Jeremy Kolassa

Recent Posts From Jeremy Kolassa

US Sues Standard & Poor’s Over Credit Ratings, Forgets It Made The Mess Itself

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. The United States government has sued credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s over the ratings it gave to mortgages just before the financial crisis:

The U.S. government is accusing the debt rating agency Standard & Poor’s of fraud for giving high ratings to risky mortgage bonds that helped bring about the financial crisis.

The government said in a civil complaint filed late Monday that S&P misled investors by stating that its ratings were objective and “uninfluenced by any conflicts of interest.” It said S&P’s desire to make money and gain market share caused S&P to ignore the risks posed by the investments between September 2004 and October 2007.

The charges mark the first enforcement action the government has taken against a major rating agency involving the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

According to the government filing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the alleged fraud made it possible to sell the investments to banks. The government charged S&P under a law aimed at making sure banks invest safely.

S&P, a unit of New York-based McGraw-Hill Cos., has denied wrongdoing and said that any lawsuit would be without merit.

It is without merit, but not for the reasons S&P thinks. See, this whole thing is hilarious, because the situation itself was created by the government. That’s right; if it wasn’t for government meddling in the credit rating market, this would never have happened:

Obama’s Secret Power To Kill Anyone, Anywhere, at Any Time


Naomi Wolf—eeeeeeek! I know, I know, but bear with me, please—had a very interesting column in the Guardian about a new independent documentary called Dirty Wars, tracking the use of secret assassins by the US government. It neatly dovetails with the recent release of a DOJ memo outlining the legal case for drone strikes on Americans. Together, the two items reveal that we are living in a very different world, one where the American president has unlimited power to kill anybody, without any sort of legal repercussions whatsoever.

Wolf writes:

The film Dirty Wars, which premiered at Sundance, can be viewed, as Amy Goodman sees it, as an important narrative of excesses in the global “war on terror”. It is also a record of something scary for those of us at home – and uncovers the biggest story, I would say, in our nation’s contemporary history.

One Statement That Reveals All You Need To Know About Politics & Business

POLITICO has a new story on how big money donors from NYC are reacting to the changes in the Republican Party. The most interesting part of it, though, is one statement that so perfectly encapsulates the big government-big business relation:

“Everyone in the financial industry, much like the business world, look at politics as an investment, and they just don’t feel like they got much of a return,” said one financial services Republican lobbyist. “I think it is going to be tough this time.”

The moral of the story? That liberals, who are always decrying big business and want to increase big government to control it, are fools. Since businessmen view political contributions as an investment, the larger you make government, the more money businessmen will invest in it.

And, of course, the best way to do that is through campaign contributions and lobbying. Randall Holcombe, a professor of economics at Florida State University and a research fellow at the Independent Institute, explains why:

When government is limited, both in its budget and its regulatory powers, businesses seek profits through innovation and productive activity. Big government inevitably influences business profitability because taxes lower profitability, subsidies can raise it, government expenditures can aid business projects, and regulations can provide both benefits to firms and erect barriers for their competitors. So, with big government, businesses have to turn their attention toward those activities of government that influence their profits.

The notion that big government can control crony capitalism is exactly backwards. Big government causes crony capitalism.

Study: More youngins are being less liberal

youth vote

Can it be? Can young college students actually be turning away from social democratic liberalism? It seems so, when reading a study from UCLA [PDF]. In it, on page 7, it notes:

Figure 2 shows the change in political orientation for men and women from 2008 to 2012 in detail. Neither men nor women changed appreciably in identifying as “conservative” or “far right” in 2012, as roughly a quarter of incoming first-year men and one fifth of first-year women marked “conservative” or “far right” in both 2008 and 2012. By contrast, fewer men and women identified as “liberal” or “far left” in2012 compared with 2008. The proportion of left-leaning men dropped by nearly four percentage points from 2008 to 2012 (30.3% in 2008 vs. 26.4% in 2012) while the percentage of women identifying as liberal or far left dropped by approximately five percentage points (37.4% in 2008 vs. 32.3% in 2012).

Most of these students now consider themselves to be “moderate,” with moderate men increasing by 4% over 2008 numbers, and moderate women increasing by 4.5% in the same timeframe. Why not conservative? Easy—because 75% of incoming freshmen support same-sex marriage. Hard to be a conservative when you’re in support of that.

Interestingly, on four different areas, we see a strange mix. Support for Obamacare has dropped by about 7% since 2008. Support for legalized abortion has increased by 3% (roughly). Those who think racial discrimination is not a major problem in America have increased by 3%. Yet support for giving preferential treatment for students from disadvantaged social backgrounds has also increased by about 2.5%.

Rand Paul To Take on TSA Once Again

Rand Paul

We’ve complained long and hard about the TSA and it’s terrible “security” practices for years. It’s a horrible agency that should have never been instituted. Fortunately, Rand Paul is on the case:

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he will very likely re-introduce legislation to drastically scale back the Transportation Securities Administration’s reach by privatizing TSA security screening operations at airports and creating a series of passenger protections, Politico reports.

“I think we are going to,” Paul said when asked if he would take another crack at the agency. “We have two different bills, one to privatize the TSA and then we have another one which is a passenger bill of rights.”

Paul’s introduced TSA privatization and flier bill of rights legislation last summer after resisting a pat-down, which postponed his flight and caused him to miss a speech at a March for Life rally.

One bill would have ended the TSA screening operation and require airports to choose companies from the private sector to do screening. The other bill would have allowed certain people to opt out of pat-downs, required distribution of a list of fliers’ rights, and greatly expanded an expedited screening program for frequent fliers.

No, the GOP isn’t wisening up on military spending

Jason Pye has already written about this story in POLITICO about Republicans thinking of cutting military spending (thanks for ninja-ing me, boss), but I have my own thoughts about what they’re reporting on, and I’m deeply skeptical anything will change:

On a hot July night six months ago, 89 House Republicans joined more dovish Democrats to do the unusual for Washington: cut $1.1 billion from the GOP’s proposed budget for defense in 2013.

Then came Hurricane Sandy and the New Year’s Day tax bill, and as many as 157 House Republicans voted Jan. 15 to endorse a much bigger cut, taking nearly $10 billion from the Pentagon to help pay for disaster aid. It was a huge swing by any measure and one followed this week by a Monday night Senate vote in which the overwhelming majority of Republicans endorsed their own across-the-board defense cut worth tens of billions of dollars over the next nine years.

Welcome to the new “dare you, double dare you” school of deficit politics — just a taste of what’s to come March 1 when much deeper spending cuts take effect under the sequester mechanism dictated by the 2011 debt accords.

House Republicans seem determined to let the cuts take effect if only as payback to President Barack Obama for humiliating them over taxes. The White House and Senate Democrats are so far feigning indifference. And while “the boys” play tough, much could depend on two women thrust into Senate committee chairmanships this year: Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) on Appropriations and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on the Budget panel.

Anti-Hagel Movement Symbol of Conservative Hypocrisy

Chuck Hagel

Conservatives are always thumping their chests about America, and how we must defend America, and how we must be American, and how if we ever dare criticize the government, we’re hating America. It’s a common thread that has been going on for at least the past ten years, if not more, and was pretty effective in dominating liberals from the turn of the century until at least 2006, though it wouldn’t be until Obama’s election in 2008 that the narrative actually fell apart.

However, is this really true? Are conservatives really all about America? I have some doubts, doubts that are being fanned by the recent conservative alliance against Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel, himself a conservative Republican. I don’t usually wade into these high-profile topics, leaving them to be picked by others, but there’s one thread here, a counterpoint to the thread of conservatives loving America to their dying breath, that I just have to comment on.

The Cato Institute has been supportive of Chuck Hagel’s nomination, with Chris Preble, their senior foreign policy scholar, noting that “Chuck Hagel Is Not Controversial.” He’s no libertarian dove, but as an enlisted man who was wounded in Vietnam, he is a damn sight better than most people who are nominated for the role. This is not what infuriates the right, however. Instead, it was his remarks concerning Israel, and more importantly, the Great Israeli Lobby, also known as AIPAC:

Americans Say They Don’t Trust Their Government

A long time ago, I asked people “Why Do You Trust Your Government?” It appears I now have an answer: they don’t.

As Barack Obama begins his second term in office, trust in the federal government remains mired near a historic low, while frustration with government remains high. And for the first time, a majority of the public says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.

1-31-13 #1The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Jan. 9-13 among 1,502 adults, finds that 53% think that the federal government threatens their own personal rights and freedoms while 43% disagree.

In March 2010, opinions were divided over whether the government represented a threat to personal freedom; 47% said it did while 50% disagreed. In surveys between 1995 and 2003, majorities rejected the idea that the government threatened people’s rights and freedoms.

The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Currently 76% of conservative Republicans say that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54% describe the government as a “major” threat. Three years ago, 62% of conservative Republicans said the government was a threat to their freedom; 47% said it was a major threat.

Opposition to Senator Mitch McConnell Makes Strange Bedfellows

Mitch McConnell

With Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection coming up in 2014, numerous individuals have been looking at taking a whack at the Kentucky senator. He’s annoyed grassroots conservatives, libertarian Republicans, and Tea Party types for awhile now, both for his deals with Senate Democrats to keep things moving (such as the recent deal on filibusters) and just because he really hasn’t done anything to cut spending.

Recently, though, this irritation has built a bridge between Kentucky conservatives and Kentucky liberals, and an unlikely grouping of very strange bedfellows indeed are exploring the possibilities of an alliance against him. Seth Mandel at Commentary magazine doesn’t like this at all:

The sometimes contradictory nature of the grassroots conservative criticism of GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was apparent a few weeks ago when one conservative group began to advertise against McConnell from the right. It turned out this same group, which rates members of Congress on their dedication to conservative principles and freedom, gives McConnell a 95 percent rating.

Reuters Completely and Willfully Ignores What “Recess Appointments” Are


In what appears to be the start of a recurring feature here at United Liberty, reporters David Ingram and Aruna Viswanatha at Reuters completely, totally, and I wonder if deliberately, mess up the entire situation around President Obama and his NLRB appointments, which were declared unconstitutional last week by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. This is what they wrote:

While President Barack Obama considers his next move in one high-stakes legal fight to fill vacant jobs, his lawyers expect to go to court at least twice more to argue for his power to appoint when the U.S. Senate is not meeting.

Federal appeals courts in both Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia, are likely to hear the issue of recess appointments in March, possibly during the same week.

The hearings will be an opportunity for Obama’s lawyers to rebound after a blockbuster ruling on Friday, when a court in Washington, D.C., held that three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) were invalid.

Although the three-judge ruling on Friday upturned 190 years of understanding about how a president may fill vacant jobs, it will not take effect immediately.

Except there is one major, major flaw with their story: The United States Senate was in session.

That means that these were not true recess appointments; since the Senate was in session, Obama had no authority to just appoint these officers, they had to be confirmed by the Senate.

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