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Chernynkaya On October - 13 - 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

 

 

GM’s First New Battery Electric Car: 2013 Chevrolet Spark EV To Launch In U.S.


The largest domestic car company will launch a small battery electric vehicle in the U.S. market.

While The Detroit News had the basic story, GreenCarReports can add a few details, based on conversations with a number of sources knowledgeable about the electric car industry.

First, the vehicle is the Chevrolet Spark EV that was spied testing in Michigan just last month (and which we predicted would be GM’s first all-electric car sold in the U.S.).

The Spark EV was originally unveiled this past June, as the Chevrolet Beat EV, in India. It is an electric conversion of the upcoming 2013 Chevrolet Spark minicar (known in some markets as the Beat).

Second, the battery Spark will be largely focused on California, and perhaps other states that have adopted its emission standards. The Chevrolet Spark EV won’t be offered nationwide—unlike the 2012 Chevy Volt extended-range electric car, which GM says will be available in all 50 states by the end of this year.

Third, volume will be low, perhaps 2,000 cars a year. This may be just enough for GM to comply with California’s unique Zero-Emissions Vehicle mandate.

That number may, in fact, be roughly similar to the planned volumes for the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, another battery electric conversion of a gasoline car to be sold in California by another large global automaker. […]

From that public ignominy, it now appears that General Motors will soon be the sole global automaker to build and sell gasoline, diesel, mild-hybrid, full-hybrid, range-extended electric, and battery electric vehicles.

 

 

AP: SEC backs ban on banks trading for own profit (Volker Rule)

The Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday backed a proposal to bar banks from trading for their own profit instead of their clients.

The SEC voted 4-0 to send the ban on so-called proprietary trading out for public comment. The rule was required under the financial regulatory overhaul.

Critics on the left have dismissed the effort as weak and marred by loopholes. Banks argued it would hurt the economy.

The SEC is the third federal regulator to support the proposal, called the Volcker Rule after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. On Tuesday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Reserve both backed it.

For years, banks bet on risky investments with their own money. But when those bets go bad and banks fail, taxpayers may have to bail them out. That happened during the 2008 financial crisis.

Under the proposal, banks must hold investments for more than 60 days and bank managers must make sure employees comply with restrictions.

The public has until Jan. 13 to comment on the rule, which is expected to take effect by July after a final vote by all the regulators. Banks would have until July 2014 to comply.

 

 

ECONOMY

 

 

Who are the 99 percent? Part 2

Wonkbook:

Earlier today, Ezra combed through “We are the 99 percent,” Tumblr, a collection of handwritten signs telling Americans’ stories that has captured media attention. Unemployment, the cost of living, student loans and credit card debt show up in the mix again and again. But perhaps one issue stands out above the rest: the lack of affordable health care.

Advocacy group Health Care for America Now analyzed all 546 posts on “We are the 99 percent” since the Tumblr launched in late August. It found that nearly half of those (262 messages) mention health concerns that range from cost of medication to forgoing treatment to treatment denials. […]

The health care reform law isn’t a part of the Occupy Wall Street movement. But rising health care costs – and our growing inability to pay them – certainly loom large in the background.

 

 

Dissonance among the peasants

digby:


How did that happen?

[P]rofit margins have reached levels not seen in decades. The challenge, which we have discussed many times before: what is driving these margins. One useful way to deconstruct profits is to measure them from peak to peak, and analyze what changed. As shown in the first chart, S&P 500 profit margins increased by ~1.3% from 2000 to 2007. There are a lot of moving parts in the margin equation, but as shown in the second chart, reductions in wages and benefits explain the majority of the net improvement in margins. This trend has continued; as we have shown several times over the last two years, US labor compensation is now at a 50-year low relative to both company sales and US GDP.

That was JP Morgan last summer. Here’s CityGroup from a few years back:

The World is dividing into two blocs – the Plutonomy and the rest. The U.S., UK, and Canada are the key Plutonomies – economies powered by the wealthy.The world is dividing into two blocs – the plutonomies, where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few, and the rest. Plutonomies have occurred before in sixteenth century Spain, in seventeenth century Holland, the Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties in the U.S. What are the common drivers of Plutonomy? Disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist friendly cooperative governments, an international dimension of immigrants and overseas conquests invigorating wealth creation, the rule of law, and patenting inventions. Often these wealth waves involve great complexity, exploited best by the rich and educated of the time.

We project that the plutonomies (the U.S., UK, and Canada) will likely see even more income inequality, disproportionately feeding off a further rise in the profit share in their economies, capitalist-friendly governments, more technology-driven productivity, and globalization.

Most “Global Imbalances” (high current account deficits and low savings rates, high consumer debt levels in the Anglo-Saxon world, etc) that continue to (unprofitably) preoccupy the world’s intelligentsia look a lot less threatening when examined through the prism of plutonomy. The risk premium on equities that might derive from the dyspeptic “global imbalance” school is unwarranted – the earth is not going to be shaken off its axis, and sucked into the cosmos by these “imbalances”. The earth is being held up by the muscular arms of its entrepreneur-plutocrats, like it, or not.

I think it would have been hard for Americans to adjust to the idea of the whole world competing with them in any case. In the post war years, we had it made. But these plutocrats are so blatantly gluttonous that they’ve drawn attention to themselves. I don’t know what they expected, but they are supposed to be the smartest people in the world. I don’t think it takes a genius to see that the chart above might just cause a little dissonance among the peasants.

 

IMMIGRATION

 

 

Alabama Law Makes It A Felony For Undocumented Immigrants To Have Water At Their Homes

Think Progress:

At least one utility company in Alabama posted a sign informing its customers that a section of Alabama’s extreme anti-immigrant law prohibits them from providing water service to undocumented immigrants. According to the sign at Allgood Water Works in Blount County, Alabama, customers must have “an Alabama driver’s license or an Alabama picture ID card on file” by the date that theimmigration law went into effect; otherwise, they risked losing their water service.

Sadly, the picture for Alabama’s immigrants is even grimmer than this sign suggests. Indeed, under one provision of the state’s immigration law, HB 56, it is a felony for an undocumented immigrant to even attempt to do business with Alabama’s state-run water agencies:

An alien not lawfully present in the United States shall not enter into or attempt to enter into a business transaction with the state or a political subdivision of the state and no person shall enter into a business transaction or attempt to enter into a business transaction on behalf of an alien not lawfully present in the United States. […]

A violation of this section is a Class C felony.

In Alabama, Class C felonies are punishable by up to ten years in prison — meaning that undocumented people in Alabama can now be locked up for an entire decade if they attempt to take a bath in their own home.

In addition to Allgood, the Birmingham News reported that the Montgomery Water Works Board and Sewer Authority started requiring customers to prove their legal status on Sept. 1 (when the law was slated to go into effect), but stopped after being told that a federal judge had temporarily sus­pended implementation of the state law. It was unclear if the Montgomery board started asking customers about their legal status again when the law went into effect.

Additionally, Alabama Power told one family that they could not get electricity because of the new immigration law, according to the National Immigration Legal Center. It’s not clear, however, why Alabama Power did so because they are a private company and the law only applies to arms of the state government. To their credit, the electricity company has since told officials at the legal center that they no longer interpret the immigration law to mean that undocumented immigrants cannot receive power.

Yet there are no shortage of routine activities that are now felonies thanks to Alabama’s draconian law. Indeed, because the law defines unlawful “business transactions” very broadlyto include “any transaction between a person and the state or a political subdivision of the state,” the mere act of paying income taxes might qualify. Thus, if an undocumented immigrant pays their taxes, they will be guilty of a felony, but if they don’t they will also be guilty of a felony because Alabama punishes tax evaders with up to five years in prison.

In other words, Alabama’s anti-immigrant law effectively makes it a crime to simply live as an undocumented immigrant in the state.

 

 

JUSTICE

 

 

Who Really Owns The NYPD? Turns Out It’s Not Such A Rhetorical Question

Crooks and Liars:

I wrote last week about the multi-million dollar contribution to the NYPD from JPChase, but it turns out the corporate influence goes much deeper than that. Pam Martens, an activist who successfully sued the NYPD after her arrest for handing out leaflets about corruption at Citibank, tells us a lot of things we didn’t know about the relationship between the NYPD and Wall Street, and it’s jawdropping information:

If you’re a Wall Street behemoth, there are endless opportunities to privatize profits and socialize losses beyond collecting trillions of dollars in bailouts from taxpayers. One of the ingenious methods that has remained below the public’s radar was started by the Rudy Giuliani administration in New York City in 1998. It’s called the Paid Detail Unit and it allows the New York Stock Exchange and Wall Street corporations, including those repeatedly charged with crimes, to order up a flank of New York’s finest with the ease of dialing the deli for a pastrami on rye.

The corporations pay an average of $37 an hour (no medical, no pension benefit, no overtime pay) for a member of the NYPD, with gun, handcuffs and the ability to arrest. The officer is indemnified by the taxpayer, not the corporation.

New York City gets a 10 percent administrative fee on top of the $37 per hour paid to the police. The City’s 2011 budget called for $1,184,000 in Paid Detail fees, meaning private corporations were paying wages of $11.8 million to police participating in the Paid Detail Unit. The program has more than doubled in revenue to the city since 2002.

The taxpayer has paid for the training of the rent-a-cop, his uniform and gun, and will pick up the legal tab for lawsuits stemming from the police personnel following illegal instructions from its corporate master. Lawsuits have already sprung up from the program.

Apparently the city doesn’t bother to insure the NYPD for liability, saying it’s cheaper to shell out for settlements. (Here’s a guy who was strong-armed by those private detail cops for daring to attempt to use the bathroom during a 9/11 tribute at a Yankees game. Wonder how much that cost the city? In the past decade, the NYPD has paid almost a billion dollars in legal settlements.)

When the program was first rolled out, one insightful member of the NYPD posted the following on a forum: “… regarding the officer working for, and being paid by, some of the richest people and organizations in the City, if not the world, enforcing the mandates of the private employer,and in effect, allowing the officer to become the Praetorian Guard of the elite of the City. And now corruption is no longer a problem. Who are they kidding?”

[…] When the infamously mismanaged Wall Street firm, Lehman Brothers, collapsed on September 15, 2008, its bankruptcy filings in 2009 showed it owed money to 21 members of the NYPD’s Paid Detail Unit. (A phone call and email request to the NYPD for information on which Wall Street firms participate in the program were not responded to. The police unions appear to have only scant information about the program.)

Other Wall Street firms that are known to have used the Paid Detail include Goldman Sachs, the World Financial Center complex which houses financial firms, and the New York Stock Exchange.

[…] On September 8, 2004, Robert Britz, then President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of the New York Stock Exchange, testified as follows to the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services: […]

Wall Street is not the only sector renting cops in Manhattan. Department stores, parks, commercial banks and landmarks like Rockefeller Center, Jacob Javits Center and St. Patrick’s Cathedral have also participated in the Paid Detail Unit, according to insiders. But Wall Street is the only sector that runs a private justice system where its crimes are herded off to secret arbitration tribunals, has sucked on the public teat to the tune of trillions of dollars, escaped prosecution for the financial collapse, and can put an armed municipal force on the sidewalk to intimidate public protestors seeking a realignment of their democracy.

We may be learning a lot more in the future about the tactics Wall Street and the NYPD have deployed against the Occupy Wall Street protestors. The highly regarded Partnership for Civil Justice Fund has filed a class action lawsuit over the approximately 700 arrests made on the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1. The formal complaint and related information is available at the organization’s web site, www.JusticeOnLine.org.

 

 

 

Banks, Administration Pressure AGs on Foreclosure Settlement

The Obama Administration has finally found something it can agree on with the nation’s big banks: The need for the 50 state attorneys general to finally reach a deal to end the year-long investigation into faulty mortgage foreclosure practices and reach a long-awaited settlement, the FOX Business Network has learned.

People at the big banks say the Obama Administration is prodding the state AGs, led by Iowa’s Tom Miller, to agree on a deal that is currently on the table that calls for fines and revised mortgage foreclosure practices — but also limits banks’ liability on legal action.

Banking executives say if there has been any progress made in reaching a deal in the near future — and there is wide disagreement among banks and regulators about how to define progress — it’s because the Obama Administration has begun to side with the big banks and not some of the state AGs who want far greater fines and the ability to sue banks in the future.

“This may be the only thing that we have agreed on with the administration on in a long time,” said one senior banking executive with direct knowledge of the discussions.

This executive said that banking officials are hoping that the Obama Administration’s Justice Department will continue to apply pressure on the state AGs to agree on a deal when the two sides meet this Thursday and Friday in Washington.

Geoff Greenwood, a spokesman for Miller, told the FOX Business Network that “we’re certainly feeling pressure” to get a deal done since this Thursday will mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the investigation. He confirmed that the AGs will meet later this week with the Justice Department.

But Greenwood described the current state of the negotiations this way: “We’re inching closer…we’re hoping that we can do this by year end, but can’t say for sure. We have no set schedule.”

Senior executives at JP Morgan (JPM: 33.42, +1.12, +3.47%), Bank of America (BAC: 6.62, +0.26, +4.00%) and Citigroup (C: 29.31, +1.47, +5.29%) — the three largest banks involved in the probe — are hoping that the meetings between the state AGs and theJustice Department will lead to a far quicker resolution, but they caution that over the past year an agreement appeared imminent several times only to be delayed because of competing agendas inside the group of AGs.

One problem with the administration’s role is that it doesn’t have the legal authority to press a settlement — it can merely prod state AGs to accept the terms.

The deal in which financial executives say the Obama Administration, the banks and some AGs like Miller have broad agreement on goes something like this: Banks would pay around $20 billion comprised of fines, mortgage forgiveness, new compliance systems, and items like consumer education.

Under these terms, the banks will receive some assurance that there will be a limit to their legal exposure over what some believe are faulty foreclosure practices including so-called Robo Signings, where foreclosure documents were rubber stamped by low-level bank employees rather than by legally qualified staff.

One big problem: While Miller may agree to these terms, some other AGs so far haven’t. These AGs are complaining that the terms on the table aren’t tough enough on the banks. California is one of the biggest states where alleged faulty foreclosure practices have occurred, but the state’s AG, Kamala Harris, has given mixed signals whether she will sign on to any deal, after pulling out of the talks a couple of weeks ago.

It’s unclear if Harris will attend the meetings later in the week; her office didn’t return a call for comment.

Banks say they are being unfairly penalized because Robo Signing is basically a victimless crime; the vast majority of the people being foreclosed upon have been delinquent on their mortgages for a significant period of time.

One of the arguments the administration is using with some success is that the foreclosure investigation has prevented banks from removing people from their homes who can’t pay their mortgages, and as a result, the banks can’t sell foreclosed property to people who can afford mortgage payments.

With that, home prices have remained artificially high in many areas of the country, and without housing prices reflecting what people can afford the housing market cannot begin its long-awaited recovery.

 

 

 

Topeka City Council repealed the local law that makes domestic violence a crime. 

[…] By a vote of 7 to 3, the City Council repealed the local law that makes domestic violence a crime.

The move, the councilors were told, would force District Attorney Chad Taylor to prosecute the cases because they would remain a crime under state law, a conclusion with which he grudgingly agreed. The Council also approved negotiations to resolve the impasse.

Several victims of domestic violence spoke against the proposal at the meeting, questioning whether it would succeed in forcing the district attorney to resume prosecutions. “It is your responsibility to protect these people, and you’re failing,” said Matthew Agnew, 24, one such victim.

Eighteen people have been arrested on domestic violence charges since September and released without charges because no agency is accepting new cases. That has raised concerns among advocates for victims of domestic violence, some of whom gathered Tuesday outside government buildings to express outrage over the gamesmanship.

“To have public officials pointing fingers while victims of domestic violence are trying to figure out who will protect them is just stunning,” said Joyce Grover, executive director of the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Though Kansas and its capital city have fared better than much of the country in this struggling economy, they are not immune to fiscal strains. The district attorney’s budget of $3.5 million was cut by 10 percent, which would force about a dozen layoffs. Meanwhile the office is dealing with what Mr. Taylor describes as a “recent uptick in violent crime,” which he attributed to increased gang activity.

“At the end of the day, I feel like my office and public safety are a priority,” Mr. Taylor said.

But the decision by Mr. Taylor to respond to the budget cut by immediately refusing to prosecute misdemeanors in Topeka — though the cuts do not go into effect until next year — caught people off guard, especially given that he had written that the city “does not have the staff or infrastructure to provide victims of domestic violence with the level of service they have come to expect.”

But Mr. Taylor said the county “forced my hand.”

Shelly Buhler, chairwoman of the Shawnee County Commission, said she did not expect Mr. Taylor to actually go through with his threat to stop prosecuting domestic violence.

She said that all departments were asked to propose 10 percent cuts and that he asked for an increase. “We had hoped that he would not put that group of victims at risk, that he would find some other way to absorb the cuts,” she said.

Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys Association, said that around the country, prosecutors are being forced to prioritize certain types of cases, but that these decisions are rarely discussed in public.

“Usually no one comes out and says that starting today I’m not going to prosecute that crime, which sends a message of failure and tells the community you’re free to commit that crime,” he said.

The city, which had already completed its budget, would have to spend $1 million more to pay for the additional prosecutions, said Dan Stanley, the interim city manager. “Its wholly inappropriate for him to lay it at the lap of the county,” he said.

Under the current arrangement, the district attorney is still responsible for prosecuting misdemeanors in the rest of the county as well as all felony domestic violence cases. Almost half of the misdemeanors that were prosecuted last year — 423 cases — are domestic battery cases, and most of the rest are shoplifting, drugs and assault.

Some critics pointed out that even as local governments are cutting deeper into important services, Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, is preparing a sweeping tax cut plan.

Becky Dickinson, a program director with the Y.W.C.A., which is the primary provider of services for victims of domestic violence in the county, said there was concern that the lack of charges for those being arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence — which could include verbal threats, pushing or slapping — would encourage retaliation.

“Our biggest concern is the safety of the victims,” she said. “We need to get this resolved as soon as possible.”

Even those who agreed that the district attorney’s office was better positioned to handle such cases worried about the symbolism of a city that decided to decriminalize domestic violence, if only symbolically, rather than prosecuting the offenders.

Michelle Moorman, 21, a college student at the nearby University of Kansas who showed up to protest the cuts with her roommates, said she was surprised and embarrassed by the standoff.

“Budget cuts are totally understandable, especially today,” she said. “What’s upsetting is this game of chicken between the city and the county.”

 

 

MEDIA

 

 

A Modest Proposal: Call Obstruction What It Is

James Fallows, The Atlantic:

Here is the headline in the online home page of the NYT, about Obama’s “pass this jobs bill, pass it now” proposal. Note the word “fails”:


The subhead and the rest of the article make clear that more Senators voted for the bill than against it — 50 to 49. It would have been 51-48 except for a parliamentary ruse by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who switched to a “No” vote so that he would later be able to call it up for reconsideration.

We have gone so far in recent years toward routinizing the once-rare requirement for a 60-vote Senate “supermajority” into an obstacle for every nomination and every bill that our leading newspaper can say that a measure “fails” when it gets more Yes than No votes. (For background on mounting abuse of the filibuster, see accounts from late 2009, early 2010, and late 2010.)

Again, the subhead and story make the real situation clear. So how about a headline that says plainly what happened:

Obama’s Jobs Bill
Blocked by GOP in
Procedural Move”

[…]

Bonus Update: Here is a much worse headline and presentation from the Daily Beast.

[…]

And, via Daily Kos, even gutsier play by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

 

 

 

WSJ Fudged Circulation Numbers

: The Wall Street Journal has allegedly beefed up its circulation numbers by purchasing thousands of copies of the paper with money channeled through external European companies. The scheme was organized in London, and New York executives learned about it after they were informed by an internal whistleblower. Inquiries from The Guardian have already prompted Andrew Langhoff, Dow Jones and Co.’s European managing director, to resign Tuesday. The Guardian has discovered emails and documents that fuel the theory that Langhoff was behind the scam.

 

POLITICS

 

 

Obama’s New Populism Isn’t Alienating Moderates

Ruy Teixeira, The New Republic:

During Obama’s pivot toward deficit reduction after the 2010 election, culminating in the vain attempt to fashion a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans during the debt limit negotiations, pundits repeatedly asserted that his approach might tick off his base but would yield dividends with independents and swing voters. Instead, the strategy turned out to be a flop on both levels. His support did decline among base voters but even more among independent voters. That’s because, as the economy continued to deteriorate, Obama only succeeded in making himself look weak and ineffective in dealing with the nation’s most important problem. On this, both base and swing could agree.

Now Obama has taken a very different tack. He is relentlessly pushing a $450 billion jobs plan that, according to independent economists like Mark Zandi, would add 1.9 million jobs, cut unemployment by a point and raise GDP by 2 points. He proposes to pay for the program by raising taxes on the wealthy. And, instead of backing down under GOP intransigence, he is calling them out for refusing to act on jobs and coddling the rich. This switch has elicited a predictable round of tut-tutting from sections of the punditocracy who assert that, while this approach might yield dividends from Obama’s demoralized base, he will lose as much or more from independents, moderates, and swing voters who will be appalled by its big price tag and confrontational nature.

There is, however, no law that says this has to happen. Just as a strategy can fail among both base and swing voters, so too can one succeed among both groups. Obama’s current strategy is a good candidate for doing so. As I noted in my recent TNR piece on independents, independents are really three groups of voters: Republican-leaning independents, pure independents, and Democratic-leaning independents. Only the latter two groups are really accessible to Obama; Republican-leaning independents are an extraordinarily conservative group of voters whose ranks have been swelled by ex-Republican identifiers who believe the party has not been conservative enough. But both Democratic-leaning independents and pure independents have regularly reported far higher levels of concern with jobs than with the deficit, and they represent two-thirds of independents.

Recent polling data confirm that Obama’s strategy is paying off with both base and swing voters. In the most recent Washington Post/ABC poll, Democrats say they trust Obama over the Republicans in Congress to create jobs by 79-8, upfrom 69-11 in September. And Independents, too, now favor Obama on jobs, by 44-31, a big shift from 37-42 in September. And not only do Democrats support Obama’s jobs plan and believe it will improve the jobs situation, but so too do independents, by margins of 47-38 and 52-44, respectively. Moderates, meanwhile, are even more enthusiastic—support figures among this group are 5-9 points higher than among Independents on all these questions. As for raising taxes on the rich: Bring it on! By 65-28, Independents favor raising taxes on households with over a million dollars in income.

So far, so good. But will the strategy pay off over the long haul? There is good reason to believe that the current strategy is Obama’s optimizing strategy, provided he consistently implements it—a big if given Obama’s track record. But if he sticks to the strategy, it will help him accomplish three big things that will both mobilize his base and win over swing voters, thereby maximizing his re-election chances. The first is improving the actual economy. Obviously, Republicans have little interest in moving on Obama’s jobs plan, but pressing the issue and mobilizing public opinion is probably the only way to get even parts of it through Congress. And Obama desperately needs improvement in the economy by any means necessary. It is by far his biggest negative, but a negative that can be mitigated by even moderate growth during the election year.

Second, Obama needs to create as much uncertainty in the minds of voters as possible about who is responsible for current economic conditions. As incumbent, he will inevitably get most of the blame, but there is a lot of difference between most and all. The current strategy is perfectly designed to create that uncertainty by identifying Republicans as the obstacle to jobs growth.

Third, Obama needs to put issues in play where he is overwhelmingly on the side of public opinion and his opponent has unpopular positions that he cannot wiggle out of. The current strategy does that as well by highlighting GOP refusal to raise taxes on the rich, even in the name of creating jobs. The GOP commitment to protecting the rich can (and will) be fruitfully connected to known GOP commitments like ending Medicare and slashing Social Security.

None of this is to say that Obama’s new strategy guarantees him re-election. Far from it; the state of the economy, even if it does improve somewhat, means a very tough slog for the president. But the new strategy, far from alienating swing voters to appeal to his base, is well-designed to succeed with both groups and put him that much closer to a second term.

 

 

Senate GOP killed the jobs bill, but Dems got what they wanted/expected out of the showdown 

Steve Benen:

There were no doubts about the eventual outcome of the Senate fight over the American Jobs Act. Democrats would have needed at least seven Republicans who were willing to let members vote on the legislation, and the actual number was zero. The overall result was a foregone conclusion.

What mattered, though, was the margin and the roll call. And last night, the White House and Democratic senators reached their target.

President Obama’s $447 billion jobs plan foundered in the Senate on Tuesday night, as a unified Republican caucus and a pair of Democrats joined to deny the proposal the 60 votes needed to allow it to proceed to full consideration.

Obama will now use Republican opposition as part of a campaign to paint the GOP as obstructionists blocking his efforts to improve the economy while offering no alternative to create jobs.

After the vote, President Obama said in a statement, “Tonight, a majority of United States Senators voted to advance the American Jobs Act. But even though this bill contains the kind of proposals Republicans have supported in the past, their party obstructed the Senate from moving forward on this jobs bill.”

That’s true, and it’s exactly the point the White House wanted to be able to make. Yesterday, there were reports that several members of the Senate Democratic caucus — Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, Joe Lieberman, Jim Webb, Jeanne Shaheen, and Jon Tester — who would either vote with Republicans or fail to vote at all. The result would have been a political loss as well as a legislative one — Republicans would have been able to argue, accurately, that a majority of the Senate rejected the president’s jobs bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) deserves a lot of credit for making sure that didn’t happen. In the end, the American Jobs Act got 51 votes, and only two Dems — Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and Montana’s Jon Tester — sided with Republicans. (The official final tally was 50 to 49, but that’s only because Reid had to switch his vote for procedural reasons.)

Ultimately, this became a fight over which side would be able to make its argument, and to that extent, Dems got what they wanted. For all the talk in the media about last night representing a tough “loss” for the White House, it would seem that’s not the most significant realization this morning.

What matters most is that Senate Republicans, in the midst of a jobs crisis and intense public demand for congressional action, killed a credible jobs bill for no apparent reason. Most Americans support the American Jobs Act’s provisions; it enjoys strong support from economists; it includes ideas from both parties; and the CBO found it will even lower the deficit over the next decade.

And despite all of this, literally every Republican in the Senate — including the alleged “moderates” — not only rejected the popular jobs bill, they refused to even let the chamber vote on it at all. That should be the front-page story nationwide this morning.

So, what’s next? The jobs fight will continue, and Dems already have a plan for the next phase.

 

Dems Win Jobs Bill Fight — But Expose Major Strategic Weakness Ahead Of 2012

TPM:

After an agonizing week of arm-twisting, and a vote that had to be held open for hours, Senate Democrats got their act together. But only barely.

A full 51 of them voted as a bloc Tuesday, not to pass President Obama’s jobs plan or even to break a GOP filibuster of the bill, but simply for the proposition that the Senate should publicly debate the most pressing issue in the country. […]

Indeed, that the vote failed was entirely expected. The point of Tuesdays vote was to allow Dems take a message to voters: With unemployment over 9 percent, Republicans unanimously snuffed out the the only bill on the docket that promises to significantly boost the economy — without even allowing a debate on it. […]

But the outcome wasn’t an unambiguous victory for Democrats. Though politically useful it exposed, in tortured fashion, the fundamental strategic incoherence that has defined the party since President Obama took office in 2009. Despite the simple nature of the proposition — Should we debate a jobs bill? — it took Democrats until the 11th hour to round up a bare majority support and avoid shooting the entire party in the foot. And that difficulty bodes poorly for the real, substantive fights — over taxes, entitlements, the very shape of the country — that lay ahead between now and the 2012 elections.

This should have been a no-brainer: a symbolic vote on a largely symbolic bill; no public policy at stake; just a simple illustration for voters — we’re for something, they’re for nothing. The ideal outcome for such a strategy is a clean partisan split; all Democrats vote yes, all Republicans vote no. But as has been the case for nearly every high-stakes partisan fight over the last three years, Republicans were united from the outset and Democrats panicked. Before the Dem whip operation could begin in earnest, a handful of party conservatives — fully aware of the stakes — ran to the press to boast that they wouldn’t play ball. […]

With the deficit Super Committee’s recommendations due in just over a month, will Democrats be able to withstand a partisan brawl over cuts to entitlements, if the GOP closes ranks against any new revenues? Will they cave to the GOP like they did in late 2010 and leave President Obama a choice between extending all of the Bush tax cuts or letting them all expire at once? And will President Obama be able to run in 2012 as the leader of a party that can be counted on to stand for certain basic principles, or will he have no choice but to run a Trumanesque campaign against a “do nothing Congress” at the risk of rolling over vulnerable members of his own party?

Will they unravel, or won’t they? Tuesday’s vote and the wind up to it don’t inspire confidence.

 

 

TPM: Cain’s 9-9-9 plan would actually be unconstitutional.

 

 

 

“If Romney becomes president, it will be because his supporters are convinced that he’s a liar” 

Bloomberg:

The Republican Party elite isn’t convinced by his attempts to reinvent himself as a right-wing firebrand. The establishment Republicans, business executives and independents who are Romney’s natural constituency believe he is lying when he strikes a conservative posture on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, and when he engages in fatuous Washington-bashing.

“Oh, he has to say stuff like that,” they say, attempting to explain away his various panderings to the Tea Party and the far right. They believe that once in office, his true nature as an establishment, moderate, pro-business Republican will emerge. They believe he’s fundamentally sound.

Meanwhile, the right-wingers who will soon be asked to bury their dreams and support Romney are not under any delusions about his true nature. But they’ll eventually prove willing to overlook it in their hunger to defeat President Barack Obama. Republicans are basically where Democrats were in 1992, when my mantra was, “OK, OK, I’m for Clinton. Just don’t tell me anything about him.”

Republicans smell victory (unless something terrible happens, like the economy improving). After all that revolutionary talk, in the end they will make the safe, conventional choice. No unknown pizza honcho. No Thatcheresque right-wing disciplinarian. No overly principled crank devoted to dismantling the Federal Reserve. No has-been on the one hand or novice on the other. Just a good old-fashioned smart, white, male, almost laughably presidential-looking former governor and successful businessman to guide us through the economic storms. Vetted four years ago, so no surprises.

Last of Breed

There used to be a whole wing of the Republican Party full of people like this. They were called “liberal” or “moderate” or sometimes “Rockefeller” Republicans. Now Romney is about the only one left. And he does his best to hide it.

Romney’s campaign is hoping he gets through the primaries without losing his appeal to independents and moderate Democrats in the general election. Meantime, his attempts to enlist the right are like serving haggis (sheep’s stomach stuffed with oatmeal — yum!) to your distant cousins from Scotland when they visit. You can’t stand the stuff, but they’re supposed to like it.

Unlike haggis, Romney doesn’t generate much warmth. Even the frighteningly austere Rick Perry had his Jimmy Stewart moment when he said that anyone who would deny in-state college tuition to children of illegal immigrants “has no heart.” There has been no equivalent moment for Romney (though he’ll have one scripted if necessary).

If your strategy is, as Romney’s seems to be, appealing to voters on the grounds that you don’t really believe what you’re saying, that renders the matter of intellectual coherence moot. Perry has developed a reputation — probably unjustified — as a dimwit. The Bloomberg-Washington Post debate on Oct. 11 is Perry’s last chance to prove otherwise before the casket is permanently sealed. (Perhaps he should give his opening statement in Latin.) Romney, meanwhile, says nonsensical things, but they are nonsensical on a higher intellectual plane than Perry’s controversial remarks, so they are considered evidence of a sharp, smooth-running campaign.

Conservatives seem to believe they can keep Romney on a tight leash. Having flipped and flopped on so many issues, even Romney won’t have the nerve to flip again. In this hope, they may be underestimating their man. As Steve Kornacki demonstrated on Salon.com, Romney has been all over the lot on the otherwise defining issue of abortion, flipping forward and back several times, depending on the needs of the moment.

Amend, or Not

Having once said he was pro-choice “and you will not see me wavering on this,” Romney now says he favors a human life constitutional amendment and legislation to make clear that “unborn children” are covered by the 14th amendment. He also says that he believes abortion is a matter best left to the states. Of course, applying the 14th amendment to the unborn would nationalize abortion policy and make it impossible for the states to have policies of their own. Romney has figured a way out of the contradiction: The country isn’t ready for a human life amendment. But when it is … Talk about leading from behind!

More important, if “unborn children” have full 14th amendment rights, including “equal protection of the law,” you couldn’t treat a woman who obtains an abortion any differently than a woman who kills her children. Yet Romney says that the woman who has an abortion should not be punished at all.

The list of logical contortions goes on. Romney ridicules Perry’s notion of turning Social Security over to the states (a ridiculous idea indeed). But he insists that the health-care plan he enacted in Massachusetts was far superior to Obama’s health-care overhaul precisely because it is on the state level, not a federal program (which he says he will close down his first day in office). Romney opposes embryonic stem cell research but has no objection to fertility clinics that produce thousands of embryos and throw most of them away.

No one thinks Romney is a dimwit. He’s what the British call “too clever by half.” Which is worse?

 

POLLS

 

 

NBC/WSJ poll: Nearly two-thirds support jobs bill

When asked simply if Congress should pass the legislation or not, 30 percent of respondents answer yes, while 22 percent say no; 44 percent have no opinion.

But when the legislation’s details are included in a follow-up question — that it would cut payroll taxes, fund new road construction, extend unemployment benefits, and that it would be paid for by increasing taxes on the wealthy — 63 percent say they favor the bill and 32 percent oppose it.

What’s more, 64 percent of respondents agree with the statement that it is a “good idea” to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations, because they should pay their fair share and can afford to pay more to help fund programs and government operations.

The biggest challenge the administration faces is that nearly half the public doesn’t know enough about the legislation to say whether or not they support it in the abstract, but when you get into the specifics, the bill’s key provisions are very popular.

So even though Republicans voted to kill the legislation last night, it makes sense for the administration and congressional Democrats to keep on hammering away at Republicans for opposing the jobs bill, both to raise awareness about the bill and its provisions, and also to give Republicans a chance to do the right thing, however unlikely that may be.

Democrats are going to do this by scheduling votes on key provisions of the bill as standalone items. Republicans will probably oppose those provisions, but in doing so they will strengthen the Democratic argument that its Republicans—motivated by a desire to defeat President Obama in 2012—who are the problem when it comes to job creation.

 

Poll: 4 in 5 New Jersey voters glad Christie didn’t run

The Hill:

One week after Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) announced he isn’t running for president, 84 percent of New Jersey voters are glad he bowed out, and his approval rating is higher than ever.

Christie now garners a 58 percent job approval rating, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. In August, only 47 percent approved.

Just 10 percent of voters disagreed that Christie’s decision not to run for the GOP nomination was the right one, even though two-thirds said it was at least somewhat likely he would have won.

Surprisingly, the numbers were almost identical for Republicans and Democrats, although women were more likely to say it was the right decision than men.

 

 

Fox News takes a poll on OWS. Bet they weren’t expecting this result:


Reuters/Ipsos: Romney leads GOP, Cain second

 

SCIENCE

 

Paralysed man controls robotic arm with his mind

[…] Neurosurgeons at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania implanted a grid of electrodes, about the size of a large postage stamp, on top of Hemmes’s brain over an area of neurons that fire when he imagines moving his right arm. They threaded wires from the implant underneath the skin of his neck and pulled the ends out of his body near his chest.

The team then connected the implant to a computer that converts specific brainwaves into particular actions.

As shown in this video, Hemmes first practices controlling a dot on a TV screen with his mind. The dot moves right when he imagines bending his elbow. Thinking about wiggling his thumb makes the dot slide left.

With practice, Hemmes learned to move the cursor just by visualizing the motion, rather than concentrating on specific arm movements, says neurosurgeon Elizabeth Tyler-Kabara of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, who implanted the electrodes.

After this initial training, Hemmes navigated a ball through a 3D virtual world and eventually controlled the robotic arm, all with his mind. The electrode grid was removed after the 30-day trial.

VIDEO HERE.

WEDGE ISSUES

 

 

Different Brains: 99 Percenters and 53 Percenters Face Off

NYT:

Welfare. Food stamps. Bankruptcy and minimum wage. Those are a few of the complaints of those in We Are the 99 Percent, a Tumblr blog recording the stories of those who sympathize with the Occupy Wall Street protests.

But wait. Those are also the complaints in We Are the 53%, a counterblog that is meant as a conservative retort to the protestors. The site, which mimics the 99 Percenters by having people write out their stories and hold them up to be photographed, says it is by “Those of us who pay for those of you who whine about all of that.”

What’s with all the percentages? The 99 Percenters are objecting to the fact that 1 percent of Americans control about a third of the country’s wealth. The 53 Percenters are portraying themselves as the responsible citizens who pay federal income tax, as opposed to the 47 percent of Americans who don’t. (Most who don’t are exempt because their incomes are too low or they get tax breaks aimed at low-income working families and other groups.) At The Washington Post Wonkblog, Ezra Klein pointed out that that many people paid no taxes because of conservative pressure to lower them.

The 99 Percenters, who have given a voice to the decentralized protests, tell of accumulated student debt, unaffordable health insurance and a sense of despair. “I followed the rules … now here I am,” wrote a 30-year-old unemployed woman who said she could not afford marriage or children.

The 53 Percenters, on the other hand, say things like, “My faith in God has always helped me weather the storms of life, not a government hand out.”

But the 53 Percent do not seem, by and large, to be doing much better than the 99 Percent. “I work 60+ hours a week with no guarantee of a paycheck,” wrote one contributor. “I didn’t blame Wall Street when I couldn’t find a living wage job or make it as a musician.”

Another self-employed man wrote, “I don’t get vacations, sick leave or comp time.”

The 53 Percent site was the brainchild of Erick Erickson, a CNN commentator and editor of RedState, Josh Treviño, a co-founder of RedState who is now at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and Mike Wilson, the filmmaker behind “Michael Moore Hates America,” who started the Tumblr site after #iamthe53 became a popular Twitter hash tag for critics of the Wall Street protests.

“The distinction is that the people on the 99 side are saying, ‘We need to change it so that my life is easier,’ and the people on the 53 side say, ‘My life may not be easy, but it’s mine,’” Mr. Wilson said.

Do the 53 percent find no fault with the banks? “A friend of mine said it best — he’s a conservative,” Mr. Wilson said. “He said, ‘They’re mad because these corporations got bailed out. We’re mad because our government bailed out the corporations.’”

 

 

House GOP to Pregnant Women: Drop Dead

RH Reality Check

In the eyes of virulent anti-choice Congressmen like Joe Pitts (R-PA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), all life is “sacred”… except that which is a) female or b) actually born.

How else to explain H.R. 358, the so-called “Protect Life” Act, a bill to be voted on tomorrow (Thursday, October 13th)that would:

  • Allow hospitals receiving federal funds to deny emergency abortions to women whose lives are in danger due to a pregnancy gone horribly wrong.
  • Forbid state health care exchanges from providing abortion coverage even under policies paid for entirely with your own money. Exchanges are the public marketplaces for health insurance policies that will be rolled out by 2014 under the Affordable Care Act. Eventually, most people are expected to get their insurance through the exchanges. Exchanges were concieved as a means of expanding health care services, but under this and other legal restrictions they would in fact eliminate coverage most women already have.  If H.R. 358 is successful, getting insurance that includes coverage for abortion will be nearly impossible – putting abortion out of reach of even more women.
  • Place a gag order on insurers, preventing them from even giving women information about how to get abortion coverage.

Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA) said in reaction to the bill:

“This radical legislation would make it so onerous for an insurance company to offer women abortion care that it would likely decline to, and so prohibitively expensive to provide or purchase abortion care coverage few employers or individuals could afford to.  The message from the opponents of a woman’s reproductive rights is clear: they want to stop women from exercising their constitutionally guaranteed freedom to control their own reproductive health care choices made with their own money, even if it puts their health at risk.”

H.R. 358 comes on top of votes by the GOP-led House to:

  • eliminate all federal funding for Title X, the national family planning program;
  • eliminate funding for all other reproductive health programs offering breast and cervical cancer exams, well-woman and primary health care and family planning to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion.
  • eliminate requirements in health care reform covering maternal health care, mammograms, breastfeeding support and other essential health services.
  • make it impossible for women to speak to their doctors about abortion using internet based tele-medicine.

And I am only providing a few examples.

Put this together with GOP- and Tea Party-led efforts to gut Environmental Protection Agency rules that keep the air we breathe, water we drink, and environment in which we live safe(r), to virtually eliminate child nutrition and Head Start programs, and take care of the unemployed, and I have to ask: Exactly whose lives are we protecting here?

Anne Davis, MD, MPH, the medical director of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health is urging members of Congress to vote no on H.R. 358 because she knows firsthand how dangerous this legislation is.

“How can we allow hospitals to turn away pregnant women in crisis? The Pitts bill can’t become the law of the land,” Davis warned. “My colleagues across the country and I treat pregnant women who need emergency abortions to save their lives. Many of these patients wanted to become mothers, yet found themselves in the emergency room at risk of dying.”

“I think of Margaret [not her real name], who arrived at our hospital bleeding heavily and with an infection. She was pregnant with twins, and her water had broken five months prematurely. Her twins could not be saved. Margaret needed an abortion immediately to prevent serious infection, hemorrhage, shock, and death. We provided the abortion, and Margaret survived.

“But the Pitts bill would let hospitals refuse to help women like Margaret, no matter how dire her medical condition. No law should force a gravely ill pregnant woman to shop for emergency rooms. What if the next hospital wasn’t downtown but hundreds of miles away? What if there were no time and no way to transport her safely?”

“Even worse,” says Congresswoman Capps, “the passage of this bill will not create a single job and serves as yet the latest example of a House leadership more focused on reigniting the culture wars than restarting our economy.  As I meet with small businesses, families, and local officials up and down the Central Coast, they tell me getting our economy fully back on track is what we should be completely focused on.   But that clearly is not on the agenda of the House leadership and all Americans are paying the price.”

Ask yourself: Is it the job of Congressmen anywhere to determine what personal choices you make as to when and how many children you are able to bear and under what circumstances?

Are you willing to see women literally die on the sword of some old white guy’s ideology?

Organizations are asking for your support in contacting members of Congress. One of them is the National Network of Abortion Funds.   

 

 

 

 

Obama Promises Veto Of Any Bill That Restricts Insurerers From Paying For Abortions

 

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

 

 

Slavery is alive and well in the 21st Century

Aljazeera:

About the series:

Today, 27 million men, women and children are held, sold and trafficked as slaves throughout the world. In Slavery: A 21st Century Evil, Rageh Omaar embarks on a worldwide journey to uncover the truth about the flourishing 21st century slave trade. Episode by episode, his investigation will expose the brutal reality of modern slavery and unpick the reasons why this age-old evil persists.

Food chain slaves

The US has been leading the global fight against modern slavery. But, according to conservative estimates, there are between 40,000 and 50,000 slaves in the US today.

So in this episode, Rageh questions why a nation built on the abolition of slavery – a country that had to go through a painful civil war to formally bring an end to slavery – is failing to address the problem inside its own borders.

The investigation begins in the poor villages of Thailand, where agents for the US slave masters trick desperate peasants with promises of well-paid jobs abroad.

But far from fulfilling their American dream, many end up in slave labour farms in Hawaii, California and Florida – unable to return home and working to pay off the debts they incurred in the pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families.

Sex slaves

There are an estimated 1.4 million sex slaves in the world today; most of them are women, although there are some men and many thousands of children.

Bonded Slaves

Although the practice of bonded labour is common in several parts of the world, in Pakistan and India, the systematic enslavement of generations of workers is widespread as governments fail to enforce their own laws against bonded labour.

Rageh meets men, women and children labouring in quarries and brick kilns, in dangerous conditions and for effectively no pay.

Most of these slaves have been held for generations, paying off a supposed ‘loan’ taken out by their grandparents.

Some have been lucky enough to escape but others have had to buy their way out of it by selling their organs to help pay off the ‘debt’.

Child Slaves

There are at least 8.4 million child slaves in the world today. Nearly two million of these are forced to work as prostitutes, while almost half a million are child soldiers.

But the largest proportion of child slaves – more than five million – are held as forced labour.

Charcoal slaves

Brazil, once the world’s largest importer of slaves from Africa, has taken the lead in fighting 21st century slavery with a raft of innovative laws aimed at stamping it out.

However, slave labour continues to thrive in the South American country – especially in the age-old practice of charcoal burning. The dirty and dangerous business is relied on by many international companies as one of the early stages in the manufacturing of pig iron.

Brazilian pig iron is shipped to some of the world’s biggest companies, including household name car manufacturers – who use it to forge steel.

Bridal slaves
 In the midst of widespread poverty, fueled by economic inequality and rampant corruption, a new form of slavery – bridal slavery – has flourished. Women and young girls are sold for as little as $120 to men who often burden them with strenuous labour and abuse them.

 

Prison Slaves

Once an isolationist communist state, over the last 20 years China has become the world’s biggest exporter of consumer goods. But behind this apparent success story is a dark secret – millions of men and women locked up in prisons and forced into intensive manual labour.

China has the biggest penal colony in the world – a top secret network of more than 1,000 slave labour prisons and camps known collectively as “The Laogai”. And the use of the inmates of these prisons – in what some experts call “state sponsored slavery” – has been credited with contributing to the country’s economic boom.

MORE>>>

 

 

[WHA?!] Amish mob violently breaks into homes and cuts off hair

Steubenville, OH (WOIO/CNN) – An Amish mob is accused of breaking into several homes and cutting off the beards and hair of other Amish men.

Now, the group is the focus of four police investigations in Ohio.

Police say the assaults are the work of members of the “Bergholz Clan.”

 In one attack, the men allegedly packed a horse-drawn buggy, rode to a home and cut the hair off some men and women in the house.

The violent haircuts are meant to humiliate and punish those Amish who are supposedly weak in the faith.

It’s left the police baffled.

 

TAKE ACTION

 

 

Occupy L.A.: This is What Civics Look Like

The Atlantic:

[Note: We have been to OWS-Los Angeles twice, and this article is exactly how I see it too.]

There’s a boiling point in California and currently it’s expressed in the 253 tents surrounding Los Angeles City Hall


LOS ANGELES — I had just taken the hour-long tour for those new to Occupy LA, a solidarity demonstration sparked by Occupy Wall Street in New York. My husband had been visiting the encampment, centered on the lawns around Los Angeles City Hall, in solidarity with me, snooping around the mini-gatherings that pepper the building’s grounds.

“You have no idea what’s going on here!” he declared after finding me on the corner of Spring and Temple Streets listening to an elderly Hispanic man standing on a box telling a captive audience how the bank took his home.

“Civics,” I answered.

“Then you do know what’s going on here,” he said.

Well first off: there’s a tour. There’s nothing more inviting and informative than that. It’s given primarily by Cheryl Aichele, a medical cannabis advocate who looks like the person you’d seek out at any event for answers; she’s non-threatening, sincere and most importantly knowledgeable. When I first meet her she’s in a large tent with a production company logo on it (this is how we roll in LA). It’s like a reception area for a community center. There’s a whiteboard with the schedule of a dozen or so committee meetings that day. They use words like “outreach” and “liaison” and combinations thereof for their committees (and sub-committees). There’s an “objective and demands” box that a middle-aged man stuffs a letter into. A woman next to me is inquiring about the AA meetings. She’s immediately paired up with a fellow 12-stepper within earshot. There are flyers and maps and notices. It’s Day Seven of the encampment — they have AA meetings.

“All of the problems we are facing are legal. They’re laws. We need to pass the right laws,” says my tour guide Aichele.

These are terrible anarchists.

A few days ago some LAPD officers came by to donate bags of clothes; they’re made available to anyone who needs them. The Occupiers offer free food, also provided by donors. There’s a lending library and a first aid tent. I’m told the health department came the day before. They told everyone to wash their hands and not to eat melon, but Occupy LA generally passed inspection.

“In LA, disasters tend to bring us together,” explains Professor Wendel Eckford, a historian with Los Angeles City College who’s been coming down to the Occupation everyday after class.

And it is a disaster: One of out of every five U.S. foreclosures this year was in California. The unemployment rate in Los Angeles is 13 percent. State budget crisis after city budget crisis has taken its toll.

There’s a boiling point and currently it’s expressed in the 253 tents surrounding City Hall. Its part Peoples Park, part low-budget film set and part civics crash course.

Due to a city ordinance they can’t sleep in the park surrounding City Hall. So every night all the tents move to the sidewalk and every morning they move back. They also recycle and have signs reading “Zero waste station” on all four corners of the park. I see a guy scrubbing a graffiti tag off of the wall of the landmark marble building. The group has a non-violence policy which includes graffiti. But their big concern: wheelchair access. It’s a new goal to make the whole occupation accessible to those with disabilities.

“We’d like to be an example for other cites,” says tour guide Aichele.

And by “cities” she means Occupations. Which are growing in number everyday.

Los Angeles City Council members make frequent visits to the tent city encompassing the building where they work. City Council President — and soon-to-be mayoral candidate — Eric Garcetti, who holds an annual Government 101 seminar at City Hall to help citizens make better use of the system, has been down at Occupy LA recruiting participants for next year’s tutorial. Councilmembers Dennis Zine and Bill Rosendahl also are staunch supporters of the Occupation.

But it was Councilmember Richard Alarcon who was approached by one of his constituents, a member of the City Liaison Committee for Occupy LA, Mario Brito, to support this demonstration. Alarcon tells The Atlantic, “[Occupy LA] is exhibiting the frustration of people throughout America.”

Alarcon’s resulting City Council resolution in support of the demonstrators reads like an Occupy Wall Street manifesto: “WHEREAS, the causes and consequences of the economic crisis are eroding the very social contract upon which the Constitution that the United States of America was founded; namely, the ability of Americans to come together and form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense of, promote the general welfare of, and secure the blessings of liberty for all, allowing every American to strive for and share in the prosperity of our nation through cooperation and hard work;.” It’s a three-page resolution mentioning Citizens United, foreclosures, wealth inequality, Egypt and corporate personhood.

“I’ve never written one that long before,” says Alarcon.

Alarcon’s resolution was expected to pass Wednesday morning with a wide margin of support, giving the Occupiers the blessing of the council.

Sure, there are hippies dancing. And yes, there are drum circles. It’s LA, so there’s also “medicinal” marijuana wafting about. But mostly the crowd looks like LA: Half Latino, a quarter African-American and Asian and mostly middle-class. And that’s who is in the meetings, not the hippies. In the meetings, people discuss things like Glass-Steagall, plans of actions and politicians to reach out to. There’s a general sense that this is something big and they need to figure out what to do with it. All is reported at the General Assembly or GA every night at 7:30 p.m. Participants use Quaker consensus decision-making hand signals in all meetings. Participants can indicate if they agree, disagree, kind of agreeor oppose vehemently — all non-verbally. So speakers get to see the reaction of the crowd in real time. It’s public polling and it’s painfully slow and tedious. Meaning: this is what democracy looks like. Everyone has a voice and not all of them are poignant. Some of them are repetitive — and there’s a hand signal for that, too.

What about being on message? At the encampment, there are communists next to Ron Paul supporters next to vegan activists next to those LaRouche people (who always seem to show up) — even a couple of union guys. I’ve always called this liberal “micro-cause-ism.” Will they stay on point? “We’re not focused on the thing that’s not causing the problem,” says Aichele. Message cohesion is not the rigged system they’re rallying to change.

The cumbersome process and cacophany of messages is all about honoring the First Amendment to them. Everyone gets to be heard regardless of someone else’s opinion. As long as you’re the “99 percent” — which the vast majority of are — and are respectful and peaceful, you’re welcome at Occupy LA.

What are they doing there? Teaching people who are angry what to do about it. “The sense of building something together — that experience is empowering,” offers Aichele. They are occupying, yeah, but they are organizing. And that means teaching.

Eckford tells me Occupy LA isn’t leaderless — it’s “leaderful.” When asked when this demonstration will end, he says, “When we feel like our democracy is working for the 99 percent.”

How are they going to do that? This is how it starts.

LA Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass, who describes herself as a long time activist, quietly showed up with bags of El Pollo Loco for protesters last Saturday. “I just wanted to show my support.” She says the role of elected officials is to show their support for this movement she describes as organic.

Local civic leaders, union leaders, police, councilmembers, a couple of celebrities and members of Congress have all made their cameos at Occupy LA. It’s a hotspot.

Other cities have run into conflicts with the police. Occupy San Francisco had its demonstration quashed by police in riot gear. There were 700 arrested in New York on the Brooklyn Bridge. Boston’s occupation led to the biggest mass arrest in recent city history. LA? There were arrests at a Bank of America and at a Fannie Mae, it was rumored to be Occupy LA members. However the actual groups involved were the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment and the Service Employees International Union. Beyond a few who have tried intentionally to incite something, the LA protest has been peaceful and kid-friendly. Most importantly, it’s been effective.

How long is it going to be out there? I ask around. They are in it for the long haul, protesters say. “We’re not going fast, we’re going far,” is a phrase they use. The time between the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the ratification of the Constitution in 1788 gets mentioned.

I ask my tour guide how long she’s going to be out here. She pauses: “I don’t know. I’ve never revolutionized before.”

 

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“I was mentioning to some of the basketball players who were here that this is like the second quarter, maybe the third, and we’ve still got a lot of work to do. But I want everybody to know I’m a fourth-quarter player.” ~ President Barack Obama, Tuesday

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.

4 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. SueInCa says:

    Cher
    I loved the Occupy LA piece.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Glad you liked it Sue. As I said, it’s really what my experience was like too. And when you get the cops donating clothes, when you get “the army” one your side, the revolution will succeed. There is a Twitter I follow #occupyLA, and almost all day they announce more donations. Today, someone donated dozens of new tents and another person brought cases of water. It does my heart so good!

  2. SueInCa says:

    Jesus Cher, those republicans are nasty people. Perhaps instead of one of theirs killing an abortion doc, if this bill goes through perhaps some deranged husband who lost his wife will go after them. I hate to say things like that but damnit, this crap is going too far.

  3. Chernynkaya says:

    DAMMIT!! I forgot to hit the “Schedule” button last night for the DP. Well, better late than never, I guess. Sorry! (And I finished it early for once yesterday.) Damn.


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