Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for January 13th, 2011

Terrorism Advocate Peter King Attacks Wikileaks, US Constitution

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 13, 2011

Because I am Spartacus, and you are too, a public service announcement:

“WikiLeaks condemns US embargo move”

WikiLeaks today condemned calls from the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security to “strangle the viability” of WikiLeaks by placing the publisher and its editor-in-chief, Julian Assange, on a US “enemies list” normally reserved for terrorists and dictators.

Placement on the US “Specially Designated National and Blocked Persons List” would criminalize US companies who deal with WikiLeaks or its editor. “The U.S. government simply cannot continue its ineffective piecemeal approach of responding in the aftermath of Wikileaks’ damage,” King wrote in a letter to the Secretary of the US Treasury, Geithner. “The U.S. government should be making every effort to strangle the viability of Assange’s organization.”

’The Homeland Security Committee chair Peter T. King wants to put a Cuban style trade embargo around the truth—forced on US citizens at the point of a gun,’ said Julian Assange.

’WikiLeaks is a publishing organization. It is time to cut through the bluster. There is no allegation by the US government or any other party, that WikiLeaks has hurt anyone, at any time during its four-year publishing history, as a result of anything it has published. Very few news organizations can say as much.’

’WikiLeaks has “terrorized” politicians from Kenya to Kansas over the last four years. Quite a few have lost office as a result. That doesn’t mean we are “terrorists”—it means we doing our job. We intend to “terrorize” Peter King, Hillary Clinton, corrupt CEOs and all the rest for many years to come, because that is what the people of the world demand.’

King noted that some U.S. companies had voluntarily cut off ties to Wikileaks, but that a New York publisher had recently agreed to pay Assange for an autobiography. Assange has said the eventual book royalties would help ’keep Wikileaks afloat’.

’By targeting WikiLeaks and the US publisher Knopf for economic censorship, King reveals his abiding hatred for the US constitution. When the founding fathers wrote, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”, they did not provide an exception for blustering fools like Peter T. King.’

Posted in Republicans, Republicans acting badly, Republicans as cancer, The smear industry | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Magical money

Posted by Charles II on January 13, 2011

Barry Ritholtz has a bunch of good links today. The one I like best is Robert Lenzner at Forbes:

The giant US banks have been bailed out again from huge potential writeoffs by loosey-goosey accounting accepted by the accounting profession and the regulators.

They are allowed to accrue interest on non-performing mortgages ” until the actual foreclosure takes place, which on average takes about 16 months.

Presumably that income gets written off when foreclosure actually takes place, so you can figure there’s something like $50-$100B of funny money on the banks’ balance sheets based on collecting mortgages that aren’t being paid. That’s separate from the $1T in assets that will have to be written down on foreclosed mortgages.

And, by the way, this perfectly illustrates why keeping people in their homes, paying mortgages is so important. You can either pay $50-$100B per year to keep people in their homes or a $1T lump sum to kick them out. Assuming that people will either move or get permanent jobs within 10-20 years, it’s pretty obvious which the cheapest solution is.

Meanwhile, Caroline Salas of Bloomberg reports that the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas calls keeping the US out of complete collapse “fiscal pathology,” which gives you an idea of the mental state of the inflation hawks among the Fed governors. I would concede that tax breaks for billionaires was pathological legislation, not to mention our military budget, but most of the rest of the spending Congress has done for the last two years has been for unemployment insurance, Medicaid, and tax relief for the middle class and poor. Pathology.

Paul Krugman asks if Europe can be saved. As is often the case, I think Krugman gets the diagnosis wrong: he thinks that the basic problem is that the periphery (i.e., the poorer countries) can’t devalue their currency and therefore work cheaper; the alternative is cutting everyone’s wages/payments, which is hard to negotiate. (Unless, of course, countries decided that that’s what the real problem was and legislated it into being. Foreign bond holders would be p–sed, of course, but maybe better a smaller coupon than actual default?) In my opinion, though, the real problems are that (a) Germany (and to a degree France and even Britain) is rich enough to subsidize its industries so that the poorer nations can’t really compete, and (b) there’s widespread corruption and weak governance in the so-called periphery. Sure, you can force wages down… or Germany could accept that it needs to subsidize the weaker nations while they bring their operations up to speed. It may end up doing so through bailouts, but that’s a far inferior solution. But I really don’t understand why Krugman turns to currency devaluation when the US– which has just as a diverse and large economy as Europe– has enjoyed monetary union for hundreds of years. Would the Great Depression have been less awful if Kansas and Georgia been able to devalue their currencies? Somehow I doubt it.

And Simon Johnson, writing on The Baseline Scenario has your optimism for the day:

Let’s be honest. With the appointment of Bill Daley, the big banks have won completely this round of boom-bust-bailout. The risk inherent to our financial system is now higher than it was in the early/mid-2000s. We are set up for another illusory financial expansion and another debilitating crisis.

Bill Daley will get it done.

Ritholtz has more, but I lack the time to read everything I should.

Posted in economy, mortgage crisis, Paul Krugman | 6 Comments »

The real budget enemy: tax expenditures

Posted by Charles II on January 13, 2011

Loyola Law School is sponsoring the following event on Friday, 1/14, but you can listen via webcast by registering here:

Starving the Hidden Beast: New Approaches to Tax Expenditure Reform

The United States faces serious fiscal issues. There is a consensus among tax policy and public finance experts that any successful budgetary solution must tackle the problem of tax expenditures. The purpose of this conference is to highlight new work that may contribute toward tax expenditure reform and therefore toward reform of the federal budget as a whole. Panel 1 will explore how the impact of different tax policies may depend on their salience. Panels 2 and 3 will focus on aspects of the tax expenditure budget. Panel 4, finally, will explore possible approaches to reform. Each panel will include presentations of two papers, a comment on those papers by a discussant, and time for audience discussion on the topic.

Not all tax expenditures are bad, nor will reform solve our budgetary problems. They represent, however, a hidden national (corporate socialist) agenda and deserve to be debated annually.

Posted in taxes | Comments Off on The real budget enemy: tax expenditures

We Warned You, Nick Clegg

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 13, 2011

Dear Nick Clegg:

You were warned about the dangers of hooking up with the Tories instead of Labour. Instead, you let BNP Paribas bully you into a shotgun wedding with David Cameron — and getting the blame for the Tories’ brutal, recovery-killing austerity measures:

Tomorrow morning, people in the north-western seat of Oldham East and Saddleworth will start voting in a byelection that is 2011’s first proper bit of political drama: a real page-turner, which has brought all three party leaders up north.

[…]

…The biggest factor, though, may well be the mounting unpopularity of the Lib Dems – chained to the Tories, occasionally wriggling with pain, and seemingly taking most of the heat for the coalition’s more unpopular actions.

If they lose – and it looks likely that they will – it will just be the latest chapter in a sorry story of plummeting support, recurrent mishap (witness the fall of David Laws and the pre-Christmas pantomime starring Vince Cable), broken public trust, and the increasingly toxic reputation of Nick Clegg.

The fleeting burst of Cleggmania during the general election campaign now looks like something from another age. Today, an opinion poll put support for the Lib Dems at just 7%. In a survey released just before Christmas, Mori found that in some regions of the UK, it was as low as 4%. To hear some people talk, the party’s broken promise on tuition fees will haunt them just as much as Iraq haunted Labour, and there will be no decisive recovery for years.

And now they face what could be a very grim 2011. In May, there will be elections for local councils, as well as the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly – and the most positive prediction you can extract from senior Lib Dems is that things will be “difficult”. The referendum on changing our voting system has hardly fired the public’s imagination, and is widely predicted to be lost – which will lead plenty of Lib Dems to wonder what the point of partnership with the Tories actually is. Meanwhile, as the cuts finally bite, senior Lib Dems worry that their support could well plunge even lower, and the message to their activists boils down to that most hackneyed of instructions: keep calm, and carry on.

The article goes on to mention the bizarre, reality-denying optimism of the LibDem leadership, who apparently don’t understand that the austerity measures will not only stop any recovery in its tracks, but send the UK hurtling towards the edge of the cliff.

That’s likely why Labour is not only going to win this by-election (what we in the US call a special election), but is poised to win many others for the foreseeable future:

10.43am: For the record, here are the latest YouGov GB polling figures.

Labour: 43% (up 13 points from the general election)
Conservatives: 36% (down 1)
Lib Dems: 9% (down 15)

Government approval: -24

This is the lowest government approval rating since the election. And it is the largest Labour lead in a YouGov poll since the [May 2010] election.

There you go, Nick. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »