Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday Roundup (excerpts, with video)

"Inside the Meltdown" (Frontline-PBS, video-56:23):
On Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008, the astonished leadership of the U.S. Congress was told in a private session by the chairman of the Federal Reserve that the American economy was in grave danger of a complete meltdown within a matter of days. "There was literally a pause in that room where the oxygen left," says Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.).
"Dem ‘family politics’ blocks Dean at HHS" (The Hill):
“I would question whether Dean would be able to reach across the aisle to work with Republicans,” said one Democratic senator. “The debate over the stimulus shows that you’re not going to be able to ram something as big as healthcare reform through without bipartisanship.”
"Ending the Hidden Agenda Behind Tax Cuts" (truthout):
The progress of our nation is being held hostage by a malicious metaphor. Treating taxation as nothing more than a burden is tantamount to declaring that citizenship is nothing more than getting all you can for yourself … everyone else be damned. Conservative elites have undermined the responsibilities we have to one another to advance their agenda. They are fully committed to crafting the world in their image, as we've seen all too clearly these last eight years and throughout the current debate about economic recovery under the Obama administration.
"Good Money After Bad" (Robert Scheer-Truthdig):
The Republican-engineered controversy around the stimulus is a phony.

The stimulus package that President Obama signed into law Tuesday is a modest effort, actually too modest, at arresting the free fall of the American economy. It’s just not that expensive in light of the dimensions of the economic crisis, most of it is quite conservatively aimed at tax cuts for a suffering public and bailouts for beleaguered state programs, and it pales in comparison with the trillions wasted on the bloated military budget during the Bush years.
"Obama OKs 17,000 more Afghanistan troops" (AP):
President Barack Obama approved adding some 17,000 U.S. troops for the flagging war in Afghanistan, his first significant move to change the course of a conflict that his closest military advisers have warned the United States is not winning.

"This increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires," Obama said in a statement.

That was a slap at his predecessor, George W. Bush, whom Obama has accused of slighting urgent national security needs in Afghanistan in favor of war in Iraq.
"Obama's Justice: Reconciliation, Not Retribution" (truthout):
For starters, the Obama administration has taken as its primary goal the mission of reconciliation, not retribution. Although his efforts have been thus far frustrated by a small but dogmatic segment of the Republican Party, Obama is, in the truest sense, a unifier. It is simply not the style - politically or personally - of this president to seek the same sort of "justice" desired by the pitchfork-wielding villagers. In the mind of this president (I imagine, anyway) emphasis on punishing wrongdoers runs the risk - especially in this very politically contentious climate - of only promoting divisions and inflaming precisely the wrong emotions necessary for a culture of healing - namely, anger, hostility and the desire for vengeance. To wit: one caller to a progressive radio show stated (apparently oblivious to the irony) that "Bush should be publicly shamed." Surely this person - and others like him - do not seriously believe that the appropriate response to the culture of imp unity we've been subject to for the past eight years is the subsequent creation of a culture of retribution.
"Obama’s War on Terror May Resemble Bush’s in Some Areas" (NY Times):
Even as it pulls back from harsh interrogations and other sharply debated aspects of George W. Bush’s “war on terrorism,” the Obama administration is quietly signaling continued support for other major elements of its predecessor’s approach to fighting Al Qaeda.

In little-noticed confirmation testimony recently, Obama nominees endorsed continuing the C.I.A.’s program of transferring prisoners to other countries without legal rights, and indefinitely detaining terrorism suspects without trials even if they were arrested far from a war zone.

The administration has also embraced the Bush legal team’s arguments that a lawsuit by former C.I.A. detainees should be shut down based on the “state secrets” doctrine. It has also left the door open to resuming military commission trials.
"How Banks Are Worsening the Foreclosure Crisis" (Business Week, with video-02:06):
The Obama Administration is expected within the next few weeks to announce an initiative of $50 billion or more to help strapped homeowners. But with 1 million residences having fallen into foreclosure since 2006, and an additional 5.9 million expected over the next four years, the Obama plan—whatever its details—can't possibly do the job by itself. Lenders and investors will have to acknowledge huge losses and figure out how to keep recession-wracked borrowers making at least some monthly payments.

So far the industry hasn't shown that kind of foresight. One reason foreclosures are so rampant is that banks and their advocates in Washington have delayed, diluted, and obstructed attempts to address the problem. Industry lobbyists are still at it today, working overtime to whittle down legislation backed by President Obama that would give bankruptcy courts the authority to shrink mortgage debt. Lobbyists say they will fight to restrict the types of loans the bankruptcy proposal covers and new powers granted to judges.
Howie P.S.: If you look at nothing else, watch "Inside the Meltdown:"
"Many Americans still don't understand what has happened to the economy," FRONTLINE producer/director Michael Kirk says. "How did it all go so bad so quickly? Who is responsible? How effective has the response from Washington and Wall Street been? Those are the questions at the heart of Inside the Meltdown."
(H/t to Joe Trippi).

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