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Chernynkaya On December - 1 - 2011

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

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BUDGET

 

 

White House: President Obama will not renegotiate automatic spending cuts 

Daily Kos:

A deal’s a deal, says the White House. President Obama’s promise to veto any bill changing the automatic spending cuts agreed to in the August debt ceiling deal holds.

President Barack Obama isn’t open to renegotiating the spending cuts triggered by the supercommittee’s failure to reach a deficit-reduction deal even as some Democrats float the possibility, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

“The president’s been very clear on this. The answer is no,” Carney said on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.” […]

“The sequester was designed to be so onerous, to have the kinds of cuts that were so objectionable to members of both parties in Congress that they would never come to pass, that they would force Congress to work hard and reach a compromise that was responsible and balanced to reduce our deficit and deal with our long-term debt challenge,” Carney said. “The president believes that the very nature of the sequester needs to stay the same to keep the pressure on Congress to do its job.”

One Democrat, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), suggested the idea of renegotiating the automatic cuts in exchange for extending the payroll tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year. Of course, Clyburn isn’t really in a position to make that offer, being in the minority party in the House, but his position as a member of the now defunct Super Congress means that people listen to him on this stuff.

 

BUSINESS

 

 

American Airlines still has $4 billion in the bank. So how can it declare bankruptcy?

Time:

Having $4 billion in the bank is not your typical definition of broke. That’s why American Airlines’ parent company AMR surprised a bunch of people —  particularly, one presumes, the five Wall Street analysts who still rated the company’s shares a “buy” — when it filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday. Its comfy nest egg aside, American isn’t facing any looming debt payments. The company said it didn’t need emergency financing, like most bankrupt firms do. It fact, it said that its cash on hand along with cash being generated by its operations was more than enough to continue to pay off vendors and business partners on time and in full. What’s more, American has no plans to call off its planned purchase of 460 planes over the next decade. Nor does it think it will have any problem getting the $13 billion it needs in financing to do so. Where was the cash crisis that put the company over the edge?

It doesn’t appear there was any. […]

So why are more companies filing for bankruptcy when it doesn’t appear they have to? In the case of American Airlines, the company said in a press release the main reason it was filing for bankruptcy was to “address our cost structure, including labor costs.” American and its unions had been negotiating for a while and had come to no agreement. Other airlines have used bankruptcy as a way to force its workers to take lower paychecks and benefits.  American Airlines wants the ability to do that, too. And it’s not just the airline industry. Car parts manufacturer Delphi Corp. was accused of unfairly using the bankruptcy process to eliminate most of its U.S. workforce and ship those jobs overseas.

MORE>>>

 

ECONOMY

 

 

First year hedge fund associate explains why Wall Street is rigged against the 99% 

This is a self-post, so I’m not trying to karma-whore or anything. I have a message I want to share with anyone who’s interested.

I’m writing this in hopes that the OWS movement can have a better understanding of the hedge fund industry and the financial markets. With OWS being the zeitgeist of current politics, I think it’s important to know how exactly the hedge funds, along with the financial markets are destroying the 99%.

Hedge funds. These guys are basically the vehicles of choice for ultra-rich people to get into the financial markets, besides family offices and private wealth managers. What are hedge funds? They are funds that have a 1-5 million deposit minimum, cater to the mega-rich, and can invest in anything without regulatory restrictions, use leverage to pump up their exposure by 15x, and pretty much eat up a vast majority of the industry’s profits.

These guys invest in EVERYTHING. Instruments you’ve heard of – stocks, bonds, forwards, futures, currencies, and instruments that you, me, or anyone else have never even heard of, much less know anything about: commodity future swaptions, FRA/OIS swaps, CLOs, exotic future options, p-notes,index/commodity/equity exposures, and a huge array of OTC (over-the-counter) instruments that no regular investor would ever have access to.

Why I bring this up: the financial markets are rigged. 99% of the investing public has access to services such as basic brokerages, 401k/IRA’s, mutual funds, pension plans, etc. Some of these services, especially pension funds, will invest into hedge funds, who take an additional 2 and 20 (meaning 2% of assets plus 20% of capital gains).

What this means is that if you go any of the traditional retail routes, you are utterly screwed facing off against the hedge funds.

First, you are paying exorbitant fees. Commissions on every stock trade. Mutual fund managers taking a cut – an annual % cut, as well as a % per profit cut. If these managers (i.e. pension plans) invest in another fund, that fund is also taking another % cut. You’re down 2% the minute you invest your money.

Next, if you’re doing the investing yourself, you’re paying ridiculous spreads. The bid/ask spread of a stock will cause you to be down another 2-3% the minute you buy the stock. For example, if you’re buying a share of company at $4.25, you can sell back at only $4.15.

Furthermore, you have absolutely no chance in terms of access to the best services. Hedge funds have a direct line to investment bank’s institutional brokerage teams – these are the guys that spend day and night sucking up to hedge funds, trying to get them the best deals at the cheapest rates. This means that while you’re buying stocks and bonds, hedge funds are getting special rights, warrants, sweetheart deals, private placement deals, options, bigger discounts on bonds, and much better bulk commission rates and lower spreads on stocks. If you’re paying 4.25$ for a 4.15$ stock, they are paying something like 4.16$. And they are eating alive your profits because when the stock goes up to $4.30, they can activate another warrant to purchase 20m shares at $4.25, diluting the value of your shares.

Next, you lack information and exposure. You have no idea what is going on in the market besides what you see on the news – while hedge funds have analysts working around the clock and a bunch of service providers who give minute-by-minute analysis of their portfolio opportunities and weaknesses in all markets with exposures to nearly everything. Meaning, if there is an opportunity in the real estate market (i.e. legislation), it might take you weeks to get in – hedge funds will have gotten in the minute the legislation was passed. Furthermore, when IPOs come out for companies, hedge funds get top billing on the primary market shares – which means investment banks are selling directly to them. Once the secondary market becomes available, hedge funds are up 15-20% on these investments, sometimes within hours.

Finally, you have no capital compared to these hedge funds. The people who invest in these hedge funds are not just the 1%, they are the 0.1%. These are the guys with 500million dollar bank accounts and the ability to do whatever the fuck they want. Hedge funds know this, and they invest without having to careabout whether their clients can pay the rent or send their kids to college. All of that is irrelevant. Their sole purpose is to earn money, not to mitigate risk.

What does this all mean? It means the hedge fund industry is making a gigantic proportion of the profits. The top .1% is earning nearly half of the profits in the industry, through not just hedge funds, but other similar vehicles.

The finance industry is a complete scam, designed to funnel money from the 99% investing public into the hands of the top .1%. Sure, some of you will make good money, but stastically, the rest of us will lose, and who is feeding off us? Hedge funds, and the .1%. You have better odds going to a casino and playing slots, the worst-paying game in the house, but still better than the stock market.

MORE>>>

 

 

 

Millionaire’s surtax would hit the top 1 percent of small businesses

WaPo:

Senate Democrats are pushing a 3.25 percent surtax on millionaires to pay for the extension of the payroll tax cut for all Americans—a proposal that Republicans claim would be a “job-killing tax hike on small businesses,” according to House Speaker John Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel.

The millionaire’s tax would indeed affect about 30 to 40 percent of business income that’s reported on individual tax returns, rather than on corporate tax returns. But that income is concentrated among a very small group of small businesses. The tax would only affect about 1 percent of those the Treasury Department classifies as “small business owners.”

Just 2 percent of all business owners who file taxes through individual returns—including sole proprietorships, limited liability corporations, S corporations, and partnerships—have taxable income that’s more than $1 million, according to an August 2011 Treasury report. And just about 1 percent of those Treasury categorizes as “small businesses owners” would be affected by the Democrats’ proposed millionaire’s tax —about 273,000 in total. That number drops even further—to 51,000—if you define “small business owners” as those earning at least 25 percent of income through their firm.

MORE>>>

 

 

 

The Euro crisis… are we as badly f***ked as it looks?

Thom Hartmann:

Professor Richard Wolff, New School University NYC joins Thom Hartmann. The Eurozone is creeping closer and closer to spiraling into an economic abyss. And the biggest economy in Europe has MAJOR reservations about riding in on a white horse to save the day.

 

 

 

Republicans: Pay for payroll tax cut on back of public employees, seniors 

Senate Republicans are trying to change the subject on the payroll tax cut. Now that Republicans have decided that they have to support this break for the middle class or appear totally out of touch, they have to figure out how to keep on protecting millionaires. Democrats are proposing a modest tax on income over $1 million. Republicans want to punish public employees.

Senate Republicans are coalescing around a plan that would continue the current salary freeze for all federal workers and lawmakers to pay for an extension of the payroll tax cut favored by President Barack Obama and other Democrats, a GOP senator told POLITICO on Wednesday.

Obama instituted a two-year federal pay freeze that began Jan. 1, and the GOP plan would extend it either one or two years, saving about $100 billion. The idea for a federal pay freeze was discussed by the presidential Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission, and was later part of the deficit supercommittee negotiations that collapsed last week.

“It’s the idea that private sector employees around the country have had their pay freeze. Many have been laid off,” said the GOP senator, who noted that the pay freeze was discussed in Tuesday’s closed-door caucus meeting. “And at the federal level, the salary relative to private sector salaries has crept up.”

Right, those fat-cat federal employees have seen their salaries creep up so that they are now trailing their private sector counterparts by just 26.3 percent. And, in fact, that pay gap has increased in the past year. Go figure. What’s more, the 2010 law that implemented the pay freeze continues through 2012.

But wait, it gets better:

The senator, who asked for anonymity to discuss a closed door meeting, said the pay freeze could be coupled with a means testing plan to limit Medicare and Social Security benefits for those earning more than $1 million a year.

This is a diversionary tactic for Republicans, and just one more effort to protect the millionaires at the expense of the middle class, while weakening Social Security and Medicare while they’re at it. They know they’re losing on the politics of taxes and are trying to change the subject by, as usual, beating up on public employees. Oh, and old people.

 

 

 

Driven by public sector job loss, 2011 layoffs pass 2010 total

ThinkProgress:

Planned layoffs dropped for the second consecutive month in November, but the number of job cuts in 2011 has already surpassed the 2010 level as federal, state, and local governments continue shedding jobs, CNN Money reports. Job cuts this year total 564,297, a 13 percent increase over the 2010 total of just under 530,000. The public sector was hit the hardest, shedding roughly 180,000 jobs in 2011. Still, according to payroll company ADP, the economy added 206,000 jobs in November, including 130,000 in the private sector.

 

 

Reuters: Private sector jobs grow, lifts payrolls forecasts 

Companies created the most jobs in nearly a year in November, adding to cautious optimism that the country’s battered labor market is working its way toward healing.

Better-than-expected housing and regional factory data released on Wednesday reinforced the view that the economy should avoid recession, though growth is unlikely to be brisk.

“All of this confirms the economy, after slowing in the late spring and early summer, is back firmly at its 2 (percent) to 2.5 percent growth rate,” said Steve Blitz, senior economist at ITG Investment Research in New York.

Even so, Blitz added, “Firstly, I need to temper the enthusiasm that these numbers indicate that economic growth is accelerating, and secondly, it’s still a very dangerous world out there.”

Central banks around the world addressed some of that danger on Wednesday as they acted jointly to provide cheaper dollar liquidity to European banks facing a credit crunch.

 

 

 

Central Banks to the Rescue: Should We Be Encouraged or Terrified?

The Atlantic:

Central bankers around the world are very, very worried about Europe, and they’re starting to do something about it. This is equal parts terrifying and encouraging.

That’s the critical takeaway from the liquidity injection – a fancy way of saying, turning up the spigot on global lending – embarked upon on Wednesday by the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and four other central banks from around the globe. The coordinated effort will make it cheaper for foreign banks to borrow U.S. dollars from their central banks, which is important, because those banks have found it increasingly expensive to borrow dollars elsewhere to maintain cash flows.

The substance of the announcement, though, is far less important than the symbolism. Don’t be fooled by Wednesday’s early stock-market rally: Hardly anyone believes that the central banks’ actions are anything but scotch tape over the shattered window of the European economy.

“It doesn’t change any of the fundamental issues in Europe,” Michael Cloherty, a researcher for Royal Bank of Canada Capital Markets, wrote in an analyst note on Wednesday. Later he added: “We don’t think this is a real game-changer.”

What could be a game changer is the notion that central bankers are preparing to fill a leadership vacuum that fiscal policymakers worldwide have left open. Europe’s fundamental problems are much bigger than liquidity shortages – they start with skyrocketing borrowing costs for troubled governments and the growing threat of cascading bank failures across the continent.

The worse those problems get, the higher the chance they infect the entire global financial system, which remains highly interconnected across national borders – and weakened by the lingering effects (and unlearned lessons) of the 2008 financial crisis. Another worldwide recession is not out of the question.

Ben Bernanke and his fellow chief central bankers may be our best hope to prevent one. While heads of state fuss over fiscal treaties – or insist that only Europeans should have to solve this crisis, or only Greeks and Italians, or whomever – central banks can act, together, to slow or stop the flow of contagion from Europe to the outside world. They could buy up debt from distressed European governments, for example, or serve as lenders of last resort for flailing banks.

Injecting liquidity, in other words, should just be the first step.

“Central banks are absolutely worried and right to be worried,” said Viral Acharya, a New York University economist who writes extensively about financial risk, in a phone interview. But, he added, “We have seen that central banks trying to lend to undercapitalized institutions doesn’t solve the problem… What they really need to do is recapitalize the entire European banking system in one fell swoop.”

Bernanke told reporters early this month that he is “ready if necessary to provide whatever support the financial system needs and the broader economy needs in case things should worsen.”

Things have worsened. The support has begun.

 

 

ENERGY

 

 

What ‘War On American Energy’? U.S. On Track To Be Net Fuel Exporter For First Time Since 1949 

Conservatives would have you believe that President Obama has led “nothing short of a war on American energy,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in May, repeating a common refrain. “Obama is waging war on American energy,” GOP presidential front runner Newt Gingrich agreed. Fellow candidate Rick Perry said Obama’s “draconian” energy policies don’t let Americans create energy “and sell it to the world.” “All of this killing of our energy supply,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), perhaps the industry’s biggest apologist in Congress. Of course, when conservatives say “energy,” they mean oil and fossil fuels, as they themselves have led a real war against American clean energy.

But like many conservative attacks on the president, the war on American energy is a fiction. In fact, as the Wall Street Journal reports today, U.S. exports of fossil fuels “are soaring” and the U.S. is on pace to be “a net exporter of petroleum products in 2011 for the first time in 62 years”:

According to data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Tuesday, the U.S. sent abroad 753.4 million barrels of everything from gasoline to jet fuel in the first nine months of this year, while it imported 689.4 million barrels.

That the U.S. is shipping out more fuel than it brings in is significant because the nation has for decades been a voracious energy consumer. It took in huge quantities of not only crude oil from the Middle East but also refined fuels from Europe, Latin America and elsewhere to help run its factories and cars. […]

The reversal raises the prospect of the U.S. becoming a major provider of various types of energy to the rest of the world, a status that was once virtually unthinkable. The U.S. already exports vast amounts of coal, and companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. are pursuing or exploring plans to liquefy newly abundant natural gas and send it overseas.

This is, of course, good news, even though much of it has to do with the faltering U.S. economy, which has driven down demand for fuel. But the new data also demonstrates the absurdity of conservative energy policy, which starts with the (baseless) assumption that domestic fossil fuel production is too low and follows that it must be incentivized with taxpayer dollars and licenses to pollute and bend labor safety rules in order to increase output.

Meanwhile, U.S. oil production is up, despite Obama’s mythical war against the industry. American drivers have seen little benefit from this, however, because prices are set in a global market, where quickly developing countries are driving up demand and thus prices. So increasing production here would have negligible impact on prices as American refineries would just ship their product abroad where it could fetch higher prices.

 

 

 

ENVIRONMENT

 

 

MAJOR ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SAY U.S. MAY BE ‘MAJOR OBSTACLE TO PROGRESS’ IN DURBAN CLIMATE TALKS 

Leaders of 16 environmental groups sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticizing the administration’s negotiating stance on the international climate talks now taking place in Durban, South Africa. “America risks being viewed not as a global leader on climate change, but as a major obstacle to progress,” they wrote. “U.S. positions on two major issues – the mandate for future negotiations and climate finance – threaten to impede in Durban the global cooperation so desperately needed to address the threat of climate change.”

 

 

 

HEALTH

 

 

Soda Companies Aggressively Target Black And Latino Kids, Fueling Childhood Obesity Epidemic

ThinkProgress:

It’s well known that America’s obesity epidemicdi sproportionately affects poor and minority children because of the country’s glut of cheap, unhealthy foods. Soft drinks are such a major culprit in the childhood obesity epidemic that some local governments have tried to levy taxes on them to reduce consumption. The Obama administration announced a plan to ban candy and sweetened beverages from schools.

Now, a new study reveals that soda companies have been targeting black and Latino children in high numbers, diminishing parents’ attempts to encourage their kids to eat right:

A new report from Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has found that beverage companies are aggressively targeting black and Latino kids with ads to promote sports, fruit and energy drinks. The products that are promoted to kids of color happen to be among the least healthy of the 644 products studied by researchers at the university.

Black children and teens saw 80 percent to 90 percent more ads compared with white youth, including more than twice as many for Sprite, 5-hour Energy, and Vitamin Water.

From 2008 to 2010, Latino children saw 49 percent more ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks on Spanish-language TV. Latino preschoolers saw more Spanish-language ads for Coca-Cola Classic, Kool-Aid, 7 Up, and Sunny D than older Latino children and teens did.

Colorlines notes that the two largest soda companies, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, have repeatedly promised to market less to children, who are more susceptible to advertising: “Coca-Cola, for example, has previously stated publicly that they wouldn’t market ads in TV, radio and print programming aimed at kids under the age of 12.”

But the report found that soda companies have just shifted to using more sophisticated and insidious forms of advertising that promise kids rewards for purchasing sugary drinks. Kids are exposed to these messages “often without their parents’ awareness.”

Companies’ targeting of minority children is a social justice issue as well as an economic one. Just like mortgage companies that focused their predatory lending on minority communities, soda companies are preying on a particularly vulnerable group (poor children) who are already suffering the ill effects of their product and have the most to lose from consuming more. For instance, these children are less likely to have health insurance to cover the numerous medical problems associated with obesity.

 

 

HEALTH CARE

 

 

Mythbusting GAO: Medicare Advantage unhurt by health reform; enrollment up 6% in ’11, and premiums FELL 14% 

 

 

Medicare will cover obesity counseling for people with BMI +30, about 30% of beneficiaries

ABC News:

Medicare will pick up the tab for obesity screening and intensive behavioral counseling, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid announced late Tuesday.

CMS, which first floated the obesity coverage plan last September, said it expects more than 30 percent of the Medicare population to qualify for the new benefit.

Beneficiaries with body mass index values of 30 or more can receive weekly in-person intensive behavioral therapy visits for one month, followed by visits every two weeks for an additional five months, fully paid by Medicare with no copayment.

Additional monthly sessions will be covered for up to six months afterward if the beneficiary has lost at least 6.6 pounds (3 kg) during the first six months.

The sessions should also include dietary counseling, the agency said.

Medicare patients who fail to lose the 6.6 pounds in six months may be reevaluated at the one-year mark after the initial screening. Those showing “readiness to change” and a BMI value still at 30 or more may receive another round of counseling paid by Medicare.

“It’s important for Medicare patients to enjoy access to appropriate screening and preventive services,” outgoing CMS administrator Dr. Donald Berwick said in a statement.

Counseling must take place in a primary care setting such as a physician’s office. It will not be covered when provided in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, emergency departments, outpatient surgery centers, or hospices.

A primary care setting is defined as “one in which there is provision of integrated, accessible healthcare services by clinicians who are accountable for addressing a large majority of personal healthcare needs, developing a sustained partnership with patients, and practicing in the context of family and community.”

Peter Jacobson, a health policy professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told MedPage Today and ABC News in an email that the decision is important in its own right, but will be even more significant if private insurers follow suit to cover such counseling.

But he took issue with the benefit’s restriction to counseling provided only in primary care settings — referrals to specialty practices or centers for counseling will not be covered by Medicare.

MORE>>>

 

JUSTICE

 

 

Congress, Not POTUS, Approves of Indefinite Detention

Bob Cesca:

For the fourth time since President Obama took office, congress voted in favor of continuing indefinite detention yesterday, and a by-product of that will be the continued operation of the prison located at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

WASHINGTON — The polarized US Senate on Tuesday beat back an attempt to set aside proposed rules on detention of terrorism suspects, defying a White House veto threat and criticisms from the FBI and the Pentagon.

By a 37-61 margin, senators defeated an attempt to strip the proposed regulations from a vast annual spending bill that has yet to pass but is seen as a sure thing because it affects US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’m beginning to feel like a broken record, but it needs to be repeated.

President Obama signed an executive order the day he took office to close Guantanamo. Since then, Congress has voted no less than four times to continue policies that keep Guantanamo open. Congress has voted unanimously against civilian trials for detainees, voted against funding the closure of Guantanamo, and voted for indefinite detention.

In this case, President Obama has issued a threat to veto the legislation, but because it is attached to an overall omnibus defense bill, it’s difficult to veto without adversely effecting servicemen and women deployed around the world who have nothing to do with the antics of congress. An obviously cynical congressional ploy.

The idea that President Obama lied about closing Guantanamo Bay irritates me more than possibly any other political meme out there, because saying that means you are willfully overlooking and excusing the actions of congress.

Presidents do not rule by fiat.

 

 

 

Mayor Bloomberg: ‘I Have My Own Army’

In a speech at MIT last night to discuss the packed sweepstakes to build a tech campus in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg said he prefers City Hall to the White House. Almost immediately after Mayor Bloomberg dampened recent speculation he’s eyeing a White House bid, he added fuel to the fire by explaining why a mayor would be the best person for the job.

Mayor Bloomberg’s recent criticism of President Obama for allowing the debt reduction Supercommittee to fail led many political tea leaf watchers to believe he’s eyeing a potential White House bid. To the dismay of those who hope he’ll mount presidential campaign, Mayor Bloomberg began his speech last night by discussing why City Hall is just fine by him.

I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world. I have my own State Department, much to Foggy Bottom’s annoyance. We have the United Nations in New York, and so we have an entree into the diplomatic world that Washington does not have,” Mayor Bloomberg said. […]

Mayor Bloomberg explained that, unlike Washington politicians, mayors are people of action.

“The difference between my level of government and other levels of government is that action takes place at the city level,” Mayor Bloomberg said. “The cities and mayors are where you deal with crime, you deal with real immigration problems, you deal with health problems, you deal with picking up the garbage.”

You see, according to Mayor Bloomberg, he and his mayoral colleagues are focused on results. It’s the rest of the politicians who are screwing things up.

 

 

 

MEDIA

You Don’t Even Need to Speak German To to See What Der Spiegel Thinks of Our Politics

“US-Republikaner

Club der Lügner, Demagogen, Ignoranten”

OCCUPY

 

 

Police Clear Occupy Encampments in Two Cities

[…] Just after midnight, 1,400 members of the Los Angeles Police Department had massed on the park, announcing that it was closed and — after giving demonstrators three 10-minute warnings to leave peacefully — moved in. Most people left, but nearly 300 people were arrested, mostly on charges of failing to disperse, in what proved to be one of the smoothest and least disruptive endings of an Occupy demonstration in any major city in the country.

There were no serious injuries and just a handful of reported clashes, in what officials here were quick to hail as an affirmation of their go-slow policy in trying to deal with the demonstrators.

A peaceful and orderly conclusion to that encampment at City Hall,” is the way Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa put it.

The clearing of the Los Angeles protest came a few hours after the police in Philadelphia raided that city’s encampment at Dilworth Plaza, adjacent to City Hall — more than two days after a city-imposed deadline for the protesters to yield the land they had held for two months. At least 50 people were arrested and three officers sustained minor injuries.

The near-simultaneous action against two of the larger Occupy protests, after protests in places like New York, Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis were shut down, was the latest evidence that the nationwide movement — or, at least, the encampment portion of it — may be slowly coming to an end.

But it is hardly over: Occupy encampments continue from San Francisco to Boston, and in cities like Des Moines; Kansas City, Mo.; Lansing, Mich.; Lincoln, Neb.; Madison, Wis.; Portland, Me.; and Providence, R.I.

In Phoenix on Wednesday, police officers clad in riot gear twice used pepper spray to disperse protesters gathered outside an upscale resort. The Occupy Phoenix protesters moved from the downtown park where they had been camping for weeks to the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa, where an annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council brought together lawmakers and corporate executives.

As of midday, seven protesters had been arrested outside the hotel on charges ranging from criminal trespass to aggravated assault on an officer.

Sgt. Trent Crump, a police spokesman, said a small group of “anarchists” dressed in black had charged police lines, prompting the use of pepper spray.

The pepper spray is very effective in dispersing those who are being aggressive and that is what happened here,” Sergeant Crump said.

By contrast, the Los Angeles mayor and the police chief, Charles Beck, held a near-celebratory news conference at Mr. Villaraigosa’s office as crews outside — including workers in white hazmat suits, in response to what officials said was considerable danger of biological infection — cleaned up the wreckage across City Hall Park.

Hundreds of police officers were stationed near the fences, but there was no sign of demonstrators trying to return.

Mr. Villaraigosa said he expected that the cost of the protest — in cleanup, police overtime and lawn replacement — could exceed $1 million.

Yes, the answer is we’re all going to pay for it in these tough economic times,” the mayor said. “Because we were peaceful here, we were able to keep our costs down, especially compared with other cites.”

[Police Chief Beck and the Mayor told LA residents that the cost of the police was zero, as they will receive days off instead of overtime pay.]

 

 

Media Choreography and the Occupy LA Raid

The Atlantic:

[…] All of that brings us to last night’s media pool. The LAPD deployed this old-school method in a decidedly 20th-century way. First, they didn’t select a single web-based publication or alternative news outlet. Instead they allowed the Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, AP, the big four television outlets, and a two radio reporters. Anybody not in that group — which would include reporters for every website not affiliated with a newspaper in Los Angeles, not to mention all citizens performing acts of journalism — were told that they would be arrested if they came too close to the eviction area.
The LAPD forbade their pool reporters from reporting the events live. (Update: See bottom of the post for details. The restriction was more akin to a kind of tape-delay than an embargo.) This helped to neutralize a key informational advantage that Occupy protesters have exploited. As confrontations with police begin, they are able to use the emotional imagery from those events to draw more support in real-time. Of course, in this case, there were some people writing about the events in real-time and others livestreamed, but only if they were willing to risk arrest.
Let’s stipulate that there are real issues surrounding how charged situations can or should be covered by card carrying-media or citizen journalists. Fine. Still, my thought is that this sort of media choreography cannot survive for long. The tools to record and distribute information about the world are too widely distributed. A video of protesters getting pepper sprayed has impact whether it comes from the Los Angeles Times or some dude with an iPhone.
But institutions do not have to take this democratization of reporting tools lying down. Many organizations want to control — and are used to controlling — media narratives. They will (I can hear Evgeny Morozov whispering into my ear) have an institutional response to the deployment of new technology by political dissenters. In this case, the LAPD has come up with a way to say that they allowed media into the eviction and they can still arrest people that they don’t want to cover the event.
City police departments share a lot of information and if the LAPD’s strategy is seen as successful, expect it will be deployed again in other cities. More broadly, it seems plausible that government agencies will continue to buddy up to traditional media members, offering them exclusive access in exchange for agreeing to the exclusion of citizen journalists from important events. Sadly, the incentives of the elite media (many of which have never been all that fond of the non-professionals stealing their show) and the government are aligned here. That’s a bad setup, even assuming (as I do) that the individual media members in the pool are acting in good faith.


* UPDATE 3:15 EST: I emailed with Dakota Smith, a Daily News reporter who helped cover the raid from inside the park. She gave me a more complete description of how the pool worked, which I think is worth spelling out. It gives you an idea both of how hard individual news organizations can work on something like this — and how much the conditions can be altered to help or hinder journalism by the enabling force. In this case, it sounds like the LAPD did not hinder efforts as much as they could have. 
“All of the print reporters filed directly to the pool. The POOL consisted of our our editors, editors of other print publications, and a central news service that anyone else (tv, radio, more print) could read,” Smith told me. “Once we filed to the POOL… that info could go live anywhere. The premise was that we just couldn’t be greedy and publish information from inside the park directly to our own site without first sharing with the POOL so everyone could have it at the same time. I don’t know what the other pool reporters did, but I just sent in short news briefs all night long.”
Once those briefs were live, that information could be published by any news organization. So, the LAPD did not technically prevent reporters from getting information out in close to real-time. Rather, the process of ensuring equal access to pool reports required time. As a final detail, here’s how Smith described the mechanics of getting stories from inside the park onto the web.
“We were inside the park, but there were multiple reporters from each publication outside the park, doing more reporting,” she wrote. “Our editors on the outside were reading the POOL and then also taking stories from outside the park, and crafting them for the web, so there were many eyes. So stories that we were writing from inside the park went live on the newspaper sites, and other news sites within minutes.”

{FYI: Bail for the misdemeanor arrests started at $5000}

 

 

 

Next up: `Occupy Congress’

Greg Sargent:

One of the enduring questions about Occupy Wall Street has been this: Can the energy unleashed by the movement be leveraged behind a concrete political agenda and push for change that will constitute a meaningful challenge to the inequality and excessive Wall Street influence highlighted by the protests?

A coalition of labor and progressive groups is about to unveil its answer to that question. Get ready for “Occupy Congress.”

The coalition — which includes unions like SEIU and CWA and groups like the Center for Community Change — is currently working on a plan to bus thousands of protesters from across the country to Washington, where they will congregate around the Capitol from December 5-9, SEIU president Mary Kay Henry tells me in an interview.

“Thousands of people have signed up to come to Capitol Hill during the first week in December,” Henry says, adding that protesters are invited to make their way to Washington on their own, too. “We’re figuring out buses and transportation now.”

One idea under consideration — pending various permitting and other logistical issues — is to have a series of tents set up on the lawn outside the Capitol, each representing a state, with the number of unemployed in each state prominently displayed. But the optics are still being worked out.

One goal of the protests, Henry says, is to pressure Republicans to support Obama’s jobs creation proposals. More generally, the aim is to highlight Congress’s misguided obsession with the deficit and overall inaction on unemployment.

“We’re taking about it as an effort to take back the Capitol,” Henry says. “It would be great if we could build pressure that goes beyond the jobs act.”

Of course, Occupy Wall Street is distinguished by its organic, bottom-up nature and its critique of both parties’ coziness with Wall Street. Does a coordinated effort by labor and liberal groups to channel the movement’s energy into pressuring one party risk compromising the essence of what’s driven the protests?

Henry said she wasn’t worried about that happening, noting that Occupy Wall Street had created a “framework” — which she described as “we are the 99 percent” — within which such activities would fit comfortably.

“The reason we’re targeting Republicans is because this is about jobs,” she said. “The Republicans’ insistence that no revenue can be put on the table is the reason we’re not creating jobs in this country. We want to draw a stark contrast between a party that wants to scapegoat immigrants, attack public workers, and protect the rich, versus a president who has been saying he wants America to get back to work and that everybody should pay their fair share.”

But Henry added she salutes Occupy Wall Street for finding fault with both parties, adding: “We agree that on domestic social programs, we have not won the day with either party. And we are applying pressure to both.”

Occupy Congress!

 

 

 

Occupy’s next frontier: Foreclosed homes

Salon:

Occupy Wall Street is promising a “big day of action” Dec. 6 that will focus on the foreclosure crisis and protest “fraudulent lending practices,” “corrupt securitization,” and illegal evictions by banks.

The day will mark the beginning of an Occupy Our Homes campaign that organizers hope will energize the movement as it moves indoors as well as bring the injustices of the economic crisis into sharp relief.

Many of the details aren’t yet public, but protesters in 20 cities are expected to take part in the day of action next Tuesday. We’ve already seen eviction defenses at foreclosed properties around the country as well as takeovers of vacant properties for homeless families. Occupy Our Homes organizer Abby Clark tells me protesters are planning to “mic-check” (i.e., disrupt) foreclosure auctions as well as launch some new home occupations.

“This is a shift from protesting Wall Street fraud to taking action on behalf of people who were harmed by it. It brings the movement into the neighborhoods and gives people a sense of what’s really at stake,” said Max Berger, one of the Occupy Our Homes organizers and a member of Occupy Wall Street’s movement-building working group.

The backdrop for all this is a new study suggesting the foreclosure crisis is only half over, with 4 million homes in some stage of foreclosure. Meanwhile, reports of illegal or questionable behavior by banks and mortgage lenders continue to stream in.

Like many of the Occupy actions that have focused on specific policy questions, this one is being organized by established progressive and labor-affiliated groups along with their allies in the movement. Among the allied groups listed on Occupy Our Homes’ website, for example, are the New Bottom Line and New York Communities for Change. On the Occupy Wall Street side of things, members of the direct action working group and the movement-building group in New York have been involved in the project.

Occupy Our Homes’ website (which was registered by a formerSEIU official staffer) has the trappings of a slick professional campaign, with videos featuring the stories of families facing foreclosures and a pledge visitors are encouraged to sign stating:

… that until the banks do their part to help homeowners and to fix the economy, by writing down mortgage principal to current home values, I will:

  • I will support homeowners resisting wrongful foreclosure evictions.

  • I will resist any attempt by the bank to take my home.

  • If they come to foreclose, I will not go.

network of groups organized as Take Back the Land has been doing eviction defenses and related actions around the country for five years, according to organizer Max Rameau.

“Now with this Occupy movement ramping up, I think we have a significant chance to keep large numbers of people in their home,” Rameau told Democracy Now earlier this month. “[The goal is to] not only force the banks to allow the family to stay in the home. But also then force policy changes that would help thousands of other people for whom we’re not doing eviction defenses.”

We saw a similar dynamic in the preexisting campaign to extend the millionaire’s tax in New York, which has benefited from new energy and a new banner offered by the Occupy movement.

Will the new Occupy push on foreclosures pick up any steam? I’ll be covering whatever happens on Dec. 6, so stay tuned to find out.

 

 

 The Nation: Tom Hayden on why Naomi Wolf’s Occupy conspiracy theory can’t explain OccupyLA 

 

 

 

Occupiers Go After The Democrats Who Praised Them

TPM:

It’s going to be harder for critics of the Occupy protests to say it’s a pro-Democratic Party movement after tomorrow. TPM has learned a group of DC Occupiers plan to hold a demonstration outside a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee high-dollar fundraiser for, among other members, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).

The event (which comes with a $75,000 PAC sponsorship price; the cheapest ticket is $5,000) will feature speeches from all the top leaders of the House Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and DCCC chair Steve Israel.

On its website, OccupyDC calls the event “elitist” and “indicative of how the Democrats represent a major part of our government’s failure to represent 99% of its citizenry.” This is ironic considering the Democrats inside the closed-to-the-public and closed-to-the-press fundraiser are among the most vocal supporters of the Occupy movement in politics.

In October, the DCCC posted a petition urging voters to stand up for Occupiers against attacks on the movement from Republicans like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who called the protesters a “mob.”

Pelosi condemned the remark and said she supported the movement’s ideals. Republicans really liked that, and attacked Israel when he offered a similar support for Occupiers in New York.

Other Democrats, like President Obama, have gone on the record with supportive statementstoward the Occupy movement. But it’s hard to think of any Democrats who’ve stood with Occupy more than the DCCC. (Well, maybe Elizabeth Warren.)

Republicans have certainly had a field day with DCCC support of Occupy, and many have dismissed the movement as a pro-Democratic, pro-Obama swell that isn’t worthy of GOP attention.

But Occupy DC clearly has plenty to criticize at the DCCC and they’re going to use Thursday’s march to mark the two month anniversary of the movement beginning in the nation’s capital. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Democrats.

 

 

 

POLITICS

 

 

White House threatens veto of Republican bills limiting regulations

WaPo:

[President Obama] is threatening to veto Republican legislation that would place greater limits on how the federal government adopts regulations.

The Republican-controlled House is set to vote on two bills that would require agencies to consider alternative regulations based on their costs and benefits and to limit the costs new regulations would place on small businesses.

A statement issued Tuesday by the Office of Management and Budget says presidential advisers would recommend President Barack Obama veto both bills if they pass Congress.

[…]

The budget office said the House bills would hurt the ability of government agencies to protect the public, create needless confusion and invite lawsuits.

 

 

 

Now we know why Mitt Romney doesn’t do Sunday shows. Fox News interview was a disaster. 

In a must-see Fox News interview with Bret Baier last night, Mitt Romney showed why he doesn’t do too many interviews.
Miami Herald: “At times during the interview, Romney was icily peevish. He laughed mirthlessly, or denied video evidence showed him shifting his positions or suggested he was espousing clear positions — which nevertheless required clarification. When pushed, he told Baier at one point that people should read his book.”
“Just what everyone wants: A candidate whose positions require homework, if not a concordance.”
First Read:“If you want to understand why Mitt Romney is the favorite to win the GOP presidential race but is not the front-runner, just watch the interview.”
Here’s the video:

 

 

 

Problem Obama faces in a nutshell is this: Voters may think buck stops with president, and the rest is noise. 

Greg Sargent:

Earlier today, I flagged a telling quote from Corey O’Brien, a Democratic supporter of Obama from northeastern Pennsylvania. “Enough with the soft approach,” O’Brien said. “He’s got to say, ‘I’m in charge, and I’m going to get it done with or without Congress.’ ”

I argued that this sense could be widespread, and demonstrates a perverse but extremely important dynamic. Republicans benefit from blocking Obama’s jobs policies — even ones Americans think would help the economy — because ultimately voters could hold Obama accountable for failing to overcome GOP opposition. Indeed, as Steve Benen and Kevin Drum both explain very well, this dynamic actually creates an incentive for Republicans to continue blocking Obama policies Americans support.

I thought it would be worth checking back with O’Brien to get a sense of how widespread this sentiment is in that region, a bellwether area that Obama is set to visit today.

Turns out it is widespread, and that this dynamic may well be in full force. O’Brien said that many voters from the region are fully convinced that Republicans are deliberately trying to block Obama policies that might help alleviate joblessness — but that in their minds, the buck still stops with the president.

“People see that Republicans have been the party of blocking progress — that’s clear,” O’Brien told me. “The people of northeastern Pennsylvania, who will help decide who wins the state, all understand what’s going on.”

But he added: “They still look at the president and say, `the buck stops with the president.’ And that’s something the president has to overcome.”

O’Brien predicted that Republicans would not be rewarded for their obstructionism in the end. But he depicted an extremely volatile political environment, in which people are enraged by government’s failure to alleviate people’s economic suffering. He said Obama still needs to find some way of either securing some GOP support or making it even clearer that he grasps the depth of pubic rage over gridlock and that he’s the one fighting to make things better.

“The frustration is boiling over,” he said. “There’s an awareness here that the president can’t do this alone and that’s never been more true than it’s been now.” But he again characterized public sentiment by saying: “The buck stops with the president.”

And there you have it.

UPDATE: O’Brien got in touch with me after Obama’s speech today, and he sounded convinced that Obama was striking the tone he needs to strike. He said he thinks Obama “scored a lot of points” with eastern Pennsylvanians.

 

 

Here is a good rebuttal argument to the above:

Liberals Blaming Obama for Not Overriding Congress Could Make GOP Even More Irresponsible. 

 

 

The Huntsman Handicap

ROSS DOUTHAT:

“I don’t claim to be the perfect candidate,” Newt Gingrich told a South Carolina radio station last week, as he settled into his role as the latest not-Romney in the Republican race. “I just claim to be a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney and a lot more electable than anybody else.”

It’s a plausible line, evoking William F. Buckley Jr.’s often-quoted admonition that right-of-center voters should support the most electable conservative in any given race. But is it accurate? Not if you judge candidates on their record, rather than by their affect. By that standard, the most electable conservative remaining in the Republican race is probably Jon Huntsman.

Huntsman is branded as the Republican field’s lonely moderate, of course, which is one reason why he’s current languishing at around 3 percent in the polls. But as Michael Brendan Dougherty noted in a summertime profile for the American Conservative, Huntsman’s record as Utah’s governor isn’t “just to the right of other moderates, it is to the right of most conservatives.”

Huntsman has none of Romney’s health care baggage, and unlike the former Massachusetts governor, he didn’t spend the last decade flip-flopping on gun rights, immigration and abortion. Meanwhile, on many of the highest-profile issues of the primary season (the individual mandate, Paul Ryan’s House budget, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), he has arguably been more consistently conservative than Gingrich.

At the same time, because Huntsman is perceived as less partisan than his rivals, he has better general election prospects. The gears and tumblers of my colleague Nate Silver’s predictivemodels give Huntsman a 55 percent chance of knocking off the incumbent even if the economy grows at a robust 4 percent, compared to Romney’s 40 percent.

In theory, then, Huntsman seems like he could occupy the sweet spot that Gingrich claims to have all to himself. In practice, though, his campaign to date has been an unmitigated disaster.

This isn’t for want of substance. On issues ranging from foreign affairs to financial reform, Huntsman’s proposals have been an honorable exception to the pattern of gimmickry and timidity that has characterized the Republican field’s policy forays.

But his salesmanship has been staggeringly inept. Huntsman’s campaign was always destined to be hobbled by the two years he spent as President Obama’s ambassador to China. But he compounded the handicap by introducing himself to the Republican electorate with a series of symbolic jabs at the party’s base.

He picked high-profile fights on two hot-button issues — evolution and global warming — that were completely irrelevant to his candidacy’s rationale. He let his campaign manager define his candidacy as a fight to save the Republican Party from a “bunch of cranks.” And he embraced his identity as the media’s favorite Republican by letting the liberal journalist Jacob Weisberg write a fawning profile for Vogue.

This was political malpractice at its worst. Voters don’t necessarily need to like a candidate to vote for him, but they need to think that he likes them. Imagine a contender for the Democratic nomination introducing himself to liberal voters by attacking Planned Parenthood, distancing himself from “left-wing nutjobs” and giving a series of interviews on Fox News, and you have the flavor of how Huntsman’s opening act was perceived on the right. The substance mattered less than the symbolism, which screamed: I want your vote, but I don’t particularly care to be associated with your stupidities.

The campaign hasn’t repeated these mistakes, and Huntsman’s debating style — initially unctuous and tone-deaf — has improved with time. (His to-and-fro with Romney over Afghanistan in last week’s foreign policy debate was his best moment yet.) He’s polling at 11 percent in New Hampshire, his make-or-break state, which is much better than his national numbers. And every so often, a prominent conservative activist or blogger will write a “second look at Huntsman?” post: There was one from RedState’s Erick Erickson a few weeks ago, and one from HotAir’s pseudonymous Allahpundit last week.

MORE>>>

 

 

The Hill: Huntsman calls latest Cain accusation ‘bimbo eruption’ 

 

 

Will 2012 be a replay of 1968?

Salon:

Conventional wisdom guru John Heileman suggested yesterday in New York magazine that the next phase of the Occupy Wall Street movement might be “about, in effect, transforming 2012 into 1968 redux.” Although Heileman found, depressingly, that many of the young activists were “surprised” when he pointed out that “the demonstrations in Chicago in 1968 occurred at the Democratic, not Republican, convention, and helped to shatter [Democratic presidential candidate Hubert] Humphrey’s base,” their ignorance of the possible consequences of their course does not lessen the seriousness of the threat they pose. If 2012 is another 1968, President Obama is in trouble.

Heileman’s piece chillingly highlights the Obama campaign’s cavalier attitude toward the young activists.

David Plouffe, his campaign manager in 2008 and now a senior adviser in the White House, had told the Washington Post that the Obamans intended to make the public ire at Wall Street crystallized by OWS ‘one of the central elements of the campaign next year.’

A few days after Plouffe’s pronouncement, the president made his famous empathy move: “I understand the frustrations being expressed in those [OWS] protests.” Apparently Chief of Staff Bill Daley did not get the memo, because he said in an interview that he didn’t know if OWS was helpful. In commenting on Daley’s pronouncement, Todd Gitlin, a historian and a radical in 1968, told Heileman, “Sometimes these things blow up and leave everything in ruins.”

Heileman’s point is that the dynamic between the Obama campaign and the occupation movement is going to be a bigger factor in next year’s presidential campaign than most people know. Obama’s approaches haven’t been all that successful. Iowa OWS activists ungratefully dismissed Obama’s sympathy,expressing a preference that their president change what he’s doing rather than sympathize with them for resisting it.

Such attitudes are endemic among the occupiers. One of the elusive non-leader leaders Heileman interviewed picked it right up: “These [protesters] aren’t out here because they’re offended that they haven’t been spoken to nicely. They’re out here because they owe shitloads of money in student-loan debt and can’t find a job. Or they can’t afford their mortgage. And if Obama thinks that they’re gonna be able to divert this energy by talking about doing something, he’s got another thing coming.”

Obama’s best hope is that Occupy Wall Street either dies of Sudden Infant Movement Death Syndrome or grows up really fast. The former seems more likely. The occupation is vulnerable to all kinds of fatal baby movement diseases; it may be unable to focus its energy long enough to survive, or it may be paralyzed by procedural purity. Movements with no formal structure for selecting leaders tend to throw up leaders anyway; as one of the activists noted, some people just have more leadership capacity than others do. But the lack of legitimate selection avenues usually results in serial leadership decapitation, as the less gifted rebel against their lesser fates by bringing down the greater. Think Radicalesbians or Gay Liberation Front. Neither lasted more than a few months.

Less probably, OWS may make a punctuated evolution to a movement that can do business with the Democratic Party, or split into a movement that leaves the irredentists behind. Signs of that development may surface as soon as the Iowa caucuses in January. If the occupation movement can elect sympathetic representatives to start up the food chain to become delegates to the Democratic convention, or to engage in conversations with the people who will be drafting the party platform. The labor unions and groups like Moveon.org, who occupy the middle ground between the leaderless civil society and the tidy Obama reelection organization, would be the obvious ones to broker a deal. The resulting coalition could just bring enough populist energy to the Democratic Party cause to avoid a replay of the defeat that Humphrey suffered in 1968.

Ironically, the immature but powerful occupation movement is Obama’s baby. As another occupation non-leader, Yotam Marom, told Heileman, “Obama didn’t build a movement, he built an electoral machine. If he had built a movement, he would not be where he is right now. But the fact that he was elected, that so many people came out in the streets for him, that people cried when he won, was an expression of the fact that they wanted what they thought he was, which is an alternative. He wasn’t it.”

Thus the occupation movement echoes the plaintive cry of the student movement of the 1960s, as articulated by sociologist Kai Erikson: “Don’t shoot: We are your children.”

Will 2012 be a replay of 1968? While Heileman highlights the question, he is too shrewd to risk a definitive affirmative answer, observing merely that the occupation movement “might alter the landscape the president must traverse next year in dramatic and unpredictable ways.”

Meaning: Then again it might not.

I’m predicting that it will. Here’s why. It doesn’t take much to make a media melee. There were no more than 10,000 demonstrators in Grant Park on that fateful August night in 1968 when a police riot resulted in widespread brutality that discredited the Democratic Party in the eyes of the young and linked it to chaos in the eyes of many others.

Occupy Wall Street has already shown it can draw a crowd that large. The occupiers will come to Charlotte, N.C., because it’s the Democratic Convention. The wild card is, as it always is for social movements, the willingness to deal and receive violence. By the time the antiwar protesters gathered in Grant Park in Chicago, they had already had several rounds of violent confrontation with the police at other protests.

The occupation movement has endured and survived a bout of police action but has not (with the possible exception of Occupy Oakland) been willing to push back hard, at least not yet. But, as the eviction from Zuccotti Park showed, social movements that threaten the status quo can usually count on the police to raise the violence level for them. And even if there is no exact replay of 1968, the mere possibility should be exerting a pull on how presidential politics is played over the next several months. The really interesting question is not whether the occupation movement poses a 1968-style threat to the reelection of Barack Obama. The interesting question is why his people are so dreamily oblivious about it.

 

 

Rick Perry Covers Up Gaffe With…Another Gaffe

On Tuesday, Rick Perry made the embarrassing mistake at a speech in New Hampshire of stating that the minimum voting age was 21instead of 18. He also referred to the 2012 election as being on November 12, 2012 — it’s on November 6. In an attempt to recover from these gaffes, Perry accidentally made another: he thinks the contest is still up for grabs as “we get ready for those New Hampshire caucuses.” Of course, Iowa has caucuses, not New Hampshire. Oops.

 

 

When Congress wiped an agency off the map

WaPo:

With Republican presidential contenders proposing cuts to federal spending and the elimination of federal agencies, one might wonder: When was the last time Congress actually closed a federal agency?

It’s happened rarely. More often then not, former agencies are split up and repackaged, as when Congress voted to split the Department of Health, Education and Welfare into the separate departments of Health and Human Services and Education.

But two commentators weary of the resurgence of Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign write today about the time that the former House speaker defunded a tiny nonpartisan congressional research agency and caution lawmakers that they should avoid making similar moves in the coming months.

The Office of Technology Assessment, established in 1972 to provide nonpartisan scientific studies of policy decisions, ceased to exist in 1995 when the Republican-controlled Congress voted to defund it. Seeking budget cuts across federal agencies, supportive lawmakers argued that they also needed to trim Capitol Hill spending.

Defunding the office “made Congress dumb — on purpose” writes Lorelei Kelly, director of the New Strategic Security Initiative, who believes the move, pushed by Gingrich, is contributing to the recent logjam on Capitol Hill.

Fifteen years after Congress voted to defund the OTA “the effects of a severely depleted institutional memory are showing up,” Kelly writes today for the Huffington Post. “Last August’s debt ceiling debacle is one example.”

“The legislative knowledge gap is especially debilitating for issues that require context, forecasting and expert judgment,” Kelly adds later. “This is a significant problem in the modern world, where Congressional actions have global implications, but members fail to connect the dots.”

Writing today for the New York Times, Bruce Bartlett, a longtime aide to Republican presidents and lawmakers, also bemoans the loss of OTA, noting that the amount of money saved “was trivial even in terms of Congress’s budget.”

“Mr. Gingrich’s real purpose was to centralize power in the speaker’s office, which was staffed with young right-wing zealots who followed his orders without question,” Bartlett writes. “Lacking the staff resources to challenge Mr. Gingrich, the committees could offer no resistance and his agenda was simply rubber-stamped.”

Bartlett warns that history is repeating itself as lawmakers are pushing to cut the budget of the Government Accountability Office to demonstrate fiscal responsibility while Gingrich is reviving his calls to eliminate of the Congressional Budget Office, which he recently called “a reactionary socialist institution which does not believe in economic growth.”

“It is essential that Congress not cripple what is left of its in-house expertise,” Bartlett writes. “Gutting the GAO and abolishing the CBO would be acts of nihilism. Any politician recommending such things is unfit for office.”

 

 

 

Frank Luntz advises GOP governors to say “gov’t *takes* money from the rich” instead of “gov’t taxes the rich.” 

 

 

POLLS

 

 

Fewer Than Half Of Americans Believe U.S. Is Best 

NPR:

In 2002, nearly 60% of Americans believed the U.S. was exceptional among nations. But a recent Pew Research study finds fewer than half of Americans now believe their country is superior to others. The shift has many commentators wondering what’s behind a general decline in optimism among Americans.
MORE>>>

 

 

 

Majority of Americans think Affordable Care Act includes public option, end-of-life panels

 

 

 

NEW POLL: 50% of Americans want to keep or expand Obama’s health care reform law, 39% want to repeal it 

 

 

 

To those who didn’t trust this FL poll, a new one coming out soon will show Gingrich with an even bigger lead…

A new Insider Advantage poll in Florida shows Newt Gingrich way ahead of the Republican presidential field with 41%, followed by Mitt Romney at 17%, Herman Cain at 13%, Rick Perry at 7%, Ron Paul at 4%, Michele Bachmann at 3% and Rick Santorum at 1%.
Caveat: Insider Advantage founder Matt Towery ran Gingrich’s political operation in the 1990s.

 

 

 

SCIENCE

 

 

MUST READ: THE DENIER DEBUNKING HANDBOOK | 

ThinkProgress:

The Debunking Handbook, written by John Cook of Skeptical Science and Stephan Lewandowsky of The Conversation, is a must-read summary of the scientific literature on how to extract pernicious myths from people’s minds and restore fact-based knowledge. The Handbook explores “the surprising fact that debunking myths can sometimes reinforce the myth in peoples’ minds.” Learn how to avoid the Familiarity Backfire, the Overkill Backfire, and the Worldview Backfire Effects. Although the examples used come primarily from the world of climate science, the tools in the Debunking Handbook are key for debunking other myths about science, economics, and society.

 

 

 

UNIONS

 

 

After locking out 1,300 union workers, food company CEO compares them to cancerous tumors

For the past five months, American Crystal Sugar, the largest sugar beet producer in the country, has locked out 1,300 of its unionized workers in Minnesota who had the audacity to demand a fair contract with the company. Gov. Mark Dayton (D) has implored the corporation to renew negotiations, to no avail — instead of returning to the negotiating table, Crystal Sugar has hired replacement workers.

Over the holiday season the workers “struggle to survive,” Dayton said, and “the lockout has devastated families, communities, and the economy in Northwestern Minnesota.” Desperate to get back to work but determined to stand by their principles, the workers have had prayer vigils with faith leaders in the community.

But Crystal Sugar President and CEO Dave Berg apparently has absolutely no sympathy for his workers’ plight. In fact, at a recent meeting with shareholders, he compared them to a cancerous tumor:

In a meeting of company shareholders on November 7 in Grafton, ND, Berg likened the workers to a 21-pound cancerous tumor. According to an audio recording of the meeting, Berg told the story of a sick friend who was diagnosed with cancer and had a massive tumor removed. “That’s a scary deal. He was sick for a long time,” said Berg. “We can’t let a labor contract make us sick forever and ever and ever. We have to treat the disease and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Workers have responded with disappointment and outrage. Sarah Gust, who has worked at ACSC for 40 years remarked, “The fact that Dave Berg would refer to our union, our contract as a cancerous tumor is deeply offensive to me and many of my co-workers. Some of us have had cancer or have lost loved ones to cancer. It’s a tragic, devastating disease. And that’s how Crystal Sugar management sees our union. I tell you, this just shows how much respect Dave Berg and the management have for us workers.”

Listen to the audio here.

Discussing his strategy for dealing with the union workers, Berg again used the analogy: “At some point that tumor’s got to come out. That’s what we’re doing.” Sadly, comparing unionized labor to cancer is nothing new amongst conservatives, who evidently believe workers shouldn’t be able to bargain for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions.

Another locked out worker who has been with the company for 16 years said, “Our contract represents years of struggle to protect good jobs at Crystal and build a mutually respectful relationship with management. Now, Dave Berg is throwing all of that away for greed.”

Gov. Dayton has made it clear that it’s ASC’s recalcitrance and attempt to squash labor for profit that’s preventing a solution. “It is time for American Crystal’s management to reach a fair agreement with its workers, who have contributed so much to the company’s current profitability,” he observed.

 

 

WEDGE ISSUES

 

 

Amen

Hullabaloo:

[…] Liberals also tend more towards atheism than conservatives do, largely out of a greater respect for the scientific method and a more skeptical approach toward authority.
All of that is self-evident. But there’s also a mutually reinforcing contempt that has arisen ever since the rise of the Religious Right started to turn (predominantly white) churches into Republican activist grounds. Christianity in the United States took on a more political edge with a distinctly right-wing tilt beginning around the 1970s.
Given that Jesus’ message was mostly concerned with social justice rather than sexual morality, it has been difficult for the Left to take the movement seriously as a religious movement, rather than one of socially conservative reactionaries using religion as a cover.
The absence of a serious religious left to counter this trend has been a big part of the problem. If mainstream Christians don’t want to become tarred by association with the bigots and charlatans, it’s up to them to push back and retake the initiative.
So this is a good sign in context:

A small but growing number of religious communities across the country are removing their money from Wall Street banks to protest what they see as unfair mortgage foreclosures and unwillingness to lend to small businesses.
The New Bottom Line (NBL) coalition of congregations, community organizations, labor unions and individuals is promoting a “Move Our Money” campaign with the goal of shifting $1 billion from big banks to community banks and credit unions.“In a way, the banks have divested from our communities, especially communities of color,” said the Rev. Ryan Bell, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor in Los Angeles. “So we’re basically telling Bank of America that we want them to invest in our communities, and until they do that we’re not going to give our money to them.”

Bell’s church was one of six Los Angeles Christian congregations that announced they would divest acollective $2 million from Bank of America and Wells Fargo as part of the Move Our Money campaign.
The campaign has been slow to get off the ground; but after a recent national convocation of clergy in New Orleans, about 100 more leaders from a broad cross section of Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations pledged to move an additional $100 million.

 

 

 

Georgia Bill Forcing Religious License Plate Display on all Drivers

[…] Indeed, if someone chooses not to display the religious statements, they would be required to purchase a sticker from the state displaying the name of their county that could be used to cover “In God We Trust.” While this mandate comes out of Georgia–a state that thinks sneezing is a sign of witchcraft–at least it isn’t doing what North Carolina is doing in attempting to release “Choose Life”  license plates (distorted moral beliefs apparently cause less road rage). However, by forcing residents that choose not to flaunt religious bromides to pay money is a flagrant encroachment of their first amendment rights.

According to  Georgia Politico:

 “In other words, if you feel the government should not be establishing a religion, you are going to have to pay to prove it.”

Despite the fact that voters firmly rejected this religious fascism over the summer, State officials are arbitrarily thrusted it onto them like an Iranian cleric. Hey, why just allow religious fascism to exist at the national level.


 

 

 

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

 

 

Signs of a sick culture
digby:

At least he wasn’t tasered:

Michael Davis is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. His mother says it has led to fights at school. But when the school district said it had a plan to change Michael’s behavior, his mother says things went wrong…
[She] says the school, Rio Calaveras Elementary of Stockton, wanted to change that behavior by having Michael meet with a school police officer.
“He could come out and talk to Michael and the kids are normally scared straight,” said Gray, describing how she says the school district proposed the meeting.
But the meeting didn’t go as planned.
Gray says Michael was agitated when the officer entered the room, and the whole meeting ended with Michael arrested and cuffed, with zip ties on his hands and his feet.
“I was led to believe that Michael saw a police officer and attacked a police officer on sight,” said Gray, adding that that’s not what happened.
She knows because she ultimately obtained a copy of the police report.
In it, the officer, Lt. Frank Gordo, says he placed his hand on Michael’s and, “the boy pushed my hand away in a batting motion, pushed papers off the table, and kicked me in the right knee.”
When Michael wouldn’t calm down, Gordo cuffed Michael’s hands and feet with zip ties and took the boy to the Stockton Kaiser Psychiatric Hospital in the back of a squad car.
He had not called Michael’s mother or father at that point.
Michael was cited for battery on a police officer.

The good news:

A juvenile court judge eventually dismissed the battery charges against Michael.
That’s nice. He is, after all, only five years old.

But then they’re now prosecuting six year olds as sex offenders for playing doctor –– so I guess that’s par for the course.
How does it happen that people come to believe that tiny children should be dealt with in the criminal justice system anyway? Why would that idiotic school think a five year old can be “scared straight” by a cop? He’s a baby!
We are so twisted that we’re infantilizing adolescence and turning tiny children into adults.
Get a load of this odious practice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEvo6Eau-Xg
They should have put that mom in zip ties and thrown her in the back of a police car.
What is going on here?

 

 

 


Incredible model railroad in Hamburg: Miniatur Wunderland

 

 

 

TAKE ACTION

 

 

I just asked the President to veto the bill that allows indefinite detention of US citizens. Join us. 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” – – Mark Twain

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.

34 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. Here’s the end of the Mitt Romney video;


  2. ADONAI says:

    I think Newt is in the Howard Dean position.

    Looking good, looking good, looking good, then crashing and burning.

    • funksands says:

      Adonai, all they have is Romney, that’s why its so funny. :-)

    • KQuark says:

      Dean was a novice on the national stage when he ran. That’s the big difference here. To me Dean was a much more intelligent version of Perry. An unknown who could not make one mistake.

      Actually Obama was the same insurgent candidate in 2007-2008 but he made no early huge mistakes. The biggest thing he said “wrong” early is that he would negotiate with our enemies without preconditions. But that was only a mistake for the middle not progressive Dems. If the Wright videos came out late 2007 Obama would have been out of the race too so timing is a huge factor as well. Even the “bitter” comment might have done him in if he said it earlier.

      Dean made the deadly mistake of “scaring” voters which was of course nonsense but the media went with that meme.

      • bito says:

        Much like the Kerry “I actually voted for it before I voted against it” being taken out of context, the “Dean Scream” was put it into a loop and made it look/sound like he “screamed” more than once thus making look like an idiot.
        Not arguing with you, KQ, in fact I agree with you, just clarifying. I did like his chairmanship of the DNC and his 50 state strategy even though the purists didn’t like it, too many “blue dogs” even though they gave the Dems the majority and control of the speakership.

        • KQuark says:

          I was gonna mention the loop because that created the media meme. And indeed the unfair media memes about Kerry on the flip flops and swift boat helped doom his campaign too. The media should have been running Iraq had no WMD and no ties to Al Qaeda but because they didn’t most Republican voters actually believed those lies. Who knows they probably would believe those lies anyway. I remember a colleague I worked with who had a PhD and MBA was convince Iraq had WMD as late as mid 2004. When I challenged him on it he searched his computer for over an hour looking for sources and could not find one. That’s how brainwashed those people are whether they are educated or not.

          Dean was DNC chair starting 2005 so he was not on the national stage much in 2003 and 2004. But his success as DNC chair cannot be denied. And yes he only did have so much success because he was not a purist when DNC chair.

          The point is if you are an unknown quantity as a candidate you better not make early mistakes or you are toast.

    • SallyT says:

      Only difference is the Republs aren’t as quick to abandon the wreckage if they see there is still a little air in the tires. They might push it along a little further until the tank blows. They are having a real problem with a backup ride and Romney just isn’t their bus. But, I think they might just have to accept it.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Definitely.

  3. funksands says:

    Cher, re: American Airlines. Remember my rant about the Bankruptcy Act of 2005? There it is in full flower.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Funk--I read that and I apologize for not getting back to you--I lost the thread. You were 100% correct! When I first heard about the changes in the bankruptcy laws years ago I remember being upset, but never connected the dots until I read your comments. The AA bankruptcy really shows how the system is gamed against us. It’s a textbook case. Yesterday, I even put up that “Wall Street” movie vid because it was all about taking over an airline to screw the union. See, this is what the OWS movement is about, IMO--exactly this kind of injustice. It should be illegal as hell! My only consolation--a tiny one--is that Time Magazine (a MSM mag if there ever was one) reported on this accurately.

      • SallyT says:

        Cher, sorry for repeating myself, but as I said earlier on one of your posts, the Frontline show on PBS showed another issue and a dangerous one. Without the union pilots, they can hire cheap. And, cheap pilots are not safe. They are inexperienced and over worked and really under paid! (like $25,000! and sometimes less!) They don’t call in sick and will take another flight without rest because they fear losing their jobs. That is what happen on that Continental Flight 3407 in Buffalo 3 yrs ago. Yes, it was a connecting flight that Continental had contracted but don’t think the airlines aren’t trying to get rid of the unions on the main lines to do just the same. (also, it is in the main lines contracts with the smaller connecting airlines that if they crash there is no recourse back on them. So, the little guy goes out of business/bankrupt and the big guy just hires another. This is very scary!

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Sally, no need to apologize--that was a good show. Many years ago I remember another article that showed that for airlines, fatal crashes were considered the cost of doing business--acceptable losses! They figured out how many fatalities they could afford each year and as long as the number stayed within that margin, it was all good.

  4. KQuark says:

    Cher the best news is that the ACA is polling so much better. I think this may be the first time it polled at 50%. Americans are finally realizing the benefits and are also finding out all the end of the world predictions were right wing lies.

    Ironically what is also helping it become more popular is the mental jujitsu Republicans are now doing to accept Romney or even Gingrich as the nominee since both supported the individual mandate. You should see their heads spin at Red State.

    I see the Newtmentum on the right too. He’s probably got a better shot to beat Romney now than anyone else ever had because he’s a know quantity and the GOP is about to overlook his corrupt ways just to beat Romney. They have the mistaken idea that Gingrich could beat Obama in debates but the Grinch will go down mightily.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      KQ About the ACA, it really drives home for me how long it takes people to get a message. We (or I, anyway) think that once something is announced and several articles are written about it, that most people then know about it. But that’s not true at all--getting information out takes years. Most people don’t pay attention to news. And I knew that: I worked in advertising most of my career and one of the cardinal rules was repetition--it takes seeing the same ad multiple times before it even begins to register. Yet I keep forgetting that. Sometimes, I watch Obama make speeches at events and I think, “He is saying the same thing again.” But then I realize that is the smart thing to do!

      Lot’s of talk among journalists now that Gingrich has a real shot at unseating Mitt. He just now got a 21 pt lead in a new national poll. But I’m not buying it. I WISH he’d win the nom, but I honestly don’t think he will. Over the next 5 weeks he’ll tank as people get to know him. I still say Romney will be the candidate.

      • SallyT says:

        Cher, you know it is like a teabag. You can use it once and maybe twice and you throw it away. I think that is how those TP Brains work. They heard it once or maybe twice and they throw it out of their thinking and it no longer registers. So, Newt is a new teabag for them! Perhaps instant tea would be more fitting for them. Then they could wash away everyones past with each cup and start new again. Of course when it comes to the Dems they just keep using the same old teabag over and over and over again no matter how weak the tea really is. They never let the negative on the other side leave their little teacup brains. 😉

        • Chernynkaya says:

          Great analogy, Sally. It’s so easy to see how ripe they are for manipulation by just about anybody. I’m starting to see how they are just like zombies--unable to think for themselves--and they keep popping up throughout our history. And what do zombies eat? Brains! It occurs to me that the reason they eat ’em is cuz they need ’em!

      • KQuark says:

        I know how you feel about politicians repeating the same message over and over again. To us in the know it is annoying but like you said the rest of the public does not pay attention like we do so they need the repetition. To Obama’s credit he seems to always change it up a bit to say the same things different ways at least. Bush and McCain repeated their speeches verbatim it seemed.

        I have a wait and see attitude about Gingrich as well but every time one of these “anyone but Romney” candidates spikes it hurts Romney’s chances against Obama so I jump on the bandwagon. You probably notice the only GOP candidate I continually attack in my posts is Romney. 😉

        • Chernynkaya says:

          I can understand why Baggers (if anyone can truly understand idiots) would support Perry, Cain, Bachmann--but Newt?! He is the antithesis of everything they supposedly stand for. He’s a bigger flip-flopper than even Mitt. If they are really behind Newt, it just goes to show what a phony corporate movement the Baggers really are--and that the little people in the TP have no freaking idea what the freak they want. I always knew they were idiots, but I used to think they were at least consistent in their idiocy. But if they want Newt, they are just really totally devoid of any ideology--just id and insanity.

          • KQuark says:

            And really does Newt have that many more issues than McCain did?

            -both threw wives in need under the bus.
            -both had past huge corruption issues.
            -both changed positions about the same.
            -both are grumpy old men that the GOP thought could beat Obama in debates.
            -both were though dead early in the nomination process.

            You forget GOP stands for Grumpy Old People.

            Also factor in the teabaggers are losing favor and yes some power too.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              KQ--right! And both were once thought to have principles, but didn’t once they needed election votes.

            • SallyT says:

              Oh gosh, KQ, does that mean Newt will pick a Palin like running mate? Oh hell, Bachman!

          • KQuark says:

            Not my words but he’s “brilliant” and “can destroy Obama in a debate” and “was conservative as speaker”.

            Yes conservatives have to do mental gymnastics to accept him but they are all gold medalists at it aren’t they.

            I don’t know if he’s devoid of ideology though. He was a pretty big ideologue in his day and started the obstruction in the ’90s against Clinton. But you are absolutely right that teabaggers don’t have a clue what they want besides the fact they don’t want Romney.

            • SallyT says:

              KQ, Fox was a little rough on Romney the other night. Rove doesn’t like him. Newt was on Fox’s payroll but than again he was on alot of payrolls. But, you are so right that FOX will use all they have to get one of them elected.

            • KQuark says:

              Oh yeah and if they listened to Ron Paul it would matter. Don’t get me wrong this thing is far from over and Romney’s machine with includes Fox News, NRO, etc will skewer Newt too. Just saying Newt is not the whither flower type or is not as big a dunderhead as Perry , Bachmann or Cain.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              Seen this? Ron Paul really skewers Newt.
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CWKTOCP45zY#!

    • KQuark says:

      I also understand why people think the ACA has the public option. Because states do have the option to set up public insurance programs since the president gave states that leeway. The ACA always had wiggle room for states to set up non-profit healthcare insurance entities as well. Of course the best example is VT that is setting up a single payer system.

      The death panels thing is of course a lingering right wing lie.

  5. funksands says:

    “Science: A rigorous system of observation, experiment, measurement, and verification to perpetuate a Godless left-wing agenda” -- CJ Werleman


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