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      by Tony Wikrent Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus Strategic Political Economy How Powerful Ideas Can Shape Society: Aaron Director and the Triumph of Nihilism Matt Stoller [Pro-Market, via Naked Capitalism 9-18-19] Director is the key founder of what is now known as the Chicago School of law and economics, which resha […]
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Wednesday News – Breaking: McChrystal Out

Good morning Conflucians!!

We’re awaiting the final nail for McChrystal’s coffin, here are some things happening today. When the news breaks, I’ll update it at the bottom.

New home sales plummet:

New home sales plummeted to a record low in May, the first month following the expiration of the homebuyer tax credit. This snapped a two-month streak of gains.

New home sales declined 32.7% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 300,000 last month, down from an downwardly revised 446,000 in April, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Sales year-over-year fell 18.3%.

This is the slowest sales pace since the Commerce Department began tracking data in 1963. The prior record was set in September 1981, when new homes sold at an annual rate of 338,000.

“We expected a slowdown, but the extent of this decline was a surprise,” said Anika Khan, an economist at Wells Fargo. The figure was even worse than her relatively pessimistic forecast of an annual rate of 380,000 in May.

A consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected May sales to slide to an annual rate of 430,000.

“Clearly, the lack of a tax credit had a lot to do with it, and it’s going to be a bit of a bumpy road ahead as we get a few more months of payback,” Khan said.

It’s just hard to compete with a really large inventory of non new homes at lower prices. I’m not surprised at all. And combine that with the homebuyer tax credit expiration, it’s no wonder. Of course the underlying disastrous economy is the big picture issue. And on top of that, the general impression of how bad things are I think has been greatly effected by the oil gusher.

The nurse in the famous WWII picture dies at 91:

A nurse who was photographed being kissed in Times Square in New York to celebrate the end of the second world war in 1945 has died, aged 91.

The iconic VJ Day picture of Edith Shain by Alfred Eisenstaedt was published in Life magazine.

The identity of the nurse in the photograph was not known until the late 1970s when Shain wrote to Eisenstaedt to say that she was the woman in the picture. It was taken on 14 August 1945 when she had been working at Doctor’s Hospital in New York.

After a judge recently reinstated deepwater drilling, Obama is seeking a new ban:

The White House was set on Wednesday to step up its legal battle to keep deepwater drilling on hold in the Gulf of Mexico following the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

A U.S. judge on Tuesday overturned a six-month ban on drilling in water deeper than 500 feet (152 metres) after an appeal by drillers who stand to lose business.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he would seek to replace the ban with a new order clarifying why it was necessary. The moratorium was imposed after a well operated by British oil company BP ruptured on April 20 and began spewing millions of gallons of crude into the sea.

“We see clear evidence every day, as oil spills from BP’s well, of the need for a pause on deepwater drilling,” Salazar said in a statement.

Late word is the cap is fallen over, so getting the ban back in place should not be hard. We’ll update on the cap failure as we learn more.

Eliot Spitzer has been hired by CNN to host a new show:

CNN, the 24-hour cable news network owned by Time Warner Inc., said former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and journalist Kathleen Parker will host a nightly roundtable TV show.

The new show will start in the fall and air weeknights at 8 p.m., Jon Klein, the president of CNN U.S., said today in an e- mailed statement.

CNN is revamping its prime-time lineup to reverse ratings that have fallen after the 2008 U.S. presidential election amid increasing competition with NBC Universal’s MSNBC and News Corp.’s Fox News. Parker, who describes herself as a “rational conservative,” and Spitzer, a Democrat whose call-girl scandal forced him to resign as governor in 2008, will exchange opinions and analysis with guests and contributors, CNN said.

Desperate times I supposed. Of course despite Eliot’s transgressions, I always wonder if he hadn’t been going after Goldman Sachs like he was, would he have been exposed in his sex scandal. Who knows.

Back to the McChrystal issue, the WP has some background:

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s belittling critique of some of the Obama administration’s top officials has left the president with a stark choice: overlook comments that border on insubordination, or fire his top commander at a critical moment in Afghanistan.

Even as thousands of U.S. troops were moving into Kandahar province for what is expected to be a crucial phase in one of the longest U.S. wars, McChrystal appeared dangerously close to losing his command because of the incendiary remarks he and members of his inner circle had made in an article in the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

While a U.S. official said that McChrystal had already made an informal resignation offer to senior military officials before flying to Washington Tuesday, President Obama made it clear that it is up to him to decide the general’s fate.

McChrystal met with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the Pentagon early Wednesday morning before arriving at the White House for a private session with Obama that began about 9:45 a.m.

“I want to make sure I talk to him before I make any final decision,” Obama, whom aides described as furious over the article, told reporters Tuesday.

Obama met with McChrystal earlier today. But seems to be taking quite a while to make the decision and to announce it.

That’s only a few items, but we’re all sort of waiting for the shoe to drop. I’ll do an update here as soon as it hits the fan. Stay tuned. Chime in with updates and other news.

Update: Breaking News

Obama has accepted McChrystal’s resignation. Here’s the story from USA Today and here it is from AP.

First from USA Today:

President Obama has relieved Gen. Stanley McChrystal of his command in Afghanistan, administration officials said.

Obama is scheduled to make the dismissal official at 1:30 p.m.

The news comes just a few hours after McChrystal suddenly left the White House following a 30-minute meeting with Obama — and less than 90 minutes before a major national security meeting on the Afghanistan war that McChrystal had been scheduled to attend.

When Obama address McChrystal’s status at 1:30 p.m., he will appear by himself.

And then from AP:

A senior administration official tells The Associated Press that President Barack Obama has accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s resignation as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and is replacing him with Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command.

McChrystal was pushed out over his blistering remarks about administration officials quoted in a magazine interview.

After an Oval Office meeting with McChrystal in the morning, Obama huddled with his war advisers and planned to announce his decision on the general’s fate to the nation at 1:30 p.m. EDT in the Rose Garden.

The official spoke only on condition of anonymity, because the president’s announcement was not yet public. Petraeus now oversees the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

WASHINGTON (AP) – A source tells The Associated Press that President Barack Obama will name Gen. David Petraeus to succeed Gen. Stanley McChrystal as top war commander in Afghanistan.

There you have it. Reasonable decision, and really the only decision about McChrystal. Interesting decision to replace him with Petraeus. We’ll have to watch how that plays out.


Your Breakfast Read, Sunday Edition

Democrats In The Age of Obama

Obama fatigue or Democrats fatigue? Which one is it?
Democratic Party encounters ‘Obama hangover’ in state, local elections

Some Democratic candidates running for local office around the country call the phenomenon the “Obama hangover.” It is proving tougher to recruit volunteers and get people to vote.

“It’s like the morning after the party,” Michael McGann, a Democrat running for clerk of courts in the Philadelphia suburbs, said in an interview. “The party was wonderful and exciting. The day after it’s like, ‘Gee, I don’t want to do that again for a while.’ ”

Combating the malaise, Obama is trying to galvanize voters by reminding them of the “fired up, ready to go” fervor that made last year’s race riveting political theater.

In his own image: Barack Obama’s DNC

The Democratic National Committee, often relatively inactive in the year after a presidential election, is ramping up its hiring and aggressively broadening its mission under the direction of Obama campaign veterans intent on applying the lessons of 2008 to races in 2010 and 2012.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, the DNC chairman installed in January by President Barack Obama, has hired many of the top staffers, pollsters, ad makers and fundraisers who helped steer the Obama campaign, completing a takeover of the party machinery that began when Obama became the Democratic nominee 14 months ago.

What’s up with this permanent campaigning? This attitude already annoyed the hell out of me during the Bush years, although Bush wasn’t afraid to satisfy HIS base.
Barack Obama must stop campaigning and start governing

Mr Obama won because of his persona – post-racial, healing, cool, articulate and inspirational. In a sense, therefore, his greatest achievement in life is being Barack Obama. Or the campaign version, at least.

Therein lies the problem. While campaigning could centre around soaring rhetoric, governing is altogether messier. It involves tough, unpopular choices and cutting deals with opponents. It requires doing things rather than talking about them, let alone just being.

Mr Obama is showing little appetite for this. Instead of being the commander-in-chief, he is the campaigner-in-chief.

I like Anna Quindlen, but buy is she making it hard for me to go through this piece.
Is Obama Keeping His Promises?

One reason may be the president’s essential character, which is at odds with the persona that developed during the campaign. Perhaps because of his race and his age, much of the electorate, especially those of us who are liberals, succumbed to stereotype and assumed that he was by way of being a firebrand. A year in, and we know that we deceived ourselves. He is methodical, thoughtful, cerebral, a believer in consensus and process. In an incremental system, Barack Obama is an incremental man. It is one reason he is taking his time ending the two wars in which we remain mired, Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding. On the one hand, on the other.

Is Obama just sticking it to us for some reason?
Leaderless: Senate Pushes For Public Option Without Obama’s Support

President Barack Obama is actively discouraging Senate Democrats in their effort to include a public insurance option with a state opt-out clause as part of health care reform. In its place, say multiple Democratic sources, Obama has indicated a preference for an alternative policy, favored by the insurance industry, which would see a public plan “triggered” into effect in the future by a failure of the industry to meet certain benchmarks.

Around The Nation

I can’t believe some of the people who were rightfully outraged at the sexual abuse cases in the catholic church and would have any sympathy for a sexual predator like Polanski. If only some of those priests had only made good movies…
How a girl’s stark words got lost in the Polanski spectacle

“After he kissed you, did he say anything?” asked the prosecutor, Roger Gunson.

“No,” the girl said.

“Did you say anything?”

“No, besides I was just going, ‘No, come on, let’s go home. . . .’ He said, ‘I’ll take you home soon.’ ”

“Then what happened?”

“And then he went down and started performing cuddliness.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means he went down on me, or he placed his mouth on my vagina. . . . I was ready to cry. I was kind of — I was going, ‘No. Come on. Stop it.’ But I was afraid.”

Samantha’s testimony that day was unequivocal: She had kept trying to get away from him, putting her clothes back on, saying no repeatedly. She had made up a lie about having asthma to get out of a Jacuzzi. He persisted. She was scared. She did not physically fight him off. He began to have sex with her, then, concerned she might get pregnant, switched to anal sex. When he drove her home, he told her not to tell her mom, adding, “You know, when I first met you, I promised myself I wouldn’t do anything like this with you.”

Economy Watch

Colin Barr is making very good point here. We’ve heard so oft that if Wall Street is not allowed to pay a bunch of incompetent boobs a gazillion Dollars in bonus, the “best talents” would be lured away.
Who cares if Wall Street ‘talent’ leaves?

If lower pay lures some of Wall Street’s finest away, so be it. It’s not as if the best and brightest were doing a good job to begin with.

Isn’t it great being a banker? Your own s–t gets everyone in deep trouble, you get a boat load of money from all of us, and then you share get a huge bonus for your stellar performance.
Stop the fat-cat bonuses! George Soros turns on the bankers

George Soros became the latest high-profile figure from the world of finance to condemn the bankers, and call for watertight restrictions on their activities yesterday. He said: “Banks are actually getting hidden subsidies of enormous amounts because of their ability to borrow at effectively zero, and buy 10-year government bonds at 3.5 per cent. So those earnings are not the achievement of risk-takers. These are gifts, hidden gifts, from the Government, so I don’t think those monies should be used to pay bonuses. So there’s a resentment which I think is justified.”

Bankers and morality: churches turn on the modern moneylenders

The Brits are bleeding
U.K. Economy Continues to Shrink

The U.K. economy contracted for a record sixth consecutive quarter, underscoring the country’s lagging position compared with other leading nations and dealing a blow to Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s re-election prospects.

Around The World

At least 132 people have been killed and 520 injured in two car bomb attacks in Baghdad

The blasts hit the ministry of justice and a provincial government office near the Green Zone, causing severe damage.

They came in quick succession at 1030 local time (0730 GMT) as people headed to work during the morning rush hour.

Correspondents say this is the deadliest day in Iraq since the US handed over security control of Iraqi cities to local forces in July.

Can we get anything done right these days?
Costs for U.S. project in Afghanistan balloon, benefit hyped

Only about 6 percent of Afghans are estimated to have electricity, and in his appearance with President Hamid Karzai east of Kabul, Eikenberry hailed the project as part of the country’s emergence out of the “darkness” of oppression and isolation.

To some U.S. experts, however, the project is the latest example of exaggerated political expectations and wasted American taxpayers’ dollars in the effort to rebuild Afghanistan.

Plagued by delays and rising costs, the project reveals how the U.S. government continues to ignore the hard lessons of Iraq, critics say, where contractors received billions of dollars with little oversight and inspectors have found rampant waste, fraud and abuse.

Come on! Who wants to be compared to a used condom?
America, condoms and the Taliban

The Pakistanis use an earthy metaphor when they want to put their American interlocutors on the defensive. They complain that the United States used Pakistan like a condom, simply discarded it when it is no longer useful, as has happened time and again in the Cold War era. By saying so, they urge the Americans to be constant in friendship.

Odds & Ends

Bank robber demands $100, then waits to be arrested

Timmy Lee Porter walked into a Midtown bank this month and handed a teller a note scribbled on the back of a bank slip. “This is a bank robbery, place 1 100.00 bill on the counter or I will shoot you.”

Police arriving on the scene moments later found that note on the floor. The $100 bill was still in the bank. So was Porter, who had taken a seat on a couch in the bank lobby, apparently waiting to be arrested.

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