Thursday, August 5, 2010

Video: DC Housewives: 'It's Not the Salahi Show'

Help Coming for Homeowners?

— By Kevin Drum
The Obamaadministration's program to address home foreclosures, HAMP, has been apretty dismal failure. Only a small fraction of the money allocated to help homeowners has been spent and only a few hundred thousand loans have been modified. So what's next? James Pethokoukis passes along the latest dirt:
Main Street may be about to get its own gigantic bailout. Rumors arerunning wild from Washington to Wall Street that the Obamaadministration is about to order government-controlled lenders FannieMae and Freddie Mac to forgive a portion of the mortgage debt ofmillions of Americans who owe more than what their homes are worth. Anestimated 15 million U.S. mortgages — one in five — are underwater withnegative equity of some $800 billion. Recall that on Christmas Eve2009, the Treasury Department waived a $400 billion limit on financialassistance to Fannie and Freddie, pledging unlimited help. The actualvehicle for the bailout could be the Bush-era Home Affordable RefinanceProgram, or HARP, a sister program to Obama’s loan modification effort.HARP was just extended through June 30, 2011.
....Keep in mind the political and economic context. The nascentrecovery is already running out of steam....The president’s approvalratings are continuing to erode, as are Democratic election polls.Democrats are in real danger of losing the House and almost losing theSenate. The mortgage Hail Mary would be a last-gasp effort to preventthis from happening and to save the Obama agenda. The politicalcalculation is that the number of grateful Americans would be greaterthan those offended that they — and their children and theirgrandchildren — would be paying for someone else’s mortgage woes.
Maybe this happens, maybe it doesn't. But it would sure be an improvement over spending the money on "foreclosure mills," as Fannie and Freddie do now:
The business model is simple: to tear through cases as quickly aspossible. (Stern's company handled 70,382 foreclosures in 2009 alone.)This breakneck pace stems from how the mills get paid. Rather thanbilling hourly, they receive a predetermined flat fee for theforeclosure — typically around $1,000 — plus add-ons for each of therelated services. The more they foreclose, the more they make. As aresult, consumer attorneys and legal experts say, even families whohave been foreclosed upon illegally—and who can afford to make good ontheir mortgages—end up getting steamrolled. "It's 'How fast can I turnthis file?'" says Ira Rheingold, executive director of the NationalAssociation of Consumer Advocates in Washington, DC. "For these guys,the law is irrelevant, the process is irrelevant, the substance isirrelevant."
That's from Andy Kroll. Read the whole thing.

Kevin Drum is a political blogger for Mother Jones.

Rangel Scandal Reveals Extent of Capitol Corruption

By Howard Rich
Four years ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to “drain the swamp” of corruption in Washington, D.C., but after failing miserably to do so it now appears she’s choosing to ignore it — while letting her colleagues sweep it under the rug.

In the latest example of this trend, a House ethics panel last week recommended that Rep. Charlie Rangel be “reprimanded” for a laundry list of corruption charges. Rangel, a Democrat who has been in the House for forty years, is facing a battery of serious allegations which, if proven, should cost the career lawmaker his job — if not land him in jail.
Rangel is accused of failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets on his financial disclosure statements — a pattern of alleged evasion that spans nearly a decade. Additionally, he’s accused of failing to pay taxes on income generated from his vacation property in the Dominican Republic, using taxpayer-funded resources for campaign purposes and abusing his free Congressional mail privilege to solicit donations.

On top of all that, Rangel reportedly accepted political favors from donors who received favorable treatment from him during his tenure as Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee — which oversees tax policy, trade issues, Medicare and Social Security, among other responsibilities.
Every bit as troubling as Rangel’s alleged conduct, though, is the attempt by his colleagues to completely let him off the hook — and to do so quickly in an effort to avoid any lingering bad press leading up to the November elections. Despite of the gravity of his alleged offenses (including several Rangel has admitted to committing) House ethics members have recommended letting him off with only a “reprimand.”
What’s that, exactly?

Get full story here.

The Show-Obama State

Get permalink here.

House to End Recess Early to Bail Out Bankrupt States

By Bill Wilson
This could the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Yesterday the Senate passed a $26.1 billion bailout for bankrupt states like New York and California, which includes $10 billion for public teachers spending and $16.1 billion for state Medicaid spending. Now, the Politico is reporting that Nancy Pelosi will speedily bring the House of Representatives back from its August recess to pass it and have it on Barack Obama’s desk next week.

The American people rightly are outraged at the prospect of balancing the budgets for states that refuse to cut their own spending. Last year’s $862 billion “stimulus” already included some $145 billion to balance state budgets, and this year’s $26.1 billion bailout will only forestall necessary cuts to those budgets.
While Americans struggle to balance their family budgets during this weak economic recovery, they expect elected officials to muster the political will to do the same. Instead, all 59 Senate Democrats and Republican Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe have caved to pressure from the public teachers unions — all to help fill their campaign coffers.

Out of the estimated 3.3 million public school teachers nationwide, teachers unions were expecting about 160,000 layoffs this year — just 4.8 percent of all teachers. 38.1 percent of those layoffs are centered in just three states: 9,000 in New Jersey, 16,000 in New York and 36,000 in California.

About 57 percent of those 160,000 teachers are unionized as noted by the Heritage Foundation, with contributions to state and local unions averaging $300 per teacher. Add another $162 per teacher to the National Education Association and $190 per teacher to the American Federation of Teachers, as reported by Education Next, and the Senate easily has voted to give a minimum $40 million to the public teachers unions’ political coffers. That money will be mobilized into campaign ads, direct mail, phone banks, you name it, all to help elect Democrats.

Democrats want to ensure that their reelection campaigns well-funded, and so now the House is rushing back to the nation’s capital to secure the political slush money.
Get full story here.

ALG to House on $26.1 Billion Special Session States Bailout:“Vote No or Don’t Go!”


August 5th, 2010, Fairfax, VA—Americans for Limited Government (ALG) President Bill Wilson today urged the House of Representatives to “either reject the $26.1 billion bailout to balance bankrupt state budgets like New York and California or stay home.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pulling members of Congress away from the August recess for a special session to vote on legislation that includes $16.1 billion for state Medicaid spending and $10 billion for public teachers funding.

“The American people are sick of these endless bailouts. The message to House members is to vote ‘no’ for another $26.1 billion for the states, or don’t go. The states already got $145 billion in the $862 billion ‘stimulus,” Wilson said, adding, “This is just the latest example of the theft of taxpayers by Nancy Pelosi’s House to pay off teachers union bosses in states that refuse to balance their own budgets.”
“While Americans are struggling to balance their family budgets, politicians in state capitals and in Washington refuse to balance theirs. Instead, government’s solution is to borrow and print more money, and to raise taxes to pay for the unsustainable obligations government has created,” Wilson explained.

Get full story here.

14 Muslims Arrested in Three States in Connection with Somalian Jihadist Group

From the WaPo, 4 people have been charged with providing support for the terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia:
[...] The charges against suspects in Minnesota, California and Alabama include providing support for the terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia, two U.S. officials said Thursday. Most of the people are U.S. citizens, with some supporting the terrorist organization from the United States and others traveling to Somalia to do so. Al-Shabab is a Somali insurgent faction that embraced a radical form of Islam similar to the harsh, conservative brand practiced by Afghanistan's Taliban regime. Its fighters, numbering several thousand strong, have been battling Somalia's weakened government and have been branded a terrorist group by the U.S. and other Western countries.
[...] Two indictments unsealed in Minnesota on Thursday added five new names to a list of people charged in the investigation in that state, bringing the total charged in the state to 19. Two were women from the Rochester, Minn., area accused of raising money for al-Shabaab.
Roughly 20 men -- all but one of Somali descent -- left Minnesota from December 2007 through October 2009 to join al-Shabab, a violent group that seeks to establish an Islamic state in Somalia.
The federal government designated al-Shabab a foreign terrorist organization in March 2008, and said it has ties to al-Qaida.
In another case unrelated to Thursday's developments, a 26-year-old Chicago man who told an FBI informant that he didn't expect to reach the age of 30 was charged with plotting to go to Somalia to become a suicide bomber for al-Qaida and al-Shabab.
During a brief hearing Wednesday, prosecutors told a judge that the Chicago man, Shaker Masri, attempted to provide support through the use of a weapon of mass destruction outside the United States.
According to the WaPo, Eric Holder says the charges reflect a disturbing trend that leaders in Muslim communities in the United States are trying to help law enforcement agencies address. This, while at the same time the administration continues to refer to jihad as a "holy struggle" and a legitimate tenant of Islam, and that Islamists are not our enemy. In other words, this is coming from an administration that remains stuck in Jihad Denial Syndrome and ridiculously refuses to acknowledge that individuals "might" -just might - be incited to take the actions they did because of radical Islam? Yet where are they going for help? Answer - the MUSLIM community. Isn't this essentially admiting that radical Islam and jihad is associated with MUSLIMs? Hello!

Rudy Giuliani's Daughter Arrested for Shoplifting

Rudy Giuliani's daughter, Caroline Giuliani, a 20 year old Harvard student, was arrested Wednesday afternoon for shoplifting $100 of cosmetics from Sephora on the Upper East Side of New York, near her mother's apartment.

The store says when it learned who she was, it tried to call of the cops and told them it didn't want to press charges. The cops said it was too late.

The store video reportedly shows Ms. Giuliani putting about 5 different products in her pockets. She was given a desk ticket and the DA will decide whether to file charges. [More...]

Happily, Rudy's no longer in charge of New York, and his tough on minor crimes and quality of life policing strategy are no longer the law of the land. But, even though first time shoplifters usually get a deferred adjudication, so they can get counseling and avoid jail and a permanent conviction on their record, is that the right outcome for his daughter? Or, because of her father's last name or because she goes to Harvard, should she get a complete pass?

Rudy asks everyone to respect his daughter's privacy. He and his children have had strained relationships for a long time. Caroline joined a Facebook group for Obama when Rudy ran for President. His son Andrew has publicly described their estrangement. It was Rudy's ex-wife, Donna Hanover, who responded by going to the police station yesterday. Does Caroline even want Rudy speaking out on her behalf, even if it's just to ask to respect her privacy?

Back in 2004, I agreed to guest-post for a friend at his very conservative blog while he was on vacation. After watching a debate on TV with Dick Cheney, I wrote:
I was watching Dick Cheney and trying to picture what it would have been like to grow up with him as my father. I mean, forget about what he was saying, just his visage and demeanor. He was so stern looking. And his tone was so authoritarian. ...
...So here’s my mental picture of me at 15, as a daughter of Cheney: I’m a runaway, standing at the downtown Port Authority. I’ve got a tattoo on my ass, a needle in my arm, a cigarette dangling from my lip, and I’m just waiting for the next Midnight Cowboy to roll off the bus. Sorry, but politics aside, doesn’t the guy just give you the creeps?
I feel the same way about Rudy. I hope for his daughter's sake she doesn't feel that way, and that if she pocketed anything, it was her first-ever attempt at shoplifting and that she acted on a whim or felt a momentary need to rebel. It would really be a shame if her actions were the result of her complicated relationship with her father, or she needs professional help.

Warner Bros. unveils title for Batman: Arkham Asylum sequel

Batman: Arkham City
Batman: Arkham City

Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment this morning announced Batman: Arkham City as the title for the follow-up to its bestselling video game Batman: Arkham Asylum.

For those who have been following along, the title doesn't come as much of a surprise, as and topped a list of Batman-related domain names purchased in recent months by Warner Bros.

Developed by Rocksteady Studios, the London-based studio behind 2009's Arkham Asylum, Arkham City will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC next fall. (Warner Bros. acquired a majority stake in the developer in February.)

According to Warner Bros., the game will send players into Arkham City, the new maximum-security home for all of Gotham's "thugs, gangsters and insane criminal masterminds." Arkham City "introduces a brand-new story that draws together a new all-star cast of classic characters and murderous villains from the Batman universe, as well as a vast range of new and enhanced gameplay features to deliver the ultimate experience as the Dark Knight."

Officially announced in December, the sequel is reported to feature such villains as Two-Face, Mr. Freeze, Talia al Ghul, the Riddler and the Joker, the latter voiced for a final time by Mark Hamill.

Batman: Arkham Asylum debuted in August 2009, and sold 2 million copies in its first three weeks of release.

by Kevin Melrose

Insurance: "NOAA trims hurricane outlook, still seen very active" (ALL; CB; TRV; BRK.B)

From Reuters:

* NOAA expects busy year with eight to 12 hurricanes

* Four to six of those expected to be "major"
* La Nina formation makes conditions ripe for hurricanes 
U.S. government scientists on Thursday reduced their forecast for the 2010 Atlantic-Caribbean hurricane season, but said they were still predicting a very active year of eight to 12 hurricanes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it now expects 14 to 20 tropical storms, with eight to 12 of those strengthening into hurricanes.

It forecast that four to six of them would become "major" hurricanes, which are ranked at Category 3 or above on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity and have top winds of more than 110 miles per hour (177 km per hour).

Before the six-month season began on June 1, NOAA had forecast 14 to 23 tropical storms, with eight to 14 developing into hurricanes, and three to seven becoming major hurricanes.
The revision reflected the lower-than-expected number of storms that developed in June and July.
"We're still predicting a very active hurricane season and it's very important that people understand that," said Gerry Bell, the lead hurricane seasonal forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

The 2O10 season has seen three tropical storms so far, with only one reaching hurricane strength.
The season is just nearing its traditionally most active phase, which runs from mid-August through October. Hurricanes feed on warm water and the tropical Atlantic is warmest during that time.

The weather pattern known as La Nina also formed rapidly in July, bringing wind conditions that foster Atlantic hurricane formation, Bell said
"I'm not sure I'd say (it's) unusually strong," he said. "This is not a record type of event by any means but it's a La Nina that's already having impact."...MORE

School bus crash leaves two dead, 50 hurt in Missouri

CHICAGO — At least two people were dead and 50 hurt when two school buses collided with a truck and sports utility vehicle on a Missouri highway Thursday, media reported.

The buses were full of eighth grade students belonging to a school band on their way to the Six Flags amusement park, CNN reported.

The shocking images captured by news crew helicopters showed one of the buses propped up on top of the tractor-trailer, the SUV crushed underneath.

White foam covered the road, presumably used by rescue crews to prevent a fire.

"It's a horrible situation, it really is," Jordan Durand, a spokesman with the Missouri Department of Transportation, told CNN.

"We're hoping that the injuries don't become fatalities later on as the day continues."

Ashley Wiehle from the Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital in St Louis told media that 36 of the children were being taken to hospital, but were in good condition and were walking.

Initial Jobless Claims Reaches Three-Month High

labor department
The Labor Department reported some disappointing news Thursday, as its weekly report on initial claims for unemployment insurance reached a three-month high during the week ending July 31.

The report shows the number of initial claims increased by 19,000 to 479,000 last week, which is the highest level since April. Additionally, the government revised the prior week’s total to 460,000 from a previously reported 457,000.

According to an Associated Press story, economists had expected this week’s number to drop to 455,000.
The 4-week moving average, which is considered a truer indicator, was 458,500, an increase of 5,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 453,250.

There really is no upside momentum in the labor market, and that’s a critical long-term determinant of where the economy is going,” Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities USA Inc. in New York, told Bloomberg. “People just aren’t getting jobs.”

The number of people continuing to collect unemployment benefits dropped by 34,000 to 4.54 million in the week ended July 24 from 4.57 million the prior week.

The continuing claims figure does not include the number of Americans receiving extended benefits under federal programs.

Shaquille O’Neal Signs With The Boston Celtics

By Randall Stevens
Shaquille O'Neal

The Big Three in Boston just became a very BIG FOUR.

The Boston Celtics signed Shaquille O'Neal on Wednesday (August 4th), who will help center Kendrick Perkins shoulder the load in the middle as he recovers from knee surgery that could keep him outta the line-up until February.

According to, Shaq agreed to a two-year deal worth about $3 million. However, details have not been confirmed.

Big Shaq Diesel joins Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, on a team that went to Game 7 of the NBA Finals last season before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers.

In addition to Shaq, this off-seasn, Boston has signed center-forward Jermaine O'Neal.

"I am honored to be joining the Celtics," O'Neal said in a statement issued by the club. "I have played against Paul, Ray, Kevin, Rajon, and Jermaine for many years and it will be great to be able to call them my teammates. I cannot wait to get to Boston to get started in pursuit of another championship."

The Celtics have 17th NBA titles, their last coming in 2008. Shaq has four rings and hopes to make it five next season.

"It is not every day that you can add a player of Shaquille's caliber to your team," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in the statement. "His past experience speaks for itself and we believe that he is a great fit for our roster."

At Boston, Shaq will wear #36, not the #32 as most are accustomed to seeing him in.

Obama: States Should Be Able to Make Their Own Decisions...Except When I Don't Want Them Too

Chuck Todd put this out regarding Obama's opinion on gay marriage:
WH adviser David Axelrod said the president still believes that decisions about marriage should be left up to the states.
So, will he be asking Eric Holder to file a brief supporting California's right to determine its own marriage laws? Probably not. And don't forget, Obama is as responsible as anyone for the passage of Proposition 8. His black and hispanic supporters who turned out in large numbers for him in the 2008 election also voted in large majorities for Proposition 8 and very well could have provided the margin of victory.

Of course, Obama isn't exactly Mr. Consistency. When Arizona wanted to defend itself against the onslaught of illegal aliens they were told that they could not make that decision for themselves. That was a federal issue.

It's time to return to the states the authority they were granted under the 10th amendment to the constitution, and to remove from the federal government the power they have usurped through constitution-hating lawmakers and judges.

By Rick Moore

Geithner Defends Plan to Let Tax Cuts for Wealthy Expire


WASHINGTON—Extending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would imperil the fragile economic recovery, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday, as the Obama administration pushes to let the Bush-era policies expire at the end of the year.

Mr. Geithner, in remarks before the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said "there is no credible argument that the purpose of government is to borrow from future generations of Americans to finance an extension of tax cuts for the top 2%."

Mr. Geithner, taking aim at congressional Republicans' push to extend the tax cuts for those with household incomes of at least $250,000, said such a move would hurt efforts to address the nation's long-term fiscal stability.

"We cannot pretend that deficits don't matter, as some on the other side have notably suggested...Borrowing to finance tax cuts for the top 2% would be a $700 billion fiscal mistake," he said.

(More here.)

NEW YORK: Pat Robertson Sues City To Stop The Ground Zero Mosque

Pat Robertson's legal foundation filed a lawsuit in New York state court yesterday in an attempt to overturn the city's approval of the plan to build a mosque on a site near Ground Zero.
The American Center for Law and Justice says it filed a petition Wednesday challenging a city panel’s decision to let developers tear down a building to make way for the mosque. The Washington-based group is representing a firefighter who survived the terrorist attacks. Opponents say the mosque plan insults the memory of those killed by Islamic terrorists nearly nine years ago. Supporters see it as a monument to tolerance.
Robertson was last in the news when he claimed that Haiti was struck by that devastating earthquake because the nation's founders had sold their souls to Satan in return for independence from France.

Senators Make Final Arguments on Kagan Nomination by Publius

From the Associated Press:
Supporters and opponents of Elena Kagan painted vastly different portraits of the Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday, as they got their final say on the Senate floor before a near-certain vote to confirm her later this week.

Democrats praised President Barack Obama’s nominee as a highly qualified legal scholar who would add a sorely needed note of fairness and commonsense to a court whose conservative majority, they argue, has run amok. Republicans charged she’s an inexperienced cipher who would use her post to mold the law to her own liberal beliefs.

Despite the partisan divide, Kagan was on track for easy confirmation with the support of nearly all Democrats and a handful of GOP senators. In line to become the court’s fourth woman, she’s not expected to alter the ideological balance of the court in succeeding retired Justice John Paul Stevens, a leader of its liberal wing.

“She made clear she’ll base her approach to deciding cases on the law and the Constitution—not on politics, not on an ideological agenda,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
He called her views “mainstream,” and said she has “demonstrated her respect for the rule of law, her appreciation for the separation of powers, and her understanding of the meaning of our Constitution.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the panel’s ranking Republican, presented a harsh indictment of Kagan, calling her an unqualified, intellectually dishonest nominee who would pretend to be an objective judge but instead seek to push her own agenda.

“I don’t think it’s a secret. I think this is pretty well known that this is not a judge committed to restraint, (or) objectivity,” Sessions said. Her past actions and testimony indicate she’d be “an activist, liberal, progressive, politically minded judge who will not be happy simply to decide cases but will seek to advance her causes under the guise of judging.”

Naomi’s Blood Diamond Saga

Naomi Campbell in court today
Naomi Campbell in court today

Naomi Campbell has confessed she did receive ‘blood diamonds’ from Liberian dictator Charles Taylor.
The 40-year-old supermodel revealed she received “dirty pebbles” while testifying at the war crimes trial of Taylor in The Hague, Netherlands. Naomi was subpoenaed to give evidence after actress Mia Farrow – who has also been called to trial – claimed the model told her she had received jewels as a personal gift from Taylor during a party held at former South African President Nelson Mandela’s house in September 1997.

According to Mia’s previous allegations, Naomi “told us she had been awakened in the night by knocking at her door. She opened the door to find two or three men – I do not recall how many – who presented her with a large diamond which they said was from Charles Taylor”.

During her testimony, Naomi stated she was given a pouch with some “dirty little pebbles” but denied receiving a “huge, uncut” diamond.

She said: “The next morning at breakfast I told Ms Farrow and (her former agent Carol White) what had happened and one of the two said, ‘That’s obviously Charles Taylor’, and I said, ‘I guess that was.’ ”
She continued: “There was no one else at the dinner who would have given diamonds as a gift.”

The 40-year-old model is now fearful of her safety after being ordered to give evidence against Taylor.
She said: “I don’t want anything to do with it. I care about the protection of my family.

“This is someone (Charles Taylor) that I read up on, on the internet, that’s killed thousands of people allegedly and I don’t want my family in danger in any way.”

Taylor has been on trial since 2008 for crimes against humanity, after a bloody campaign he waged in Sierra Leone between 1997 and 2001, during which time he is alleged to have been involved with ‘blood diamonds’. A ‘blood diamond’ – also called a ‘hot’ or ‘war’ diamond – is a jewel mined in a war zone and sold to aid warlord activity or invading forces’ campaigns.

The trial continues.