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Chernynkaya On May - 18 - 2011

You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

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BUDGET


Senate Group on Debt Loses a Key Republican

The already weak prospects for a bipartisan debt-reduction deal this year dimmed further on Tuesday when a Republican member of the Senate’s “Gang of Six,” Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, withdrew after months of private negotiations amid differences over changes to Medicare.

The talks are separate from negotiations begun recently between the White House and Congressional leaders on reducing the debt. But the progress of the Gang of Six was seen as a harbinger of whether the two parties could come together and compromise on spending and taxes.

Two other Republicans, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, for now remain in the group along with three Democrats, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the chairman of the Budget Committee; Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the assistant majority leader; and Mark Warner of Virginia, the organizer along with Mr. Chambliss, of the five-month-old effort. The five met for about four hours on Tuesday, and agreed to meet again on Wednesday.

“The group continues to meet,” said a Chambliss spokeswoman, Bronwyn Lance Chester. […]

Colleagues in recent days had wondered whether he would withdraw after a report from the Senate Ethics Committee on the conduct of former Senator John Ensign of Nevada implicated Mr. Coburn, a friend of Mr. Ensign’s, for helping to arrange controversial payments to the husband of Mr. Ensign’s former mistress. One controversy was enough without inviting more by reaching a bipartisan budget deal, the thinking went.

The six senators have been trying since December to write into legislation the recommendations made that month by a majority of the members of President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal panel. The goal was a bill that would save more than $4 trillion over 10 years, and more in the years beyond that, through a mix of caps on annual domestic and military spending, cost-saving changes to Medicare and Medicaid and an overhaul of the tax code.

That overhaul would end many tax breaks and loopholes and use the higher revenues to lower tax rates for individuals and corporations and to reduce annual deficits. The plan would also overhaul Social Security to make it solvent for 75 years.

The Obama administration was wary of the effort, believing it started from a position too far to the right, but encouraged the show of bipartisanship. Both Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress, their eyes on the 2012 elections, were openly opposed — Democrats because they did not want to make changes to Social Security and Republicans because they did not want to raise taxes.

 

While Slashing Schools Funding, [Tony Soprano, er] Christie Bails Out ‘American Dream’ Mall Boondoggle With $400 Million

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has made a name for himself as a “strict fiscal conservative,” by slashing spending. The governor has championed budget cuts that eliminated hundreds of millons of dollars in education funding and is now taking aim at public workers, wanting to instate cutbacks that could almost quadruple health care costs for public workers.

Yet there appears to be one project that Christie does not mind subsidizing to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. For years, a group of developers have been building the Xanadu Meadowlands complex, a massive retail and entertainment complex…

Late last month, the deal was announced and Xanadu was renamed the American Dream @ Meadowlands. As a part of the deal, Christie will have the state up to $200 million in financing and will also forfeit a similar amount of sales tax revenue:

Though the Christie administration has criticized Xanadu, once calling it a “failed business model,” and the governor said he was uncomfortable getting the state involved in private development, the state would provide $180 million to $200 million in low-interest financing and forfeit a similar amount in future sales-tax revenue. The administration has argued that the project is too big and too far along to let it lie fallow.

“At a time when the governor has taken money from renewable energy and schools, he’s bailing out an ugly mall,” said the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel, who is critical of the deal. Christie has defended the investment, saying the mall will “become what it was envisioned to be: an extraordinary destination. It’s getting a makeover, a new name, a new image…and we’ll make sure the sales tax revenue comes back to make this a successful project, get our investment back with responsible partners that we can trust.”

Yet even if Christie does think the boondoggle project — which has been in endlessly in construction since 2003 — will actually pay off in the end, one has to wonder why he feels like the mall is a valuable investment for the state’s taxpayers, but not schools, hard-working middle class public employees, or women’s health or the Hudson Tunnel.

 

Social Security Benefits: They’re Important!

[F]or recipients age 65 and up on, Social Security is about two-thirds of their income and that share grows with age—for the old-elderly, it’s closer to 70% of their income.  Other data show that for a third of those over 65, Social Security accounts for at least 90% of their income.

 

ECONOMY


Senate Blocks Bill Repealing $2B In Oil Tax Breaks

The Senate blocked a bill Tuesday that would repeal about $2 billion a year in tax breaks for the five biggest oil companies, a Democratic response to $4-a-gallon gasoline that might fare better when Congress and the White House negotiate a deal later this year to increase the government’s ability to borrow.

The bill was defeated on a procedural vote. But Democrats hope to build their case to include the measure in a deficit-reduction package being negotiated by key lawmakers and the Obama administration. Lawmakers from both parties are demanding deficit reduction as part of deal to increase the government’s ability to borrow and avoid an unprecedented default on U.S. Treasury bonds.

“This bill says that even the most rich and powerful among us must do their fair share to help us reduce the deficit,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the bill’s sponsor. “Their high-priced lobbyists cannot stop us from doing what is fair and what is right.”[…]

The vote was 52-48 in favor of the measure, short of the 60 votes needed to advance it. Three Democrats — Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Begich of Alaska — joined with nearly all Republicans in opposing the measure. Two Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, voted for it. […]

Five Democratic senators, led by Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill, asked the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday to investigate “potential price fixing of gasoline by U.S. refiners.” The senators said U.S refineries have cut back production even as gas prices rose, increasing their profit margins. […]

Obama has called for eliminating tax breaks for all oil and gas companies every year since he took office in 2009, a proposal that would raise an estimated $44 billion over the next decade. Lawmakers, including Democrats from oil-producing states, complained that Obama’s proposal would raise taxes on many small and medium-sized businesses involved in oil production.

The Menendez bill would target only the five largest oil companies, raising about $21 billion over the same period. The White House issued a statement supporting the tax bill Tuesday, calling the tax breaks “wasteful subsidies.”

 

GOP Congressman Suggests Staving Off Default By Selling Most Of Utah

To address the nation’s deficit as we reach our impending statutory debt limit, conservatives refuse to consider asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share. Instead, many want to place the burden on the backs of Main Street America. Florida Republican congressman Dennis Ross went a step further today, suggesting that the U.S. government could actually sell off part of America:

Dennis Ross, a House Republican and a member of the Tea Party caucus, told Reuters: “I don’t think Treasury has been up front with us. I am not convinced the sky will fall in on August 3.”

Ross added: “I’m not an economist, but I have maintained a household. The federal government owns 70 per cent of Utah, for example. There are federal buildings. If you need cash, let’s start liquidating.”

Among other novel approaches offered by conservatives to address the deficit: Selling off all the gold at Fort Knox.

 

Federal workers respond to targeting pensions to pay debt

“I just couldn’t justify sacrificing so much income from year to year if the retirement package were to be slashed or significantly altered.  Especially for those of us in the Foreign Service, who as part of the career in effect embark upon a one-income life as our spouses cannot typically work in the countries in which we’re posted overseas, the prospect of a reasonable pension is a key recruiting and retention element.” – State Department employee

MORE>>>

 

Potatoes and the Constitution

This is why one should never take conservatives seriously when they claim to favor free enterprise. They don’t. What they generally favor is pro-business policies, which are very decidedly not the same thing. It’s entirely understandable that banks, colleges, healthcare providers, and potato growers want to keep all the taxpayer dollars that happen to flow their way, but it has nothing at all to do with free enterprise. Supporting these policies likewise has nothing to do with free enterprise. It has to do with currying favor with existing rent seekers and campaign contributors.

 

The Correct Diagnosis

Jared Bernstein:

If we’re going to meet the fiscal challenges we face, we’ve got to accurately diagnose the problem. The much-circulated CBPP analysis sorting out the factors behind the increase in the deficits provides just this diagnosis and does so in one friendly graph (see figure).

Now, the plot thickens.  The conservative Heritage Foundation went after the analysis claiming that we cherry-picked the Bush tax cuts, the wars, and the recession as the main factors explaining the increase in deficits over the next decade when we could just as easily have picked Social Security or Medicare.

But as Paul’s rebuttal makes clear, before Bush cuts, etc. took place, non-partisan budget analysts were predicting surpluses based on spending and revenues including, of course, the entitlements.

“Heritage charges we arbitrarily picked certain elements of the budget to blame for the deficits, saying one could also single out Social Security and Medicare to explain the entire deficit.  Yes, the costs of Social Security and Medicare will rise over the next decade as more baby boomers retire and health care costs continue to rise.  But Heritage misses the key point: Analysts knew this would happen back in 2001; their forecasts of large surpluses over the following two decades took those increases into account.”

It’s Diagnosis 101: if something changes—in this case, predictions of surpluses to deficits—don’t look for the ongoing stuff you already knew about.  Look for something new to the system, in this case, the cuts, the wars, etc.

 

ENERGY


Reactor Vents That Failed in Japan Are Used in U.S.

Emergency vents that American officials have said would prevent devastating hydrogen explosions at nuclear plants in the United States were put to the test in Japan — and failed to work, according to experts and officials with the company that operates the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The failure of the vents calls into question the safety of similar nuclear power plants in the United States and Japan. After the venting failed at the Fukushima plant, the hydrogen gas fueled explosions that spewed radioactive materials into the atmosphere, reaching levels about 10 percent of estimated emissions at Chernobyl, according to Japan’s nuclear regulatory agency.

Venting was critical to relieving pressure that was building up inside several reactors after the March 11 tsunami knocked out the plant’s crucial cooling systems. Without flowing water to cool the reactors’ cores, they had begun to dangerously overheat.

American officials had said early on that reactors in the United States would be safe from such disasters because they were equipped with new, stronger venting systems. But Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, now says that Fukushima Daiichi had installed the same vents years ago.

 

ENVIRONMENT


Climate study gets pulled after charges of plagiarism

USA Today:

Evidence of plagiarism and complaints about the peer-review process have led a statistics journal to retract a federally funded study that condemned scientific support for global warming.

The study, which appeared in 2008 in the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis, was headed by statistician Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Its analysis was an outgrowth of a controversial congressional report that Wegman headed in 2006. The “Wegman Report” suggested climate scientists colluded in their studies and questioned whether global warming was real. The report has since become a touchstone among climate change naysayers.

The journal publisher’s legal team “has decided to retract the study,” said CSDA journal editor Stanley Azen of the University of Southern California, following complaints of plagiarism. A November review by three plagiarism experts of the 2006 congressional report for USA TODAY also concluded that portions contained text from Wikipedia and textbooks. The journal study, co-authored by Wegman student Yasmin Said, detailed part of the congressional report’s analysis.

“Neither Dr. Wegman nor Dr. Said has ever engaged in plagiarism,” says their attorney, Milton Johns, by e-mail. In a March 16 e-mail to the journal, Wegman blamed a student who “had basically copied and pasted” from others’ work into the 2006 congressional report, and said the text was lifted without acknowledgment and used in the journal study. “We would never knowingly publish plagiarized material” wrote Wegman, a former CSDA journal editor.

Plagiarism can result in research sanctions from federal funding authorities, says federal Office of Research Integrity’s John Dahlberg. He would not say whether ORI was investigating the researchers.

The congressional report, requested by global warming skeptic Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and the study concluded that climate scientists favorably publish one another’s work because of too-close collaboration. They suggested this led to the consensus that the Earth is warming.

A 2009 National Academy of Sciences report found that climate studies show average global temperatures have increased 1.4 degrees in the past century, for example.

The study concluded that top scientists shouldn’t collaborate. Instead, studies where a “principal author tends to co-author papers with younger colleagues who were his students” would produce less-biased results. Barton reiterated his support for the report last fall.

Computer scientist Ted Kirkpatrick of Canada’s Simon Fraser University, filed a complaint with the journal after reading the climate science website Deep Climate, which first noted plagiarism in the Wegman Report in 2009. “There is something beyond ironic about a study of the conduct of science having ethics problems,” Kirkpatrick says.

Azen says the study seemed novel and important at a time when social networking studies were “hot.” Johns says his clients “stand by their work” despite the retraction.

George Mason University said in 2010 that it was investigating the charges of plagiarism. University spokesman Dan Walsch says the study retraction was a “personnel matter” and declined to comment.

 

JUSTICE


Investigation uncovers federal probe into Ohio charter school tax dollars spent overseas

An exclusive 5 On Your Side investigation has uncovered a money trail of Ohio tax dollars leading overseas that  paid for illegal immigration fees and expenses associated with charter schools across the state.

Our investigation also reveals that the U.S. Department of Labor is investigating one charter school located in Cleveland for its use of so-called “H1-B visas” issued by the U.S. government for “highly trained” employees to work in the United States.

An extensive review of financial audits uncovered that in one case, the cash was finding its way to Istanbul, Turkey, where nearly $600,000 is winding up paying for monthly rent for a charter school back in Dayton.

In another case, thousands of tax dollars were paid for immigration and legal fees that auditors found were illegal.

In some instances, auditors found cash went to individuals who were never employed at any of the schools.

The use of Ohio school tax dollars being spent overseas is raising concerns among leaders of an Ohio teachers union.

“When we know that Ohians need jobs, why would my taxpayer dollars be paying for foreign nationals, said Sue Taylor of the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

 

Justice Department to review Senate evidence on Ensign

The Department of Justice plans to review evidence gathered by the U.S. Senate on former Sen. John Ensign of Nevada, accused in a series of wrongdoings growing from an extramarital affair, an official said Tuesday. […]

Fresh information could lead the department to revisit the Ensign case. The department’s team of public corruption lawyers was working on a probe at the same time the Senate was conducting its own 22-month investigation of Ensign. […]

Some private attorneys have speculated Justice investigators may not have had access to key witnesses who were available to the Senate. Others have said the public integrity branch may have become overly cautious in pursuing high-ranking political targets.

Boxer and Isakson also sent evidence and a referral letter to the Federal Election Commission, which had dismissed a complaint against Ensign last fall related to a $96,000 check his parents gave to the Hampton family in April 2008.

 

Gov. Scott Expected to Sign Florida Voting Bill Imminently

See here. If he does, review of this law will be a major test of the Obama administration’s Department of Justice, which must preclear the law under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

 

MEDIA

 

Fox Launches Misleading Attack On Postal Service

 

Wikipedia And The Death Of The Expert

It’s been over five years since the landmark study in Nature that showed “few differences in accuracy” between Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica. Though the honchos at Britannica threw a big hissy at the surprising results of that study, Nature stood by its methods and results, and a number of subsequent studies have confirmed its findings; so far as general accuracy of content is concerned, Wikipedia is comparable to conventionally compiled encyclopedias, including Britannica.

There were a few dust-ups in the wake of the Nature affair, notably Middlebury College history department’s banning of Wikipedia citations in student papers in 2007. The resulting debate turned out to be quite helpful as a number of librarians finally popped out of the woodwork to say hey, now wait one minute, no undergraduate paper should be citing any encyclopedia whatsoever, which, doy, and it ought to have been pointed out a lot sooner.

By 2009 the complaints had more or less faded away, and nowadays what you have is college librarians writing blog posts in which they continue to reiterate the blindingly obvious: “Wikipedia is an excellent tool for leading you to more information. It is a step along the way, and it is extremely valuable.”

Wikipedia’s Rough Riders
How come Wikipedia hasn’t turned into a giant glob of graffiti? It certainly would have by now, were it not for the multitude of volunteer sheriffs of the information highway who ride around patrolling the thing day and night.

There is a bogglingly complex and well-staffed system for dealing with errors and disputes on Wikipedia. There are special tools provided to volunteers for preventing vandalism, decreasing administrative workload and so on: rollbacker, autopatroller and the like. Then there are nearly two thousand administrators, who are empowered to “protect, delete and restore pages, move pages over redirects, hide and delete page revisions, and block other editors.”

Higher up the tree, there is MedCom, a committee of mediators, and then there are the arbitrators (just 16 of them, at this time) who handle more serious beefs. The bar for arbitrators is high. Potential candidates are limited to those who have made their bones by contributing many hundreds of hours of work. A look at the Wikipedia page detailing current requests for arbitration gives an idea of the kinds of disputes resolved by arbitrators and the methods through which they’re settled.

At the top of this loosely organized but large and passionate governing force is the Wikimedia Board of Trustees, currently a group of ten that includes Jimmy Wales, “Chairman Emeritus.” Three seats, including that of the current Chairman, Ting Chen, are held by community members—that is to say, interested individuals of no particular expertise outside their own deep and long-standing volunteer involvement, elected by “active members” of the Wikimedia community (an “active member” is someone who has made a certain number of edits to articles within a certain timeframe).

Other, parallel systems of control at Wikipedia have grown more robust as well, such as the informally organized “projects” like WikiProject: Medicine, in which anyone interested can help improve the quality of articles relating to medicine.

In short, there is a byzantine array of forces working for accuracy and against edit-warring, sock-puppetry and the like on Wikipedia. (Ira Matetsky, a Wikipedia arbitrator known on the site as Newyorkbrad, posted a long and fascinating account of Wikipedia’s administrative processes at The Volokh Conspiracy in May 2009, if you’re interested in more detail.)

It’s not perfect, of course, but neither is any other human-derived resource, including, as if it were necessary to say so, printed encyclopedias or books. It bears mentioning that if Wikipedia is a valuable resource, that is because a lot of people—untold thousands, in fact—are busting tail to make it that way.

MORE>>>

 

“Getting Wise to Breitbart’s Lies”: Missouri Professors Survive Right-Wing Smear Campaign by Andrew Breitbart

Democracy Now:

Two Missouri labor professors have been vindicated after a right-wing smear campaign almost cost them their jobs. Last month, the website BigGovernment.com—run by right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart—posted footage of a labor relations class taught by University of Missouri professors Judy Ancel and Don Giljum. In the video, the professors appeared to make a number of statements backing the use of violence in the struggle for labor rights. But it turned out the video was edited in a way to distort their words—similar to recent video campaigns against ACORN, Planned Parenthood, NPR and former FDA official, Shirley Sherrod. “I was just appalled, because I knew it was me speaking, but it wasn’t saying what I had said in class,” said Judy Ancel, director of the Institute for Labor Studies, University of Missouri-Kansas City. [includes rush transcript]

 

Chart of the Day: Unemployment Falls Off the Radar

[M]entions of the deficit are way up in the country’s five biggest newspapers. The explanation is pretty simple: “The broadening gap demonstrates just how effective conservatives have been at changing the narrative of economic policy from one dominated by talk of fiscal stimulus to one now in lockstep with notions of fiscal austerity.”

This is neither surprising nor, in a sense, unwarranted. Republicans won a landslide election last November and several deficit commissions finally presented their plans to the public in December. What is unwarranted, however, is the yellow line in the chart, the one that shows mentions of unemployment: it’s down to about 50, which means about two mentions per week in each newspaper.

Got that? In each of our five biggest newspapers, in the entire newspaper, there are now two mentions of unemployment per week. So that’s that. Nobody cares anymore. Politicians don’t talk about unemployment and the press doesn’t report about it. If you’re out of work — and 9% of the country still is — you’re on your own.

 

MILITARY

 

Adam Serwer wraps up the latest desperate flailing of the Bush torture dead enders.

Yesterday’s AEI [American Enterprise Institute] panel consisting mostly of former Bush administration officials supportive of torture provided an opportunity for torture defenders  to reinforce their unsubstantiated claims about so-called enhanced interrogation playing a large role in locating Osama bin Laden. Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen tried to have it both ways, arguing that waterboarding wasn’t torture but that coercion was necessary to get hardened detainees to talk. To illustrate his point, he claimed that alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed “mocked his CIA interrogators during his March 2003 waterboarding sessions by using his fingers to tick off the number of seconds he would be subjected to near drowning.

“He was communicating to his interrogators that he was on to them,” Marc Thiessen said during a panel discussion on what role harsh interrogation tactics might have played in developing the intelligence that led to Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Thiessen means this anecdote to prove that waterboarding doesn’t rise to the level of torture. In fact it really calls into question its supposed effectiveness — if KSM was so resistant to the technique, what exactly, was the point of waterboarding him in the first place? Waterboarding can’t both be necessary to crack hardened terrorists and so easy to resist that KSM mocked his interrogators at the same time. The logic of this anecdote is that the U.S. should be adopting more brutal methods of interrogation, because the ones Thiessen spends so much time defending aren’t harsh enough to force cooperation.

As CIA Director Leon Panetta implied in the letter posted by Greg Sargent yesterday, KSM lied about the importance of the courier who eventually led intelligence analysts to bin Laden’s location, saying that “[t]hese attempts to falsify the facilitator/courier’s role were alerting.” So Again, Thiessen would have us believe both that “waterboarding is not torture” and that “torture is necessary,” even though in this case, it resulted in the target both refusing to disclose the relevant information and mocking his interrogators. It’s not as though KSM had to be tortured into lying and piquing interrogators interest in the courier.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, on the other hand, argued that KSM gave up the nickname of the courier that led to bin Laden. Except as Ben Armbruster points out, Panetta said that didn’t happen — that officials initially learned the courier’s name from a detainee not in CIA custody and that when asked about him, KSM downplayed his importance. This, again, is supposed to be evidence that torture was helpful in finding bin Laden.

What happened here was simple — torture defenders assumed that torture played a large role in catching bin Laden. It was a way for them to give Bush credit for finding him without simply saying so. They initially overestimated the role of torture in producing the relevant information, betting that subsequent disclosures would prove them right. What’s happened so far is that the evidence has weighed almost entirely in the opposite direction — that torture not only didn’t work but, as Marcy Wheeler notes, that it may have been actively counterproductive in misleading analysts about the level of bin Laden’s continued leadership of al-Qaeda. The more we learn about how bin Laden was actually caught, the less the pro-torture narrative makes any sense.

 

Fourth Nuclear Reactor at Pakistan’s Khushab Site

Photos obtained by NEWSWEEK reveal a more aggressive buildup than previously known.

Even in the best of times, Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons program warrants alarm. But these are perilous days. At a moment of unprecedented misgiving between Washington and Islamabad, new evidence suggests that Pakistan’s nuclear program is barreling ahead at a furious clip.

According to new commercial-satellite imagery obtained exclusively by NEWSWEEK, Pakistan is aggressively accelerating construction at the Khushab nuclear site, about 140 miles south of Islamabad. The images, analysts say, prove Pakistan will soon have a fourth operational reactor, greatly expanding plutonium production for its nuclear-weapons program.

“The buildup is remarkable,” says Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security. “And that nobody in the U.S. or in the Pakistani government says anything about this—especially in this day and age—is perplexing.”

MORE>>>


Sixth U.S. soldier implicated in murder of Afghans

Military prosecutors on Tuesday charged a sixth U.S. soldier with direct involvement in the murder of unarmed Afghan civilians, implicating a sergeant who was referred earlier for court-martial on lesser offenses.

It marked the first time since the spring of 2010 that the Army has formally brought new charges in an investigation that already ranks as the most serious prosecution of alleged U.S. military atrocities during 10 years of war in Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant David Bram, 27, was newly charged with a single count each of “solicitation to commit premeditated murder,” of “failure to report crimes including murder,” and of “planting evidence near the body of an Afghan national.”[…]

Five other members of the infantry unit formerly called the 5th Stryker Brigade have been charged with premeditated murder in connection with three Afghan civilian slayings investigators say were staged to look like legitimate combat casualties.

One of those soldiers, Specialist Jeremy Morlock, was sentenced in March to 24 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, agreed to testify against his co-defendants and apologized in court, saying, “I lost my moral compass.”

Seven others, including Bram, were charged with lesser offenses.

The case was brought into grim relief in March when several photos related to the killings were published, first by Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine and then by Rolling Stone.

In two of those images, Morlock and another soldier, Andrew Holmes, were shown separately crouched over the bloodied body of a 15-year-old Afghan villager, holding his head up for the camera by the hair, just after he had been killed.

 

POLITICS


Corporations could be in charge of voter outreach and databases

The Republican National Committee is considering a proposal to hand over partial control of its most valuable asset – its voter file – to a newly formed private entity that would enhance it by using unregulated money from an increasingly influential network of independent groups allied with the GOP.

The RNC’s willingness to essentially contract out management of its voter information reflects the plight of a committee grappling with a huge debt left over by from the chairmanship of Michael Steele, as well as a campaign finance landscape increasingly dominated by independent groups.[…]

While critics of the plan worry that it could quicken the RNC’s slide into irrelevance and empower (and enrich) outside operatives, supporters cast it as a means to collect more sophisticated information about likely Republican voters by taking advantage of the money flowing into new, mega-donor-funded independent groups, such American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (Crossroads GPS, for short), groups connected to GOP operatives Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and Mike Duncan.

And they point out that a number of companies and non-profits, including one funded by the billionaire conservative brothers Charles and David Koch, are working to build rival lists that could leave the RNC in a diminished position if it doesn’t strike a deal now, while it still has leverage.

Read more:


Filibuster To Protect Big Oil Welfare Fueled By Oil Money

Tonight, Republicans filibustered the majority’s attempt to repeal $21 billion in subsidies for the big five oil companies — the same companies that made over $30 billion in profits in just the first three months of 2011. While three out of four Americans believe Exxon Mobil and the other oil majors should pay their fair share, instead of receiving taxpayer welfare, the oil-friendly Senate split 52 to 48 to end the subsidies. Though the majority of the Senate voted to repeal these oil tax breaks, the procedural motion required a 60 vote threshold. An analysis of campaign contribution records shows the gusher of dirty cash that fueled the filibuster:

A Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis finds that the 48 senators who sided with Big Oil received over $21 million in career oil contributions, while 52 senators who sided with the American people received only $5.4 million in contributions. Each senator who voted for Big Oil received on average more than four times as much oil cash as those who voted to end the subsidies.

While eight Republican senators voted for a bill that included a repeal of tax breaks for big oil in 2007, only Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine voted with the Democrats in supporting ending taxpayer handouts to big oil tonight. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Ben Nelson (D-NE) joined the Republicans to protect the oil companies’ corporate welfare.

 

Senate Dems Immediately Produce Video:

“Leading Republicans Agree… Oil Companies Don’t Need Taxpayer Handouts”


Facing Angry And Booing Constituents, GOP Rep. Herrera Beutler Turns Against Oil Subsidies

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) came face to face with this growing movement at a town hall in Vancouver, Washington last night. Dozens of protesters encamped outside the meeting, waving signs like “Save Medicare: Tax the Rich.” When she tried to defend her vote on the GOP budget that would effectively privatize Medicare, “a chorus of boos and catcalls and shouts of ‘liar’ erupted in the auditorium.” The congresswoman was repeatedly called out by what the local press called a “rough crowd.”

Yet at one point — perhaps understanding that her constituents were already upset with her enough — she did endorse a position that put her on the opposite side of most of her House GOP colleagues. She told the audience that she favored ending subsidies to oil companies like Exxon and BP:

Herrera Beutler did not directly address why she has supported making the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. But she said she does favor taking a hard look at military spending and supports ending subsidies for big corporations like Exxon and BP.

Of course, Beutler voted, along with the rest of the House GOP caucus, to protect billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for Big Oil more than once in the past few months.

Her flip-flop may be evidence that American anger at Big Oil is forcing hesitant conservatives to switch sides. A number of GOP congressmen have told constituents in recent days that they now oppose the subsidies. These include Reps. Joe Walsh (IL), Tom McClintock (CA), and Dan Webster (FL).

 

6 State Battlegrounds in the Right-Wing War Against Teachers, Firefighters, Caregivers and the Entire Middle Class

Our nation has devolved into a new and nasty civil war, with moneyed elites now charging into legislatures and courts to establish themselves as a de facto plutocracy.

 

La. House votes to mandate drug tests for welfare

Several lawmakers said a similar bill passed in Michigan was overturned by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which does not control courts in Louisiana.

Others argued the bill unfairly assumed that people receiving welfare take drugs. Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, said former Metairie Rep. and longtime Klu Klux Klan leader David Duke introduced a similar bill.


I Support President Obama On This Executive Order

When President Obama released his draft executive order that would require businesses that contract with the federal government to disclose their political contributions, they shrieked and panicked. These big business interests are hoppin’ mad that a Democratic President would make an executive order like this, and they’ve got their corporate lackeys in Congress doing their dirty work:

In a letter sent Monday to Obama, groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Retail Federation, the National Association of Manufacturers and others said that they oppose the draft order since it would inject politics into the federal contracting process. In addition, they said the draft order would chill their free speech rights.

… The letter comes as the draft order has fallen under heavy criticism last week from several Republicans as well as a few Democrats. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Small Business Committee, held a joint hearing last week that blasted the administration on the draft order. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) also told reporters he opposed the draft order while Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) signed onto a letter with senators expressing concerns about it.

President Obama is facing tremendous pressure from these business groups and from some people in his own party in Congress for this draft executive order. We need to support him on this issue given this is the only way we can get around a gridlocked Congress to hold these corporations accountable in how they influence our elections. Can you help out by demonstrating your support by going to the White House Facebook page here?

The White House Facebook Page

Tell President Obama that you support his draft executive order for federal contractors to disclose their political contributions.

E-Mail The White House

Call The White House

Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461

TTY/TDD
Comments: 202-456-6213

The White House needs to hear that we’ve got their back on this draft executive order, and that we thank them for taking the lead on this issue. Let them know that you look forward to this draft executive order being published, so we can know how our taxpayer money is being used by these companies that contract with our government to subvert our elections.


Ohio House Passes Bill Allowing Guns Into Bars, Bar Owners Reply ‘Guns And Alcohol Don’t Mix’

 

DCCC invokes Gingrich criticism of Ryan budget to attack GOPers

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has enlisted a new ally in its criticism of the House GOP budget plan: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The DCCC sent out an email Tuesday to constituents in Republican districts chastising their congressmen for backing a budget plan it says even Gingrich (R-Ga.) won’t support. He referred to it over the weekend as “radical” and an effort in “right-wing social engineering.”

According to the DCCC, the email went out in 50 Republican districts — including that of Rep. Paul Gosar (Ariz.).

“Gingrich, who famously said Medicare should ‘wither on the vine,’ believes Gosar’s plan is ‘right-wing social engineering.’ Gosar voted for a controversial budget plan to end Medicare and raise health care costs for seniors instead of ending taxpayer giveaways for Big Oil making record profits or tax breaks for the ultra rich,” the message reads. “Gosar’s plan means that people between the ages of 44 and 55 who paid into Medicare for more than 25 years would need an additional $182,00 [sic] in retirement savings to pay for their health care.”

“It’s clear Representative Paul Gosar’s vote to end Medicare is too extreme when even Newt Gingrich think it’s radical,” DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson said in the email.

On Sunday during an interview on “Meet the Press,” Gingrich referred to Ryan’s plan, which replaces Medicare with a type of voucher system for Americans under 55, as “radical.”

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” Gingrich said. “I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.”

 

Take Rick Perry seriously. Ignore Chris Christie and Paul Ryan.

I’d take the prospect of a Perry candidacy very seriously. Christie and Ryan — not so much. […]

This process has in fact been going on since fall 2008, and any candidate who began now from a standing start would be at a tremendous disadvantage. In my view, both Christie and Ryan would be in that category; I find it very hard to believe they could secure the resources (money, endorsements, staff, and others) need to seriously contest the race. Candidates already half-in (Sarah Palin and Mitch Daniels) are in better shape, as are those who clearly are in a position to jump in running. The only two who qualify on that score are Jeb Bush and Rick Perry.

Why Perry? As Texas governor, he would have rapid access to the kind of money it takes to compete seriously. And while there’s no guarantee that he would inherit the Bush network in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early states, as well as the national Republican network, he would almost certainly have a bit more of a head start than any other late entrant.

It’s amazing how quickly someone who looks good from afar can wilt once he or she becomes an active presidential candidate. I suspect that would apply to Ryan and Christie, if they joined the field. The same logic, of course, works against Daniels and Perry, both of them, and especially Perry, are better positioned to compete seriously for the nomination. Indeed, Nate Silver tweeted this afternoon that if he ran, Perry might be the favorite. At the very least I think he’d be a solid contender.

 

Scott Walker is radically transforming Wisconsin government and consolidating his power on many other fronts, too.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker is steadily remaking the Wisconsin government, implementing conservative ideals and quietly consolidating power under the office of the governor. His actions range from the much-publicized move to strip collective bargaining rights from powerful public unions to the less-noticed efforts to add more political appointees at state agencies and take away responsibilities from Wisconsin’s democratically elected secretary of state. […]

TURNING THE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES INTO A ‘CHARTER AGENCY’

The Walker administration is developing a proposal that would turn the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) into the state’s first “charter agency,” a designation that would make it a self-contained entity able to operate outside many of the bureaucratic guidelines other agencies must follow.

[…]

But what worries some environmentalists is how the agency will now view its central goals. According to a draft Walker administration document with “talking points” about the plan, DNR will be committed to “increasing customer outreach and assistance” and reducing “permit times for major air and water permits.” […]

STRIPPING POWER FROM THE SECRETARY OF STATE

The Joint Finance Committee is expected to vote Thursday on a proposal to scale back the responsibilities of the Wisconsin Secretary of State, moving its notary public and trademark duties to the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). The Department of Administration, which is part of the governor’s office, would take on other duties. […]

GIVING THE GOVERNOR POWER TO CHOOSE THE VETERANS AFFAIRS SECRETARY

The bill would also change the number and tenure of board members.

Walker has not directly taken a position on the legislation, however, he was critical of the board’s membership during his campaign.

Veterans groups are divided on the proposal. The American Legion has said allowing the governor to choose the secretary would politicize the agency, whereas the Veterans of Foreign Wars has said it would “elevate this important role to a cabinet level position equal to all other agency heads where it rightfully belongs.”

But what most upsets outgoing Veterans Affairs Board member David Boetcher, who was appointed by former Democratic governor Jim Doyle, is this provision in the proposal: “Under current law, all of the members must be veterans, and at least two of the members must be Vietnam War veterans. Under the bill, all of the board members must have served on active duty, but need not have served in any particular war or conflict.”

According to Boetcher, that would bar National Guard and Reserve members from serving. […]

CONSOLIDATING MEDICAID DECISIONS

Tucked into the budget repair bill Republicans initially proposed earlier this year was a provision granting the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) sweeping authority to make changes to the state’s Medicaid program — which covers one in five residents — with virtually no public scrutiny. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the Walker administration can use “emergency” powers to allow DHS to restrict eligibility, raise premiums and change reimbursements — all moves traditionally controlled by the legislature.

Part of the reason that advocates were so alarmed at the legislation was that the man who heads DHS is Dennis Smith, someone who has advocated for states to leave the Medicaid program. […]

“That’s what you have here,” said Peacock. “If President Obama proposed that, there would be rallies all over the country, and we would be marching out there arm in arm with Tea Party members, protesting against it.”

The legislation that was eventually signed into law eliminated the “emergency” powers but still gave the DHS administrator broad power to write regulations through the regular rule-making process.

 

Gingrich’s Expensive Tastes

Politico digs through financial disclosure filings and finds that Newt Gingrich carried as much as $500,000 in debt to Tiffany’s, the premier jewelry company.

“Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress for two decades, retired in 1999. But his wife, Callista Gingrich, was employed by the House Agriculture Committee until 2007, according to public records. She listed a ‘revolving charge account’ at Tiffany and Company in the liability section of her personal financial disclosure form for two consecutive years and indicated that it was her spouse’s debt. The liability was reported in the range of $250,001 to $500,000.”

 

ALEC: The Voice of Corporate Special Interests In State Legislatures

Table of Contents

Introduction

When state legislators across the nation introduce similar or identical bills designed to boost corporate power and profits, reduce workers rights, limit corporate accountability for pollution, or restrict voting by minorities, odds are good that the legislation was not written by a state lawmaker but by corporate lobbyists working through the American Legislative Exchange Council.  ALEC is a one-stop shop for corporations looking to identify friendly state legislators and work with them to get special-interest legislation introduced. It’s win-win for corporations, their lobbyists, and right-wing legislators. But the big losers are citizens whose rights and interests are sold off to the highest bidder. […]

How Does ALEC Work?

ALEC serves as a means for corporations to advise, lobby and sway legislators. By paying hefty dues and sponsorship fees, corporations are able to participate in ALEC ventures, forums and legislative advocacy work and also underwrite conferences, task forces and meetings with politicians. Corporations use ALEC to formulate, present and promote model legislation to elected officials who are ALEC members and sometimes hold leadership roles in the organization. […]

According to ALEC, in 2009, of the 826 “model bills” that were introduced in state legislatures, 115 of those bills were enacted into law. That number is sure to grow following the major Republican gains in the 2010 elections.

ALEC was influential in crafting and passing a Texas law, dubbed the “Successor Asbestos-Related Liability Fairness Act, that shielded Crown Cork and Seal, a business that in 1966 acquired a company that used asbestos in its products, from lawsuits from the company’s workers. Even though Crown agreed to pay the company’s liabilities, it wanted immunity from paying damages to workers facing asbestos-related diseases. Crown Cork and Seal turned to ALEC to help shape the Texas law, which put an extremely low cap on liability for companies like Crown who acquired companies which committed wrongdoing, known as a “successor immunity” law.” Mark Behrens, an attorney for Shook Hardy, worked as a lobbyist for both ALEC and Crown to encourage allied lawmakers to introduce and pass the bill. The American Association for Justice writes that “this so-called ‘successor immunity’ has all the hallmarks of an ALEC special interest bill. It is plainly designed not with public policy in mind, but rather a specific industry (or in this case, a specific company).” The Texas Supreme Court ultimately found the cap to be an unconstitutional retroactive protection for Crown that inhibited the rights of people to rightfully sue corporations for damages, but similar ALEC-derived laws are still on the books in other states.

In Arizona, an investigative report by NPRfound that ALEC significantly helped one of its clients, the Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), influence the state’s new immigration law. The CCA is a for-profit prison company whose “executives believe immigrant detention is their next big market,” and thought that a law which “could send hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants” to prison would “mean hundreds of millions of dollars in profits to private prison companies responsible for housing them.” As a dues-paying member of ALEC, the CCA was able to write, present and lobby Arizona policymakers for a draconian immigration bill at an ALEC-hosted conference. “Four months later, that model legislation became, almost word for word, Arizona’s immigration law,” and many of the bill’s cosponsors later received significant campaign contributions from the CCA.  ALEC also helped the CCA by pushing “truth in sentencing” laws that restrict parole eligibility for felons, and consequently increase the number of prisoners. […]

Conclusion

Americans are increasingly recognizing and speaking out against the disproportionate power of corporations in shaping public policy and steering politicians, and ALEC is a prime example of how Corporate America is able to buy even more power and clout in government. Rather than serve the public interest, ALEC champions the agenda of corporations which are willing to pay for access to legislators and the opportunity to write their very own legislation.  It helps surrogates and lobbyists for corporations draft and promote bills which gut environmental laws, create a regressive tax system, eliminate workers’ rights, undermine universal and affordable health care, privatize public education, and chip away at voting rights.  It’s no wonder that so many big corporations view ALEC  as a wise investment.  ALEC represents an alarming risk to the credibility of the political process and threatens to greatly diminish the confidence and influence ordinary people have in government.

 

Senators Opposing End of Oil Subsidies Received Five Times More in Big Oil Campaign Cash

U.S. Senators that blocked a vote on legislation to end taxpayer subsidies to oil companies have received five times more in campaign contributions from oil and gas interests than those who voted to begin debate, according to Oil Change International and Public Campaign Action Fund analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The 48 Senators that voted against cloture today on S. 940, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, have received $370,664, on average, in campaign contributions from the employees and political action committees (PACs) of oil and gas companies during their time in Congress, while those who voted to consider the legislation received just $72,145, on average.

Data on each Senator is available at http://dirtyenergymoney.com.

 

Dems pick up state House seat in a GOP-friendly district in New Hampshire, with 58%.

 

Russ Feingold, Potential Senate Candidate, Rips Democrats For ‘Corruption’

 

POLLS

 

With Huckabee Out, No Clear GOP Front-Runner

 

SCOTUS


First Court Challenge to Citizens United v. FEC

The US Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC is facing its first direct challenge in the courts.  A coalition that includes two national business networks and local Montana businesses recently joined the State of Montana in defense of its century-old ban on corporate money in elections.  Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act, which goes back to 1912, is under legal attack following the Supreme Court’s January 2010 decision in Citizens United, which equated corporations with people under the First Amendment and swept away longstanding precedent that had barred corporate expenditures in federal elections.

Led by Free Speech For People, a national campaign to overturn the Citizens United ruling, the coalition filed a friend-of-the-court brief on April 29, 2011, before the Montana Supreme Court in the case of Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. State of Montana.  In October 2010, a state judge hearing the case in Helena, Montana, struck down Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act, applying the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United.  Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has appealed that judge’s opinion to the state’s highest court.

“The 5-4 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,” the coalition’s brief states, “was an extreme extension of an erroneous corporate rights doctrine that has eroded the First Amendment and the Constitution for the past 30 years.”  “A corporate pay-to-play, ‘crony capitalism’ vision of elections,” the brief continues, “is contrary not only to our republican principles of government, but also to American principles of free and fair commerce among free people and the States.”

The coalition’s brief argues that the Montana Supreme Court should uphold Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act, at least until the US Supreme Court decides whether to extend the corporate rights doctrine of Citizens United to the States.

In addition to Free Speech For People, other signatories to the brief include the American Sustainable Business Council, representing a network of more than 70,000 businesses across the country; the American Independent Business Alliance, based in Bozeman, Montana; Mike’s Thriftway, a supermarket business in Chester, Montana; and Home Resource Center, Inc., a non-profit Montana corporation operating a building materials and re-use center in Missoula, Montana.

Jeff Clements, the co-founder and general counsel for Free Speech For People and the author of the coalition’s brief, said in a statement issued on the day of the filing last month: “Corporations are not people.  The Framers understood that.  The First Amendment and the Constitution is for people.  We are proud to stand today with the State of Montana to vindicate the Framers’ intent and to defend our democracy.”

Launched on the day of the Citizens United ruling, Free Speech For People is a national non-partisan campaign challenging the fabrication of corporate rights under the US Constitution and pressing for a constitutional amendment to ensure that people, not corporations, govern in America.

Join us in restoring democracy to the people.


WEDGE ISSUES

 

A Response To Cornell West From The Past (Updated)

Cornell West has been out bashing President Obama, much of it for pettiness such as not getting calls from him during the campaign and not getting a ticket to the inauguration in January of 2009. Chris Hedges at Truthdig has the story that is creating all the buzz(kill). The passage below reads to me a lot like the grumblings during the 2008 primaries that candidate Obama wasn’t black enough. Read this passage and decide for yourself.

“I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men,” West says. “It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation. When he meets an independent black brother, it is frightening. And that’s true for a white brother. When you get a white brother who meets a free, independent black man, they got to be mature to really embrace fully what the brother is saying to them. It’s a tension, given the history. It can be overcome. Obama, coming out of Kansas influence, white, loving grandparents, coming out of Hawaii and Indonesia, when he meets these independent black folk who have a history of slavery, Jim Crow, Jane Crow and so on, he is very apprehensive. He has a certain rootlessness, a deracination. It is understandable.”

As I was reading that passage, it reminded me of this clip that, to me, is one of the all time greatest political clips ever. As an Obama supporter from day 1 and after suffering through some nasty tactics by Hillary and the gang, when Dick Gregory said this at the State of Black Union ’08, it was just amazing. Notice who else is on the panel.

“Dick Gregory apologizes to the first Black President”

 

Cornel West v. Barack Obama

Melissa Harris-Perry:

Professor Cornel West is President Obama’s silenced, disregarded, disrespected moral conscience, according to Chris Hedges’s recent column, “The Obama Deception: Why Cornel West went Ballistic.” In a self-aggrandizing, victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in the discourse of prophetic witness, Professor West offers thin criticism of President Obama and stunning insight into the delicate ego of the self-appointed black leadership class that has been largely supplanted in recent years.

But anyone with a casual knowledge of this rift knows it began during the Democratic primary not after the election. It began, not with a puffed up President, but when Cornel West’s “dear brother” Tavis Smiley threw a public tantrum because Senator Obama refused to attend Smiley’s annual State of Black America. Smiley repeatedly suggested that his forum was the necessary black vetting space for the Democratic nominees. He needed to ask Obama and Clinton tough questions so that black America could get the answers it needed. But black America was doing a fine job making up its own mind in the primaries and didn’t need Smiley’s blessing to determine their own electoral preferences. Indeed, when Smiley got a chance to hold candidate Clinton “accountable” he spent more time fawning over her than probing about her symbolic or substantive policy stances that impacted black communities. Fiercely loyal to his friend, Professor West chose sides and began to undermine candidate Obama is small and large ways. Candidate Obama ceased calling West back because he was in the middle of a fierce campaign and West’s loyalties were, at best, divided. I suspect candidate Obama did not trust his “dear brother” to keep the campaign secrets and strategies. I also suspect he was not inaccurate in his hesitancy. […]

Furthermore, West’s sense of betrayal is clearly more personal than ideological. In Hedges’s article West claims that a true progressive would always put love of the people above concern with the elite and privileged. Then he complains, “I couldn’t get a ticket [to the inauguration] with my mother and my brother. I said this is very strange. We drive into the hotel and the guy who picks up my bags from the hotel has a ticket to the inauguration… We had to watch the thing in the hotel.” Let me get this straight—the tenured, Princeton professor who collects five figures for public lectures was relegated to a hotel television while an anonymous hotel worker got tickets to the inauguration! What kind of crazy, mixed up class politics are these? Wait a minute…

What exactly is so irritating to West about inaugural ticket-gate? It can’t be a claim that the black, progressive intellectual community was unrepresented. Yale’s Elizabeth Alexander was the poet that cold morning. It can’t be that the “common man” was shut out because the Neighborhood Ball was reserved for the ordinary women and and men who worked to make Obama ’08 possible. It must be a simple matter of jealous indignation. While I appreciate the humanness in such a reaction, it hardly counts as a prophetic critique.

Since the inaugural snub, Professor West has made his personal animosity and political criticism of the president his main public talking point. There was that hilariously bad documentary with Tavis Smiley and the rest of the Soul Patrol in 2009. There is the tiresome repetitiveness with which West invokes the name of his erstwhile Harvard nemesis Lawrence Summers as indicative of President Obama’s failed economic vision. And just a few weeks ago there was the eminently watchable screaming match on MSNBC where love-the-peoplc West called Rev. Al Sharpton a “mascot” for the Obama administration. Add to this three year screed the current Hedges article and it looks more like a pissing match than prophesy.

Take for example West’s ad hominem attack on the President’s racial identity.

I think my dear brother Barack Obama has a certain fear of free black men… It’s understandable. As a young brother who grows up in a white context, brilliant African father, he’s always had to fear being a white man with black skin. All he has known culturally is white. He is just as human as I am, but that is his cultural formation.”

This comment is utter hilarity coming from Cornel West who has spent the bulk of his adulthood living in those deeply rooted, culturally rich, historically important black communities of Cambridge, MA and Princeton, NJ. And it is hard to see his claim that Obama is “most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they” as anything other than a classic projection of his own comfortably ensconced life at Harvard and Princeton Universities. Harvard and Princeton are not places that are particularly noted for their liberating history for black men. […]

As tenured professors Cornel West and I are not meaningfully accountable, no matter what our love, commitment, or self-delusions tell us. President Obama, as an elected official, can, in fact, be voted out of his job. We can’t. That is a difference that matters. As West derides the President’s economic policies he remains silent on his friend Tavis Smiley’s relationship with Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, and McDonald’s—all corporations whose invasive and predatory actions in poor and black communities have been the target of progressive organizing for decades. I have never heard him take Tavis Smiley to task for helping convince black Americans to enter into predatory mortgages. I’ve never heard him ask whether Tavis’ decision to publish R. Kelley’s memoirs might be a less than progressive decision. He doesn’t hold Tavis accountable because Tavis is his friend and he is loyal. I respect that, but I also know that if he were in elected office the could not get off so easily. Opposition research would point out the hypocrisy in his public positions in a way that would make him vulnerable come election time. As a media personality and professor he is safely ensconced in a system that can never vote him off the island. I think an honest critique of Obama has to begin by acknowledging his own privileges.

Instead, West seems determined to keep black politics tethered to a patronage model of politics. He tells Hedges:

“Our last hope is to generate a democratic awakening among our fellow citizens. This means raising our voices, very loud and strong, bearing witness, individually and collectively. Tavis [Smiley] and I have talked about ways of civil disobedience, beginning with ways for both of us to get arrested…”

God help us if Cornel West and Tavis Smiley getting arrested is our last chance at a democratic awakening.

I have many criticisms of the Obama administration. I wrote angrily about his choice of Rick Warren to deliver a prayer at the inauguration. I have spoken on television about my disagreement with drone attacks in Pakistan and been critical of the administration’s initial choice to prosecute DADT cases. I worked for more progressive health care reform legislation and supported organizations that resisted the reproductive rights “compromises” in the bill. I’ve been scathing in public remarks and writings about the President’s education policy. […] But I can tell the difference between a substantive criticism and a personal attack. It is clear to me that West’s ego, not the health of American democracy, is the wounded creature in this story.

 

Melissa Harris-Perry on Cornell West IN TWEETS

 

To Be Black, And Also A “Mutt”

Adam Serwer:

Princeton Professor Cornel West thinks that Obama is afraid of free black men: […]

“He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” he says. “He’s got two homes. He has got his family and whatever challenges go on there, and this other home. Larry Summers blows his mind because he’s so smart. He’s got Establishment connections. He’s embracing me. It is this smartness, this truncated brilliance, that titillates and stimulates brother Barack and makes him feel at home. That is very sad for me.

Let’s be clear about where this is coming from — West complains that Obama didn’t give him and his family tickets to the inauguration and was unresponsive to his phone calls. West reveals these details in the midst of a larger critique of the president’s liberal bona fides, but his real problem seems altogether personal.

West speaks in the language of common humanity, but his verbal assumptions undermine the charade. “He feels most comfortable with upper middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart, very savvy and very effective in getting what they want,” West says, as though interracial intimacy, finding oneself “at home” with a “them” were, by definition, a form of self-hatred. My mother faced such accusations, having married my father in the late 1960s. Time has a way of excusing ignorance, but at least insults hurled in the street do not make any pretense to intellectual respectability. West believes what he is saying is profound. It is petty. […]

President Obama has a “fear of free black men,” says the celebrity professor from Princeton by way of Harvard, explaining why the president feels “at home” among people who are not black. This remark made me wonder: Which of these men do you think, is actually free, and which afraid of who he truly is?

 

Obama As A “Third Culture Kid”

You are indeed right regarding Cornel West. He is a an articulate, well-read, pseudo-intellectual who plays the part of the black Yoda well, but is ironically very provincial. His world is literally black and white which limits his analytic powers and makes him ineffective as a true intellectual and impotent as a true force for change. Contrast this with Barack Hussein Obama.

Obama, is what we call, a TCK—A Third Culture Kid. TCK’s grow up as the children of missionaries, or as military brats, or as the children of businessmen. It means that you grew up during your early developmental years in a culture outside of your parents’ home culture.

In our family we are quite familiar with this term since both my wife and I are second generation TCK’s and we are now raising one (Costa Rican/American born and raised in Europe and China). Between us we’ve been to 70 countries and lived on 4 continents. […]

Yet, you notice that Obama seems to deeply understand them better than they seem to understand themselves. He can be Kansan, Chicagoan, Bostonian, and fittingly really enjoys Hawaii. His key speeches including the Philadelphia race speech, his famous 2004 Democratic Convention speech, and his Cairo speech show that propensity to truly get all sides. This also helps to explain why he’s not a closet Muslim terrorist. He is the anti-thesis of Osama Bin Laden with his provincial, dualistic, desire to homogenize the world by creating a Muslim Caliphate. This is the exact opposite of who Obama is at his core. Osama looked for his father figure in the provincial world of 7th Century and 20th Century Arabia. Obama looked to go beyond his father’s provincial, naïve aspirations and became a little bit of everything.

The liberal label doesn’t fit Obama either. As you have pointed out, like Reagan or Thatcher, at his heart he is a pragmatist. Like a true TCK, he doesn’t romanticize any one culture or ideology. He understands that there is good or bad in everything. Yet another reason why he can also be called the anti-Bush who along with Cheney is trapped in a juvenile Manichaeism.

Look closely at Sarah Palin and George W. Bush. They are not just anti-intellectual but they are deeply provincial people that made sure not to expose themselves to much outside of their comfort zone. Sarah bounced from college to college unable to really fit in anywhere but Wasilla. Not even the Governor’s mansion felt like home to her so she left that too. Bush grew up in the upper crust East Coast and found his identity as a simple, “aw’ shucks” Texan who just knows what to do in his gut. He can be detached from the real world when necessary. TCK’s have no choice. They must engage the world.

This is one reason why I do not believe Sarah Palin will ever really run for President: She is deathly afraid of the world. She’s fine with fame and money (and pretending to be relevant assures the cash flow)—but she will always need to hide in the tundra from this complicated world. No surprise that on her recent trip to India, she mainly stayed in the hotel and the mall and got out of there as soon as possible.

I wish people would realize that we have a President that was born in the USA, raised in Asia and multi-cultural Hawaii, and who lived in Harlem, and went to uppity Harvard and then spent a lot of time in African-American ‘hoods. Oh, and he’s driven up and down the rural highways of Illinois hundreds of times. Furthermore, much of his life was spent in obscurity, so he had to live amongst us normal people paying back student loans. Even as a Senator he lived in a run-down apartment in D.C. This is why I never worried about Obama’s lack of experience. All he’s had is experience. Even Bill Clinton, who entered into the political upper-class networks by the time he was at Georgetown, looks provincial and cut-off from real America compared to this. Have we ever had a President who has lived in this many American worlds and cultures and succeeded in all of them?

Cornel West and Sarah Palin have a lot in common. They speak the language of a time gone by and really get very little of what is going on.

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…


Always wondered: Who’s That Guy in the Police Lineup?

Where do officers find people for a lineup?

In jail. The investigating detective typically plucks lineup fodder—known as “fillers,” “dummies,” or “known innocents”—from the in-house lockup. Most states require at least four fillers to be in a lineup. To have a positive identification stand up in court, the suspect can’t be the only person in the lineup who matches any distinctive characteristics that the witness remembers. If an eyewitness recalls that the culprit had John Kerry-style hair, then a detective has to find fillers with Kerry coifs, not just four older white guys.

Sometimes cops can’t find all the fillers they need in jail—there’s a limited supply of inmates, and some are either too dangerous to deal with or just don’t want to cooperate. In such instances, a detective might look for stand-ins in the county or central city jail; he also might pull in other cops, office workers, or sometimes even people on the street. For example, if Manhattan cops find someone on the street with the right look, they will pay him or her $10 to participate in a lineup.

There are two types of police lineups: investigatory and confirmatory. For an investigatory lineup, in which the detective susses out whether he’s got the right man, the stand-ins usually get rounded up in about an hour—it’s difficult to hold a suspect who hasn’t been arrested for much longer. Police might take more care and more time to assemble a confirmatory lineup, in which a witness is called in to verify the identity of someone who’s already been arrested.

Even the most thorough detective often has to settle for fillers who share only the suspect’s broadest characteristics, like race and height. Perhaps that’s why it’s common to find that convictions overturned based on new evidence (such as DNA) rested on live lineup identifications.

Some criminal-justice experts and the U.S. Department of Justice now recommend using digital photo spreads. For one, it’s easier to find fillers with specific features by using thousands of booking photographs. Most American police departments choose six photos and arrange them in two rows of three—what’s called the “six pack.” Canadian police typically use 12 photos in each virtual lineup.

But some jurisdictions, like New York City, still require that a live lineup be used for an eyewitness identification to be admissible in court. A few police departments have tried to improve their lineup methodology by hiring outside consultants to pull fillers rather than detectives, who are often overworked and poorly trained in lineup design.

 

TAKE ACTION

 

From Sen. Al Franken: Take action now!

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Pass HR589 Tier I Unemployment Extension for 99ers

To be delivered to: The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate and President Barack Obama

“The long-term unemployed (99ers) who have exhausted all state and federal benefits need help just to survive – now!”

The long-term unemployed need help to survive now. We need to speak out with one voice to urge the President and Congress not to abandon those who have no income through no fault of their own. Foreclosure, homelessness, hunger, unmet medical needs and even suicide are our reality.

 

US Uncut Brings Its Lesson to a Corporate Tax Dodger

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“A melancholy lesson of advancing years is the realisation that you can’t make old friends” ~ Christopher Hitchens

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

19 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. choicelady says:

    If the Center on Budget& Policy Priorities can show the deficit would be nil WITH Social Security and Medicare, then it logically makes NO sense to say the factors were cherrypicked. The only way you can make the Bush era factors “work” is by eliminating those programs that benefit everyone in favor of those that benefit a very few.

    We as a nation must decide whether undermining capitalism which is based on acceptance of risk in exchange for reward without the benefit of government props is what we admire. Making money the old fashioned way by taking a chance, investing one’s own individual or collective funds, and going it alone seems to have fallen by the way. We scream “socialism” when we help the many (though that is a wrong definition) but never screech about the threat to ‘free enterprise’ when they take billions in handouts to prop up either failing endeavors or ones that are so profitable they don’t need a dime from taxpayers.

    How did we let this get so bad?

  2. agrippa says:

    The fiscal challenge is not from excess spending; it is from revenue shortfall.

    It is from the Bush tax cuts and the recession.

    If you cant to get a grip on the deficit, retore the tax rates that were cut. And, reduce the Defense Dept budget.

  3. agrippa says:

    I hope that West has gotten his fame. I think that he really mised the boat with Obama. Obama is, at thend of the day, a pragmatist. That does not mean that he has no values or principles. It means that he is reality based; going by fact and logic and doing what is realistic. He does not jump up and down and get all dramatic and theatrical. People who believe in principle above all ( speaking the truth to power) are not going to appreciate that sort of thing; nor will it be respected. The RW calling him a “socialist” and the LW calling a him a “corporatist sellout” -- neither surprises me. Comes with the job.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Agrippa, I agree that Obama is pragmatic, but I think that West went way beyond policy disagreement and essentially called the President an “Steppin Fetchit.” He attacked him as not being black enough and that is despicable. I also believe it is about pettiness and plain jealousy. I’d like to ask West to explain exactly how he thinks the president could accomplish all that he wants.

  4. bito says:

    As discussed yesterday in TO/OT- Russ Feingold did not “rip Democrats” he ripped members of congress of both parties for objecting to the EO. TPM deserves a scolding for that headline.

    • Sabreen60 says:

      I like Russ, but he’s not perfect either as you well know. I just read something in “The Bridge” of which I was not aware. Senator Obama did not vote to confirm Roberts to the Supreme Court, but Russ and a few other Dems did. Progressives were vilifying Russ on the left-leaning blogs. Senator Obama wrote a letter to DailyKos where it was published. This was in 2005. Senator Obama admonished DailyKos and others for vilifying Russ for the vote he had taken.

      From “The Bridge” -- “The letter was entitled “Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party” and was posted on September 30, 2005.

      After apologizing for failing to follow blogs “as regularly as I would like,” Obama wrote that he wanted to address “friends and supporters”.

      Obama said:

      “There is one way, over the long haul, to guarantee the appointment of judges that are sensitive to issues of social justice, and that is to win the right to appoint them by recapturing the presidency and the Senate. And I don’t believe we get there by vilifying good allies, with a lifetime record of battling for progressive causes, over one vote or position…….

      He went on to talk about the harshness against all opponents (or perceived opponents). He writes what he has witnessed from traveling throughout the country:

      “I think this perspective [anger and harshness] misreads the American people. From traveling throughout IL and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don’t think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don’t think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs. They don’t think America is an imperialist brute, but are angry that the case to invade Iraq was exaggerated, are worried that we have unnecessarily alienated existing and potential allies around the world, and ashamed by events like those at Ab Ghraib, which violate our ideals as a country…….

      He further gave reasons why Russ and other Dems may have voted for Roberts. Read the book, if you haven’t. It’s fascinating and covers a very wide range of topics.

      I’d say typical Obama.

      http://www.randomhouse.com/book/140330/the-bridge-by-david-remnick/9781400043606/?view=excerpt

  5. funksands says:

    Cher, I think I am going to cancel my newspaper. I get more out of reading you and Kalima than I get from the paper. I don’t know what Ad is paying you, but it isn’t enough.

    The torture spin is really slick and has to be actively fought in print, on television and even mentally because it actually makes intutive sense on a surface level.

    The new spin esentially consists of “Torture isnt’ used to gather intelligence, it is used to elicit COOPERATION, which leads to interregation, and then intelligence.”

    It’s very slick and tricky and if we aren’t careful it can very easily percolate into the general public through the sloppy MSM.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Thanks a million, Funk! I strongly agree with your comment but for me, torture never made sense, even when I first learned about it as a kid. I think it is counter-intuitive to think it works because what I know I would do--is lie. People always lie to make the torture stop, no? I’d make any shit up.

  6. Abbyrose86 says:

    “Ross added: “I’m not an economist, but I have maintained a household. The federal government owns 70 per cent of Utah, for example. There are federal buildings. If you need cash, let’s start liquidating.”

    The above is the type of comment, that drives me ape shit batty!

    The right constantly does this…and sadly so do TOO many others, both those in the political arena and average Joe’s alike.

    MICRO economics (homes and businesses) operate very differently than MACRO economic concepts…why they persist in using this dubious argument of comparing a household budget to a NATION’S budget it annoying to say the least. While there are some concepts that CAN be used to illustrate a point, the overall concepts are quite different. A nation CAN print it’s own money…and individual household CANNOT!

    URGH~!

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Ditto, Abby! Tomorrow I will put up a piece from Jared Bernstein about just that. Preview:

      First of all, it’s bass-akwards: when families are tightening their belts, the federal government is the one institution that can actually help the economy — and these belt-tightening families — by loosening its belt and running a deficit…

      But there’s another fundamental way in which this family budget analogy gets misused. Families borrow to make investments and to get over rough patches. They run deficits too. I went into pretty deep debt to finance college and grad school and I’m glad I did.

      However, in this instance it is even worse that the jerk proposed SELLING Utah!

    • funksands says:

      Abby, imagine a farmer that’s short on cash during a particulary bad growing season. Is his first thought to sell his land off? Insane. The casual disregard for the common’s posessions is unreal.

      • Abbyrose86 says:

        Exactly! The way the right frames this argument is LUDICROUS! Even some right leaning economists are having none of it!

        It’s so frustrating…and sadly those who don’t understand ANY of it or any of the concepts…buy the bullshit, hook, line and sinker!!!

        URGH!!

      • bito says:

        Or a tradesman selling his tools.


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