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Chernynkaya On June - 30 - 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

 


Mother Jones: What’s Happening With the Debt Ceiling Explained (with several updates)


Geithner’s letter to Sen DeMint: default would be “radical and deeply irresponsible” and ineffective:

 

235 economists, including 6 Nobel Prize winners, call for clean, immediate debt ceiling increase

“We, the undersigned economists, urge Congress to raise the federal debt limit immediately and without attaching drastic and potentially dangerous reductions in federal spending,” they wrote. “Not doing so promptly could have a substantial negative impact on economic growth at a time when the economy looks a bit shaky. In a worst case, it could push the United States back into recession.”

 

The debt ceiling might be unconstitutional, but now is not the time to find out

Ezra Klein:

[…] But back the conversation up for a moment. The danger of the debt limit isn’t that America won’t eventually make good on its debts. We have more than enough money to cover our bills, and the market knows that perfectly well. It’s that the fight over paying our debt will be so brutal, so irresponsible, and so unsettling that the market will reevaluate the faith it puts in America’s political system to pay our bills, reduce our deficit and make sound economic decisions in the years to come. Put slightly differently, the danger isn’t that investors never get paid, but that the way they get paid makes them lose faith in the country’s management, which in turn forces the entire financial system to reevaluate the safety of a bedrock asset — which is essentially exactly what happened in the last financial crisis, but on a much larger scale.

Layering a constitutional crisis over political gridlock may work in the sense that the Obama administration will win the court case. But it’ll fail terribly in terms of sustaining the market’s confidence in our political system. That’s a step toward total breakdown, not evidence that agreement can eventually be reached and economic renewal achieved. The debt ceiling needs to be resolved in a way that assures investors that America’s other economic problems will be resolved, too. A court case that affirms the executive’s right to rack up more debt and the political system’s inability to agree on a reasonable deficit reduction package is the precise opposite of that.

 

The Negotiations Failed?

Ezra Klein reads tea leaves:

The best advice I’ve gotten for assessing the debt-ceiling negotiations was to “watch for the day when the White House goes public.” As long as the Obama administration was refusing to attack Republicans publicly, my source said, they believed they could cut a deal. And that held true. They were quiet when the negotiations were going on. They were restrained after Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl walked out last week. Press Secretary Jay Carney simply said, “We are confident that we can continue to seek common ground and that we will achieve a balanced approach to deficit reduction.” But today they went public. The negotiations have failed.

 

 

Schumer To Boehner: If You Think You Can Raise The Debt Limit Without Dem Support, You’re Dreaming

A number of Republican House members have said they won’t vote to raise the debt limit at all, or only under certain, highly partisan circumstances. Schumer’s math suggests that means he’ll need Democratic votes to pass a viable debt limit bill, and that means new revenues will have to be part of the equation.

“So for Speaker Boehner to say as was mentioned before that he doesn’t have the votes for [new revenues] — well, he doesn’t have the votes if he doesn’t have revenues. Because he’s not going to get Democratic votes without revenues, and he doesn’t have enough Republican votes on his own to cast it,” Schumer said.

It’s possible Boehner could pass a debt limit hike without Democratic support, if he attached key conservative wish-list items to it. But that would be a dead-on-arrival package in the Senate, and that would be a recipe for a default. Inevitably, it seems he’ll need to turn to Democrats for votes.

“That, my friends, is a major difference between this and the [six-month spending bill]. The House can’t just lob things over to us if they don’t have the ability to do so in their caucus,” Schumer said.

 

AARP: Take Social Security Changes Off the Table For Debt Reduction

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 22, 2011
Contact: Media Relations
(202) 434-2560

AARP: Take Social Security Changes Off the Table For Debt Reduction
WASHINGTON – AARP CEO A. Barry Rand offered the following statement on possible debt and deficit reduction proposals that include the adoption of superlative or chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) that would impact Social Security and other benefits:

“Let me be clear –AARP will not accept any cuts of any kind to Social Security as part of a deal to pay the nation’s bills, and specific proposals such as the chained CPI should not be considered as part of the debt ceiling or deficit reduction negotiations.

“Any discussion around proposals that would impact Social Security must only happen in the context of strengthening retirement security, not balancing the budget. Throughout the debt ceiling debate, AARP is committed to fighting to protect Social Security for today’s seniors and strengthening it for future generations.

“It is important to remember that Social Security is currently the principal source of income for nearly two-thirds of older American households receiving benefits, and roughly one third of them depend on Social Security benefits for nearly all of their income. In addition, over the last two years, Social Security beneficiaries have not seen any increase in their monthly checks, even as they have faced rising costs in health care and other basic necessities. As the chained CPI would result in a lower cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) each year, reducing the COLA even by a small amount is a harmful cut for many retirees.

“Social Security is a critically important issue for our members, their families and Americans of all ages, especially at a time when many will have less retirement security than previous generations with fewer pensions, less savings and rising health care costs. Now is not the time to accept any changes to Social Security as part of a deal to reduce the deficit. AARP will continue to protect this bedrock of lifetime financial security for all generations of Americans.”

For more information, visit www.aarp.org/protectseniors.

 

ECONOMY


Labor Dept Announces Release of $838.7M in Unemployment Insurance Modernization Incentive Funds to California


Greenspan Steps Up Call to End Bush-Era Tax Cuts

In an appearance Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Greenspan used his strongest words yet to urge lawmakers to let them expire. The risk of a U.S. debt crisis, he said, is just too big. Mr. Greenspan, who retired from the Federal Reserve in 2006, had endorsed the cuts back in 2001 championed by then-President George W. Bush.

 

Obama Needs to Fight for Jobs

I’m running a bit late so I don’t have time to say as much as I’d like about this, but I don’t like this advice at all (I’ve advocated, for example, proposing job creation policies very publicly, and then forcing Republicans to vote them down):

Obama needs to create jobs, not fight for them, by Ezra Klein: Ron Klain, former chief of staff to both Al Gore and Joe Biden, thinks President Obama needs to make more of a show of fighting for job-creating policies. “The greatest risk to the president will be if the American people believe the administration isn’t trying hard enough to tackle the jobs problem,” he writes. “That is why it is imperative for the administration to do more — proposing new ideas, initiatives and job-creation programs — and without delay. It may not succeed, but it must get ‘caught trying’ to do more to spur job creation.”

This advice appeals to me. It’s what I’d like to see happen. But I also think it’s wrong, and if I were advising President Obama, I’d advise him not to take it.

Let’s agree that what matters isn’t how many jobs you “get caught trying” to create, but how many jobs you actually create. There’s virtually no evidence that if Obama makes more speeches on jobs, his poll numbers will go up or the labor market will improve. There’s lots of evidence that if he passes policies that create more jobs, his poll numbers will go up and the labor market will improve. The question, then, isn’t how Obama can get “caught trying.” It’s how — or whether — he can succeed.

When presidents take a strong stand for or against policies, they polarize the policies. Under unified control of government — particularly under unified control of government with a filibuster-proof majority — that can make the policies easier to pass, as it consolidates party support. Under divided control of government, it makes them harder to pass, as it creates or hardens minority-party opposition.

A lot of observers wondered why the Obama administration didn’t push a payroll-tax cut in the 2010 elections. The reason, insiders said, was simple, if frustrating: If they did that, the Republican Party would publicly oppose it and they wouldn’t be able to pass it after the election. By staying quiet on the payroll-tax cut, they made it possible for Republicans to support it as part of the 2010 tax deal.

Recently, the Obama administration has been pushing an expansion of the payroll-tax cut. They want to extend it to employers, not just employees. But they’ve been more public about it. And sure enough, the GOP is suddenly finding itself opposed to a tax cut on business — man, polarization is a powerful force — and gripped by a sudden and, one imagines, soon-to-be-abandoned belief that tax cuts should be paid for.

All of which suggests that if any further jobs measures are going to pass, they’re going to have to start in backroom negotiations and only go public as part of a deal. Taking them public first in the hopes that you can then get them as part of backroom negotiations won’t work. So though I agree with Klain that the right political move for Obama is to push harder on jobs, if I were advising the president, I’d tell him to keep any policies that his legislative team thinks could actually pass out of his speeches. Because the right politics, in the end, won’t do him much good in November. The right jobs numbers will.

Some very quick thoughts:

1. This is not a one-shot game. You have to make the Republicans pay in terms of eroded public support before they will agree to cooperate at all. Yes, they might walk away, and that might hurt in the short-run, but if they are forced to pay a large cost in terms of public support then next time things will be different. The president in particular has not played a long-run strategy, the Republicans have, and the results reflect this.

2. “Let’s agree that what matters isn’t how many jobs you “get caught trying” to create.” Why should I agree to take as given the point being debated here? We haven’t been in this situation before, so past evidence isn’t all that relevant. When we need jobs as bad as we do right now, making it clear the other side is standing in the way of that goal, and fighting for the policies you’d like to enact has more value than it did in the past.

3. Yes, it might cause Republicans to leave the negotiating table, but that’s where the lack of public rhetoric really hurts. That’s where Republicans must be made to pay for their behavior in the eyes of the public. Otherwise they will control the negotiations as they do now. The payroll tax, for example, was not the  first choice of Democrats, it was chosen because of fear Republicans would walk away from any other proposal. Their public rhetoric had already boxed Democrats in and now Democrats are supposed to be afraid of trying to punch through that box in public. To me, this is about leaders and followers, and the administration is not the one leading policy right now.

4. The other side is not shy about going public, and that was also true when they controlled the White House. If this advice is correct, why didn’t it hurt Republicans when they were in power?

5. Yes, jobs at election time would be best. But if the other side is pushing policies that work against that goal so that it is unlikely to be attained, I can’t see how making that clear to the public would hurt.

 

Thom Hartmann: Proof that Rich people aren’t the job creators!

 

 

ENERGY


Nuclear Plants and Disasters: NRC Inspection Results

After the earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered an inspection of U.S. plants to check their preparedness for a catastrophic natural disaster or terrorist attack. Inspectors found problems at 60 of the 65 plants. Excerpts from the inspection reports are below. For help with acronyms, see this glossary.

Arkansas Nuclear One | Beaver Valley | Braidwood | Browns Ferry | Brunswick | Byron | Callaway | Calvert Cliffs | Catawba | Clinton | Columbia Generating Station | Comanche Peak | Cooper | Crystal River | Davis Besse | DC Cook | Diablo Canyon | Dresden | Duane Arnold | Farley | Fermi | Fitzpatrick | Fort Calhoun | Ginna | Grand Gulf | Harris | Hatch | Hope Creek | Indian Point 2 | Indian Point 3 | Kewaunee | Lasalle | Limerick | McGuire | Millstone | Monticello | Nine Mile | North Anna | Oconee | Oyster Creek | Palisades | Palo Verde | Peach Bottom | Perry | Pilgrim | Point Beach | Prairie Island Units 1 and 2 | Quad Cities Units 1 and 2 | River Bend | Robinson | St. Lucie | Salem | San Onofre | Seabrook | Sequoyah | South Texas Project | Summer | Surry | Susquehanna | Three Mile Island | Turkey Point | Vermont Yankee | Vogtle | Waterford | Watts Bar | Wolf Creek

 

GM working on sexy new all-electric car for every country except U.S.

 

HEALTH CARE

 


George W. Bush-Appointed States’ Rights Crusader Rejects Lawsuit Challenging Affordable Care Act

The most important part of today’s Sixth Circuit decision upholding the Affordable Care Act isn’t what the court said, although the court’s rejection of this utterly meritless challenge is quite significant. The most important part of today’s decision is who made it.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton is a George W. Bush appointee and a former law clerk to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. He served as an officer in the conservative Federalist Society’s Federalism and Separation of Powers practice group, and was one of the nation’s leading crusaders for expanding the role of the states at the federal government’s expense. Prior to becoming a judge, Sutton devoted much of his career to preventing people with disabilities, religious minorities, and even children who are illegally deprived of Medicaid coverage from holding states accountable in federal court — even successfully arguing major states’ rights cases in the Supreme Court. So he is exactly the kind of person who would be extremely sympathetic to the conservative claim that the Affordable Care Act exceeds Congress’ lawful authority.

And yet, Sutton’s opinion today said something else entirely:

On the merits, this case presents two distinct questions: Does the individual mandate survive the substantial-effects test? And, if so, is there something about the novelty of this law—compelling the purchase of health insurance—that warrants striking it down nonetheless?

The initial question is the easier of the two, as the breadth of the substantial effects doctrine and the nature of modern health care favor the validity of this law. No matter how you slice the relevant market—as obtaining health care, as paying for health care, as insuring for health care—all of these activities affect interstate commerce, in a substantial way. […]

Does the Commerce Clause contain an action/inaction dichotomy that limits congressional power? No—for several reasons. First, the relevant text of the Constitution does not contain such a limitation. To the extent “regulate,” “commerce,” “necessary” and “proper” might be words of confinement, the Court has not treated them that way, as long as the objects of federal legislation are economic and substantially affect commerce. […] Second, the promise offered by the action/inaction dichotomy—of establishing a principled and categorical limit on the commerce power—seems unlikely to deliver in practice. Level of generality is destiny in interpretive disputes, and it remains unclear at what level plaintiffs mean to pitch their action/inaction line of constitutional authority or indeed whether a workable level exists.

To translate a bit, Sutton concluded that the heart of the assault on the Affordable Care Act — the claim that a law encouraging people to buy insurance is unconstitutional because Congress cannot compel people to take this unwanted action — has no basis in the “text of the Constitution,” and it rests on a legal distinction that is utterly incoherent. And this comes from one of the most conservative members of the federal bench.

To be fair, Sutton also rested his decision on something known as the facial/as-applied distinction. The Supreme Court allows two kinds of challenges to a law: “facial” challenges, that claim the law must be effectively striken from the books, and “as applied” challenges, which claim that the law cannot be applied to a particular person or entity. In order to bring a facial challenge, a party must show that “no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be valid,” and Sutton floated the possibility that someone who has achieved the miraculous task of avoiding the national health care market altogether may be able to exempt themselves from the law through an as-applied challenge brought at a future date. But Sutton’s harsh words for the basic legal theory underlying the plaintiffs’ case is a body blow to these lawsuits.

The case against the Affordable Care Act is so weak that one of the court of appeals’ most conservative judges — a judge who devoted much of his life to shrinking federal power — just rejected it. Now would be a good time for the nation to collectively stop pretending that these lawsuits have any merit whatsoever.

 

IMMIGRATION


Implementing the DREAM Act, Piece by Piece

The Nation:

There is virtually no chance the DREAM Act will become law in the current Congress. The bill, which would provide conditional US residency to undocumented high school graduates who are pursuing either a college degree or a military career, died in the last Congress—before Republicans took control of more seats in both chambers. The new Republican House of Representatives would sooner pass a bill rescinding citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants, rather than extending it to anyone.

But the Obama administration is doing what it can to implement the DREAM Act through the back door by refusing to deport many undocumented students. It’s not nearly as effective as the comprehensive DREAM Act legislation—but it does keep talented immigrants in the country, and resembles several similar efforts in a dozen different states.

At a Senate hearing on the DREAM Act yesterday, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano explained the rationale behind a recent memo written by Immigration and Custom Enforcement director John Morton, which outlines situations where “discretion” could be used to prevent certain immigrants from being deported, including students. It specifically allows agents and attorneys to consider if a person graduated from high school or is enrolled in a higher education program.

“We simply don’t receive the appropriation necessary to remove everyone who is technically removable from the United States. And so we have to set priorities,” Napolitano said. “One of the things we’re working on now, is to design a process that would allow us as early as possible, to identify people who are caught up in the removal system, who in the end really don’t fit our priorities or in the end, would not be removable.”

As Suzy Khimm notes at Mother Jones, the discretion outlined in the Morton memo goes much further than earlier efforts at discretion during the Clinton administration. “It’s a paradigm shift…it’s the first memo I’ve seen by an ICE director written in plain English so that a field officer and trial attorney can understand it,” David Leopold, an immigration attorney and president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told Khimm. “What he’s really saying is, look at the people you run across in the scope of your enforcement work as human beings, not merely as statistics and targets—have they developed ties, have they added to the social fabric and culture, do they have children that depend on them? I applaud him for that.”

MORE>>>


JUSTICE


Sheriff Turns Wis. ‘Chokehold’ Investigation Over To Subordinates

It appears to now be politically difficult to even find a proper venue for investigating the alleged physical altercation at the Wisconsin Supreme Court — in which liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley has accused conservative Justice David Prosser of grabbing her neck in a chokehold, during an argument over the court’s recent decision regarding the upholding of Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation.

Dane County (Madison) Sheriff Dave Mahoney, who was elected as a Democrat in a partisan election, has separated himself from the investigation, following complaints by some conservative activists — and also following the investigation having been transferred to him on Monday by the Capitol Police, who had originally been investigating the matter.

Some conservatives had complained that in this past spring election for the state Supreme Court, Mahoney had endorsed Prosser’s opponent JoAnn Kloppenburg. In addition, he has previously endorsed Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson — whom Prosser has previously called a “total bitch,” and when the incident was later reported said the comment was “entirely warranted”

In his statement, Mahoney described the process by which the case was transferred throughout his office in multiple steps, such that he would play no role in assigning detectives or overseeing the investigation.

 

Bank Of America’s $20 Billion Subprime Moment

NPR:

Bank of America said today that it’s taking more than $20 billion in charges connected to its mortgage business.

That’s huge. For context, the bank reported a net loss of $2 billion last year, and a net profit of $6 billion in 2009.

The bank’s mortgage troubles are rooted in its 2008 purchase of Countrywide Financial, the mortgage company at the heart of the subprime boom.

Countrywide had issued tens of thousands of mortgages that were bundled into mortgage-backed bonds and sold off to investors. But many of those mortgages didn’t meet the promised standards for the quality of the collateral or the credit risk of the borrowers, a group of big investors argued in a letter to B of A last fall.

What’s more, the investors said, B of A and Countrywide knew that there were shoddy mortgages in the bonds, but had failed to inform the investors.

 

CVS to repay California for double billing MEDICAID

CVS Pharmacy will reimburse California more than $1.76 million as part of a $17.5 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and nine other states, including Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada and Rhode Island.

Starting in late 2002 and continuing through 2010, CVS submitted prescription drug claims to Medi-Cal for individuals who were covered by both Medi-Cal and a third-party insurance plan. The pharmacy should have first billed the primary insurer — and sought Medi-Cal reimbursement only for the remaining amount, typically the co-pay.

“CVS chose to short-change taxpayers and undermine our healthcare safety net with these actions,” said California Attorney General Kamala Harris. “We are all better off now that this deception has been uncovered.”

The actions of the pharmacy chain came to light in 2008 when a pharmacist working in Minnesota in 2008, came forward with his observations.

A multi-state investigation, in which billing and payment information was analyzed and cross-referenced to private insurance payment, found that CVS billed more than the amount allowed for so-called dual-eligible claims.

Investigating the case and negotiating the settlement with CVS were the California Attorney General’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse, along with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Inspector General, and the attorneys general of the other settling states.

As part of the agreement, CVS will train its employees in accurate billing procedures. CVS has started working with individual states to make sure it bills correctly for dual-eligible beneficiaries. Pharmacy payments will also be audited on a regular basis by an independent review organization.

The funds recovered for California will be paid to the Department of Health Care Services to reimburse the state’s Medi-Cal program.

 

MEDIA


Maddow feels the wrath of Obama fans

Following the announcement on Friday of same sex marriage legalization in New York, Rachel Maddow made a comment on her MSNBC show — a comment which invited a backlash Maddow could not have expected.

“Obama is against what just happened” she said, to express that the president had not supported marriage equality; something Maddow has pointed out numerous times. The MSNBC host is correct in so far as Obama has not lobbied in support of same sex marriage — his so-called “evolving” position on the issue has culminated in his calling New York’s vote “a good thing.” But Maddow’s comment invited a backlash on Twitter from Obama fans, and some of the criticism was heated. […]

Allan Brauer, a blogger at AngryBlackLady.com, wrote that Maddow was refusing to acknowledge a quote from a letter Obama wrote to an LGBT group in California in opposition of Prop. 8. “I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks,” Obama wrote in 2008. Others point to the fact that Obama’s view is “evolving” to illustrate that Maddow’s use of the word “against” did not do justice to the president’s view on marriage equality.

On Monday night, Maddow commented again on Twitter, noting “Pres Obama doesn’t support same-sex marriage. It’s OK to be mad at me for saying it, but it’s still true.”

 

The media’s misguided `gaffe’ obsession

You know what’s not getting nearly the same treatment? Bachmann has been going around for some time now, including on her Sunday TV appearances, spouting absolute nonsense about the debt ceiling. She’s claiming that somehow it would be no big deal if the limit wasn’t raised. And yet, while her “gaffes” are getting pilloried by reporters, that assertion is just getting he-said-she-said type “balanced” reporting (see, for example, this AP story).

 

 

MILITARY


VIDEO: As Drawdown Begins, Moving Troops in Afghanistan Will Take Time

As the United States begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, units are being moved eastward. The difficulty of moving forces within the land-locked country provides a glimpse at the logistical challenge of removing armed forces entirely.

 

White House Releases New Counterterrorism Strategy

In a speech that came as the White House released its National Strategy for Counterterrorism, President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, said the United States will not to play into an al-Qaida strategy that “seeks to bleed us financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment.”

“Under President Obama, we are working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan responsibly,” Brennan said in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. “Going forward, we will be mindful that if our nation is threatened, our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.”

The unclassified report offered little new, but emphasized the administration’s belief that al-Qaida is less of a danger than it is in peripheral battlegrounds, such as Somalia and Yemen, where post-Arab Spring civil strife has pushed the nation to precipice of collapse. Brennan also said that the new strategy will put particular emphasis on combating al-Qaida and its affiliates’ ability to inspire people within the United States to carry out attacks on American soil. In his speech, Brennan noted the threat of al-Qaida leaders Adam Gadahn and Anwar al-Awlaki, U.S.-born operatives operating out of Yemen.

In addition to the killing of Osama bin Laden in May, Brennan argued that since Obama has taken office, U.S. and international forces have eliminated more key al-Qaida leaders and their affiliates than at any time since the September 11 attacks, noting the killings of al Qaida’s third-ranking leader, Sheikh Saeed al-Masri; Ilyas Kashmiri, one of al-Qaida’s most dangerous commanders; and Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

“Taken together, the progress I’ve described allows us—for the first time—to envision the demise of al-Qaida’s core leadership in the coming years,” Brennan said. “It will take time, but make no mistake, al-Qaida is in its decline.”

 

POLITICS


ObamaPresser: Members of Congress Must ‘Do Their Jobs’ on Debt Deal

 

Obama picks fight with GOP over tax cuts for the rich

Greg Sargent:

The primary goal of President Obama’s presser, which just wrapped up, was obvious: He was clearly out to pick a major public fight with Republicans over tax cuts for the rich. Obama mounted a surprisingly aggressive moral case for ending high end tax cuts, casting it as a test of our society’s priorities, and argued — crucially — that anyone who fails to support ending them is fundamentally unserious about the deficit.

He also went out of his way to highlight GOP opposition to raising revenues by ending a perk for corporate jet owners. This proposal would raise only $3 billion, which means it’s trivial in the larger scheme of things, and Obama’s mention of it seemed deliberately designed to provoke howls of outrage and cries of “class warfare” from Republicans — with the obvious goal of maneuvering Republicans into the role of arch defenders of the interests of the wealthy.

Obama is picking this fight in order to reframe the deficit and debt ceiling debate as a battle not over government spending — losing turf for Dems — but over who has the most balanced priorities and who is really working in the interests of the whole country.

Here’s the key quote, which mentions the corporate jet tax break no less than three times:

If we choose to keep those tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, if we keep the tax break for corporate jet owners, if we choose to keep tax breaks for oil and gas companies that are making hundreds of billions of dollars, then that means we’ve got to cut some kids off from getting a college scholarship. That means we have to stop funding certain grants for medical research. That means that food safety may be compromised. That means that Medicare has to bear a greater part of the burden. These are the choices we have to make…

The Republicans say they want to reduce the deficit. Every single observer who’s not an elected official or politican says we can’t reduce our deficit in the scale and scope we need to without having a balanced approach that looks at everything. Democrats have to accept some painful spending cuts that hurt some of our consituencies that we may not like. And we’ve shown a willingness to do that for the greater good…

If you are a wealthy CEO or hedge fund manager in America right now, your taxes are lower than they’ve ver been. They’re lower than they’ve been since the 1950s. And you can afford it. You’ll still be able to ride on your corporate jet. You’ll just have to pay a little more…My believe is that the Republican leadership in Congress will hopefully sooner rather than later come to the conclusion that they need to make the right decisions for the country, that everybody else has been willing to move off their maximalist position. They need to do the same. My expectation is that they’ll do the responsible thing.

In another key moment, Obama seemed to draw a line against cost-shifting to seniors to solve the Medicare problem. He said:

We’re gonna have to look at entitlements. And that’s always difficult politically. But I’ve been willing to say we need to see where we can reduce the cost of health care spending and Medicare and Medicaid in the out years. Not by shifting costs on to seniors, as some have proposed, but rather by actually reducing those costs.

While there’s good reason for skepticism that the final deal won’t contain some kind of cost shifting, it was good to hear Obama lay down that marker in those terms.

More broadly, Obama stopped just short of saying he would not accept a final deficit deal without a high end tax hike. But his presser made it clear that he will will relitigate this fight and make it central to the campaign. And while we should keep in mind that Obama did ultimately cut a deal on the high-end tax cuts last time around, those who are hoping he will continue to make a strong moral argument in favor of ending them should be pleased by what they heard.

 

Obama confronts Congress on economy, debt and Libya

Chris Cilliza:

Obama, often in harsh and stark terms, condemned the approach that House and Senate Republicans have adopted in the final stretch of the negotiations surrounding the increase in the nation’s debt limit.

“They’re in one week, they’re out one week,” said Obama of Congress. “And then they’re saying Obama needs to step in. I’ve been here.” […]

Obama’s confrontational approach toward Congress extended beyond the debt negotiations — seeping into answers he gave on job creation, the broader economy and Libya.

On each issue, Obama cast himself as the adult in the room and Congress as an irresponsible child — unwilling to sacrifice their desire to score political points for the good of the country.

He even made that comparison explicit — citing his two daughters’ tendency to get their homework done a day in advance as a good example for Congress to follow.

Politically, blaming Congress is a sound strategy. Poll after poll shows the institution is tremendously unpopular. In a new Associated Press-GfK poll just one in five people approved of the job Congress is doing.

And, attacking Republicans is also a major political winner for Obama among his liberal base — many of whom believe that the president has been insufficiently tough on the GOP since the 2010 election.

That he took such an aggressive tone with the negotiations headed into the final stretch suggest that a deal is not on the verge of being done — and that Obama has made the calculation that the only way to make a deal real is to ramp up the political pressure on Republicans.

“I think it would be hard for Republicans to stand there and say the tax break for corporate jets is sufficiently important that we are not willing to come to the table and get a deal done,” Obama said at one point, a comment sure to rile Republicans.

It’s hard to see Republicans being anything but upset about today’s press conference given the level of blame they came in for.

Does that harden their previous position that any deal that includes tax increases is a non-starter? Or is it possible that Obama’s use of the bully pulpit will reframe the national conversation on the debt ceiling in such a way that Congressional Republicans will feel compelled to put more on the table?

Our (cynical) guess is that the former option is far more likely — although, in politics, most anything is possible.

 

[ NO JOKE] Lindsay Lohan, financial pundit

digby:

I saw this yesterday (someone re-tweeted it) but I assumed it was one of those fake twitter accounts:

As a general rule we turn to the likes of Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, economists, Nobel Prize winners to give us their take on important financial issues like inflation. But in the Twitter age, everybody has an opinion on just about everything.

So I guess it wasn’t too surprising to read this tweet today: “Have you guys seen food and gas prices lately? U.S. $ will soon be worthless if the Fed keeps printing money!”

Of COURSE the tweet was from…Lindsay Lohan. She later clarified to her two-million-plus followers that it was a sponsored tweet. But then added that: “I actually do care about gas and food prices, so whether it’s an #ad or no [sic], it’s important for people to be aware of it.”

Evidently nobody knows who the sponsor was, but we can probably guess. And it’s actually pretty smart. Lohan’s followers probably don’t care about politics and certainly won’t care about any controversy over this. But the meme will make its way into the ether at what I assume is a very low cost.

 

Ballot initiative 2 repeal Ohio’s anti-union law, SB5, collects 1.3M signatures, 1M more than needed

Activists delivered nearly 1.3 million signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office today to put a repeal of the state’s anti-union SB 5 law on the ballot next Election Day. We Are Ohio, the coalition leading the repeal effort, collected nearly six times the 231,149 signatures needed — more than a million extra signatures. A May poll found that 54 percent of Ohio voters want the law repealed, while only 36 percent want to keep it.

 

Dem Senators Urge DOJ To Use ‘Full Power’ To Scrutinize Voter ID Laws

Fifteen Democratic Senators have written a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the Justice Department to carefully review the “highly restrictive photo identification requirements” that are sweeping state legislatures across the country.

Concerned that the measures could “block millions of eligible American voters without addressing any problem commensurate with this kind of restriction on voting rights,” the Senators ask DOJ to use the “full power of the Department of Justice to review these voter identification laws and scrutinize their implementation.”

The letter — written by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and signed by Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), Sens. Dick Durbin (IL), Chuck Schumer (NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Mark Begich (AK), Ben Cardin (MD), Mary Landrieu (LA), Patty Murray (WA), Ron Wyden (OR), Tom Harkin (IA), Herb Kohl (WI) and Tom Udall (NM) — comes as Wisconsin, South Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Kansas and Tennessee have already passed voter ID measures.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) questioned DOJ’s Thomas Perez about the Department’s review of voter ID laws at a hearing earlier this month. Perez said that the Justice Department was reviewing all of the laws that had been passed under Section 2 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

But the Justice Department’s ability to step in to stop voter ID measures is hampered by a 2008 Supreme Court decision which found that Indiana’s state voter ID law was constitutional. Indiana provides IDs free of charge to the poor and allows those who don’t have IDs to cast provisional ballots.

A Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed receiving the letter and said DOJ was “monitoring, as we routinely do, this type of legislative activity in the states.”

TPM’s full coverage of voter ID developments is available here.

The text of the letter is reprinted below:

Dear Attorney General Holder: We are writing to express our concerns about highly restrictive photo identification requirements under consideration or already signed into law in several states. These measures have the potential to block millions of eligible American voters without addressing any problem commensurate with this kind of restriction on voting rights. Studies have shown that as high as 11% of eligible voters nationwide do not have a government-issued ID. This percentage is higher for seniors, racial minorities, low-income voters and students. Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and we urge you to protect the voting rights of Americans by using the full power of the Department of Justice to review these voter identification laws and scrutinize their implementation.

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act vests significant authority in the Department to review laws before they are implemented in covered jurisdictions. As you know, the burden of proof in this preclearance process is on those covered jurisdictions, which must be able to show that legal changes will not have a discriminatory impact on minority voters. New photo identification laws, for instance, must be subjected to the highest scrutiny as states justify these new barriers to participation. In Section 5 jurisdictions, whenever photo identification legislation is considered, the Department should closely monitor the legislative process to track any unlawful intent evinced by the proceedings.

Restrictive photo identification requirements are also being considered or have passed in states and jurisdictions that are not covered by Section 5. The Department should exercise vigilance in overseeing whether these laws are implemented in a way that discriminates against protected classes in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Additionally, federal civil rights law – 42 U.S.C. 1971(a)(2)- prohibits different standards, practices or procedures from being applied to individuals within a jurisdiction. We believe the Department should ensure that these photo identification laws do not violate this statute or other federal voting rights statutes.

Highly restrictive photo identification requirements at the polls can make it more difficult for well-intentioned voters to cast their ballots, and as far as America’s civil rights trajectory is concerned, that sort of effect takes America in the wrong direction. We urge you to exercise your authority to examine these laws so that voting rights are not jeopardized. We also request that you brief us on the efforts the Department is undertaking to ensure these new laws are implemented in accordance with the Voting Rights Act.

Thank you for your work protecting the civil rights of all Americans.

 

 

Presidents have been declaring national monuments since 1906, so why is Congress questioning it now?

Capitol Hill seems to be in the grip of national monument hysteria. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced a flurry of bills to limit or end presidential authority to designate areas of federal land as national monuments, an executive power that’s been in place—and used extensively by presidents of both parties—for more than a century.

Sponsors of the bills are engaging in over-the-top alarmism by raising the specter of a pending “land grab” by the Obama administration and portraying their efforts as a heroic state homeland defense against an out-of-control central government. They couch their arguments in terms of “state sovereignty” and assert that extending greater land conservation measures—to areas the federal government already manages—will harm local economies by limiting commercial uses of public land.

Some of this is not unexpected in the run-up to the 2012 election. Some of the sponsors—Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-MT), for example—face tough election fights. But it also represents a fundamental misreading of the long history of federal land management and overlooks the solid record of protected public lands bolstering local economic vitality.

Presidents have had the authority to designate federal lands as national monuments since Theodore Roosevelt signed into law the Antiquities Act in 1906. That law gives presidents wide discretion to create monuments from areas having “historic or scientific interest.”

 

Gay-Marriage Envy

Robert Kuttner:

Sometimes I wish my personal overriding cause were gay rights. Then I could get up in the morning and feel that my side was making real progress.

It is thrilling to see how a movement for human decency has made immense gains. Executive leadership married to millions of acts of personal courage in a strong grass-roots movement can be transformative. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is the hero of the hour for using all his political skills to move just enough Republicans in the New York Legislature into the Yes column on same sex marriage. […]

Dowd, valorizing New York Cuomo’s leadership, notes that he “debuted with a flawless six months as a social liberal and a fiscal conservative (he passed an austere budget with a property tax cap and no tax increases.)”

But what’s so flawless about that? Where are the leaders who twist arms and motivate politicians to listen to their better angels when the issues are jobs and social investment and fighting middle class insecurity and poverty?

It’s a joy to see progress on same-sex marriage and the broader acceptance of sexual difference, a fight that is far from over. It would be nice to also see some progress on the pocketbook issues.

 

Rove’s Crossroads won’t go unanswered

Steve Benen:

Late last week, Karl Rove’s attack operation, Crossroads GPS, launched an aggressive new ad campaign, targeting President Obama on the economy. Though the total price tag for the offensive is $20 million, the first wave is a $5 million ad buy in 10 states.

Crossroads, of course, is a leading Republican Super PAC, collecting undisclosed funds for exactly these kinds of efforts. As part of the Democratic effort to level the playing field, a rival operation, Priorities USA, unveiled a response to the Rove ad overnight.

[…] It’s a good ad, but the larger point to keep in mind is that the ad exists because Dems are choosing to play by the same rules Republicans play by. I can appreciate why this is controversial for some leading progressive voices, but without Priorities USA, it’s likely the Crossroads ad would simply go unanswered right now.

I’m of the opinion that the national discourse doesn’t benefit from these new campaign-finance rules, but the discourse also suffers when only one side follows the rules to get its message out to voters.

That said, it will remain a huge challenge for Democrats to try to keep up. While the first wave of Rove’s ads will come from $5 million in secret donations, the new Priorities USA spot will be backed by a $750,000 buy. Crossroads’ commercial will air in 10 states; Priorities USA’s ad will run in five states (Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, and Virginia).

Presumably, if Priorities USA receives a strong response and a bunch of new contributions come in, the effort can be expanded, but it’s worth remembering that even if Dems commit wholeheartedly to fight fire with fire, Republicans will almost certainly have a bigger flame-thrower.

 

Scott Uses Robocalls to Tout Accomplishments

With poll numbers showing him the least popular governor in the country, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is using automated phone calls to let voters know what he’s doing, the Miami Herald reports.

“Political robocalls are nothing new in the final weeks of a campaign season, but for the first time anyone can recall Scott has the state GOP paying for regular recorded calls touting his day-to-day accomplishments. It’s part of his continuing effort to bypass the traditional media and communicate directly with voters.”

Said Scott: “The benefit is we get our message out. It allows us to tell people what we’re doing. Part of my job is let people know what I’m doing all the time.”

 

Senate votes to surrender its own powers on filling many senior government jobs

The Senate took the rare step of curbing its own power Wednesday, voting to no longer require Senate confirmation for 169 high-level federal jobs filled through presidential appointments.

Most of those jobs are second-tier Cabinet positions such as assistant secretaries and deputy directors that typically don’t inspire partisan wrangling. Nonetheless, the nominees often hang in limbo — and the jobs go unfilled — for months because their confirmations get drawn into other fights.

The bill, passed 79-20 and sent to the House, is part of a broader bipartisan effort to make the famously fickle Senate work more efficiently.

 

Pro-Democrat super-PAC to air response ads to the recent $20 million Crossroads GPS spots:

 

DNC rings alarm on American Crossroads

 

FEC Lawyers: GOP “Super-Duper” PAC Is Illegal

[…] Bopp had envisioned a novel strategy for the group, created in May and dubbed Republican Super PAC, that would allow it to circumvent political spending limits by using elected officials to fundraise for the PAC. My colleague Stephanie Mencimer outlined Bopp’s plan last month:

Say House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) approaches the CEO of Exxon for a contribution to his reelection campaign. Under federal law, the CEO can only give Boehner $2,500. In the past, that’s the end of the conversation. But Bopp’s plan envisions Boehner and his campaign asking that same donor—and his company—to pony up more money, as much as he wants, for the Republican Super PAC. The donor can even specify that the money be spent supporting Boehner or attacking his opponent. Then Bopp’s PAC can buy ads, send out mailings, canvass neighborhoods, and do all the other things a political campaign typically does on Boehner’s behalf.

Bopp, you might remember, was the driving force behind the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, a decision that opened the door to unlimited corporate campaign donations and reshaped the political playing field. The decision was a victory long in the works for Bopp, who for decades has chipped away at the nation’s campaign finance regulations. […]

Last week, the campaign finance watchdog’s top attorneys quietly released a draft opinion declaring that Bopp’s plan violates campaign finance law. Specifically, the attorneys pointed to the McCain-Feingold law, which bans elected officials and candidates from soliciting “soft money,” or unlimited campaign contributions, in connection with a federal election. The attorneys added that it’s OK for federal officials to appear and speak at fundraisers where unlimited cash is being raised, so long as they don’t directly solicit it themselves.

Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer said the FEC’s draft opinion upholds long-standing curbs on political fundraising, while quashing Bopp’s attempt to circumvent federal law. “The thing that Bopp is trying is just blatantly illegal,” Wertheimer says.

Tara Malloy, associate legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center (CLC), notes that the ban is hardly a done deal. On Thursday, a majority of the six-member FEC must approve the opinion to truly put it in place. Given the paralysis that has gripped the commission in recent years, there’s no guarantee of a consensus. What’s more, the FEC’s three conservative commissioners have more frequently spurned the advice of the commission’s lawyers than in years past, according to former Democratic FEC chair Scott Thomas. “For almost the entire history of the FEC, the commissioners were open to receiving recommendations from the staff,” he said earlier this year. “Now they are being stopped cold by those three commissioners.”

MORE>>>


POLLS


Democratic PPP Polls Flood Early Senate Landscape

Roll Call:

In recent years, Democrats have consistently criticized Rasmussen Reports for flooding the public space with polls and driving the narrative of races to favor Republican candidates. But six months into the 2012 cycle, public polling in Senate races has been dominated by one Democratic firm.

Public Policy Polling, an automated interview polling company based in North Carolina, has conducted almost 60 percent of all public polls measuring hypothetical 2012 Senate matchups up to this point in the cycle.

The firm counts Democratic candidates and interest groups as clients, but the majority of PPP’s Senate polls this year were conducted on the firm’s dime as a marketing strategy.

That strategy has drawn some criticism.

Setting aside controversy over the firm’s methodology, some Republicans believe the Democratic firm has ulterior motives.

MORE>>>


In U.S., Fears of Terrorism After Afghanistan Pullout Subside

A majority of Americans, 55%, now say they are not worried that withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan will make the United States more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. This is a shift from the 43% who were not worried in December 2009, when President Barack Obama announced a surge of U.S. troops in that country with a timetable for withdrawal starting in 2011.

 

Pew Research Center: Most Americans continue to say that government support for troops returning from war is falling short.

 

Pew Research Center: Far more (60%) say Iraq and Afghanistan wars boosted national debt than say same about other govt spending or tax cuts.

 

In U.S., Very Religious Americans Still Align More With GOP

 

NEW POLL: Perry trails Obama in Texas


58% of New Jerseyans support a millionaire surtax, but Christie vows to veto it…again


NEW POLL: 26% blame Bush for economic woes, 25% Wall Street, 8% Obama


SCIENCE


Just rewards: Study of children challenges economists’ notions of rational behavior

A Harvard University study built around an innovative economic game indicates that, at least for our younger selves, the desire for equity often trumps the urge to maximize rewards.

“We were able to show that 8-year-olds have a general sense of fairness and are willing to make large sacrifices to enforce it with other children,” said Peter Blake, a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics who co-authored the study with Katherine McAuliffe, a doctoral student at the University’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. “Children younger than 8 are more self-interested, yet they’re still willing to deny themselves rewards in order to prevent a transaction that’s unfair to them.”

The study, which was conducted under the auspices of Harvard’s Laboratory for Developmental Studies and appears in the August 2011 issue of the journal Cognition, explores a fundamental principle of economics, namely that humans do all they can — within the bounds of utility and constraints on resources — to maximize the satisfaction they get from consumption. According to this line of thinking, equity is more or less irrelevant to economic decision-making. People make choices based on whether a given transaction will leave them better off than they were before, not whether it will leave them as well off as their neighbor, or even the party with which they do business.

To test these assumptions — and to explore the development of economic decision-making among children — Blake and McAuliffe created the Inequity Game, an activity that allows children to accept or reject an unequal offer, both when it is advantageous to them and when it is not.

As parents and others looked on, researchers paired each participant with an unfamiliar peer — one designated the “decider,” one the “recipient” — and seated the children face to face at an apparatus created especially for the game. An adult then allocated candy on trays designated for each child.

“One kid was in charge of the toy,” said Blake. “He or she got to make decisions by pulling one of two handles in front of them. The other guy was just a passive recipient. If one kid got more than the other, the decider could pull the green handle and accept that outcome, or he could pull the red handle, the candy goes in the middle, and no one gets those.”

Some pairs were tested in a condition that Blake and McAuliffe called “advantageous inequity” (decider gets 4 pieces of candy; recipient gets one); some in “disadvantageous inequity” (decider gets one piece of candy; recipient gets four). Deciders in each condition also got offers of an equal outcome: one piece of candy for each participant.

“The game allows us to look at how one individual reacts to inequity when they are responsible for their own payoffs, as well as someone else’s,” McAuliffe explained. “The main question we were asking was, ‘Would children reject candy to prevent an unfair allocation of resources?’ The design has been very successful because kids enjoy learning about the apparatus and pulling the handles — not to mention the fact that they are motivated by the Skittles!”

Blake and McAuliffe were satisfied, but not surprised, by the results for children ages 4 to 7. The deciders in these groups generally accepted equal offers, as well as offers in their favor. They usually rejected unequal offers, although Blake said that children hesitated before pulling the red handle and sending all the candy — including the piece allotted to the decider — into the neutral bowl.

“They hesitate to reject an offer, even if they’re not coming out on top,” he said. “It’s hard for them to give up that one piece of candy, yet they’re willing to do it, whereas when they get more, there’s no problem. It’s very easy to make that decision.”

McAuliffe said the behavior of the younger children in the study conflicts with the economist’s notion of rational behavior.

“Even a 4-year-old child is willing to pay a cost to prevent a peer from getting more candy, when, in theory, they should accept any nonzero offer,” she said. “On the other hand, if we look at the behavior from the perspective of evolutionary biology and think of individuals in a competitive setting, it may not be irrational to prevent a relative disadvantage, even if it does mean sacrificing personal gain.”

The most surprising behavior occurred among the eight-year-olds in the study. The deciders in this age group continued to accept equal offers and reject unequal offers that were disadvantageous, just as their younger counterparts had done. But 8-year-olds also rejected allocations that were unequal, even when they benefited from the disparities.

“We weren’t expecting to see 8-year-olds willing to sacrifice so much candy to prevent a peer from getting less than them,” said McAuliffe. “In some cases, children were giving up 24 candies in a given session. It shows that fairness or inequity aversion is an important factor in determining how these children behave. Relative rewards do matter.”

In the years ahead, the researchers hope to clarify the motivations behind the behavior they observed in the children. It could be that the participants in the study made their decisions based on internalized norms of fairness. It’s also possible, however, that the children were concerned not with enforcing equity, but with preserving their reputations.

“They could be considering the audience around them and saying, ‘I don’t want to look like I’m being selfish by accepting all this candy. I know that I’ll reap future benefits by rejecting now,’” said Blake. “An awareness of reputation could be emerging. And that’s the next big step to test.”

 

WEDGE ISSUES

 

Andrew Sullivan: A President, Not A Governor

There have been many times over the past two years when I have whacked the Obama administration on their “fierce urgency of whenever” on gay equality. And I regret not a single one. The job of loyal opposition is to push and corral and complain and inveigh and pound the bloggy table a few times to get a point across. But look: it worked. Here’s what they have done, and it ain’t nothing.

They have removed the ban on openly gay servicemembers. Soooo yesterday, I know. But it is also so tomorrow. The emergence of openly gay soldiers – many of them heroes – will indelibly change the image and self-image of gays in America, in ways that expand the possibilities of being human and being noble. When the first military funeral takes place in which the folded flag is handed to the legal husband of a deceased male servicemember, the folds of the flag will reflect the folds of inclusion. It will be much harder to demonize gays when they are openly defending our country in uniform. The impact on the South in particular could be huge in the long run. Yes, Obama took his own sweet time; yes, it nearly slipped out of our grasp. But so did equality in New York State a few times. What matters is: he got it done.

They ended the HIV travel ban. I have a huge stake in this and the ban was repealed under Bush who admirably signed it into law. But Obama implemented it; and my trip home soon to see my family was made possible by that law. Yes, it was a long, long time coming. But what matters is: he got it done.

They withdrew legal support for DOMA. Again, a critical factor, along with moves in the states, to get the Supreme Court at some point to acknowledge that equal protection means equal protection; and that the logic of banning marriage for two percent of the population evaporates upon close rational inspection. Again, this was in the presidential bound of authority. And Obama did the right thing in the end.

Some now want this president to be Andrew Cuomo, a heroically gifted advocate of marriage equality who used all his skills to make it the law in his state. But the truth is that a governor is integral to this issue in a way a president can never be. Civil marriage has always been a state matter in the US. That tradition goes all the way back; it was how the country managed to have a patchwork of varying laws on miscegenation for a century before Loving vs Virginia. The attack on this legal regime was made by Republicans who violated every conservative principle in the book when they passed DOMA, and seized federal control over the subject by refusing for the first time ever not to recognize possible legal civil marriages in a state like Hawaii or Massachusetts. Defending this tradition is not, as some would have it, a kind of de facto nod to racial segregation; it is a defense of the norm in US history. And by defending that norm, the Obama administration has a much stronger and more coherent case in knocking down DOMA than if it had echoed Clinton in declaring that the feds could dictate a national marriage strategy.

More to the point, until very recently, if we had had to resolve this issue at a federal level, marriage equality would have failed. The genius of federalism is that it allowed us to prove that marriage equality would not lead to catastrophe, that it has in fact coincided with a strengthening of straight marriage, that in many states now, the sky has not fallen. That is why a man like David Frum has changed his mind – for the right conservative reason. Because there is evidence that this is not a big deal and yet unleashes a new universe of equality and dignity and integration for a once-despised minority. Obama’s defense of federalism in this instance is not a regressive throw-back; it is a pragmatic strategy.

The president has no actual political authority over this issue. He does have moral authority. But what close observers know about Obama is that he does not think of the presidency the way he thinks of a campaign. He knows he is president of all the people, including those who voted against him and those who conscientiously oppose marriage equality. He does not seek to divide as his predecessor did. By staying ever so slightly above on this issue, Obama is doing the right presidential thing – while presiding over what may well be the most seismic period for gay equality in history. I do not despise his restraint in his office. I wish more presidents exhibited it (and I wish he exhibited it a little more in cases like the Libya war).

One more thing. A civil rights movement does not get its legitimacy from any president. I repeat: he does not legitimize us; we legitimize him. As gays and lesbians, we should stop looking for saviors at the top and start looking for them within. We won this fight alongside our countless straight family members, friends, associates and fellow citizens. As long as Obama has done due diligence in the office he holds – and he has – he is not necessary to have as a Grand Marshall for our parade.

This is not about him. So instead of treating him with anger or disappointment, give him a little touch of his own trademarked mild condescension at the White House reception today.

And wink back.

 

U.S. Senators to LGBT Youth: It Gets Better

 

Tea Party Nation activist says anti-gay bullying is “healthy.”

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…


[Since I am addicted] Coffee: The Greatest Addiction Ever

 

TAKE ACTION


Don’t whine about the political process unless you regularly write your elected officials

Matthew Yglesias:

Something I like to ask people who are disgruntled with the performance of the political system is what have you, personally, done about it? When was the last time you wrote or called your member of Congress? Can you even name the people who represent you in the state legislature and have you written or called them? Howard Schuman with a detailed study of whether or not people should be required to get a police permit before they can buy a gun (via Jon Sides) illustrates the importance of such things. In 1978, such a permit requirement was favored 65 percent to 42 percent. By 2011, support had dropped somewhat but it was still popular, 57 percent to 43 percent. So why don’t gun controllers win? Surprisingly, it’s not preference intensity as measured by asking people if they feel strongly about the issue. Nor is it preference intensity as measured by asking people, “How important is a candidate’s position on permits for guns when you decide how to vote in a Congressional election?”

Instead, where the gap shows up is in people’s observed behavior:

A lot of people I know are skeptical of the value of calling or writing your member of Congress. After all, why would members of Congress care about such things when scientifically valid opinion surveys are available and few members face competitive elections anyway? Surely, congressional action is determined by some combination of public opinion as measured in polls and corruption via lobbyists. So if members don’t do the popular thing, it must be because the system is corrupt.

I doubt it. For one thing, it’s unquestionably the case that members of Congress dedicate a lot of staff time to fielding phone calls and reading and coding pieces of mail. And anecdotally, things like the huge “letter gap” over the Waxman-Markey energy reform bill had a huge psychological impact on the Hill. Then you have research like this. So I do wish everyone would say to themselves, “If I care enough about this issue to complain about it in conversation, then I’d better care enough about it to get in touch with the elected officials who represent me.”

 

Campaign to repeal Ohio’s SB 5 delivers more than 1,000,000 signatures

The effort to get a referendum on Ohio’s SB 5 needed 231,149 valid signatures from 44 counties. Today, pro-repeal groups marched in Columbus to deliver 1,298,301 petition signatures to the secretary of state.

Two weeks ago, when the repeal campaign announced that more than 700,000 signatures had been collected, Chris Bowers provided an overview:

The only public polls released on SB 5 have shown wide majorities of Ohio voter in favor of repeal. A Quinnipiac poll from mid-May showed repeal ahead 54%-36%, while a PPP poll from later in May showed repeal winning 55%-35%.

This signature gathering campaign does not just force a November referendum on the bill. It actually prevents the bill from going into law until the results of the referendum are certified. As such, if the repeal wins in November, which seems likely, then SB 5 will never become law. This is shaping up to become a total defeat for Ohio Governor John Kasich and his union-busting allies.

That defeat won’t come without a lot more hard work, but today the campaign to get enough signatures to force a referendum ends, and the campaign to win the referendum begins.

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Barack Obama volunteered to be the Captain of the Titanic AFTER it hit the iceberg” ~ Van Jones

 

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.

15 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. Khirad says:

    The guys who made the coffee bit also did this excellent vid:

    England is not the same thing as Britain gawdammit!


  2. KQuark says:

    The problem I have with Maddow it’s never right to read someones intentions. The fact is Obama’s position on gay marriage is that states should decide and NY state did decide. For her to read that Obama was “against” the decision personally was out of bounds. I think you are seeing somewhat of a backlash against some gay activists because they give absolutely ZERO credit where credit is due with the president and the Dems. Like I said I think Obama should change his position on same sex marriage but I don’t fail to give him credit for what he’s done which is far more than any other president has done for gay rights.

    Obviously Andrew Sullivan understands that being POTUS is not like being Governor or a State Senator for that matter. I won’t read intentions but do you think Obama would vetoed (be “against”) the legislation the NY Senate passed on same sex marriage if he was in that position? I doubt it.

    • Khirad says:

      I think it’s equally hard to get inside someone’s head, but having said that, I tend to more agree with Lawrence O’Donnell, that personally Obama holds far more liberal views than it is pragmatic to broadcast, or practicable to even affect, as POTUS.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      I have never written about this, but I am conflicted about the impatience of the LGBT community. In one hand, I feel they are unreasonably impatient to want such change immediately, and that they have been whiners. I also am only speaking of the smaller percentage of them like Choi--I think the vast majority of that community understand that they have made more strides under this administration than any other in history.

      On the other hand though, I completely understand that the denial of equal rights is an outrage. Why should they wait? Would I ask African Americans to wait? No, of course not. It is urgent. Still, there is only so much that we as a country--a very backward country--can accomplish, and I cannot understand why their anger is focused on the side that is working for them.

      • Khirad says:

        I’ve wrestled with the same things.

        But it should come down to reality.

        You will get more this way than in handing power over the the GOP.

      • SueInCa says:

        One thing Cher, how long did African Americans wait? Now that is patience. I am not saying the LGBT community should wait that long, but there is no comparison to what AA had to endure over the long haul. And the worst thing is, they did not get it from the Emmancipation Proclamation, it took another 100 years. Years of lynchings, drinking from their own fountains, marching in the streets and patiently waiting. In some respects, they are still waiting. When you look at their stats against white people, the story tells itself.

  3. SueInCa says:

    Alan Greenspan is now trying to get into heaven. That is the only way to explain his change of heart over Bush era tax cuts.

    • Sue, I saw Greenspan earlier on MSNBC and he said that he favored the Bush tax cuts as long as we had the Clinton surplus, but after that was squandered, he then said that he did not favor those cuts any longer. Go figure.

      • SueInCa says:

        KT like I said trying to get into heaven. That man is a liar and a thief as far as I am concerned. Nice time for him to be acting contrite after the monster was let out of the cage. You will have to excuse me I saw Inside Job again last night and the anger is fresh all over again.

        For all of their combined education in finance, not one of them saw what was coming? That tells me they were in on it, every single one. Paulson, Bernanke, Greenspan, Geithner, Cox and Christopher Flowers. The names almost sound Watergate-esque to me.

    • Buddy McCue says:

      SueInC -- I can see it.

      Even Lee Atwater had a moment of remorse when his time had come.

      • SueInCa says:

        Buddy -- I have always been for the underdog and the ones who do not get fair play and I just don’t have patience for people like Atwater. To me, he was truly evil. My family is diversified, black, hispanic, indian, jewish and japanese so his antics hit home.

  4. escribacat says:

    The best thing in Obama’s press conference the other day was when he talked about Sasha and Malia getting their homework done a day before it was due. He said they weren’t staying up all night at the last minute to get their work done — unlike Congress. It was a perfect left hook.


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