This Day in History: In Russia, the February Revolution (known as such because of Russia’s use of the Julian calendar) begins when riots and strikes over the scarcity of food erupt in Petrograd. One week later, centuries of czarist rule in Russia ended with the abdication of Nicholas II, and Russia took a dramatic step closer toward communist revolution.
How much did Wall Street’s abuse cost you? Find out!
Fill out the form below to see what Wall Street owes you and your state, and tell Congress to collect!
Our country is facing a revenue crisis. There’s not enough money in our cities and states to support the investments needed to rebuild America. The good news is this: We know where the money is. While politicians might tell you differently, it’s not in Grandma’s pension. It’s not in the homes of families fighting off foreclosure. And it’s not in the pockets of American schoolchildren or schoolteachers.
It’s on Wall Street.
The map that explains it all. And how we can recover.
Dear MoveOn member,
It’s time to sound the alarm.
This week, Congress could cut a deal on the budget. And if Republicans get their way, billions will be cut from vital programs that millions of Americans count on—while tax cuts for the richest are protected.
But most people don’t have any idea what’s at stake—and how devastating these cuts would be to their communities—even though the cuts could take effect within weeks. So we’re launching an emergency campaign to spread the word. Republicans want to gut programs with enormous public support, and hope no one notices. So it’s up to all of us to spark a public outcry before it’s too late.
The devastating impact these cuts will have on our country—and on your community—is unprecedented. Check out the list below. If we can get it out to a million people, we can start to sound the alarm and stop the GOP. Click here to post on Facebook and Twitter, or simply forward this email.
We’re launching a campaign to find a short, pithy way to sum up why it’s so important to keep the Senate in Democratic hands in 2012, and we want – scratch that – NEED your input.
Write your own slogan, or choose one of ours. We’d love to hear your ideas. Later on, you’ll be able to vote on the best submissions. The winning choice will go on the new DSCC car magnet.
Please sign the petition.
The Senate has yet to hold a vote on the latest budget proposals, but Majority Leader Harry Reid already has a problem on his hands with a group of politically rattled moderates.
Several Democrats facing tough re-election races next year are not saying whether they will support the package of $10.5 billion in cuts backed by Democratic leaders. Key budget votes could happen as early as Tuesday.
After House Republicans passed a bill calling for $61 billion in cuts below current spending, Senate Democrats countered Friday with their own spending proposal that included only $10.5 billion in cuts. Both proposals will get a vote in the Senate this week, although neither is expected to have enough support to pass the upper chamber.
However, the Democratic caucus is not unified behind their party’s proposal – at least not yet. Several moderate Democrats in the Senate – many of whom are up for reelection in 2012 — told POLITICO that they were not sure yet how they would vote.
Today, hundreds of people from Make Wall Street Pay, one member of a larger Main Street Movement that seeks to defend the American middle class, shut down a Bank of America branch in Washington, D.C. over the bank’s tax dodging. In 2009, the bank used loopholes in the tax code to avoid paying a penny of taxes. The protesters, many of them homeowners who had been abused by the bank’s mortgage policies, were outraged that the nation’s biggest bank was paying less taxes than they were in 2009.
Last week, National People’s Action and the Public Accountability Initiative, both of whom are organizing the Make Wall Street Pay protests, put out a report, “Big Bank Tax Drain.” The report lays out the costs that average Americans — who are being asked to sacrifice their education, their health, and their pensions — incur from the egregious tax dodging by the big banks.
In one particularly shocking statistic, the report notes that the six biggest banks in the United States together paid “income tax at an approximate rate of 11″ percent in 2009 and 2010. If they had paid 35 percent, which is the legally mandated rate without loopholes, the federal government would have received “$13 billion in tax revenue” — a sum which would cover the salaries, for two years, of every single one of the 132,000 teachers laid off since the beginning of the economic recession:
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found, ‘corporate tax revenues are now at historical lows as a share of the economy.’
On her show last night, Rachel Maddow had a segment on the political efforts of the right-wing Koch brothers, and there was one data point that I hadn’t heard about before.
First , a little background. In 2007, following a series of scandalous incidents, federal officials created on online consumer-product-safety database, allowing Americans to go online and access free information about the safety records of household products. It passed the House unanimously, sailed through the Senate, and was signed into law by George W. Bush.
Who could possibly oppose this? Why would even the most unhinged Republican reject giving Americans free access to such materials? Or as Rachel asked, “Dear Lord, who is going to object to consumer product safety information being put online?”
The answer, it turns out, is Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) of Kansas, who ran a surprisingly racist campaign, and won last year thanks to generous support from his largest campaign contributors, the Koch brothers and their political action committee. Pompeo also happens to represent the district where Koch Industries is located.
As it turns out, the Kochs don’t care for the consumer product safety database…
In this paper, the Center for American Progress proposes a Social Security system worthy of meeting America’s challenges in the 21st century. Our approach to social insurance rewards work with secure retirement, attacks poverty, and responds in meaningful ways to the fundamental changes in how families work and live today. And our recommendations meet Social Security’s financial needs for the next 75 years. Specifically, our proposal will:
- Protect the basic income guarantees in the program
- Modernize benefits to improve economic security for those who need it most
- Strengthen the system’s financial viability without placing the burden on the backs of working Americans and their families and without drastic changes for all Americans, such as raising the retirement age
Our proposals to modernize Social Security are generally supported by the majority of Americans. What most Americans don’t want is to dismantle Social Security through privatization and drastic across-the-board cuts alongside an increase in the retirement age.
Indeed, in the finest tradition of progressivism, we propose to modernize and strengthen Social Security just as we have done since its enactment.
Download this report (pdf)
Download the fast facts (pdf)
@ezraklein Ezra Klein
I think Alan Simpson’s plan is to make old people look unsympathetic so it’s easier for us to cut their Social Security.
Conclusions: How did it come to pass that in 2008 our nation was forced to choose between two stark and painful alternatives — either risk the collapse of our financial system and economy, or commit trillions of taxpayer dollars to rescue major corporations and our financial markets, as millions of Americans still lost their jobs, their savings, and their homes?
The Commission concluded that this crisis was avoidable. It found widespread failures in financial regulation; dramatic breakdowns in corporate governance; excessive borrowing and risk-taking by households and Wall Street; policy makers who were ill prepared for the crisis; and systemic breaches in accountability and ethics at all levels. Here we present what we found so readers can reach their own conclusions, even as the comprehensive historical record of this crisis continues to be written.
It really is worth repeating: no matter how much the right-wingers may like to claim that the US government is “broke”, it’s not, in any normal sense of the term. Investors, putting real money on the line, are willing to lend funds to the Feds long-term at an inflation-adjusted interest rate of only 1 percent. There is nothing in the markets or the cash flow requiring immediate austerity.
Yes, there is a long-run problem — but this requires long-run solutions. Slashing spending now now now is neither necessary nor helpful.
The average U.S. gas price is up 14 cents a gallon over last week, due in part to unrest in Libya and elsewhere. Gwen Ifill discusses what factors shape oil prices and what the U.S. could do to help control supply and prices with Daniel Weiss of the Center for American Progress and “Oil on the Brain” author Lisa Margonelli.
For years scientists have dreamed of developing a genuine memory booster, a drug that could tune the brain’s biological search engine so that it’s better at retrieving not only recently learned facts, like last night’s dinner menu, but details that seem all but lost in the fog of time, like childhood classmates’ names and antics.
Such a substance would have obvious appeal — for people at risk of dementia, to name just one group — but the search has been very slow going.
Now, researchers in Israel and New York report that they have been able to strengthen memories formed well in the past, using a brain substance involved in anchoring and maintaining the memory in the first place. The finding, reported last week in the journal Science, is one of two recent studies in which neuroscientists used molecules active in memory formation to, in effect, goose the system and improve recall. Both studies were conducted in rats, which provide a very rough model for human memory.
On Friday, conservative billionaire David Koch lamented the deep federal cuts that are expected to impact both the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute—and, by extension, MIT’s new David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. “If the cutbacks happen, it will significantly diminish the level of research that can be carried on at the Koch Institute,” he said, speaking at the opening of the research center. Koch, the executive vice president of Koch Industries, implored the deep-pocketed attendees of the ceremony to fill the gap with personal donations: “I earnestly ask you to do all you can to help maintain the superb research at the Koch Institute at its maximum level.”
But who’s responsible for making these crippling cutbacks? Some of the very Republicans that David Koch and his brother, Charles, have bankrolled in their deep-pocketed—and successful—effort to help the GOP win back the House.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
While everyone is focusing on lawsuits meant to derail the Affordable Care Act and governors who are making loud noises about not implementing it, Georgia officials are quietly moving foward with efforts to comply with the law and expand coverage to the uninsured.
In a concession to his inability to close down the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as he planned to do when he came into office, President Obama has ordered the Pentagon to resume military tribunals for some detainees there.
Since Obama became president, no NEW cases were referred to military tribunals, but some existing cases were proceeding. This order lifts the freeze and allows new cases to be brought.
However, the policy makes clear that the administration continues to believe that some cases should be tried in civilian U.S. courts. This new policy today does not mean that ALL detainees at Gitmo will be tried in military commissions.
In other words, the administration continues to believe that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other high-value detainees should be tried here, not at Gitmo, and it will continue pushing Congress to change a recently enacted law which bars bringing any further detainees to the U.S. for trial. However, if Congress is unwilling to budge, then this new policy opens up an avenue for putting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial before a military commission, if it comes to that.
Lawrence O’Donnell seems indifferent about his new career as a cable anchor. Howard Kurtz talks to him about his unlikely rise, why people hate him—and why O’Reilly can’t get under his skin.
What’s more, “I can’t look up and imagine myself doing this for three years… I’m just filled with dissatisfaction about what we can squeeze into script form. It’s always my fault. I’m a very slow writer.”
You can’t accuse the 59-year-old journeyman of overselling himself. He never made a pitch for a show. And yet here he is, in Keith Olbermann’s old slot, carrying the MSNBC banner at 8 p.m.
Not that there’s much resemblance in their style. Based on his years in the Hill trenches, “I don’t think Republicans are evil,” O’Donnell says. “I think they mostly have a different philosophy of government than I do.” During the “ludicrous” debate about the Bush tax cuts in December, O’Donnell says, “it was impossible for me to get emotional about the tax rate”—because he’s seen the top rate fluctuate so often over the years.
While O’Donnell aims most of his barbs at the right, the self-described socialist gets exasperated with his party as well. On gun control, he says, “Democrats have surrendered, they do nothing, absolutely nothing. It used to be one of the tests of liberalism.”
NPR has its first response out to James O’Keefe’s latest stunt, a hidden camera video featuring a phony Muslim advocacy group discussing a possible donation, and they are not happy with how their executive handled himself in the film.
“We are appalled by the comments made by [NPR foundation president] Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for,” David Folkenflik, NPR media correspondent, posted on Twitter, attributing the comments to the news organization.
NPR added: “The fraudulent org… in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5m check, w no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused.”
Schiller, who had already accepted a new job at the Aspen Institute, was not leaving because of the video, the network said, adding he was “surprised” by its emergence.
NPR’s then-senior vice president for fundraising Ron Schiller is seen and heard on a videotape released this morning telling two men who were posing as members of a fictitious Muslim Action Education Center that:
— “The Tea Party is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian — I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird evangelical kind of move.”
— “Tea Party people” aren’t “just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic, I mean basically they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”
— That NPR “would be better off in the long run without federal funding,” a position in direct conflict with the organization’s official position.
Schiller is also heard laughing when one of the men jokes that NPR should be known as “National Palestinian Radio.”
NPR, as you’ll see below, has called Schiller’s comments appalling.
The video comes from Project Veritas, and is another in political activist James O’Keefe’s undercover exposes (he most prominently took on ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now).
Politico asked House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office for his reaction, and the Speaker’s spokesperson would only say, “Chairman King is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.” That’s it. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) didn’t want to say anything at all.
It’s a reminder that even in some GOP circles, King’s anti-Muslim bigotry is discomforting.
On the other hand, another House Republican leader offered a more enthusiastic endorsement.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress, is squarely behind King as he takes shots from civil libertarians and religious groups over his decision to target one group in his investigation of the causes of terrorism.
“Chairman King works tirelessly to ensure that our homeland is secure, and following the tragic murders of U.S. soldiers in Germany by a radical Islamist, the Fort Hood murders committed by a radical Al Qaeda sympathizer and the recent arrest in Texas of a Saudi student planning jihad, this is certainly a relevant topic for committee consideration,” Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon said.
Hmm. The perpetually-confused House Majority Leader endorsed an investigation into the “radicalization” of Muslim Americans, and in offering a defense, he pointed to exactly one Muslim American, and two foreign Muslims.
By that reasoning, if I offered Cantor a list of white American Christian men, all of whom have committed acts of terror in recent years — Byron Williams, Joe Stack, John Patrick Bedell, Richard Poplawski, Jim David Adkisson — the Majority Leader would certainly consider white American Christian male terrorism a relevant topic for committee consideration, right?
On a related note, the New York Times has a terrific editorial http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/08/opinion/08tue1.html?_r=1today, slamming King for a baseless “show trial.
Senator John Ensign, the two-term Nevada Republican caught up in a sex and ethics inquiry, announced Monday that he would not seek re-election in 2012 to avoid what he predicted would be an “exceptionally ugly” campaign.
Mr. Ensign’s decision opens the door to another high-profile Senate race in Nevada, where Senator Harry Reid, a Democrat who is the majority leader, was able to hold off a strong challenge last November.
Republicans were relieved by Mr. Ensign’s decision, viewing him as badly damaged politically by the disclosures about the affair.
Among Republican contenders, Representative Dean Heller had been readying a campaign even if Mr. Ensign ran again and is considered the current front-runner. Sharron Angle, who lost to Mr. Reid last year, has also been mentioned as a potential candidate for the Ensign seat, though she could also seek Mr. Heller’s House seat. Among Democrats, Representative Shelley Berkley is a likely contender, and other names were being floated Monday.
Federal prosecutors announced last December that they would not pursue criminal charges against Mr. Ensign, a move that surprised some Congressional watchdogs who said the senator’s work to line up lobbying contracts for Mr. Hampton might have violated federal law covering contacts between lawmakers and former staff members.
But the Senate ethics investigation of Mr. Ensign is expected to continue as long as he remains in the Senate. One Senate official said Monday that the committee was moving as quickly as it could to resolve the matter.
When Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) inexplicably rejected federal transportation funding for his state, apparently because he doesn’t like the president, some of the loudest criticism came from Florida Republicans, whose constituents will suffer as a result of the governor’s recklessness.
The heart of the problem was that Scott was deliberately turning down thousands of jobs in a state with high unemployment, and turning his back on millions of dollars of economic development. But part of the political problem is that the governor acted unilaterally — he hadn’t told other GOP officials what he planned to do, didn’t seek their input, and didn’t care what anyone else at any level of government thought.
TEAM BOEHNER plans to focus on gas prices as a trending issue, per an aide: “We’ve ramped up on energy on two fronts: (1) reminding Americans of all the actions the Obama Administration has taken to block more American energy production that would lower gas prices and create jobs; and (2) promoting our ‘all of the above’ energy strategy that lower prices and create jobs by increasing American energy production.”
– Gas prices lead “NBC Nightly News” (Brian Williams: “Sky high: We’re talking about gas prices”) and “World News” (Diane Sawyer: “Hitting home: Families forced to scale back because of another record jump in gas prices”).
– Chicago Tribune, huge lead headline: “High oil costs affect everyone: Motorists aren’t only the ones paying a price … Pocketbooks everywhere are getting hit, ranging from pricier airline tickets to the tough decision by a Chicago restaurateur to cut back on his workers’ hours to pay those higher gas bills.”
–AP Energy Writer Jonathan Fahey: “Gas reached a national average of $3.51 a gallon on Monday. That’s up 14 cents, or 4 percent, over the past week. The week before, the average rose 20 cents, the steepest increase since September 2008. A year ago, the price was $2.75. The average is the highest it’s ever been this time of year, and analysts expect it to climb higher in the coming weeks.”
“Five possible Republican White House hopefuls including Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty courted conservative voters on Monday in Iowa, the state that holds a critical early contest on the road to the party’s 2012 presidential nomination,” Reuters writes of last night’s Faith and Freedom Coalition event in Waukee, IA.
The L.A. Times’ takeaway: “The candidates essentially pledged the same thing, with a few variations in language and emphasis: defending marriage as a covenant between man and woman; curbing abortion; slashing the federal deficit; and shifting power away from Washington in favor of state and local governments.”
“This exhibition tells us a story about an extraordinary moment in globalization,” said Julian Raby, director of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. “It brings to life the tale of Sinbad sailing to China to make his fortune. It shows us that the world in the ninth century was not as fragmented as we assumed. There were two great export powers: the Tang in the east and the Abbasid based in Baghdad.”
[Darwin] may, however, have been wrong about invasive species, at least where amphibians are concerned. Darwin believed that when an invasive species entered a region where a closely related species already existed, it would most likely be unsuccessful because of a competition for resources.
“Instead, we found the opposite pattern with amphibians,” said Reid Tingley, a biologist at the University of Sydney. “When frogs and toads and salamanders invade an area where a similar species exists, they are more, not less, likely to establish themselves.”
He and his colleagues report their findings in the March issue of The American Naturalist.
This is the first study that contradicts Darwin’s invasive species hypothesis using animals.
The Supreme Court, by 8-1, got Westboro Baptist wrong.
A balancing of costs and benefits in the style of European courts would have involved asking questions like: Was the pain caused incidental to the production of speech — was the primary purpose to communicate an idea that just happened to be hurtful to some potential hearers — or was it the very point of the speech to bring the pain about? Was the Snyder family just caught up in a general scatter-shot diatribe against an America too friendly to gays or was the family the target of the diatribe, despite the fact that the young soldier had not himself been gay? If a lower court’s award of monetary damages had been sustained, would the Westboro Church’s message have been silenced or would it still have been able to proclaim its message in a thousand venues, just not in the venue of a private funeral where people already in pain are forced to endure more ?
Robert acknowledges the pain, but he sees it as an inevitable byproduct of the fact that “speech is powerful.” It can, he says, “stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain.” The concession gives away more than the chief justice realizes. If speech can cause joy, tears and pain, what distinguishes it from action? The singling out of expression as a category worthy of special — even categorical — protection makes sense only if the work speech does is different from the work done by physical acts, if for example the effects of speech are limited to changing minds or increasing the store of information or enlarging the number of viewpoints in the marketplace of ideas, and do not include bodily harms.
It’s not fair to say Walker and the right have no activists on their side; it is fair to say Walker and the right are bolstered by meager activism that’s hard to take seriously.
A regular reader in Madison emailed me this message on Sunday, which I’m republishing with permission.
“I received a robocall yesterday evening from (according to the caller) “Joe the Plumber” touting Scott Walker’s budget and urging attendance at a Walker “bus tour” rally here in Madison at 1:00 p.m. today at taxpayer-owned Alliant Energy Center (known as the Dane County Exposition Center until naming rights were sold a decade ago). The call was sponsored by Americans for Prosperity and included a shout-out to standwithwalker.com, which takes you to this location.
Think of the money involved when a robocall campaign doesn’t have to screen its call list to weed out opponents. Just dial sequentially, folks. [...]”
New motto: Wisconsin — open for business, closed to sanity.
Yes, to rally the troops, the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity turned to … Joe the Plumber. What’s more, the long-forgotten prop from 2008 was the featured guest at a pro-Walker “rally” in Madison on Sunday afternoon.
Josh Green joked soon after, “Let’s agree that, like buzzards, Joe the Plumber showing up signals imminent death of whatever he’s supporting.”
Next Saturday, March 12, starting at noon, it’s farmer-labor day at the Wisconsin Capitol Building—with farmers from across the state set to bring a tractorcade of support to the protesters in Madison. Yes. A tractorcade. This just got 10x more awesome.
Couple of other notes:
• Remember how cleanup in the Capitol Building was supposed to cost $7 million. Yeah. That’s been retracted. The State is now estimating $350,000.
• The City of Madison issued a press release on Saturday thanking protesters for another huge protest with no arrests and no citations. That’s right. In 18 days, nobody has done anything worthy of arrest, or even ticketing. Good work, Wisconsin! In the Upper Midwest, even our “thugs” are well above average.
Government shutdown is possibility
One House Democrat says his party will continue its standoff for “as long as it takes” to win concessions from Republicans on bills involving labor unions and public schools — even if it means a government shutdown this summer.
Legislative leaders in both parties said they hope Indiana is not facing that sort of doomsday scenario. But no one seemed to have a plan yet on how to avoid it.
In case you missed it…
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
November 11, 2003, and two boys, Kolya and Maksim Muravyev, are ice fishing along the Lena River, where it’s 13 below zero. All of a sudden, up in the sky, they see what looks like a flamingo. “We thought it was a swan or a stork,” Kolya says, a flamingo being so preposterously improbable.
It was large, and made ever lower circles in the sky. It seemed to be losing energy until finally it fell and lay quietly on the snow. The two boys ran over, called their father, Vasily, who picked up the bird and took it home. It was still alive. “[This is the ] first time I see a bird like this,” he told a TV reporter.
They fed the flamingo fish and buckwheat saturated in water (not normally flamingo food) and pretty soon it was up, active and knocking around the Muravyev’s apartment. Here it is, head in a feeding bucket.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
Comedy is defiance.
It’s a snort of contempt in the face of fear and anxiety.
And it’s the laughter that allows hope to creep back on the inhale.