Archive for February 10th, 2009
Here we have another scowling Treasury secretary, with a bit more hair than his predecessor, serving up the same fatally flawed approach as before: let’s just throw money at the banks and hope they get better. This is tantamount to using antibiotics to treat gangrene. You waste good medicine and the progression of the rot threatens to kill the patient.
Well, let’s not mince words.
Let us not forget that Paulson did manage to dispense the better part of $350 billion in a blinding show of Mussolini-styled corporatism. The new Treasury secretary exhibits similar Italian fascist tendencies, with even less ability to make the trains run on time.
Naked Capitalism feels the biggest problem with Geithner’s plan is that it gives banks funding on an open-ended basis – with no requirement to write down or sell the “dreck” at the heart of the crisis, which is all their toxic mortgage-backed assets. And it goes easier on bank executives than apparently some in the Obama administration wanted.
Those are legitimate beefs with this plan, no matter how colorfully they are phrased. Don’t expect critics of the Bush bailout to jump up and down about this new approach, either.
Dear Obama Administration,
“In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration.
In the case, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian native, and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging flights for the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program, in which terrorism suspects were secretly taken to other countries, where they say they were tortured. The Bush administration argued that the case should be dismissed because even discussing it in court could threaten national security and relations with other nations.
During the campaign, Mr. Obama harshly criticized the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees, and he has broken with that administration on questions like whether to keep open the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But a government lawyer, Douglas N. Letter, made the same state-secrets argument on Monday, startling several judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
“Is there anything material that has happened” that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary M. Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.
“No, your honor,” Mr. Letter replied.
Judge Schroeder asked, “The change in administration has no bearing?”
Once more, he said, “No, Your Honor.” The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,” and “these are the authorized positions,” he said.”
There are so many, many, many things wrong with this. For starters, It’s a big, big mistake for any branch of government to have the power to simply declare that whole subjects are out of bounds, without any check on its veracity. We should have learned this from the very first case that established the state secrets privilege: the government said it could not divulge facts central to that case without jeopardizing national security, but when the documents involved were finally declassified, it turned out that it was just covering up for its own mistakes. The Obama administration cannot be expected to have reversed the court decisions on which this power depends in its first few weeks of office. But it can absolutely be expected not to use this power absent truly extraordinary circumstances.
It would be one thing if the state secrets privilege meant only that …
Continue reading. And then write a note to Obama:
Very good post at Balkinization, which begins:
Many of us have been wondering which of the Bush Administration’s disgraceful litigation positions the Obama/Holder DOJ would abandon. Yesterday’s Ninth Circuit hearing in Mohamed v. Jeppesen DataPlan was a newsworthy first start. It’s up there with the maiden voyage of the Titanic and the flight of the Hindenburg. The excellent Glen Greenwald summarizes the bad news here. In brief, DOJ lawyer Douglas Letter astonished the judges on the panel by defending the outrageous Bush abuse of the "state secrets" privilege in a lawsuit by rendition victims against the CIA’s travel service that rendered them. Letter informed the incredulous judges that the new administration had decided to maintain the old administration’s position.
The state secrets privilege is the so-called "nuclear option" in litigation, which makes lawsuits against the government vanish without a trace by declaring unilaterally that all the facts the plaintiffs would use to prove their case are state secrets. With no facts to back the claim, plaintiffs’ cases must be dismissed.
This one is particularly egregious, because most of the facts are well known and well documented through other sources. One question is whether the state secrets doctrine concerns facts or documents. That is: does it mean that government documents cannot be entered into evidence because they are secret? Or does it mean that the underlying facts are "state secrets" that can never be ventilated in an American courtroom, even if they are well known everywhere else in the world and the plaintiff can prove them using publicly available evidence?
The latter position — that the state secrets privilege is a rule about facts, not about evidence — is absurd, but it is the government’s position. It’s absurd, of course, because there is no point in keeping secrets that aren’t secrets any longer. As the ACLU’s Ben Wizner who argued against the government yesterday, said of another godawful state secrets case, "really the only place in the world where Khalid El-Masri’s case could not be discussed was in a federal courtroom. Everywhere else it could be discussed without harm to the nation, but in a federal court before a federal judge there, all kinds of terrible things could happen."
That’s assuming …
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle about the rise of czarism in American politics, and today we get our first taste of what that actually means on policy.
Notice this snippet from the Washington Post about the latest bank bailout scheme, priced at roughly $1.5 trillion:
In announcing the plan, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner will not ask Congress for more funds than the roughly $350 billion that remain in the Treasury Department’s original rescue package for the financial system, though congressional sources said such a request could come later if the new programs are unsuccessful. The rest of the money would come from other government agencies, such as the Federal Reserve.
How can this be a $1.5 trillion plan, that doesn’t ask Congress for any more money? Because the Treasury Secretary is effectively circumventing the legislative branch — i.e. popular democratic channels — and relying on autocratic means of handing over more cash to Wall Street, most prominently, the Federal Reserve.
The reason Geithner has chosen this path is because he knows that Congress would likely reflect the will of a very angry public and either reject or severely reform his bailout plan. So rather than allow public input into the plan via Congress, he’s just going around democracy entirely. Indeed, out of the $9.7 trillion that Bloomberg News estimates is being spent by our government on this economic crisis, just $1.55 trillion (or 15%) will have been explicitly approved by the Congress (the $750 billion TARP and the upcoming $800 billion stimulus). And, of course, of that $9.7 trillion, just 4.6% is being devoted to spending on regular people (as opposed to banks).
I’m sure the official explanation for this behavior is the same tired version of the “emergency requires speed” rationale that has trampled democracy throughout the ages. But that’s a cover for the real motivation: to avoid being stopped by the public.
This is precisely the kind of czarism that’s on the rise in America as we become a kind of authoritarian capitalism. The only question is whether Congress will sit back and take it, or reassert its constitutional role.
Some years back The Wife had a kitty named Stella, a great favorite. One morning The Wife went into the dining room to pick up her stuff to take to work, and Stella suddenly looked very guilty: big round eyes, crouched posture, being very still. The Wife didn’t know what to make of it. When she later went to eat her lunch, she found that one corner of her salmon sandwich had little tiny teeth marks through the plastic sandwich bag at one corner.
First was the endocrinologist. HbA1c is 5.8%, down from 6.1% last time. Very good news. He also liked the idea of the greens-centered diet, and I think I convinced him to watch King Corn.
The to Radio Shack to get some more stereo adapters to hook up the headphones to the stereo and the TV to the stereo. One good tip from the sales guy there: when you have adapters to hook up, take a photo of them with your cellphone so you don’t have to remember the ins and outs (literally) when you get to the store: you can just show the photo.
It’s interesting how adding just one more thing can make a problem MUCH harder. I had four connections to keep track of, and that was a little bit much. Kim Harris, in a Forth class, gave us a little memory dump problem: print the contents of a range of memory. That would have been easy, but he wanted us to provide options to print it in hex, binary, or decimal, and to make the option sticky. Trying to juggle all three possibilities made the problem much harder than it would have been otherwise, especially when trying to write clear code.
Whole Foods had pomegranate juice on sale. Great bargain.
UPDATE: I got the stereo all hooked up. I did get the right adapters. :)