Biden: Mubarak Not a Dictator, Protests Not Like Eastern Europe

Hosni Mubarak


Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is not a dictator and shouldn’t step aside in the face of mounting protests against his nearly 30-year rule.

Interviewed for PBS’s “Newshour,” Biden said that the democracy demonstrations that have sprung up in Egypt and Yemen since protests in Tunisia ousted President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had taken office in a bloodless coup and held the post since 1987, weren’t comparable to the popular uprisings in Eastern Europe that brought down the Iron Curtain.

When asked if Mubarak was a dictator, Biden responded, “Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region, Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalizing the relationship with Israel … I would not refer to him as a dictator.”

“I think the time has come for President Mubarak to begin to move in the direction that — to be more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there,” Biden said after stressing that he shouldn’t resign.

“Violence isn’t appropriate and people have a right to protest,” he said. “And so — and we think that — I hope Mubarak, President Mubarak, will — is going to respond to some of the legitimate concerns that are being raised.”

Mubarak has faced growing challenges in recent years as pro-democracy youth have employed blogs, sometimes at the risk of being thrown in jail, and other social media to advance their cause. One young blogger, Kareem Amer, was released from prison recently after serving four years behind bars for insulting Mubarak.

But the street protests that began four days ago have included the ruling party headquarters in Cairo being set ablaze. The Associated Press reported that demonstrators chased riot police and that some of the police even stripped off their gear and joined the protesters.

Elections in Egypt have come under heavy criticism for excluding opposition candidates, banning some parties and vote-rigging. It’s widely believed that the 82-year-old Mubarak is grooming his son, Gamal, a powerful figure in the ruling National Democratic Party, to take the reins.

Biden acknowledged that he knows Mubarak “fairly well,” but that he hadn’t talked to him about the recent protests.

“I haven’t talked to him in about a month. But I speak to him fairly regularly,” he said. “And I think that, you know, there’s a lot going on across that part of the continent, from Tunisia into — all the way to Pakistan, actually. And there’s — a lot of these countries are beginning to sort of take stock of where they are and what they have to do.”

But when asked if countries will be caught up in a “domino effect” from Tunisia like that which swept across the former Soviet states, Biden said no.

“I wouldn’t compare the two,” he said. “A lot of these nations are very dissimilar. They’re similar in the sense that they’re Arab nations, dissimilar in the circumstance.”

“…We’re encouraging the protesters to, as they assemble, do it peacefully,” he added. “And we’re encouraging the government to act responsibly and to try to engage in a discussion as to what the legitimate claims being made are, if they are, and try to work them out.”

The Runaway General

Broadcatching, McCrystal


RS 1108/1109 /On newsstands Friday, June 25.

By Michael Hastings

Stanley McChrystal, Obama’s top commander in Afghanistan, has seized control of the war by never taking his eye off the real enemy: The wimps in the White House

By Michael Hastings
‘How’d I get screwed into going to this dinner?” demands Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

It’s a Thursday night in mid-April, and the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan is sitting in a four-star suite at the Hôtel Westminster in Paris. He’s in France to sell his new war strategy to our NATO allies – to keep up the fiction, in essence, that we actually have allies. Since McChrystal took over a year ago, the Afghan war has become the exclusive property of the United States.

Opposition to the war has already toppled the Dutch government, forced the resignation of Germany’s president and sparked both Canada and the Netherlands to announce the withdrawal of their 4,500 troops. McChrystal is in Paris to keep the French, who have lost more than 40 soldiers in Afghanistan, from going all wobbly on him.

Franken and Biden

Al Franken, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Politics, White House

Franken: “I Deeply Appreciate” Opportunity To Meet With Biden


The Franken campaign has released this statement on Al Franken’s meeting today at the White House with Vice President Biden:

MINNEAPOLIS [05/06/09] – This afternoon, Senator-elect Al Franken visited the White House to meet with Vice President Biden. Franken updated the Vice President on the state of Minnesota’s second U.S. Senate seat, and discussed the administration’s agenda and its potential benefits for the people of Minnesota. Franken was accompanied by his wife, Franni.

Al Franken:
“I deeply appreciate the administration’s ongoing support and the opportunity to meet with Vice President Biden today. Minnesotans are eager to see Congress make progress on the administration’s agenda – and I’m eager to do my part in that effort. From investments in alternative energy to the expansion of high-speed rail to the Twin Cities, we have a lot to do to help Minnesota’s working families, and I was pleased to discuss these important issues with the Vice President.”


Late Update: Vice President Biden has released this statement:

“The election process and recount in Minnesota have lived up to the state’s reputation for organization, transparency, and bipartisanship. The officials have been meticulous and every ruling has been unanimous.

“While Senator Amy Klobuchar is one of the hardest working members of the United States Senate, Minnesotans deserve their full representation.

“Once the Minnesota Supreme Court has issued its final ruling in this case, the President and I look forward to working with Mr. Franken on building an economy for the 21st century.”

There's a New Sheriff in Town and He's Not Wearing a Cowboy Hat

Barack Obama, Bonuses, Federal Reserve, Jobs, Michelle Obama, Treasury, Unemployment, Wall Street


You know you can whine all day about the idea that no matter what President Obama does in the next couple of years- we’re all in for some rough times- and you’d be right.

But there’s just no accounting for the feeling an American citizen gets after a day like today- miserable, pissed off and yet hopeful that at last, someone is Finally in charge.

The very first bill that President Barack Obama signed into law protects American workers on a day that unemployment benefits climbed to a record number of claims. Lilly Ledbetter worked alongside her male Goodyear plant supervisors for twenty years making less money because she was a female. She stood behind the President as he signed the legislation.

Mrs. Obama, who made her first public comments since becoming First Lady said: “She knew unfairness when she saw it, and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do — plain and simple,”

The President explained that he wanted his daughters to be treated equally and valued for their talents in the workplace.

Later in the day he met with Vice President Biden amd Treasury Secretary Geithner and then addressed the press about the report that Wall Street bonuses are the same as 2004.

Barack Obama leaned forward in his gold and blue striped antique chair and ripped in to Wall Street:


“There will be times for them to make profits and there will be time for them to get bonuses — now is not that time,” Obama said. “The American people understand that we’ve got a big hole that we’ve got to dig ourselves out of, but they don’t like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they’re asked to fill it up.”

It’s nice to have a living, working brain back in the Oval Office.


The End of The Ownership Society

Banking, Broadcatching, Credit Default Swaps, George W. Bush, Hedge Funds, Lehman, Ownership Society, Politics, Wall Street
End of the ‘Ownership Society’
Zachary Karabell
From the magazine issue dated Oct 20, 2008

Remember the ownership society? President George W. Bush championed the concept when he was running for re-election in 2004, envisioning a world in which every American family owned a house and a stock portfolio, and government stayed out of the way of the American Dream.

These families were, of course, conservative, or at a minimum traditional and nuclear, consisting of a heterosexual married couple and at least two kids living in a stand-alone home with a yard, a car or two and a multimedia room with a flat-screen television. The latter was a new addition to this 21st-century simulacrum of the 1950s “Leave It to Beaver” idyll. But the dream was the same.

Such a country would be more stable, Bush argued, and more prosperous. “America is a stronger country every single time a family moves into a home of their own,” he said in October 2004. To achieve his vision, Bush pushed new policies encouraging homeownership, like the “zero-down-payment initiative,” which was much as it sounds—a government-sponsored program that allowed people to get mortgages without a down payment. More exotic mortgages followed, including ones with no monthly payments for the first two years. Other mortgages required no documentation other than the say-so of the borrower. Absurd though these all were, they paled in comparison to the financial innovations that grew out of the mortgages—derivatives built on other derivatives, packaged and repackaged until no one could identify what they contained and how much they were, in fact, worth.

As we know by now, these instruments have brought the global financial system, improbably, to the brink of collapse. And as financial strains drive husbands and wives apart, Bush’s ownership ideology may end up having the same effect on the stable nuclear families conservatives so badly wanted to foster.

The dream of a better society through homeownership didn’t originate with George W. Bush. It’s as American as Manifest Destiny. The Homestead Act in 1862 offered acres to anyone willing to brave the Western frontier. During Reconstruction, freed slaves were promised “40 acres and a mule.” And after World War II, with Levittown and its cousins, affordable homes were a reward of victory. But until very recently, those hopes and dreams were connected to actual income and gainful employment. No longer.

The giddiness of the Bush years built on the promise of the New Economy era, a promise perfectly encapsulated by a 1999 billboard advertising a shiny new subdivision in Scroggins, Texas, filled with homes that most of their owners couldn’t really afford: YES, YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL! That dream took a sharp hit with the collapse of the Internet stock bubble in 2000-2001 and then with 9/11, both of which destroyed billions of dollars of wealth. But it came roaring back in 2002, encouraged by Bush’s post-9/11 exhortation that Americans could do their patriotic duty by going shopping and paying lower taxes, even as government spending exploded. Shop they did, and homes they bought.

The spree wasn’t confined to the United States. Britain has its own version of the ownership society, which received a boost from Margaret Thatcher, who promoted “a property-owning democracy” that her Labour successors, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, endorsed. Blair liked to talk of building a “stakeholder economy” with a big role for the ordinary property-owning citizen. More recently, Brown has spoken of creating a “homeowning, asset-owning, wealth-owning democracy.” Millions were happy to buy into the vision. Tenants of government-owned properties gladly took up Thatcher’s offer to sell them their homes at knockdown prices. More than 70 percent of Britons now own their homes, compared with 40 percent of Germans and 50 percent of French.

In Britain as in the United States, the vision was about more than owning a home. It was about being a better person. With a home came traditional values, an appreciation of hard work, prudent living, civic-mindedness, patriotism and ultimately a more stable society. Or so the rhetoric went.

But eventually, it all went sour. By the turn of the century, the proliferation of easy credit and universal stock ownership combined to create anything but a conservative society of thrift. Average household debt levels are now higher in Britain than in any other major country in the developed world. In the United States, the shift away from corporate pensions to 401(k) retirement accounts plunged millions more into the equity markets and loosened the traditional connection between companies and workers, which was one element of that 1950s dream that conservatives like Bush conveniently forgot. The ownership society of the 1950s was anchored by a labor movement that made sure that workers received something resembling their share—remember Truman’s Fair Deal? The deal for the past eight years has been fair to merchants of capital, and then some. But to the tens of millions on the receiving rather than originating end of those mortgages, fairness has been in short supply.

No, this can’t be reduced to a swindle. We all bear some burden for the current morass. You can’t peddle what people don’t want to buy, and for a while it seemed a decent trade-off: Wall Street got rich, and Main Street got homes. The easy terms—and that is putting it lightly—of mortgages gave many a chance to own a home who never would have qualified for a mortgage in years past. But it also gave others the option to buy, sell and flip. Every speculator a home? That wasn’t supposed to be part of the equation.

The irony is that more homeownership and stock ownership has actually weakened traditional bonds. For the past decade, as homeownership went up, marriages continued to fail. As a percentage of the population, fewer people are getting married now than 10 years ago. Single-parent homes are on the rise. So is unemployment, which has increased to 6.1 percent, up from 4.5 percent in 2000. With foreclosures now running at more than 300,000 a month, and stock portfolios and retirement savings shrinking with the global-equity sell-off, there has been a notable increase in demand for mental-health services—which is a problem, given that many health-care plans, the ones left to the private sector, cover only a few visits. Studies have also shown a link between difficult economic straits and declining health and higher mortality. And as the editor and writer Tina Brown, a sharp tracker of social trends, recently said at NEWSWEEK’s Women & Leadership conference, “I think the financial crisis is going to put a lot of marriages under great stress. There really isn’t enough to go around, and there are choices to be made. When men lose their job they frequently feel a great loss of manly self-confidence, and that has great impact on a marriage.”

The final referendum on the ownership society will be the November election. The rhetoric of both parties and candidates for president suggests that regardless of who wins, the vision of the past eight years is being rejected in favor of hunkering down, paying off debt, regulating the anarchic world of credit and derivatives, and unraveling systemic knots that have assumed Gordian complexity. As Barack Obama recently said, “in Washington they call this the ownership society, but what it really means is, you’re on your own.”

This crisis will pass, eventually, and on the other side there will still be global electronic exchanges and computer-enhanced models; there will still be mortgages; and there will still be a deep cultural yearning for a place of one’s own. There may be less froth and more discipline in the coming years—combined with reduced circumstances and less money. Lean times are their own source of hopes and desires, and drive people to find new ways to satisfy old yearnings. There may be more prudent ways to create a world where families are stable and living in their own homes. But the gap between that dream and messy reality isn’t likely to close any time soon. Let’s hope that we have learned something about how much we can have and how quickly. For Americans in particular, that would be a real revolution.

Karabell is president of RiverTwice Research and senior adviser for Business for Social Responsibility.

Paul Krugman With Bill Maher : "We Need Better Government"

AIG, Barack Obama, J.P. Morgan, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Mortgage Crisis, Politics, Subprime, Tullycast, Wall Street

Oki Dog Alert! Bill Maher's Realtime Brings Back Garofalo to Ponder the Palin

9/11, Barack Obama, Bin Laden, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, Obama, Politics, Sarah Palin, Tullycast