Does a city "save money" by outsourcing good-paying jobs to a company that pays crap wages? The people who had good-paying jobs are out of work, replaced by people in low-wage jobs, and the rest of us feel the downward pressure on our wages and benefits as the race to the bottom accelerates. The city tax base is reduced as wages drop and people can't shop at local businesses. And to make matters even worse the newly-hired crap-wage employees make so little they are likely on public assistance just to get by.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is giving city contracts to private companies that promise to "save money" by replacing hundreds of good-paying union jobs with low-paying non-union jobs. More than 300 janitors and window washers at O'Hare International Airport are at risk of losing their jobs just days before Christmas this year because Mayor Emanuel is replacing their employer with United Maintenance.
As Republicans across the country continue their all-out assault on public employees, labor unions and the middle class, why is Chicago's Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- President Obama's former White Hose Chief-of-Staff -- joining in by awarding contracts that eliminate good-paying union jobs for race-to-the bottom, low-paying, insider-connected, anti-middle-class non-union jobs?
To top it off, several news organizations are reporting that the companies involved may have "ties" to organized crime, including top employees convicted of racketeering in organized crime prosecutions, and partnerships with known organized crime figures.
Time is running out for more than 300 O’Hare janitors who stand to lose their jobs by the end of next week as a result of a new city contract.
Local clergy members and workers' rights advocates held a prayer vigil with airport workers at City Hall Tuesday afternoon in a last ditch effort to persuade city officials to reverse their decision to award a $99 million custodial contract to a company critics claim plans to replace union jobs with non-union, lower-paying positions.
More than 100 supporters filled the fifth floor hallway outside of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office in protest over the city’s five-year agreement with United Maintenance Company Inc. to provide janitorial services for the airport beginning December 15.
Last week, the last of 54 union custodial jobs at Chicago public libraries were cut and replaced with workers from private firms as part of the city's contracts with Triad Consulting Services and Dayspring Professional Services. This past summer, as many as 50 union janitors were laid-off when a new company contracted to clean police stations, city senior centers and health clinics replaced them with non-union workers.
Organized Crime Connections?
Several news organizations are reporting that these city contracts are going to insiders who are possibly conencted with organized crime figures.
The mob-related questions keep coming in connection with the company awarded a $99 million custodial contract at O'Hare International Airport, and for the second day the mayor dodged potential Rahmfather implications.
Reports surfaced Wednesday that Paul Fosco, a vice president of United Service Companies, served time in 1987 after he was charged in the same corruption case as late mobster Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo, who was acquitted. A day earlier the Chicago Sun-Times reported the owner of United Service, Richard Simon, had partnered in the past with alleged mob figure William Daddano Jr.
Emanuel skirted questions about both connections, twice pointing to the city's "competitive process" that he said resulted in work for the Service Employees International Union and the hiring of about 100 former employees.
A high-ranking employee of the contractor who recently won a $99.4 million janitorial contract with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration once served a prison sentence after he was charged in the same corruption case as late Chicago mob boss Anthony “Big Tuna” Accardo.
Paul A. Fosco was convicted on racketeering charges in 1987, sentenced to a 10-year prison term and left federal prison in 1993, public records show. He now is an executive vice president of United Service Companies, according to his profile posted on the LinkedIn networking website.
United Service is owned by Richard Simon, a former Chicago Police officer who led the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau from 2002 to 2005. On Oct. 31, Emanuel’s administration chose one of United’s many companies, United Maintenance Co. Inc., to clean O’Hare International Airport for five years starting Dec. 15.
The Chicago Sun-Times first reported last week that Simon had partnered in yet another firm with William Daddano Jr., who was accused of organized-crime ties by Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Chicago Crime Commission.
Dozens of union airport workers were holding a prayer vigil outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house on Thursday, asking him to reconsider a decision to hand custodial work at O’Hare International Airport to a new company that doesn’t use union labor.
Senate Democrats were all about getting things done, and that kept them from getting anything done. They didn't take on the filibuster head-on, so now obstruction is the expected norm. There have been more than 380 filibusters and the public (and apparently the media) doesn't know there has been even one. It is time to MAKE THEM TALK if they want to filibuster a bill.
380 Filibusters - The Public Doesn't Know
Under Lyndon Johnson there was one filibuster, and the public knew about it because a Senator had to talk all night. In the last few years there have just a few been more than one and the public doesn't know about it at all. How many filibusters have there been? Harry Reid writes in Politico: "Since Democrats took control of the Senate in 2006, Republicans have mounted 380 filibusters."
If you talk to the public you will find people do not know about this. Most people do not believe there has been even a single filibuster because they haven't seen it happen. To the public a filibuster is a dramatic event, a big deal, involving Senators talking all night until they fall down from exhaustion.
Here's the thing. The public hates obstruction, and would apply the right amount of pressure if they knew about it. That is how democracy is supposed to work. But the public does not know that obstruction is occurring. The silent filibuster tactic has been successful because people don't see it. And that means that democracy isn't working the way it should.
The Senate Made A Mistake
In the 1970s the Senate changed rules that required a filibuster to be a spectacle and a talkathon. Instead they wanted to be able to move on and get things done so the "silent filibuster" was enabled. Nobodye could have predicted that a corporate/conservative minority would later use the new "silent filibuster" tactic more than 380 times to keep anything from getting done. The filibuster is now so abused that the media tells the public that Senate rules require 60 votes to pass any bill.
Senate Democrats have been irresponsible in allowing this to continue, because democracy wants the public to be alerted to obstruction. In their wish to get things done and get along with the other side they have been accomplices in the obstruction strategy. They have resisted making a big deal out of each and every obstruction, resisted using theater tactics like "bringing out the cots," resisted "making waves" by changing the rules, and tried to just keep the Senate moving along and getting along. But the result of accommodating the conservatives is they have enabled a take-no-prisoners minority to just block everything. Since the public is largely unaware of this minority obstruction they are not applying the pressure that a functioning democracy requires.
People believe a filibuster is senators talking all night.
People have not seen any senators talking all night.
People do not believe there have been any filibusters.
But there have been more than 380 filibusters.
Democracy suffers because the public does not understand that these filibusters are occurring.
We, the People are not getting from our government what we want and need.
Conclusion: Make. Them. Talk.
A Simple Fix - Make Them Talk
Make. Them. Talk.
There is a simple fix that will stop obstruction -- except when obstruction is appropriate. This simple fix is to change the rules back to what people think the rules already are: make them actually filibuster in the way the public understands. They should make them talk all night if they want to obstruct a bill.
Here is why making them talk all night is the best solution. While getting rid of the ability to silently and secretly obstruct action it retains the ability of the minority to make their point, and does it in a way that brings that point to the attention of the public. By killing the "silent filibuster" and making Senators engage in the public theater of a dramatic event, where they stand in the Senate chamber and talk and talk, Democrats can actually restore a functioning democracy and engage the public in our democracy.
But when something is happening that is truly egregious and the minority wants to bring the public's attention to this, they can alert the press and their supporters and get started in a dramatic talk-all-night theater event. They can launch an actual filibuster, just like the movie. It will be big news. The news channels will all make a big deal of this, and people can contact each other and organize a response.
Making them talk gives the public time to get involved. In fact it invites the public to get involved. Or not. It gives the public the choice, which is why we have those first three words in our Constitution.
The Cost Of Filibuster Abuse
The core principle of our government is that We, the People make the decisions. We are supposed to have self-government by majority rule. But in the last few years this has been turned on its head by this silent filibuster obstruction. Nothing gets done, and the public doesn't understand why not. The cost to We, the People has been staggering.
How many things that the people and our economy want and need have been blocked in the last few years? Well, aside from literally everything, I mean. This abuse of the rules even keep us from learning who or even what country (Disclose Act) is paying for the abuse of the rule.
Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act of 2011
Repeal Big Oil Tax Subsidies Act
Withholding Tax Relief Act of 2011
Burmese import restrictions
Appointments - [click through to see the whole list]
Again, those are just a few of the things that We, the People want and need, that were blocked by Republican filibusters. JOBS. The public option. Stopping tax breaks for outsourcing. Ending the huge tax breaks for the oil companies and the billionaires.
A big one: Labor: This week's anti-union vote in Michigan shows us that one cost to We, the People was that reforming labor law was blocked. Blocked by filibuster in 2007, Senate Democrats dropped this in 2009 because it could not get past a nother filibuster -- just one of 380.
A majority of Senators voted in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) today, but the vote was nine votes short of the 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster of the bill by a handful of obstructionist Senators.
But at the time, well over Democratic Senators had indicated their support of the bill, which also got 51 votes and passed the House in 2007, when Democrats had fewer seats, meaning it was especially likely to pass in 2009.
And of course, never forget climate change. Action has been obstructed and obstructed and obstructed...
So many solutions to our country's problems have been obstructed by corporate&billionaire-funded minority filibusters!
Things You Can Do
Fist, be aware that the filibuster does exist and has been used 380 times, even though you haven't seen anyone talking all night.
Call the offices of both of your state's senators and tell them you want them to fix the filibuster and make them talk all night if they want to block a bill. You can use this number: 1-877-782-8274.
Start your own Fix the Senate online petition; Use an online petition tool like SignOn.org to start your own petition to ask your Senators to reform the Senate rules. You can get ideas for language to use at http://fixthesenatenow.org/page/s/signthepetition/.
New Mexico Senator Tom Udall has a special Senate Rules: Common Sense Reform website with a lot of resources and recent press coverage, as well as all of Senator Udall's past statements on rules reform.
...Mr. Obama moved more slowly and sought relatively moderate jurists who he hoped would not provoke culture wars that distracted attention from his ambitious legislative agenda.
... Mr. Obama has also largely shied away from nominating assertive liberals who might stand as ideological counterpoints to some of the assertive conservatives Mr. Bush named. ...
...“Obama didn’t assertively put forward progressive candidates who would be the ideological counterweights to some Republican appointees, and yet his choices have been met with relentless obstructionism anyway,” said Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice. “All of this has left Obama with a significantly smaller judicial footprint than he is entitled to.”
This last line is the elitist mistake. It is not OBAMA and his legacy that is harmed by this, it is US! I don't care about Obama's legacy, I care about having a counterweight to the corporate right!!!! THAT is why I voted for Obama, and why so many people might choose not to vote at all this time.
Don't just put me on your email list. There are 435 Congressional campaigns and how many Senate campaigns? I seem to be on every one of these campaigns' email lists without being asked. So when I get your email I go straight to the "Unsubscribe" link. And then I am annoyed and LESS inclined to write about your campaign. Also all my time gets used up dumping all the emails and unsubscribing.
One more thing, tricky email subject lines get you banned. I might be tricked into opening the email, but I will never, ever open another one, no matter how important it is. Fool me once, etc...
If your subject line starts with "Re:" you are banned, period, no matter what. If it says, "Getting back to you" you are banned.
You have to be THE most progressive candidate EVER to make up for those things.
Sunday a right-wing terrorist killed six people and critically wounded three others. This was just one of many ongoing right-wing terrorists attacks around the country. Monday, for example, a mosque in Missouri was burned to the ground.
Right-wing terrorism is a serious threat, and we know it for a fact. Think Tim McVeigh. But in 2009 the Obama administration shut down most Department of Homeland Security tracking of right-wing terrorism, and still has not revived it.
Daryl Johnson, the former official who ran the team, told Wired Magazine's "Danger Room" blog this week his team had been "dissolved," and that Homeland Security was "scoffing at the mission of doing domestic counter-terrorism, as is Congress."
The Obama administration has some explaining to do.
There are small signs that real recovery might finally be kicking in. (Republicans have been able to obstruct it for only so long.) But we have not rewired the economic paradigm to work for the 99%, so any recovery will only bring back the imbalances that caused the problems in the first place. This means recovery may not have the electoral effects Democrats hope for, because any growth means the beneficiaries of the old economy are the beneficiaries of this recovery.
Green Shoots Taking Root?
The economy is not collapsing - today. There is at least some growth in most sectors, and this certainly beats continuing decline. The layoffs have slowed to a less gut-wrenching level and there is even hiring occurring. The overhanging inventory of unsold houses has pulled back from record levels. Car companies are doing well and you can't turn on the TV without seeing car commercials everywhere. Yes there are signs that "green shoots" might be taking root this time - maybe.
But at the same time, to what end?
Here We Go Again
Right on the tail of any green shoots we see signs of the old ways returning, the old imbalances resurfacing. People are running up credit cards again. Trade deficits with China are rising to extreme levels again. Banks and other giants are finding ways to soak scam fees out of customers again. Unrestrained financial-casino speculators are helping drive the price of gasoline to highest-ever levels. And here we go again: the top 1% captured 93% of the income gains in the first year of recovery.
This all shows an economy wired for the 1% will only benefit the 1% as it recovers. The gains are not trickling down.
THIS is what you call recovery?
Won't Help Election
Democrats and the President are hoping, hoping, hoping that signs of recovery will continue, and people will look more favorably at the President and his party. But any recovery that just goes back to the old economy will not help, because it will not help regular people. An economy wired for the 1% only helps the 1% during any recovery. Today's poll demonstrates this: Washington Post: Gas prices sink Obama's ratings on economy, bring parity to race for White House,
Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
"Recovery" only helps the President and Democrats if the recovery actually helps the 99%. Mere words won't do it.
Mere Words Won't Do It -- We Need An Actual Agenda For The 99%
Mere words won't do it. We need an agenda bigger than what we are doing now, otherwise we just "recover" an economy that didn’t work for working people or for the planet. We need actual change that people actually feel. This means a serious, meaningful attack on inequality and its effects. This means changing the wiring of the economy so We, the People again are in control.
Democrats have to be perceived as actually fighting for the interests of the 99%. The way to be perceived as doing this is to actually do it. This means bringing in people to the Treasury Department and economic advisors who don't actually work for the interests of Wall Street and the big banks and the 1%. This means actually fighting to raise taxes on the 1% back up to actually meaningful pre-Reagan levels. This means actually doing something about the trade agreements that pit the 99% against exploited workers who have no say, while creating massive trade deficits that drain our economy. This means actually providing good schools and college education that everyone can afford. This means an actual national industrial policy that helps us actually compete in the world's economy. This means actually fighting climate change. This means actually empowering workers to form unions so they can actually confront concentrated wealth and power with some actual leverage. This means actually hiring millions of people to actually modernize our infrastructure and retrofit our buildings to be energy efficient. This means an actual Medicare-for-All health care plan instead of just reinforcing the 1%er insurance giants. This means actually doing those things that need to be done.
Mere words won't do it. Actually rewriting the economic paradigm is what is actually required here.
Republicans filibustered everything. And then they campaign on Democrats not getting anything done.
Democrats don't do anything to point out to the public that filibusters are occurring, don't even explain to the public that Republicans filibustered everything, instead talk about how they want to work with Republicans. So the public only sees the results.
Republicans understand that their leaders are "strong" and call Democrats "weak."
So Republicans turn out for elections, Democrats are discouraged, dispirited.
But if Obama loses, he gets to make speeches to rich people for a pile of money and maybe join the Carlyle Group or one of those other things that you get as a reward for making sure that no one saves your national economy.
So, if you're Obama, do you really want to win the next election?
In the middle of the worst job crisis since the Depression many Democrats forgot about jobs and got all in a tizzy about cutting budgets. All the usual suspects made a lot of noise about deficit reduction, and the cocktail-party and dinner-party circuits all knowingly nodded and told each other they were so smart, they could see that these entitlements were killing the country, these deficits were killing the country, these entitlements were killing the country... So in the DC bubble many Democrats forgot about who and where those deficits came from (tax cuts, military spending and an economic crash caused by deregulation), and got caught up instead worrying about how to cut budgets. And now, wham, the trap is sprung, Republicans are campaigning on how Democrats didn't provide jobs.
The video highlights President Obama’s failure to create jobs for millions of unemployed Americans. The video also shows that the unemployed are not just economic statistics, but are real Americans looking to support themselves and their families.
"Millions Have Lost Their Jobs Under President Obama" Video Text: "Long Term Unemployment Is Now Worse Than The Great Depression" Video Text: "June 3, 2011 Unemployment Hit 9.1%" Video Text: "President Obama Called It A Bump In The Road" President Obama (audio): "There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery." Mark: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Derrick: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Melissa: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Jessica: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Jerry: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Kevin: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." American Family: "We are Americans, not bumps in the road." Matt: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Dustin: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Shirley: "I am an American, not a bump in the road." Ryan: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Jason: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Group: "I'm an American, not a bump in the road." Video Text: "BELIEVE IN AMERICA November 6, 2012."
As Colbert says in the video, Romney cut jobs, workers, employees and jobs. But what the public knows today is that people need jobs, the American Majority was demanding that Washington focus on creating jobs, and the Democrats didn't do that.
Here They Come
The Democrats didn't focus on creating jobs, instead "pivoting" to deficit reduction, and now Republicans are starting the campaign against them for not creating jobs. But who could have known? Who could have predicted?
If anyone was wondering where exactly Republican presidential candidates would hit Obama in the first stretch of the 2012 race, Mitt Romney has put that question to rest in a new video. Or rather, he’s run it over with his car.
Romney’s new video, “Bump in the Road,” takes an unnerving and morbidly creepy shot at Obama’s insistence that the continuously bad unemployment numbers are just part of the difficult path to a better future.
Not The First Time
In the 2010 midterms Republicans campaigned that Democrats "cut $500 billion from Medicare" and seniors voted Republican for the first time, costing Dems the House.
This is is what listening to Republicans and Wall Street and "pivoting" to deficit reduction got you: Republicans are starting to campaign for office full-on on jobs. Not a word about deficit reduction. They are saying that Democrats in Washington were in charge and didn't create jobs.
Questions And Facts For Dems
Question: how much credit are Democrats getting for budget cuts?
Facts for Dems: Jobs fix deficits because spending on the jobless goes down, tax revenue goes up and people buy things again, so businesses start hiring again.
Invest In Jobs, Don't Cut Them
Investment in infrastructure pays a huge dividend because it makes our businesses more competitive in the world while providing those jobs. And we have to do it anyway, we have been putting it off since the Reagan tax cuts and the infrastructure is crumbling. Investing in infrastructure is millions of jobs that need doing while millions need jobs.
Oh, and if you pay people to retrofit homes and buildings around the country to be more energy-efficient, the result is that we stop sending so much money out of the country for oil. The whole economy becomes more efficient, and it pays off the cost of hiring all those people. It's called "Cash For Caulkers."
Negotiating with crazy people is always a bad idea and negotiating with hostage-takers is dangerous. But negotiating with crazy hostage-takers is worse than dangerously bad. The “debt-ceiling” deal being negotiated to keep the economy from being crashed could crash the economy anyway. Making draconian cuts could throw us into another recession -- one that would be much, much harder to get out of because we have used up many of our recession-fighting tools.
Withdrawing government spending literally “takes money out of the economy.” Democrats should instead offer the country a plan to invest in We, the People by modernizing our infrastructure, improving our schools, making us energy self-sufficient, improving our social safety net and restoring our manufacturing and key industries thereby making American businesses more competitive in the world economy. Propose this instead of painful cuts the benefit only the rich and take it to the country.
From Paying Off Debt To Massive Debt In Ten Years
Ten years ago the government had huge surpluses and was on a path to paying off the entire debt. What changed? Ten years ago last week the Bush tax cuts passed. Republicans promised the tax cuts would create jobs and grow the economy. Instead the economy had one of the slowest periods in our history, creating very few new jobs and causing stagnant wages, leading to huge personal debt. (But the rich got dramatically richer.) And those cuts, along with huge military increases, two wars all leading up to an economic crash caused by deregulation and mismanagement, caused the country's debt to exploded. Taking office with a surplus of more than $250 billion, Bush left office with a $1.4 trillion budget deficit for his final budget year.
Debt Limit Reached
Now the United States has reached the Congressionally-authorized borrowing limit and is heading towards default. The White House is negotiating an increase in this limit with the very people who exploded the debt, people who have a vested interest in killing the economy so they can win the next election, and their budget-cut proposals would do just that. It is suddenly dawning on lots of people that this whole enterprise of austerity, taking trillions out of the budget – and therefore out of the economy – is a very, very dangerous proposition.
Recent signs that the economic recovery is flagging have introduced a new tension into the bipartisan budget negotiations, giving rise to calls especially from liberals to limit the size of immediate spending cuts or even to provide an additional fiscal stimulus.
... More broadly, however, the signs of an economic slowdown in past weeks — not least Friday’s report showing weak job growth in May — have altered the climate for those talks. Amid the emphasis in Washington on significant deficit reductions, ... some Democrats, economists and financial market analysts are raising concerns that too much fiscal restraint this year and next could further undermine the recovery.
Democrats are also noticing that agreeing to cuts demanded by Republicans could well have an effect on their chances in the next election.
“I think Obama himself is going to have to move or he’s going to risk losing the next election,” said Mark Weisbrot, a liberal economist and a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “He’s going to have to say clearly that the federal government has to step in when the economy is so weak,” regardless of whether his proposals can pass in the Republican-controlled House.
Republican economist Martin Feldstein’s recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, The Economy Is Worse Than You Think, also warned how bleak the economy looks and what the prospects are. (Of course, Feldstein argues for Republican plutocratic solutions: cut taxes, Social Security and Medicare.) From the op-ed:
The drop in GDP growth to just 1.8% in the first quarter of 2011, from 3.1% in the final quarter of last year, understates the extent of the decline. Two-thirds of that 1.8% went into business inventories rather than sales to consumers or other final buyers. This means that final sales growth was at an annual rate of just 0.6% and the actual quarterly increase was just 0.15%—dangerously close to no rise at all. A sustained expansion cannot be built on inventory investment. It takes final sales to induce businesses to hire and to invest.
The picture is even gloomier if we look in more detail. Estimates of monthly GDP indicate that the only growth in the first quarter of 2011 was from February to March. After a temporary rise in March, the economy began sliding again in April, with declines in real wages, in durable-goods orders and manufacturing production, in existing home sales, and in real per-capita disposable incomes. It is not surprising that the index of leading indicators fell in April, only the second decline since it began to rise in the spring of 2009.
The data for May are beginning to arrive and are even worse than April's. They are marked by a collapse in payroll-employment gains; a higher unemployment rate; manufacturers' reports of slower orders and production; weak chain-store sales; and a sharp drop in consumer confidence.
Feldstein even agreed that the stimulus was not enough,
As for the "stimulus" package, both its size and structure were inadequate to offset the enormous decline in aggregate demand. The fall in household wealth by the end of 2008 reduced the annual level of consumer spending by more than $500 billion. The drop in home building subtracted another $200 billion from GDP. The total GDP shortfall was therefore more than $700 billion. The Obama stimulus package that started at less than $300 billion in 2009 and reached a maximum of $400 billion in 2010 wouldn't have been big enough to fill the $700 billion annual GDP gap even if every dollar of the stimulus raised GDP by a dollar.
A $4 trillion reduction of the U.S. budget deficit, if enacted by Congress, would trim economic growth by one percentage point a year for the next decade, BlackRock (BLK.N) Chief Executive Laurence Fink said.
With analysts already forecasting modest growth of 2 percent to 3 percent annually, that would leave the United States with an economy expanding at only about 1 percent a year, Fink said at the Morningstar investment conference on Friday.
Fink, however, argues that the government should do it anyway, along with cutting corporate taxes.
Cuts Make Deficit Worse
In a blog post, Thoughts on Voodoo, Paul Krugman explains (with some math) why austerity right now doesn’t help, and only makes deficits worse,
There’s a quite good case to be made that austerity in the face of a depressed economy is, literally, a false economy — that it actually makes long-run budget problems worse.
[. . .]How big do these negative effects have to be to turn austerity into a net negative for the budget? Not very big. In my example, the real interest payments saved by a 1 percent of GDP austerity move are less than .02 percent of GDP; if the marginal tax effect of GDP is 0.25, that means that a reduction of future GDP by .08 percent is enough to swamp the alleged fiscal benefits. It’s not at all hard to imagine that happening.
In short, there’s a very good case to be made that austerity now isn’t just a bad idea because of its impact on the economy and the unemployed; it may well fail even at the task of helping the budget balance.
OK, so we have a $100 GDP with $10 deficits and we want to cut that to $5. Kash explains that a $5 spending cut means (by definition) that GDP immediately drops $5, and this (by definition) $5 drop in consumer income makes tax revenue drop as well (as well as a further drop in GDP). After some calculations (go to the post) Kash shows that a $5 cut makes deficits drop to 7.4%, not 5%, but GDP also drops quite a bit - maybe 7 or 8%. Seriously, go see the calculations, they are not difficult.
Just cutting people out of the economy doesn't fix the problem, it shifts the problem and eventually will kill the economy.
Stimulus Worked -- But Was Not Enough
Here is the timeline you see on this chart:
First, there is the Bush freefall, from the policies Republicans want to return to
then the effect of the stimulus spending reverses the decline, bringing back job growth
then the stimulus winds down, and job growth levels out
and combined with state & local budget cutbacks -- spending cuts, which Republicans want more of -- job growth stalls. (Note that this chart is private sector only doesn't show effect of government job losses.)
Jobs Fix Deficits
Jobs fix deficits. Restoring good-paying jobs starts to restore the tax base and stops the emergency spending on the unemployed. The increased demand as people find work and paychecks revives retail and manufacturing. Housing recovery, for example, depends on more jobs. But with unemployment high and wages are low, so many people just can't afford to buy -- or keep -- a house.
Only The "Pain Caucus" Benefits From Cuts
In the recent op-ed, Rule by Rentiers, Krugman explains that these budget-cut austerity policies help a small, select group. He calls them "the pain caucus."
The latest economic data have dashed any hope of a quick end to America’s job drought, which has already gone on so long that the average unemployed American has been out of work for almost 40 weeks. Yet there is no political will to do anything about the situation. Far from being ready to spend more on job creation, both parties agree that it’s time to slash spending — destroying jobs in the process — with the only difference being one of degree.
. . . Consciously or not, policy makers are catering almost exclusively to the interests of rentiers — those who derive lots of income from assets, who lent large sums of money in the past, often unwisely, but are now being protected from loss at everyone else’s expense.
. . . While the ostensible reasons for inflicting pain keep changing, however, the policy prescriptions of the Pain Caucus all have one thing in common: They protect the interests of creditors, no matter the cost. Deficit spending could put the unemployed to work — but it might hurt the interests of existing bondholders. More aggressive action by the Fed could help boost us out of this slump — in fact, even Republican economists have argued that a bit of inflation might be exactly what the doctor ordered — but deflation, not inflation, serves the interests of creditors.
[. . .] No, the only real beneficiaries of Pain Caucus policies (aside from the Chinese government) are the rentiers: bankers and wealthy individuals with lots of bonds in their portfolios.
Cuts Cold Cost Election
Policies of austerity cause large-scale suffering -- done now to avoid restoring tax rates at the top. Budget cuts are asking the public to take the hit, through cuts in programs for us, for among other things the cost of bailing out Wall Street.
The conservative noise machine is already claiming that Obama is harming Social Security. For example, see last week's Obama busting Social Security by conservative Don Surber,
Having cut employee contributions by one-third, the president now wants to cut employer contributions in a desperate CYA to cover up the Obamess Economy.
Public Wants A Different Solution
The American Majority wants the same solutions that economists agree work better for more people. The public wants tax increases on the rich. They want direct job creation by government. They want a revival of American manufacturing. They want a national industrial/economic policy. They understand that growing the economy reduces the deficits.
Austerity is about intentionally causing suffering, so a wealthy few benefit. But investing in our country to create jobs, modernize our infrastructure, improve our schools, make us more energy self-sufficient will not only make our country more competitive in the world economy will improve the lives of We, the People. Obviously this is the better choice, and a significant percentage of the public will have Democrats' back if they offer this plan.
• Eliminates the deficits and creates a surplus by 2021
• Puts America back to work with a “Make it in America” jobs program
• Protects the social safety net
• Ends the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq
• Is FAIR (Fixing America’s Inequality Responsibly)
What the proposal accomplishes:
• Primary budget balance by 2014.
• Budget surplus by 2021.
• Reduces public debt as a share of GDP to 64.1% by 2021, down 16.5 percentage points from a baseline fully adjusted for both the doc fix and the AMT patch.
• Reduces deficits by $5.6 trillion over 2012-21, relative to this adjusted baseline.
• Outlays equal to 22.2% of GDP and revenue equal 22.3% of GDP by 2021.
Beyond the people's budget we need a massive investment in infrastructure modernization. This infrastructure work has to be done anyway, no matter what. The longer we delay it the more our country falls behind. It is millions of jobs that need doing at a time when millions need jobs! (And by the way the government can borrow at nearly zero interest rates right now -- one more reason to do it now.)
The Republicans are demanding that we cut and gut our government and therefore our economy in exchange for keeping the country from defaulting on its debts. The deal they are demanding will do just as much harm as default. Instead we need to invest in We, the People with jobs and infrastructure that enable us to grow our way out of this mess.
The House is voting on a “clean” debt ceiling bill today -- a bill to raise the debt ceiling without any "hostage-taking" conditions. This is the right thing to do for the country and every Democrat should vote for this. Voting for a clean bill will draw the contrast for the public between those who are doing the right thing, and those willing to hold the world's economy hostage to a make-the-rich-richer plutocracy agenda. Democrats who do not vote for a clean bill should lose committee assignments, parking places, even bathroom keys.
The Debt Ceiling
The country's "debt ceiling" has been reached. This means that the government's authority to borrow money has reached its limit. The Treasury Department is engaging in gimmicks and schemes to keep the country going but time is running out. The Congress must extend this limit, or the government will default on its bonds.
If our government defaults on its bonds it would initiate a worldwide financial crisis that dwarfs the Wall Street meltdown of a few years ago.
WHY We Have This Debt
In 1981 the Reagan administration dramatically changed the course of the country. They defunded government by passing huge tax cuts for the rich and massively increasing military spending, and began cutting back on the things We, the People (government) do for each other. The country cut back on maintaining -- never mind modernizing -- our infrastructure, our schools, colleges and universities, scientific research and other things that make us competitive in world markets. We began cashing in our factories and moving the jobs out of the country. As a result of Reagan-era changes our trade deficits soared, wages stagnated, pensions disappeared, and a few extremely wealthy started getting much, much richer.
One major result of these changes, of course, was the huge budget deficits that accumulated into today's massive debt. This was the plan from the start, to "starve the beast" by defunding government and forcing the debt to reach a level where there was no choice but to cut back on democratic government's protections for the people, unleashing plutocracy.
Hostage-Taking Enabled: The Tax Cut Extension
This debate over the debt ceiling and hostage-taking follows the recent extension of the Bush tax cuts -- another product of hostage-taking. At the end of the last Congress unemployment benefits for the millions of unemployed were running out. Republicans -- having filibustered much of the legislation of the prior two years -- held the extension of benefits "hostage" saying they would not let it pass unless the deficit-creating Bush tax cuts were extended.
Enough Democrats caved and passed an extension of the Bush tax cuts. This validated hostage-taking as a successful tactic while making the deficit much worse, setting the stage for today's debt-ceiling fight.
The Vote Is A Trick
Today's vote has been scheduled by the Republican leadership as a trap, trying to get some Democrats to vote with Republicans to support their hostage-taking agenda and create the appearance of bipartisan support for plutocracy. If the Republican position gets the support of enough Democratic members, Republicans can then demand deep cuts in Medicare and other programs that help people and hold corporate power in check, in exchange for their votes to allow the world's economy to continue to operate.
The vote is intended to expose fault lines within the Democratic caucus, with Republicans counting on sizable number of Democrats to side with them and bolster their case that Democrats need to agree to deep spending cuts as a condition to raising the debt limit.
Vote For A Clean Debt-Ceiling Bill
Voting for a clean bill stops government-by-hostage-in its tracks. Voting for a clean bill saves the world's economy. Voting for a clean bill fights the plutocracy agenda. Voting for a clean bill saves Medicare, Social Security and the things We, the People do for each other. Voting for a clean bill is the right thing to do and doing the right thing is the right thing politically.
Call your member of Congress NOW and demand a vote for a clean debt-ceiling bill.
It motivates him to battle for the votes of conservative Republicans who are demanding deeper spending cuts, and greater changes to social issues such as abortion access, than the Democratic-controlled Senate and President Barack Obama say they can accept.
If Boehner can argue convincingly that it's the only route to House passage, Democrats conceivably could yield on some points they might otherwise win.
And the precedent is a refusal to allow bipartisanship:
Hastert had a "majority of the majority" rule. It meant he would bring no major bill to the House floor unless most Republicans supported it.
It didn't matter if every House Democrat backed the bill, which would allow it to pass with a minority of Republicans. In essence, Democrats' votes were irrelevant to Hastert. Boehner is taking a similar approach, at least publicly.
And, of course Senate Democrats (the House of Lords) go along. We move ever to the right, Democrats in the habit of conceding everything.
"Not very interested," Boehner told reporters last week when asked about forming a coalition with Democrats to pass the legislation to keep the government operating.
Bloggers always wonder why Democrats couldn’t get anything done even when they had a solid majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate, while Republicans get everything they want even when they are in the minority. Take the current budget negotiations, for example.
A few weeks ago the Congress passed and the President signed yet another round of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, thereby greatly increasing the deficits. Now these same geniuses are engaged in cuts-only budget negotiations with military spending largely off the table.
The country needs and the people demand spending increases on the things government does for We, the People, tax increases on the wealthy and a massive downsizing of the huge, vast, stratospheric, unbelievable, shocking, nonsensical, terrifying, extreme, astonishing, gut-wrenching military budget, the biggest drag on our economy today. We spend more on military than every other country combined and our businesses and people and economy have to scrape to pay for that while our competitors do not.
How bad are our negotiators, when the public is solidly behind the right thing to do, and they are negotiating with a starting position that is the opposite of good policy and public demand?
The Right Starting Position
The first rule of negotiating is to pick the right starting position, understanding that you will have to give some things up to reach agreement. At the very least Democrats should start with the best policies for the public, and negotiate from there. The problem is, they don't.
In the stimulus battle the President's economists (and progressive bloggers) were calling for much more stimulus than the President began negotiations with. They said the economy needed at least $1.2 trillion, but the President's starting position was much lower. And to top it off, the President then just threw in that much of the stimulus package would be tax cuts, which leave behind nothing but debt! He said he did it to attract Repubican votes. How many did he get? The policy result of this negotiating strategy was too little stimulus that led to a political rout.
In the health care reform effort the starting position was that Medicare-For-All -- the right policy for the country and the economy, and the position the public supported -- was so far "off the table" that people advocating for it at committee hearings were ejected and arrested! And that was done by the Democrats, with the Democrats in control of the House and with 60 votes in the Senate! The end result of this effort to do something about the damage caused to our people and our economy by the predatory insurance giants was a law ordering us to purchase insurance from ... the predatory insurance giants.
In the current budget battle the starting position should be the right policy position: we need to spend more to create jobs and take care of our people, and to boost the economy to grow our way out of the deficits. But instead our Democratic negotiators start with a budget freeze -- offered up unilaterally -- and Republicans begin by demanding $30 billion in cuts. Then the Tea Party (also known as "the Koch brothers") demanded an increase in cuts to $60 billion, and now we are headed to a "deal" cutting the budget by $30 billion which is the Republican starting position! The Democratic negotiators conceded entirely, winning nothing. The policy result will be a disaster for our people and our economy.
Make A Hero Out Of Boehner?
Worse yet, in the political press this kind of deal makes John Boehner the hero of the process! He wins a deal with $30 billion in cuts, passed by corporate/Blue Dog Democrats plus some Republicans, but no Tea Party votes. Boehner becomes the hero of the "center" and the Washington elite will celebrate. But the public and the economy loses.
DC's Conservative Information Environment
Democrats seem to think the public wants corporate/conservative policies enacted, when polls show they do not. How could this be possible? Polls show that the public wants tax increases on the wealthy and cuts in military spending, not cuts in entitlements and the other things We the People (government) does for us and our economy. And these are the right policies. Why is there such a gap between what we want and need, and what our leaders think we want?
Policymakers are up against a massive corporate/conservative lobbying machine designed to influence legislation. If you live and work in DC you experience a different "information environment" than the rest of us. The main channels of information there are very much influenced by the corporate/conservative machine, making it difficult to find a non-conservative perspective. To break through this you first have to understand this. Then you have to make an effort to get information that does not pass through these gatekeepers. But if you are doing almost anything in Congress you are busy, so it gets harder and harder to make the effort (if you even know you need to) to get past the corporate/conservative worldview that is being handed to you.
There is no massively-funded objective information machine countering the corporate/conservative information machine, and protecting our democracy. (And they are working to defund even PBS.)
DC is the policy target so DC is the information target. The ads on DC TV cable news are targeted at the DC political crowd. Right-wing dominates radio, almost no alternate perspective can be found. Getting on the Metro you are handed an Examiner so you can read about how the country wants corporate/conservative solutions to problems. You pull up the Politico smartphone edition as you ride in because it is formatted and timed for that. (You should be reading Progressive Breakfast, so sign up here.) Congressional offices are saturated with corporate/conservative astroturf designed to look like constituents are calling and writing and demanding conservative policies. If you pull up information from Wikipedia it is edited by paid activists. Even some comments at many blogs you might read are left by paid commenters.
Billions upon billions are at stake, and the huge investment made in communicating a conservative position to policymakers and their staff pays off.
Root Of The Budget Problem: Wrong Assumption About Cause Of Deficits
The root of today's budget-negotiating problem isn’t as much the deficit as the public’s and the policymaker's misunderstanding of the cause of the deficit. Since President Obama took office there has been an unanswered drumbeat that Obama and “Democrat spending” are the reason we have a deficit. Every right-wing talk show, blog, TV pundit, op-ed, etc. starts from this position - Obama caused the massive deficits. (Did you hear Limbaugh going on about that today? And if you are not monitoring Limbaugh you are not paying attention to what they're telling the public.)
If the assumption going in to budget negotiations is that "Democratic spending" is the problem, then the solution naturally is going to be to cut spending. But what about the harm this mistaken approach will do to people and the economy? When even the starting position doesn't take that into account, what kind of results will we see?
The typical Democratic pragmatic approach is to say we already lost that argument in the public mind, so we have to go with what the public thinks. That is the pollster-dominant way of doing politics. This is the old 1990s approach that didn’t yet recognize that there was a well-funded, strategic corporate/right “echo chamber” and “noise machine” out there that used “Overton Window” tactics to shift everything to the right.
But playing by those rules has now allowed politics to shift so far to the right that even Ronald Reagan would be called a RINO and couldn’t win a Republican primary today. The result is that the politics and the policy needs diverge.
The Democrats need to start negotiations with the right policies for the people and the economy. This is the right politics, too, because it happens to also be what the public wants.
So much for making nice Mr. President, the gloves are off as the Republican leadership comes out swinging. These folks don’t want to work with you, or your minions or any of us. Just tune into FOX News at any random moment, and the disdain is visceral. And to be blunt, what’s to keep them from starting impeachment proceedings as a tactic to erode your precious time and focus? Not much, if you listen closely to the Senate Republican leadership, the soon to be Speaker of the House, and all the other hooligans over the last few days, and even on the Sunday morning talk shows. Senator Mitch McConnell’s words sure don’t sound like a lullaby to me. Do not be fooled, it may be more than making sure that Obama is a one-term President. These are fighting words: “The only way to do all these things is to put someone in the White House who won't veto...”
And if that’s not bad enough, there’s dissent and discontent (as usual) among our fellow Democrats. The so-called Blue Dog Democrats are acting out by attempting to distance themselves from the prevailing incumbent-rage by attacking now Speaker Pelosi. Have they no shame? This is self-serving hypocrisy at its worst. Not now kids. Go back to your corner and sing “Kumbaya” to keep from shooting off your big mouths at this fragile time. Enough of your ranks have been lost in this recent election. Stop with the posturing, and the “Anti-Pelosi Caucus.” These types of shenanigans only fuel the fires, and distract us from our goals. Please realize that we are under an unprecedented assault from the rabid Republican leadership. They will attempt to sink the Obama ship at any cost.
Democrats (Blue Dogs, Moderates, and Progressives) hunker down. Put a stop to the malarkey from the newly anointed Republicans. This “lame duck” session is vital. We have barely two months to protect Social Security for the elders, unwind Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and fund many, many programs. Consider that the Congress may be deadlocked for two years with very little emerging from gridlock, and Pelosi's steam rolling machine has taken heavy artillery hits. If you feel compelled to beat up on someone or something, go after the bad guys. And pray that all attempts to bring impeachment proceedings against Obama are quashed. This would be a travesty filled with hate and racism from which this country might never recover. Don't let them take our President away.
Note: A version of this article was published earlier today in the Huffington Post.
The bloggers were right, it was about the jobs, jobs, jobs. For the first half of the year all the progressive bloggers were saying that the November election is going to turn out very, very badly for Democrats if they don't focus on jobs. We said please, please drop this "austerity" nonsense, the only way to cut the deficit is to grow the economy. We were going kind of nuts about it, saying if you don't spend money on jobs the voters will punish you.
But the administration and many in Congress were busy on an "austerity" fad. The "centrists" and the big-media pundits and the rest of the "serious people' were saying we needed to do something about the deficits because "the markets" wanted them to.
So here we are. The bloggers were right (I include Paul Krugman among us), and the voters are punishing the politicians who listened to the same old DC elite pundits and campaign consultants and party insiders who demanded "austerity" cutbacks for We, the People.
President Obama has talked about a bold, large scale vision for a new direction for the country. But Congress and the President are getting trapped in austerity budget thinking that won’t allow them to go in the direction of stimulus and helping regular people. If there is to be no money because of an austerity budget then American competitiveness, the economy and the mood of the public can only get worse. Do the DC elites actually believe the public is going to reward this with votes?
The real deficit is jobs. That is one more of those things that everyone can see in front of their faces, but we're told it isn't what it is.
. . . The excuse is that "the markets" will “lose confidence” in us. Apparently we aren't working the salt mines hard enough. "The markets" -- that's the crowd who got in trouble and insisted that the world would end unless we immediately handed over to them all the rest of the money in the world -- will "lose confidence" in our ability to work the mines hard enough, and will cut us off, unless we cut our pensions, sell off (to them) our resources, and promise never to be lazy and make demands for better wages, pensions, workplace safety, and do it now.
The economy is stuck. We need jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. Not tax cuts.
Why is it that often the progressives come to a consensus on an issue, while the DC elite, the campaign consultants, the big-media pundits and the "centrist" politicians come to their own different conclusion, and then later it turns out that the progressives were right not just on the policy but on the politics, and the DC-centrist-consultant-pundit class were wrong. This happens time after time after time on the things that matter.
The President today announced recess appointments for fifteen nominees who have been waiting for confirmation in the Senate for an average of 214 days. Included in those nominees are two members of the National Labor Relations Board, which has been non-functional without a quorum for over two years.
Of course, this is only putting 15 appointments into vacant positions when there are literally hundreds of vacancies. But heck, it's something, after months and months and months and months of nothing.
Here is what is going on. President Obama is way behind in nominating people to vacant posts and judgeships. On top of this the Republicans have used the filibuster to block many of the candidates that Obama has nominated. In the case of the Labor Board there were only two people left serving on the 5-member Board when 3 are required to make rulings, and some 600 cases have backed up.
The President has the power to make what are called "recess appointments" which means he can just put people into many of these vacant slots when the Senate is not in session. Such use of legitimate power to make the government operate as it should is also known as "governing." Until today he has refused to use this power to get the government operating. Today he finally, finally, finally, finally put 15 people into positions where they can start getting their agencies operating.
A couple of weeks ago, after a year of delay that enabled Republicans to almost start a civil war, the President finally showed up and started working to get health care passed, and today it is law. Of course, the President didn't fight for a public option -- he was afraid that Republicans would call him a Socialist if he did --so instead he fought for a Republican-originated plan to make us all buy insurance from the monopolistic insurance giants that have been ripping us off. But at least that kept him from being called a Socialist.
So maybe the President will learn that actually showing up and fighting for something is a good way to get things done. Maybe. We'll see.
A Senate panel will likely approve the Republican-chosen nominee on Wednesday as part of a package that includes five other nominees supported by Democrats. Outside groups say Democrats are unwilling to try to separate Browne from the package for an up-or-down vote.
Citing her track record as a principal at the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, Browne's critics say she's unfit for the job because she has directly opposed funding for legal services agencies.
... "Ms. Browne should not be placed in a position to help determine the future of legal services for poor Americans," says a letter sent by the Alliance for Justice, a coalition of liberal groups, to members of the Senate committee that will vote on Browne's nomination Wednesday. The letter was signed by more than 70 fair-housing and civil rights advocates.
What is the MATTER with these people? We elected Dems, and we get far-right ideologues confirmed ANYway!
Update - Thinking about it some more, I can see why the President's people would be discouraging the idea of running primary opponents against Dems who aren't getting things DONE that most people want done...
This is horrifying. 1.2 million people are about to lose their unemployment benefits because of Senate rules.
People who lose their unemployment benefits are not going to think "oh, this happened because one Senator refused to agree to a unanimous consent on a motion to proceed, so I'll blame that Senator." No. That isn't going to happen.
Democrats are in charge, and they are going to get blamed for this. Democratic attempts to blame this on Senate procedure will ring utterly hollow. Not only do people not understand, or care about, those rules, but it simply sounds wimpy and pathetic for the people running the United States Government to throw their hands up in the air and say "our procedural rules prevented us from doing anything to solve this huge problem. Sorry."
Democrats did not have to adjourn. They could have kept fighting Bunning. Further, they all agreed to the rules under which the Senate operates, and most of them are still defending those rules. Blaming Senate procedure is not going to extend anyone's unemployment or COBRA benefits, and its not going to win many hearts around the country.
Where is President Obama? Where are the Democratic leaders? What the hell - don't they care that all these people are going to lose their unemployment benefits now? People will be thrown out of their apartments, etc., and the Senate leaves for the weekend???
What is the matter with these people? Blaming Republicans for this is like blaming scorpions for stinging people. It's what they do -- they hate government and they hate working people. It was supposed to be the Dems' job to help the country. Where are they?
Here is something that the Democrats in DC need to understand: the "base" has not forgotten about health care with a public option. They have not dropped it. They have not run from it.
Pass health care with a strong public option, or a LOT of people are not going to show up at the polls in November.
I am not advocating this, I am afraid of this. Out there in "the real world" people are not tuned into the finer points of the legislative process. ALL they know is that the Congress spent the year on health care, and nothing has been done. And the polls still show that the public option is what the pubic wants. None of this has changed, even if Washington is tired of it.
Meanwhile, if you are watching the CPAC convention of crazy conservatives this week you are seeing the people who are going to be in office if people are not given good reasons to show up and vote.
The Republican agenda is Tax Cuts, Torture and Triggering a depression. We really don't want that. Democrats, get your act together and pass that health care! The country need to you get this done.
Many analysts say the president and Congress could send a strong signal to global markets by agreeing this year to a package of both long-term tax increases and spending reductions, especially in the popular entitlement programs, that would not take effect until 2012.
Let's remember how we got here.
For decades following the depression and WWII the country had operated with a budget that was in or nearly in balance while maintaining our infrastructure and investing in our future. Past concentrations of wealth were decreasing, the middle class was expanding, and we led the world in growing prosperity.
The trouble all started when we dramatically cut taxes on the rich. For decades the top tax rate was 90%. Then we cut it to 70% and then 50% dramatically from there all the way to around 30%. The budget immediately went completely out of balance. The tax cuts created a "structural deficit."
At the same time as we cut taxes for the rich we raised taxes on everyone else, saying the money would be used to pay for peoples' retirement. However, that money instead was used to defer the damage caused by the tax cuts for the rich.
And we started to dramatically increase the military budget. Today we spend about $1 trillion a year on military, veterans, intelligence, nukes, and the share of debt interest from past military spending -- more than every other country in the world combined.
And we started cutting everything else back. We cut back investing in R&D, schools, transportation, you name it. We stopped even maintaining the existing infrastructure. The very investment that could have led to economic growth was cut because of those tax cuts.
And now because the debt and continued borrowing -- caused by those huge tax cuts for the rich and huge increases in military spending -- has gotten SO bad, the corporate and media elite demand that we ... cut back the pensions of old people, further decrease infrastructure maintenance and investment, etc. ? As the SNL Church Lady used to say, "Isn't that conveeeeenient?"
They are trying very hard to keep the public from noting that we spend more on military than the rest of the world combined, and that the budget and economy worked so much better when tax rates at the top were very much higher. If you want to fix the borrowing you need to fix the cause of the borrowing. You need to get the money from where the money went.
Way back in July President Obama had the option of keeping the Congress in session until they passed health care.
White House officials negotiated furiously on Thursday to keep major health care legislation on track after the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said his chamber would not vote on a health measure until after Congress returned from its summer recess.
The summer recess was when the corporate-and-Wall-Street-funded astroturf groups put so much effort into building up the tea party movement and reviving the Republican Party.
Just sayin'... He had the option to be tough and insist. So why didn't he? From the news story:
As Mr. Obama took questions from his audience in Shaker Heights, he was asked whether he intended to call on Democratic leaders in Congress to cancel their August recess to try to reach a compromise on health care. For now, he said, he had no plans to do so.
Here is the thing: THIS weekend President Obama had the chance to exercise his legitimate, Constitutional power to get things done for the public, and fill several vacancies in his administration. He could have made recess appointments of nominees that Republicans are blocking. Previous Presidents have done this. Bush did it more than 100 times! But he didn't.
I just don't understand this President's unwillingness to work for the People of the United states.
This McClatchy Newspapers story explains that the Republicans are employing a strategy that has nothing to do with governing, policy, etc. Just block everything, while the country falls ever further behind, and in November their energized base will turn out while everyone else is so demoralized they won't bother to vote.
And the Democratic leadership is helping them get away with this. In the Senate the Dems refuse to use "reconciliation" to pass things - something routinely done by Republicans under Bush. President Obama refuses to use recess appointments - again, something Bush did routinely - so his administration remains poorly staffed and unable to govern.
The Democrats and Obama appear to be afraid the Republicans will say bad things about them.
President Obama is refusing to do "recess appointments" to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), even after a majority of the Senate voted to confirm one of his nominees.
Some background: The NLRB is supposed to have 5 members of its Board. It currently only has 2 and requires 3 to do anything, so it is unable to function. Republicans have filibustered the two candidates that President Obama nominated 7 months ago. The President has the power to make recess appointments when the senate is not in session. President Bush's anti-labor nominees were confirmed unanimously, and Bush made a total of 171 recess appointments.
President Obama has said he will not do recess appointments. He feels being "bipartisan" is more important than getting things done. This at a time when the Repubicans have said in the open that their strategy tis to keep the President from getting anything done.
If you want to call with your opinion of this, the White House Switchboard is: 202-456-1111 OR 202-456-1414
Richard Trumka, head of the AFL-CIO, writes, No Deal,
Senate Republican obstructionists are working overtime to block the interests of working people. Today we hear the White House and Senate have cut a deal with Republicans that will keep President Obama's nominees off the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for even longer.
The NLRB's job is to protect workers' rights--but for more than two years it has been functioning with only two members instead of the five it should have. Working people need an NLRB that can enforce the National Labor Relations Act--not one hobbled by vacancies.
President Obama's nominees--Craig Becker and Mark Pearce--are highly qualified, well-respected labor lawyers who were nominated seven months ago, in July.
But Senate Republicans have ignored the working people they represent and blocked the appointments.
Yesterday, in a deal with the Republican minority, the Senate confirmed 27 non-controversial Obama appointees. The White House apparently has agreed not to make Presidents Day recess appointments--a process that allows the president to temporarily appoint his own nominee while Congress is out of session. That means NLRB nominees--and working people--are out in the cold.
A big win for the Republicans. A big win for corporations that want to file down the teeth of the NLRB. A big loss for working people.
We're used to the Republicans playing the role of Lucy and yanking the football away each time Charlie Brown tries to kick it. We've seen it on health care, jobs legislation, you name it.
President Obama has to end this farce.
Becker already received majority approval from the Senate, but apparently majority rule isn't good enough any more. A Republican filibuster--joined by Democrats Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Blanche Lincoln (Ark.)--blocked his nomination from going forward. By contrast, when President Bush made his initial appointments to the NLRB, a package of nominees including three management lawyers was approved unanimously.
So today and every day through the congressional recess, union members and other activists from working America will be calling the White House and demanding a recess appointment now for Craig Becker and Mark Pearce.
These next few weeks will be crucial in building support for a fully functional NLRB. Progressives should take every opportunity to let their congressional representatives and the White House know that protection of workers' rights is one of the first and most important changes working people expected to see when they voted in 2008. It's been 13 months since the inauguration--it's time.
Give recess appointments to Craig Becker and Mark Pearce during the Presidents Day recess so the NLRB can do its job.
To fully understand unemployment, we must consider the causes of recorded long-term unemployment. Empirical evidence shows that two causes are welfare payments and unemployment insurance.
[. . .] by providing an incentive, and the means, not to work. Each unemployed person has a “reservation wage”—the minimum wage he or she insists on getting before accepting a job. Unemployment insurance and other social assistance programs increase that reservation wage, causing an unemployed person to remain unemployed longer.
[. . .] Unemployment insurance also extends the time a person stays off the job.
. . . Another cause of long-term unemployment is unionization. High union wages that exceed the competitive market rate are likely to cause job losses in the unionized sector of the economy.
. . . There is no question that some long-term unemployment is caused by government intervention and unions that interfere with the supply of labor.
I haven't been able to locate the date this was written, but it references a 2003 paper so it is 2003 or later.
Why is this guy allowed anywhere near our government?
Despite White House overtures for congressional Republicans to work with Democrats, GOP leaders indicated Sunday they were unwilling to accept much of what President Barack Obama and the Democrats are proposing.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell showed little willingness on CNN's "State of the Union" program to seek common ground with Democrats on top legislative priorities such as health care, a jobs bill or creating a bipartisan statutory commission to come up with plans to reduce the federal deficit.
His counterpart in the House, Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, was more blunt.
Look, the Republican strategy is to block everything and then campaign saying "Democrats can't get anything done."
The question is, why do Senate Dems fall for it? There are lots of things that they could pass with 51 votes, but they claim that would be mean to the Republicans.
Let's say Democrats ran the government for several years, and ran the country into a ditch. Disgusted, voters elected a Republican president with a huge mandate, gave Republicans the biggest House majority either party has had in 20 years, and the biggest Senate majority either party has had in 30 years.
Then imagine that, despite the overwhelming edge, Democrats decided -- during times of foreign and domestic crises -- that they simply would not allow the GOP majority to govern. Dems ignored the election results and reflexively opposed literally every bill, initiative, and nominee of any consequence, blocking anything and everything.
In this hypothetical, despite two wars, Democrats rejected funding for the troops. Despite a terrorist plot, Democrats rejected the qualified nominee to head the TSA. Despite an economic crisis, Democrats rejected economic recovery efforts, a jobs bill, and nominees to fill key Treasury Department posts.
Now, in this hypothetical, what do you suppose the political climate would look like? Would the huge Republican majority simply wring its hands? Would GOP officials decide it's time to try "bipartisan" governing? Would Republicans shrink from pursing their policy agenda?
Obama is proposing a "spending freeze" because the public believes Fox News when they say that the huge deficit in Bush's last budget is because of Obama. The huge deficit is the fault of conservative policies, and they have successfully deflected blame.
A spending freeze is bad policy. You need to invest now, so that the deficit can be brought down as the investments pay off.
It is bad politics because it means the government won't be able to do a badly-needed second stimulus to create jobs. The public will blame Obama and Democrats for the employment crisis caused by conservative policies.
It is extremely bad messaging because it just validates right-wing anti-government nonsense. It says government is bad, spending is bad, etc.
But the thing I am most disappointed about is that it is a cheap gimmick. This is the first time I have seen the Obama administration play cheap politics and use cheap gimmicks. This is beneath them. Until now I thought that their heart was into solving problems and treating the public with respect. This breaks that.
The first problem I have with President Obama stems from his refusal to uphold the rule of law and hold the Bush administration accountable for possible criminal activity. It doesn't matter if we need to look forward, have big problems on the table, whatever. The first job of government is to uphold the rule of law, or the legitimacy of that government is undermined.
The conspiracy to invade Iraq needs to be investigated. If it is determined that these people lied, planted evidence, etc. in order to cause us to invade that country, this is the most serious crime imaginable. Enough people in this country and the world think this is a possibility that it undermines law and democracy not to look into this and see what we can find out.
Next move on to torture. This must be investigated, or else everyone will come to believe first that there are different standards in the law for people in power, and that it is the accepted policy of our country.
Now move on to the appearance of bribery, embezzlement, cronyism, favors to campaign contributors, selective prosecutions, no-bid contracts, improper political appointments, etc. These, if fond to have actually occurred, are all crimes. They are all supposed to be investigated and prosecuted. The rule of law demands that this is done. If they did these things and get away with it, then these things will happen again, with the bush administration as only a starting point next time.
Reuters reported two hours ago that multiple financial industry sources claimed that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was unhappy with the President's plan he announced today to rein in the banks. The sources said that Geithner thinks Obama is sacrificing good policy for politics.
This is a BIG deal, and if true should mean immediate firing of Geithner.
Way back in July President Obama had the option of keeping the Congress in session until they passed health care.
White House officials negotiated furiously on Thursday to keep major health care legislation on track after the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, said his chamber would not vote on a health measure until after Congress returned from its summer recess.
The summer recess was when the corporate-and-Wall-Street-funded astroturf groups put so much effort into building up the tea party movement and reviving the Republican Party.
Just sayin'... He had the option to be tough and insist. So why didn't he? From the news story:
As Mr. Obama took questions from his audience in Shaker Heights, he was asked whether he intended to call on Democratic leaders in Congress to cancel their August recess to try to reach a compromise on health care. For now, he said, he had no plans to do so.
“I don’t want a delay just because of politics,” he said. “I have to tell you that sometimes delays in Washington occur when people just don’t want to do anything that they think might be controversial.”
Mr. Reid tried to blame Republicans for the delay, saying they had asked for more time. But he also acknowledged the cooperation of three Republican negotiators, Senators Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine.
“Working with the Republicans, one of the things that they asked for was to have more time,” Mr. Reid said. He added: “I don’t think it’s unreasonable. This is a complex, difficult issue.”
Looking back now, it's just one blunder after another.
Moreover they understand that with a few exceptions, the financial economy is the American economy. It's what the US sold to the rest of the world: pieces of paper in exchange for real money which could be used to import real goods, so Americans could live beyond their means.
Shut that down and what's going to replace it? How are you going to avoid an immediate meltdown of the US standard of living? How are you going to avoid a large part of the elite being wiped out? You or I may have answers to that, except to wiping out a large chunk of the elite, which is something which needs to be done, but those who grew up under the system, who believe in the system, and who ran the system don't. What they've done all their lives is what they understand. And more to the point the system has been good to them. The last 35 years may have been a bad time to be an ordinary American, but the elite has seen their wealth and income soar to levels even greater than the gilded age. The rich, in America, have never, ever, been as rich as they are now.
And if you're a member of the elite, your friends, your family, your colleagues—everyone you really care about, is a member of the elite or attached to it as a valued and very well paid retainer. For you, for everyone you care about, the system has worked. Perhaps, intellectually, you know it hasn't worked for ordinary people, but you aren't one of them, you aren't friends with them, and however much you care in theory about them, it's a bloodless intellectual empathy, not one born of shared experience, sacrifice and the bonds of friendship or love.
I said it the other day, and I feel the need to repeat it: the public does not yet understand that the government is about to order people to buy health insurance, with their own money. Yes, the government is about to order people to cough up hundreds of dollars a month each.
When the Republicans start using their toxic message-machine magic on this, and the public starts to understand that they are being ordered by the government to cough up a huge amount of money every month, Democrats had better have good hiding places, because things are going to get really bad out there.
This is the kind of policy that results when "centrist" Democrats give in to to the demands of Republicans and big corporations and the top 1% of the wealthy. Instead of just taxing the wealthy and corporations at reasonable rates and using the money to provide We, the People with health care -- thereby vastly improving the economy for ... the wealthy and big corporations -- they instead come up with a scheme to order regular people to pay for health insurance because they don't already have it because they can't afford it.
Now it is December and the current health care reform bill orders everyone to buy very expensive insurance from the big corporations, with no public option and no Medicare buy-in. Even if you are in the income range where you receive subsidies you have to pay "only" 9 or 10% of your income, at a time when people are runnng up credit cards just to get by as it is. That is with the subsidies. Above that level you pay more.
The public hasn't really tuned into this yet, but if this passes and Republicans start working their toxic magic (with of course little or no organized effort by Dems to counter their lies and sell it to the public) I expect this will be as unppular as Bush's bailout of the big financial firms, which the Republicans have largely engineered the public into thinking was Obama's, just as they did with the Bush deficits.
So I think that when all these factors come into play for the next election, passing this will turn out to be suicide for the Democrats who hold office. They don't see that because at this point are in a mindset that the public wants them to just get it over with and pass anything.
But this is bad beyond just the next election.
Here is the larger problem: the public is going to judge US - progressives, liberals, Democrats, etc. - based on what these clucks pass.
This health "reform" bill plays right into decades of conservative/corporate propaganda about liberals and their policies - and government in general. Republicans will sell it as "big government ordering you around and reaching into your pocket" and the corporate media will echo that until everyone sees it that way. There won't be a word explaining that this money actually goes to big corporations, it will be about everyone losing the insurance they have and how people will soon be paying big money to a "government insurance bureaucracy." (Are we going to counter this by saying, "well, no, actually it goes to big corporations not government"?)
And, frankly, why should the public ever again listen to anyone left of John McCain after this, if this is what happens when Democrats get power? It is just wrong to use that power to order everyone to shell out a huge amount of money - while Wall Street hands out billions of taxpayer dollars as bonuses. They will be portrayed as confirming what the right has been saying about "liberals" they use the power of the state to order people to follow elitist schemes - which is exactly what this is, a scheme where elite people with power decide what is good for the rest of us - mandates are important because you can't cover pre-existing without them, etc. THIS is where a President is supposed to be a leader come in and insist on broader guidelines with a veto threat.
What I am most afraid of is what will happen when Republicans start making up shit about what passed, while people feel no immediate benefit. It doesn't take effect right away so it will just be this looming, terrifying, expensive "big government" program coming at people in a few years that is going to cost everyone a lot of money and ruin our health care system. Without sufficient immediate benefits that people feel, on the scale of free insurance for everyone, the Republicans will have lots of time to just make up shit about what is coming if they don't vote for Republicans so they can repeal it.
Unless you're pretty sure that Repubilcans wouldn't do that, wouldn't just make shit up to scare people. If you're like Senate Democrats who seem to think that, don't worry about this.
Here is what I am talking about. Last night I was driving and heard on the radio that there will be a 15-year jail term if you don't buy this government insurance. The announcer also said the bill bans things like Snickers bars, and that there is funding in the bill for government to come in and check your house for unhealthy food, as the liberals define it.
That is what I heard on the radio last night. This is what's out there now -- just the beginning of the 2010 election mantra.
And what are we going to do, explain that it isn't a 15-year jail term, only a big fine?
The bigger picture - the sellout.
Isn't this mandate to buy insurance really just another form of privatization of a pubilc service? In this case it is maintaining a privatization-by-refusing-to-provide. Most other countries provide health care as a right - a core function of government. But here privateers have seized it for themselves for profit. So to maintain this, to keep taxes low for the rich and keep the profits privatized we are ordered to buy it from companies instead of having it provided as a government service. This is the battle between democracy and plutocracy.
If this bill is passed and signed (progressives can filibuster, too) it means that Democrats as a party have abdicated their role as defenders of democracy against the forces of organized wealth.
Wrap it up
I hate to say this but money flowing out of big corporations has outmaneuvered the public good once again. If we don't pass a health care bill the Democrats have done little to show the public the value of showing up and electing Democrats: there is very high unemployment, no one has been held accountable for the crimes and corruption of the Bush years and Wall Street got and kept their bonuses after crashing the economy - $140 billion just this year. But if we do pass this, the way it is, it's even worse. And the joke is that this fix we're in is being engineered by a bunch of lobbyists!
I don't intend to help this bill pass. If progressives get backstabbed by Lieberman and then ordered to cave at the finish line, then as far as I am concerned the White House has made its own bed with this. They can try and pass the bill, but they are going to have to do it on their own. I'm not helping. In fact, I kind of just want to hang out in the tall grass for a while and plot my revenge.
But I am also trying to sound a warning, to wake up Democratic leadership and try to head off this disaster. Pass a good bill, not an insurance lobbyist's dream.
Tell me again, why was "Medicare-For-All" off the table? All of this complicated, 2000-page jumble of backroom deals and mandates and confusing formulas is to avoid just giving the people what they want - health care. And the reason it was off the table was to avoid being called "socialst."
The current health care reform bill orders everyone to buy insurance from the big corporations, and has few cost controls or other controls on those companies to make sure they don't just cheat people like they do now.
This is bad on a scale equivalent to Bush's huge bailout of the big financial firms.
Passing this is suicide for the Democrats who hold office. But not just for them. The public won't ever listen to anyone left of John McCain if this is what happens when Democrats get power. They use it to order everyone to shell out a huge amount of money? Never even mind that it is to evil corporations.
This bill provides subsidies that limit insurance payments to $8,000 for a family making $82,000 a year. This is with subsidies! If you make more than that there are no subsidies and no limit on what you have to pay!
In last week's post progressive voters on strike? Santa Barbara blogger Retired UC Santa Barbara Professor of sociology and renowned social activist, Richard Flacks looks at recent polls showing Democratic voters to be unenthusiastic about voting while Republican voters are highly motivated. Professor Flacks writes,
These numbers tell us that the Democrats are going to lose the elections in 2010, but the underlying data are even more disturbing. They show that the heart of Obama;s support base is not planning to vote next year.
. . . The same sort of disillusionment pervades the ranks of liberal and progressive activists. Each week we can add new instances of administration betrayal of our hopes. The latest include the handling of the Honduras coup (defying near unanimity in the rest of the
hemisphere), and the continuation of Bush policies on the land mine treaty. The escalation of the war dwarfs all these other failures.
This is not President Obama's fault, necessarily,
I've said in this space that it's the structure of power in America rather than Obama's weakness of will that accounts for the growing feeling that the chances for progressive reform are slipping away.
Professor Flacks' post looks at a national poll, the "base" sense of betrayal is on national issues, and President Obama is not from California, but there is no reason to believe California Democrats are any more enthused More likely less so. California Democrats who do pay attention see Democrats in Sacramento caving over and over again to the demands of an extremist Republican minority, while those not paying attention see generally that nothing good is happening and government is doing very little for them.
What might come along to raise democratic enthusiasm and encourage them to vote? Jerry Brown running for Governor? With the statements he's been making, don't bet that Democrats are going to be enthusiastic about Jerry Brown as their standard-bearer either.
Moderate and conservative Democrats want to empower an outside entitlement commission to reshape major domestic spending programs like Medicare and Social Security, and they're threatening a truly nuclear option to get their way. If Congress does not create this commission, they say, they will vote against must-pass legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling, which would trigger a default, and, perhaps, economic calamity.
"I will not vote for raising the debt limit without a vehicle to handle this," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told McClatchy. "This is our moment."
About this commission,
As proposed, it would hand a significant amount of Congressional authority over entitlement programs to an outside body. That body would make recommendations that Congress would have to vote on, up or down--no filibusters.
That's a bridge way too far for liberals, who see the commission as a backdoor approach to gutting Social Security.
Here's the problem. Many people believe that there is a problem with Social Security - that it is "going broke." But the fact is that Social Security has a huge reserve in the bank. Social Security runs a huge surplus, and that surplus has been added to this reserve every year for decades. Social Security will continue running a surplus until at least 2017, and can then draw on that trust fund to make up any shortfalls for at least the next 30-40 years.
The Treasury Department has for decades borrowed money from the Social Security trust fund to finance government operations. If it is no longer able to do so, it could be forced to borrow an additional $700 billion over the next decade from China, Japan and other investors. And at some point, perhaps as early as 2017, according to the CBO, the Treasury would have to start repaying the billions it has borrowed from the trust fund over the past 25 years, driving the nation further into debt or forcing Congress to raise taxes.
So there is the problem in a nutshell. They spent it. They spent it on tax cuts for the rich, and now that people are retiring and want that money, Senator Feinstein and the others don't want to raise taxes on the rich to pay back what was borrowed from the nation's retirement account.
This is the same as the situation in California. They cut taxes and made up the shortfall with various gimmicks, until the gimmicks ran out. So now that the bill is due the protectors of the wealthiest talk about "spending" - which is government coming through for the people - as the area to cut, instead of turning to the people who received all the benefits of the earlier actions.
Senator Feinstein, keep your hands off of my -- and everyone else's -- retirement account. You borrowed that money, now pay it back. Don't think you can solve this problem by asking me to accept less than what I was promised because you handed that money out to the wealthy. The people who got it should be the ones paying it back, not the people it was taken from. You already took money from the taxpayers to bail out the wealthiest, don't do it again.
Many Democrats are not going to show up and vote. That is all there is to it. Obama also has to start standing up for the people, demanding that Dems in the Senate start acting like Democrats, and doing so very publicly and loudly. If he doesn't do these tihngs people will cement the nearly-formed opinion that he doesn't care, is weak, wavers, etc.
Dems have to deliver. That means jobs - directly from the government and paying well. And delivering also means a "public option" for all of us. None of this ordering us to buy a bad product from evil corporations - or only letting a few people have the public option. That won't cut it.
Digby takes this a bit further, pointing out that the 2010 losses will be attributed to teh country "moving to the right" instead of the reality of people now showing up to vote because Obama and Congressional Democrats already are too far to the right.
Well, they don't technically lose their insurance, they just have to pay hundreds of dollars more than they have been paying. Of course, these are UNEMPLOYED people, so in reality this means they lose their insurance.
This is just one MORE thing the Democratic Congress and President haven't done for people. Oh, did I mention that Wall Street has a $140 billion bonus pool this year?
In other countries the government's exist for the public good. The understand that health care is a human right, and provides health insurance, paid for by taxing companies and the wealthy.
America's health care "reform" bill solves the problem of people not having health insurance - and insurance companies dropping people as soon as they get sick, or refusing to pay for necessary treatments - by ordering everyone to buy insurance.
The "public option" make this slightly easier to swallow. At least you are not being ordered to buy the product of the companies that robbed and cheated us.
In the Senate, the stumbling block is the idea of the government competing with private insurers. Liberals may have to swallow hard and accept a deal without a public plan to keep the legislation alive. As in the House, the compromise appears to be to the right of the political spectrum.
If "liberals" swallow hard and accept this, it is the end of the Democratic Party.
There are a few lessons to take away from last night's elections. The main one is that Democrats should act like Democrats if they want Democrats to show up and vote. Low-turnout elections are base elections: you have to turn out your base or you will lose.
Virginia: The Democrat didn't act like a Democrat and Democrats didn't show up and vote. Deeds told people he was against having a public option in the health care reform bill! He went so far as to say that he would take Virginia out of the public option! So why would any Democrats want to show up and vote for that? Meanwhile the Republican comes out of the Pat Robertson religious-right machine, and they did show up and vote.
New York: Democrats won a seat that has been Republican for over 100 years. The far-right takeover of the Republicans is an opportunity. Democrats should be working in every single district in the country because no "solid" Republican seat is safe anymore.
New Jersey: Independents voted Republican and Dems didn't turn out. I have no idea yet why this happened and need to see the exit polling. The Democrat previously had been Chairman of Goldman Sachs, and that may well have been a significant factor.
Maine: This was a terrible disappointment. The national Democratic Party didn't help. The OFA organization didn't help and even asked their members in Maine to come to New Jersey. Democrats had best not expect any fundraising success from LGBT after this.
People are dying because of the health care situation. Get off your butts and pass a good health care bill, and then start doing things that inspire Democrats to show up and vote. Like the Employee Free Choice Act.
You can start by holding the Bush administration and Wall Street accountable for what they did. I you can't even prosecture torture, why should anyone vote for you?
At the final debate of race last night, Virginia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Creigh Deeds said he "shared the broad goals" of health care reform, but would "certainly consider opting out" of a public option "if that were available to Virginia."
"I'm not afraid of going against my fellow Democrats when they're wrong," Deeds said. "A public option isn't required in my view."
Wow, if I was in Virginia I'd be far away from the polls on election day.
Wow, it's nice being insulted when you are just trying to get "news."
John Harwood just said on NBC Nightly News that people supporting gay rights, "we've seen and certainly Bill Clinton leaned that Democratic presidents can get punished by the mainstream electorate for being too aggressive on social issues." (When did he learn that, exactly?)
On "the left as a whole": "the White House views this opposition as really part of the internet left fringe." "For a sign on how seriously the White House does or does not take this opposition, one advisor told me today those bloggers need to take off their pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult."
Also "a lot of people left right and center who think there is something finny and a little bit off about giving a Nobel Peace Prize to a President only in office nine months who hasn't accomplished any of his main goals."
The Village certainly know how to make one feel welcome.
Arkansas Rep. Mike Ross -- a Blue Dog Democrat playing a key role in the health care debate -- sold a piece of commercial property in 2007 for substantially more than a county assessment ... and an independent appraisal ... say it was worth.
The buyer: an Arkansas-based pharmacy chain with a keen interest in how the debate plays out.
Ross sold the real estate in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug for $420,000 -- an eye-popping number for real estate in the tiny train and lumber town about 100 miles southwest of Little Rock.
"You can buy half the town for $420,000," said Adam Guthrie, chairman of the county Board of Equalization and the only licensed real estate appraiser in Prescott.
But the $420,000 was just the beginning of what Ross and his pharmacist wife, Holly, made from the sale of Holly's Health Mart. The owner of USA Drug, Stephen L. LaFrance Sr., also paid the Rosses $500,000 to $1 million for the pharmacy's assets and paid Holly Ross another $100,001 to $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement. Those numbers, which Ross listed on the financial disclosure reports he files as a member of Congress, bring the total value of the transaction to between $1 million and $1.67 million. [emphasis added]
I've said before that I think the Blue Dogs are all about leveraging their position for personal cash.
Has anyone been held accountable yet for the economic crash? Torture? Launching illegal war? Letting lobbyists write laws? Using terror alerts for politics? Other obvious violations of law?
Then I don't trust Obama either.
If Obama has the courage to restore the rule of law, talk to me then. And don't even me get started on his backing off the public option after the teabaggers started disrupting town halls. That just encourages the tactic, which is dangerous.
Barack Obama is throwing his entire base under the bus in a vain attempt to try to get Republicans to like him, to work with him, to help him succeed. He does not understand that it is the role of today's Republican Party to pummel Democrats into submission. In throwing the public option overboard, Obama has shown himself to the Republicans as a wuss -- and they are going to treat him like one.
[. . .] And the one thing I will tell the Obama Administration is that there are a lot of us out here who worked hard to put them in office. And if they fuck with us we will not hesitate to work to get them out of there and put in someone who understands that when the American people hand you a vote of confidence like the one Barack Obama and the Democrats were given, you do not respond by asking Republicans to please kick you again.
"This week, the Center for Responsive Politics reported that in the second quarter of this year alone, the pharmaceuticals and health product industries spent $67,959,095 on lobbying, and the insurance industry $39,760,477. Another $25,552,088 was spent by lobbyists for hospitals and nursing homes. That's a total of $133,271,660 in just three months, and that's not even counting the lobbying money spent to fight health care reform by professional associations like the US Chamber of Commerce."
I would just love to have the Swiss bank account numbers of those Dems voting against health care reform. (Not to imply there is any bribery going on, of course. I asked that completely unrelated to the above discussion of how much money the big corporations are spending to blog health care reform.)
By the way, did you see the big jump in the stock prices of the related companies last week after it was announced that the "Blue Dog" Democrats had managed to delay (which means possibly kill) health care reform?
This post originally appeared at Open Left.
I said it the other day, and I feel the need to repeat it: the public does not yet understand that the government is about to order people to buy health insurance, with their own money. Yes, the government is about to order people to cough up hundreds of dollars a month each.
When the Republicans start using their toxic message-machine magic on this, and the public starts to understand that they are being ordered by the government to cough up a huge amount of money every month, Democrats had better have good hiding places, because things are going to get really bad out there.
This is the kind of policy that results when "centrist" Democrats give in to to the demands of Republicans and big corporations and the top 1% of the wealthy. Instead of just taxing the wealthy and corporations at reasonable rates and using the money to provide We, the People with health care -- thereby vastly improving the economy for ... the wealthy and big corporations -- they instead come up with a scheme to order regular people to pay for health insurance because they don't already have it because they can't afford it.
This is how things work in the Post-Reagan era: The corporations and vastly wealthy get tax cuts. We, the People get service cutbacks, increases in the retirement age, jobs outsourced, the infrastructure deteriorates... When huge financial corporations get in trouble because they got too greedy the government salutes and says, "Yes, Sir!" and coughs up trillions in bailouts. But when regular people can't afford insurance, the government as presently constituted comes up with a plan ordering them to buy it.
This fight over health care seems to be exposing the contradictions much more visibly than other policy battles we have had. Against the background of the vast sums spent on the bailouts we have people in power telling us that it wouldn't be fair to insurance company profits to come up with a health care plan that provides great care to the public for a low price.
What can we do about this?We need to fight for meaningful health care subsidies so regular people who do not now have health insurance will not have to pay for health insurance. It is a simple tradeoff, really: every dollar in new taxes on corporations and the top 1% can be applied to a dollar of subsidies covering health care. This will result in a more equitable, prosperous and healthier society -- and happier voters.
Is Obama's insistence on bipartisanship killing his presidency?
I submit that health care reform could fail and take the Obama Presidency with it, and that this may well be the result of attempting to appease Republicans who want only to destroy him.
Let's look at the record. When Obama took office the country urgently needed sufficient stimulus to make up for the slack in demand from consumers and businesses. But before even offering his plan Obama weakened it because he believed this would bring in Republican votes. And then while the plan was going through Congress more and more actual stimulus was removed. Then the stimulus didn't get a single Republican vote in the House, and only a couple in the Senate. In the name of bipartisanship Obama gave up a good plan in exchange for nothing. Now the economy is beginning to suffer the consequences.
Meanwhile the Republicans who Obama gave up so much to bring on board are working to destroy his administration with propaganda and lies about how the plan is failing, how the plan is part of a socialist conspiracy to ruin the country, etc.
With health care Obama is again repeatedly offering up compromise in the name of bipartisanship while the Republicans are again working to destroy him and health care reform. If he was giving things up in exchange for the promise of votes that is one thing, but there will be no Republican votes. This is the big game now, and the Republicans have correctly stated that a failure of health care means the failure of this presidency. So they are doing everything they can to kill health care reform. They are telling every lie they can find, using every scare tactic in the book, calling him every name, and encouraging the worst in every nutcase out there.
Bipartisan must be a two-way street. The assumption of bipartisanship on the part of the other side is a mistake when the other side has no intention of reciprocating. It misjudges the changes that have occurred in the Republican party.
This political call for bipartisanship in understandable and politically astute. The country longs for a return to the days when the parties could argue their positions with Senatorial camaraderie and reach compromises that incorporated the best ideas from both sides. Politicians are smart to recognize this longing and appeal to it. But they are not smart to extend that wish into a belief that today's Republicans are willing to play along.
We have seen this before. At the 2006 YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas a few bloggers were invited to a roundtable with Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, who was contemplating a run for President. With the "mainstream" press watching from the sidelines as if this was a football game, Marcy Wheeler and Natasha Chart tried to pin down Warner on his insistence that Iran was a problem while Pakistan was not. (It turned out that Warner hadn't thought that much about Pakistan.)
Then we asked about his instinct for bipartisanship. "Hunter" from DailyKos asked Warner, "You said that in Virginia you got a lot done working across the aisle. Do you think that is possible on a national level now?" Warner answered that you can't "ram through transformational change in a 51-49 way, I don't think it 's going to get done. I may be naive on this, but I think there are still enough people of goodwill in the country and even in Congress. You have to reach out and grab them."
I then pointed out that in 1993 as a party strategy the Republicans had decided to block Clinton's health care plan, even before any plan was decided on. Then I asked, "I think part of what Hunter's asking is, what if they don't? What if, just like with Clinton's plan they decide they're just going to block whatever you do?"
Warner answered, "If you don't think there are enough people of goodwill willing to step up and do the right thing regardless of party, then I'm truly worried for the country."
I replied, "So are we. That's why we're here. The question is, what if they don't? What's plan B?"
Warner didn't have a plan B. He was going to just get bipartisanship because he was a nice guy who was willing to work with the other side. This appears to be Obama's position as well.
This is recorded in Matt Bai's book, The Argument, pages 248-249. In the book, Bai faults the bloggers for their attitude against working with Republicans, saying that we are uncompromising. I love Matt, but he gets it fundamentally wrong here. I, and I think most bloggers, long for a Republican party that can be worked with again, because the extremists that have taken over are harming the country and the world.
But when the other side is trying to destroy you, you just have to take that into account. You don't give in, and then give in more, and then give in more, thinking they will change. Why should they when you just keep giving them what they want? We're certainly learning that in California. Obama needs to learn that as well, before there is nothing left to give them.
That's what they are waiting for, and that's when they will make their move.
Here is my suggestion. The next time a Republican circulates anything like the picture of Obama dressed with a bone in his nose, and claims that he is trying to make us all live under socialism, Obama should say, "That's enough" and "ram through" a health care plan that works for the people. It will save his presidency.
It has been observed that the Republicans seem to be more effective with a minority than the Dems are when they have the entire country by the balls. GOPpers derail the train by threatening a filibuster, but the Democrats can’t seem to head off a bad idea with a damned-near buster-proof majority. How the hell is this possible?
[. . .] Longer-term, though, it seems like the progressives can make an argument - and one that is supported by some actual evidence - that they represent the will of a goodly slice of the American public. Even better, given how the youth vote seems to be trending, they can also argue that their hand is going to strengthen over time. Are these premises accurate? Hard to say. But they are testable hypotheses, and the posit is certainly plausible enough to be worth examining.
My thinking, this is a war between a few who control the resources of large corporations and the rest of us. Breaking up the Democratic Party helps the other side. But the threat of breaking up the party does gain leverage over the careerists - those who are in the party for a career and contracts and potential high-paying corporate jobs after they do a few favors. So maybe it is useful to discuss.
A thought. If the Democratic Party is unable to bring the people health care reform this year -- and that means with a very strong "public option" and subsidies so we can afford the coverage -- then I think it is time to ask whether the Democratic Party as presently constituted is capable of serving the people, or should be scrapped and a new party built from the grassroots up? There is nothing more basic to the idea of democracy than that the people should realize the basic benefits of modern society, and the most basic of these is a right to health care.
The message circulating in Internet chat rooms, the halls of Congress and farm co-ops had America's farms facing financial ruin if the EPA required them to purchase air-pollution permits like power plants and factories do. The cost of those permits amounted to a cow tax, farm groups argued.
"It really has taken on a life of its own," said Rick Krause, a lobbyist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which coined the term cow tax and spread it to farmers across the country. "This is something that people understand. All that we have to say is that (cows) are the next step with these proposed permit fees. And people are still talking about it."
Administration officials and House Democratic leaders have tried to assure farm groups that they have no intention of regulating cows. That effort, however, has done little to ease the concern of farmers and their advocates in Congress about the toll that regulating greenhouse gases will have on agriculture.
[. . .] The climate bill specifically excludes enteric fermentation — the fancy term for the gas created by digestion and expelled largely by burping — from the limit it would place on greenhouse gas emissions. The legislation directs the EPA not to include it among the various sources that could be subject to new performance standards.
Read the whole article, how it mocks Democrats and praises lobbyists for how effective they are at blocking important legislation.
But it's not like climate change is serious or anything...
Common Cause released a study of the recent vote on the legislation to allow bankruptcy judges to change the terms of mortgages (known as :cram-down") so people don't have to lose their houses. As you already guessed the Democrats who kept this from passing received money - a lot of money, an average of $58,894 in the 2008 election cycle - from the banking and finance special interests, while the rest of the Democrats did not. This vote was a strictly pay-for-play bribe and we need to do something about Democrats who take money from big corporations and then vote against the public interest. (All the Republicans voted with the big corporations, by the way.)
[the] 39 Republicans needed Democratic help to kill the bill. And they got it.
The 12 Democratic senators who crossed the aisle to vote with Republicans were Max Baucus (Montana), Michael Bennet (Colorado), Robert Byrd (West Virginia), Thomas Carper (Delaware), Byron Dorgan (North Dakota), Tim Johnson (South Dakota), Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania) and Jon Tester (Montana).
If you live in a state with one of these Senators, call their office and let them know how you feel about them taking money to vote for big corporate interests. This money-taking is nothing less than bribery, corruption and is an affront to democracy.
Also, more votes backing financial industry rip-offfs of the public:
Many of the Democrats who sided with the financial industry in the "cram-down" vote were instrumental in blocking a proposed 15 percent cap on interest rates that credit card companies can charge. Senators Baucus, Byrd, Carper, Johnson, Landrieu, Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Specter and Tester joined with Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Evan Bayh (D- Indiana), Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Kay Hagan (D-North Carolina), Ted Kaufman (D-Delaware), Patty Murray (D-Washington), Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) and Mark Warner (D-Virginia), in opposition to the anti-usury bill sponsored by Vermont's Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Is there any accountability yet? Have any major financial thieves been put in jail and/or made to give the money back yet? (I don't mean the Madoffs, I mean the ones who talked people into mortgaging their houses so they could sell CDOs.) Have any corrupt government officials from the Bush years been prosecuted yet? Have any lobbyists been indicted for giving bribes - or politicians indicted for taking them? Have any government officials been prosecuted for doing bug companies a favor and then leaving the governemnt and taking huge-paying jobs from those companies?
How about has anyone been held accountable for torture people and launching wars that killed tens of hundreds of thousands? Or how about just having pallettes of money shipped to Iraq for distribution?
How about something simple, like getting bonuses back from people who made millions and millions defrauding people and ruining the economy and destroying millions of people's retirement? Or maybe even just making them pay their taxes? Or how about just asking people making tens of millions to pay at least the same taxe rates that the rest of us pay?
Nope. Nada. Not that I have seen. No accountability yet. Nothing. The rich and the powerful can get away with anything. Anything. We have a two-tiered justice system in America now and no one bothers to deny it.
Is the new boss same as the old boss? Or will things change?
Earlier I commented on the case of Rep. Harman. Anyone else caught with this appearance of a crime would be investigated by the Justice Department, and maybe prosecuted if the investigation showed reason to do so. I can understand that the Bush admin, the way they operated, may have discovered an opportunity to exchange letting her off the hook for getting her help (also known as blackmail) but is the Obama Justice Dept. investigating these allegations against Harman? (As well as the allegation that the Bush Justice Dept didn't?) If not, why not?
The other day the story in the press was that President decided not to let the Justice Dept. investigate and maybe prosecute people in the CIA. I hope this is not the case, because this would be inappropriate political interference with the Justice Dept. If a crime is committed it must be investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted - no matter who is involved and no matter whether the President likes it or not. That is how rule of law works.
It is my hope that we are returning to rule of law, and the Justice Dept is back to properly doing its job without political interference, and is investigating the allegations that the Bush admin tortured people, and is investigating whether to prosecute Rep. Harman.
If not, we have just swapped one politicized Justice Dept. for another. And we continue to have a country where some people are above the law and the rest of us are beneath it.
Yesterday I noted (in the update) that Republicans got pandemic flu preparedness funds stripped from the stimulus package. (But they were able to get rid of the alternative minumum tax, which kept the very rich from avoiding paying any taxes.)
My question: Which Dems caved to Republican demands to strip flu pandemic preparedness from stimulus? Can they learn from that?
This is the deal: We HAVE TO investigate and prosecute, or they will just keep doing it. Senators can write strongly-worded statements and lock them in a safe, as Sen. Rockefeller did to protest illegal wiretapping, and it won't stop anything. Investigate and prosecute. Lay down the law. Make the statement that we do not tolerate this, and will punish those who do it.
It seems to me that whenever a legislator is getting tons of cash from corporations and then does that corporation's bidding, the action is always called 'centrist' or 'moderate.' Or when they kill things that people, regular people need, it's 'centrist' or 'moderate.'
These are the eight Deomcratic Senators who are helping the Republicans block carbon limiting legislation: Robert Byrd (WV), Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE), Evan Bayh (IN), Mark Pryor (AR), Bob Casey (PA), Carl Levin (MI), and Mary Landrieu (LA).
Today, in the spirit of bipartisanship I suggest nominating Sarah Palin for Commerce Secretary. I also suggest he ask all Democrats in the Cabinet to resign, to be replaced by conservative-movement Republicans. In addition all Democratic members of the House and senate should step aside and allow the Republicans to take their seats. Or at the very least allow them to dictate votes.
After all, the country did overwhelmingly vote Democratic in the last two elections, indicating that they are sick and tired of Republicans and want them gone. The voters made it very clear that they do not want Republicans making policy. So in the spirit of bipartisanship the Republicans should be allowed to dictate all policies.
aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project
I want to know which Democrats were among those 73 who voted to prohibit using stimulus money for any of these.
How do I find out?
Update - found it. Here are the Dems who voted to prohibit using stimulus money for any aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, or highway beautification project.
Obama's economic team does not see themselves as working for the PEOPLE of the country, they see themselves as defenders of the Wall Street Elite. In the words of the new Treasury Secretary, "we’d like to do our best to preserve that system."
This is the justification for the new plan to just use government money to buy up all the bad loans made by the big Wall Street firms. They screwed up the economy. WE pay for it. They stay rich. We get ever poorer.
From the referenced post,
Consider this statement from Geithner, who said that Treasury is considering a “range of options” for its financial rescue plan, with the goal of preserving the private banking system. “We have a financial system that is run by private shareholders, managed by private institutions, and we’d like to do our best to preserve that system.”
They are trying to avoid "nationallizing" the banks. But what that means is that the government takes them over, reorganizes them, and then privatizes them again -- in the process wiping out the current shareholders and selling the good parts to new shareholders.
This is what we have always done with bad banks. This is what the FDIC does. This is what we did in the S&L crisis. But they don't want to do that this time.
What they are doing instead is using taxpayer dollars to prop up the current shareholders. The ones who currently own insolvent banks will receive an infusion of taxpayer dollars.
But not the people who are losing their homes, jobs, health care. God forbid THEY should get something. All they did was pay their taxes. Unlike the current Treasury Secretary.
Repeat: every single Republican voted against the stimulus bill.
The Democrats pre-compromised on the bill, added business tax cuts that won't stimulate the economy, threw out lots of infrastructure projects, mass transit and others, threw birth control for poor women out, got rid of health efforts to fight STDs, and lots of other nonsense, trading all of that for NOTHING.
They threw good stuff out of the bill without first securing one single Republican vote. Shame on them.
Update - I'm angry and I am going to rant. (It's what I do best.) So who were they were negotiating WITH when they threw out infrastructure, mass transit, birth control for poor women and other important things? It's like someone was just reacting to Drudge Report headlines. When I have been in negotiations I would say, "OK, I can give you that, but if I do, then what do I get in return?" You start with a bill that has in it more than you want or expect to get. Then you throw things out in exchange for a promise to vote for it. Otherwise what is the point of making the bill worse?
Ford pardoned Nixon, which led to the crimes/bribery/theft/fraud/lies/wars of the Reagan/Bush I administration. It also led to a common understanding that in America the big fish operate under different rules and are held to a different standard.
Reagan was let off the hook for Iran/Contra and Bush I pardoned everyone who otherwise might have testified against him. Then under Clinton they let bygones be bygones, bribery remain unpunished and stolen money stay stolen which led to the crimes of Bush II. (It also paved the way for Clinton's impeachment because they knew the Dems would let them get away with anything and the public was ready for a story about people at the top not being let off the hook.)
If you don't prosecute lawbreaking and hold accountable the lawbreakers, it will just happen over and over, worse each time. Throughout the Bush II administration the Dems refused to hold anyone accountable and look what's happening today.
Seeking to end a weeks-long stalemate between the Bush administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, senior Congressional aides said that the money would most likely come from $25 billion in federally subsidized loans intended for developing fuel-efficient cars.
They got rid of the fuel efficiency funds. Great. Democrats cave, Bush and oil companies score another victory. For old time's sake.
Earlier this year we borrowed $152 billion and sent checks to everyone, calling it a "stimulus package." The interest on that borrowing alone will add another $6.8 billion per year to our budget -- forever -- assuming rates don't rise. Great idea.
Borrowing another $152 billion bought us a little bit of time. But last month retail sales dropped, and the economic downturn is back on track just as bad as before. And because of that borrowing the interest that we all have to pay will make it just that much harder to get out of this.
That "stimulus package" didn't create a single job. It didn't fix a single bridge. It didn't increase the country's productivity. It didn't build light rail anywhere. It didn't make us more energy efficient. It wasn't investment. It was more consumption. Borrowing to consume.
What if we put $152 billion into hiring people to retrofit buildings to be more energy efficient? What if we put $152 billion into hiring people to install solar onto the roofs of government buildings? What if we put $152 billion into hiring people to hold summer classes so people would qualify for better jobs? That would be investment. It would lower our future costs or increase our future ability to earn. What has happened to us that this wasn't even considered -- by the Democratic majority in the House and Senate?
Update - Thinking some more about this. In 2001 Bush said that news of the dramatic change from budget surplus to budget deficit after his tax cuts started taking effect was "incredibly positive news."
President Bush said today that there was a benefit to the government's fast-dwindling surplus, declaring that it will create "a fiscal straitjacket for Congress." He said that was "incredibly positive news" because it would halt the growth of the federal government.
(He said this in August, 2001. Later, when people were upset about it the weasel tried to blame 9/11 for the deficits.)
Now we pay almost $500 billion at year for interest on the debt and this amount is rising rapidly. That $152 billion "stimulus package" was supposed to fix the economy. Think about the terrible effect on the economy of paying $500 billion each year just on debt interest.
I was thinking about how Obama squandered the enthusiasm and good faith of the activist "base" when he decided to "move to the right" to "appeal to the center." I am not quoting the Obama campaign, I am describing what happened to so many Democrats over the years who have helped move the goalposts ever rightward. In the face of an ongoing corporate propaganda campaign the "realists" and "pragmatists" have concluded they need to "go where the votes are" rather than fight back and work to counter that right-wing messaging and explain to the public why progressive values are better for them.
(NOTE - I think this is really more the fault of the funding base than the politicians. They just don't get it about building organizations capable of countering the messaging. And I am including everyone who is not giving all they can, even if that is only $20 a week, to progressive infrastructure organizations like Commonweal Institute and Speak Out California.)
All of this made me think of one of the great blog posts, from just after the 2002 elections. RENDEZVOUS WITH LUNACY
It begins with this picture:
From the post,
Why would voters choose a phony right wing Republican over the real thing? What made McAuliffe and Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt believe that rural conservative whites would choose warmongering Democratic slaves to Corporate America over warmongering Republican slaves to Corporate America? When I want to vote for a warmongering corporate slave, I always vote Republican.
[. . .] I am not an astute observer of the political scene – I am merely an embittered observer. Yet despite being a rank political amateur, I am able to understand that the path to power does not consist of alienating people who are willing to vote for you in order to ingratiate yourself to people who are unwilling to vote for you. The current Democratic leadership just can't seem to comprehend this most important concept.
[. . .] Abandonment of stated principles and unilateral surrender have now officially been discredited as tactics for regaining Democratic control of Congress. It is time for new party leaders to try a different approach, like treating their voters with respect. Bush and the Republican base have a symbiotic relationship – he attends to their concerns, and they respond by faithfully supporting the G.O.P. This intriguing arrangement might well serve as a useful model for the Democratic Party.
I'll tell you what, I listen to Limbaugh and obviously people at the New Yorker and Salon don't, so they have no idea what Limbaugh and the far right is about. They think a cover that shows Obama as a terrorist burning the flag is somehow funny, and have no idea what this enable Limbaugh to do now. But now Limbaugh is able to put out any racist thing he wants, and call it "funny" and say "even the liberal New Yorker does this stuff," so we're going to be seeing more and more of the nastiest stuff imaginable.
I bet Salon and The New Yorker don't even know that Limbaugh has a line of products that "joke" about torturing people. I don't think any of it is the least bit funny.
The issue of our Congress giving the big telecom companies immunity from being sued for illegally enabling the Republican Party to listen to our calls and read our emails is a very, very big deal to non-Republicans. Republicans, of course, are happy as clams about it. (They are also happy as clams that America now tortures people.)
I have talked to a number of friends who were major Obama supporters during the primaries, and not one of them is happy today because of Obama's reversal on telecom immunity in FISA. He had pledged, promised, sworn, committed to oppose telecom immunity -- then after securing the nomination reversed himself and voted for it.
First, the conservative pundits who say that Obama turned his back on the extreme left by voting for the new FISA bill have it wrong. He turned his back on people of all persuasions who believe in our form of government.
. . . He was right if he assumed he had our vote. I will not vote for McCain to prove this point. But I'm also not going to give him any more money. I'm going to save that for causes I believe in.
I no longer believe there is a cause to Obama other than getting Obama elected. It's up to him now to prove otherwise. The FISA vote can be undone, but he has to actually do the undoing.
"I no longer have any confidence in my understanding of who Obama really is."
"I have never seen a lucid explanation of why Obama voted this way. What does he hope to gain?"
"I too lost a lot of (maybe all) respect for Obama when I heard about his FISA vote.. Even Hillary voted against it."
"If Obama loses his base, the steam will go out of his campaign with a great rush. There are strong indications that this has already happened."
"His campaign would have been elevated and energized by doing the right thing. Instead, now survey the ruin among his base and his declining contributions."
This was about the Constitution, not politics. I think many of us are just sick of the kind of "Impeachment is off the table" political calculation that got us into this mess. I think Obama can turn this around but only if he commits to solid principals and demonstrates that he means it.
Things are really heating up. The Bush administration is probably shaking in their boots. The Congress is threatening to issue another strongly-worded statement! Watch out Bush! See Another Contempt Threat.
The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved $161.8 billion in new funds to continue fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the next year, without timetables for withdrawing combat troops.
. . . The Senate's 92-6 vote to pass the war-funding bill marked a victory for Bush, who has vigorously opposed any move by Congress to impose timetables for ending the Iraq war, now in its sixth year.
. . .The new money for combat in Iraq and Afghanistan puts the war tab since late 2001 at more than $800 billion, with most of that money going to Iraq.
Governor Howard Dean, M.D., Address to California State Democratic Convention, Sacramento, California, March 15, 2003
What I want to know, what I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq? [cheers].
What I want to know, is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States? [cheers].
[. . .] What I want to know is why the Democrats in Congress aren't standing up for us joining every other industrialized country on the face of the Earth in having health insurance for every man, woman and child in America? [cheers, chants "Dean"].
[. . .] As Paul Wellstone said . . . I'm Howard Dean, and I'm here to represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. [cheers].
Here's the story: about half of the Democrats in the House caved yesterday and voted with Republicans to give the big telecom companies retroactive immunity for breaking the law and wiretapping us - potentially any of us - without warrants. This illegal wiretapping started before 9/11 so it has nothing to do with terrorism. Barack Obama is going along with it. Hillary hasn't said a thing about it. There is no leadership, only capitulation.
You really really should watch this:
If you can't beat the most unpopular president of all time in a simple legislative fight like this, how can you claim to be a strong and effective leader?
Firedoglake: More DOJ Politicization Questions Being Raised got me thinking: Whatever happened to the Abramoff investigation? The Cunningham/Wilkes investigation? Weren't they going to lead to wider circles of corruption? Weren't they looking at a number of other Republican Congressmen? Weren't they looking at Bush administration officials? Weren't they looking at contractors? It all just faded away -- after the prosecutor was fired.
And now, instead, we're reading about indictments of Democrats and progressives.
But, don't worry, the Democrats in the House and Senate issued strongly worded statements, so everything is OK.
According to the filing, detailed in the New York Times, Clinton paid strategist Mark Penn and his company $3.8 million for "fees and expenses" in January alone. In sum, the firm has billed $10 million in total, which included expenditures on direct mail.
The Times said other Democratic strategists called this sum "stunning."
I'm stunned, so I guess "stunning" may be the right word.
I wrote the letter below, in response to this fairly revealing article, The Chicken Doves, in Rolling Stone magazine - about "How the Democrats Screwed The Anti-War Movement". All about how the Democratic Party establishment sold out the anti-war movement (and the people of Iraq) for political gain. Note: Links not included in original letter.
Matt Taibbi's suitably condemnatory article on the political pusillanimity of the Congressional Democrats in their so-called "fight" to end the war in Iraq wimps out on a crucial component of the discussion: what alternative do we have to these corrupt bastards? He says, "... if we don't pay attention to this sorry tale now, while there's still time to change our minds about whom to nominate, we might be stuck with this same bunch of spineless creeps for four more years. With no one but ourselves to blame."
... and that's as far as he goes. No details on how we organize to "throw the bastards out" (clearly more than 2/3rds of the Democratic Congressional Caucus) in the few short weeks we have left (if that) before papers have to be filed for the party primaries. No suggestions on who these alternative candidates might be... or why we should expect them to not sell out the moment they're elected, like the vast majority of their predecessors. Perhaps because he knows that "reforming" the corporate dominated Democratic Party is a lost cause - and that the vast majority of "anti-war" Democrats, are nothing of the sort: they're just opposed to ineffective war-mongering. Clinton and Obama are quintessential examples of this philosophy, both of whom advocate what is in essence nothing but a "kinder, gentler" form of American imperialism.
However, there is a real alternative - a political party that has been against the war in Iraq, and Afghanistan (the $2 billion dollar a month war everyone seems to conveniently forget), and indeed, all wars and other forms of American imperialism abroad since it was founded: the Green Party of the United States. A party that, in all likelihood, is likely to nominate an African-American woman for President later this year: Cynthia McKinney, and offer Americans a chance to make history for *both* women *and* people of color. If you want real change, if you want to elect candidates who will really end the war in Iraq ASAP, who'll have the shredders in Washington running day and night from election night till January 21st, who'll precipitate a mass exodus to countries without extradition treaties by CIA and NSA bureaucrats and make corporate America shake in its boots, then vote Green this November.
Or you can go ahead and cast your vote for more of what you've seen for the last two years (and longer), and you'll have "no one but yourselves to blame" when we're still caught in the Iraqi quagmire four years from now, a trillion dollars more of your blood, sweat and tears have been poured down the drain, and our children's patrimony has been that much further diminished. I know I'll be able to look my kids in the face, ten, twenty years from now, and say I didn't buy into the hype; will you?
Santa Cruz, CA
Me? I fall into the extreme lower left-hand corner of the lower left quadrant: Left/Libertarian... my views on social and economic issues are almost diametrically opposite that of every single candidate. And exactly in the same quadrant as my political party: the Green Party (globally and in the U.S.)... although that party is much closer to the center than I am, amusingly enough.
Kucinich and Gravel, both in the upper right hand corner of the lower left quadrant, Left/Libertarian, are the closest candidates to my preferences. You can look at the 2004 Election diagram, which shows that the two closest candidates to my position (in the same region as Kucinich) were David Cobb and Ralph Nader (no surprise). John Kerry and GWB both, of course, fall into the lower left hand and upper right hand corner of the Authoritarian/Right quadrant (also no surprise).
... and guess where Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and the Dali Lama all fall? Desmond Tutu. Michael Moore. Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation")? Just to name a few folks. You guessed it: the lower left hand quadrant. The first three are sourced from the Analysis page (the site strongly recommends that you take their test before reading that page), the last three are sourced from the site's Libertarian Left thinkers page. You might also want to take a look at who the guiding intellectual lights of the Authoritarian Right (and thus the American political mainstream) are. Take a look at those two pages, and tell me which one has more books on your reading list. :)
Where do you fall on the Political Compass? Which individuals would you rather be associated with? Do you feel "represented"? Do you feel that the Democratic Party, in the form of Clinton, Obama, and Edwards, folks that in other areas of the world would be described as "moderate conservatives", truly represents YOUR political beliefs?
Dave wants to drag the Democratic Party back to Left/Libertarian quadrant it occupied thirty years ago. Me, I think: "Why spend the effort to do that, when there's already a party that truly represents my views?" We have a difference of opinion on tactics. I'm curious as to which side of the discussion the readers of this blog fall on.
Of course, as the site mentions, if we had a rational political system, with proportional representation, then this entire discussion would be unnecessary. Dave and I would happily both be members of the Green Party of the United States (and so would vast numbers of other people), and we'd be working in coalition with the Democrats occupying the "moderate conservative" lower left hand corner of the Authoritarian/Right to frustrate the efforts of the Republican party to destroy everything we hold dear.
P.S. I'm going to write them and ask that they include Cynthia McKinney, one of the leading candidates for the Green Party nomination, on the primary page. I don't think there's enough information available for him to easily make an analysis of the other candidates' positions, although I'm sure they'll all fall into the same general region (based on what I heard today when I attended the Green Party Presidential Candidates debate - soon to be available on the KPFA web site).
Insiders talk about Huckabee as the Frankenstein's monster the Republicans created with their strategy of stirring up religious strife. They worked so hard to divide us along religious lines to get votes - but then a candidate shows up who is an actual right-wing Christian, not just a vote-pandering corporatist, and they don’t know what to do about it. It’s fun, in a way, to watch the right's machine -- Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing blogs. etc. -- in total panic, trying to get their audience to pull back from voting the way they’ve been telling them to vote for so many years.
I think the DC Democratic leadership has made the same mistake with their cautious, pander-to-the-so-called-center strategy (as conservatives move that "center" ever rightward). Like the Republicans, they thought they owned their base. They paid lip service to get progressive votes but then engaged in the kind of strategerizing and "afraid Rush Limbaugh will say something bad about them" approach we have had to endure rather than just doing what is right. (The point being that Rush will say something bad about you anyway, no matter what you do.) They let the war go on, took impeachment "off the table," wouldn't force Republicans to actually filibuster (thereby requiring 60 Senate votes for Democratic interests but only 50 for Republican), let Bush continue to violate the law and Constitution with impunity - even refusing to enforce their own Congressional subpoenas! They think their “base” has to stick with them no matter what.
So then along comes Ron Paul. HE says the war is wrong and illegal and must be stopped. HE says we have to enforce the Constitution above all. And surprise of surprises, he is drawing support. A letter in Tuesday’s San Jose Mercury News illustrates my point:
Ron Paul stands up to examination
For the first time I can remember, we have a presidential candidate who is actually saying elected officials should keep their oaths and follow the Constitution. I was vacillating between choices, but after a closer look at Ron Paul, all doubts are put to bed. As commander in chief, he would end this financially ruinous war for the right reason: because it is illegal. He would also restore sound monetary policy and stop the "inflation tax" that nobody talks about. It is amazing how many of our problems would be mitigated if officials simply lived up to their oaths. For me, voting has always been selecting the best bad apple, but this is the first time I've actually been inspired. Google Ron Paul and be convinced.
Ron Paul is this year’s Howard Dean. You can’t go to a farmer’s market around here without encountering a Ron Paul volunteer. In their enthusiasm to help fix the country many new voters are being drawn into the Ron Paul sphere.
Bringing in new voters is always a good thing. And opposing illegal aggressive war. torture, and demanding that the Constitution and laws be followed are to be praised no matter who is doing it. Heck, listening to Paul talk about these things almost makes me want to support him!
But then these recruits are then subjected to the other side of the far-right libertarian agenda. First there is the lunatic "Secret NAFTA Superhighway" conspiracy stuff. It's a catchy phrase that seems to affect people's brains, but it doesn't mean anything. It's just nut stuff. People's understandable concerns about trade deals that practically require the destruction of jobs and the environment are used by Paul as a way to mainstream far-right "black helicopter" thinking.
Then comes a dose of really bad economics. There's the "get rid of the IRS" and gold-standard nonsense. And the talk that the Federal Reserve is some kind of secret internationalist cabal has a hint of the old-time antisemitism of those who say that Jews have a secret conspiracy to control all the money.
And I don't fault a candidate based on who supports him or her, but Ron Paul sure does have a lot of militia, white supremacist, etc. groups endorsing him. So I do have get a bit suspicious about where he is coming from.
Unfortunately he is also a possible Ralph Nader whose independent run could siphon off enough votes that would otherwise have gone to Democrats to throw the election to the right. Anti-war, pro-Constitution support draws votes away from the Democrats, not Republicans. That guarantees the war continues and the shredding of the Constitution is completed.
People are discussing Health Care Mandates. The idea is that you require everyone to purchase health insurance. There - problem solved, you have Universal Health Care.
Health care doesn't work unless everyone has insurance. Otherwise you are only insuring the sick, which is expensive. And the sick who aren't uninsured aren't insured so what is the point?
Hillary and Edwards are for it, Obama says he is against it. Which means, of course, his plan can't work.
The reason this is discussed as an option at all is that everyone is afraid of the big insurance companies. The feel that if they don't offer a plan that keeps the big insurance companies in the deal those companies will campaign against them,like they did against Bill Clinton after Hillary offered her plan in the early 90's. So they come up with plans that depend on pumping money to private insurance companies.
Of course, the big insurance companies are going to work to undermine a Democratic President no matter what, but the candidates have to pretend this won't happen... otherwise they would have to offer the dreaded Medicare-For-All plan that every other country in the world has, and works, and covers everyone, and costs so much less...
Mandates require us to give large amounts of our money to corporations. Cool! My wife and I currently pay about $1200 a month for health care for two people. Imagine thinking you can get elected by offering a plan that requires everyone to give $1200 a month to corporations!
This all shows that the candidates are far more afraid of offending the big corporations than of offending the People.
. . . Bush would rather waste $70 billion and another 10,000 lives than admit his programs are a complete failures.
"With great fanfare" the Pentagon adopted a reduction in overseas force plan in 2004. The only thing that has changed since then is more lives have been lost, more money has been wasted, and the economy has soured. There are no jobs here so Bush will do whatever he can, including the deliberate sacrificing the lives of US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the deliberate waste of $billions elsewhere, just to prevent unemployment numbers from rising headed into an election year.
What's even sadder is that spineless Democrats are going along with his strategy. If you want to stop this madness, there is only one choice: Vote for Ron Paul.
People want the war stopped, they don't see the Democrats doing that. Therefore...
Update - I am in no way endorsing Ron Paul here, I am saying I understand the appeal -- to the "low information voters" who don't understand what many of his other policies mean in the real world Some are good ideas, others are proven to not work. nd then there's this "NAFTA Highway" conspiracy stuff... Wow.
The other day in What I Expect In 2008 I wrote that, with Iraq out of the news, one of the things the Republicans are going to do in 2008 is make the public think that Democrats are big spenders, and are even worse than Republicans on wasting money through earmarks and pork. (click through to read why Iraq will be out of the news)
This cost the Republicans in the last election and they learned from that. What did they learn? That the public votes against politicians who are accused of spending and pork. What are they doing about it? Accusing the Dems of spending and pork, of course!
The public lives in a controlled "information environment." Conservatives begin working well in advance of elections to exert pressure on that environment and prime the public to be receptive later to their issues and candidates. Democrats and progressives, for some reason, do not.
So what is happening in that information environment? Here is just a smattering of what the public was presented with just in the last few days. Never mind the facts, this is what the pubic is hearing. And this is a year before the election. The drumbeat is only going to grow, and grow, and grow, until there is no other story. Good LORD, Democrats, why don't you see what is coming? Why aren't Democrats and progressives out there NOW with a counter-narrative, explaining to the public why conservatives and their ideology are bad for America?
Despite the Democrats' pledge to get control of their addiction to wasteful spending, their mountain of pork-barrel provisions has prevented Congress from passing its appropriations bills for fiscal year 2008.
. . . All told, this spending package contained at least 2,200 earmarks worth more than $1 billion. Among them, a $1 million earmark for the Thomas Daschle Center for Public Service and Representative Democracy at South Dakota State University, named for the former Senate Democratic leader.
"Their majority was elected on a pledge of fiscal responsibility, but so far it is acting like a teenager with a new credit card," Bush plans to say in a speech here, according to excerpts provided by the White House. "This year alone, leaders in Congress are proposing to spend $22 billion more than my budget provides. Some of them claim this is not really much of a difference -- and the scary part is that they seem to mean it."
Bush vetoed the measure because of its Bizarro World price tag, which split the difference between a $14 billion House version and a $15 billion Senate version with a $23 billion consensus bill.
. . . And this latest pork platter approves $4 billion worth of work for the Everglades and coastal Louisiana, so even environmentalists who usually despise the corps joined special-interest porkers in attacking Bush's veto.
The White House said the $606 billion education and health was loaded with 2,000 earmarks — lawmaker-sponsored projects that critics call pork-barrel spending — which Bush wants stripped from the bill.
. . .In excerpts of his remarks released in advance by the White House, Bush hammered Democrats for what he called a tax-and-spend philosophy:
The Senate confirmed Mukasey as Attorney General last night. There was no filibuster. None of the President candidates who are Senators even showed up for the vote. It could have been stopped if even one Democrat had the courage to fight.
This was entirely about principles Mukasey himself would have been an acceptable candidate, even though a right-winger. But then, during the hearings, he hedged on torture.
You've heard it said over and over that it takes 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate. That is because the Repubicans have filibustered almost every single Democratic bill.
But not this time. There was no "60 votes are required to pass anything in the Senate" this time. Why not?
Every time Congressional Democrats failed this year to stop the Bush administration (i.e., every time they "tried"), the excuse they gave was that they "need 60 votes in the Senate" in order to get anything done. Each time Senate Republicans blocked Democratic legislation, the media helpfully explained not that Republicans were obstructing via filibuster, but rather that, in the Senate, there is a general "60-vote requirement" for everything.
The problem with Mukasey, in a nut shell, is that he is going to be the top law enforcement officer in the United States, and he is unwilling to commit that waterboarding, clearly illegal and clearly torture, is something that he will stand up against and persecute those guilty of doing it.
. . . Well, it's hard to stand up as a country to have a moment like that when your United States Senators can't stand up.
Not Voting - 7
Alexander (R-TN) Biden (D-DE) Clinton (D-NY)
Cornyn (R-TX) Dodd (D-CT)
McCain (R-AZ) Obama (D-IL)
Hmm, I notice a pattern here. Anyone else?
You're going to be President of the United States? You're going to answer the call of duty and make the tough decisions?
UPDATE - OK, they were not given a change to GET back to vote. Part of the reason was because of fears that at least Dodd and maybe others would filibuster. Please read these two posts: post one and post two.
Democratic hopeful John Edwards ... in remarks at an event last weekend:
"The American people need a president who will be straight with them — who will be honest about the greatest challenges our government faces. And one of the most important of those is the looming Social Security crisis. ...
WTF? Edwards using discredited right-wing language about a "looming Social Security crisis?"
The only, repeat, ONLY problem is that Reagan and now Bush have borrowed trillions from Social Security to give tax cuts to the rich and soon the government will have to find the money to start paying it back. That isn't Social Security's problem and old people shouldn't have to suffer because of huge tax cuts given to the rich.
So what is Edwards talking about? I had been thinking Edwards was closest to me politically, but I think Dodd has moved up to that honored position.
Update - OK, that got me going. Speaking of right-wing language I decided to check on Edwards' use of the term "tax relief." (follow that link.) He uses the term.
Go read the whole thing. The Dodd hold on Telecom immunity prompts Taylor to write Obamamania Hits a Ditch, ending with:
We need a fighter. Someone who won't back down and can not only take a punch but give one as good as he or she gets. Someone with a plan. It looks like some in the Obama crowd are starting to wake up and what they're sensing isn't exactly a heavyweight.
She's right. All those US Attorneys who "played ball" are still in place, waiting to let Republicans off the hook and indict a bunch of Demcorats for things they didn't do - just in time for the next election.
It's one of the worst things about everything that is happening -- no accountability, and the Dems also won't hold anyone accountable. There are no consequences for the lawbreaking and corruption we see all around us.
Every now and then you get a glimpse of where the true power is over at Powerlineblog. Today Scott Johnson has a post up titled "Coming attractions," that publicizes two upcoming conservative movement events.
The post looks at how right-wing think tanks, celebrities and money work together, the whole while supporting their bloggers and getting their message out to their blogosphere.
In their own way the conservatives have setup an institutional supply-side structure for getting their message out. First they create and subsidize hundreds of institutions like Claremont and CAE; next they find reliable Republicans to staff them. These institutions then create content for media dissemination, which is taken care of by blogs like Powerline and columnists like Kersten.
But on OUR "side" the House and Senate just voted to condemn MoveOn, with many so-called "Democrats" voting to do that. And there is no progressive infrastructure ecosystem to support our activists, thinkers, writers and organizers.
The House and Senate - with significant Democratic support - recently voted to condemn MoveOn. This "brands" MoveOn as a radical, extremist, unpatriotic, unAmerican organization. And it does the same to MoveOn's members. So from now on any Democrat receiving an endorsement, money, volunteers or other support from MoveOn or any other segment of the Democratic base is open to attack.
Here are examples - just from today - of what any Democratic politician should expect from now on. This will turn into a drumbeat.
In an ongoing attempt to bludgeon Democrats with MoveOn.org's controversial "General Betray US" ad in the New York Times, Republicans seized on a Politico.com report today that pegged 44 congressional Democrats -- including Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) -- as having voted to condemn the MoveOn ad even though they accepted the group's campaign cash.
Bean voted for a House resolution condemning the ad, which accused the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, of "cooking the books for the White House" on the war. One of Bean's prospective GOP opponents, businessman Steve Greenberg, called the vote "blatant hypocrisy" in a press release today, because Bean has taken more than $80,000 from MoveOn and its members over her congressional career.
Presidential campaign cash is the focus of a new republican attack plan. First they went after a controversial ad from MoveOn.org and now, they are calling on democrats to refuse political contributions from that organization.
...The GOP is targeting those democrats who voted to condemn the ad. In the Bay Area there is only one; 11th district Democrat Jerry McNerney from Pleasanton.
... Jerry McNerney did vote to condemn the MoveOn ad and he has taken more than $50,000 dollars in contributions from MoveOn and will continue to take their money.
Forty-four congressional Democrats who voted to condemn MoveOn.org for its ad branding Army Gen. David Petraeus "General Betray Us" have accepted more than $3.9 million in contributions from the anti-war group and its members since 2002, reports Politico.com. In Colorado, it's Sen. Ken Salazar, right, ($318,700), Rep. John Salazar ($102,900), and Rep. Ed Perlmutter ($5,000). In Montana, Sen. John Tester ($350,200).
She is a radical, and one far outside the mainstream of American politics. In the growing recognition of the true nature of her political ideology is the obvious strategy for whoever the GOP nominee is: Throw the light on what she believes and proposes and keep it there.
First, Hillary refused to denounce the MoveOn.org assault on General Petraeus' patriotism...
... Hillary is not mainstream. She's not even on the far left bank of the mainstream.
She is way, way out there --a genuine '60s girl, and the ideas and staff she would bring to the White House would represent a sharp break with all that has gone before in American politics.
LIMBAUGH is the victim of the Democrats! Wow. There is a brilliance to this.
I bow to them. I am shocked AND awed.
And then there is the difference between Republicans and Democrats on this:
More than 40 Democratic senators signed a letter sent Tuesday to the company that syndicates the radio show, asking that Mr. Limbaugh’s remarks be repudiated.
But no Republican senators signed the letter, highlighting a significant difference between the responses to the MoveOn advertisement and the Limbaugh comments. The Republican-backed plan to condemn the Petraeus advertisement drew substantial Democratic backing in the House and Senate, while Democrats have been unable to splinter Republicans on Mr. Limbaugh.
In fact, Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, has prepared a resolution praising Mr. Limbaugh should Democrats proceed with what he said was an unwarranted attack on a private citizen. “He is a talk show host,” Mr. Kingston said. “He has a right to speak out and say what he thinks.”
There is a time to know when you are just outmatched.
Lots of people are really upset that the House and Senate voted to censure MoveOn. Me, too. There is a LOT of talk about "quitting the party" to "send a message."
There is a problem with that thinking. Ralph Nader ran in 2000 to "send a message" to "the Democrats." It didn't send a message and got maybe half a million Iraqis killed. Maybe more.
The reason it did not "send a message" was that the Democratic Party is not a top-down organization. It is a bottom-up organization. IT IS US. You don't "send a message" to yourself, you ACT. The way to act on this is to show up at party meetings, vote, run for office and take over the party. It is also to fund outside organizations like Commonweal Institute so they can reach the public, create popular understanding and appreciation of, and demand for, progressive values and ideas, and turn them around from this nightmare we're living under.
James took a look at which Senators actually bothered to read the classified intelligence (NIE) briefing that was available to all Senators before voting to allow Bush to go to war with Iraq. Only six Senators did their jobs and read the report and learned what the real situation was. The rest voted - however they voted - for other reasons. James writes,
In October 2002, prior to the October 12, 2002 Iraq war vote, under lock and key, prepared for our Senators and Representatives by our country's top intelligence analysts, lay a 92 page report about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, and everything we knew about Saddam.
It sat waiting for our elected officials to sign in without staff and read it, 92 pages. No staffers allowed, elected officials only. A five page declassified document was readily available to all but the 92 page document, you had to show up, sign in and read it.
Only six Senators did.
Only six Senators thought that sending our country's bravest off to war to die was worth a few minutes of their time. How long a report would you have read before deciding to send our nation's finest to war?
You've got to read his post. He quotes from joejoejoe in a MyDD diary,
"The two Senators who pushed hardest to have the US intelligence community compile an NIE, Senator Bob Graham and Senator Dick Durbin, both voted against authorizing military force against Iraq - largely because the full classified 96-page NIE contained many more caveats and dissents than any of the summaries."
If a Senator votes to go to war or not without reading the intelligence report, what does that say about our political process - and about our Senators?
Remember last week, when the Democrats caved in to Bush's demand that they continue funding the war without imposing milestones or timelines, so they wouldn't be criticized for "abandoning the troops" or "surrendering?"
I call this the "afraid Rush Limbaugh will say something bad about them syndrome." Because he is going to, anyway, no matter what they do, so they should do the right thing.
Well, they didn't do the right thing and Gosh!, guess what - The Republicans are criticizing them anyway.
Sen. Jim DeMint on Tuesday blamed Democratic “wimps” in Congress for American casualties in Iraq, and cited Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for special censure.
... “Al-Qaida knows that we’ve got a lot of wimps in Congress,” DeMint said. “I believe a lot of the casualties can be laid at the feet of all the talk in Congress about how we’ve got to get out, we’ve got to cut and run.”
Asked later who he had targeted in his comments, DeMint replied:
“To a large degree, the Democratic party and those who basically declared defeat like Harry Reid.”
Enclosed below is a letter (submitted via her web site) that I wrote to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) tonight in response to a puff piece she sent me announcing her support for Diane Feinstein's "Ten-in-ten Fuel Economy Act" aka "S. 357", a bill that DiFi has described as "aggressive" legislation to address oil dependence and global warming, but which I see as anything but: reducing our current baseline gasoline usage by less than 12.5% over twelve years is hardly "aggressive", and in the context of rapidly rising usage from China and India, represents a drop in the bucket with regards to addressing global warming.
I've included Boxer's original email, along with a email from DiFi in reference to S. 357 containing the "aggressive legislation" quote, which I received earlier this year in response to a letter to her about supporting higher fuel efficiency standards. If this represents the extent of the vision in Washington for reducing domestic gasoline consumption, things are in a sorry state.
Dear Senator Boxer,
I received your email today touting your support of Dianne Feinstein's S. 357, the "Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act". This is legislation that Dianne Feinstein, in a previous email, described as "aggressive legislation" to reduce dependence on oil and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
In my view, increasing fuel efficiency standards by a mere 10 miles per hour by 2019 does not qualify as an "aggressive" response to the global climate / environmental crisis. The Toyota Prius and Honda Civic Hybrid already approach or exceed twice the current standard - and European automakers have non-hybrid vehicles for sale *today* whose fuel economy doubles the proposed new standard.
In Silicon Valley alone, at least two companies are developing high performance all electric vehicles (WrightSpeed and Tesla), and elsewhere, engineers are discussing the possibility of 300 mpg "plug-in" hybrid vehicles that need to fill up just once or twice a year.
We have the technology, today, to do much better than 35 miles per gallon - and it seems more than reasonable to believe that, ten years from now, it could be deployed widely enough to be standard on all newly manufactured vehicles.
35 miles an hour is where we should have been ten years ago... let alone ten years from now! I drive a pickup manufactured in 1986 with a 2.0 litre engine that gets anywhere from 22-24 mpg depending on the mix of driving I do. By this bill's standards, an improvement of a mere 13 miles an hour in fuel efficiency over the subsequent 33 years will constitute adequate technological process.
S. 357 does the moral equivalent of raising the hurdles from 1 feet high to 1.5 feet high, and then applauding loudly as the contestants step over them with equal ease.
I urge you to support authentically
"aggressive" and timely targets that will make a real impact on global warming.
Santa Cruz, CA
Boxer Puff Piece, received 02/16/2007:
As Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public
Works, I have made it my priority to stop global warming and
improve our environment. As part of that effort, I am pleased
to let you that I am supporting a bill by Senator Dianne
Feinstein to improve passenger automobile fuel economy, reduce
greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce dependence on foreign oil.
This legislation is known as the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act,
This bill would increase the fuel economy standards, known as
CAFE standards, for SUVs and other light duty trucks and would
increase the combined fleet average for all automobiles from 25
miles per gallon to 35 miles per gallon by model year 2019.
When CAFE standards were first established in 1975, light
trucks made up only a small percentage of total vehicles on the
road and were mostly used by farmers and business. The
standard for them and for SUVs was set at a level that does not
reflect the fact that today these make up more than half of the
new car sales in America. This bill would go a long way to
correcting this discrepancy.
Our bill would also significantly reduce the amount of carbon
dioxide -- the largest single cause of global warming -- from
being released into the atmosphere. If enacted, this
legislation would result in a reduction of 350 million tons of
carbon dioxide from being emitted by cars by 2025. This would
be roughly equivalent to removing 60 million cars from our
roads in one year.
Finally, S.357 seeks to actually reduce our nation’s fuel
consumption, making us less dependent on foreign oil and
reducing the demand for new domestic sources. In large
measure, our legislation is a step forward in creating a sound
energy policy for our nation that will also increase our
I am pleased to join a bipartisan group of Senators supporting
this important legislation and look forward to its passage.
United States Senator
DiFi Letter re: fuel economy... notice how twelve years has been redefined as ten years, since the letter below was written.
January 10, 2007
Mr. Thomas Leavitt
PO Box 7095
Santa Cruz, California 95061
Dear Mr. Leavitt:
Thank you for writing to me to express your support for
increasing automobile fuel efficiency standards. I always appreciate
hearing from constituents on issues that are important to them.
I understand and share your concerns regarding automobile fuel
efficiency. America's cars and light trucks are responsible for
approximately 20 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide pollution, which is a
greenhouse gas that causes global warming. In addition, the United
States is the largest consumer of oil, using 20.4 million barrels per day.
By increasing the average fuel economy standards for all vehicles, we
can reduce our dependence on oil in addition to decreasing our
greenhouse gas emissions.
There are many new technologies on the market to help
automakers improve fuel efficiency standards. Unfortunately, without a
mandatory increase in fuel economy standards, many of these
technologies are being used instead to increase speed, size, or
You will be pleased to know that I have recently introduced the
"Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act" (S. 3543) that would raise the average
fuel economy standards for all vehicles from their current average of 25
miles per gallon (mpg) to 35 mpg by model year 2017. This legislation
would save 2.5 million barrels of oil per day, which is what we currently
import from the Persian Gulf daily, and prevent 420 million metric tons
of carbon dioxide from being emitted by 2025. I believe that this is
aggressive legislation that will provide a realistic solution to help the
United States decrease our dependence on oil and decrease our
greenhouse gas emissions.
Please know that I will keep your comments in mind as I
continue to fight for higher automobile fuel efficiency standards. Again,
thank you for your letter and I hope you will continue to contact me on
issues that are important to me. If you have any additional comments or
questions, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C. staff at
Why did the new chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee "back away from the committee's Katrina probe?" Until now the White House has refused to hand over documents relating to their Katrina performance and contracts. This new Senate committee chair has refused to subpoena documents related to Katrina - and the contracting scandals - and is refusing to hold hearings on what happened and how to prevent it from happening again.
I call on Senate Majority Reid to remove this Senator from his chairmanship of this important committee.
Fortunately the House is likely to hold hearings on Katrina.
Matt Stoller has a great post at MyDD, The Bar Fight Primary. He writes about looking for a candidate with the core progressive instincts you want backing you up in a bar fight.
When Ronald Reagan announced his Presidential run in 1980, he did it in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where three Civil Rights workers were killed. ... Reagan, a genial and sunny Californian, could have it both ways because he had proved to the base that he was 'with them'. Opening his campaign on a site that fully repudiated equal rights for blacks, that in a very real sense murdered liberals, was a way of saying to the emergent right-wing Confederate base that 'I am with you, I hate who you hate'. ... It was a statement that Reagan would play the role of President, but in a bar fight, in a close vote, where it really mattered, in all those small appointments, his sympathies would instinctively lean towards his base.
He says now we need a leader like that, one we know is with US,
We need a leader committed to responsible governance, anti-cronyism, social justice, an expansion of the Bill of Rights to include infrastructure changes, and a humble and morally powerful foreign policy. But governing this way is not a matter of expressing the desire for unity and hope to all Americans, but expressing solidarity with the people who will help create such an America. Those people are liberals. We are the ones who want a different America, and who will help build it and push the right out of the way.
[. . .] Just as Reagan said he'd unify the country by pushing the liberals out of the way, we need someone who will unify the country by pushing irresponsible right-wing power centers out of the way. They crushed our unions, we need to crush their talk radio, you know, that kind of thinking.
Who does he see on his side in a bar fight? So far there's Clark and maybe Edwards:
In a bar fight, Obama and Hillary are not on our side.
[. . .] There are two candidates who can pass the bar fight primary. One of them, Wes Clark, passes the test clearly. He is a genuine liberal, and has fought the right clearly and consistently for the last four years, most recently in Connecticut when he was the only real surrogate against Lieberman. ... And then there's John Edwards. I think Edwards is split. He's spent much of his time working with unions, on the road, in low-key meetings. Elizabeth Edwards has done outreach to bloggers, so there's at least acknowledgment of the dirty hippy crew. He's announcing in New Orleans, which is dog whistle politics on our issues. He knows he was wrong on the war, and feels our betrayal. Unlike Clark, though, I still haven't seen him stand up for us in a real way. I haven't seen him attack McCain, for instance, or go after the politicians who supported the Bankruptcy Bill. I haven't seen him challenge any right-wing interests in a serious way, and so while I acknowledge he's in the ball park, he's not there yet.
BUT he says this about Bill Clinton, and I want to come to Clinton's defense:
Without a real commitment to weaken irresponsible elite actors, 'unity' simply means a replay of Clinton, only without the credit and power that we had in the 1990s, and with a much more advanced case of global climate catastrophe, peak oil, and nuclear terrorism capacity on its way.
Clinton was a very smart President who thought that he and his small crew had all the answers. We know now that he (and all of us) misunderstood the nature of the role. It isn't the job of the next President to have all the answers, that's up to the American people. It's up to the next President to show that he's going to clear the way for us to take back our country.
I'd like to come to President Clinton's defense a bit. Sure, with hindsight we can see some things Clinton should have done. But remember - he didn't even have US. He didn't have anyone watching his back and he knew it. Few Dems back then were ready to take a hit for progressive policies, and there was no organized progressive base to fight for those things. He should have started building that - yes. But that was the 90s and the fact is most of the leadership of the big organizations and the Dems still today don't get it about the right and about how there isn't a majority progressive base anymore and that we need to market to the public to rebuild one. That's why the netroots is what it is.
President Clinton had a Republican Congress and that 1990s Democratic Party. When he got in he did have the Dems, but he wanted to start with camaign finance reform and they wouldn't. He wanted a BTU tax and they wouldn't. Etc. So politically, Clinton recognized some realities - the country HAD been moved to the right, the Dem party and old progressive structure was almost useless, so he was a politician and played to where reality was. Hence his "triangulation" strategy - to manage public perceptions while fighting for a degree of progressive advancement in policies.
Matt is correct that Bill Clinton failed to BUILD a movement for us -- to work to CHANGE where reality was. That is somewhat hindsight. No one else did either. As I said, that is what the netroots is about. It wasn't until the middle of his second term that we all started to get an inkling of what the "conservative movement" was about, the funding and organization of it, etc. Remember it was Hillary who coined the term "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy," and that was based on some of the early research into what was going on. And NONE of us were getting it yet and responding yet. We are now. It is slowly starting to make a difference. So that's why I say hindsight and give Clinton some credit.
Matt Stoller writes one of the better lines about the Washington "moderates" who are trying to retain control of the Democratic Party:
Certain House Democrats are panting at the ability to reach out to the Republicans as one of their first acts in office, to show a new spirit of openness to their GOP Beltway boyfriends who have been abusing them.
Bob Geiger asks why there are still 22 Democratic Senators who haven't said whether they will support the Democratic Party's nominee for the Senate in Connecticut, and is offering them a free press release they can send out:
So, to you weary Senate Democrats who haven't yet taken a stand, I've written your press release for you. Here it is:
Press Release of [Insert Senator name here]
"Senator ____________ Calls for Party Unity in Connecticut Senatorial Race"
Monday, August 14, 2006
Washington, DC -- U.S. Senator ____________ of [State] watched with great interest as Connecticut Democrats went to the polls in large numbers last week to choose the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by [his/her] colleague, Joe Lieberman.
... Senator ____________ is pleased to announce his support for the candidacy of Ned Lamont for the U.S. Senate and wishes Senator Lieberman the best in all future endeavors.
Also at MyDD, why does Lieberman only complain that DEMOCRATS are being partisan? See MyDD :: Senator Lieberman, Condemn These Partisan Polarizers which has several examples of Republicans recently calling Democrats things like "the Taliban" and traitors, etc... No complaints yet from Lieberman about that.
Matt Stoller says the next big fight is over filibustering Bolton's nomination to be UN ambassador, which is really about Israel. I've been saying the Republicans plan to use Lieberman as a wedge to split Democrats, and Matt says Bolton is the tool..
In recent weeks we have been treated to a press firestorm over the Connecticut Democratic primary, in which the "netroots" DARED to run a candidate against Senator Joe Lieberman, and beat him. The insider press and political system is in absolute SHOCK that this could happen, with a good dose of anger at the voters for daring to go against their wishes. (Never mind that a far-right candidate beat a moderate candidate in Michigan's Republican primary -- for some reason that is different and remains unreported.)
You might also have noticed that since the primary, the press has paid far more attention to Lieberman - the loser of the primary - than to the winner. This is because the Republicans are promoting a wedge narrative intended to split the Democratic Party. By amplifying the voices of disgruntled Lieberman supporters, the Repubicans hope to keep a segment of the Democratic Party from voting this November.
In illustration of my point, contrast this firestorm to the situation with the upcoming Rhode Island Repubican primary. Lincoln Chafee is an old-style Republican Senator from Rhode Island. By "old-style" I mean he precedes the Christian Right/conservative movement takeover of the Republican Party and remains independent of The Party's corruption machine. And the far right is not happy about that, so they are running a candidate against Chafee in Rhode Island's upcoming Republican primary. You would think the "on the surface" similarities would drive press coverage, but the opposite is the case. (I say "on the surface" because in this case it is actual radicals running a candidate against an incumbent, where in Connecticut the opposition candidate actually had a more centrist voting record than the incumbent.)
Since its inception in 1999, the group has spent millions to help dozens of conservative Republicans win seats in Congress - often at the expense of more moderate party members. The Club's president, former Rep. Pat Toomey, nearly defeated Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter in 2004.
This year, the group's top priority is defeating Chafee, who angered many Republicans by voting against President Bush's tax cuts and then casting a write-in vote for the president's father in the last election.
... Republicans who support the Club say its refusal to compromise its ideology gives it credibility.
"They're not about getting more Republicans elected, they're about getting real Republicans elected," said Jerry Stacy, spokesman for Sharron Angle, a Club-endorsed House candidate in Nevada.
Learn how the American system operates now. Keep an eye on this one -- compare and contrast the coverage and commentary.
Joe Lieberman is the guy who said it would be OK to count absentee ballots even if postmarked after the election. He did that because the Repiblicans said people who insisted that the election laws be followed were "anti-military." He is the epitome of the "afraid Rush Limbaugh will say something bad about him" Democrat.
At far, far-right-wing Townhall.com, wingnut Mark Alexander explains what's wrong with Leiberman better than I could. Remember that this is a core-conservative movement perspective:
Lieberman had proved his mettle two years earlier, when he scolded then-prevaricator-in-chief Bill Clinton for having debauched a 21-year-old intern -- and for having perjured himself during the cover-up.
... Lieberman dealt his integrity a fatal blow by lending his name to Gore. Indeed, shortly after hopping aboard the ill-fated Gore ticket, he flip-flopped on key issues such as school choice, social-security reform and affirmative action.
... From the onset of hostilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, many of Joe Lieberman's Senate colleagues have been vociferously anti-American -- in fact, their actions have been nothing short of traitorous. However, Lieberman refused to trade his integrity for party loyalty, which separated him from the pack of Northeastern liberals like uber-Leftist Jean-Francois Kerry. Said Lieberman earlier this year: "It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge [that he is our] commander-in-chief. We undermine the President's credibility at our nation's peril."
In other words, Leiberman supported the far-right positions on school vouchers, getting rid of affirmative action, getting rid of Social Security, and called other Democrats traitors. If DEMOCRATS vote him out this week I say Good Riddance.
Our message is simple. No longer will candidates be considered unelectable for holding progressive views. No longer will the establishment take its supporters for granted. No longer will Democrats get away with boosting their own national image by facilitating the conservative movement and distancing themselves from their own party.
Over at Hullabaloo, tristero asks when we will have an opposition party,
"When will America again have two national political parties?"
I honestly wish I could say 2006. There are some positive signs that a second party could emerge, in the face of major attempts to suppress it, from what's left of the Democratic Party. It certainly would save a lot of time. Building a second party from scratch will be no picnic.
Three months ago, Ned Lamont began the kind of campaign entrenched DC power-brokers fear and beyond-the-beltway Democrats recognize as the only way to reclaim our country for ordinary Americans. This video introduces you to Ned, contains interviews with many Connecticut voters, and information on the actions and positions of Senator Lieberman. Now we need your help to spread the word to your friends and family.
The Republicans are unbearable. They break the law, lie, spin, spend, invade, torture and give away our money to lobbyists. So, I'm trying my best to not disparage the Democrats, since they're our only hope left.
I don't want to perpetuate the image of them as soft, feckless and spineless. I am worried to death that will turn off some voters and have them vote for Republicans who are driving this country over a cliff instead.
But the Democrats sometimes make it impossible to not criticize them.
This just in, via Dave Farber's Interesting People list... if you have a Senator who was not on the list of 24 Democrats and 1 Independent who voted to filibuster Alioto, then I suggest you call him or her up and give the Senator in question a piece of your mind. Doubly so, if they actually voted FOR Alioto - especially if they are Democrats or "moderates". Plain and simple, they had a choice between theocracy and democracy, and they chose theocracy over the rule of law and the separation of church and state.
During his broadcast today, Focus on the Family founder and president James Dobson promoted his organization's annual ex-gay conference, Love Won Out, in which gays and their families are told that homosexuality is "preventable and treatable." Then, he presented evidence that "the pendulum is swinging back," informing his listeners that he had just received a thank you note from new Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.
The text of the note (which Dobson read on air), follows below the fold.
Dear Dr. Dobson:
This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you and the
entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and support during the
past few challenging months.
I would also greatly appreciate it if you would convey my appreciation
to the good people from all parts of the country who wrote to tell me
that they were praying for me and for my family during this period.
As I said when I spoke at my formal investiture at the White House last
week, the prayers of so many people from around the country were a
palpable and powerful force.
As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust
that has been placed in me.
I hope that we'll have the opportunity to meet personally at some point
in the future.
In the meantime my entire family and I hope that you and the Focus on
the Family staff know how we appreciate all that you have done.
I wonder who else got a note like this? Did the head of the Unitarian Universalist church get one? How about the spiritual leader of America's Reform Jews? Did any Muslim Imams get one?
The Democrats have failed their party, their base and their country with a recent behind the scenes agreement on Bush's wiretapping legislation. A Salon article by Russ Feingold details the bitter truth. (watch 30 second ad for day pass)
It seemed like a watershed moment for the Democratic Party. At the end of 2005, Democrats, along with a small band of Republicans, stopped a bad Patriot Act reauthorization bill in its tracks.
Surprise, surprise! The Democratic leadership has failed to protect our freedom, liberty and Constitutional rights one more time.
Expect Democrats and some Republicans to insist that they have won some significant improvements to the Patriot Act. Don't believe it. The few minor concessions they got from the White House are a fig leaf to disguise a complete about-face. Thanks to this deal, the White House will be emboldened in its fear-mongering, Democrats will be perceived as timid, and the American people will still face the prospect of government intrusion into their private affairs. Some deal.
STF readers can read the lengthy list of curtailed freedoms that Feingold catalogs in his article. Feingold concludes:
These are some of the provisions of the Patriot Act that pose the biggest threats to our freedoms, yet some Democrats are happily supporting a deal that leaves them firmly in place. That's hardly a victory for our party, or for the effort to protect our liberties as we fight terrorism.
It took a long time for Democrats to step up and challenge the administration's baseless assertions that the Patriot Act could not be changed without threatening the security of the American people. When we finally did so, when we decided to make the case that we can fight terrorism and protect our American principles at the same time, *it looked like Democrats were finally ready to stand on principle and offer strong leadership*.
Is anyone even a little bit surprised that the Democratic Party has caved in to political pressure and taken the easy way out one more time? Feingold asks the key question:
If Democrats aren't going to stand up to an executive who disdains the other branches of government and doesn't worry about trampling on the rights of innocent Americans, what do we stand for?
The police have been busy doing a CYA after removing Cindy Sheehan and Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young (R-Fla.) from the floor during the President's State of the Union address (apparently, another foreign born American citizen was also removed, for unclear reasons, perhaps for that alone). As Cindy Sheehan's personal statement makes clear, the Capitol police have a hair trigger when it comes to any type of "protestor" (I bet the Congressman's wife wasn't treated that way, and she definitely was not arrested)... that the Emperor has no clothes must not be mentioned.
That said, as Beverly Young discovered, suppression of one type of political expression rapidly becomes suppression of all forms of expression, in the name of "order".
Mrs. Young was sitting about six rows from first lady Laura Bush and asked to leave. She argued with police in the hallway outside the House chamber.
“They said I was protesting,” she told the St. Petersburg Times. “I said, “Read my shirt, it is not a protest.' They said, 'We consider that a protest.' I said, 'Then you are an idiot.'”
Blowback. Hopefully, a few more people on both sides of the ailse will wake up and smell the coffee as a result.
Of course, it would help if the actions of our representatives in Congress reflected the true level of discontent and inner division within the country; pretending that everything is normal, and going along with polite conventions, is no longer appropriate. Why no protest or other sign of dissatisfaction from other members of Congress during the state of the union address? Politeness and respect for the office must go by the wayside, when the man holding it fails to respect convention and decorum and standards of conduct himself, and instead disgraces it.
If I were in Congress, I would have held a press conference the next day, announcing my intention to engage in direct action and potential civil disobedience at the next available opportunity, and wearing a t-shirt with a message against the war in Iraq - one that I would wear onto the floor for the next week, especially if I knew I'd be on CSPAN.
The lack of institutional reaction demonstrates that the members of the Democratic Party sitting in Congress still don't get the scale of the threat facing the nation. To them, more or less, it is still business as usual. I doubt that the phrase, "incipient fascism" has even crossed most of their minds. Really, by this point, if the Democratic Party had a pulse, there would be Congressfolk out protesting in front of the White House daily, getting arrested for civil disobedience, and generally expressing their grave concern and great dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in the most emphatic way possible... making the level of dissent and rancour so obvious, that even the mass media couldn't pretend to ignore it.
Instead, we have a bunch of genial, bland, gutless wonders issuing press releases and making polite statements of opposition, but who are unwilling to take it to the next level; Sam Farr (D-Santa Cruz), my representative in Congress, is an excellent example of this. He's a nice guy, very sincere, votes right on 90% of the issues, but is never out on front on anything national - very constituent service focused. Fine, perhaps, during normal times, but not at all appropriate when facing a crisis of this magnitude; Santa Cruz should be at the forefront of the anti-war movement, but instead, the political establishment here has largely followed his lead, and stayed out of the headlines.
We need Cindy Sheehan (or the like) in Congress, for exactly this reason - I wish she was running for Congress against some lame House member (Tom Lantos?), where she had a real chance of winning, instead of for Senate against DiFi (which everyone presumes is pretty much going to be a purely symbolic act). There shouldn't be a single pro-war Democrat in this Congress that goes without a primary challenge. Hell, even the "anti-war" ones should be challenged on their level of activism on this issue. Where is the peace movement?!?
Where is the dissent - do folks really not realize the scale of the catastrophe that is Iraq... setting aside the toll in dead and injured soldiers (tens of thousands), which I think the peace movement focuses on to it's detriment (everyone winds up comparing the numbers to the 50,000 fatalities experienced in Vietnam, and thinks, comparatively, that things aren't so bad), is $1 trillion down the drain a number so unreal, that it just can't be grasped? Bluntly, far more lives have been lost at home (think fatalities in underfunded emergency rooms, drug overdoses, untreated medical conditions, etc. etc.) than in Iraq, as a result of the war. This is a fundamental mistake on the part of the peace movement: all politics is local; the closer to home the effects of the war can be seen, the more motivated people are to get involved.
... and what about all of us? The streets should be boiling... we all know that the powers that be won't act, until they feel their control over the situation and the system is threatened, until the streets are so restive that the possibility of "anarchy" becomes real, and they begin fearing for their personal fortunes and the economic and social stability of the nation. Maybe we should blog a little less, and spend a little more time creating media friendly protest events, or dogging our elected representatives in public about taking a stand?
If 42 Senators REALY wanted to keep Alito off the court, the vote yesterday to stop the filibuster would have failed, and Alito would not be on the court.
DO NOT BE FOOLED by any Senator who voted against the filibuster but also voted against Alito - that Senator was FOR Alito, and is only throwing you this "No" vote to get your money and vote for their next campaign.
REMEMBER these Senators, do not give them money, do not work for them, and urge others to oppose them. I'll have a list up later.
The Senate voted 72-25 to stop any filibuster of Alito. I fear that putting this guy on the court, with his strong belief in absolute Presidential power (as long as it is a Republican) might be a, if not the, "tipping point" in the erosion of our democracy.
Bush says he "is pleased" that so many Democrats voted against a filibuster,
"I am pleased that a strong, bipartisan majority in the Senate decisively rejected attempts to obstruct and filibuster an up-or-down vote on Judge Sam Alito's nomination," Bush said in a statement.
Kerry and Kennedy led the fiulibuster. Others ran like little mice from the idea of doing anything that might make Rush Limbaugh say bad things about them.
From the news story,
There was sharp division within Democratic ranks about a filibuster, aides said. They said some argued it would help rally backers for the November congressional elections while others expressed fear it may backfire and portray Democrats as politically minded obstructionists.
In the end, 19 Democrats joined 53 Republicans in voting to bring debate to a close. Twenty-four Democrats and one independent opposed the motion. Two Republicans did not vote.
One of our trolls just commented on another post: "Well after all that grandstanding, the liberals could only muster 25 votes for a filibuster. A lot of dems cut and ran……." Yep.
First, no Democratic Senator on the list who voted for cloture (and against a filibuster) will ever receive a dime from me personally. Why? Because after such a catastrophic failure you don't deserve to be Senators. The Republicans schooled you. They beat with the ease of a heavyweight pounding on an grandma. You're more like cats runing from a vacuum cleaner than you are leaders. Comparing you to the 1962 Mets would be an insult too extreme to bear, for the Mets, that is.
What's more, in your miserable, wallowing, whiny-assed defeat you have betrayed your party and have left the republic you pledged to defend in the hands of a modern Girolamo Savonarola. Americans expect progress from you, not regress.
ndeed, Alito's fondness for a 'unitary executive' may put you out of a job sooner than we voters can. (Of course, you think that's alarmist. I call it checks and balances.) You should take pride in having emasculated what was once considered the world's most august deliberative body. Today, after your failure of nerve, it is nothing less than a quivering, quavering, gelatinous mass of timorous toadies.
To all the special interest groups who 'had prepared for years for this fight' I have a special send-off for you:
Thanks for coordinating so well with the Senators leading the fight. Thanks for wasting all of that money we put in your war chest. Thanks for lobbying those who wavered, stiffening their spine with promises of support. Thanks for playing hardball against the 'pro-choice' Republican tools in the Senate too, you were particularly brilliant there with Specter, Snowe and Chafee. What a knock-up job! Enjoy your forced birth, because it's your baby now.
I was traveling the cable dial this afternoon where I came upon a panel on CNBC's Kudlow & Company just as Lanny Davis, his insipid, ingratiating grin firmly in place, was saying that he hoped Democrats wouldn't "politicize" the Jack Abramoff situation but simply let the facts of the case emerge.
Beltway Dems like Davis and the DLC crowd don't want to politicize the Iraq war, or the Alito hearings, or the Katrina clusterfuck, or the NSA spying scandal; they shy away from every prospective fight and prevent any ongoing debate or controversy from gaining traction. Just as Jack Murtha's bombshell was gaining momentum, in droops Joe Lieberman to back up the president with a gift-wrapped testimonial.
Yes, I know Lanny Davis is not an elected official but he was representing the Democratic side along with Harold Ford against John Fund of WSJ and Arizona congressman Jeff Flake (R). Given how Davis was fawning over Flake (who was making mild reformist noises about the need to clean house)--saying that he wished he could vote for someone so bright and sensible--and how Ford was prudently urging us to stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was more of a barbershop quartet than a doubles match. Kudlow, of course, couldn't have been more pleased by the civility and consensus shown by the fab four. Lanny Davis and Harold Ford were his kind of Democrats--reasonable, moderate, mainstream, and completely housebroken. They were good little guests.
The problem lies with the alleged moderates like Ford and the gasbags like Biden who don't know the difference between partisan rhetoric and action (and fail to publicly play the game with any finesse.) But the biggest problem is the "liberal" pundits like Davis who should all be shunned. They don't speak for me and I don't think they speak for the Democratic party. They seem to speak for the conventional wisdom of the beltway which places a premium on obedient, neutered Democrats.
Again, it's the the old joke:
"Harry and Lanny are facing the firing squad. The executioner comes forward to place the blindfold on them. Harry disdainfully and proudly refuses, tearing the thing from his face. Lanny turns to him and pleads: "Please Harry, don't make trouble!"
A little birdy just dropped me some information I thought you all might appreciate... "Last week Bob Casey's campaign asked, 'Who owns Rick Santorum?' The answer is, the same people who own Bob Casey." That's right folks, it would appear that the Democratic party's annointed candidate has been right all along to keep his mouth shut because when it opens it gets filled with feet!
Josh opened up a new thread at TPM Cafe where there is nearly universal agreement that by their failure to establish a brand identify, their unwillingness to fight back and their failure to oppose Bush's legislative agenda Democrats have been branded in the minds of the American people as cowards.
Barak Obama comments on a study about "sex and television" in a L.A. Times article, Television Awash In Sex, Study Says: The report says 70% of shows include sexual content. The number has risen over the years.
More than a year after federal authorities launched a crackdown on broadcast indecency, television remains so awash in sex that 7 in 10 episodes include some kind of racy content, a study released Wednesday shows.
The results from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation also found that the number of sexual scenes in sitcoms, dramas and reality shows nearly doubled since 1998, while depictions of abstinence or "safe sex" were on the wane.
[T]he Kaiser study underscored the belief among many parents that television was having a coarsening effect on their kids.
"It's not the same today as when I was growing up and parents left their kids in front of the TV to watch 'Captain Kangaroo,' " Perkins said. "The sex depicted on television does have an effect on kids. If we are what we eat, then we become what we watch."
Or in other words, sex on television is hastening the end of western civilization as we know it. Not a moment too soon if you want my opinion, but Barak Obama is piously concerned:
Results were unveiled at a Washington news conference *attended by Sen. Barak Obama (D-Ill.), Fox Networks Group President Tony Vinciquerra and Federal Communications Commissioner Kathleen Q. Abernathy*.
Obama called on television broadcasters to improve their program ratings system by making content advisories more prominent on the TV screen. He also said TV executives should make it easier for parents to locate family-friendly shows.
"If the industry fails to act — if it fails to give parents advanced controls and new choices — Congress will," Obama said.
That's pretty strange company for a Democrat to be keeping. Is Barak getting *The Memo* from the Right Wing Noise Machine?
The Kaiser Family Foundation's study revealed some alarming statistics:
Kaiser's sample found 3,780 scenes with sexual activity, compared with 1,930 seven years ago when it first examined the issue. In that report, 56% of the shows studied included sexual content, compared with 70% today.
Breaking down the numbers by genre on broadcast television, the study found that 91% of comedies had sexual content, compared with 87% of dramas, 73% of newsmagazine shows and 41% of reality programs
And the staff reporters for the L.A. Times make sure to frame their story with this little tidbit:
The government has been cracking down on broadcast indecency in the wake of singer Janet Jackson's breast-baring incident during the halftime show at the 2004 Super Bowl.
One main concern of legislators is whether the proliferation of sex on TV is contributing to teenage pregnancy. Last year, a Rand Corp. survey of 1,792 adolescents found that teens who watched a lot of sexually suggestive TV shows were almost twice as likely to have sex earlier than teens who didn't.
We all know how horribly deformed the national psyche of America's children became from a split second exposure to Janet Jackson's bare breast. Not to mention all of the adults that TIVO'd it and watched it dozens of times to generate the appropriate level of outrage.
I did pause for a second to ponder what kind of controls the Rand survey used. How old were their 1,792 adolescents? How many sexually suggestive shows did they watch over how long a period of time before they decided to engage in sex? Were the adolescents evenly divided between males and females? Did the Rand survey have some sort of controls to adjust for the tendency of teens to exaggerate their sexual exploits? Were sexually suggestive television shows the only variable that could have influenced the children who were watching more of the shows and at some indeterminate later date deciding to engage in sex?
I also decided I must not be watching enough television, or at least not watching the right shows. I have totally missed the explosion in sexual content on network television. Where are my viewing habits going wrong? Then I ran returned to the beginning of the article to re-read the defined hurdle for classifying a television show as "sexually suggestive":
However, the study found that overt sexual activity and references were far less common than talk about sex, and many of the activities it tallied consisted of banter, kissing and touching.
Banter, kissing and *touching*? Are you kidding me? Touching is consider sexually suggestive? Did they include sexually suggestive leers from which viewers could infer impure thoughts? How did the "experts" define sexually suggestive? Sombody help me out here. Is it just me or is the Kaiser Family Foundation setting the bar ridiculously low for anyone to get concerned? Aren't the conclusions everyone is drawing from this study extremely tenuous?
I also have a question or two about this conclusion:
Only 10% of the shows depicted or implied sexual intercourse, the study found.
That sounds pretty tame to me. Which shows "depicted or implied" sexual intercourse? In how many of that 10% figure was sexual intercourse actually "depicted" and which network shows actually "depicted" sexual intercourse? What is the standard for "implying" sexual intercourse?
I'm sorry, but anyone who is offended by anything on network television, aside from the gratuitous violence, is a complete and total putz. Barak Obama is a putz of the first order.
Update: I couldn't get a comment to post, so I am adding this at the end of my article:
Maybe some people should not be parents. Allow me to suggest that any parent whose parenting skills are inadequate to compete with the sexual banter on network sitcoms should consider working on their parenting skills.
This study and Barak Obama are turning a failure of parenting skills into an ideological witch hunt. And Obama will probably have Hillary chiming in on his side at her earliest opportunity.
I listened to O'Reilly for a few moments the other night trying to turn Prop 73 in California, about parental notification of teenage abortion, into an issue of undermining parental authority. I'm calling bullshit on this whole witch hunt for sexual purity from teenagers.
If parents are incapable of discussing simple sexual banter on network television with their children, they should put them up for adoption. Some people are not capable of raising pets, let alone children. Don't put the blame on network television or Democratic "values."