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Chernynkaya On November - 4 - 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.

 

 

 

 

BUSINESS

 

 

 

House panel hearing explores U.S. government contractors’ exploitation of workers overseas

WaPo:

If Americans ever think about the employees of government subcontractors, it’s doubtful that sex traders, indentured servants and exploited workers living in barbed-wire compounds come to mind.

They should now.

That’s the image left by a congressional hearing Wednesday that asked: “Are government contractors exploiting workers overseas?”

The answer apparently is yes. What’s also disturbing about this story is Uncle Sam’s ineptness in stopping the exploitation.

Although sad, this story isn’t new. In fact, much of the discussion at the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing was based on journalistic accounts. The headlines of two articles sum up the situation: “U.S. policy a paper tiger against sex trade in war zones” was the title of a June 2010 Washington Post article by Nick Schwellenbach and Carol Leonnig. “For foreign workers on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, war can be hell,” a New Yorker piece by Sarah Stillman said a year later.

The workers, Stillman wrote, “primarily from South Asia and Africa, often live in barbed-wire compounds on U.S. bases, eat at meagre chow halls. . . . A large number are employed by fly-by-night subcontractors who are financed by the American taxpayer but who often operate outside the law. . . . Many of them recount having been robbed of wages, injured without compensation, subjected to sexual assault, and held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by their subcontractor bosses.”

No one knows how many tax-funded though poorly paid workers are in such conditions, but estimates at the hearing were in the tens of thousands.

“Estimates vary considerably on the scale of human trafficking, but whatever the number of victims is, the problem is serious,” Schwellenbach testified. “The U.S. has been a global leader in combating trafficking in persons, yet our tax dollars are inadvertently fueling this human rights tragedy through our labor supply chain in war zones and other contingency operations.” Schwellenbach worked with The Post as a staff writer for the Center for Public Integrity, and he appeared before the panel in his current role as investigations director for the Project on Government Oversight.

The U.S. leadership role he mentioned seems to exist more in theory than practice, if the testimony at the hearing is any indication. Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), chairman of the subcommittee on technology, information policy, intergovernmental relations and procurement reform, noted the government’s zero-tolerance policy for human trafficking but said that “yet these stories continue to rise up.”

He presided over the meeting in a room off a back corridor of the Rayburn House Office Building. The session drew no high-ranking officials and little media attention. Only a few representatives were there, and they didn’t appear to like what they heard.

Human trafficking by federal overseas contractors is widespread and never punished,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), the top Democrat on the panel. “Not a single case of human trafficking, sexual assault, wage theft or related crimes has been prosecuted by the Department of Justice, and only a single case has even been referred for prosecution by the Department of Defense. . . . Neither the Army and Air Force Exchange Service nor any other component of DoD or the State Department has suspended or debarred a single federal contractor for human trafficking, even though such abuses are routine.”

One good thing that emerged from the hearing was the sight of Republicans and Democrats united in outrage at how American tax dollars are at work exploiting people. The subcommittee told agency officials to submit, by Feb. 1, recommendations to prevent abusive labor practices by contractors. In a joint statement, Lankford and Connolly said the subcommittee would hold further hearings on the issue.

“These labor practices violate every human value that we have as a country,” Lankford said after the hearing. “Our departments of State and Defense stand up and fight for human rights around the globe, but have turned a blind eye to these foreign workers. We believe that all men and women are created equal, and the United States must not stand idly by as these injustices occur on a daily basis under our nose.”

Those values are outlined in various federal polices, rules and regulations listed by government witnesses. But all that paper apparently doesn’t mean much. Testimony by the Congressional Research Service lists anti-trafficking laws, regulations, official guidance, presidential directive, agency instructions, treaties, United Nations protocol, international conventions and an employee “bill of rights” developed by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which operates stores, restaurants and beauty parlors on military bases.

Yet, human trafficking continues.

The research service recognizes that the policies it listed aren’t getting the job done. Speaking for the research service, Liana Wyler, an international crime analyst with the agency, suggested that Congress might want to explore “whether there is a disconnect between existing policies and their implementation among contractors overseas.”

The hearing left little doubt that there is.

 

 

 

How big banks are profiting from public programs like Food Stamps

ThinkProgress:

Over at New Deal 2.0, Bryce Covert outlines how the biggest banks are profiting by administering public programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance, to the detriment of taxpayers and those who need such programs to get by. For instance, “U.S. Bancorp, which provides unemployment benefit debit cards, made $357 million in revenue in the division that handles the cards. That amount is more than one-fourth of its total revenue.” JP Morgan, meanwhile, “made $5.47 billion in net revenue for most of last year in the division that handles food stamp cards, and it was up two percent is the last three months of the year.” As Covert summed up, “big banks are making a tidy profit by acting as middlemen for what should be publicly provided services.”

 

 

 

ThinkProgress: 650K Americans joined credit unions last month, more than all of 2010 

 

 

 Bank CEOs Lying When They Say They’ve Stopped Robosiging

 

 

Unpaid traffic & parking tickets can now hurt your credit score |

 

ECONOMY

 

 

 

 

White House: By the Numbers: 44 Million 


Entrepreneurs and the businesses they create play a critical role in sparking new industries, expanding our economy, and generating new job growth across the country. Companies less than five yeas old created 44 million new jobs over the last three decades. In fact, these firms accounted for all net new jobs created in the United States during that time. Huge Fortune 500 companies like Apple, FedEx, and Boeing all began as startups from entrepreneurs with big ideas.

Entrepreneurship has long been a cornerstone of America’s economic power. Helping entrepreneurs access the capital and support they need to get new businesses off the ground in these tough economic times is one of the most important things we can do to help our economy grow. That’s why President Obama included help for entrepreneurs in the American Jobs Act and introduced the Startup America Initiative earlier this year. Both the Jobs Act and the initiative help entrepreneurs cut through regulatory red tape and access the investment capital they need, enabling them  to turn new ideas into new businesses and new jobs more quickly andeasily. The President also signed the America Invents Act in September of this year to fast-track startups and help them put their products on the market more efficiently. enable them to put their products on the market more quickly.

 

 

 

Oligarchy, American Style

PAUL KRUGMAN:

Inequality is back in the news, largely thanks to Occupy Wall Street, but with an assist from the Congressional Budget Office. And you know what that means: It’s time to roll out the obfuscators!

Anyone who has tracked this issue over time knows what I mean. Whenever growing income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable set of defenders tries to bring back the blur. Think tanks put out reports claiming that inequality isn’t really rising, or that it doesn’t matter. Pundits try to put a more benign face on the phenomenon, claiming that it’s not really the wealthy few versus the rest, it’s the educated versus the less educated.

So what you need to know is that all of these claims are basically attempts to obscure the stark reality: We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only.

The budget office laid out some of that stark reality in a recent report, which documented a sharp decline in the share of total income going to lower- and middle-income Americans. We still like to think of ourselves as a middle-class country. But with the bottom 80 percent of households now receiving less than half of total income, that’s a vision increasingly at odds with reality.

In response, the usual suspects have rolled out some familiar arguments: the data are flawed (they aren’t); the rich are an ever-changing group (not so); and so on. The most popular argument right now seems, however, to be the claim that we may not be a middle-class society, but we’re still an upper-middle-class society, in which a broad class of highly educated workers, who have the skills to compete in the modern world, is doing very well.

It’s a nice story, and a lot less disturbing than the picture of a nation in which a much smaller group of rich people is becoming increasingly dominant. But it’s not true.

Workers with college degrees have indeed, on average, done better than workers without, and the gap has generally widened over time. But highly educated Americans have by no meansbeen immune to income stagnation and growing economic insecurity. Wage gains for most college-educated workers have been unimpressive (and nonexistent since 2000), while even the well-educated can no longer count on getting jobs with good benefits. In particular, these days workers with a college degree but no further degrees are less likely to get workplace health coverage than workers with only a high school degree were in 1979.

So who is getting the big gains? A very small, wealthy minority.

The budget office report tells us that essentially all of the upward redistribution of income away from the bottom 80 percent has gone to the highest-income 1 percent of Americans. That is, the protesters who portray themselves as representing the interests of the 99 percent have it basically right, and the pundits solemnly assuring them that it’s really about education, not the gains of a small elite, have it completely wrong.

If anything, the protesters are setting the cutoff too low. The recent budget office report doesn’t look inside the top 1 percent, but an earlier report, which only went up to 2005, found that almost two-thirds of the rising share of the top percentile in income actually went to the top 0.1 percent — the richest thousandth of Americans, who saw their real incomes rise more than 400 percent over the period from 1979 to 2005.

Who’s in that top 0.1 percent? Are they heroic entrepreneurs creating jobs? No, for the most part, they’re corporate executives. Recent research shows that around 60 percent of the top 0.1 percent either are executives in nonfinancial companies or make their money in finance,i.e., Wall Street broadly defined. Add in lawyers and people in real estate, and we’re talking about more than 70 percent of the lucky one-thousandth.

But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth. Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.

The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?

Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.

 

Inequality Trends In One Picture

Just an addendum on the role of the top 1 percent versus the college-noncollege differential. Here, from the CBO report, are the changes, in percentage points, of the shares of income going to three groups. The top quintile excluding the top 1 percent – which is basically the abode of the well-educated who aren’t among the very lucky few – has only kept pace with the overall growth in incomes. Just about all of the redistribution has taken place from the bottom 80 to the top 1 (and we know that most of that has actually gone to the top 0.1).


It’s a tiny minority, not a broad class of well-educated Americans, who have been winning here.

 

 

 

The Smartest People In Washington Are 100% Wrong About Stimulating The Economy
Business Insider:
On the matter of fixing the economy, the Smart People In Washington have spoken!

In a new article at The New Republic, Ramesh Ponnuru and David Beckworth declare that both sides (left and right) are wrong.

The left, they say, doesn’t take the budget seriously enough, and the right is stupid for opposing more monetary stimulus.

They say the answer is: More Fed easing, and less spending in Congress.

Those of you who have been paying attention, have seen the contours of this argument for awhile. The Bowles-Simpson deficit commission basically established that moderates on both the right and the left think cutting deficits should be a priority. And the new spasm of enthusiasm for NGDP targeting (super-aggressive monetary policy) is something that has come from both the right and the left, as John Carney pointed out here.

But the new article from Ponnuru and Beckworth is the first one we’ve seen that perfectly encapsulates the new popular dogma.

Anyway, it gets things totally backwards. What we need is fiscal stimulus AKA government spending.

The biggest problem facing the economy is that the private sector is in too much debt. Americans are trapped in their homes, where they owe huge mortgages, and are generally paying off the big credit boom from the last few decades.

This chart of household debt to income shows how high we are on a historical basis (even though it’s come down a bit) and how much deleveraging there is to do.

If you can accept that this needs to come down, it seems ludicrous to think that the answer to the debt crisis is: cheaper loans! People don’t want (and can’t utilize) cheaper loans: What people need is more income to pay off this debt.

And there’s a place that more income can come from, and that’s government spending.

The other key chart you need to see is this one of sectoral balances. As you can see, government debts and private debts mirror each other, so that when the government spends and goes further into debt, someone in the private sector is increasing their income and coming out of debt. It’s pretty remarkable how perfectly the green and red lines mirror each other.


Note that there is a third source of income for the domestic private sector — exports, the dotted line — but at least in the medium term nobody has a good idea of how to juice exports enough to make a difference.

So the question, then, is: Why oppose more fiscal stimulus, when spending money translates exactly into the private sector income that’s so desperately needed.

Well, credit to Ponnurru and Beckworth, they don’t say that the US is in danger of becoming the next Greece.

Instead they argue something more subtle:

The Fed has refused to take such steps largely because it fears that a dangerous level of inflation would result. That’s a foolish fear: Inflation has been low for the last few years, and the market for inflation-indexed bonds suggests that investors expect low inflation for years to come.

But the Fed’s fear has an implication that liberals overlook. It means that the current “multiplier” from fiscal stimulus—the amount of extra economic activity new deficit spending will generate—is zero at most. That’s because the more fiscal stimulus Congress provides, the less monetary easing the Fed feels inclined to offer. Liberals feel they are compensating for the Fed’s lack of action, but they are really just encouraging it: the main effect of any current fiscal stimulus is not to expand the economy but to shift economic activity around (and especially to shift it from the private to the public sector). Spending may have an economic payoff if it raises the nation’s productive capacity, but it won’t increase total economic activity in the near term because monetary policy, given the Fed’s predilections, will adjust in response to the stimulus.

There are a few things here that need to be disputed.

First of all, even if there is no “multiplier” whatsoever to government spending, that’s okay, since as we established before there’s a dollar-for-dollar connection between spending and private sector income. And every dollar helps.

Second, this idea that the Fed would be reticent to do anything if Congress got more proactive seems far-fetched. Certainly Bernanke seems pretty clear that he wants to do a lot (and is willing to do more) but would also like to see the Congress.

And finally, this idea that “the main effect of any current fiscal stimulus is not to expand the economy but to shift economic activity around (and especially to shift it from the private to the public sector).” is just plain weird. If the government hires someone to, say, dig a ditch (to use a job that anti-Keynesians like to parody) then that person is gaining income without any “subtraction” from another part of the income. Obviously it would be better to have the person do something productive (like repair a bridge) than dig a ditch, in which case you’re not only giving someone income, but your doing something that benefits society.

What’s more, hiring people who are unemployed to do productive things actually achieves what Ponnuru and Beckworth want, which is higher wage inflation.

They write:

For example, the mere announcement that the Fed will buy assets until nominal spending hits a target, for example, could raise expectations for nominal-spending growth. If debtors expect higher nominal income as a result, they will devote fewer resources to deleveraging. If investors expect higher nominal spending, they will rebalance their portfolios away from cash and toward higher-yield assets such as stocks, bidding prices up. Higher asset values then lead to increases in spending on both consumption and investment. The more aggressive the Fed’s announcement, in fact, the fewer assets it will likely have to actually buy.

But the real impediment to wage inflation isn’t that the Fed hasn’t set a big enough number, it’s that we have massive unemployment and excess capacity creating slack in the labor market. Get rid of that slack by putting people to work doing anything, and you start to get the wage firmness (inflation) you desire.

And beyond that, it’s just intuitive. If you take the average person, ask them what will cause them to spend more money: A policy announcement from Bernanke, or the promise of a well-paying job for years to come. The answer is obvious.

It’s clear that more aggressive fiscal policy gets right to the heart of the matter: Putting money in people’s pockets, easing their debt to income, creating wage inflation, and creating the kind of confidence and certainty that will allow people to spend.

More aggressive monetary may not do anything bad, but at a time when people want less debt, it’s just not going to accomplish that much.

 

 

Bill Gates championing financial transaction tax

 

 

 

ENERGY

 

 

 

Nuclear Power: Repubs vote to weaken USA nuclear safety regulations 

My friend and frequent source Hugh Kaufman (senior policy analyst with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response) linked me up to a piece at Bloomberg. First, our email exchange:

Hugh:  Republican response to Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee just voted down Congressman Nadler’s Amendment to stop Congress from weakening USA Nuclear Safety Standards. While China wants stronger nuclear safety standards… (and then he links to the article).

Me: Do they just want everyone in this country to either get sick, poorer, or die while they all hoard their money?

Hugh: So much for Ralph Nader saying there’s no difference between the 2 political parties.

Here’s an excerpt from the Bloomberg post:

China urged the International Atomic Energy Agency to do more tostrengthen nuclear safety and to use lessons from Japan’s crisis to improve the handling of emergencies.

Once again, the GOP believes that regulations are too costly and lives are expendable. And by costly, I mean Republicans don’t want to disturb the steady stream of corporate cash that fills their pockets.

 

MILITARY

 

 

 

U.S. Eyeing Faster Afghanistan Exit

The Obama administration is looking at shifting to an advisory role in Afghanistan as early as next year.

Such a move would have broad implications for the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. It could begin a phase-out of the current troop-intensive approach, which focuses on protecting the Afghan population, in favor of a greater focus on targeted counterterrorism operations, as well as training the Afghan military.

 

 

 

OCCUPY

 

 

We May Be Witnessing the First Large Global Conflict Where People Are Aligned by Consciousness and Not Nation State or Religion

Naomi Wolf:

They’re fighting a “corporatocracy” that has bought governments, created armed enforcers, engaged in systemic economic fraud, and plundered treasuries and ecosystems.

America’s politicians, it seems, have had their fill of democracy. Across the country, police, acting under orders from local officials, are breaking up protest encampments set up by supporters of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement – sometimes with shocking and utterly gratuitous violence.

In the worst incident so far, hundreds of police, dressed in riot gear, surrounded Occupy Oakland’s encampment and fired rubber bullets (which can be fatal), flash grenades and tear-gas canisters – with some officers taking aim directly at demonstrators. The Occupy Oakland Twitter feed read like a report from Cairo’s Tahrir Square: “they are surrounding us”; “hundreds and hundreds of police”; “there are armoured vehicles and Hummers”. There were 170 arrests.

My own recent arrest, while obeying the terms of a permit and standing peacefully on a street in lower Manhattan, brought the reality of this crackdown close to home. America is waking up to what was built while it slept: Private companies have hired away its police (JPMorgan Chase gave $4.6m to the New York City Police Foundation); the federal Department of Homeland Security has given small municipal police forces military-grade weapons systems; citizens’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly have been stealthily undermined by opaque permit requirements.

Suddenly, the United States looks like the rest of the furious, protesting, not-completely-free world. Indeed, most commentators have not fully grasped that a world war is occurring. But it is unlike any previous war in human history: for the first time, people around the world are not identifying and organising themselves along national or religious lines, but rather in terms of a global consciousness and demands for a peaceful life, a sustainable future, economic justice and basic democracy. Their enemy is a global “corporatocracy” that has purchased governments and legislatures, created its own armed enforcers, engaged in systemic economic fraud, and plundered treasuries and ecosystems.

Around the world, peaceful protesters are being demonised for being disruptive. But democracy is disruptive. Martin Luther King, Jr argued that peaceful disruption of “business as usual” is healthy, because it exposes buried injustice, which can then be addressed. Protesters ideally should dedicate themselves to disciplined, nonviolent disruption in this spirit – especially disruption of traffic. This serves to keep provocateurs at bay, while highlighting the unjust militarisation of the police response.

Moreover, protest movements do not succeed in hours or days; they typically involve sitting down or “occupying” areas for the long hauls. That is one reason why protesters should raise their own money and hire their own lawyers. The corporatocracy is terrified that citizens will reclaim the rule of law. In every country, protesters should field an army of attorneys.

Protesters should also make their own media, rather than relying on mainstream outlets to cover them. They should blog, tweet, write editorials and press releases, as well as log and document cases of police abuse (and the abusers).

There are, unfortunately, many documented cases of violent provocateurs infiltrating demonstrations in places like Toronto, Pittsburgh, London and Athens – people whom one Greek described to me as “known unknowns”. Provocateurs, too, need to be photographed and logged, which is why it is important not to cover one’s face while protesting.

Protesters in democracies should create email lists locally, combine the lists nationally and start registering voters. They should tell their representatives how many voters they have registered in each district – and they should organise to oust politicians who are brutal or repressive. And they should support those – as in Albany, New York, for instance, where police and the local prosecutor refused to crack down on protesters – who respect the rights to free speech and assembly.

Many protesters insist in remaining leaderless, which is a mistake. A leader does not have to sit atop a hierarchy: A leader can be a simple representative. Protesters should elect representatives for a finite “term”, just like in any democracy, and train them to talk to the press and to negotiate with politicians.

Protests should model the kind of civil society that their participants want to create. In lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park, for example, there is a library and a kitchen; food is donated; kids are invited to sleep over; and teach-ins are organised. Musicians should bring instruments, and the atmosphere should be joyful and positive. Protesters should clean up after themselves. The idea is to build a new city within the corrupt city, and to show that it reflects the majority of society, not a marginal, destructive fringe.

After all, what is most profound about these protest movements is not their demands, but rather the nascent infrastructure of a common humanity. For decades, citizens have been told to keep their heads down – whether in a consumerist fantasy world or in poverty and drudgery – and leave leadership to the elites. Protest is transformative precisely because people emerge, encounter one another face-to-face, and, in re-learning the habits of freedom, build new institutions, relationships and organisations.

None of that cannot happen in an atmosphere of political and police violence against peaceful democratic protesters. As Bertolt Brecht famously asked, following the East German Communists’ brutal crackdown on protesting workers in June 1953, “Would it not be easier … for the government to dissolve the people and elect another?” Across the United States, and in too many other countries, supposedly democratic leaders seem to be taking Brecht’s ironic question all too seriously.

 

 

 

Mitch McConnell’s Office Occupied By Unemployed Protesters (VIDEO)

Since taking control of the House of Representatives in 2010, the Republicans have refused to pass any and all bills that would create jobs and have slashed spending which has resulted in job losses. Republicans in the Senate have also done their utmost to sabotage the economy, blocking every jobs bill Democrats put forward.

Now, some unemployed protesters are taking the OWS movement to the DC office of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Approximately 40 protesters are occupying McConnell’s office until they get a meeting with him. Nearly two months ago, protesters in Wisconsin occupied Paul Ryan’s office and were then locked out.

As the economy worsens, and more and more people become angry at the Republican attempts to kill the economy, these kinds of sit-ins should become larger and more commonplace. This news comes as Senate Republicans prepare to block an infrastructure bill that would create jobs and is paid for by a small tax increase on the top 0.1% of earners.

Here is the video of the protest via OurDC.org:

 

 

 

Video Evidence Suggests Oakland PD Violated CA State Law, Federal Consent Decree in Violent Confrontation With Occupy Oakland Demonstrators

Brad Blog:

In the wake of a violent, night-time confrontation with Occupy Oakland demonstrators last week by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) andsome 15 other law enforcement agencies, questions have arisen about the legality of the tactics used by the agency during mass arrests which led to serious injuries, including the fractured skull of a two-tour Iraq vet.

Oakland’s Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan has maintained that the use of chemical agents and other so-called “less than lethal” weapons were required in order to defend law enforcement officials from demonstrators.

However, a forensic analysis by The BRAD BLOG of video taken immediately prior to and during last week’s raid and confrontation with Occupy Oakland demonstrators, creates doubt about the legality of the OPD decision to declare the demonstration to be an “unlawful assembly,” and, in particular, raises serious questions about the veracity of the Interim Oakland Police Chief’s claim that police “had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks.”

Moreover, evidence in several of the videos suggests that the multi-agency task force may have violated both CA Penal Code Section 407 and an OPD Training Manual [PDF] that had been adopted pursuant to a federal consent decree signed by the Oakland PD after another confrontationwith protestors some years ago.

That federal consent decree was the product of litigation initiated after a brutal assault on a 2003 anti-war protest at the Port of Oakland, during which, according to civil rights attorney Jim Chanin, Jr., OPD not only deployed so-called “less than lethal firearms,” but ran over demonstrators with motorcycles, and shot and arrested longshoreman who were not even a part of the demonstration.

Chanin reports that, during a deposition in the 2003 case, he “discovered” that the OPD had “infiltrated a subsequent demonstration, and even a planned route the demonstrators would take.” Video posted at the end of this article shows plain clothed, under-cover cops mingling with demonstrators at Occupy Oakland, revealing that OPD used similar infiltration techniques during recent demonstrations as well. Audio included in the video captures Interim Chief Jordan bragging about the ease of infiltration.

Yet another video, also posted below, suggests that two-tour Iraq vet Scott Olsen’s brain injury was likely caused by a member of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU), but, despite reports from activists on the Internet, the identity of that officer is still an open question…

Jordan: ‘We had to deploy gas’

During his press conference following the October 25th raids, Interim Chief Jordan defended his agency’s use of chemical weapons at the demonstrations which had come to a confrontation point at the intersection of 14th and Broadway [emphasis added]:

At that point we were in a position where we had to deploy gas in order to stop the crowd and people from pelting us with bottles and rocks, as I mentioned, some of the other chemical agents that were thrown at our officers…We felt that the deployment of gas was necessary to protect our officers and protect property around the area and to protect injuries to others as well.

During his presser, Jordan discussed two separate actions in which gas was employed — a pre-dawn raid on the Occupy Oakland encampment and the action later in the evening at 14th & Broadway where demonstrators had gathered in protest. In fact, witnesses have explained to The BRAD BLOG that there were at least four different volleys of chemical agents at the evening protest.

During the presser, Jordan also initially claimed that “no rubber bullets” were used during the evening action, explaining, “we don’t have rubber bullets in our inventory.” But his explanation of the situation changed as he was pressed by reporters…

REPORTER: When you say it’s not in your inventory, we have 16 different agencies, so we don’t necessarily know what everybody’s inventory was–

INTERIM CHIEF JORDAN: This morning those were OPD officers only that were clearing the plaza, the outside agencies were not brought in until later on–

REPORTER: But what about in the evening…people are showing us wounds and rubber bullets…Can you say for sure that none of the 16 agencies were using–

INTERIM CHIEF JORDAN: I don’t know that. We have to assess that.

Videos depict unprovoked police assault

The following video by Abby Martin of MediaRoots.org, recorded during the evening police action, prior to the first use of chemical agents, provides key evidence which appears to contradict a number of claims made by Interim Chief Jordan concerning the deployment of gas as a purely defensive manuever “necessary to protect our officers”…

Martin denies her video, as seen above, was altered or edited to filter out protester provocation prior to the police action. A number of other witnesses we’ve interviewed corroborate her assessment. Her video appears to demonstrate that officials intendedto use chemical agents before there was even a hint of provocation from the crowd gathered at 14th and Broadway.

At the outset of her video, members of the SF Emergency Service Unit are seen standing behind a portable metal barricade facing demonstrators on the opposite side of the barricade. There are two rows of ESU deputies, the second of which can be seen holding what appear to be weapons used to fire 37 mm tear gas canisters. These weapons look very much like the ARWEN 37 (aka the “Anti Riot Weapon ENfield”), which its manufacturer describes as “the Father of all Less Lethal Systems.” The ARWEN 37 sports a “5-round rotary drum magazine.” Its range is said to be up to 100 meters.

MORE>>>

 

 

 

POLITICS

 

* CREW Report Reveals Republican FEC Commissioners Working With Outside Allies

Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) issued a report revealing the three Republican members of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) are working in concert with Republican campaign finance attorneys and outside groups to undermine election laws and thwart enforcement of what laws remain after the Citizens United decision.

Click here to read the full CREW report.

“We’ve always known the FEC was an incredibly dysfunctional agency, but this new information uncovered by CREW shows how incestuous the relationship between the Republican commissioners and outside activists really is,” said CREW Chief Counsel Anne Weismann. “This only further proves that fundamental structural reform is needed at the FEC.”

Over the last several years, Republican commissioners Donald McGahn, Matthew Petersen, and Caroline Hunter have brought the FEC to a virtual standstill by routinely ignoring staff recommendations to take enforcement actions and blocking needed regulations. Using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), CREW set out to learn how closely the Republican commissioners have been coordinating with Republican lawyers and outside groups, and whether any of those contacts crossed the line into ex parte communications banned during many types of FEC proceedings and that must be reported to an ethics officer or noted in the public record.

Documents show Commissioner McGahn appears to have engaged in an ex parte communication that should have been disclosed in the public record of a rulemaking proceeding. The documents also demonstrate the support of Republican lawyers and outside groups for the agenda of the Republican commissioners.

Additionally, on the day Commissioner Hunter published an op-ed contending the FEC has diligently pursued enforcement, Cleta Mitchell, a prominent Republican attorney, heaped praise on her. “Hang in there – you’re doing great,” Ms. Mitchell gushed, “you’re all doing the Lord’s work and we are very grateful that finally the rule of law seems to have arisen at the FEC!!” Similarly, Republican lawyers and outside groups thanked the Republican commissioners for substantive FEC decisions, including those concluding no enforcement actions were necessary.

 

 

AP: Senate GOP blocks Obama infrastructure plan

Republicans in the Senate Thursday dealt President Barack Obama the third in a string of defeats on his stimulus-style jobs agenda, blocking a $60 billion measure for building and repairing infrastructure like roads and rail lines.

Supporters of the failed measure said it would have created tens of thousands of construction jobs and lifted the still-struggling economy. But Republicans unanimously opposed it for its tax surcharge on the wealthy and spending totals they said were too high.

The 51-49 vote fell well short of the 60 votes required under Senate procedures to start work on the bill. Every Republican opposed the president, as did Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and former Democrat Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who still aligns with the party.

Obama’s loss was anything but a surprise, but the White House and its Democratic allies continue to press popular ideas from Obama’s poll-tested jobs package in what Republicans say is nothing more than a bare-knuckle attempt to gain a political edge by invoking the mantra of jobs but doing little to seek compromise. […]

Obama ripped Republicans in an unusually tough statement issued by the White House.

“The American people deserve to know why their Republican representatives in Washington refuse to put some of the workers hit hardest by the economic downturn back on the job rebuilding America,” Obama said. “It’s time for Republicans in Congress to put country ahead of party and listen to the people they were elected to serve. It’s time for them to do their job and focus on Americans’ jobs.”

After Republicans blocked Obama’s infrastructure plan, the president’s Democratic allies immediately killed a competing GOP infrastructure plan that would have extended existing highway and transit spending programs and paid for the spending with a $40 billion cut in unspent funding for other domestic programs. The White House opposed the measure over its spending cuts and provisions that would block recent clean air rules and make it harder for the administration to issue new rules.

Obama unveiled his $447 billion jobs plan in September and has launched a campaign-style effort – featuring multiple rallies in states crucial to his re-election bid – to try to get it passed. In votes last month, Republicans blocked the entire $447 billion jobs package and a subsequent attempt by Democrats to pass a $35 billion piece of it aimed at preventing layoffs of teachers and firefighters.

Another political flash point is the way Democrats have sought to pay for Obama’s jobs measures – a surcharge on income exceeding $1 million. The idea enjoys wide backing in opinion polls but is stoutly opposed by Republicans, who say it would hit small business owners and therefore threaten job growth.

With the demise of Thursday’s measure, an announcement could come as early as Friday on what’s the next piece of Obama’s jobs agenda to break out for a stand-alone vote. Democratic aides say the next measure would be legislation to provide a $4,800 tax credit for hiring an unemployed veteran and increasing the tax credit for hiring a veteran with a service-related disability to up to $9,600.

Republicans back the idea of the veterans hiring tax credit.

Thursday’s legislation would have provided an immediate $50 billion investment in roads, bridges, airports and transit systems. It also called for a $10 billion bank to leverage private and public capital for longer-term infrastructure projects.

The measure would be financed by a 0.7 percent surcharge on income over $1 million.

After Obama’s full $447 billion jobs bill was filibustered to death last month, the White House immediately announced it would seek votes on component pieces. That’s a way to exert political pressure on Republicans sensitive about their own jobs agenda, which so far has centered on relaxing regulations and boosting offshore oil exploration and drilling.

Obama last week uncorked a “We Can’t Wait” initiative that relies on executive authority rather than legislation from a bitterly divided Congress to help homeowners refinance “underwater” homes and give borrowers relief from their student loans.

 

 

 

Obama Demands That The GOP Explain To America Why They Refuse To Create Jobs

[…] For the third time in recent weeks, every single Republican in the United States Senate has chosen to obstruct a jobs bill that independent economists said would boost our economy and put Americans back to work. At a time when more than a million construction workers are looking for a job, they voted “no” to putting them back to work doing the work America needs done – rebuilding our roads, bridges, airports and transit systems. That makes no sense.

It makes no sense when you consider that this bill was made up of the same kinds of common-sense proposals that many of these Senators have fought for in the past. It was fully paid for. And even though it was supported by more than 70 percent of the American people – Republicans, Democrats, and independents – 100 percent of Senate Republicans said no. It’s more clear than ever that Republicans in Washington are out of touch with Americans from all ends of the political spectrum.

The American people deserve to know why their Republican representatives in Washington refuse to put some of the workers hit hardest by the economic downturn back on the job rebuilding America. They deserve an explanation as to why Republicans refuse to step up to the plate and do what’s necessary to create jobs and grow the economy right now. It’s time for Republicans in Congress to put country ahead of party and listen to the people they were elected to serve. It’s time for them to do their job and focus on Americans’ jobs. And until they do, I will continue to do everything in my power to move this country forward.

Once again, the Republican Party just doesn’t get it. Not only would they gain points with voters if they would have supported the infrastructure bill, but they also gave Obama a win by blocking the bill. Republicans don’t understand that every time they refuse to create jobs, they are allowing Obama to campaign both in favor of job creation and against the GOP.

The Republican strategy is literally a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. All of the pieces of the American Jobs Act that Republicans have defeated or blocked are very popular with voters. Every time the GOP has said no to job creation, they are also outing themselves to voters as the reason why jobs aren’t being created.

President Obama would love to see his agenda passed, but he will be more than happy to bludgeon Republicans on the issue of jobs every day for the next year. Congressional Republicans think that they are winning, but what they are really doing is playing into the President’s reelection strategy. It is a reflection of the backwards state of our politics that the incumbent president saddled with the bad economy is the candidate who calling for more legislation, while the challenging party is obliviously refusing to act.

Obama may not have won in the Senate today, but he definitely didn’t lose. Maybe Republicans will finally get it when they are watching Barack Obama’s inaugural in January 2013.

 

 

Steve Benen: Romney told Mass. lefties all kinds of interesting things. If GOP rivals don’t pounce, it’s malpractice

[…]

[A]s the meeting drew to a close, [Romney] offered an intriguing suggestion — that he would rise to national prominence in the Republican Party as a victor in a liberal state and could use his influence to soften the GOP’s hard-line opposition to abortion.

He would be a “good voice in the party” for their cause, and his moderation on the issue would be “widely written about,” he said, according to detailed notes taken by an officer of the group, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

“You need someone like me in Washington,” several participants recalled Romney saying that day in September 2002, an apparent reference to his future ambitions.

Romney made similar assurances to activists for gay rights and the environment, according to people familiar with the discussions, both as a candidate for governor and then in the early days of his term.

It’s important to appreciate what, exactly, Romney was saying at the time. His pitch to these center-left advocates was that he, a moderate Republican, could slowly work his way into the national GOP spotlight, and in time become a key player, able to shape the Republican Party’s agenda. And if they supported him, they would help empower Romney to change his party, moving it to the left in the coming years.

As Jon Chait put it, Romney “was promising behind closed doors to act as essentially a sleeper agent within the Republican Party, adoptingliberal stances, rising to national prominence, and thereby legitimizing them and transforming the Party from within.”

There are a few key takeaways from a story like this. The first is that Mitt Romney has such deep character flaws, I don’t think Americans have seen a politician this craven in a very long time.

Second, if Romney’s rivals for the GOP nomination don’t immediately pounce on this, they’re guilty of political malpractice on a near-criminal level.

And third, I suspect there will be some Romney-loving Republicans who read the Post article and think, “Boy, Romney sure did pull a fast one on those liberals activists! It was smart of him to use them to get ahead.”

But therein lies the rub: how do they know — how does anyone know — which side Romney is lying to? Was he lying to his Massachusetts constituents about helping move the Republican Party to the left, or is he lying to the GOP base now about helping moving the country to the right?

The fact that no one can say for sure seems pretty important.

 

 

Internal Romney campaign memo: The Koch brothers are the “financial engine of the Tea Party…”

Political Carnival:

Willard is courting and wooing, wet kissing and slobbering, begging and kvetching for any shred of a wisp of a sign that he can get the tea baggers and one of the Koch suckers to fall for him. Which “him” isn’t clear yet, since there are so many. He’ll get back to us on that.

The Washington Examiner got their hands on an internal memo from the MittWit’s campaign that confirms some of that nauseating ass kissing, and has shared it with the world:

Americans for Prosperity is led by billionaire Republican donor David Koch, whose endorsement Romney seeks. An Oct. 4 internal Romney campaign memo obtained by The Washington Examiner describes Koch as the “financial engine of the Tea Party” […]

Behind the scenes, Romney has been trying to win an endorsement from Koch, who has made no endorsements in the current race though he backed Romney for president in 2008. […]

The memo says Romney was scheduled to meet with Koch on Aug. 28 at the billionaire’s home in Southampton, N.Y. — where Koch held a major event for Romney in 2010 — but Hurricane Irene foiled their plans.

Thank you for stating the obviou$, Team Romney.

I’m surprised that Willard and David didn’t buy off Irene so that they could throw their big shindig. I guess money can’t buy everything.

 

 

 

The Morning Plum

Greg Sargent:

 * Mitt Romney vowed to soften national GOP’s anti-abortion stance: No need for any throat clearing here. This new report in the Post seems like it should be trouble in a GOP primary:

Mitt Romney was firm and direct with the abortion rights advocates sitting in his office nine years ago, assuring the group that if elected Massachusetts governor, he would protect the state’s abortion laws.

The, as the meeting drew to a close, the businessman offered an intriguing suggestion — that he would rise to national prominence in the Republican Party as a victor in a liberal state and could use his influence to soften the GOP’s hard-line opposition to abortion.

The claim is based on detailed notes taken at the meeting. You’d think that this explicit vow to seek national prominence in the quest to soften what has long been one of the most urgently held moral positions of millions of Republican voters would complicate Romney’s quest for that party’s presidential nomination. Romney’s GOP rivals and Obama’s campaign advisers will both likely seize on this to bolster their case against him, given their shared interest in portraying Romney as someone without a moral or ideological core who will say anything to advance his ambitions.

Also: As Ron Fournier notes, this story is a “must read” because it also raises questions about Romney’s strength as a general election candidate: Voters may recoil at someone whose “core beliefs are so hard to pin down.”

* Forty House GOPers want tax hikes to be part of deficit talks:It’s now come to this: Some 40 House Republicans have now signed a letter pleading with the deficit supercommittee’s members to put all forms of revenue increases on the table. That would seem to include — yup — tax hikes.

You’re not supposed to say this, but here goes: Only one party’s leaders are ruling out major concessions on core principles in the quest for compromise. The other party’s leaders favor an approach under which both sides would give up major concessions in the quest for compromise. Indeed, from the point of view of liberals, the latter party isoverly willing to trade away core priorities.

* Herman Cain’s meltdown continues apace: With a third woman stepping forward, the lawyer of one of the accusers is now asking the National Restaurant Association for permission to release a statement clarifying that her version of events is rather different from the one Cain has described.

Meanwhile, Cain is thrashing around in a deepening well of anger and paranoia, blaming just about everyone in sight — except himself, of course — for his worsening travails.

* Eyewitness confirms Cain behavior: And now we have our first on the record confirmation from a witness who says he saw Cain’s advances first-hand.

* Herman Cain takedown of the day: Dana Milbank’s takedown of Cain’s handling of the mess is brutal, and this captures his meltdown perfectly:

Cain’s lark has become hard labor. The sunny candidate is now snarling and shouting, and obviously not enjoying himself in the least.

Moral of the story: Politics ain’t as easy as it looks.

* Obama reelect reality check of the day: Nate Silver does a very deep dive into the history of recent presidential campaigns and into Obama’s layers of vulnerability, and reaches this sobering conclusion:

When we look at the last eight elected presidents, only Carter faced a situation worse than Obama’s: approval ratings in the low 30s rather than low 40s, the likelihood rather than the mere possibility of a recession, a primary challenge rather than a clear path to renomination and a crisis in Iran rather than a string of foreign-policy victories. The other seven had stronger fundamentals heading into the election year. This includes the elder Bush…

Bright spot: Silver says that a couple months of good jobs reports, or a weak or ideologically whacked out GOP opponent, would make Obama the favorite again.

* Terrible polling on taxes: Much attention will be paid today to thisnew Quinnipiac poll finding that 49 percent say the deficit should be reduced with only spending cuts, while 38 percent say it should be reduced with some tax increases.

But this polling tells us nothing. Respondents are only asked whether they’d favor generic “tax increases,” and aren’t even told who those tax increases would target, i.e., the wealthy. Worse, respondents are only given a straight choice — either reduce the deficit with spending cuts, or with tax hikes — rather than being offered a clear choice of a mix of the two. That’s the actual Democratic position, and it has broad majority support in many polls that represent it clearly. Just awful.

* First bad poll for Occupy Wall Street, though the Tea Party fares worse: Today’s Quinnipiac poll is the first survey I’ve seen where the numbers are upside down for the protests: A plurality has an unfavorable view of them, 39-30, including a plurality of independents.

But a full 30 percent have still not made up their minds about Occupy Wall Street, and more (45 percent) view the Tea Party unfavorably. Also: These findings are at odds with several other national polls. Still: People shouldn’t have their heads in the sand about the possibility that public opinion could turn on the protests.

* But another poll finds support for Occupy Wall Street growing:CNN reports on a new national poll that finds a nine-point jump in support for the movement, which is now at 37 percent — and, crucially, this boost came as more people say they’re aware of it.

* Obama has wiped out GOP’s advantage on national security:Doyle McManus on how Obama’s foreign policy successes have left Republicans confused, disoriented, incoherent, and on the defensive on an issue that they once had an advantage on for decades.

What makes this development even more startling is that Obama’s victory in the 2008 primary was seen as a triumph for the anti-war faction of the Democratic Party, which was long blamed for the party’s weaknesses on the issue.

 

Pelosi: House is ‘in play’ in 2012

The Hill:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that Democrats have a good shot at winning the House in 2012.

The former Speaker said her party — through smart recruitment and strong fundraising — is on pace to take back the lower chamber after just two years in the minority.

“We have definitely put the House in play,” she said during her weekly press briefing in the Capitol.

Pelosi bragged of her party’s prowess at fundraising and touted the diversity of the new crop of Democratic candidates — “two generals, a colonel … legislators, small-business people, mayors, many women and minorities.”

“From a political standpoint, we’re very proud of the recruitment of candidates … all with the determination to take us off the path that the Republicans have put us on,” she said.

“Not to talk money,” Pelosi said, “but we outraised the Republicans for the first three-quarters of the year.”

Such statements can pay dividends, as Democratic donors will likely be more receptive to opening their checkbooks if they think the party has a fighting chance of winning back the lower chamber.

Putting Democrats back in charge, she added, “is urgent in terms of job creation and taking us to a path of prosperity.”

Republicans were quick to push back against Pelosi’s 2012 forecast, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) arguing that recent state redistricting measures will only benefit the GOP in the next elections.

“If you look at the redistricting that’s gone on around the country … 51 of our members won districts that were won by Barack Obama,” Boehner said Thursday. “At least half of those districts will be strengthened as a result of the redistricting process around the country.”

Republicans have “done a good job at home,” Boehner added, “and I feel confident that we will certainly maintain our majority.”

Paul Lindsay, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), also rebuffed Pelosi’s claims, saying in an email, “Returning to the Speaker’s chair may be a dream for Nancy Pelosi, but it is a nightmare for middle-class Americans who are still suffering from the job-killing policies she helped put in place.”

Lindsay declined to speculate about the number of seats in play, but suggested the Republicans will expand their majority next year: “The only number worth guessing is the amount of House Democrats who will lose as a result of supporting the Obama-Pelosi agenda.”

Yet The Cook Political Report, a well-respected campaign handicapper, indicates that many more Republicans are at risk of losing their seats next year than Democrats. Indeed, new ratings released Thursday reveal that 32 Republicans fall into categories indicatingthey’re threatened, versus 24 Democrats in those brackets.

While this is partly a reflection of the GOP’s success in 2010, when it won a number of swing districts previously held by Democrats, it also suggests the gains Pelosi and other Democrats think they can make in 2012, especially if the party gets a strong voter turnout with President Obama at the top of the ticket.

Additionally, Democrats have the fundraising advantage Pelosi mentioned, which has been a surprise given the House caucus’s place as a minority. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) reported gains of $6.6 million in September, almost double the $3.8 million hauled in by the NRCC over the same span.

The DCCC has also held a strong fundraising advantage in the third quarter — posting gains of $14.2 million versus the NRCC’s $10.7 million — and for the year ($47.9 million versus $44.1 million).

“This is quite remarkable,” Pelosi said. “If we hadn’t been successful in the recruitment, and we hadn’t been successful in the raising of money, you might make a statement of how on earth do you think that you can win?”

Recent public opinion polls indicate that voters have a dismal view of Washington lawmakers. Just 6 percent of voters, for instance, think incumbents in Congress deserve reelection, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, while just 33 percent think their own member should be returned to Washington next year.

After taking control of the House in 2006, Democrats were walloped at the polls just four years later, losing 63 seats and ceding the majority back to the Republicans.

Pelosi repeatedly predicted last year that Democrats would retain the House.

House Republicans currently outnumber the Democrats 242 to 192, with one vacancy following the scandal-induced departure of former Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) over the summer.

President Obama has also predicted recently that the Democrats will take back the House next year.

“I am biased, but I think Nancy was one of the best Speakers of the House this country ever had,” Obama said Sunday after Pelosi introduced him at the National Italian American Foundation gala. “And I believe that she will be the best Speaker of the House again in 2013.”

 

 

 

Obama Campaign Kicks Off Campaign To Rally Youth Vote

TPM:

President Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, kicked off a new push to court the youth vote at a rally in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

“What people don’t focus on is there’s 8 million voters who are 18 to 21 who weren’t old enough to vote last time and who are going to cast their first vote for Barack Obama,” Messina said at the event at UPenn promoting the campaign’s new ‘Greater Together’ initiative. “Your older brothers and sisters started it, and you’re going to complete it.”

Young voters were key to Obama’s 2008 election and the campaign will need them to return in similar or greater numbers if they want a crack at a second term. The Greater Together program is aimed at reconnecting with 18-29 year olds to try and help capture some of the old energy early in the race.

Staffers for the Obama campaign say they plan on highlighting a variety of White House policies that appeal to young voters in particular, including the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, a provision of the Affordable Care Act that allow adults to stay on their parents’ health care plan through age 26, and the end of the Iraq War.

 

 

 

Hartmann: Have corporations overplayed their hand & a backlash is now underway?

Boulder, Colorado passed by a 3-to-1 margin an amendment that says corporations are not people and money is not speech and 6 Senators introduced a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Have corporations overplayed their hand – is the backlash now underway?

 

 

 

Whatever Happened to the American Left?

Michael Kazin, NYT Op-Ed:

SOMETIMES, attention should be paid to the absence of news. America’s economic miseries continue, with unemployment still high and home sales stagnant or dropping. The gap between the wealthiest Americans and their fellow citizens is wider than it has been since the 1920s.

And yet, except for the demonstrations and energetic recall campaigns that roiled Wisconsin this year, unionists and other stern critics of corporate power and government cutbacks have failed to organize a serious movement against the people and policies that bungled the United States into recession.

Instead, the Tea Party rebellion — led by veteran conservative activists and bankrolled by billionaires — has compelled politicians from both parties to slash federal spending and defeat proposals to tax the rich and hold financiers accountable for their misdeeds. Partly as a consequence, Barack Obama’s tenure is starting to look less like the second coming of F.D.R. and more like a re-run of Jimmy Carter — although last week the president did sound a bit Rooseveltian when he proposed that millionaires should “pay their fair share in taxes, or we’re going to have to ask seniors to pay more for Medicare.”

How do we account for the relative silence of the left? Perhaps what really matters about a movement’s strength is the years of building that came before it. In the 1930s, the growth of unions and the popularity of demands to share the wealth and establish “industrial democracy” were not simply responses to the economic debacle. In fact, unions bloomed only in the middle of the decade, when a modest recovery was under way. The liberal triumph of the 1930s was in fact rooted in decades of eloquent oratory and patient organizing by a variety of reformers and radicals against the evils of “monopoly” and “big money.”

Similarly, the current populist right originated among the articulate spokespeople and well-funded institutions that emerged in the 1970s, long before the current crisis began. The two movements would have disagreed about nearly everything, but each had aggressive proponents who, backed up by powerful social forces, established their views as the conventional wisdom of an era.

THE seeds of the 1930s left were planted back in the Gilded Age by figures like the journalist Henry George. In 1886, George, the author of a best-selling book that condemned land speculation, ran for mayor of New York City as the nominee of the new Union Labor Party. He attracted a huge following with speeches indicting the officeholders of the Tammany Hall machine for engorging themselves on bribes and special privileges while “we have hordes of citizens living in want and in vice born of want, existing under conditions that would appall a heathen.”

George also brought his audiences a message of hope: “We are building a movement for the abolition of industrial slavery, and what we do on this side of the water will send its impulse across the land and over the sea, and give courage to all men to think and act.” Running against candidates from both major parties and the opposition of nearly every local employer and church, George would probably have been elected, if the 28-year-old Theodore Roosevelt, the Republican who finished third, had not split the anti-Tammany vote.

Despite George’s defeat, the pro-labor, anti-corporate movement that coalesced around him and others kept growing. As the turn of the century neared, wage earners mounted huge strikes for union recognition on the nation’s railroads and inside its coal mines and textilemills. In the 1890s, a mostly rural insurgency spawned thePeople’s Party, also known as the Populists, which quickly won control of several states and elected 22 congressmen. The party soon expired, but not before the Democrats, under William Jennings Bryan, had adopted important parts of its platform — the progressive income tax, a flexible currency and support for labor organizing.

During the early 20th century, a broader progressive coalition, including immigrant workers, middle-class urban reformers, muckraking journalists and Social Gospelers established a new common sense about the need for a government that would rein in corporate power and establish a limited welfare state. The unbridled free market and the ethic of individualism, they argued, had left too many Americans at the mercy of what Theodore Roosevelt called “malefactors of great wealth.” As Jane Addams put it, “the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”

Amid the boom years of the 1920s, conservatives rebutted this wisdom and won control of the federal government. “The chief business of the American people is business,” intoned President Calvin Coolidge. But their triumph was brief, both ideologically and electorally. When Franklin D. Roosevelt swept into the White House in 1932, most Americans were already primed to accept the economic and moral argument progressives had been makingsince the heyday of Henry George.

Will Rogers, the popular humorist and a loyal Democrat, put it in comfortably agrarian terms, “All the feed is going into one manger and the stock on the other side of the stall ain’t getting a thing. We got it, but we don’t know how to split it up.” The unionists of the Congress of Industrial Organizations echoed his argument, as did soak-the-rich demagogues like Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin. The architects of Social Security, the minimum wage and other landmark New Deal policies did so as well.

After years of preparation, welfare-state liberalism had finally become a mainstream faith. In 1939, John L. Lewis, the pugnacious labor leader, declared, “The millions of organized workers banded together in the C.I.O. are the main driving force of the progressive movement of workers, farmers, professional and small business people and of all other liberal elements in the community.” With such forces on his side, the politically adept F.D.R. became a great president.

But the meaning of liberalism gradually changed. The quarter century of growth and lowunemployment that followed World War II understandably muted appeals for class justice on the left. Liberals focused on rights for minority groups and women more than addressing continuing inequalities of wealth. Meanwhile, conservatives began to build their own movement based on a loathing of “creeping socialism” and a growing perception that the federal government was oblivious or hostile to the interests and values of middle-class whites.

IN the late 1970s, the grass-roots right was personified by a feisty, cigar-chomping businessman-activist named Howard Jarvis. Having toiled for conservative causes since Herbert Hoover’s campaign in 1932, Jarvis had run for office on several occasions in the past, but, like Henry George, he had never been elected. Blocked at the ballot box, he became an anti-tax organizer, working on the belief that the best way to fight big government was “not to give them the money in the first place.”

In 1978 he spearheaded the Proposition 13 campaign in California to roll back property taxes and make it exceedingly hard to raise them again. That fall, Proposition 13 won almost two-thirds of the vote, and conservatives have been vigorously echoing its anti-tax argument ever since. Just as the left was once able to pin the nation’s troubles on heartless big businessmen, the right honed a straightforward critique of a big government that took Americans’ money and gave them little or nothing useful in return.

One reason for the growth of the right was that most of those in charge of the government from the mid-1960s through the 2000s — whether Democrats or Republicans — failed to carry out their biggest promises. Lyndon Johnson failed to defeat the Viet Cong or abolishpoverty; Jimmy Carter was unable to tame inflation or free the hostages in Iran; George W. Bush neither accomplished his mission in Iraq nor controlled the deficit.

Like the left in the early 20th century, conservatives built an impressive set of institutions to develop and disseminate their ideas. Their think tanks, legal societies, lobbyists, talk radio and best-selling manifestos have trained, educated and financed two generations of writers and organizers. Conservative Christian colleges, both Protestant and Catholic, provide students with a more coherent worldview than do the more prestigious schools led by liberals. More recently, conservatives marshaled media outlets like Fox News and the editorial pages ofThe Wall Street Journal to their cause.

The Tea Party is thus just the latest version of a movement that has been evolving for over half a century, longer than any comparable effort on the liberal or radical left. Conservatives have rarely celebrated a landslide win on the scale of Proposition 13, but their argument about the evils of big government has, by and large, carried the day. President Obama’s inability to solve the nation’s economic woes has only reinforced the right’s ideological advantage.

If activists on the left want to alter this reality, they will have to figure out how to redefine the old ideal of economic justice for the age of the Internet and relentless geographic mobility. During the last election, many hoped that the organizing around Barack Obama’s presidential campaign would do just that. Yet, since taking office, Mr. Obama has only rarely made an effort to move the public conversation in that direction.

Instead, the left must realize that when progressives achieved success in the past, whether at organizing unions or fighting for equal rights, they seldom bet their future on politicians. They fashioned their own institutions — unions, women’s groups, community and immigrant centers and a witty, anti-authoritarian press — in which they spoke up for themselves and for the interests of wage-earning Americans.

Today, such institutions are either absent or reeling. With unions embattled and on the decline, working people of all races lack a sturdy vehicle to articulate and fight for the vision of a more egalitarian society. Liberal universities, Web sites and non-governmental organizations cater mostly to a professional middle class and are more skillful at promoting social causes like legalizing same-sex marriage and protecting the environment than demanding millions of new jobs that pay a living wage.

A reconnection with ordinary Americans is vital not just to defeating conservatives in 2012 and in elections to come. Without it, the left will remain unable to state clearly and passionately what a better country would look like and what it will take to get there. To paraphrase the labor martyr Joe Hill, the left should stop mourning its recent past and start organizing to change the future.

 

 

 

Democrats Aim to Localize 2012 Senate Races

Real Clear Politics:

Senate Democrats hoping to retain their slim majority in the upper chamber of Congress are borrowing an election strategy from the House playbook: keep the elections local.

For the 2012 cycle, Democrats are advising their incumbents and recruits to make their individual elections “a choice between the two people on the ballot . . . and not simply allow it to be a nationalized election,” said Guy Cecil, executive director of the DemocraticSenatorial Campaign Committee, at a briefing with reporters Thursday hosted by the centrist think tank Third Way. “I think it’s part of the reason why we were successful in Colorado, and I think it’s part of the reason why we will be successful in a lot of these incumbent states around the country.”

Localizing Senate races in a presidential election year, though, is a tricky undertaking. And it suggests Democrats recognize that preserving their majority means defending seats in states they know President Obama is likely to lose. To do that, they are playing offense hard and early. In Republican primaries in Florida and Indiana, for example, they are pushing the narrative that the Tea Party is moving the GOP so far to the right that candidates will say anything to get their party’s nomination. In Nevada they are targeting Dean Heller for supporting Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget that alters Medicare, and in Montana they are slamming Denny Rehberg for equating Pell Grants to welfare. And they plan to soak the airwaves with ads in the final stretches of these races. In Florida, for example, “by September 1 through the election, you’re not going to be seeing the Geico lizard; it’s going to be all politics, all the time for the last two months of that election,” Cecil quipped.

Even though they currently hold a majority, Senate Democrats have a difficult task ahead of them. They are working with a large map and have 23 seats to defend, compared to 10 for the Republicans. The GOP needs to win four Democratic seats in order to win the majority in the Senate, and the party is targeting four red states that didn’t swing for Obama in 2008: Missouri, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Having the president’s name on the same ballot poses an additional challenge for Democrats running in red states, which is why Democrats will try to make each race a two-candidate contest rather than a three-candidate one.

Republicans counter that the Democratic incumbents’ records make it difficult for them to move away from Obama.

“That theory might have some relevance if the elections were taking place in fantasy land, but in reality they’re taking place in states that have borne the brunt of the Democrats’ failed economic policies, which every one of their candidates is on record supporting,” said Brian Walsh, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “At the end of the day, the president is on the top of the ticket with all of these senators. Coupled with that, senators like Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill and Ben Nelson have voted for a lot of his major spending initiatives. They’re tied to the hip with the president.”

Cecil insists that 2012 will be different, however. The races in “2006, 2008, and 2010, by every estimation, were nationalized elections. They were macro elections, and I think more than anything else this election has the capacity to be a micro election, an election that really affects every state differently and every race differently,” said Cecil, who ran Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet’s winning 2010 campaign. “The question is: Do you have the resources to separate yourself?”

The DSCC believes it does. It has hired 21 full-time trackers to collect opposition data in the field, and has 10 full-time state party communications directors. The committee has slightly outraised its Republican counterpart so far this cycle and will focus much of its spending on shoring up the most vulnerable candidates.

“We’re raising more money this cycle than we did in 2006,” said Cecil. “We will spend in many cases more than the candidates themselves spend. In 2006 with Claire McCaskill, McCaskill raised $11.5 million, and the DSCC spent $16.5 million on that race. We’re as committed now as we have been.”

McCaskill, a first-term senator from Missouri, is among the most vulnerable incumbents the Democrats have to protect. She was one of the earliest supporters of Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy in 2008, but her state voted for John McCain. She has made clear she supports the president but doesn’t agree with him on many issues. Republicans have placed a bull’s-eye on her back and are tracking when she does and doesn’t appear with the president when he visits the state.

They are also targeting Tester of Montana and Nebraska’s Nelson, who hasn’t decided whether he will run for re-election. Cecil demurred when asked whether Nelson, on whom Democrats have already spent over $1 million defending, will run again but said the seat is still in play for Democrats.

Republicans are also hoping to pick up North Dakota and Virginia, which are both being vacated by retiring Democratic incumbents Kent Conrad and Jim Webb, respectively. Cecil says Democrats can keep both seats. For example, Tim Kaine, former DNC chair and governor of Virginia, will do better than most Democrats would in red Richmond, Cecil argued. He also said Democrats have a shot at GOP-held seats in Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts and Nevada, because Republicans running for those seats have served or currently serve as a member of Congress and won’t be able to play into an anti-incumbent narrative.

But while Democrats and Republicans fight for the balance of power in the House and Senate, President Obama is campaigning against a “do-nothing Congress.” Asked by a reporter whether the president’s slogan will have an impact, Cecil argued that incumbent Democrats are running ahead of the president in their respective states.

 

 

 

POLLS

 

 

Why paying attention to polls at this point is pointless. (From October 2007.)

Gallup:

[…] The Democratic Race: Conditions Auspicious for Sen. Clinton to Win

Gallup’s 2007 national presidential polling strongly points to Clinton winning the 2008 Democratic nomination. Barring something unusual or otherwise unexpected, she is well positioned for the 2008 Democratic primaries.Obama has not been an insignificant rival: he came within single digits of tying Clinton for the lead at two points this spring. But he has recently lost ground and is now in the weakest position relative to Clinton that he has been in all year.

No other announced or potential Democratic candidate has come close to threatening Clinton’s front-runner status since the campaign began, including former Vice President Al Gore and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

When 2008 is history and one looks retrospectively at where the race stands today, the key factors forecasting Clinton’s success will likely be the following:

Clinton Has Had a Consistent Run at the Top

Clinton has led the Democratic pack in every Gallup Poll conducted between November 2006 and October 2007. For most of this time, Clinton has led Obama by a double-digit margin.

Clinton’s lead over Obama has expanded to nearly 30 points in Gallup’s latest poll, conducted Oct. 12-14: 50% vs. 21%.

Gallup polling on Democratic nominations going back to the 1972 election shows that, by historical standards, a lead of even 20 points is large for Democratic candidates. The two candidates who held this distinction in the fall months before the election year (Gore in 1999 and Walter Mondale in 1983) eventually won the Democratic nomination.

Importantly, two-thirds of Democrats who prefer Clinton for their party’s nomination say they are certain to vote for her in the primaries, a higher percentage than is found for supporters of the other Democratic candidates.

Clinton ’s Support Runs Deep

Clinton holds a commanding lead among nearly every major subgroup of potential Democratic primary voters. Some of her strongest showings are among women, nonwhites, those in lower-income households, those with less formal education, and Southerners.

Clinton Is Broadly Popular Among Democrats

Clinton enjoys high favorable ratings in the Democratic Party that extend well beyond the 40% to 50% of Democrats typically naming her as their top choice for the nomination. Eighty-two percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners have a favorable view of the former first lady, while only 16% have an unfavorable view of her. Obama (70% favorable among Democrats) and Edwards (63% favorable) lag behind Clinton on this measure, in part because fewer Democrats are familiar with them.

Democrats also rate Clinton as the candidate most likely to defeat the Republican in the general election — a key perceptual advantage given that primary voters are trying to distinguish among candidates with largely similar issue positions.

Additionally, 64% of Democrats say they would vote for Clinton enthusiastically in November 2008 should she be the party’s nominee. Forty-nine percent say this about Obama and 41% about Edwards.

Clinton’s Image Strong on Top Policy Issues

According to the Sept. 24-27, 2007, Gallup Panel survey, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents choose Clinton as the candidate best able to handle a wide variety of national issues.

In fact, even when given the choice of the top three Democratic candidates — Clinton, Obama, and Edwards — an outright majority of Democrats say Clinton would do the best job on 6 out of 17 issues measured in the poll. This includes some of the major nuts-and-bolts policy issues Americans generally rate as most important to their vote for federal offices: healthcare, the economy, and education. It also includes two of the leading values issues in today’s culture: abortion and gay marriage.

Clinton is preferred by a solid plurality of Democrats on an additional seven issues. Among these are terrorism and the situation in Iraq — two of the most hotly debated issues of the election, as well as potentially crucial to voters. She also holds sizable leads on taxes and energy, and somewhat smaller leads on crime, immigration, and being commander in chief of the military. Obama is preferred by a majority of Democrats on only one issue: race relations. He also leads Clinton and Edwards with a sizable plurality as the candidate best able to inspire Americans.

Clinton’s nomination seems almost inevitable, but Ted Kennedy (1980) and Gary Hart (1988) provide some caution that under extreme circumstances, a strong Democratic candidate can blow a big lead. Kennedy’s and Hart’s big leads came much earlier in the campaign, however. Of note as well: Mondale saw his large lead from the fall of 1983 disappear after Hart’s win in the 1984 New Hampshire primary, before Mondale recovered and went on to secure the nomination.

Some have speculated that Americans might be uncomfortable with Bill Clinton returning to the White House after scandal marred his presidency, but polling data suggests that is not the case — at least not now.

MORE>>>

 

[But anyway…]

 

Poll: Obama leads all Republicans in Virginia 

 

 

 

75% of Americans support Obama’s decision to completely withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year 

 

 

 

USA Today/Gallup: Swing State Poll Shows Even Obama-Romney Race

A new national poll from Gallup shows former Mass Gov. Mitt Romney with a one point lead on President Obama in a survey of voters in twelve swing states, while leading businessman Herman Cain by three points and Texas Gov. Rick Perry by five. A broader nationwide poll shows Obama and Romney tied at 47 percent. The intent of the poll was to measure how voters in the most important Electoral College states are stacking up the current field in the general election.

From USA Today:

The underlying perils for the president are particularly pronounced in these battlegrounds, presumably because they are in parts of the country that have been hit hardest by the nation’s economic troubles. Four of the states have unemployment rates in double digits, well above the national average of 9.1%. Rust Belt states such as Michigan continue to struggle with the exodus of heavy manufacturing industries. Those in the Sun Belt, including Florida and Nevada, have been at the center of the home mortgage boom-and-bust.

 

 

 

Green shoots of recovery for Obama 2.0

Jonathan Capehart:

Looks like Obama 2.0 is starting to pay off. Ever since his boffo speech to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 8, the fighting president that Americans, and Democrats in particular, have been demanding to see has been front and center. President Obama’s critics certainly don’t like it. They say he’s “[s]owing social unrest and class resentment.” But the American people apparently do.

Two polls released in the last week show Obama recovering lost support. The Quinnipiac poll released yesterday puts the president’s approval rating at 47 percent. That’s up 6 points from last month.TheNew York Times/CBS News poll released last week has him at 46 percent, which is a 2-point bump since last month. Obama is even seeing green shoots in the Gallup Daily Tracking poll.

Now, I recognize that the reason for the president’s improved standing might be due not at all to his traveling around the country hammering Congress over its failure to pass his jobs bill in whole or in parts. His announcement of the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the capture and death of Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi certainly helped. But those two things, combined with his getting out of Washington to drive home his domestic message, is aiding a noticeable momentum.

Whether these positive gains are stopped by a failure of the supercommittee to come up with a debt deal, the implosion of Greece and its impact on the U.S. economy, or the emergence of a Republican nominee capable of talking sense and capturing the hearts of the conservative base remains to be seen.

 

 

 

New poll suggests GOP primary voters either don’t believe or don’t care for the allegations against Herman Cain

 

SCIENCE

 

 

 

Do Animals Know Right from Wrong? New Clues Point to ‘Yes’

New Science:


In a famous YouTube video, Tank the dog sure does look guilty when his owner comes home to find trash scattered everywhere, and the trash can lid incriminatingly stuck on Tank’s head. But does the dog really know he misbehaved, or is he just trying to look submissive because his owner is yelling at him?

In another new video from the BBC “Frozen Planet” series, Adelie penguins are seen gathering stones to build their nests. One penguin stealthily steals a stone from his neighbor’s nest every time the neighbor goes a-gathering. Does the penguin thief know its covert actions are wrong?

These are some of the scenarios that interest ethologists, or scientists who study animal behavior. For years, these scientists categorically ruled out the possibility that animals might have a sense of morality — that they know right from wrong. Lately, though, the tide is turning.

“People used to like to make that stark division between human and nonhuman animals,” said ethologist Marc Bekoff. “But there’s just no doubt that the scientific evidence for animal morality is accumulating as more and more animals are studied.” [6 Amazing Videos of Animal Morality]

Justice for all

Bekoff is a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-founder (with primatologist Jane Goodall) of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. His extensive field research has led him to believe that morality is an evolved trait, rather than a system created by humans, and that it evolved early in the history of mammals.

“It has only been observed in certain species, because it really hasn’t been studied extensively, but I would expect that moral sentiments would be fairly widespread among mammals,” Bekoff told Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

Much of Bekoff’s research has focused on wolves and coyotes — both of which live in tight-knit groups governed by strict rules. Bekoff has observed acts of altruism, tolerance, forgiveness, reciprocity and fairness among wolves and coyotes, and says many of these moral sentiments are evident in the way the animals play with one another.

Canids (animals in the dog family) learn social codes of conduct at a young age through play. They first invite one another to roughhouse using a “play bow”: They lie down on their forelimbs while standing on their hind legs. Even when this is followed by aggressive actions such as growling and snarling, the bow makes their playful intentions clear. During play, dominant members of the pack will engage in role reversal with weaker ones, rolling over on their backs to give low-status playmates a chance at “winning,” as well as lessening the force of their bites to prevent injury. If one playmate accidentally bites another too hard, it “apologizes,” play-bowing again to show that it is still playing, despite the slip-up.

Breaking these rules of engagement — or other rules, such as taking more than one’s fair share of food — is serious business among wolves and coyotes. “There is a consequence of being labeled a cheater,” Bekoff said. Others stop bonding with the “immoral” pack member, and eventually it wanders away from the group, usually resulting in an early death because it no longer receives the benefits of pack living. Bekoff believes the rules governing pack behavior offer a glimpse of the moral code that allowed early human societies to function and flourish.

Dogs evolved from wolves, and seem to have maintained a wolfish sense of fairness. “They do have a sense of right and wrong. You see it when they play at the dog park, for example; when a dog asks another dog to play — even if it is larger and may be dominant — it’s going to be honest about it. It knows it would be unfair to ask a dog to play and then beat it up or try to mate with it,” he said.

Furthermore, experiments at the University of Vienna have also found that dogs become upset by unfair treatment by humans. When asked to shake hands, the dogs in the study were happy to oblige at first regardless of whether they were given treats or not. But the dogs’ enthusiasm for the trick waned when they saw other dogs being rewarded with food after a handshake, but received nothing themselves. The ignored dogs also started showing signs of distress, such as licking or scratching. The researchers argued that these stress signifiers proved the dogs were upset about being treated unfairly — not just sad about missing out on a treat.

Bekoff’s book “Wild Justice” (University of Chicago Press, 2009), co-authored with Jessica Pierce, lists evidence of seemingly moral sentiments in many other species too, including whales, ravens, bats, elephants, chimpanzees and even rodents. For example, experiments with rats have shown that they will not eat if they know that doing so will inflict pain on other rats. When the hungry rats were given access to food, but could see that taking it caused a second group of rats to receive an electric shock, the rats stopped eating rather than inflict pain on the group.

Furthermore, conceptions of wild animals as ruthless and violent are completely wrong, Bekoff said. “All the research coming out these days on other primates and mammals shows that more than 90 to 95 percent of their behavior is pro-social or positive. It’s actually rare to see aggression or violence.”

Morality in the brain

Another thing that makes gauging morality in animals difficult is that scientists are only just beginning to investigate the neural mechanisms that control moral decision-making in humans. Last year, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that applying a powerful magnet to a part of the brain called the right temporo-parietal junction in human study participants temporarily skewed their ability to make moral judgments. When questioned about the nature of various actions, the magnetic jolt made them think that actions they had previously judged to be immoral were instead morally acceptable. This and related studies suggest that our sense of morality is somehow hard-wired into our brains.

Bekoff suspects that the same brain mechanisms that control moral behavior in humans also control such behavior in other mammals. “It’s a new area and what’s exciting is that there are so many unanswered questions,” he said. “But we need to be consistent in our discussion of behavioral as well as physiological similarities between humans and other animals. As we develop techniques to do imaging in the brains of non-humans, we need to apply the same rules to neuroscience as we do to anatomy.”

That is, if the structures in human brains that control moral and emotional behavior are also present in animals, then scientists ought to concede that these structures probably play similar roles for them, just as analogous body parts — eyes, for example — imply that we both see.

Of dogs and penguins

So what of Tank the dog, and the thieving penguin? Ethologists say a sense of right and wrong may be evident in the former animal, but not the latter.

“I do think dogs feel guilt,” Bekoff said. Knowing the difference between right and wrong is vital for canids to successfully bond with other pack members, he said — and dogs think their human owners are in their pack.

Nicholas Dodman, an animal behavior scientist at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, also believes dogs are capable of feeling guilty, but isn’t sure whether this means they have morality. “Perhaps in the heat of the moment the dog might empty the trash can, and then realize, ‘Oh my God, there’s this mess around, my owner doesn’t like this mess — this is going to be bad news,'” Dodman said. “So yes, they have feelings in many ways similar to our own. But whether you can extrapolate to morals is a different thing.”

As for the penguin, Bekoff has observed thieving penguins in the wild, and did not get the sense that they knew stealing stones was wrong. Ravens who steal food, on the other hand, do know they’re misbehaving, Bekoff said. The distinction arises from the different way that ravens’ and penguins’ peers react to the thievery.

“In the raven situation, their social organization depends on treating each other fairly and not stealing, so they punish animals that have stolen food and treat them different from ones that haven’t. In the penguin situation, they don’t do that. Penguins that steal are not ostracized by their group,” he said. Thus there’s no moral code of conduct being violated in the case of the penguins, and in the video, the thief steals stealthily not because it thinks its actions are wrong, but rather because that’s simply the best way to get its neighbor’s stones, he explained.

Animal morality is a tricky business, and more research is needed to discover when and in what forms it exists. That said, “The little we know now about the moral behavior of animals really leads us to conclude that it’s much more developed than we previously gave them credit for,” Bekoff said. “We are not the sole occupants of the moral arena — and it’s unlikely that we would be, given what we know about evolution.”

 

 

WEDGE ISSUES

 

 

 

The “Personhood” Amendment is an utterly extreme attack on a woman’s right to choose. Romney is “absolutely” behind it.

 

 

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

 

 

 

 Daylight savings time: Why and when does it end?  

National Geographic:

With daylight saving time (also called daylight savings) about to end again, clock confusion is once again ticking away: When exactly does daylight saving time end? Why do we fall back? Does it really save energy? Is it bad for your health?

When Does Daylight Savings End in 2011?

For most Americans, daylight saving time 2011 ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, November 6, 2011, when most states spring forward an hour. Time will spring forward to daylight saving time again on Sunday, March 11, 2012, when daylight saving time ends.

The federal government doesn’t require U.S. states or territories to observe daylight saving time, which is why residents of Arizona,Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas Islands won’t need to change their clocks this weekend.

Where it is observed, daylight savings has been known to cause some problems.

National surveys by Rasmussen Reports, for example, show that 83 percent of respondents knew when to move their clocks ahead in spring 2010. Twenty-seven percent, though, admitted they’d been an hour early or late at least once in their lives because they hadn’t changed their clocks correctly.

It’s enough to make you wonder—why do we do use daylight saving time in the first place?

 

 

Disturbing Video Allegedly Shows Texas Judge Beating Daughter; Internet Springs Into Action

Mediaite:


Yesterday, a truly disturbing video appeared on Reddit. The video was headlined “Family law judge (Aransas County) beats and abuses his own daughter for using the internet. She uploaded the video.” and has now reached the popular site’s front page. It’s official description claims to be of a 2004 video of Judge William Adams, a family court judge brutally beating his daughter circe 2004. Unsurprisingly given the video’s content, Redditors have rallied in their attempt to get the man behind bars.

Here is the official description from the YouTube video:

2004: Aransas County Court-At-Law Judge William Adams took a belt to his own teenage daughter as punishment for using the internet to acquire music and games that were unavailable for legal purchase at the time. She has had ataxic cerebral palsy from birth that led her to a passion for technology, which was strictly forbidden by her father’s backwards views. The judge’s wife was emotionally abused herself and was severely manipulated into assisting the beating and should not be blamed for any content in this video. The judge’s wife has since left the marriage due to the abuse, which continues to this day, and has sincerely apologized and repented for her part and for allowing such a thing, long before this video was even revealed to exist. Judge William Adams is not fit to be anywhere near the law system if he can’t even exercise fit judgement as a parent himself. Do not allow this man to ever be re-elected again. His “judgement” is a giant farce. Signed, Hillary Adams, his daughter.”

The video was first uploaded a few days ago. While there has been no official word that that description is accurate and that the man in question is really Adams, other videos from the same YouTube user do appear to show the same girl and, after Gawker posted the video last night, a friend of the daughter wrote in to say that the man in the video certainly looks and sounds like Adams.

On Reddit, a site whose users have previously worked together to identify animal abusers found in viral videos, the most upvoted comments give instructions on how to contact local authorities. The following comments are descriptions of phone conversations with police and welfare officers in Texas.

The video is absolutely horrifying and, now that sites like Reddit have taken it up as a sort of cause celebre, expect this story to become very big in the days ahead.

UPDATE: Both Adams and his daughter have spoken to news outlets today as a police investigation has opened. You can read the full update here.

 

 

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:


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.

2 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. agrippa says:

    Kazin wrote a good column; it is well worth the read.
    The Tea Party is a very old faction in the USA; it goes back to the “know nothings” and earlier. The TP today is the newest incrnation. The RW did re organize and is able to hit above its’ weight.
    The left ( liberals/progressives) has to do the same thing; Kazin has a good history of how it was done. A key is to become a force that politicians can no longer ignore. Politicians, usually, react to events and social forces, they do not drive them.
    OWS has the potential to compel politicians to take notice.

  2. agrippa says:

    Payint attention to polls, at this point is pointelss. Conditions change and they can change quickly.


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