Street lenders and speculators and high-paid corporate executives; protecting consumers from predatory lending abuses, fine print, and industry gimmicks; and finally bringing transparency and accountability to a financial system that has run amok.
Senators Should Visit a Free Health Care Clinic to Really See the America They Represent... and Deny
From 2001 through 2008, what Thomas Frank deemed the Republican "wrecking crew" essentially demolished U.S. prosperity and the American dream. For the eight years George W. Bush presided in the White House and the six that the GOP controlled Congress, Republican stewardship produced endless budget deficits, a massive tax windfall for wealthy Americans, an unnecessary war in Iraq, sharp increases in poverty and those without health insurance and, of course, the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. But as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch announced Monday, the solution to the problem of Republican mismanagement is to return the GOP to the majority.
Appearing on the Fox Business channel, Senator Hatch assured host Alexis Glick that the prescription for the malignant cancers caused by the GOP was to introduce more Republican carcinogens into the American body politic...
Of course, Hatch's comical call for a new Republican majority comes just one month after he warned about a future with Congress in Democratic hands. As he made clear, the GOP is worried not that Obama's health care initiatives might fail, but that they might succeed.
Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and David Vitter (R-La.) no doubt thought they were being clever. They crafted an amendment that would force members of Congress to get their coverage through a public insurance plan, if the public option were included as part of health care reform. If it's good enough for American consumers, it should be good enough for their elected representatives, right?
They had no idea how much Democrats agreed with the sentiment.
As we talked about this morning, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) not only loved the idea, he wanted to join the right-wing senators as a co-sponsor on their amendment. When they refused -- this was supposed to be a conservative stunt, not a real idea -- Brown used procedural tactics to make himself a co-sponsor of the Coburn/Vitter measure, whether they like it or not.
Then, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said she, too, wanted to join. Soon after, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) endorsed the Coburn/Vitter amendment and also asked to be a co-sponsor. [...]
The fun part of this is that it's a stunt gone awry. Coburn and Vitter were probably whispering to themselves, "We'll show them." It didn't occur to them that Democrats would call their bluff.
December 2 - "Chairman Bernanke needs to answer serious questions about his advice and actions leading up to, during and in the aftermath of the financial meltdown. Taxpayers can't afford another undetected housing bubble. Businesses can't afford another lending freeze. None of the unprecedented actions taken by the Federal Reserve have led to more jobs and financial security for families. And without meaningful transparency, no one knows exactly what he's done.
"In addition, the Fed's new claims that it's a born-again consumer advocate and bubble-fighter are just claims. Congress needs to enact legislation to protect consumers, prevent systemic risk and to audit and democratize the Federal Reserve."
Senator Bernie Sanders said on Sunday he will not vote to reconfirm Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve, in a preview of the rough treatment Bernanke may get this week on Capitol Hill.
December 2, 2009Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today placed a hold on the nomination of Ben Bernanke for a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve.
“The American people overwhelmingly voted last year for a change in our national priorities to put the interests of ordinary people ahead of the greed of Wall Street and the wealthy few,” Sanders said. “What the American people did not bargain for was another four years for one of the key architects of the Bush economy.”
As head of the central bank since 2006, Bernanke could have demanded that Wall Street provide adequate credit to small and medium-sized businesses to create decent-paying jobs in a productive economy, but he did not.
He could have insisted that large bailed-out banks end the usurious practice of charging interest rates of 30 percent or more on credit cards, but he did not.
He could have broken up too-big-to-fail financial institutions that took Federal Reserve assistance, but he did not.
He could have revealed which banks took more than $2 trillion in taxpayer-backed secret loans, but he did not.
“The American people want a new direction on Wall Street and at the Fed. They do not want as chairman someone who has been part of the problem and who has been responsible for many of the enormous difficulties that we are now experiencing,” Sanders said. “It’s time for a change at the Fed.”
Some of us aren't buying it so easily:
Olbermann on Afghanistan: Get out now
Nov. 30: In a Special Comment, Countdown’s Keith Olbermann argues that in the face political and financial opportunism, not to mention outright lies about the war in Afghanistan, and the stark historical warning represented by Vietnam, President Obama should make the change he promised during his campaign and pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. 9:15
Both a troop escalation and health care reform carry significant price tags — roughly $100 billion and $80-$100 billion a year respectively. (It should be noted that health care reform, unlike a troop surge, would cut the deficit.)
When it comes to these two debates, hawkish senators have laid out their priorities. They are more than willing to fund a risky troop surge that is increasingly opposed by both Americans and Afghans, yet remain stalwart opponents of health care reform that could save the lives of the 45,000 Americans who die every year because they lack access to health care. [...]
As the number of Americans on food stamps rises to an all-time high, the unemployment rate hits double-digits, and Americans continue to perish due to lack of health coverage, how can these senators justify draining funding from crucial domestic programs to pay for an escalation of the war in Afghanistan?
I don't even know where to begin pointing out how stupid this is.
First, it is insulting to people who are, after all, adults. A college is in the business of providing education. It's not up to them to be the fitness czar for their students. And frankly this could be humiliating for a lot of people.
Second, BMI is a single number which in fact does not measure very well what kind of shape a person is in. I guarantee you that the majority of players in the NFL have a BMI which would classify them as 'obese,' but they are not out of shape at all.
Third, the presumption here is that if a person is overweight then it is a fitness issue. But it may not be. It might be an issue involving metabolism, disease or genetics. There are a lot of reasons why people are overweight, and in some cases exercise might even make things worse (such as if the person has a disease which also puts stress on their heart.)
Fourth, if we do this then how far does this go? Will they require that smokers go through a smoking cessation course before they can graduate? If someone gets a parking violation on campus will they have to go to driving school? If someone studies a lot will they be required to attend a course on stress release? Will joggers have to take a course on proper podiatric care? Are they going to make students provide proof that they have gotten all their prescriptions filled? I mean, there are a lot of ways people can risk their health, and once you begin with this you may be opening a Pandora's box. Keep in mind too that this is a college that is making this requirement, not even a health agency (though I'd be against it if it were a health agency too.)
I understand that obesity is a problem, especially in the African-American community which this college serves but if the people in charge of the college want to do someting about it how about providing more physical education or nutrition courses and information that will be available to all students, but mandatory for none?