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Chernynkaya On December - 7 - 2011


Another funky formatting edition. Sorry but just as I was about to post, my word program went kablooey, and screw it–too frustrated to re-do it. You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

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BUSINESS

Citigroup cuts 4,500 jobs, will take $400 million charge

Citigroup Inc is cutting 4,500 jobs worldwide, Chief Executive Vikram Pandit said on Tuesday, becoming the latest large bank to trim staff.

Pandit, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Financial Services Conference, said the bank would record a $400 million charge in the quarter for severance and other expenses related to the layoffs.

The cuts are equal to about 2 percent of Citi’s workforce of 267,000 employees at the end of third quarter 2011.

Pandit said the cuts would be completed over “the next few quarters” and would come from a range of businesses.

Citi joins other banks worldwide that have cut more than 120,000 jobs as regulations have imposed tighter industry rules and the economy remains weak.

ENVIRONMENT

Calif. Takes Big Step Toward Greenhouse Gas Limits

NPR:

California is about to try a radical experiment. A little over a year from now, the state will limit the greenhouse gas emissions from factories and power plants, and, eventually, emissions from vehicles.

The U.S. Congress tried to pass a similar plan for the whole country but dropped the idea last year.

Paying a price for emissions has many Californians worried about what they’ll have to pay for electricity and fuel and everything that takes energy to make. But the state’s argument is that this will be good for the economy.

The law, actually a suite of measures generally lumped under the name AB 32, is a risky step at a time when the state’s economy is shaky. Essentially, the law puts a statewide cap on the amount of greenhouse gases coming out of smokestacks and tailpipes.

At a hearing recently in Sacramento, skeptics gave state regulators an earful. Among themwas single mother Kathy West.

“I’m a maintenance mechanic at the ConocoPhillips refinery,” she told the California Air Resources Board, which administers AB 32. “At our Santa Maria refinery, we just hired 12 operators and two mechanics. What’s going to happen to their future, their families? What about your jobs when you get rid of the refining out of California?”

There’s no doubt the new laws will make electricity and gas prices rise, but just how much is a matter of much debate — some say thousands of dollars a year for businesses.

The state says costs pale in light of new business the law will create.

Mary Nichols, who runs the Air Resources Board, says capping emissions forces companies to adapt. “Putting that cap on top of that whole system would be the best way to unleash the power of private capital to really get the most out of not just research and development, but actual deployment of green technologies,” she says.

One businessman who believes that is Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels. The company installs seals, gaskets, hoses, underground tanks and pumps that can handle new biofuels that are required by the emissions laws. At a gas station near San Francisco, he chats with customers pumping biodiesel into their cars and talks about why he’s bullish on green fuels.

“We did start out in Seattle as a company, [then] we moved down here to California because it’s a great market, a lot more consumers that are interested in renewable fuels,” he explains. Horton says the climate laws create business. “We would not be here in the state if it were not for the favorable policies that the state enacted.”

Propel will open its 27th station this year. Most are in California. Customers like Shawn Leong say, “Bring it on.” Leong owns a 1984 Mercedes that can run on straight biodiesel, like the recycled vegetable oil pumped at this station.

“It’s my lifestyle,” Leong says. “I choose. I own a florist and, you know, we don’t create pollution, we try not to. My home has solar panels on it.” In fact, Leong is disappointed that the station here only pumps fuel with 5 percent biodiesel — he prefers the pure stuff.

Some drivers are looking beyond the environmental benefits. Student Andre Savastru has modified his car to run on 85 percent ethanol, which is also sold at this station. “You get a great deal of difference in performance,” he says. “Personally, I’ve got about 40 to 50 horsepower more” from using ethanol.

Putting A Price On Emissions

The biggest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, however, will have to come from refineries and power plants. Each company will get allowances to emit a certain amount. If they can’t live within the cap, they can pay someone else to reduce gases somewhere else.

And that means business for a company called Jaco Environmental. In a warehouse in the San Francisco Bay Area, hundreds of cast-off refrigerators are scattered across the floor. Michael Dunham cuts into one with a power saw. He calls it “filleting” the fridge, and he clearly enjoys hacking it up, first with the saw, then with a shovel.

The local electric utility pays people $35 each for these old, inefficient appliances — they’re a drain on the electricity grid. Then they’re brought here, to refrigerator purgatory, where Jaco takes over.

Cutting up old refrigerators sometimes offers surprises: “The most interesting thing we ever found was a rattlesnake,” Dunham says. Dunham is head of energy and environmental programs at Jaco. He and his crew are after the 10 pounds of foam that’s inside the walls of a typical fridge.

“Embedded in that 10 pounds of foam is 1 pound of CFC 11 gas,” he explains. CFC 11 is a chlorofluorocarbon, a form of Freon and a very powerful greenhouse gas — the kind that warms the planet. There are other CFCs in the fridge’s compressor as well: “It will all go up into the atmosphere if it’s not taken care of,” says Dunham. “So what we do is we capture it.”

Jaco removes the foam and other CFCs in the refrigerator’s compressor and sends it out to be destroyed. California’s climate law sets up a system to verify that the CFCs are destroyed, and each pound that’s eliminated creates a “credit.”

A company called EOS Climate buys those credits and then sells them to California companies that need to reduce their carbon footprint.

Jeff Cohen, vice president of EOS, says CFCs are a climate time bomb buried inside old refrigerators.

“So what we did was create a financial incentive to pull this stuff out, to address the remaining banks of CFC, not only in the U.S. but around the world,” Cohen explains.

Before he helped start EOS, Cohen worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help draft the international treaty that banned CFCs because they create holes in the atmosphere’s ozone layer. He says the California emissions controls are a way to get rid of the “legacy” chemicals that remained in appliances after the worldwide ban on CFCs.

What the California laws do is put a price on all these greenhouse gases: They will become a commodity, and people will pay to emit them but also make money by getting rid of them. The controls are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.

HEALTH

Top Army General Says Brain Injury Blood Test to be “Huge”

It happens all the time on the football field: A linebacker takes a hard hit to his head, shakes it off, and plays the rest of the game. He may have a concussion, but because he feels fine, no one worries.

He is then 19 times more likely than average to develop Alzheimer’s or other neurological diseases, according to a 2009 NFL study.

It also happens to U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. An IED explosion leaves a soldier unhurt except for a nasty headache. Should he go to the hospital? A desire to be macho may keep him from seeking treatment, often with disastrous health results.

Imagine that a quick blood test—a finger pricked on the sports field, in military combat, and anywhere that head injuries happen—could instantly diagnose a concussion.

It may sound like science fiction, but according to U.S. Army Vice Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli, this will soon be reality.

The Army, in partnership with the NFL and the National Institutes of Health, is close to releasing a blood test that will use a biomarker signaling cell damage to detect brain injury.

This is really critical,” Chiarelli, who is the Army’s second-in-command, said last Friday on the UT campus. “I think we are 14 to 18 months away from having a blood test for these invisible injuries. And it’s going to change medicine in a huge way.”

Chiarelli visited UT to share what the Army is doing to address “invisible injuries”: post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicide, and other behavioral and neurological wounds of war.

In recent years, Chiarelli said, the military has been plagued by suicide and mental health problems. For the first time in U.S. history, the Army’s suicide rate is now higher than that of the general population, he said.

Suicide is a big problem, and to address it we are working on a whole range of issues, from legislation to leadership issues to the science of the brain,” he said. “Our knowledge of the brain is just not there yet. We don’t understand the brain as well as the rest of the body.”

Cultural stigma is also a huge barrier that keeps soldiers from seeking help for brain and behavioral problems, Chiarelli said.

Among the sobering statistics he presented: The average soldier waits 12 years to seek treatment for a traumatic brain injury. During that time, he is six times more likely to commit suicide or display partner aggression.

One reason soldiers are afraid to seek help is for fear that their military career will suffer if they admit to behavioral health problems.

Chiarelli said he is working with legislators to change a statute that puts restrictive measures on military superiors who order a soldier to get treatment.

This statute, he says, has prevented some leaders from urging soldiers to get the help they need, for fear that they will be sued, passed up for a promotion, or even fired.

We want everyone to get help right away if they need it, and not worry that they will be perceived as any less manly, any less strong,” he said. “This is one of the biggest leadership challenges the Army has ever faced.”

HEALTH CARE

Rural Suicides Follow Medicaid Cuts

ABC News:

[…] Historically the suicide rate in rural states has been higher than in urban ones. According to the most recent national data available, Alaska has the highest rate, at 24.6 suicides per 100,000 people. Next comes Wyoming (23.3), followed by New Mexico (21.1), Montana (21.0) and Nevada (20.2). Idaho ranks 6th, at 16.5. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Idahoans aged 15-34. Only accidents rank higher.

Kathie Garrett, co-chairman of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention, says the problem has gotten only worse since the recession. “The poor economy and unemployment—those put a lot of stress on people’s lives,” she explains. To save money, people skip doctor visits and cut back on taking prescribed medications. Cuts in Medicaid have reduced the services available to the mentally ill.

“I personally know people who lost Medicaid who’ve attempted suicide,” says Garrett.

Reductions in funding have led to the closing of mental health offices, she says. Such closings mean more in Idaho than they would, say, in Manhattan, where a therapist can be found on every block. Before the cuts and closings, somebody in Idaho seeking therapy might have had to drive 160 miles to find it.

Kim Kane, executive director of Idaho’s Suicide Prevention Action Network in Idaho says other factors explain the high rate of suicide in western mountain states. One is the greater prevalence of guns: In 2010, 63 percent of Idaho suicides involved a firearm, compared with the national average of 50 percent.

She and Garrett also say the West’s pride in rugged individualism can prevent people from seeking help. Their feeling, says Kane, is that they ought to be able to pull themselves up by their mental bootstraps. Idaho is the only state not to have a suicide-prevention hotline.

Garret, who has served in the Idaho legislature, complains state policy-makers don’t all view mental illness as an illness—one on a par, say, with glaucoma or pancreatitis. Their belief, she says, is that a person suffering depression ought to be able to get help from church or family, rather than from state-provided professionals. “I told them,” she says of her fellow legislators, “that when I had cancer, what I needed was a doctor. My family gave me support. My church gave me faith. But I still needed a surgeon.”

Dave Strong, an assessment and referral coordinator for the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, says the people now most at risk, ironically, are not the most severely ill. “Schizophrenics, once they’ve been diagnosed and qualified by Medicaid, don’t fall out of treatment,” he says.” They’re always able to get services.”

Rather, it’s people suffering the first onset of their disease who have the hardest time getting treatment. With services reduced, the mildly depressed now have to wait until their condition has reached a crisis stage to before they can get medical attention.

“We wait too long now to get treatment to them,” said Garrett. “It’s like telling somebody with diabetes that he’ll have to wait until he’s in a coma.” People with mental illness, she says, can and do recover. “There’s a 60 to 80 percent chance they will. But it takes time. The meds are very tricky: it’s not a case of one-size-fits-all.” Given that seven years can pass between diagnosis and getting a successful treatment going, it’s important, she says, to start early.

It’s important, too, “to remind the people reading this that there is always hope. All that anybody feeling suicidal has to do to get help is call the national hotline number. Dial 800-273-TALK (8255).”

JUSTICE

BP: Halliburton destroyed Gulf disaster evidence

Political Carnival:

[…]  BP Plc accused Halliburton Co of destroying evidence that the oilfield services company did inadequate cement work on the Gulf of Mexico oil well that blew out last year, and asked a federal judge to punish Halliburton. […]

Citing recent depositions and Halliburton’s own documents, BP said Halliburton “intentionally” destroyed the results of slurry testing for the well, in part to “eliminate any risk that this evidence would be used against it at trial.”


Alpha to pay $200 million in Upper Big Branch deal

Charleston Gazatte:

Various media outlets are posting late-breaking stories about tomorrow’s release of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s report on the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster.

Kris Maher at The Wall Street Journal is reporting that MSHA is expected to levy a record safety fine, and Ellen Smith from Mine Safety and Health news is reporting that the government has reached some sort of a global settlement with Alpha Natural Resources. Not surprisingly, Ellen is right, and we’ve got some of the details posted in this exclusive Gazette story:

Alpha Natural Resources will spend $200 million on fines, victim restitution and mine safety improvements to resolve enforcement actions and some criminal matters arising from the Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster, the Gazette has learned.

Federal prosecutors are set to announce the deal this morning, just hours before the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration is to brief families on the agency’s long-awaited report on the April 2010 explosion, according to sources who have been briefed on the settlement.

The groundbreaking, “global settlement,” covers civil penalties and some limited criminal liability assumed by Alpha when it bought Massey Energy in June, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal hadn’t been officially announced.

Importantly:

Under the settlement, civil penalties for the Upper Big Branch Mine operators, Performance Coal Co., would be resolved. So would potential criminal liability for the company.

But unlike a previous government deal with Massey, the deal does not resolve any potential criminal violations by any officers or agents of Performance Coal or Massey, sources said.

When then-U.S. Attorney Charles Miller in December 2008 settled civil and criminal matters concerning the January 2006 Aracoma Mine fire, the deal included an unusual promise not to prosecute any officers or employees of the Massey parent company.


NAACP takes aim at S.C. voter ID law, voter ‘suppression’ efforts

The NAACP argues that South Carolina’s new Voter ID law, among other similar measures nationwide, is a coordinated and comprehensive assault on black and Latino voters.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said Monday that voters are more likely to be struck by lightning or record the spotting of a UFO than to witness voter fraud. The organization’s objections are outlined in a new report, Defending Democracy: Ending 21st Century barriers to voting rights in America.

South Carolina was one of 14 states that passed 25 various voting measures in 2011 aimed at stamping out voter fraud, which the NAACP sees as a widespread legislative attack to suppress voters, “rooted in our nation’s worst traditions of democracy,” according to Ryan Haygood, the NAACP’s director of political participation with the Legal Defense Fund. […]

The U.S. Department of Justice is reviewing the law. The law cannot go into effect until after the Justice Department authorizes it.

Lawsuits are also pending.

Supporters see the law as a common-sense approach to protect the integrity of the election process. As Haley signed the law, she said showing a photo ID is a way of life in the 21st century. She also offered free rides to the state Department of Motor Vehicles offices earlier this year to help people obtain photo IDs.

NAACP and other opponents say the laws, such as voter ID requirements, will disenfranchise the poor, the elderly and college students, some of whom do not have an ID that will be accepted at the poll. To obtain one can be an expensive process for those who do not have a birth certificate or have changed their name, opponents say.

The laws follow record minority turnout for the 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama, the NAACP officials say. States should be increasing voter opportunities, they say.

MORE>>>

Rep. Jerrold Nadler wants DOJ to investigate OWS police response. 

[…] Rep. Jerry Nadler (D), who represents New York’s 8th congressional district, said in a statement that he is urging Attorney General Eric Holder to “launch a thorough investigation into law enforcement activities surrounding Occupy Wall Street — and its national offshoots — to determine whether the police have indeed violated the civil liberties of demonstrators or members of the media.”

Our law enforcement officers have a duty to protect our health and safety, but that duty must always be discharged with respect for the fundamental First Amendment rights to free expression and peaceful assembly,” said Nadler, who is also the top Democrat on the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution.

In a letter to Holder, Nadler cited three specific instances in which members of the Occupy movement alleged that police officers used excessive force, including the Nov. 15 eviction of Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zuccotti Park.

While the NYPD disputes the allegation that excessive force was used in any of these, or other, incidents, I believe that the recordings and videos made at the scene raise sufficient concern warranting a federal investigation of whether there was in fact police misconduct in violation of federal law, and whether these actions were taken to prevent OWS protestors from exercising their First Amendment rights,” Nadler wrote.

The New York Democrat also pointed to reports that police officers “aggressively blocked journalists from reporting on the incident, and in some cases, targeted journalists for mistreatment.”

In response to questions about these actions, Mayor Bloomberg has responded that reporters were restricted for their own protection,” Nadler wrote. “This justification appears to have little merit. Journalists enter war zones to inform the American people about the status of those conflicts. I think they can be trusted to assume the risks associated with covering a non-violent protest.”

Nadler’s letter comes two days after 31 Occupy DC protesters were arrested by U.S. Park Police at McPherson Square amid a dispute over a 15-foot-tall wooden structure erected by demonstrators Saturday night. Occupy protesters are also are planning a march through downtown Washington on Wednesday.

MILITARY

STATEMENT OF ADMINISTRATION POLICY

Whitehouse.gov:

S. 1867 – National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2012

[…] “…fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.”

OCCUPY

Huge win for Occupy Wall Street in New York. Cuomo reverses course, agrees to tax increases for rich. 

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders announced on Tuesday that they had reached an agreement to overhaul New York State’s income tax, creating a higher tax bracket for the highest-income residents and reducing the tax rate for millions of middle-class residents.

The deal came together just 25 days before the expiration of the state’s so-called millionaires’ tax — actually a surcharge on all individuals earning over $200,000 a year. The proposed tax overhaul would result in most residents’ being taxed next year at a lower rate than this year.

The long-term impact on the wealthy was described by some as a cut and others as an increase: beginning next year, the highest-income earners will be taxed at a lower rate than at present, but at a higher rate than had been expected with the expiration of the surcharge.

MORE>>>

Cleveland City Council Passes Emergency Resolution Endorsing OWS, Calls on Prosecution of Big Banks

Archbishop of Canterbury: Jesus would be siding with #OWSmovement 

WaPo:

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says Jesus would have joined protesters from the anti-corporate Occupy movement who have been camped outside London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral for more than seven weeks.

In a British magazine, the leader of the world’s 78 million Anglicans worldwide insisted that Jesus would be “there, sharing the risks, not just taking sides.”

The demonstrators pitched their tents outside the iconic cathedral in mid-October to protest what they see as the unfairness and illegalities of the global financial community.

In his article written for the Christmas edition of the Radio Times magazine, the archbishop said Jesus was “constantly asking awkward questions” in the Bible.

In the St. Paul’s encampment, Williams added, Jesus would be “steadily changing the entire atmosphere by the questions that he asked of everybody involved — rich and poor, capitalist and protester and cleric.”

The archbishop said that when Jesus said “give Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” he was asking “what’s the exact point at which involvement in the empire of capitalist economy involves you fatally.”

The magazine article was not Williams’ first involvement in the anti-corporate protest movement. He said last month that the demonstration marked “a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment.”

The City of London Corporation, which owns much of the land around St. Paul’s, has taken legal steps to try to get the protesters moved. But the Occupiers have vowed to remain until the Olympic Games in the British capital next summer, and perhaps beyond.

Occupy Protesters Move Indoors to Fight Home Foreclosures

NYT:

Activists from the Occupy Wall Street movement began a new campaign of protests against the banking system on Tuesday called Occupy Our Homes, which is focused on “the liberation of vacant bank-owned homes for those in need, and the defense of families under threat of foreclosure and eviction.”

The activists planned events in more than 20 cities, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., on what they called a “national day of action to stop and reverse foreclosures.”

After a march through the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York on Tuesday afternoon, the activists took possession of a foreclosed home, began cleaning it and chanted, “Our Homes Are Under Attack; We’ve Got to Take Them Back.”

The activists told Josh Harkinson, a Mother Jones correspondent, that the house they took over “was foreclosed upon by Bank of America and has been empty for three years.”

In an e-mail sent to journalists, the Occupy Wall Street press team said that Tasha Glasgow, a single mother with two children, had moved into the house. According to the activists, Ms. Glasgow “has spent most of the past decade in and out of the shelter system” in New York. Earlier this year, they added, she was about to move into a new apartment when a rent subsidy from the city’s Section 8 voucher system was withdrawn due to budget cuts.

One of the activists, who blogs as Dicey Troop, posted video clips of the scene outside and inside the newly occupied house.

As this video, shot by Justin Elliott of Salon, showed, the activists also brought their “human mic” mode of communication with them from Zuccotti Park.

Mr. Elliott reported, “The campaign is expected to feature aggressive tactics such as eviction defenses, takeovers of vacant bank-owned properties, and disruptions at foreclosure auctions.”

In Oakland, Calif., a journalist named Davey D. reported on Twitter:

Just coming from Alameda courthouse steps, where Occupy folk shut down the sale of foreclosed houses. It was a beautiful thing. … What they did was surrounded the auctioneers w/ noise makers and started shouting “Shame on You.” … Cats could not do bizness. … One of the auctioneers was damn near in tears, said he hopes people hold the banks accountable. This was the only job he could find after a year.

Max Berger, one of the Occupy Our Homes organizers, told Mr. Elliott last week: “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.”

The campaign emulates similar protests in Spain, where activists who camped out in public squares in May have helped block evictions of homeowners who can no longer pay their mortgages.

In Atlanta, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights leader who gave the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration,called for end to all foreclosures during a protest against Fulton County’s monthly foreclosure auction.

In other parts of the country, several homeowners who are working with the protesters explained, in emotional statements to the media, why they were refusing to leave their homes.

In Portland, a woman named Debbie Austin choked up as she said that her family would not move out despite being unable to pay their mortgage.

In Southgate, Mich., a woman named Debbie Henry, who lost an eviction hearing on Monday, said Bank of America had been unwilling to cooperate with her family to modify their mortgage.

POLITICS

AP: Obama calls for tougher financial fraud penalties

President Barack Obama is backing tougher penalties for financial fraud after a top Wall Street regulator called for more tools to punish repeat offenders.

Obama said Tuesday he wants legislation providing penalties that companies can’t simply shrug off as the cost of doing business.

Obama was speaking in Kansas about economic fairness.

His call for tougher penalties comes days after the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Schapiro, asked the Senate Banking Committee for greater authority to fine companies and individuals. She is seeking to raise the limits on fines under current law, including tripling penalties for repeat offenders.

Schapiro issued her request as a judge struck down a $285 million settlement between Citigroup and the SEC.

Obama unleashes sharp attack on inequality, and Campaign 2012 begins

Greg Sargent

Obama’s speech in Kansas, which just concluded, was the most direct condemnation of wealth and income inequality, and the most expansive moral defense of the need for government activism to combat it, that Obama has delivered in his career. The speech is best seen as a bid to establish a moral and philosophical framework within which literally all of the political and policy battles of the next year will unfold, including the biggest one of all: The presidential campaign itself.

While Obama did pivot to a more populist posture earlier this fall after the debt ceiling debacle, today’s speech was notable for its more direct emphasis on inequality itself as a moral scourge and as a threat to the country’s future. He cast the question of whether government can and should act to combat inequality as a referendum on American values and our national identity.

The clash of visions Obama tried to set the stage for today — a philosophical and moral argument over government’s proper role in regulating the economy and restoring our future — is seen by Dems as more favorable to them than the GOP’s preferred frame for Campaign 2012, i.e., a referendum on the current state of the economy and on Obama’s efforts to fix it. Hence his constant references to the morality of “fairness.”

We simply cannot return to this brand of you’re-on-your-own economics if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this country,” Obama said, in what will probably be the most enduring line of the speech. A number of people on Twitter immediately suggested a new shorthand: “YoYo Economics.”

That line is key in another way. Dems believe inequality will be central in 2012 because they think there’s been a fundamental shift in how Americans view the economy, one rooted in the plight of the middle class and in the trauma created by the financial crisis. As Chuck Schumer told me recently, Dems think the public’s rising anxiety about inequality is not just about the top one percent doing far better than everyone else. Rather, they’ve concluded it’s directly linked to the public’s perception that unfettered capitalism undermined the security and future of the middle class in a very fundamental, frightening way. Occupy Wall Street reflects broader, deeper concerns that are thoroughly mainstream, and no matter what people tell pollsters about government, they want sustained government action when they understand it’s about restoring the middle class’s security and durability.

Obama’s speech went to great lengths to criticize inequality in this context, and his historical references were also designed to support that theme. He drew a direct line between today’s debate and the debate at the turn of the century between the forces of unregulated capitalism, which caused massive inequality and suffering, and Theodore Roosevelt’s insistence on humane government intervention in service of the national good.

Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist,” Obama said, in a tacit reference to similar attacks on himself. “But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax.” Strikingly, the validity of some of these same government functions is still being debated today.

Political scientists will tell you that individual speeches don’t matter; and that grand themes are very unlikely to supplant the direct experience of the economy as a motivator of voters. But we’ll be hearing these themes countless times between now and election day. And anyone who had hoped that Obama and Dems would make an unapologetically populist and moral case against inequality and economic injustice central to Campaign 2012 should be pretty pleased with what they heard today.

The President Outlines His Second Term Agenda

Bob Cesca:

From Kansas, the president made yet another case for liberal economic policy and liberal government, while revealing the theme of his re-election campaign and the agenda of his second term. It was yet another speech in which he attempted to bury Reaganomics:

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there’s been a certain crowd in Washington for the last few decades who respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger. Sure, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everyone else. And even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, they argue, that’s the price of liberty.

It’s a simple theory – one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.

This speech outlined the theme of his second term. Economic fairness/equality and rebuilding the middle class American dream.

Because there’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this country – a view that’s truer to our history; a vision that’s been embraced by people of both parties for more than two hundred years.

It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all society’s problems. It’s a view that says in America, we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.

This is what we’ll be voting for next year.

When Does President Obama Get Your Apology, Professional Left?

The People’s View:

I had changed my registration from Democrat to Independent, and I had blacked out the top of the “h” on my Obama bumper sticker, so that it read, “Got nope” instead of “got hope.” I felt like he had let down the struggling middle class. My son and I had campaigned for him, but since he took office, we felt he had let us down.

So this is my public apology. I’m sorry I didn’t do enough of my own research to find out what promises the president has made good on. I’m sorry I didn’t realize that he really has stood up for me and my family, and for so many others like us. I’m getting a new bumper sticker to cover the one that says “Got nope.” It will say “ObamaCares.”

When I read those words, I got a chill. These are words by Spike Dolomite Ward, a breast cancer patient and an Obama volunteer in 2008 who felt that the President had let her down, and who now calls ObamaCare a “lifesaver – perhaps literally.” The plan she is talking about is the Pre-existing Conditions Insurance Plan (PCIP), provided under the Affordable Care Act with a federal funding of $5 billion as a bridge for patients with pre-existing conditions until 2014, when the exchanges start, pre-existing conditions discrimination ends forever and the subsidies kick in.
Spike is not someone who was predisposed to dislike the President, and as we see, she is certainly an American willing to let facts change her mind. But for her, it took staring cancer down to realize that the Affordable Care Act is saving her life, and that “ObamaCare” is the answer to the prayers of so many to fix our broken health care system. Whose job was it to keep her informed throughout the health care debate? Who were claiming to be the vanguard of progressivism and denying her the opportunity to have information about how the ACA could change her life, instead engaging in what they thought was a “fight” in order to amplify legislative ponies to the point where the legislative meat got all shoved aside?
Spike’s story is not uncommon. There’s been very little coverage of what health reform has done to change lives in the media – Left, Right and “center.” For example, chances are that you have no idea that the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Studies has just released data showing that ObamaCare has saved seniors on Medicare $1.5 billion in prescription drug expenses in just the last year.
Sure, our media failed. And it continues to fail. But that is not new, and that is not news. And someone who’s campaigned for the President in 2008, I doubt, is getting their news and opinions off of Fox News or the Wall Street Journal. So there’s some specific people in the media (both online and offline) that we have to look at here who have misinformed and lied to people like her. When I say people like her, I mean progressives and ordinary Americans who put their trust in President Obama, who gave their time and money to make this country a better place during the course of the 2012 campaign.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but the people who failed Spike and numerous other Americans are the same people who have branded themselves True ProgressivesTM in the media and berated those of us who actually pointed out the benefits at the time of the debate as paid shills, corporatists and sellouts.They are the same people who, in the name of defending progressive values, refused to consider the impact of legislation on the lives of ordinary people, choosing instead the easy path of generating hysteria and gaining infamy by having a fit about an incomplete ideological checklist. They are the same people who proudly make up the “Left” media. They are Ed Schultz, Jane Hamsher, Firedoglake, Michael Moore, Daily Kos, Cornel West, Cenk Uygur, Keith Olbermann, and so on and so forth.
It is they who decided that doing nothing about our health care system was an option in their zeal to kill the bill. It is they who decided that if we could not get a weak public option that would cost more than private insurance, then Spike Dolomite Ward should not have been able to get this lifeline that she got through the ACA. They are the ones who decided that if the President didn’t pound enough podiums, then it was fine for seniors to have to pay $1.5 billion extra over the past year for prescription drugs. They are the ones who went out and told people like Spike that there was no point to voting in 2010 since the Democrats and the president “caved” on pony demands on their checklists, and because, you know, there wasn’t a clear enough difference between the parties. Damn the progress we made, they told us, because in their eyes, it wasn’t big enough or fast enough. They are the ones who saw an opportunity in manufacturing outrage based on a pre-ordained frame (“Obama is weak”) rather than doing the hard work of legislative research and analyzing how provisions may affect the lives of the least fortunate and the middleclass. The Professional Leftists are the ones that saddled this country with Speaker Boehner.
Make no mistake. It is not that they didn’t know. It’s not that they didn’t know that the Affordable Care Act, even without a public option, was an incredible piece of progressive legislation that included a patients’ bill of rights on steroids, closed the Medicare prescription drug benefit donut hole, massively expanded Medicaid and the community health centers, let young adults stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, and included numerous other lifesaving benefits for ordinary people. It’s not that they didn’t know about the PCIP. They knew. They didn’t care. They didn’t care because their ideological checklist was dearer to them than the lives and quality of life of their fellow Americans. And that’s the kindest way I can put it.
Will Spike’s story teach these Professional Whiners a lesson? Will they apologize for lying to unsuspecting progressives who trusted them? Will they apologize for trying to kill a law that is literally keeping people alive? Will they apologize for calling this President a weak sellout? Will they apologize for damaging the progressive cause, demoralizing liberal voters in 2010 and forestalling the progress we could have made this year and the next if this president had a Democratic Congress?
I wouldn’t hold my breath. But I would learn ourselves a lesson from this. Don’t trust people who value their ideological talking points more than the lives of ordinary citizens. And don’t delude yourself by thinking that people who do that only exist on one side of the political isle. Don’t fool yourself and think that putting ideological hardlines over progress is a sign of strength. It is nothing more than a sign of self-serving cowardice. Don’t fall for it. Come to the pragprog blogging network – we have an amazing array of blogs and sites that will keep you informed on specific issues, tell you the truth, and focus on making progress rather than ideological warfare. And we won’t act like we know everything about everything.

Obama’s Osawatomie offensive

E.J. Dionne Jr.:

Presidents have many obligations and one of them is to be teachers of history. So may I offer three cheers for President Obama’s decision to give a speech today in Osawatomie, Kan., where Theodore Roosevelt gave his great and important New Nationalism speech in 1910.

Channeling TR is an excellent idea because the Republican Roosevelt (who created the breakaway Progressive Party in 1912 to give political life to the principles of the New Nationalism) was in many ways the prime mover of many of the achievements of American liberalism and progressivism. The principles of Osawatomie still command our attention.

(To read the entirety of TR’s speech, click here . The Occupy Wall Streeters will especially enjoy this text. Those who want to know more about the upshot of the TR speech should check out Sidney Milkis’s excellent 2009 book, “Theodore Roosevelt, the Progressive Party and the Transformation of American Democracy,” published by the University Press of Kansas.)

The Progressives of TR’s era were engaged with many of the same issues that confront us now, notably the power of finance and the dangers of concentrated economic power. In that 1912 campaign, TR and Democrat Woodrow Wilson were to battle over exactly how restrain the excesses of economic concentration. Despite their disagreements, both were asking the right questions.

Here is how Roosevelt stated the problem when he spoke in Osawatomie:

At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth. . . .

Roosevelt was uncompromising in insisting that those who wanted to protect private property needed to understand that those who held property had obligations to serve the public interest. “The true friend of property, the true conservative,” he declared, “is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man’s making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being.”

TR, it’s fair to say, would be appalled by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the way for corporations to spend vast sums in the political arena. In 1910, he declared:

There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done.

We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that the people may know beyond peradventure whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public. It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public-service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.

TR also made the case for social responsibility and the progressive income tax, an argument many in politics these days are afraid to make directly. Roosevelt had no such fear:

We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used. It is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community. We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community. This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.

No man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned. Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of service rendered — not gambling in stocks, but service rendered. The really big fortune, the swollen fortune, by the mere fact of its size, acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means. Therefore, I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective — a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.

 My hunch is that Obama will be more conservative today than TR was back in 1910.

There is one thing that Obama certainly does have in common with Teddy Roosevelt: Both found themselves hit from the right and the left. Obama has managed to look too close to Wall Street for the taste of progressives but too critical of business and finance for the taste of our day’s financiers. Roosevelt faced exactly the same criticism: He spoke at a time when there was a real Socialist Party in the United States — Socialist Eugene V. Debs got 6 percent of the popular vote in 1912 — and the Socialists saw TR as covertly defending the interests of capital. The most conservative among the capitalists, of course, thought TR was a socialist.

In The New Nationalism speech, Roosevelt was relaxed about this. “Here in Kansas,” he said, “there is one paper which habitually denounces me as the tool of Wall Street, and at the same time frantically repudiates the statement that I am a Socialist on the ground that that is an unwarranted slander of the Socialists.” No doubt Obama chuckled when he read that.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s truly remarkable speech… “Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”  It’s worth your time.

AP: US to use foreign aid to promote gay rights

The Obama administration is announcing a wide-ranging effort to use U.S. foreign aid to promote rights for gays and lesbians abroad, including combating attempts by foreign governments to criminalize homosexuality.

In a memorandum issued Tuesday, President Barack Obama directed U.S. agencies working abroad, including the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to use foreign aid to assist gays and lesbians who are facing human rights violations. And he ordered U.S. agencies to protect vulnerable gay and lesbian refugees and asylum seekers.

“The struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights,” Obama said in a statement.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is also expected to speak about the announcements in Geneva later Tuesday.

The White House said Tuesday’s announcement marked the first U.S. government strategy to combat human rights abuses against gays and lesbians abroad.

The order also directs U.S. government agencies to use foreign assistance to protect human rights and advance non-discrimination, and work with international organizations to fight discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Obama’s announcement is part of the White House’s outreach to gays and lesbians, a core Democratic constituency. Since taking office, Obama has advocated for the repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members and ordered the administration to stop enforcing a law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

However, Obama has stopped short of backing gay marriage, saying only that his personal views on the matter are evolving.

Gay rights groups praised the order as a significant step for ensuring that gays and lesbians are treated equally around the world.

“Today’s actions by President Obama make clear that the United States will not turn a blind eye when governments commit or allow abuses to the human rights of LGBT people,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay advocacy organization.

The presidential directive applies to all U.S. agencies involved in foreign aid, assistance and development, including the Departments of States, the Treasury, Defense and Homeland Security.

Hillary Clinton calls for full investigation of Russian election:

The Morning Plum

Greg Sargent:

* Romney favors payroll tax cut extension, but how would he pay for it? Mitt Romney made some news last night by coming out for the payroll tax cut extension after deriding it as a Band-Aid solution, but what no one seems to have asked him is how he would fund it.

Spokesperson Andrea Saul tells me Romney does not support the Dem proposal of funding the extension with a small surtax on millionaires; she didn’t say whether he supports the GOP’s specific proposal of funding it with a freeze on Federal workers and means testing Medicare.

Mitt Romney opposes any tax increase,” Saul emails. “He has already laid out a detailed fiscal plan for how he would reduce spending.” It seems like a good idea to nail down how — or whether — Romney thinks we should pay for the extension, since this question is at the center of our political debate right now.

* New bipartisan payroll tax cut proposal spares the “job creators”: This is going to get interesting: With Republicans opposing any millionaire surtax to pay for the payroll tax cut extension on the grounds that it will harm “job creators,” two Senators are set to introduce a proposal today that would tax millionaires while taking care to avoid any impact on said job creators.

Senators Claire McCaskill and Susan Collins are proposing to pay for the extension with a two percent surtax on income over $1 million, but with a “carve out” that would exempt people who pay their business tax through individual income tax returns, Collins spokesman Kevin Kelley says.

Additionally, the plan would have a jobs-creation component in the form of additional infrastructure spending, something that multiple Senate Republicans have previously said is a valid tool for jump starting the economy. How will Senate Republicans receive this, now that their concerns about job creators have been directly addressed?

* Public supports payroll tax cut, including Republicans: A new National Journal poll finds solid majority support for extending the payroll tax cut, with 58 percent of Americans in favor. Even half of Republicans favor extending it.

Footnote: These findings came after respondents were read the competing arguments about the extension, including the GOP claim that it won’t do much to hep the economy.

* AFL-CIO launches pressure campaign on unemployment:Chronic unemployment takes a far more severe human toll and has far broader and deeper societal impact than mere numbers suggest. Today the AFL-CIO is launching a new interactive Web site designed to pressure Congress to extend unemployment insurance, a place where current and former unemployed people can share personal stories that will help put human faces on the jobs crisis.

We never forget that the unemployed are real people who face the prospect of going hungry and getting thrown out of their homes soon after the holidays if Congress fails to act,” AFL-CIO spokesman Josh Goldstein says.

* Plot thickens in tale of Romney and his records: Reuters has the scoop of the morning:

Mitt Romney spent nearly $100,000 in state funds to replace computers in his office at the end of his term as governor of Massachusetts in 2007 as part of an unprecedented effort to keep his records secret, Reuters has learned.

With Romney’s rivals seemingly unable or unwilling to go on offense over this kind of thing, it will likely be left to Dems to give this one legs.

* Newt-mentum in Iowa!!! Tons of Newt-mentum everywhere today. There’s the new Washington Post/ABC News poll finding that Newt Gingrich is well ahead of Romney among likely Iowa caucus-goers, 33-18. And Romney’s electability argument is a flop:

On the basic test of electability, 29 percent of likely caucus-goers say Gingrich represents the Republicans’ best chance to defeat President Obama in 2012, while 24 percent say so of Romney.

[…]

* Newt-mentum in South Carolina!!! A new Winthrop University poll finds Newt beating Romney by double digits in South Carolina, 38-22. Chuck Todd comments: “Remember, the winner of the SC GOP primary has won the nomination every time since 1980.”

* What can Romney do about Newt? Amy Walters has a simple, user-friendly guide to Romney’s four options to deal with the surging Newt. One interesting thing to watch for: Whether Romney will leave the dirty work to his “super PAC,” so he doesn’t get tagged for going negative.

* Dems again hit Romney for flip-flopping: The DNC is out with still another Web video tagging Mitt Romney for a flip flop, this time on the payroll tax cut. In this case, Romney ended up supporting the extension after previously deriding it, and then claiming he doesn’t favor raising taxes on anyone, without saying unequivocally that he favored extending the payroll tax cut. Now he’s said it.

* Romney, Newt out of step with Congressional Republicans:Steve Benen notes that Gingrich, too, has endorsed extending the payroll tax cut, and observes: “Congressional Republicans balking at the tax cut are now even further to the right than both of their own party’s leading presidential candidates.”

This is confirmation, I think, that Romney and Gingrich know that opposing the extension is poison in a general election.

* Another reason for GOPers to oppose extending payroll tax cut: With some Republicans saying they’re worried about the extension’s impact on Social Security, Joan McCarter sees a “diversionary tactic so people stop talking about their opposition to a miniscule tax increase on the wealthy.”

* Obama far more resilient than expected: Michael Gerson is just wrong about the Dems’ new populism being a “base” strategy — right or wrong, Obama advisers think showing some fight is the best way to win back independents, too. But his column today is worth reading, as it captures exactly why smart Republicans are anything but sanguine about defeating Obama.

  • And no, government regulations are not smothering economy:David Brooks goes about it gently, but this morning he basically tells government-hating GOP colleagues who are robotically repeating the claim that regulations are killing jobs that they’re full of it.

Are Iowa’s True Believers Ready to Forgive Newt Gingrich’s Sins?
Time:

[…] All of which is to say Gingrich’s contention that he’s more conservative than Mitt Romney is up for debate. But there’s no question that a combination of his forthright penance and the base’s lingering distrust for Romney is helping to nudge Iowa’s legions of social conservatives toward embracing the twice-divorced Gingrich as their pick in the state’s pivotal Jan. 3 caucuses.

Gingrich, a converted Catholic, has done his part by courting activist groups assiduously and speaking openly about his past transgressions and deepening faith. “There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” Gingrich said early in his candidacy in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network. “I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness. Not God’s understanding, but God’s forgiveness.”

Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the Family Leader, an influential Iowa social-conservative organization, says groups like his are taking a hard look at Gingrich and have come away impressed. After a forum last month at which candidates discussed their faith, Vander Plaats, in consultation with his organization’s board, whittled the list of candidates the Family Leader may support to four: Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Gingrich.

He is articulating a very Christian-historical worldview. People are seeing he’s had a life transformation,” Vander Plaats says of Gingrich. “The second thing he’s got going for him is some people believe Newt is the best prepared to lead. And three is that he looks like the one with the best shot at being the alternative to Romney and defeating Romney. Believe me, conservatives want an alternative to Romney. They don’t trust him.”

In large part, Gingrich’s rise is the starkest sign of the triumph of pragmatism over ideological purity, even in the most devout corners of the conservative base, and in a cycle when Tea Party fervor was supposed to torpedo GOP moderates. Conservatives are casting for a candidate whom they can envision playing the part of President, and they see in Gingrich a battle-scarred veteran whose mettle as a party standard-bearer was proven in the 1990s. “Rock-solid Christians are giving him the benefit of the doubt,” Vander Plaats says. “The thing that’s going for him is we live in such an environment today, where the world dynamics as so uncertain, and Washington is so broken, that some people believe Newt is the best prepared by far to take on an environment like this.”

The critical social-conservative bloc isn’t ready to line up behind Gingrich’s surging candidacy quite yet–an anonymous group that calls itself Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government popped up recently, penning a missive urging Vander Plaats not to endorse Gingrich and creating a web video that catalogues Gingrich’s past apostasies. Many others are aware of the merits of consensus, which propelled Mike Huckabee past Romney four years ago. So three days before Thanksgiving, a group of evangelical leaders met privately in a Des Moines office building to discuss throwing their support en masse to a single candidate. No decision was made, but the participants stressed the importance of coalescing around an alternative to Romney.

Gingrich has a couple of factors working in his favor, not least the heavy debate schedule that helped revive his candidacy. Unlike 2008, the race lacks a dominant social-conservative; the candidates with the bona fides — including Bachmann and Santorum — are dogged by questions about their depth and electability, respectively. And the candidates who became front-runners only to embarrass their supporters have Republicans hungering for a figurehead who can outmaneuver Obama in debates. Gingrich’s grandiloquence has convinced many voters that he’s their guy in this regard.

The former House Speaker also has the benefit of being the man of the moment when the moment is right. With just 32 days until the Iowa caucuses, there may not be time for a new front-runner to catch on. “Throughout the summer, people were shopping candidates,” says Linda Upmeyer, the state’s House Majority Leader and a Gingrich supporter who held her faith in his campaign through the candidate’s dismal summer.  ”Now it’s time to settle.”

Surprise: Gingrich ethics files are public info

Raw Story:

A trove of documents detailing the shady dealings of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) are actually public domain, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Monday night after Gingrich threatened to have her brought up on charges if she disclosed information related to his House ethics violation in the 1990s.

Pelosi had told a reporter with Talking Points Memo that she knew quite a lot about Gingrich, having sat on the House committee which investigated him. “I know a lot about him,” Pelosi said. “I served on the investigative committee that investigated him, four of us locked in a room in an undisclosed location for a year. A thousand pages of his stuff.”

The remarks triggered a sharp reaction on Monday, essentially elevating the discussion into the upper-echelons of U.S. media. “If she’s suggesting that she’s going to use materials that she developed when she was on the ethics committee, that is a fundamental violation of the rules of the House, and I would hope that members would immediately file charges against her the second she does it,” Gingrich replied.

He also suggested that Pelosi’s comments were an “early Christmas present” to Republicans eager to gain footing in the national dialogue.

Tough luck for Gingrich: Pelosi now says she was talking about files that are already public.

She was referring to the years-long episode during which the former Speaker was subjected to a $300,000 fine by the House after he was discovered using tax-exempt groups to finance and support his political agenda. The scheme ultimately helped Republicans wrestle control of the House back to their side during the Clinton administration.

During the investigation, Gingrich reportedly lied to the ethics committee about using tax-exempt, ostensibly non-partisan organizations to further Republican causes — although he was not alone in committing these violations. Donors to these groups were simultaneously supporting their favored Republican causes and gaining a tax rebate, which is patently illegal.

Gingrich ultimately admitted that some of his statements to the committee were “inaccurate,” insisting his real crime was ignorance, and that he simply had not consulted a lawyer about the tax code.

After he paid the fine for violating House ethics, Gingrich was cleared of all but one of the 84 charges against him, namely because the House could not find any further ongoing violations.

The Progress and Freedom Foundation, one of the tax-exempt groups that helped finance a college course taught by Gingrich, was also cleared after an Internal Revenue Service audit.

Romney Campaign Admits Propaganda Ad Campaign

karoli, Crooks and Liars:

This is why we can’t have nice things. When a top campaign official not only admits, but boasts about spinning propaganda in the form of a campaign commercial, we’re lost. Thomas Edsall of the New York Times got this straight from a top operative for the Romney campaign:

First of all, ads are propaganda by definition. We are in the persuasion business, the propaganda business…. Ads are agitprop…. Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing. It’s ludicrous for them to say that an ad is taking something out of context…. All ads do that. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art.”

Of course ads are intended to persuade. But that doesn’t really mean they should lie. As Heather pointed out, this was Lawrence O’Donnell’s central point in his rewrite of the original ad. And Digby is even more pointed about it:

I’m not sure why we should be shocked by these Romney operatives taking credit for a dishonest campaign ad since operatives do it all the time, but I guess it’s just the arrogant openness about their rank dishonesty that makes it remarkable:

[…]

Those Romney operatives aren’t fools and they know they can get away with lying as long as the press decides they can get away with it. Whether it’s because they want Romney to be the nominee or because it fits with their narrative about Obama or some combination of the two, they are very likely to let this pass or even allow it to become part of the CW, thus kicking in Cokie’s Law, which says “it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, it’s out there.” Fact checking only matters if the press wants it to matter.

Well, now we have the campaign admitting they’re lying and propagandizing in a fashion worthy of certain operatives leading up to and during World War II, and when the media questions them on it, their response is simply “everyone does it.”

Edsall’s commentary examines the Romney ad in the historical context of political lobbying, advertising, and moneymaking over the past 30-40 years, and the concurrent erosion of ethics over the same time:

The significance of the spot lies in its explicit distortion of an opponent’s remark, but the spot’s direct duplicity is also the latest step in the transgression by political operatives of formerly agreed-upon ethical boundaries. What was once considered sleazy becomes the norm.

Over the past four decades, moral standards governing the conduct of political competition have been violated by both left and right, with two goals: winning elections and making money. In this endeavor, the early 1980s were a fertile period.

[…]

It didn’t take long for the practice to become standardized, and today firms on both sides of the aisle are “double breasted.” It is just this kind of ‘inside-the-beltway’ cronyism that both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street define as corrupt.

Of course, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Mitt Romney fired the first truly dishonest shot off the bow. After all, this is a guy who will do, say, and be anyone he needs to be in order to be elected.

We’re living in an age where truth is declared a lie in the name of false equivalence by a site called “Politifact”, political operatives openly boast of lies and deception in the name of propagandizing, and cable channels call themselves “news” while disseminating gossip and lies. Is it any wonder our political system is broken?

L.A.’s Civic Action Against Citizens United

Mother Jones:

The Los Angeles city council wants to restore some semblance of sanity to the wacky, post-Citizens United world of campaign finance. A 2010 Supreme Court decision that’s become synonymous with dark money’s pull on elections,Citizens United allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns through (allegedly) unaffiliated outside spending groups. From the Wall Street Journal:

The L.A. City Council is set vote on a resolution Tuesday that calls on Congress to topple [the Citizens United decision] with an amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishing that only living persons, not corporations, are endowed with constitutional rights and that money is not the same as free speech, according to a statement from the group MoveToAmend.org, which, as its name suggests, is geared to that aim.

The resolution before the council cites Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black’s 1938 dissenting opinion in Connecticut General Life Insurance Company v. Johnson, in which he stated “I do not believe the word ‘person’ in the Fourteenth Amendment includes corporations.”

The resolution also states that the Citizens United decision “supersedes state and local efforts to regulate corporate activity in their elections.”

As the Journal reports, defenders of the Citizens United decision often cite the first amendment in the face of criticism. According to the libertarian-leaning New American, attacks on the decision are attacks on the free speech of “small business and citizens groups,” which seek to participate in the political process.

As Andy Kroll has reported, its been mostly Republican-leaning groups like the Karl Rove-backed Crossroads GPS that have cashed in on the fundraising benefits of Citizens United. But Democratic-leaning groupslike American Bridge 21st Century, an opposition-research hub, and Priorities USA, a group focused on reelecting President Obama, are in the game for 2012, meaning that dark money is no longer an explicitly partisan issue. Both parties benefit from Citizens United now. Which begs the question of whether old-fashioned civic action really has a shot of stemming the tide against dark money. 

But LA is no Missoula. The collective voice of a major American city—speaking on such a watershed issue—will likely carry weight, even in Washington.

 

 

Gingrich fighting massive debt racked up in campaign’s extravagant early days: 

 

Huntsman Flip-flops on Climate Change

At Heritage “Bloggers Briefing” Tues., Huntsman says “because there are questions about the validity of the science…the onus is on the scientific community to help clarify the situation.”

In August, Huntsman tweeted: “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

On global warming, Huntsman adds “science owes us more about what lies beneath all of this,” promises not to “unilaterally disarm job creators in this country.”

How to predict the winner of the GOP primary:

Slate:

[…] f you really want to know how the GOP presidential primary is going to turn out, you don’t need much analysis. You didn’t have to wait this long, either. Long before trapeze artists Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain ended their acts with spectacularthummps, long before the false springs of Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee, long before today’s leading candidates had even declared they were running—all you had to know is that the winner of the GOP presidential primary is the candidate who came in second last time wins this time.

In the last primary, in 2008, Sen. John McCain was the winner. Mitt Romney came in second.

So, yes, it’s going to be Romney this time.

Sorry, Tea Party.

(Corollary to the succession rule: If there’s a sitting Republican president who can run again, or if there’s a Republican vice president, he wins the nomination. By contrast, Democratic nominees are usually not the candidates who came in second in the previous primary, and usually not the early front-runners. Democrats who become president or vice-president, however, usually enjoy the same succession rule as their GOP counterparts.)

Here’s the evidence going back three decades.

Ronald Reagan won the nomination in 1980. He had come in second in 1976.

Reagan was still president in 1984, so he won the nomination again.

In 1988, George H. W. Bush, who had been vice president, won the nomination. That year, Sen. Bob Dole came in second.

In 1992, Bush was president, so he was nominated again. After he lost the general election to Bill Clinton, there was an open GOP primary race in 1996. The winner was Dole. Runner up: Pat Buchanan.

In 2000, Buchanan ran as the candidate of the Reform Party. So the GOP picked the next best thing–the eldest son of the last Republican president. George W. Bush won the general election and was president in 2004, so he won that year’s nomination. Sen. John McCain came in second.

In 2008, McCain won the nomination. Romney came in second.

Strategists Warn Republicans on Attacking Obama

Republican operatives on a private RNC conference call warned that party surrogates “should refrain from personal attacks” on President Obama, “because such a strategy is too hazardous for the GOP,” according to Yahoo News.
Said pollster Nicholas Thompson: “We’re hesitant to jump on board with heavy attacks… There’s a lot of people who feel sorry for him.”
The reason: While Obama still suffers from low job approval ratings, voters still give him “high approval” personally.
Ben Smith suggests Mitt Romney is listening because he regularly uses a well-honed description of Obama: “A nice guy in over his head.”

Kids Eating Rat Poison Is an “Acceptable Risk” for ALEC

Center for Media and Democracy:

An American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) member is defying Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules limiting the sale of rat poisons that pose dangers to children and the ecosystem. ALEC representatives say that kids eating rat poison is an “acceptable risk” that does not justify government intervention in the market.

For decades, tens of thousands of young children have become ill after touching or ingesting rat poison applied “loose,” in pellet form. And a variety of wild animals, from bald eagles to bobcats to owls, have been found dead with lethal levels of a super-toxic rodenticide in their systems.

EPA Rules Limit Some Rodenticides

After thirteen years of studies, hearings, reports and legal battles, the EPA announced in 2008 rodenticide manufacturers would have three years to adopt limits on the sale of the products.

Under the new rules, rat poison will no longer be sold “loose,” in pellet form, for use in one’s home or apartment,but can be purchased in “bait stations” (like the one pictured) designed to keep out children and other animals. Additionally, certain products known as “second generation,” or “super-toxic” rodenticides, will no longer be sold to residential consumers, as they pose a special risk to wildlife. These products are sold under brand names like Havoc, Talon, Ratimus and d-CON. Both the second generation chemicals and other rodenticides will still be sold “loose” to professional exterminators as well as employees of farms, warehouses, and other commercial installations. But the pellets may not be used in areas where children may find them.

Most of the rodenticide industry complied voluntarily with the new rules, which were scheduled to go into effect in June, 2011, but three companies held out. One of them, d-Con manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser, makes 12 of the 20 products targeted by the EPA. The global corporation sued in 2010 to force the agency to follow procedures for a formal “cancellation” of the products, and recently announced plans to “vigorously oppose” implementation of the measures throughout the cancellation process. Reckitt Benckiser is an ALEC member and has a representative on the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force.

ALEC itself and other allies have jumped to the defense of the global corporation.

Poisoned Children, EPA Delays

MORE>>>

POLLS

Pew: GOP Primary Hurting The Party

The rising and falling fortunes of the Republican presidential candidates has — at least until recently — produced a field where everyone is seemingly in contention and yet no one can be decided upon. It’s a practical problem for Republicans, as the Iowa caucuses are now less than a month away, so the time for a choice is nigh. But according to new data from the Pew Research Center and the Washington Post, the fluidity of the race is not just a frustrating affair for the party faithful — independent and Democratic voters are also turned off by the whole thing.

A plurality of independents — 29 percent — say that their impression of the Republican Party is souring having watched the primary process play out the way it has, along with 53 Democrats, who likely didn’t think much of Republicans in the first place. Ten percent of indies say the primary race has made their view of the GOP rosier, and 55 percent say its made no difference at all.

But while the Republican Party is causing a self-inflicted wound, there’s also some collateral damage. Pew ‘s numbers show that they are also damaging the President, although the divide is much smaller.

About one-in-five (19%) say their impression of Obama has improved as they learn more about the Republicans,” Pew wrote in their report. “About as many (21%) say that the GOP campaign is worsening their impression of the president. Most (58%) say the Republicans have had no effect on their feelings about Obama…Among independents, 14% say the GOP campaign has improved their impression of Obama while 20% say it has made them more critical of the president. Nearly two-thirds (64%) say their opinion remains the same.”

The results are a microcosm of how the perceived weak field of GOP candidates could fare against Obama. The President has had an underwater job approval for months, and disfavor among independent voters has been a large part of that. But polling shows that those same unaffiliated voters aren’t pleased with the crop of the President’s possible opposition either. So the Pew data puts into numbers what’s been known for a while: that a good Republican candidate would do very well against Obama in matchups as the race currently stands, but that candidate might not exist.

ppppolls Dems up 46-40 on generic House ballot in FL. Also led OH and PA. 

 New York Times poll of Iowa GOPers: Gingrich leads Romney on who is best prepared to be president, 43-20

 Remember when Romney attacked Newt’s humane opposition to deporting long time illegal immigrants? Jed Lewison notes that polls show Iowa Republicans agree with Newt!

Daily Kos/SEIU State of the Nation Poll: Despite GOP surge, Gingrich loses ground against Obama

[…] Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos & SEIU. 12/1-4. Registered voters. MoE ±3.1% (11/10-13 results):

Q: If the candidates for President next year were Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Newt Gingrich, who would you vote for?

Barack Obama: 50 (49)
Newt Gingrich: 42 (43)
Undecided: 8 (8)

The answer is about as simple as it gets: no. In fact, as you can see, not only has Newt’s greater prominence failed to get him anywhere against the president, he’s even shed a couple of points. Oddly, compared to the last time PPP ask about Gingrich’s favorables, more people are moving into the “not sure” category—and they’re all people who used to view him positively. Newt gets a 31-50 favorability rating in this poll, with 19 percent undecided. Last month, it was 39-50. That’s some rough business when becoming better known causes people to become even more uncertain about you, but somehow that seems fitting with Newt.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s poll numbers sinking like a rock

[…] Less than 20 percent of Michigan residents believe Gov. Rick Snyder is doing an excellent or good job running the state, a survey to be released Monday afternoon shows.

The Fall 2011 State of the State survey conducted by the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research at Michigan State University found that only 19.3 percent of Michigan residents surveyed rated the governor’s performance as excellent or good, continuing a decline in popularity from 44.5 percent just after his election to 31.5 percent in the Spring, 2011 survey.

 

 

Poll: Rubio approval on the decline in Florida 

 

SCIENCE

First Photos: Weird Fish With Transparent Head

NatGeo:


The barreleye lives more than 2,000 feet (600 meters) beneath the ocean’s surface, where the water is almost inky.

The transparent-headed fish spends much of its time motionless, eyes upward, MBARI scientists discovered while watching the barreleye fish from a remotely operated vehicle.

The green lens atop each of the fish’s eyes filters out what little sunlight makes it down from the surface, allowing the fish to focus on the bioluminescence of small jellies or other prey passing overhead.

Then the eyes rotate forward to follow the prey, allowing the fish to home in on its meal.

 

 

 

UNIONS

 

 

Major victory! Disney, hotel union end fierce contract dispute | The Orange County Register 

Disney and its hotel union have reached an agreement after nearly four years of a bitter dispute that left Anaheim employees working without a contract. (Story updated at 11:05 a.m.)

Disney and the union announced Monday that they had agreed on a five-year contract for 2,100 members of Unite Here Local 11. A ratification vote is set for Wednesday.

“We are pleased that we were able to craft a fair and comprehensive agreement that works for the Disneyland Resort, and most importantly, for the 2,100 union hotel workers who now have the security of working with a multi-year contract in place,” said a joint statement from the union and Disney.

“While it has been a long journey, we were able to cooperate and reach compromises that were agreeable to all parties and benefited the Local 11 cast members who help deliver an unparalleled level of service to our Disneyland Resort guests every day,” the statement said.

 

 

 

Public workers union endorses Obama as ‘only choice for the 99 percent’

The Hill:

The largest public employee union in the country endorsed President Obama for a second term on Tuesday.

With 1.6 million members, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is considered one of the more powerful unions in the country, and it has long been allied with Democrats.

The union echoed the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement in endorsing Obama’s reelection bid. 

President Obama is the only choice for the 99 percent. We must put people back to work, make the 1 percent pay their fair share, and protect Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security,” said Gerry McEntee, AFSCME’s president, in a statement. 

TAKE ACTION

Sen. Ron Wyden thanks activists for contacting Congress about SOPA and Protect IP

Over 30,000 members of the Daily Kos community have contacted their senators asking them to oppose the Protect IP Act. Those 30,000 Kossacks helped turn the tide against this legislation, which was cruising toward quick, nearly unanimous passage. Now the future of the bill is in doubt and the lobbyists pushing it are scrambling to propose changes.

Senator Ron Wyden, who is leading the opposition to the bill on Capitol Hill, has a new video out thanking the 30,000 of you who contacted your senators. In the video, he also promises to continue his vigorous opposition to Protect IP in its current form, and to push responsible alternative legislation that protects online freedom:

There are good reasons to be skeptical of the efficacy of contacting your senators, but this is an unusual circumstance when such contacts can have inordinate impact. The normal coalitions are scrambled, allowing both supporters and opponents of Protect IP to legitimately tout the bipartisan nature of their positions. Further, it is not a bill that has undergone the same level of public or advocacy group scrutiny, and senators are just now starting to hear from their constituents about Protect IP. Three weeks ago they didn’t even know it was controversial.

You really can make a difference on this one. Please, http://campaigns.dailykos.com/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=51

 

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

 

 

“The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being” – Theodore Roosevelt

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.

24 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. SallyT says:

    Cher, thank you for your posts. One thing out of many I will make a comment about is Citigroup and laying off more people. They claim it is new regulations and the economy. Okay, I will agree on the economy may have an impact but not the regulations. Regulations have been proved not to cause job loss for the most part. No mention of the number of customers that have moved their money from the big banks or that more and more people are doing online banking. Nope, it the regulations according to them. Don’t think so!

  2. Emerald1943 says:

    Hi again, Cher! Good work today! You gave us plenty of food for thought and much to comment about!

    I’m really glad to see the LA move to stop the flood of corporate money into our elections. Although it won’t have any real impact on how business is done in DC, it is still encouraging. IMHO, if we go back and look at every problem facing the American middle class right now, we can attribute it to corporate control of our legislative process…from hormones in our milk to illegal foreclosures, we can see the reach of the rich into the halls of Congress.

    How ironic that the rich and powerful have virtually 24/7 access to the legislator of their choice, while the OWS protesters were unable to succeed in meeting with their representatives yesterday during their occupation of the Capitol. No surprise, but it just shows how unfair our system has become!

    I do have just one rhetorical question…if the SCOTUS has ruled that “money is speech”, then if I have NO money, does it mean that my speech is non-existent? I’m just asking…

    Thanks for your hard work! Good job today! :-)

  3. Emerald1943 says:

    Hi Cher!

    Apologies if someone has already covered this subject that refers back to an item you had in DP a couple of days ago, the National Defense Authorization Act, and the egregious changes to that bill that would allow the military to arrest US citizens on our soil.

    I emailed Sen. Kay Hagan about this, asking her to oppose the act. I received a reply this morning. Here’s an excerpt of that email…

    “…I supported three amendments offered by Senator
    Diane Feinstein to make reasonable modifications that would have clarified the
    applicability of the provisions in the bill. While two of those amendments failed by
    votes of 45-55, the Senate did adopt an amendment from Senator Feinstein to ensure
    that the bill does not affect existing U.S. law or authorities relating to the
    detention of U.S. citizens, lawful resident aliens, or any person captured or
    arrested in the United States.”

    Hopefully, this will take care of that sticky little matter, but I believe we need to stay on top of this. What a slippery slope!!

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Em! I’m so sorry it took so long to reply--and so good to see you! (Holiday shopping and I’ve been a bit under the weather with a cold.) I just wanted to add that as far as I now, PBO has said he will veto the Defense Authorization bill that contains these provisions. What really scares me though is how many voted FOR them!

    • agrippa says:

      I am concerned about that bill myself. It is a slippery slope.
      That amendment that passed does improve it a little.

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Hi agrippa! It does improve it a little bit, but you know how easily the language can be changed in a bill before Congress! This gives me only a little consolation. Thank goodness that there are still a few there who actually READ the bills before voting on them!

  4. Chernynkaya says:

    Just added:

    The Osawatomie Speech:


    • kesmarn says:

      Cher, thanks so much for posting the vid on this terrific speech. B’ito posted the transcript last night, and I was so impressed with it. I agree with Robert Reich’s assessment of it as “a defining speech.”

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Hey kes, I read that you’d missed the speech and I figured others did too. What was odd was how long it took to find it posted--it was posted by the news orgs (CBS, ABC) on YouTube twice and both times taken off “by user.” I don’t know what that means but I’m glad I finally found it.

        • bito says:

          Cher, here’s a trick look at C-Span first then the WH for the video’s. The WH is slow on posting to their site and posting to You-Tube. You-Tube prohibits “official” videos, I believe and it’s only on the White House You-Tube site. On the post of his remarks is also a C-Span embed of the speech. That’s what works for me.
          Now my ‘bich’ with C-span is they seem to be embedding fewer and fewer of their videos. IMO

  5. Nirek says:

    I am retired and have a pension and volunteer at our local food shelf. It is very busy every time I work there and the folks I see come in to get free food are my neighbors who have lost their jobs or have been hit hard by the flooding and lost everything. My heart goes out to them. They are NOT lazy, they are NOT dirty like Newt says. They are trying to help themselves get back of an even keel. If the food shelf helps them I’m glad to work to keep food on the shelves.
    Speaking of shelves My brother and I built them after the location was flooded out. It was rewarding to see our labor bare fruit (and veggies and other canned goods).

    This is what OWS is all about. Sharing some of what we have with those in need. That is my opinion.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Nirek, nice to meet you! You captured the spirit of the OWS movement really well. Thank you for your work!

    • SueInCa says:

      Nirek

      The food banks have always been my first choice in donating. I donate on a regular to my local food bank and have worked there as well. I agree with you, the people I have met are good people who have fallen on hard times. Those that ridicule have no idea how hard it is for most people to show up and ask for a handout, or maybe they just don’t care.

      • Nirek says:

        Thanks Sue. I really like the folks here . They seem to be nice people.

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Sue, I share your opinion. I am so fortunate that I have never had to depend on the kindness of others to feed myself or my family. I can only imagine the shame and embarrassment that some people must feel in having to ask for help just to EAT!

        It occurs to me that the American people overall are a kind and generous people. When I hear those who ridicule, it makes me realize just how far away from our basic values some people have strayed. It makes me so angry when I hear of FOX news talking heads ridiculing the OWS protesters, telling them to take a bath and get a job! I really don’t know how they can look at themselves in the mirror! The people who ridicule obviously have NO souls!!

    • Emerald1943 says:

      Nirek, you are certainly an inspiration to us all! Kudos to you for what you are doing! I know that the people you are helping are so grateful! Keep up the good work…it’s going to take some time to get this ship turned around where people have jobs and money enough to feed their families.

      • Nirek says:

        Thanks Emerald.
        Two things come to mind. One , the folks i serve at our food bank take as little as they can and have said “I’ll just take one so someone else can take one too” They are NOT greedy.

        Two, was a little story I read on the wall at a Dr. office today while waiting for my Aunt (92yo) .
        “A young boy was on a beech and picked up a starfish and threw it back into the sea. A man asked him what he was doing. The boy said I’m just throwing the starfish back into the sea sense the tide is going out they wont survive on the beach. The man said there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish , you wont make any difference. The boy picked up another starfish and tossed it into the sea and said I just made a difference to that one.”

        The point of the story is if we don’t try to make a difference we wont make a difference.
        Every little bit of kindness will make a difference.


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