Friday, June 19, 2009

Marcy Wheeler A G Eric Holder's demagoguery on hate crimes

The blog post below is from Marcy Wheeler's terrific website which I think more and more people will be following as the Obama administration and Attorney General Holder continue to trash the Constitution in the tradition of Bush-Cheney. A precedent that will apparently continue indefinitely unless some outside force -- the Supreme Court??? -- finds a way to stop them.

On a personal/technical note, there are some aspects to Marcy Wheeler's website which I haven't yet had the patience (or ability) to track down. For one thing, its name: I know it as Emptywheel and as Firedoglake. Also, in the blog on Eric Holder/hate crimes below I thought I was reading the prose of Marcy Wheeler but then I look up and see the byline -- bmaz. Who is bmaz?

Anyway, I can't help repeating the first line of bmaz's item.

Eric Holder can't seem to do squat for transparency, privacy, accountability or a plethora of other ills carried over from the Bush/Cheney Administration, but he is concerned that we need more hate crime laws:

So much for change for the better in the Obama administration. Holder's demagoguery on hate crimes reminds me of the misdirection of the Bush-Cheney years when they successfully masked the lack of any kind of positive domestic agenda by pushing for the privatization of Social Security even though they well knew it would go down in flames. I recall how in his final press conference Bush snarkily cited the Social Security privatization plan as one of his "mistakes."

So Holder is proving that he's the same empty suit that he was in the Clinton years. Obama sure knows how to choose 'em.

The interesting question is whether the Obama administration
a. stands for nothing?
b. the Rightwing pushback against standing for principle is too great for Obama to bear?

Either way, whether it's cowardice or lack of conviction or some combination, we get crushed by the Zionists and the militarists.


Eric Holder Demagogues Hate Crimes
By: bmaz Tuesday June 16, 2009

Eric Holder can't seem to do squat for transparency, privacy, accountability or a plethora of other ills carried over from the Bush/Cheney Administration, but he is concerned that we need more hate crime laws:

"Over the last several weeks, we have witnessed brazen acts of violence, committed in places that many would have considered unthinkable," Holder told the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

He cited separate attacks over a two-week period that killed a young soldier, an abortion provider and a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In order to stop that violence, he said, Congress should past an updated version of hate crimes legislation, in order to more effectively prosecute those who commit violent attacks based on gender, disability, or sexual orientation.

Yeah, that bunk ought to really stop Tiller's killer, the Arkansas recruiting center shooter and thevon Brunns of the world from committing murders when that piddly old first degree murder capital offense with the death penalty couldn't. Okay, I want to be completely honest, the District of Columbia does not have the death penalty, but it certainly has life in prison available for the offense of premeditated murder. Both Kansas and Arkansas, the locations of the other two heinous crimes, do indeed have the death penalty for such offenses. What exactly does Eric Holder think the "hate crimes" he is demagoguing about are going to do for deterrence that the death penalty or life in prison won't?

I have a problem with "hate crime" laws. We already have laws for assault and battery, murder, intimidation etc. The same conduct, and level of conduct, should not have different laws and heightened penalties because it is targeted to a minority or other protected group. Why is the assault of a black worth more than an assault on on a white? Why is an assault on a gay man any more heinous than an assault on a straight? Why is one group of human beings entitled to more protection under the law than another? Yet, that is exactly what hate crime legislation does. This really flies in the face of the quintessential Constitutional and founding concepts of equal protection, fundamental fairness and all men being created equal.

The Supreme Court disagrees, but that is my take. And no matter what your view, I would argue that Eric Holder and the United States Department of Justice have far more important tasks to attend to right now, and they have been failing miserably on most.


A military dictatorship in Iran?

What should we make of two American Enterprise Institute (AEI) fellows who argue in a prominent New York Times Op ed that Iran's theocratic regime has given way to a military dictatorship? ("Iran's Hidden Revolution," by Danielle Pletka and Ali Alfoneh, 6.17.09)

For one thing, such a theory advances the right wing/Zionist agenda of continuing the demonization of Iran so as to ensure that both Israel and the US have at least the appearance of a credible enemy -- to add to non-state actors like the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, both creations and puppets of US/Pakistani/Indian intelligence services.

While the AEI theory of a military dictatorship in Teheran would account for much of the data, the question is whether it’s possible or important to distinguish between a theocratic government backed by the military -- or a military regime with theocrats as front men.

As for Iran’s rigged elections, back in 2005 it was publicly announced that candidate Mehdi Karroubi, a moderate, came in ahead of Ahmadinejad in the first round of elections, but was mysteriously eliminated from the runoff so that Ahmadinejad could face Rafsanjani. Furthermore Pletka and Alfonseh write that Western intelligence believes that in 2005 Ayatollah Khamenei approved the rigging of the required numbers of votes so that Ahmadinejad would prevail over Rafsanjani.

If that’s true, the fraud was conducted in such a way in 2005 that there would be little or no domestic or international commotion. One of the current mysteries is why Iranian election officials didn’t announce plausible numbers for an Ahmadinejad victory. Were they bunglers or simply sufficiently arrogant to proclaim the end of the vestige of democracy in Iran?

Another question is why some on the Left argue that Ahmadinejad won this election fair and square. According to official figures he got seven million MORE votes this time than in 2005. Hmmmm. (Update: I just noticed that James Petras and popular Canadian blogger Xymphora can be added to this list which includes Paul Craig Roberts, the Leveretts -- and others?)

I gather that some on the Left would like to establish Ahmadinejad’s legitimacy so as to give the militarists less of an excuse to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.
McCain sounds like he can’t wait.

Update: 6.19.09

The above post was written in the day or two before the speech of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, defending the election of M. Ahmadinejad and calling for an end to demonstrations. The protests have now entered a new and in all likelihood even bloodier phase. See the books of Azar Nafisi for some of the gruesome details that we can expect. (Reading Lolita in Teheran and Things I’ve Been Silent About) Either the protests will continue and rivers of blood will flow or the protests will slowly or not so slowly come to an end and somewhat less blood will flow – for the moment. The only brake on the murderers will be their understanding that the whole world is watching. We can only hope that this will continue to make a difference.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

New York Times: Obama favors bankers vs homeowners

Whose side is Obama, on?. His constituents or the big banks who have been the recipients of Bush and Cheney’s and his administration’s largesse?

Rhetorical question, right?

Yes, but the novelty is that the outline (at least) of Obama’s betrayal is recorded in the NYT, in a front page story on how the banking lobby removed the “centerpiece” of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, namely giving judges the power to lower the amount owed on a home loan. (See excerpts from the Times story below.)

Never mind that keeping families in their homes is an important key to stabilizing neighborhoods and perhaps also to the nation’s economic recovery.

You’d think such a provision would be a priority for this government. But the sad story is that the banks and Secretary Geithner didn’t like it and so the Obama administration didn’t push for it, leaving a vacuum that the banks and the Republicans were all too happy to fill. In the void left by Geithner/Obama, the banks had little trouble rounding up a gaggle of Senate Democrats to seal the deal.

Selections from: The New York Times

June 5, 2009

(Ailing, )Banks Still Field Strong Lobby at Capitol

Throughout it all, the banks took advantage of the Obama administration’s seeming ambivalence. Despite its occasional populist rhetoric, the White House was conspicuously absent from weeks of pivotal negotiations this spring.

“This would have been a much different deal if Obama had pressed it,” said Camden R. Fine, head of the Independent Community Bankers of America and one of the chief lobbyists opposing the bankruptcy change. “The fact that Obama effectively sat it out helped us a great deal.

”Surprising Ease

In the end, the banks’ startling success in defeating the provision, which was pushed hardest by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, caught even their lobbyists by surprise. Not only did they defeat the cramdown provision, but the banks walked away with billions in new bailout money.

Housing advocacy groups argued that it was unfair that bankruptcy judges have had the authority since 1978 to modify mortgages on vacation homes, farms and even luxury yachts, but not on primary residences. They also argued that a string of federal programs to help reduce foreclosures had been ineffective because of resistance by lenders and investors who own pools of loans, all of whom stand to lose money when a mortgage is modified.

Those arguments won the day in the House, which adopted the legislation on March 5 by a 234-191 vote.

In the Senate, where Republicans were looking for a chance to recoup after narrowly failing to block Mr. Obama’s huge stimulus package, the banks argued that the proposal interfered with their contractual rights.

But the real threat was to their profits. The proposal would have shifted negotiating power to the millions of troubled homeowners who could use the threat of bankruptcy to wrest lower monthly payments from lenders. The banks claimed that that would force them to raise rates.

That claim is in dispute. For one thing, the legislation would not have applied to new mortgages….

While Mr. Obama reaffirmed his support for the proposal shortly after becoming president, administration officials barely participated in the negotiations, a factor that lobbyists said significantly strengthened their hand. Lawmakers who have discussed the issue with the administration said that the president’s senior aides had concluded that a searing fight with the industry was simply not worth the cost.

Moreover, Timothy F. Geithner, the Treasury secretary, did not seem to share Mr. Obama’s enthusiasm for the bankruptcy change.

Mr. Geithner was lobbied by the industry early. Two days after he was sworn in, he invited Mr. Fine from the community bankers to his office for a private meeting. The association, with influential members in every Congressional district, is one of Washington’s most powerful trade groups.

A senior adviser to Mr. Geithner said the administration supported the cramdown proposal, but it preferred that distressed homeowners seek to modify their loans through the Treasury’s new $75 billion program, which rewarded banks if they modified home loans, rather than through bankruptcy court.

Mr. Durbin acknowledges that it was a mistake not to call on the administration for help.

“If I would have known how it would unfold, I would have called on the White House earlier to get involved,” he said….

There was no counterweight to that legislative muscle. Bankrupt homeowners do not have a political action committee or lobbyists.

Mr. Fine reports that the political action committees run by his association alone have built a war chest of nearly $2 million, a 40 percent jump over the last year, even though members have had to cut other expenses in the recession.

“The banks get it,” Mr. Fine said. “They understand you need a strong political action committee to get access to the fund-raisers. That’s where the lawmakers are.”