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Chernynkaya On May - 23 - 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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BUSINESS


New Elevators Sort Employees by Rank (Read: Class)

WSJ:
New elevator systems and technology are making the pitch harder than ever—and upending the delicate rules of elevator etiquette.

Elevators now route employees, sometimes according to rank. They can help corporations keep track of who is in the office and who isn’t. They can be programmed so that a germophobe can simply wave an ID card in front of a reader and be shuttled to the proper floor without actually touching a button. They can redirect an unsuspecting employee to a different floor at the request of the boss.

Behind the changes is an increasingly common dispatch system that the two companies that dominate the industry, Otis Elevator Co. and smaller rival Schindler Elevator Corp. have installed in about 200 mid-to-high-rise buildings around the country. Employees select their floor on a keypad in the lobby and are sent to board a specific elevator. The dispatch systems result in fewer people per car and fewer stops, and can be configured to suit a company’s particular needs. […]

At the 55-story Bank of America Building, at One Bryant Park in New York City, elevators can let bank VIPs ride separately from rank-and-file staff, says Michael Landis, Schindler vice president of marketing. Many of the bank’s senior executives work on the 50th floor and are typically directed to their own elevator anyway, making the technology unnecessary. “But it’s one of the features that they particularly liked and its one of the key features that won us the contract,” Mr. Landis says. […]

The elevators at the 13-story Curtis Center in downtown Philadelphia, are built so the most senior executives can punch into the computer that they would like to see certain employees upon arrival. When employees swipe their ID cards to call the elevator in the lobby, they can be rerouted to the boss’s floor.

“We are able to group passenger so it’s more like a limousine,” Mr. Landis says.

 

General (Electric) Motors

Where, you ask, are all the jobs we need going to come from?

It’s a critical question that I plan to blog about in coming weeks. But for now, let me relate a good story I heard on the radio this AM.

General Motors is breaking ground on a new factory in Maryland where they’re going to make motors for electric cars. According to the clip, it’s “the first facility in the United States that will both produce electric motors and be backed by a major automaker…”

I liked the story because it combines manufacturing jobs, green tech, and it’s a continuing testament to one of the underappreciated accomplishments of the Obama administration: the preservation of the big two auto companies.  (Full disclosure: I served on the White House Autos Taskforce.)

You’d be hard-pressed to find a policy intervention that did as much good yet engendered so much disdain. I recall polls where people viewed the auto bailouts less favorably than the TARP. So forgive me if I’m still compelled to tout success stories like this one.

Now, we need to see a lot more new plants like this breaking ground right here in the good old USofA.

 

Report Shows Comcast Violated Conditions of NBC Merger

Comcast has violated the conditions of its merger with NBC by failing to air certain types of programming as required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a new study has found. As part of the arrangement with the FCC, Comcast-NBC agreed to increase local and Spanish-language news programs for five years and produce an additional 1,000 hours annually of original news programs for a number of its stations. But media watchdog group Free Press found that the cable company deliberately counted commercials toward its local news hours and aired less than an hour of local news per day on many of its Telemundo stations.

MORE>>>

 

ECONOMY


First-time jobless benefit filings decline again

The number of Americans filing for their first week of unemployment benefits dropped sharply for the second straight week.

In the week ended May 14, 409,000 Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits, the Labor Department said Thursday.

That marked a decline of 29,000 from the 438,000 initial claims filed the week before, and was an even lower level than the 420,000 claims economists had expected for the week.

The number of initial claims has fallen sharply for two straight weeks, after one-time adjustments related to schools on spring break severely distorted the number. Since then, initial claims have retraced those steep gains, falling back to levels they were at about a month ago.

 

A Frightening Satellite Tour Of America’s Foreclosure Wastelands

Boise, Idaho

Lakeland, Florida

Sacramento, CA.

19 MORE>>>

 

Fighting Back Against Debt Collectors

Educating consumers is necessary.  Last year, 30% of consumers that filled out a debt collection complaint stated that they had never received any form of written communication about their debts.  The majority of consumers aren’t even aware that they can argue a collection notice in writing.

Debt collectors might finally be put in their place when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau rolls into action on July 21st. The new Agency has the power to aggressively investigate complaints and also write new rules. When it launches, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will further examine debt collection policies.

 

We’re Not Broke, Just Twisted: Extreme Wealth Inequality in America (Video)

Institute for Policy Studies:

 

No soup for you

digby:

Sadly, because we have economically illiterate psychos with veto power in our government, nothing will be done about this and the unlucky citizens who don’t happen to be billionaires are going to be asked to “share the sacrifice” some more:

Some of the states that have drained their unemployment insurance funds are cutting the number of weeks that a laid-off worker can count on those benefits. Legislators are trying to limit tax increases for businesses to replenish the pool and are hoping the federal government keeps stepping in when the economy slumps.

Michigan, Missouri and Arkansas recently reduced the maximum number of weeks that the jobless can get state unemployment benefits. Florida is on the verge of doing so. Unemployment in those states ranges from 7.8 percent in Arkansas to 11.1 percent in Florida.

The benefit cuts come as legislatures deal with the damage that the recession inflicted on state unemployment insurance programs. The sharp increase in the number of people who lost their jobs drained the reservoir of money dedicated to paying out benefits.

About 30 states borrowed more than $44 billion from the federal government to continue payments to laid-off workers. Many states hastened the insolvency of their funds by keeping balances at historically low levels going into the downturn.

The burden of replenishing the funds and paying off the loans will fall primarily on businesses through higher taxes, but the benefit cuts are an effort to limit the tax increases.

I don’t know that people understood that when the Republicans were talking about “starving the beast” the beast they were talking about was the American worker. Now they know.

 

Related:

Do Psychopaths Misrule Our World?

If these are patterns, why are millions so fascinated, often even seduced, by people whose behavior actually points to pathology? Perhaps we are wired to be attracted by psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists, people so focused on their own central role in whatever takes place that the rest of us are sucked into their reality.

Think about entering a portal and emerging into the head of Donald Trump. What could that level of self-absorption be like? Begin by imagining a complete lack of empathy, one of the tell-tale signs of the psychopath.

Is Trump a psychopath? Well, he does score well on a 20 item checklist. And are there more psychopaths around us than we think? Not just serial killers and the violent type, but successful, powerful psychopaths who will do anything to win and affect our lives in profound ways?

The checklist, a way to help identify potential psychopaths among us, was developed by Bob Hare, a prison psychologist who conducted remarkable experiments and eventually codified his findings. Jon Ronson has provides an excellent history and analysis in his new book, “The Psychopath Test”.

Here’s the basic list, a collection of tendencies and an analytical tool to spot those who might be functioning psychopaths. The last two items relate specifically to criminals, but you don’t have to be caught to have “criminal versatility.” Keep in mind that having mild tendencies doesn’t make you a psychopath. But a high score – more than 30 on Hare’s 40 point scale – should be a warning sign. Personally, I give Trump and Gingrich high marks:

1.Glibness, superficial charm
2.Grandiose sense of self-worth
3.Need for stimulation, proneness to boredom
4.Pathological lying
5.Conning, manipulative
6.Lack of remorse or guilt
7.Shallow affect
8.Callous, lack of empathy
9.Parasitic lifestyle
10.Poor behavioral control
11.Promiscuous sexual behavior
12.Early behavior problems
13.Lack of realistic long-term goals
14.Impulsivity
15.Irresponsibility
16.Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
17.Many short-term marital relationships
18.Juvenile delinquency
19.Revocation of conditional release
20.Criminal versatility

In his book, Ronson follows the trail of research about psychopaths, gets to know a few, and sees how they have affected society. For example, he tracks down Toto Constant, former leader of Haitian death squads backed by the CIA, who was given asylum in the US but restricted to Queens. Although the guy was basically in hiding, he still thought he was beloved in Haiti (#2), took no responsibility for his crimes (#16), and badly imitated strong emotions. Since psychopaths don’t experience emotions that same as other people (#7), they often compensate through imitation. But not all are excellent actors. Constant even thought he would someday be called back to “help” Haiti again (#13).

Psychopaths could be the reason the world seems so screwed up. If so, humanity’s tragic flaw may be that a few bad apples – people whose amygdalas don’t fire the right signals to their central nervous systems – really can spoil the whole barrel. Prime examples include the corporate psychopaths who trashed capitalism a few years back. To dig into that group check out “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work”, by Bob Hare and Paul Babiak. Examining these financial terrorists, you might well conclude that the conspiracy theory about shape-shifting lizards who secretly rule the world isn’t so far off. After all, psychopaths are often social shape-shifters.

So, the question is: Do psychopaths run the country and maybe the world? Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a strong candidate. Among recent presidents Nixon, Bush 2 and Clinton could qualify. The masters of the universe at places like Goldman Sachs are solid choices. And it only takes a few to destabilize a financial system, poison a community or destroy a business. Yet some studies suggest that, percentage-wise, there are more potential psychopaths among CEOs, directors and supervisors than in the general population, or even in prisons.

Who hasn’t known a business type who was borderline, a mercurial tyrant subject to fits of rage and impulsive acts? Or followed a public figure who was charming but also irresponsible, manipulative and self-aggrandizing? The tell-tale signs of the psychopath are often ignored or excused.

In his book, Ronson recalls a meeting with businessman Al Dunlop, a ruthless executive famous for his apparent joy in firing people. Together they go through Hare’s psychopath checklist and Dunlop simply redefines many of the traits as aspects of leadership. Impulsiveness becomes quick analysis. Grandiose sense of self-worth? Absolutely, you have to believe in yourself, says Dunlop. Manipulative? Hey, that’s just leadership. Inability to feel deep emotions? Emotions are mostly nonsense, he says. And not feeling remorse frees you up to do great things.

Newt Gingrich would likely have a similar response if confronted with his own psychopathic tendencies. At the moment, he is engaging in a standard strategy – claiming redemption and re-inventing himself. In his case it’s an epic rationalization that may not work.

It is widely agreed that Newt is an opportunist and a scoundrel. But that clearly doesn’t disqualify him from becoming president. Warren Harding, the Ohio senator who became president in 1920, carried on a 15-year affair both before and during his presidency. The “other woman,” Nan Britton, gave birth to a son.

This was shortly after the end of World War I. People were disillusioned with Woodrow Wilson, and Democrats deserted the party to give Harding the biggest landslide in US history, 60 percent of the vote. That year Eugene Debs, who was in federal prison, got his best turnout, a million votes. Less than three years later, in the middle of a “goodwill” tour,” Harding dropped dead suddenly in San Francisco. He was replaced in August 1923 by Calvin Coolidge, a native Vermonter and Massachusetts governor who had been picked for vice-president in the original smoke-filled room.

Some people said Harding had been poisoned by his wife, Florence DeWolfe, a cold, snobbish banker’s daughter known as The Duchess. Rumors spread that she was trying to avoid disgrace, possibly even Harding’s impeachment. The administration had become notoriously corrupt. The Duchess fed the rumors by refusing to allow an autopsy.

It remains a mystery to this day. But Harding provided his own epitaph in advance. “I am not fit for this office and never should have been here,” he once admitted. That self-awareness suggests, despite his shortcomings, that at least he wasn’t a psychopath.

The point: if Warren Harding could become president, why not Newt Gingrich or someone equally disturbed? Just think of the future scandals and all the pathological behavior we would get to witness. Bad behavior is, after all, catnip for millions of information consumers. Can they ever really get enough?

 

EDUCATION


In weekly address, Obama pushes for overhaul of nation’s education laws

Obama promoted his Race to the Top initiative, which has states compete for education money. But the program has drawn criticism, and Republicans on Capitol Hill are unwilling to devote new money to it. Obama also renewed his call for Congress to send him a rewrite of No Child Left Behind, the nation’s governing education law.

“We need to promote reform that gets results while encouraging communities to figure out what’s best for their kids. That why it’s so important that Congress replace No Child Left Behind this year — so schools have that flexibility,” Obama said. “Reform just can’t wait.”

There is bipartisan agreement that the inflexible, testing-heavy law needs to change. But prospects for an overhaul this year don’t seem bright, given that the economy, jobs and deficit are dominating the agenda.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said recently that a deadline Obama set in March for a rewrite of the law by September would be impossible to meet.

 

HEALTH

 

A Drug Against Free Will

Burundanga, a drug containing the chemical scopolamine, may target the part of your brain that controls free will. The drug is used by criminals to rob and rape victims:

The key seems to be that scopolamine blocks acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter essential to memory. Scans also reveal the drug affects the amygdala, a brain area controlling aggression and anxiety. This would explain scopolamine’s pacifying effect. Evidence also suggests [robbery and sexual assault] victims tend to be confused and passive rather than unable to resist commands. Yet, until scopolamine’s role in the chemistry of free will is fully explored, we can only speculate that the criminal underworld has unwittingly stumbled upon one of the greatest discoveries of 21st-century neuroscience.

 

HEALTH CARE

 

Rule Would Discourage States’ Cutting Medicaid Payments to Providers

In a new effort to increase access to health care for poor people, the Obama administration is proposing a rule that would make it much more difficult for states to cut Medicaid payments to doctors and hospitals.

The rule could also put pressure on some states to increase Medicaid payment rates, which are typically lower than what Medicare and commercial insurance pay.

Federal officials said Monday that the rule was needed to fulfill the promise of federal law, which says Medicaid recipients should have access to health care at least to the same extent as the general population.

“We have a responsibility to ensure sufficient beneficiary access to covered services,” the administration said in issuing the proposal, to be published Friday in the Federal Register.

In many parts of the country, Medicaid recipients have difficulty finding doctors who will take them because Medicaid payment rates are so low.

Faced with huge financial problems, many states have frozen or reduced Medicaid payments to health care providers, and governors of both parties have proposed additional cuts this year. Medicaid recipients and health care providers have sued state officials to block such cuts, and one case, from California, is pending in the United States Supreme Court.

“Tight state budgets, coupled with increased demand for services during the recession, have led many states to propose reductions in Medicaid provider payments, without clear federal guidance on how to assure access,” said Cindy Mann, the federal official in charge of Medicaid.

The new rule provides that guidance, but several state officials expressed concerns. […]

Medicaid is financed jointly by the federal government and the states. Even before the recent recession, it was one of the fastest-growing items in most state budgets. […]

The new initiative comes as federal and state officials prepare for a huge expansion of Medicaid eligibility, scheduled to occur in 2014 under the new health care law.

About half of the 34 million uninsured people who are expected to gain coverage under the law will get it through Medicaid.

The proposed rule generally prevents states from cutting Medicaid payments to providers unless they can show that Medicaid recipients will have “sufficient access” to care after the cuts.

Regardless of whether they want to cut payment rates, states must continually monitor Medicaid recipients’ access to care and develop plans to fix any problems they discover, the rule says.

Under the rule, states must measure and document access to “each covered benefit” at least once every five years. Data from such reviews could provide doctors, hospitals and nursing homes with powerful new tools to lobby for higher reimbursement.

States set Medicaid payment rates within broad federal guidelines. Federal law has long said that states must “enlist enough providers” to make sure Medicaid recipients have access to care equivalent to that of other people in the area.

Under presidents of both parties, federal officials have often disregarded this requirement, approving cuts in Medicaid payment rates that discouraged doctors from accepting Medicaid patients.

In an effort to rein in costs, states have increasingly turned to health maintenance organizations and other types of managed care. The new rule does not apply to managed care. But the Obama administration said it was “considering future proposals” to guarantee access to care for Medicaid recipients in such private health plans.

Under the proposal being issued this week, “beneficiary access must be considered in setting and adjusting” Medicaid payments to doctors, dentists, psychologists, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, nursing homes and suppliers of medical equipment.

 

U.S. Objects to New Law on Clinics in Indiana

The Obama administration is raising serious objections to a new Indiana law that cuts off state and federal money for Planned Parenthood clinics providing health care to low-income women on Medicaid.

The objections set the stage for a clash between the White House and Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, over an issue that ignites passions in both parties.

The changes in Indiana are subject to federal review and approval, and administration officials have made it clear they will not approve the changes in the form adopted by the state.

Federal officials have 90 days to act but may feel pressure to act sooner because Indiana is already enforcing its law, which took effect on May 10, and because legislators in other states are working on similar measures.

If a state Medicaid program is not in compliance with federal law and regulations, federal officials can take corrective action, including “the total or partial withholding” of federal Medicaid money. The mere threat of such a penalty is often enough to get states to comply. Actually imposing the penalty would, in many cases, hurt the very people whom Medicaid is intended to help.

Administration officials said the Indiana law imposed impermissible restrictions on the freedom of Medicaid recipients to choose health care providers. […]

Other states that have considered legislation to restrict payments to Planned Parenthood, under various programs, include Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin.

Both houses of the Kansas Legislature have approved a 2012 budget bill that would redirect about $300,000 in federal family planning money from Planned Parenthood to state and local clinics. Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, is expected to sign it.

 

IMMIGRATION


The Cost of Our War on “Illegals”

Annie Road is a patriotic wannabe American and illegal immigrant, who swears that bringing mayo-based potato salad to a picnic on a hot summer day was an act of foolishness, not terrorism.

My grandmother, with whom I am very close, is ill. She’s in her 90′s, so even if she wasn’t ill, the end of her life will not be too far from now. While sad, this isn’t startling news to anyone in my family. I should spend time with her before she passes. I should attend the funeral after she passes.

I won’t be doing this. I’ll be writing her a letter, telling her how much she means to me then hoping that her eyesight is good enough to read it and her brain is coherent enough that day to understand it. I’ll send flowers to her funeral, and hope that the florist doesn’t pick the straggliest bunch knowing that I won’t ever see it.

See, if I go back to my home country for any reason, I will be banned from re-entering the US for ten years. Once that ten years is passed, only then I may begin resubmitting my paperwork. It took two years before I was allowed to come into the US even with no black marks on my record the first time, so let’s say a banishment of 12 years total. The crime that would net me this ban is simply going to a dying loved one to say goodbye. How terrible of me.

If I do choose to pay my respects, the ban would mean that I wouldn’t have any further hand in raising my stepson. He lives with us, and unless he’d be willing to make regular treks of thousands of miles, I’d be out of luck. He’s sixteen now, so I’d return to regularly scheduled motherhood sometime around his 28th birthday.

It would be worse for my daughter. She’s ten, and while she would be staying with me, she would be saying goodbye to her whole life down here– her brother, her school, her dog, her dad. By the time she’d be allowed back, the dogs would have long since passed away and her friends would have moved on with lives of their own. In the meantime, she would be thrown into a whole new life with new rules, new cultural norms and new people and expected simply to cope. When she sees daddy again, she could legally go out for a beer with him to catch up.

As for my husband? Well, he wouldn’t be my husband anymore. A decade is a long time to wait to return to normal life. I love him, and cannot expect him to endure loneliness and hardship while we both hope that we don’t become total strangers during our separate lives.

I know, I know. I sound like a big whiner. You’d think that if my family means so much to me, that I should have filed the paperwork correctly so that I wouldn’t have to deal with this. Here’s the kicker, y’all: I did. I filed everything perfectly. I paid my fees, filled all the appropriate forms, and sent them to the center serving my area. I called one day to find out whether or not my paperwork had been approved, and after 45 minutes on hold, a lady came on the line to tell me that there was no record of me. She tried last name, SSN, and A-number only to confirm that I don’t currently exist and that I never have existed.

Due to clerical error, or maybe just someone going on break without hitting ‘save’, Im no longer one of the “good” immigrants. I’m an illegal.

The word ‘illegal’, though nothing I wanted, doesn’t bother me too much even with all of it’s nasty, America-hatin’ connotations. The fact that we have paid thousands to get me to the same point as I would have gotten by just running across the border in the dead of night bothers me a little more, but still not as much as you’d think. Even people like Kansas State Rep. Peck and his comment that people like me and my daughter should be shot from helicopters like feral hogs don’t truly get to me. I can chalk all of that up to “life’s not fair” or “sticks and stones”. Nothing more, nothing less.

My grandmother upsets me though. Barring a miracle, I won’t get to say goodbye except on paper. The fact that I had to celebrate my sister’s pregnancy and the birth of her son over the phone bothers me. The fact that my kids cannot go to my parents’ home for Christmas bothers me, as does the fact that they only know their cousin through Skype. It’s awful to have to choose between the family I’m raising and the one that raised me, all because of….. I don’t even know. And maybe not knowing what I did to cause my situation yet understanding the fallout so clearly is what hurts the most about it.

Just for fun, and because I have a somewhat morbid sense of humor, I looked up other crimes to see what length of prison sentences were like in comparison to the possibility of my ten year “no family/home/familiarity for you!’ ban.

The first site I found was written in 2008 in Connecticut and features a nice little table that tells me who I am worse than and who I am better than, if punitive time in prison can somehow be equated to punitive time in banishment and also if the sentences reflect the seriousness of crimes against society. It’s totally unscientific and has a lot of suppositions, but it’s food for thought.

Anyway, if you’re willing to grant me my two suppositions for the sake of argument, I am not as evil as someone who commits a felony murder. I am, however, possibly twice as evil as someone who commits first degree manslaughter with a firearm which carries a minimum sentence of 5 years.

Other crimes that carry mandatory minimum punishments of ten years or less include kidnapping, home invasion, 1st degree sexual assault, assault of a pregnant woman resulting in termination of pregnancy, employing a minor in an obscene performance, robbery, importing child pornography, computer crime in furtherance of terrorism, contaminating public food or water for terrorism, selling or transporting an assault weapon, manufacture of heroin/crack/cocaine/methadone, carjacking and the list goes on and on.

My ha-has turned into horror when I saw the company I am thought to keep, as far as criminal misdeeds go. Really, is my crime of someone else losing my papers as bad as beating a pregnant woman so badly she miscarries? Or poisoning a town’s water supply in an act of terrorism? Or making kiddie porn?

Good Lord. This is insane.

 

JUSTICE


Congressional Leaders Agree to Renew Patriot Act

Congressional leaders on Thursday reached a deal to extend by four years several statutes that expanded the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s counterterrorism and surveillance powers after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, aides said. Under the deal, two sections of the so-called USA Patriot Act and a third provision from a related intelligence law would be extended, without any changes, until June 1, 2015.

 

MEDIA

 

Words matter

Laurence Lewis for Daily Kos:

Some years ago, I watched a documentary about Noam Chomsky, and while I agree with much but far from all of his political opinions, and strongly disagree with his structural linguistics, one brief segment of the film particularly stuck with me. The question was why a man of Chomsky’s intellect and credentials is never allowed onto the opinion pages of our major print media, and is never interviewed by our major broadcast media. Some Important Person from the traditional media (if I recall, it was Jeff Greenfield, then of ABC News) explained that television only works with people who are adept at making concise and easily framed arguments. Chomsky’s response to the filmmakers was that he is very capable of creating TV sound bites, and that the real problem is that his opinions fall so far outside what the TV world considers the mainstream, and when one offers a viewpoint that is systematically excluded from the national media conversation one needs a little more time just to present the paradigm and background. And in that answer Chomsky provided an important lesson to liberals in general, even those who are not as far to the left or as outside the traditional mainstream as is Chomsky. And in that answer Chomsky also provided a lesson to we liberals even in how we should be approaching discussions and conversations among ourselves.

Last week, the rhetoric of Cornel West created a small firestorm in some progressive circles, particularly among the more ardent supporters of President Obama. West is to the left of the left on the American political spectrum, and from an ideological standpoint it is no surprise that he would have plenty of problems with the Obama presidency. But West’s rhetoric became personal, questioning the president’s values on the basis of aspects of the president’s background and upbringing. And West having leveled such criticism, some of the president’s more ardent supporters responded in kind, attacking West personally, and even by making personal attacks on those who agree with some of West’s criticism of the president. It did not make for a productive dialogue, and while it degenerated as it progressed, it began with West’s own words. West has valid and important things to say about the president’s approach to policy and politics, but by personalizing it he guaranteed that many wouldn’t hear what in that criticism was valid and important. West is not a psychiatrist or psychologist, and he has no great insights into the childhood and upbringing of a man with whom he has no intimate relationship, so his criticism in this case was highly inflammatory and completely lacking in intellectual credibility. Which was unfortunate, because it shut down any legitimate conversation before any such conversation could even begin.

Anyone who has paid attention to West through the years knows that he has a massive intellect, an equally massive ego, and a penchant for using outlandish and at times inflammatory rhetoric. One need not attempt an amateur psychological analysis of West to recognize both the strengths and weaknesses of his arguments and his argumentative style, and one easily can agree with his criticism of President Obama’s economic policies without mentioning the president’s personal background. […] West’s argument is with Obama’s policies and what they suggest about his economic ideology, it is not with Barack Obama the man. By making the conversation about Barack Obama the man, West prevented his argument about Obama’s policies and economic ideology from even being heard.

In a similar vein, some of the discussion about President Obama’s economic policies— in the blogs and elsewhere— has degenerated into rhetorical devices that also shut down conversation before it can begin. It has to do with the view some hold that the president is weak and that he too readily caves in to Republicans. That in itself is a fair argument to make. It is an argument that will provoke heated reactions, and one expounding it had best be prepared to defend it, but there is nothing in the argument itself that should be considered out of bounds. It is controversial but it should not be considered inflammatory. And I write that as one who doesn’t agree with the argument; as I have previously elucidated, I do not think the president is at all weak, and as indicated above I think his economic choices are best explained on ideological grounds. But this argument does become highly and legitimately inflammatory when it veers into rhetorical devices that are, likely at times unintentionally, profoundly hurtful. Very specifically, it is the use of the word “balls.” It is not uncommon to see the phrase “has no balls” used as synonymous with lacking strength or courage, and for years some given to more heated rhetoric have used the phrase to criticize Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid or even House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi, as well as various other leading Democrats both on the national and local levels. But using that phrase changes the nature of the argument. […]

One of the reasons I first was drawn to the reality-based community was that it attempts to ground itself in verifiable facts and sound arguments. That doesn’t at all mean that there will be but one acceptable view on any given issue, but it does mean that people for the most part do try to make arguments they can defend. Rhetorical fireballs are not uncommon, but they usually have supporting evidence to back them. But in the wider national political conversation, we on the left often are left out. This is where we get back to Chomsky’s point. And the obvious veracity of his point is even more absurd when one looks at the polling on many leading issues, because it is common to read or hear that we are a center-right nation— so common that we often read it in comments even in the liberal blogs— but on the issues, the polling shows we liberals actually are the mainstream. From single payer health care and a public option, to raising taxes on the wealthy, to getting out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and legalizing gay marriage, to defending Social Security and Medicare and unions, the public is liberal. We could go on and on. But the traditional media will glide right by those facts and continually reinforce the agendas of their classist corporatist owners, not infrequently at the expense of the truth.

The traditional media exclude or marginalize most liberal voices. They want liberalism to remain foreign to the national political dialogue. And that places an extra burden on we who are attempting to break through their fog of disinformation. Not only do we have to take extra care to be right, but we often have to take care in how we present our views. We have to be extra attentive and careful in considering the words and rhetorical devices we choose to use. We are not attempting merely to reinforce our own beliefs and understandings, and we are not attempting merely to inspire the already generally like-minded. We are attempting to reach people to whom the information and opinions we offer may sound foreign— even if they generally agree with us! We have to be cognizant that even many already inclined to agree with us on many issues don’t have easy access to information that is deliberately made more difficult for them to obtain. So if we are going to deliver information to them we have to do it such that it will be received.  We have to remind them by the very manner of our approach that we are not different or frightening or shrill or radical, rather we are very much in agreement with them, and we have to make it safe for them to recognize those points of agreement, and safe for them to validate their own views. It sounds easy, but it is not. People too often vote against their own beliefs and their own self-interests because they are being deliberately manipulated by those who have no interest at all in their well-being. From narrowly focused wedge issues to obfuscations and distractions and misdirections to plain old lies, there are too many tools too easily available to those that still control the most powerful forms of mass media.

With the internet, we on the left have a historically unique opportunity to shatter what long has been a calcified norm. A politically and socially debilitating and degrading calcified norm. But the internet is only a tool. How we use it matters. Having access to important information isn’t enough. How we use it matters. How we communicate matters. Words matter.

 

NYT’s Sorkin Hasn’t Heard of the People’s Budget

FAIR:

New York Times business reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote a piece on Sunday (5/15/11) that tried to advance the argument that $250,000 actually isn’t that much money to make in a year. The complaint is that politicians who advocate raising tax rates on income above $250,000 have chosen an arbitrary dividing line–above it you’re rich, and you’ll be taxed accordingly.

Articles like this are annoying for obvious reasons–we’re being asked to listen to wealthy people complain that they’re not that wealthy, once you factor in the private school tuition and a hefty mortgage. But they often mislead in other areas–especially when it comes to how much wealthy people pay in taxes. Ross Sorkin mentions a Manhattan father of two with a household income of $262,000 who sees his tax bill potentially going up, and he says, “I don’t understand why people like us are lumped in with millionaires and billionaires.”

As Dean Baker points out, anyone who understands marginal tax rates should know that someone making slightly more than $250,000 would pay a higher rate only on that income above that amount–which, in this case, would amount to a few hundreds dollars at most in extra taxes.

The article goes on to discuss tax policy and budget deficits, and Ross Sorkin makes this point:

much of the income of the country’s wealthiest people comes from investments, which is taxed at the long-term capital gains rate of just 15 percent.

So far, neither Democrats nor Republicans dare talk about raising the long-term capital gains tax out of fear that it would reduce crucial investments that could produce jobs.

No one talks about raising capital gains tax rates? The Congressional Progressive Caucus’s blueprint, the People’s Budget, offers an array of options for raising revenues, including this:

Tax capital gains and qualified dividends as ordinary income: This policy would eliminate the preferentially low rates on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends (currently 15 percent) and again tax all capital income as ordinary income under the marginal tax rate structure. The tax rate on long-term capital gains is scheduled to rise to 20 percent in 2013 and dividends are scheduled to be taxed again as ordinary income.

So someone’s talking about it after all.

Part of Ross Sorkin’s point is that more tax brackets would help clarify the difference between earning a mere $250,000 or, say, many millions of dollars. A fine idea–and also part of the People’s Budget. If reporters gave it more attention, they might discover that the answers are staring them in the face.

 

WaPo and the People’s Budget Blackout

 

David Gregory’s Factcheck Fail on Show’s Sponsor

 

Politico Has Not Heard About the Collapse of the Housing Bubble and Economic Crisis

That is the conclusion that readers of a Politico article headlined, “budget surplus to deficit: how we got here,”must conclude. This article attributes the increase in the deficit in the Obama years to increased spending coupled with tax cuts, only mentioning in passing at the end of the article that the single biggest factor in the rise of the deficit was the economic collapse. It fails to point out that virtually all of the additional spending and tax cuts by President Obama was carried through for the explicit purpose of counteracting the loss of private sector demand due to the collapse of the bubble.

It is absolutely inexcusable for a serious news organization to run a piece like this. The collapse of the housing bubble was by far the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression. Complaining about the size of the deficit under President Obama, while only mentioning in passing the reason for the deficit, is like complaining about a city’s use of water without mentioning that it had been trying to extinguish a massive fire.

If reporters and editors were held accountable for the quality of their work in the same way as dishwashers and schoolteachers, people would be fired for this piece.

 

New York Mag: Ailes Has Extensive Influence On GOP Politics, Thinks Palin Is An “Idiot”

New York magazine is out with an extensive profile of Fox News chief Roger Ailes that details the significant role he plays in conservative politics. Furthering the evidence that Fox News is simply a campaign arm of the GOP, the piece quotes an anonymous Republican aide who states that “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger,” and notes that Ailes actively encouraged Republican Governor Chris Christie to run for president. Ailes also apparently doesn’t think too highly of his employee, Sarah Palin, who, according to a source close to Ailes, he thinks “is an idiot.” From the article:

A few months ago, Ailes called Chris Christie and encouraged him to jump into the race. Last summer, he’d invited Christie to dinner at his upstate compound along with Rush Limbaugh, and like much of the GOP Establishment, he fell hard for Christie, who nevertheless politely turned down Ailes’s calls to run. Ailes had also hoped that David Petraeus would run for president, but Petraeus too has decided to sit this election out, choosing to stay on the counterterrorism front lines as the head of Barack Obama’s CIA. The truth is, for all the antics that often appear on his network, there is a seriousness that underlies Ailes’s own politics. He still speaks almost daily with George H. W. Bush, one of the GOP’s last great moderates, and a war hero, which especially impresses Ailes.

All the 2012 candidates know that Ailes is a crucial constituency. “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger,” one GOPer told me. “Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.” But he hasn’t found any of them, including the adults in the room–Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney–compelling. “He finds flaws in every one,” says a person familiar with his thinking.

“He thinks things are going in a bad direction,” another Republican close to Ailes told me. “Roger is worried about the future of the country. He thinks the election of Obama is a disaster. He thinks Palin is an idiot. He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.”

The entire article is worth a read and includes revelations that Ailes threatened to quit in 2008 if News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch endorsed Barack Obama, and that Ailes thought that Obama’s call for a new civilian corp meant that the president wanted to create a “national poice force,” a conspiracy theory that Glenn Beck has since adopted.

Check the whole thing out here.

 

MILITARY


Congress Pushes for Vote on Libya Intervention

As the War Powers Act, which purportedly authorised U.S. President Barack Obama to wage war in Libya for 60 days without Congressional approval, expires Friday, experts here continue to question the strategic focus of the NATO-led operation, with pressure mounting from Capitol Hill on the Obama administration to lay out what its desired end game in Libya will be.

MORE>>>

 

POLITICS

 

Before pro-Israel lobby, Obama defends vision for Mideast peace

L.A. Times:

Appearing before a pro-Israel audience, President Obama said Sunday the world won’t stand for more delays in forging Middle East peace and reaffirmed his support for an accord based partly on boundary lines in place before Israel made territorial gains in the 1967 war.

There were scattered boos at the gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee when Obama called for borders tracking the 1967 lines, with mutually agreeable land swaps.

Overall, Obama got a polite reception from members of the pro-Israel lobby, with the crowd clapping frequently. But the applause was more spirited when an earlier speaker mentioned that Netanyahu would address the conference on Monday night.

Obama sought to jumpstart a stalled peace process by calling for the Israelis and Palestinians to take part in direct talks leading to two secure, neighboring states.

Obama first invoked the ’67 lines in a major speech on Thursday, sparking fierce criticism from some Republican presidential hopefuls that he was abandoning Israel. That address created an awkward moment in the Oval Office the next day, when visiting Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the pre-war lines were “indefensible.’’

“What I did on Thursday was to say publicly what has long been acknowledged privately,’’ said Obama, speaking before more than 10,000 at the AIPAC conference. “I have done so because we can’t afford to wait another decade, or another two decades, or another three decades, to achieve peace. The world is moving too fast. The world is moving too fast. The extraordinary challenges facing Israel will only grow. Delay will undermine Israel’s security and the peace that the Israeli people deserve.”

The ’67 boundary lines have been the framework for Middle East negotiations for a decade, though Obama is the first president to publicly pronounce the old map as the basis of a future deal.

Obama said he knew that his remarks last week would prove controversial. Mentioning two of his former politically savvy White House advisors, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, he said: “I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a president preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy. I don’t need Rahm to tell me that. I don’t need Axelrod to tell me that. But I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination. I also believe that real friends talk openly and honestly with each other.’’

News reports of his speech Thursday have been misleading, Obama said. The U.S. does not want an Israel with boundary lines mirroring what was in place the day before the Six Day War began in June 1967, Obama said. Land swaps, he said, would accommodate security needs and demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.

In an interview after Obama was done speaking, a White House senior advisor gave some insight into why the president had chosen this moment to lay out a specific formula for a peace accord. The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that talks between the Israelis and Palestinians had foundered in part because “there was no clear foundation for them.’’

“The principles [Obama] described on security and territory can provide a strong foundation for when talks do start,’’ the aide said.

What’s more, Obama’s gambit has the potential to head off a possible Palestinian attempt to gain statehood unilaterally through a direct appeal to the United Nations, the aide said.

“These principles can try to steer the international community away from a unilateral agreement,’’ the aide said.

Obama repeated his assurance that the U.S. won’t forsake Israel, remarks that led to a standing ovation.

He said “the bonds between the United States and Israel are unbreakable, and the commitment of the United States to the security of Israel is ironclad.’’

Not everyone in the audience was reassured. Don Dubin of Philadelphia, a member of AIPAC, said in an interview afterward: “He gave a very good speech. It was disarming, seductive. I don’t know if his heart is in the right place. My concern is that he may fold in a crisis. I don’t think he’s been out front in his support.”

 

Obama makes a blunt push for Middle East peace

The president hails the pro-democracy movements in the Arab world, but has tough words for Israel and the Palestinians, urging them to negotiate a deal and stay ahead of the wave of popular unrest.

“The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome,” he said.

Obama warned Palestinians that they would not achieve statehood through a proposed U.N. resolution, which the Palestinian leadership has been pushing to pass in September.

And he warned Israelis that time is not on their side.

“The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation,” he said. “A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people, not just one or two leaders, must believe peace is possible.”

Obama’s principles for negotiations contained elements for each side to dislike: He said the two parties should resolve the borders of a future Palestinian state and find ways to guarantee Israel’s security before negotiating over the future of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians have long objected to separating the issues that way. The president also said the Palestinian state should be demilitarized.

But afterward, it was the Israelis who reacted more negatively, focusing on Obama’s declaration that the negotiations should start from Israel’s borders before the 1967 Middle East War. The pre-1967 lines have been used behind closed doors as the basis for negotiations for more than a decade, and the last three U.S. administrations have informally embraced the concept.

MORE>>>


Netanyahu pushes back on Obama’s peace plan

In an Oval Office appearance, the Israeli leader rejects Obama’s plan as the basis for Middle East peace talks.


The reality Obama doesn’t understand

Haaretz:

“President Obama doesn’t understand the reality,” according to “associates” of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke after the meeting between the two leaders. And when that is the headline of the daily Yisrael Hayom, it is clearly Netanyahu’s headline: “President Obama doesn’t understand the reality.”

You can’t blame him: It really is impossible to understand this reality. It’s impossible to understand why a country and a people continue to refuse to do the right thing, something that could have been done a long while back, and prefer to continue to bang their heads against the wall until blood flows, with absolutely no logic, literally amok, like someone who has gone insane. It’s hard to understand a reality in which a prime minister sits and, contrary to all logic and every code of conduct, arrogantly lectures his host, the president of the United States. It’s hard to understand a reality in which a day before their scheduled meeting, a prime minister responds to the speech of the U.S. president, who is about to host him, with an announcement that is as good as spitting in his face. […]

The reality, Mr. President, is that change – thanks to which you were elected, and in which you believe – is the thing that Israel in general and Netanyahu in particular fear most. The reality is that the State of Israel has become accustomed to the present situation and does not recognize itself without it. Israel has existed longer with the occupation than without it; it has existed for most of its years with no border and is deathly afraid of change.

The reality is that Netanyahu never wanted or thought to initiate change. When he was elected two years ago, he understood that in order not to initiate change, he would have to play at negotiations that lead nowhere. But alas, there was nobody in the White House who would play this nice little game with him, and his true colors were exposed: He wants settlements, he wants occupation, he wants the situation as it is and sees no problem with it. And now, Netanyahu prefers confrontation. Confrontation with you, confrontation with the Palestinians, confrontation with anyone he sees as coming out against the persecuted people. The reality is simply that confrontation we already know, Mr. President, but peace we do not know at all.

MORE>>>


Mitt Romney: Obama threw Israel ‘under the bus’ in speech

 

GOP Response To Town Hall Backlash: Ban Recording Devices And Censor Citizen Journalists

The premier political story of the past few months has been the Republican plan to dismantle Medicare and the resulting voter backlash. In town halls across the country, voters are expressing their anger at the GOP priorities of ending Medicare, extending tax breaks for the wealthy, and protecting subsidies for oil companies.

ThinkProgress has reported extensively from town halls in Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, and elsewhere. In addition, citizen journalists have attended town halls and reported about them online, allowing others who couldn’t attend in person to see the event.

However, some congressmen are concerned about what could happen if citizen journalists repost their town halls on the Internet. At least two members of Congress have taken extraordinary measures to shut down the spread of information.

ThinkProgress readers passed along the following photos, taken outside town halls held by Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV). Barletta specifically barred citizen journalists and other non-credentialed media from recording the event, while Heck took a more encompassing approach of “no recording devices” at all.

When Republicans won back the House in 2010, one of their central promises was “to make Congress more transparent.” However, when it comes to their own congressional events, the same standard apparently does not apply.

Indeed, with members like Lou Barletta and Joe Heck barring citizens from recording the events and preventing those who couldn’t attend from seeing what the congressmen had to say, one has to ask: what are they trying to hide?

Update At his town hall, Heck reportedly faced a rowdy crowd upset about his vote for the Medicare-ending House Republican budget. When pressed, he backed away from the plan a bit, saying, “I’m not saying it’s the best idea, but it’s the only one and the best being proposed now.”

 

Pawlenty pardoned serial child molester so wife could open up day care center

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty thinks he has a shot at the 2012 Republican nomination for president. What was going to be a long-shot bid is now even more of a long shot.

​Jeremy Giefer served time in jail in 1994 for having sex with a 14-year-old girl. But you wouldn’t know it to look at the record […]

That’s because two years ago, Governor Tim Pawlenty, Attorney General Lori Swanson, and then-Chief Justice Eric Magnuson unanimously voted to wipe Giefer’s record clean, granting him a pardon extraordinary.

One reason Giefer wanted his record cleared? His wife wanted to open a childcare center in the house where they live.

Giefer didn’t just have sex with that 14-year-old girl, but knocked her up. They ended up getting married, and his former victim/wife is the person wanting to open up that childcare facility. Pawlenty and the rest of the pardon board based their pardon on the bizarre notion that statutory rape was okay if the man sticks around and marries the victim.

That looks terrible enough for a candidate who likes to fashion himself as tough on crime and sexual offenders. But this story gets worse. Much, much worse.

Flash forward to this month, when Giefer was charged with another sex crime, this time for allegedly molesting the daughter he conceived with the underage girl he statutory raped and married.

In fact, the complaint alleges, Giefer had been raping his daughter for about six years when Pawlenty granted him his extraordinary pardon.

According to the complaint filed in Blue Earth County Court, the girl, identified only as C.G.,  told Blue Earth detectives the sexual abuse started when she was nine years old.

“C.G. stated that when she was 13 years old, she wanted to go somewhere; and her dad would tell her to do a sexual favor consisting of a blow job or intercourse and then she would be allowed to go.”

Geifer’s daughter went into explicit detail with the detectives, painting a vivid picture of routine abuse.

You can follow the link above for more of those graphic details. They are utterly revolting. As for Giefer, initial denials have evolved into prevarications.

Yes, Giefer told a detective, he had put his daughter on birth control pills. Yes, he had grabbed her breasts, but “it was just messing around.” Yes, he had exposed his penis to her, but it was “accidental.” And yes, while on top of his daughter in her bed while “wrestling,” he had kissed her neck and stuck his hand inside her shorts and touched her bare vagina.

Pawlenty’s team put out this statement:

“The Governor has consistently opposed pardons for sex offenders and believes sex offenses are heinous. However, the Board made an exception in this case and voted unanimously to pardon this 1994 conviction because it involved sexual conduct between two people who became husband and wife, maintained a long-term marriage, had a family together, and because the defendant completed his sentence many years before seeking the pardon which his wife and others supported.”

Good luck with that bullshit. What’s more likely is that Pawlenty now has his very own Willie Horton hanging around his neck. And while it’s true, Republicans operate under a different standard than Democrats like Mike Dukakis, we’re talking about a sexual predator — one who wasn’t just pardoned because of some bizarre rationalization about marrying his victim, but one who was pardoned so that his wife could open up a childcare facility in the man’s own home.

There is no justification for that pardon. None.

 

Tim Pawlenty For President

“I have the courage to face” the country’s problems: “President Obama doesn’t. I do”


Rick Scott, CEO governor, unfazed by criticism from ’employees’

Orlando Sentinel:

Florida’s CEO governor is getting an earful from the company, but Rick Scott appears unflinching in his vision.

He says his biggest regrets from his rookie legislative session are that an immigration bill and repeal of a septic-tank inspection mandate did not pass, and an insurance bill he signed last week did not go far enough to scale back the state’s underpinning of the property-insurance market.

His corporate view of how government should work – offering a product and, if it doesn’t sell, refining or scrapping said product – remains unchanged despite a session that found him compromising on most of his objectives.

“We should think the same way” as a business, Scott said in an interview last week. “We should say, ‘This bill happens. What’s the purpose? Well, let’s measure it and see if the purpose happens.’ If it doesn’t happen, we ought to change, whether you’re spending dollars or setting up commissions.


POLLS


For First Time, Majority of Americans Favor Legal Gay Marriage

Republicans and older Americans remain opposed

 

SCOTUS

 

Pledge Your Body for Your Bread: Welfare, Drug Testing, and the Inferior Fourth Amendment

Abstract

Proposals to subject welfare recipients to periodic drug testing have emerged over the last three years as a significant legislative trend across the United States. Since 2007, over half of the states have considered bills requiring aid recipients to submit to invasive extraction procedures as an ongoing condition of public assistance. The vast majority of the legislation imposes testing without regard to suspected drug use, reflecting the implicit assumption that the poor are inherently predisposed to culpable conduct and thus may be subject to class-based intrusions that would be inarguably impermissible if inflicted on the less destitute. These proposals are gaining increasingly
substantial political support, suggesting that the enactment of drug testing legislation is now a real and immediate prospect.

Given the gravity of the suspicionless searches at issue, the proposals raise serious concerns under conventional Fourth Amendment doctrine. Nevertheless, there is considerable doubt whether the federal courts will accede to that authority and prohibit the proposed intrusions, given the long tradition of relegating the privacy rights of the poor to inferior and indifferent enforcement. This Article explores these legislative developments and the constitutional context within which they arise, and makes the case for using the impending battle over suspicionless drug testing to reclaim for the indigent the full reach of the Fourth Amendment’s privacy right.

 

In America, Being Poor is a Criminal Offense

Common Dreams:

Some would argue that corporations are different, in that they create jobs.  To that I will point out that corporations are making record profits, even as they layoff workers and pay next to nothing in Federal income taxes.  And this doesn’t even begin to scratch at the surface of corporate abuse by the very entities that are soaked in taxpayer money.  Just contrast these proposals with the way the rich are treated in this country with billions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks.

This is simply an extension of a conversation that began in 1996, when President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich passed bipartisan welfare reform, whose results have been tragic to say the least.  The 1996 Welfare Reform Act authorized, but did not require, states to impose mandatory drug testing as a prerequisite to receiving state welfare assistance.  Back then, unproven allegations of criminal behavior and drug abuse among welfare recipients were the rationales cited by those in support of the bill’s many punitive measures that were infused with race, class, and gender bias.

The majority of the proposals for drug testing require no suspicion of drug use whatsoever.  Instead they rest on the assumption that the poor are inherently inclined to immoral and illegal behavior, and therefore unworthy of privacy rights as guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment.  These proposals simply reaffirm the longstanding concept of the poor as intrinsically prone to and deserving of their predicament.  Jordan C. Budd, in his superb analysis Pledge Your Body for Your Bread: Welfare, Drug Testing, and the Inferior Fourth Amendment, demonstrates how the drug testing of welfare recipients is part of what’s called a “poverty exception” to the Constitution, particularly the Fourth Amendment, a bias that renders much of the Constitution irrelevant at best, and hostile at worst, to the American poor.

 

TAKE ACTION


Coalition Tangle

digby:

Robert Cruikshank has written a fascinating post at DKos on the issue of coalition building (motivated, I think, by the re-emergence of some of the old online Obama wars.) He compares the Republican and Democratic coalitions, of course, and points out the differences in solidarity and discipline (and the fact that the Democratic coalition is much less cohesive ideologically.)

He characterizes the GOP coalition compact as being “everyone shall get their turn” so they will all vote in line with all the coalitions’ causes and issues. But he’s put his finger on a specific point that I haven’t heard articulated before and it strikes me as hugely important:

Members of the conservative coalition do not expect to get everything all at once. An anti-choice advocate would love to overturn Roe v. Wade tomorrow. But they don’t get angry when that doesn’t happen in a given year. Not because they are self-disciplined and patient, but because they get important victories year after year that move toward that goal. One year it could be a partial-birth abortion ban. The next year it could be defunding of Planned Parenthood. The year after that it could be a ban on any kind of federal funding of abortions, even indirect. (And in 2011, they’re getting some of these at the same time.)

More importantly, they know that even if their issue doesn’t get advanced in a given year, they also know that the other members of the coalition will not allow them to lose ground. If there’s no way to further restrain abortion rights (Dems control Congress, the voters repeal an insane law like South Dakota’s attempt to ban abortion), fine, the conservative coalition will at least fight to ensure that ground isn’t lost. They’ll unite to fight efforts to rescind a partial-birth abortion ban, or add new funding to Planned Parenthood. Those efforts to prevent losses are just as important to holding the coalition together as are the efforts to achieve policy gains.

Being in the conservative coalition means never having to lose a policy fight – or if you do lose, it won’t be because your allies abandoned you.

This is the source of the mistrust that characterizes the relationship between the progressives and the centrists (or neo-liberals in Cruishank’s piece ) in the Democratic Party coalition. It’s not just that progressive goals are often thwarted — so are conservatives’. Nobody always gets what they want. It’s that progressive values and issues are actively disdained and used as bargaining chips in negotiations. It’s one thing to feel that you aren’t getting what you want, it’s quite another to be constantly worried that you will lose what you already have — and at the hands of your own coalition allies.

This all worked for the centrists when the Republicans played bipartisan politics. But they don’t anymore. They have adopted a hardcore partisan approach that does not allow give and take with the opposition party. The Centrists learned this during the health care battle and their response has been to manipulate and strong arm the progressives in their coalition to get the votes they need. (In the old days, they could just leave them standing on the sidelines and make deals with Republicans.)

Rather than make deals with the members of their own coalition or promising to never put them in a position in which they are losing ground, the Dem Centrists exert dominance by forcing progressives to continually make Solomonic choices between one constituency and another. It’s a very difficult position for people of conscience to be in — there are real consequences to these decisions. On big once-in-a-generation legislation like health care, the pressure was so intense for them to conform that it was excruciating to watch. The progressives didn’t get that which they most wanted, single payer or the public option, which was very hard to take. But that wasn’t enough — the pro-choice members of the coalition actually lost ground. The health care act will make it harder for women to get insurance coverage for their reproductive needs as a result of that negotiation. That is where this coalition fails over and over again. It throws its long won gains on the table to sweeten the pot (and then demands that their membership cheer their own losses.)

Cruikshank is making an appeal to progressives to apply the GOP coalition rules to themselves and stick together, even if the centrists continue to play their games.. And that’s certainly necessary advice. Warring amongst ourselves is about as destructive as it gets. But there needs to be an understanding of how progressives are being manipulated in the Party — and a plan to thwart it — or there is going to be some kind of crack-up eventually. You simply can’t have a working coalition in which a very large faction is constantly used as political cannon fodder. If the anger doesn’t kill you the disillusionment will. The old bipartisan way is dead for now and Democrats had better adjust to dealing fairly and equitably within its own coalition or they’re going to find that they don’t have one.

 

Tell the FCC: AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile must be stopped

Tell the FCC: Stop the AT&T takeover of T-Mobile. It’s bad for consumers, and it’s even worse for our democracy.

The FCC is the only federal agency with jurisdiction over the takeover that accepts public comments on the record. It’s crucial that we use the FCC’s official comment period to demonstrate just how much public opposition there is to this deal.

There have already been an unprecedented number of comments filed by consumers opposing AT&T. But we’ll need your help to make the response so huge that even the FCC can’t ignore us.

 

From Sen. Dick Durbin:

I’m writing you today to help me do right by some of America’s most talented, hardworking, patriotic young adults — many of whom have reached out to me directly over the years with inspiring personal stories and emotional pleas for help.

I’m talking about a select group of high school graduates who were brought to America as children — often before they can even remember — but who now face deportation, through no fault of their own.

These young people have been raised in America. They have sat in the classrooms of our schools and stood up every morning to give the Pledge of Allegiance to the only flag they’ve ever known. They have worked hard and played by the rules.

They deserve a chance to be legal, contributing members of our society — and it’s up to you and me to give them that shot.

Click here to sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of the DREAM Act that I just re-introduced in the Senate —  to give a select group of bright immigrant students the chance to contribute more fully to America.

My legislation would give students with good moral character who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years — and came here before turning sixteen — the chance to earn legal status after earning a high school degree and completing two years of college or military service in good standing.

It would ensure that some of our nation’s honor-roll students, class valedictorians, star athletes and talented artists could continue their studies in America and become our next generation of doctors, nurses, teachers, soldiers, public servants, and more.

And it would ensure that these young people are not punished for a wrong they didn’t commit. That’s not the American way.

Passing the DREAM Act is simply the right thing to do. Please sign on as a citizen co-sponsor of this important legislation right now.

In recent votes, a growing majority of the Senate has supported the DREAM Act.

But we still need to pick up a few more “Yea” votes to break the filibuster, and convince obstructionist Senators it’s in their political best interest — and the country’s best interest — to stand with this select group of promising young people.

As you may know, this is an issue I’m especially passionate about.  I’ll keep you posted as I look for ways to advance this legislation in the Senate, and hope I can claim your support as I do.

Thank you for standing with me to do right by these young people.


QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did

and it never will. ~Frederick Douglass

 

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.

10 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. agrippa says:

    Cher, I agree that Chomsky is pure ivory tower at this point; I suspect that he knows that he is pure ivory tower and that is where he wants to be. He does do a good job of pointing out evils. But, as to what to do? That will have to come from people other than Chomsky.

  2. Abbyrose86 says:

    Thanks Cher for another great round up. I so look forward to the daily roundup…even when I don’t comment, I’m lurking! :)

    Some days, I just don’t even know what to say half the time. I swear some days I think our nation is losing it’s collective minds!

    Here’s a funny take on it from the Onion…

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/nation-down-to-last-hundred-grownups,20491/?utm_source=recentnews

    It was funny…but sad at the same time.

  3. agrippa says:

    It has been my view, and I have seen nothing to modify it, that the economy will “fix” itself. Mainstream economics/political economy has little or nothing in the way of solutions. Those economists who do have good ideas about what needs to be done are, virtually to a man, are heterodox; people like Krugman and Stiglitz are ignored.

    What we have is “rounding up the usual suspects”.

  4. agrippa says:

    Great stuff cher!
    Chomsky is an interesting fellow; a man, who by his own volition, is outside the mainstream. A man who, personifies, “speaking the truth to power”. He cannot do otherwise as he is a libertarian socialist ( a variant of anarchism) and I do not expect him to get very much air time or ink. For good or ill.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Agrippa, I have to admit that I’ve almost stopped reading Chomsky entirely. I agree with many of his assessments but I just find him so consistently depressing and predictable. At the same time, I believe he has an important role to play--we DO need those who remind us of the basic wrongs that are being perpetrated. It’s just that at some point one wants to ask, What do you realistically suggest we do? It is the same for me with most critics on the far Left; in most cases I agree with them, but it becomes self-defeating and demoralizing. And I have not yet heard any of them tell us what their prescription for the country is. But maybe that’s not their role. Maybe they see their role as merely highlighting the ills and leaving the work to those they inspire. But in Chomsky’s case, I think he is pure Ivory Tower at this point.


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