FDL Book Salon Welcomes Laurence Leamer, The Price of Justice: A True Story of Greed and Corruption

Welcome Laurence Leamer (Leamer.com) (HuffingtonPost) and Host Mike Stark (editor – FossilAgenda.com) (Mike’s Video – CPAC: Young People and Climate Change)

The Price of Justice: A True Story of Greed and Corruption

The Price of Justice, the new Lawrence Leamer book, tells the true story of two lawyers – Dave Fawcett and Bruce Stanley – and the roller coaster of justice they’ve been riding since 1998.

To Fawcett and Stanley, the case appeared simple enough in 1998: Massey Energy, led by CEO Don Blankenship, materially breached a contract with Hugh Caperton’s Harmon Mining Company with the intent of forcing Harmon into bankruptcy. Heaping insult upon injury, Blankenship fraudulently feigned interest in purchasing Caperton’s mine so that he could acquire inside trade knowledge – knowledge he then leveraged to his advantage and Caperton’s detriment.

In truth, the lawyers had it right. It was a simple case. The paper trail was damning. After a two month trial, the jury required fewer than 5 hours to work through the math and return a verdict $50 million for Harmon and Caperton.

(more…)

The Bernanke Confirmation: Incompetence, Indifference and Institutional Inertia

Three "I's" personified: Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke<br/>(photo: talkradionews)
Three "I's" personified: Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke (photo: talkradionews)

Section 2a. Monetary Policy Objectives

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Federal Open Market Committee shall maintain long run growth of the monetary and credit aggregates commensurate with the economy’s long run potential to increase production, so as to promote effectively the goals of maximum employment, stable prices, and moderate long-term interest rates.

[12 USC 225a. As added by act of November 16, 1977 (91 Stat. 1387) and amended by acts of October 27, 1978 (92 Stat. 1897); Aug. 23, 1988 (102 Stat. 1375); and Dec. 27, 2000 (114 Stat. 3028).]

In black and white, that’s the mandate carried by the Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke.  He, and others, may not like it, but until the law is changed, it is what it is.

And that’s what makes this exchange so remarkable:

Brad DeLong: Why haven’t you adopted a 3% per year inflation target?

Ben Bernanke:  The public’s understanding of the Federal Reserve’s commitment to price stability helps to anchor inflation expectations and enhances the effectiveness of monetary policy, thereby contributing to stability in both prices and economic activity. Indeed, the longer-run inflation expectations of households and businesses have remained very stable over recent years. The Federal Reserve has not followed the suggestion of some that it pursue a monetary policy strategy aimed at pushing up longer-run inflation expectations. In theory, such an approach could reduce real interest rates and so stimulate spending and output. However, that theoretical argument ignores the risk that such a policy could cause the public to lose confidence in the central bank’s willingness to resist further upward shifts in inflation, and so undermine the effectiveness of monetary policy going forward. The anchoring of inflation expectations is a hard-won success that has been achieved over the course of three decades, and this stability cannot be taken for granted. Therefore, the Federal Reserve’s policy actions as well as its communications have been aimed at keeping inflation expectations firmly anchored.

The Economist adds:

I can’t imagine getting a more direct answer from the chairman than that. Mr Bernanke does not want to risk a de-anchoring of inflation expectations. He is willing to accept 10% or greater unemployment and the resulting economic and political fall-out in order to avoid that risk.

Personally, I think that Mr Bernanke owes us all a better explanation of why he has opted to place so much more emphasis on the price stability aspect of his mission than the full employment aspect. And, there should be a policy debate on this question, the resolution of which should inform the choice to reappoint (or not) Mr Bernanke.

Bernanke faces a defacto confirmation vote on Thursday.  The Senate will vote on cloture to see if Bernanke’s supporters can reach the 60 vote threshold required to send his nomination to the floor for an up or down vote.

Over the last several days, I’ve been asking Democratic and Republican Senators if they support his nomination and whether or not they think he’s done enough to combat unemployment.  Given that the narrow unemployment measure stands at above 10%, and the wider measure of unemployment that counts those working in part-time positions (or jobs for which they are drastically overqualified) stands at nearly 20%, the answers I received shocked me. (more…)

Supporting the Public Option: An Appeal for Accountability

For the most part, I’ve obtained the videos presented here at FDL by approaching Representatives as they make their three-minute walk from their office to the Capitol. A few almost always find a way to make time for me. Others suddenly find that they’ve forgotten to make a very pressing phone call. Some are just in such a rush to get to a “very important meeting” or to cast their vote that they cannot collect their thoughts sufficiently to answer the simplest of questions. . . Questions like: “Will you vote for a bill if it has a triggered public option?” and “Does the Baucus plan for co-ops meet the standard you had in mind when you pledged to vote against any bill that did not contain a robust public option?”

One other response that comes with a certain amount of regularity is “Oh, I’d love to talk about this. Call such-and-such in my office to set something up. . .” I usually respond with, “OK, I will. Will you direct such-and-such to schedule some time for us?” And then I’m told one of two things, “Yes,” or, “Just call such-and-such and we’ll see what we can do.” Of course, the latter is a blow-off, but the former I take as a commitment.

So, it is frustrating when staffers working for Representatives that have promised me time – especially those Representatives that have enjoyed and benefited from FDL support – are less than responsive to my follow-up interview requests. I mean, if you cannot trust the word of a Congressman or Congresswoman, well, Progressive politics just cannot work. And these Representatives need to know as much.

Look.

I’m not asking for a kidney. These folks aren’t expected to sacrifice their first born upon an altar to FDL. Hell, we didn’t punish anyone for voting the wrong way in the past on important issues like the war supplemental. In fact, we’ve even rewarded good behavior, and simply asked for answers when we see behavior we don’t understand. In short, we’ve been good, engaged, informed and responsible citizens. What we need are responsive and accountable leaders. (more…)

Supporting the Public Option: An Appeal for Accountability

For the most part, I’ve obtained the videos presented here at FDL by approaching Representatives as they make their three-minute walk from their office to the Capitol. A few almost always find a way to make time for me. Others suddenly find that they’ve forgotten to make a very pressing phone call. Some are just in such a rush to get to a “very important meeting” or to cast their vote that they cannot collect their thoughts sufficiently to answer the simplest of questions. . . Questions like: “Will you vote for a bill if it has a triggered public option?” and “Does the Baucus plan for co-ops meet the standard you had in mind when you pledged to vote against any bill that did not contain a robust public option?”

One other response that comes with a certain amount of regularity is “Oh, I’d love to talk about this. Call such-and-such in my office to set something up. . .” I usually respond with, “OK, I will. Will you direct such-and-such to schedule some time for us?” And then I’m told one of two things, “Yes,” or, “Just call such-and-such and we’ll see what we can do.” Of course, the latter is a blow-off, but the former I take as a commitment.

So, it is frustrating when staffers working for Representatives that have promised me time – especially those Representatives that have enjoyed and benefited from FDL support – are less than responsive to my follow-up interview requests. I mean, if you cannot trust the word of a Congressman or Congresswoman, well, Progressive politics just cannot work. And these Representatives need to know as much.

Look.

I’m not asking for a kidney. These folks aren’t expected to sacrifice their first born upon an altar to FDL. Hell, we didn’t punish anyone for voting the wrong way in the past on important issues like the war supplemental. In fact, we’ve even rewarded good behavior, and simply asked for answers when we see behavior we don’t understand. In short, we’ve been good, engaged, informed and responsible citizens. What we need are responsive and accountable leaders.

I’m on the Hill virtually every day Congress is in session. I know these folks are busy. I know they are “Very Important People.” Of course they cannot accept every single meeting request that passes across their desk.

But, I have to wonder, how many of them have bumped a lobbyist for Humana, or Bank of America, or Lockheed Martin to make time for citizen-driven work like the kind being done by FDL?

Instead of calling out the unresponsive by name, tonight I want to give credit where credit is due. Jared Polis and Mike Capuono have each acted in ways that concerned those of us working on health care here at FDL. Each one of them immediately manned-up and sat down with me for an interview. Those videos are posted in this entry. So, if these guys can sit with me and take responsibility for their votes or remarks, why can’t our health care champions – folks that we believe are on our side – why can’t they sit down with us for a few minutes? Why am I forced to talk with them on the sidewalk and in office hallways?

To be clear, the following list is NOT a list of Representatives fleeing accountability. It is a list of Representatives that I’d like to interview this week. I’ll be in touch with their schedulers, press secretaries and communication directors, asking for interviews. I’ve been working on this all day today and I’ll continue throughout the day tomorrow. My advice to FDLers is to note which Representatives make time for us. Consideration is a two-way street and the offices that respect you and your support, in this man’s humble opinion, are the folks most deserving of your support.

Rush Holt, Mary Jo Kilroy, Eric Massa, Albio Sires, Lloyd Doggett, Jim McDermott, Gerald Connolly, Paul Hodes, Jackie Speier, Donna Edwards, James McGovern, Linda Sanchez, Phil Hare, John Yarmuth, Chellie Pingree, Andre Carson, John Lewis, Anna Eshoo, Loretta Sanchez, Hank Johnson, Peter Stark, Robert Wexler, Emanuel Cleaver, Gregorio Sablan, Corrine Brown, Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings, Barbara Lee, Barney Frank, Bennie Thompson, Bill Delahunt, Bill Pascrell, Bob Filner, Carolyn Kilpatrick, Carolyn Maloney, Chaka Fattah, Dennis Kucinich, Diane Watson, Donald Payne, Earl Blumenauer, Ed Towns, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Elijah Cummings, Emanuel Cleaver, Grace Napolitano, Gwen Moore, Jerry Nadler, Jesse Jackson, Jr., John Conyers, John Olver, John Tierney, Jose Serrano, Judy Chu, Laura Richardson, Lucille Roybal-Alard, Luis Gutierrez, Lynn Woolsey, Marcia Fudge, Marcy Kaptur, Maurice Hinchey, Maxine Waters, Mazie Hirono, Mel Watts, Michael Honda, Nydia Velázquez, Peter DeFazio, Robert Wexler, Sheila Jackson Lee, and William Lacy Clay.

(Re)Birth(er) of the (Un)Cool: Trent Franks Changes Stand on Obama’s Citizenship

When I spoke with Trent Franks (R-AZ2) last month (at about the 3:30 mark in the video at right), his words were as clear as a bell: he had looked into the birther issue and found nothing there.

I guess going home changes a person.

According to the Politico, citing the Mohave Daily News, Trent Franks now believes there isn’t enough evidence in the public domain to prove Barack Obama was born in the United States.

Congressman Franks’ press secretary, Bethany Haley, got in touch with Glenn Thrush of the Politico and released a statement. Franks still believes Obama was born in the United States; he just cannot figure out why the President won’t put all the speculation to rest by releasing his long-form birth certificate. (You know, the one verified by Fact-Check.org, verified and then reverified by Hawaiin officials, and backed up by contemporaneous newspaper reports.)

Says Bethany:

To clarify — the Congressman’s comments at Saturday’s Mohave County town hall were misrepresented in the original report that you quoted. . . .

[I]t’s ridiculous for the President of the United States, who ran on a platform of transparency and accountability, to dismiss so glibly the concerns of literally millions of Americans, and allow such a ridiculous debate to continue when it could so easily be settled once and for all. It should not be too much to ask for the leader of the free world to allay the concerns of a large number of the people he represents by producing his long-form birth certificate, which is the definitive, inarguable way that he can put people’s concerns about his national identity to rest for good.

[emphasis added]

Look, I’ve come to like Trent Franks, he seemed honest and straightforward–and, dare I say, likable–when I first met him last month, but this backtrack puts all of that in doubt. By Rep. Franks’ new logic, I could raise all kinds of questions about him–all kinds. I’m sure people have had their concerns–and without definitive and inarguable proof to the contrary, why, it would be irresponsible not to speculate. . . .

Abortion Debate Solved, Teabag Style

What was I supposed to say to this?

Last week, I attended a town hall meeting in Virginia. I sought out a couple that looked kinda grumpy and started talking with them. Our discussion was pretty far-ranging, and, in the end, I left thinking that these folks were people I wouldn’t mind having as neighbors, regardless of how much we disagree about politics. But this was tough to stomach. . . I mean, how do you get to where this guy is at? Seriously, he thinks you can’t be a good parent or love your kids if you are pro-choice? Weird.

A Bag of Tea with Joe Thomas

Many of you will remember that I cut my activist teeth calling right-wing talk radio for my website, CallingAllWingnuts. I’d suffer through busy signals, long hold times and hosts with a quick finger when it came to hanging up on or muting me.

One of those hosts was Joe Thomas of WCHV in Charlottesville, VA. I caught him at a tea-party. This time he didn’t control my volume. I went easy on him.

Thomas is an advocate for what he calls “robust HSAs (Health Savings Accounts)” and allowing insurance companies to compete across state boundaries. . . as opposed to a reform program that includes any kind of a public option. In fact, Thomas sees his plan as a step to eventually phasing out Medicare. He’s not a big fan of Social Security either. Or providing care for undocumented immigrants—though he does offer to drive injured ones back to Mexico. . . . It’s the Christian thing to do, after all.

Valerie Jarrett Speaks to FDL

After Valerie Jarrett finished her NN interview with Baratunde, I was hoping there’d be a press availability in which I might have the chance to ask a follow-up or two about some of the topics that came up on the stage. Unfortunately (or so I thought), when I got to the media room, it was empty. Well, I was hungry anyway. So I walked back to the hotel to find some eats.

And there she was. Right up front (not hiding), seated with Michael Strautmanis, her chief of staff.

I felt a little bit sick doing it (the adrenaline always does that to me), but the die was cast. I report for you folks, and this was an opportunity. I told her I knew it was rude and I knew I wouldn’t like it if someone was doing it to me, but I really have to ask if she wouldn’t mind me interviewing her for FireDogLake. I did the Flip-Cam quickdraw, and we were off to the races.

She didn’t know it at the time, but I sat through Baratunde’s interview barely containing myself. There were just so many answers that, in my opinion, unfairly suggested that all of us should carry the load for the President – that he bears no responsibility for the choices he makes. In other words, if we don’t make it politically untenable for him to do anything other than the right thing, we shouldn’t blame him for doing the wrong thing. That, obviously, is bull-doody. (more…)

Ben Cardin: Public Option? Didn’t Say, and I Couldn’t Ask

At last night’s town hall in Towson, MD, Ben Cardin sketched out his case for health care reform. Unfortunately, he concentrated on the “Why we need reform” aspect, and stayed purposefully vague about the “How we’re going to fix it” part of the conversation. I’m pretty sure the words “public option” never escaped his lips.

Cardin spoke of an “exchange” in which consumers could shop for health care, but he left more undefined than defined. In fact, throughout his speech, and the Q&A answer that followed, he frequently spoke of things he wouldn’t vote for – a bill that didn’t pay for itself would lose his support, for example – but he did not once tell us what he wants in a bill.

But to be fair, he never really had the chance.

We need to come up with a new name for these events that are hijacked by the desperate minority. They cannot be called town halls–not when the event is dominated by an unruly bunch of thugs uninterested in debate or exchanging ideas. These people came out to hate.

What a difference between Southside, VA, and Towson, MD. Seriously folks, when I decided to go to Danville to cover Tom Perriello’s event, I expected the worst. By the end of the night, I had been pleasantly surprised. The people were genuinely concerned, a lot fearful, plenty misinformed, but above all, willing to listen. Perriello’s town hall was a model of civics and democracy.

On the other hand, I went to Ben Cardin’s event unsure of what to expect. Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck have been encouraging disruptive behaviors, but Maryland is a solidly Democratic state, and Ben Cardin is a fairly popular Senator. Well, the wingnuts won this one. It was like they passed out licenses for senior citizen to act like four year-olds. From the beginning, the crowd was loud, disruptive, disrespectful and obnoxious. It was 90 minutes of unruly children screaming invectives about illegal aliens, taxes being too high, and Cardin telling too many lies.

Of course, virtually every one of the criticisms was without merit. (more…)

Ben Cardin: Public Option? Didn’t Say, and I Couldn’t Ask

At last night’s town hall in Towson, MD, Ben Cardin sketched out his case for health care reform. Unfortunately, he concentrated on the “Why we need reform” aspect, and stayed purposefully vague about the “How we’re going to fix it” part of the conversation. I’m pretty sure the words “public option” never escaped his lips.

Cardin spoke of an “exchange” in which consumers could shop for health care, but he left more undefined than defined. In fact, throughout his speech, and the Q&A answer that followed, he frequently spoke of things he wouldn’t vote for – a bill that didn’t pay for itself would lose his support, for example – but he did not once tell us what he wants in a bill.

But to be fair, he never really had the chance.

We need to come up with a new name for these events that are hijacked by the desperate minority. They cannot be called town halls–not when the event is dominated by an unruly bunch of thugs uninterested in debate or exchanging ideas. These people came out to hate.

What a difference between Southside, VA, and Towson, MD. Seriously folks, when I decided to go to Danville to cover Tom Perriello’s event, I expected the worst. By the end of the night, I had been pleasantly surprised. The people were genuinely concerned, a lot fearful, plenty misinformed, but above all, willing to listen. Perriello’s town hall was a model of civics and democracy.

On the other hand, I went to Ben Cardin’s event unsure of what to expect. Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck have been encouraging disruptive behaviors, but Maryland is a solidly Democratic state, and Ben Cardin is a fairly popular Senator. Well, the wingnuts won this one. It was like they passed out licenses for senior citizen to act like four year-olds. From the beginning, the crowd was loud, disruptive, disrespectful and obnoxious. It was 90 minutes of unruly children screaming invectives about illegal aliens, taxes being too high, and Cardin telling too many lies.

Of course, virtually every one of the criticisms was without merit.

The room was packed to capacity. I talked with a few attendees after the event – and I’m pretty sure I found an Astroturfer, but that’ll be the subject of a later post – but the best action was at the protest across the street. That’s where I found the couple in this video.

I chose these folks for this post because they are exactly demonstrative of the ill-informed and gullible shock troops being deployed by the radical right. Compulsory abortion?! Is no lie too grand? Is there anything these people will not believe about Democrats and President Obama?

There is something wrong with our country when these folks aren’t recognized for barking-mad fringe elements that they are. Instead, David Broder will tell you that these folks are representative of “Real America.”

Sorry, but I’m ill now.