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The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the nation’s most powerful lobby when it comes to Social Security is changing its position. The AARP, which has long fought efforts to overhaul the entitlement program, is now willing to discuss reforming the system:
The decision, which AARP hasn’t discussed publicly, came after a wrenching debate inside the organization. In 2005, the last time Social Security was debated, AARP led the effort to kill President George W. Bush’s plan for partial privatization. AARP now has concluded that change is inevitable, and it wants to be at the table to try to minimize the pain.
“The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens,” said John Rother, AARP’s long-time policy chief and a prime mover behind its change of heart.
The shift, which has been vetted by AARP’s board and is now the group’s stance, could have a dramatic effect on the debate surrounding the future of the federal safety net, from pensions to health care, given the group’s immense clout.
As the Journal notes, this is a very risky move. The obvious question is how the AARP’s congressional allies, who have opposed entitlement reform, will react to the news. Not to mention the group’s 37 million members. For the AARP, it remains to be seen what the real cost of a seat at the table will be.
There are a lot of politicians whose Sunday-morning saber rattling I write off. Mitch McConnell, the most honest man in Washington, isn’t one of them. This weekend, he told CBS that Republicans were considering a series of mini-debt limit increases if they didn’t get the sort of Medicare cuts they wanted. “Everybody knows you have to tackle entitlement reform,” he said. “If we can’t do that, then we’ll probably end up with a very short-term proposal over, you know, a few months, and we’ll be back having the same discussion again in the fall.” Hill staffers who’re knowledgeable about the internal discussions say these threats are being made internally, too.
This is a very dangerous game McConnell is playing. Worse than that, it’s a very counterproductive game, both for the economy and for his stated goal of entitlement reform.
A debt-ceiling deal is difficult now. It’ll be much harder as the 2012 campaign heats up. The presidential candidates will be forced to take ever more irresponsible and extreme stands on raising the debt ceiling, which will make it much harder for the Republicans in Congress to sell their members on a deal. The unpopularity of raising the debt ceiling will be more of an impediment as we get closer to the election. Trying to cut a new deal over the debt ceiling every few months maximizes the possibility of something going terribly wrong, and is likely to introduce a lot of fear into the market at a time when the economy doesn’t need anything else to worry about.
Perhaps that would be worth it, at least for McConnell, if it was likely to achieve his objective, But it isn’t. McConnell has never precisely defined what he means when he says “entitlement reform,” so it’s not clear exactly what he has in mind. But big cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are a pretty good bet. And the closer we get to the election, the harder it’ll be for members of either party to vote for those sorts of cuts. McConnell’s plan would maximize the possibility of a disaster nobody wants while minimizing the possibility of the deal that he claims to want.
The budget deal isn’t a fine wine: it won’t get better as it ages. It’ll get better if the Republicans agree to include taxes. But McConnell has been clear in public and his negotiators have been clear in private that they won’t budge on taxes. Since that leaves Republicans with little to offer Democrats, McConnell has turned to threatening them — and the economy — instead.
But what, specifically, is the threat here? That Republicans will endanger the economy and run a campaign demanding deep Medicare cuts necessitated by an unrelenting hostility to tax increases on the richest Americans in an election year? That’s not a credible threat. At some point, Democrats need to begin saying no to this stuff, and now’s as good a time as any.
1. SPEED THE APPROVALS
Harry Hopkins had nowhere near the rules and regulations we have now. (In 1933, Hopkins’s Civil Works Administration put 4 million to work in a month.) I don’t blame the people in the White House for problems in getting shovel-ready projects off the ground; sometimes it takes three years or more for the approval process. We should try to change this: keep the full review process when there are real environmental concerns, but when there aren’t, the federal government should be able to give a waiver to the states to speed up start times on construction projects. We gave states waivers to do welfare reform, so by the time I signed the bill, 43 of the 50 states had already implemented their own approaches. We need to look at that.
2. CASH FOR STARTUPS
If you start a business tomorrow, I can give you all the tax credits in the world, but since you haven’t made a nickel yet, they’re of no use to you. President Obama came in with a really good energy policy, including an idea to provide both a tax credit for new green jobs and for startup companies, to allow the conversion of the tax credit into its cash equivalent for every employee hired. Then last December, in the tax-cut compromise, the Republicans in Congress wouldn’t agree to extend this benefit because they said, “This is a spending program, not a tax cut. We’re only for tax cuts.” It was a mistake. The cash incentive worked. On the day President Obama took office, the U.S. had less than 2 percent of the world market in manufacturing the high-powered batteries for hybrid or all-electric cars. On the day of the congressional elections in 2010, thanks in large part to the cash—incentive policy, we had 20 percent of global capacity, with 30 new battery plants built or under construction, 16 of them in Michigan, which had America’s second—highest unemployment rate. We have to convince the Republican Congress that this is a good thing. If this incentive structure can be maintained, it’s estimated that by 2015 we’ll have 40 percent of the world’s capacity for these batteries. We could get lots of manufacturing jobs in the same way. I could write about this until the cows come home.
3. JOBS GALORE IN ENERGY
When I was president, the economy benefited because information technology penetrated every aspect of American life. More than one quarter of our job growth and one third of our income growth came from that. Now the obvious candidate for that role today is changing the way we produce and use energy. The U.S. didn’t ratify the Kyoto accords, of course, because Al Gore and I left office, and the next government wasn’t for it. They were all wrong. Before the financial meltdown, the four countries that will meet their Kyoto greenhouse-gas emission targets were outperforming America with lower unemployment, more new business formation, and less income inequality.
4. COPY THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING […]
5. GET THE UTILITIES IN ON THE ACTION
Let’s suppose you and I go to a blue-collar neighborhood in Rockland County, N.Y., about an hour north of midtown Manhattan. On each house we could do a simple job—in and out in a day—that would almost certainly save 20 percent in energy costs. You wouldn’t even need banks if states required the electric companies to let consumers finance this work through utility savings. At least 11 states allow the electric companies to collect the money saved and use it to pay the contractors. So why shouldn’t the utilities finance this? […]You get 7,000 jobs for every billion dollars in retrofitting. Let’s start with the schools and colleges and hospitals, and state, county, and local government buildings. That would keep the construction industry busy for a couple of years, creating a million jobs that would ripple through the whole economy, spurring even more growth.
6. STATE-BY-STATE SOLUTIONS
There may be some things that the states can do to loosen this up. One of the reasons Harry Reid won in Nevada is that, right before the election, two big Chinese companies announced they were moving factories there to make LED lightbulbs and turbines for the big wind farms down in Texas. Nevada is a little state, and it gained more than 4,000 jobs.
The thing I really liked about it was that the Chinese guys played it straight. They said the decision was pure economics. They didn’t say, “We’re coming here because Harry Reid is the leader of the Senate.” They said, “We’re coming here because Nevada has the best state incentives to go with the federal incentives.” They were very clinical. They said labor costs in China are still cheaper, but these turbines are big and heavy, and higher transportation costs to the U.S. market would offset the labor gains—and there was a tax credit from the federal government for green-energy manufacturing, and extra credits in Nevada.
7. GUARANTEE LOANS
[…]So I suggested that the federal government set aside—not spend—$15 billion of the TARP money and create a loan-guarantee program that would work exactly the way the Small Business Administration does. Basically, the bank lends money to a business after the federal government guarantees 75 percent of it. Let’s say that the SBA fund has about a 20-to-1 loan-to-capital ratio, and it’s never come anywhere near bankruptcy. If we capitalized this more conservatively at 10-to-1, we could guarantee $150 billion in loans and create more than a million jobs. We should start with buildings we know will stay in use: most state and local government buildings, schools, university structures, hospitals, theaters, and concert halls. We could include private commercial buildings with no debt. Even if many are strapped for cash, allowing the costs of the retrofits to be paid only from utility savings means the building owners won’t be out any cash. It’s a “just say yes” system.
8. PAINT ’EM WHITE
Look at the tar roofs covering millions of American buildings. They absorb huge amounts of heat when it’s hot. And they require more air conditioning to cool the rooms. Mayor Bloomberg started a program to hire and train young people to paint New York’s roofs white. A big percentage of the kids have been able to parlay this simple work into higher-skilled training programs or energy-related retrofit jobs. (And, believe it or not, painting the roof white can lower the electricity use by 20 percent on a hot day!)
Every black roof in New York should be white; every roof in Chicago should be white; every roof in Little Rock should be white. Every flat tar-surface roof anywhere! In most of these places you could recover the cost of the paint and the labor in a week. It’s the quickest, cheapest thing you can do. In the current environment it’s been difficult for the mayors to get what is otherwise a piddling amount of money to do it everywhere. Yet lowering the utility bill in every apartment house 10 to 20 percent frees cash that can be spent to increase economic growth.
9. DEALS TO MAKE THINGS
Every analysis shows that TARP and the stimulus saved us from a second Great Depression. After the GM and Chrysler bailouts, we have something like 75,000 more jobs in the industry. Closure of the factories and the suppliers with them would have cost a million jobs. The stimulus should have been more vigorously defended in the last election. It did work, but it didn’t “fix the economy” because it was an $800 billion stimulus trying to fix a $3 trillion hole. Nobody can fill a $3 trillion hole with $800 billion, so it didn’t make ordinary people feel a lot better, but without it, the unemployment rate would have been 1.5 to 2 percent higher than it is.
[…]If we cut a lot of government spending while our economy still has so little private investment, we risk weakening the economy even more and increasing the deficit because tax revenues can fall more than spending is cut. That’s why the Bowles-Simpson report recommends we delay big spending cuts until next year. So what should we do? More infrastructure initiatives now would put a lot of people back to work. But President Obama doesn’t have the votes in the Congress to get another stimulus package. When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton said, “Because that’s where the money is.” We have to unlock that money and take steps to get U.S. corporations to invest some of the $2 trillion they have accumulated.
Without regard to their party or their philosophy, Americans have always been great at the art of the deal. The real thing that has killed us in the last 10 years is that too much of our dealmaking creativity has been devoted to expanding the financial sector in ways that don’t create new businesses and more jobs and to persuading people to take on excessive debt loads to make up for the fact that their incomes are stagnant. That’s one reason why we’ve been suffering from anemic employment for years. In the seven years and eight months that preceded the meltdown, our economy produced a meager 4 million new jobs, far too few to cope with millions coming into the workforce, and virtually all those jobs were created in housing, finance, and consumer spending.
10. TRAIN ON THE JOB […]
11. TEACH SKILLS WE NEED[…]
12. CUT CORPORATE TAXES
It’s true that our corporate rates are the second-highest in the world. But it’s also true that what our corporations actually pay is nowhere near the second-highest percentage of their real income in the world. So I’d be perfectly fine with lowering the corporate tax rates, simplifying the tax code, and saving some money on accountants, but broadening the tax base so that all of them pay a reasonable amount of tax on their profits. That’s what the Bowles-Simpson commission recommended, and it’s the right policy. Lower the rates to be competitive, but reduce the loopholes that cause unfair disparities. We all need to contribute something to help meet our shared challenges and responsibilities, including solving the debt problem.
13. ENFORCE TRADE LAWS
We lost manufacturing jobs in every one of the eight years after I left office. One of the reasons is that enforcement of our trade laws dropped sharply. Contrary to popular belief, the World Trade Organization and our trade agreements do not require unilateral disarmament. They’re designed to increase the volume of two-way trade on terms that are mutually beneficial. My administration negotiated 300 trade agreements, but we enforced them, too. Enforcement dropped so much in the last decade because we borrowed more and more money from the countries that had big trade surpluses with us, especially China and Japan, to pay for government spending. Since they are now our bankers, it’s hard to be tough on their unfair trading practices. This happened because we abandoned the path of balanced budgets 10 years ago, choosing instead large tax cuts especially for higher-income people like me, along with two wars and the senior citizens’ drug benefit. In the history of our republic, it’s the first time we ever cut taxes while going to war.
14. ANALYZE THE OPPORTUNITIES
I’m hosting this month’s CGI America meeting on the assumption that there will be no federal stimulus and no further tax incentives targeted directly toward creating new jobs. Going on these assumptions, we want to analyze America’s economy: What are our assets? What are our liabilities? What are our options? There must be opportunities to be tapped, given all the cash in banks and corporate treasuries. If we have some success, we might be able to influence the debate in Washington in a nonpartisan way because we’ll have economic evidence to show them. I don’t have any problem at all if Congress wants to give tax credits to companies that actually hire people. But I think we have to pay for them, so I’d be happy to go back to the tax rates people at my income level paid when I was president in order to pay for the tax incentives to put more people to work.
The whole purpose of CGI America is to highlight good ideas because not everyone is aware of what’s out there. I’m going to try to get enough commitments that are representative enough of the circumstances facing diverse industries and different cities and states to persuade people across America to try their own version of them in a discussion of our economic stagnation. There’s been a remarkable lack of attention to “microeconomics,” the untapped growth potential of American corporations, entrepreneurs, and workers.
Let’s be realistic here. This is a massive economy. No matter how many impressive commitments we get, we won’t move the numbers. They’ll move the numbers only if enough people say, “Wow, I wish I’d thought of that.”
Joseph Stiglitz predicted the global financial meltdown. So why can’t he get any respect here at home?
Joe Stiglitz and Larry Summers, two towering intellects with egos to match, are not each other’s favorite economist. “They respect each other, but they hate each other like poison,” says Bruce Greenwald, Stiglitz’s friend and academic collaborator at Columbia. (“I’ve got huge admiration for Joe as an economic thinker,” Summers told NEWSWEEK.) Stiglitz had been hammering at Obama’s economic team for its handling of the financial crisis. He wrote that the stimulus program was too small to be effective—a criticism that has since swelled into a chorus, though Obama says he’s not adding more money. Stiglitz also had called the administration’s bailout plan a giveaway to Wall Street, an “ersatz capitalism” that would save the banks’ investors and creditors and screw the taxpayers. “I thought, Larry—he’s just going to yell at Joe,” Anya recalls.
But Summers’s aide soon called back, and this time he said it was urgent: could Professor Stiglitz come to Washington for a dinner hosted by the president—that same night? […]
Yet Stiglitz’s work is cited by more economists than anyone else’s in the world, according to data compiled by the University of Connecticut. And when he goes abroad—to Europe, Asia, and Latin America—he is received like a superstar, a modern-day oracle. “In Asia they treat him like a god,” says Robert Johnson, a former chief economist for the Senate banking committee who has traveled with him. “People walk up to him on the streets.” […]
Stiglitz is perhaps best known for his unrelenting assault on an idea that has dominated the global landscape since Ronald Reagan: that markets work well on their own and governments should stay out of the way. Since the days of Adam Smith, classical economic theory has held that free markets are always efficient, with rare exceptions. Stiglitz is the leader of a school of economics that, for the past 30 years, has developed complex mathematical models to disprove that idea. The subprime-mortgage disaster was almost tailor-made evidence that financial markets often fail without rigorous government supervision, Stiglitz and his allies say. The work that won Stiglitz the Nobel in 2001 showed how “imperfect” information that is unequally shared by participants in a transaction can make markets go haywire, giving unfair advantage to one party. The subprime scandal was all about people who knew a lot—like mortgage lenders and Wall Street derivatives traders—exploiting people who had less information, like global investors who bought up subprime- mortgage-backed securities. As Stiglitz puts it: “Globalization opened up opportunities to find new people to exploit their ignorance. And we found them.”
Stiglitz’s empathy for the little guy—and economically backward nations—comes to him naturally. The son of a schoolteacher and an insurance salesman, he grew up in one of America’s grittiest industrial cities—Gary, Ind.—and was shaped by the social inequalities and labor strife he observed there. Stiglitz remembers realizing as a small boy that something was wrong with our system. The Stiglitzes, like many middle-class families, had an African-American maid. She was from the South and had little education. “I remember thinking, why do we still have people in America who have a sixth-grade education?” he says. […]
While studying at MIT, he says he realized that if Smith’s “invisible hand” always guided behavior correctly, the kind of unemployment and poverty he had witnessed in Gary shouldn’t exist. “I was struck by the incongruity between the models that I was taught and the world that I had seen growing up,” Stiglitz said in his Nobel Prize lecture in 2001. In the same speech he declared that the invisible hand “might not exist at all.” The solution, Stiglitz says, is to move beyond ideology and to develop a balance between market-driven economies—which he favors—and government oversight.
Stiglitz has warned for years that pro-market zeal would cause a global financial meltdown very much like the one that gripped the world last year. In the early ’90s, as a member of Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers, Stiglitz argued (unsuccessfully) against opening up capital flows too rapidly to developing countries, saying those markets weren’t ready to handle “hot money” from Wall Street. Later in the decade, he spoke out (without results) against repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, which regulated financial institutions and separated commercial from investment banking. Since at least 1990, Stiglitz has talked about the risks of securitizing mortgages, questioning whether markets and authorities would grow careless “about the importance of screening loan applicants.” Malaysian economist Andrew Sheng says, “I think Stiglitz is the nearest thing there is to Keynes in this crisis.”
That would be John Maynard Keynes, the great 20th-century economist who rocketed to international renown in late 1919 when he published The Economic Consequences of the Peace. In his book, Keynes warned that the draconian penalties imposed on Germany after World War I would lead to political disaster. No one listened. The disaster he predicted turned out to be World War II. Like Stiglitz, Keynes was not a favorite at the White House. Keynes also believed that markets were imperfect: he invented modern macroeconomics—which calls for major government intervention to help ailing economies—in response to the Great Depression. But after meeting Keynes for the first time in 1934, FDR dismissed him as too abstract and intellectual, according to Robert Skidelsky, Keynes’s biographer. Keynes himself fretted that Roosevelt was not spending enough.
Stiglitz’s defenders say one possible explanation for his outsider status in Washington is his ongoing rivalry with Summers. While they are both devotees of Keynes, Summers often has supported deregulation of financial markets—or at least he did before last year—while Stiglitz has made a career of mistrusting markets. Since the early ’90s, when Summers was a senior Treasury official and Stiglitz was on the Council of Economic Advisers, the two have engaged in fierce policy debates. The first fight was over the Clinton admin-is-tration’s efforts to pry open emerging financial markets, such as South Korea’s. Stiglitz argued there wasn’t good evidence that liberalizing poorly regulated Third World markets would make any one more prosperous; Summers wanted them open to U.S. Firms. […]
Despite the Obama team’s occasional efforts to reach out to him, Stiglitz remains deeply unhappy about the administration’s approach to the financial crisis. Rather than breaking up or restructuring the big banks that failed, “the Obama administration has actually expanded the notion of ‘too big to fail,’ ” he says. In a veiled poke at his dubious standing in Washington, Stiglitz adds: “In Britain there is a more open discussion of these issues.” A senior White House official, responding to this critique, says that the Obama administration is most often criticized these days for intervening too much in the economy, not too little.
In other respects, Obama is embracing some of Stiglitz’s views, suggests Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget—and a former Stiglitz protégé (he worked for Stiglitz during the Clinton administration). One example: Obama’s new idea for reforming health care by creating a government-run program to compete with private-sector insurers. “There is an intellectual paradigm in health care that says you should move to purely private markets,” says Orszag. “Joe’s perspective would suggest major difficulties [with that]. That led to the thought that we need a mix: there is an important government role.” […]
While he had no great desire to go back into government, friends say he was deeply disappointed when an offer didn’t come from Obama last fall. Not surprisingly, Stiglitz believes his old rival was behind it, though Summers denies this. As for the invitation to dinner at the White House, there were a few theories kicked around the spacious Stiglitz household on Manhattan’s Upper West Side as to why it came at the last minute: one was that Obama, in an interview posted online that week by The New York Times, had cited Stiglitz as one of the critics he listens to, so it would have seemed strange if he hadn’t been invited to the dinner. While Stiglitz was flattered by the discussion over a dinner of roast beef and Michelle Obama’s homegrown lettuce, he can’t stop himself from complaining that an occasional meal with dissidents is not the best way for the president to formulate policy. “Some of the most difficult debates and judgments can’t really be hammered out in an hour-and-a-half meeting covering lots of topics,” he says. Stiglitz may a prophet without much honor in Washington, but he seems to be determined to keep the prophecies coming.
Apple has $12 billion waiting offshore, Google has $17 billion and Microsoft, $29 billion. Under the proposal, known as a repatriation holiday, the federal income tax owed on such profits returned to the United States would fall to 5.25 percent for one year, from 35 percent…Corporations and their lobbyists say the tax break could resuscitate the gasping recovery by inducing multinational corporations to inject $1 trillion or more into the economy…But that’s not how it worked last time. Congress and the Bush administration offered companies a similar tax incentive, in 2005…Though the tax break lured them into bringing $312 billion back to the United States, 92 percent of that money was returned to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks, according to a study by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research.”
[…] Webster’s defines speedup as “an employer’s demand for accelerated output without increased pay,” and it used to be a household word. Bosses would speed up the line to fill a big order, to goose profits, or to punish a restive workforce. Workers recognized it, unions (remember those?) watched for and negotiated over it—and, if necessary, walked out over it.
But now we no longer even acknowledge it—not in blue-collar work, not in white-collar or pink-collar work, not in economics texts, and certainly not in the media (except when journalists gripe about the staff-compacted-job-expanded newsroom). Now the word we use is “productivity,” a term insidious in both its usage and creep. The not-so-subtle implication is always: Don’t you want to be a productive member of society? Pundits across the political spectrum revel in the fact that US productivity (a.k.a. economic output per hour worked) consistently leads the world. Yes, year after year, Americans wring even more value out of each minute on the job than we did the year before. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Except what’s good for American business isn’t necessarily good for Americans. We’re not just working smarter, but harder. And harder. And harder, to the point where the driver is no longer American industriousness, but something much more predatory. […]
Just counting work that’s on the books (never mind those 11 p.m. emails), Americans now put in an average of 122 more hours per year than Brits, and 378 hours (nearly 10 weeks!) more than Germans. The differential isn’t solely accounted for by longer hours, of course—worldwide, almost everyone except us has, at least on paper, a right to weekends off, paid vacation time (PDF), and paid maternity leave. (The only other countries that don’t mandate paid time off for new moms are Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Samoa, and Swaziland. U-S…A?)
To understand how we got here, first let’s consider the Ben Franklin-Horatio Alger-Henry Ford ur-myth: To balk at working hard—really, really hard—brands you as profoundly un-American. Who besides the archetypical Japanese salaryman derives so much of his self-image from self-sacrifice on the job? Slacker is one of the most biting insults available in polite company.
And so we kowtow to—nay, embrace—a cultural maxim that just happens to be enormously convenient to corporate America. “Our culture has encouraged me to only feel valuable if I’m barely hanging on to my sanity,” one friend emailed as we were working on this article. In fact, each time we mentioned this topic to someone—reader, source, friend—they first took pains to say: I’m not lazy. I love my job. I come from a long line of hard workers. But then it would pour out of them—the fatigue, the isolation, the guilt.
The evolution of executive grandeur — from very comfortable to jet-setting — reflects one of the primary reasons that the gap between those with the highest incomes and everyone else is widening.
For years, statistics have depicted growing income disparity in the United States, and it has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. In 2008, the last year for which data are available, for example, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in more than 10 percent of the personal income in the United States, including capital gains, and the top 1 percent took in more than 20 percent. But economists had little idea who these people were. How many were Wall street financiers? Sports stars? Entrepreneurs? Economists could only speculate, and debates over what is fair stalled.
Now a mounting body of economic research indicates that the rise in pay for company executives is a critical feature in the widening income gap.
The largest single chunk of the highest-income earners, it turns out, are executives and other managers in firms, according to a landmark analysis of tax returns by economists Jon Bakija, Adam Cole and Bradley T. Heim. These are not just executives from Wall Street, either, but from companies in even relatively mundane fields such as the milk business.
The top 0.1 percent of earners make about $1.7 million or more, including capital gains. Of those, 41 percent were executives, managers and supervisors at non-financial companies, according to the analysis, with nearly half of them deriving most of their income from their ownership in privately-held firms. An additional 18 percent were managers at financial firms or financial professionals at any sort of firm. In all, nearly 60 percent fell into one of those two categories.
In a move hailed as a major victory by environmentalists, the Obama administration on Monday set in motion a plan to ban uranium mining on more than one million acres around the Grand Canyon in Arizona for 20 years.
The move allows the Obama administration to maintain a tricky balance between pushing a conservation agenda and resisting slams from Republicans and the oil, gas, and mining industries, who say restricting public lands from energy exploration contributes to higher fuel prices and greater dependence on foreign sources of energy.
But this month, the administration came under fire from its allies in the environmental community when it reversed a plan to protect wilderness areas from oil and gas drilling.
The plan gives a major victory to conservationists without angering the nation’s most politically powerful energy extractors, oil and gas drillers. Environmentalists, led by the Pew Environment Group, The Wilderness Society, the mayors of Phoenix and Los Angeles, and tribal groups, have aggressively lobbied the administration to halt new uranium mining out of concern that it could damage drinking water and park water quality.
“It’s a big deal. There’s been a lot of pressure for this,” said Bill Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society. “It protects the water source and the integrity of the Grand Canyon—and [President Obama will] get a lot of praise from the environmental community.”
The plan follows a two-year moratorium on uranium mining around the Grand Canyon that expires next month. It was put in place in part because mining claims surrounding the park were skyrocketing. A report released last month by Pew used Bureau of Land Management data to show that uranium claims around Grand Canyon National Park increased 2,000 percent between 2005 and 2010.
Under the plan, 1 million acres of land in and around the Grand Canyon will be placed under a six-month emergency withdrawal from any future mining claims.
In a new report, they warn that ocean life is “at high risk of entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history”.
They conclude that issues such as over-fishing, pollution and climate change are acting together in ways that have not previously been recognised.
The impacts, they say, are already affecting humanity.
The panel was convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), and brought together experts from different disciplines, including coral reef ecologists, toxicologists, and fisheries scientists.
Its report will be formally released later this week.
“The findings are shocking,” said Alex Rogers, IPSO’s scientific director and professor of conservation biology at Oxford University.
“As we considered the cumulative effect of what humankind does to the oceans, the implications became far worse than we had individually realised.
“We’ve sat in one forum and spoken to each other about what we’re seeing, and we’ve ended up with a picture showing that almost right across the board we’re seeing changes that are happening faster than we’d thought, or in ways that we didn’t expect to see for hundreds of years.”
These “accelerated” changes include melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, sea level rise, and release of methane trapped in the sea bed. […]
The report’s conclusions will be presented at UN headquarters in New York this week, when government delegates begin discussions on reforming governance of the oceans.
IPSO’s immediate recommendations include:
- stopping exploitative fishing now, with special emphasis on the high seas where currently there is little effective regulation
- mapping and then reducing the input of pollutants including plastics, agricultural fertilisers and human waste
- making sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
“The Obama administration on Friday said it would stop granting new waivers to the health-care overhaul in September following sharp opposition from Republicans who cited the waivers in their bid to undermine the law. As of the end of May, the administration had granted 1,433 waivers to a part of the 2010 law that prevents employers and other health-plan providers from capping annual benefit payouts below $750,000 a year. Those entities, and any others that secure a waiver by Sept. 22, will be able to keep their one-year waivers, and apply for extensions through 2013. But the Department of Health and Human Services said it would stop accepting new applications for the program after Sept. 22. The waivers largely went to low-wage employers who offer ‘mini-med’ plans with limited benefits.”
Debated Representative Paul Ryan this AM on CNBC. We agreed that there’s a lot to like about Wisconsin but that was it. To me, his program is an amalgam of trickle down, whack the poor, further enrich the wealthy, weaken social insurance, and push YOYO over WITT (“you’re on your own” versus “we’re in this together,” see here). Other than that, I like it.
Anyway, in the part of the argument where Rep Ryan argued that market forces would drive down health care costs, I pointed out that, in fact, health care spending has been growing more slowly in the public (Mcare, Mcaid) versus the private sectors (yes, too fast in both, but you get the point). He and others said no.
Clearly, they’re not reading Krugman, which is their first mistake. Here’s another look at average annual price growth over the past decade (sources below).
This stuff ain’t hard to find, unless you’re trying not to run into it.
Thom Hartman and Jared Bernstein:
And you thought we were finished with political Twitter stories? C’mon, this is Washington we’re talking about! The National Republican Senatorial Committee’s getting blowback today from both the left and right for a series of fake re-tweets sent from the NRSC’s official @nrsc Twitter account. The bogus RTs each make reference to Democrats failing to produce a budget, and include a link to a webpage, www.demsplanforamerica.com, that is–wait for it–a blank page.
The fake RT from @BarackObama reads “My budget failed 0-97 but wait till you see @SenateDems budget -BO.” Another, using the Twitter handle of Tim Kaine reads, “First Recovery Summer, now @SenateDems budget plan website http://www.demsplanforamerica.com, we’re on a roll!” The messages were sent out from the @nrsc account to its 14,110 followers–and of course, the “original” messages do not show up on the Twitter accounts of President Obama, Kaine, Jon Tester, Harry Reid or Claire McCaskill.
And surprise–nobody’s laughing. Even Andy Levy, who helps bring the funny to Fox News Channel’s overnight Red Eye, was quick to blast the NRSC via Twitter, “@NRSC What the hell is wrong with you? How do you not realize it’s unethical to make up fake tweets from people?”
Many on Twitter are calling for the NRSC to remove the tweets–which may violate the site’s terms of service. So far, the stream of tweets remains on the NRSC’s page.
Anchor babies” are a myth. Let’s just get that right off. The image of a pregnant South American woman — in some tales, she is eight-months along — literally being dropped over the Southwestern border fence, which is what this offensive term can conjure, is the figment of an anti-immigrant imagination bent on overturning decades of settled law, if not the Constitution itself. What’s more, the term is a racial slur. It’s an ugly, derogatory, mean-spirited, racist jab directed at children for the imagined “crime” of being born in America to non-citizen parents. Some have said the slur is comparable to the N-word.
But in an article reporting that Chinese women are coming to the United States to give birth so their children will be U.S. citizens, NBC News used the term no less than nine times. The piece by Beijing-based journalist Ed Flanagan, headlined: “The trials and tribulations of China’s ‘anchor babies.”
Elizabeth Jensen has an interesting piece in the New York Times today (6/20/11) about Los Angeles public television station KCET. After deciding to cut its ties to PBS, the channel is experimenting with different programming options, including Al Jazeera English.
And the results so far, according to one station official:
Mr. Marcus said he had been braced for some criticism from viewers about Al Jazeera English’s point of view, but “most people think it’s been very even-handed.” He praised the scope of coverage, noting that last week the program carried reports from Argentina, China and Sri Lanka. “I would guess those are all stories you would not see on a domestic newscast,” he said.
Don’t Call Someone Who Works for Republicans a Disaffected Progressive
From today’s WaPo:
In the ever-evolving world of campaign fundraising, some politicians have stumbled on yet another way to bring in buckets of cash. Let’s call it the “money blurt.”
Here’s how it works: An up-and-coming politician blurts out something incendiary, provocative or otherwise controversial. The remark bounces around the blogs and talk shows and becomes a sensation.
And in the midst of it all, the politician’s fundraisers are manning the phones and raking in the donations.
Nothing surprising there. We know politicians’ “spontaneous” outbursts are increasingly staged and intended to gin up attention and cash. But this I found interesting:
Jeff Cosgrove, managing director of the CommonSense Media online advertising network, which has clients in both parties, said a growing number of campaigns book ads in connection with television appearances or other public events.
“These things aren’t necessarily as organic as you would think,” Cosgrove said. “They seem to be often premeditated.” [Emphasis added]
If you follow the link to CommonSense Media and then click on the About page you find this:
Yes, that’s right, CommonSense Media, a firm that does work for Republicans, is led by Jane Hamsher.
In isolation, I don’t care what Jane Hamsher does for money (and it’s not even clear that any revenues from CommonSense Media make it to Hamsher’s pocket). She can do whatever she wants, and I’m not interested in getting in to any battle about purity with her or any of her allies. But it’s time for the media to stop lazily presenting her as a representative figure of liberal Democrats, of the Netroots or of ideologically committed progressives. She’s not. She’s someone who leads a firm that Republicans pay to help them defeat Democrats.
CommonSense Media Ad Network has done work for Democrats in the past, and they may still be doing work for Democrats. They have done work for Harry Reid. In 2011 Hamsher may be telling prospective Obama voters “don’t give yourself away cheaply,” but in 2010 they thought the president was still in to them, because the Democratic National Committee paid for $10,000 worth of advertising through CommonSense Media.
But CommonSense Media also does work for entities working against progressive interests and Democratic candidates. At the same time BP was being accused of “greenwashing” their record after the Gulf oil spill, CommonSense media was doing online advertising for BP. In Campaigns and Elections magazine’s political pages, a directory of political consultants, Democratic firms have a D after their name, Republicans an R. Commonsense Media has an N (presumably either “nonpartisan” or “neutral”).
There isn’t a good online tool to search for vendors listed in FEC reports, so it’s unclear which Republican(s) are CommonSense Media clients. I suspect they’re not working for rightwing culture warriors. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re working for Scott-Walker-if-he-were-more-low-key-&-didn’t-care-if-you-get-stoned, AKA Greenwald-darling Gary Johnson. But just because we don’t know which Republicans they’re working for, Commonsense Media says they have Republican clients, so why shouldn’t we take them at their word?
If the national political media is going to present Jane Hamsher as a one-time Obama supporter who has now concluded that Obama “just isn’t in to her,” fine. But it’s horribly irresponsible and inaccurate for the press to file those stories without noting that she at one time did business with the DNC, and apparently now does business with Republicans seeking to defeat Democrats. She’s not just a disaffected progressive, she’s someone who leads a business that takes money from Republicans to defeat Democrats.
E.J. Dionne has a column today about the longstanding conservative effort to pass “voter fraud” laws that (a) don’t seem to reduce actual voter fraud, but (b) do tend to reduce turnout among traditional liberal constituencies. James Joyner reacts:
Are these reforms are aimed at suppressing the black and youth votes? I’d have to see substantially more evidence. But they seem to be aimed at theoretical problems that those who study such things can’t find in the wild.
Well, look: we’ll probably never find smoking gun proof that voter fraud laws are aimed at suppressing the black and youth votes. After all, you’d have to be a monumental moron to actually admit this in any kind of written or otherwise permanent form.
Still, let’s walk through the evidence:
- Research showing that actual voter fraud is minuscule — perhaps 0.001% of the vote or so — is overwhelming and very well known.
- Republicans have nonetheless been pushing voter fraud laws for nearly two decades.
- This costs a lot of money and sucks up a lot of energy.
- Parties don’t generally spend lots of money and energy on things unless they benefit the party or its supporters in some way.
- The evidence that voter fraud laws reduce turnout among groups that trend Democratic is also very well known among party apparatchiks who pay attention to such things.
Maybe you can come up with some alternative interpretation for such a tenacious, coordinated, and energetic campaign. But the obvious explanation is that Republican party apparatchiks think that voter fraud laws offer a method of reducing Democratic turnout in elections that’s both effective and deniable. I really think you have to be almost willfully blind not to see this.
n CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, host Bob Schieffer asked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday, “Do Republicans have any plans to do anything on the unemployment front or are you just going to let things take their course?” It seemed like a good question.
McConnell replied, “No, I — I think — what — what we’re doing is encouraging the president to — to quit doing what he’s doing.”
The Senate Minority Leader has clearly given job policy considerable thought. And to think I doubted him.
Jay Bookman did a nice job fact-checking McConnell’s other remarks — it’s as if the senator has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to the economy — but the key takeaway here is the realization that McConnell doesn’t even think a jobs agenda is necessary. If he and his party simply stand in the way of the White House’s agenda — an agenda, by the way, that vastly improved the economy — everything will be fine.
In theory, this should create an opportunity for Democrats. Congressional Republicans not only don’t have a plan to create jobs; they don’t even see the need for one. There’s some talk that Senate Dems are at least looking in the right direction.
Fearing the economy may be getting worse, Democrats plan to soon unveil what they’ll call a “Jobs First” agenda — and the stakes are high. A bleak economic outlook, like the May jobs report, could cost Democrats their thin Senate majority and even the White House if they can’t make a strong case to an anxious electorate that their policies will create jobs. […]
Sen. Mark Begich has enlisted business officials to present senators with their ideas for bolstering job creation, and the Alaska Democrat wants his party to unveil a package full of proposals — like a boost in infrastructure spending and changes to visas to boost tourism — that one by one could be brought to the floor over the next several weeks.
All kinds of ideas are apparently on the table. The best possible idea — an ambitious stimulus that ignores deficit concerns — won’t generate any consideration, but modest measures, including a payroll tax holiday, are still being bandied about.
Even former President Clinton is weighing in, writing a piece for Newsweek with several credible ideas for job creation.
I’m not especially optimistic about “Jobs First.” Getting Dems to agree to a meaningful plan will be like herding cats, and getting the GOP-led House to pass it will be impossible.
But I’m at least mildly encouraged by the shifting discussion. Instead of an all-deficit-all-the-time debate, Democrats are talking about what can be done to create jobs, while Republican deliberately ignore the issue. Here’s hoping Dems aim high and don’t let up.
Anti-abortion zealots do not trust Mitt Romney one bit. At the Republican Leadership Conference over the weekend, the Susan B. Anthony List, the organization nominally dedicated to electing anti-abortion women to office, announced the pledge they’ve convinced most of the major candidates to sign. But Mitt Romney refused to sign the pledge.
While it is still very early, indications are that the most likely match up in the 2012 presidential election will be between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who leads polls among Republicans. […]
Romney is one of the most moderate Republican candidates and could appeal to independents, although he has moved away from more centrist policies like the healthcare overhaul he put into place in Massachusetts and which conservatives find too similar to Obama’s healthcare plan.
“The other Romney, the old Romney, would make a really interesting campaign against Obama,” said Clyde Wilcox, a government professor at Georgetown University in Washington, citing Romney’s record on healthcare, cleaning up the Olympics when he organized the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002 and working with a Democratic legislature while governor.
“Obama’s prospects are largely tied up with economic conditions. Economic growth and disposable income — those are the key factors,” said Richard Eichenberg, a political science professor at Tufts University, outside Boston.
The Obama team, in turn, will try to poke holes in Romney’s business record, charge him with “flip-flopping on issues and contrast his somewhat stilted style with Obama’s more natural talent for connecting with voters.
“This race will be about the economy and people know that President Obama has done a terrible job,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “No one in the race can come close to matching Mitt Romney’s 25-year experience in the real world economy.”
Democrats contend that Romney overstates his accomplishments in Massachusetts, which ranked 47th out of the 50 states in job creation while he was governor. They plan to stress that Romney’s firm, Bain Capital, made money for rich investors by slashing the jobs of regular Americans.
Obama has remained reasonably popular even when his policy ratings have flagged and unemployment has hit 9.1 percent, while Romney has committed gaffes such as joking to unemployed workers in Florida last week that he is also out of work.
“You take a candidate whom the press will constantly refer to as someone with an authenticity problem and a certain plasticity to his reputation … versus a guy whom the voters seem to think is a pretty good guy, Barack Obama,” Eichenberg said, asked if Obama could be the first president in decades to be re-elected with unemployment over 7.2 percent.
Foreign policy is expected to take a back seat to economic concerns in 2012 but the inexperienced Romney raised eyebrows among some Republicans last week by saying U.S. troops should come home from Afghanistan as quickly as possible and that only the Afghans themselves could win freedom from the Taliban.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and three conservative GOP colleagues — Reps. Tom Price (R-GA), Steve King (R-IA) and Todd Akin (R-MO) — each paid $3,407.50 from taxpayer-funded office accounts — a total of $13,630 — to a sound and stage company for a Tea Party rally outside the U.S. Capitol, Roll Call reports.
Bachmann billed the event as a “press conference,” which can be funded from official accounts. “But no questions were taken from the press and, unlike most press conferences, it opened with a prayer, the national anthem and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.”
In the ever-evolving world of campaign fundraising, some politicians have stumbled on yet another way to bring in buckets of cash. Let’s call it the “money blurt.”
Here’s how it works: An up-and-coming politician blurts out something incendiary, provocative or otherwise controversial. The remark bounces around the blogs and talk shows and becomes a sensation.
And in the midst of it all, the politician’s fundraisers are manning the phones and raking in the donations.
Consider Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the tea party favorite and newly minted presidential candidate, who has made a specialty of raising money in the wake of bold and well-placed remarks. Shortly after accusing President Obama of having “anti-American views” during one cable-news appearance, for example, Bachmann took in nearly $1 million.
The use of money blurts could have a significant impact on the strength of some candidates’ fundraising efforts, which will come into focus next month with the release of fresh disclosure forms for GOP presidential campaigns. Bachmann aides have said she received a major boost with her appearance at a Republican debate in New Hampshire, though they did not release numbers.
The phenomenon marks another phase in the quest for money in politics, fueled by the eternal hum of the Internet, social media and 24-hour cable news. The tactic could prove especially valuable for insurgent candidates such as Bachmann who are likely to rely heavily on smaller donations for their 2012 campaigns.
“It’s a great way to attract a very high volume of small donors and drive excitement,” said Ron Bonjean, a GOP consultant and co-founder of Singer Bonjean Strategies. “If you’re in the money game and you say something controversial, you’ll have support from a very energetic core.”
The money blurt — spontaneous or not — is a close cousin to a technique called the “money bomb,” in which a campaign or its supporters designate a specific day or time period to raise a vast amount of cash and generate publicity. The best-known practitioner is libertarian favorite Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), whose followers have used money bombs to raise as much as $6 million at a time for his presidential campaigns.
As for money blurts, perhaps the most famous example came in September 2009, when back-bench House Republican Joe Wilson (S.C.) yelled “You lie!” during an Obama address to Congress.
Within a week of the outburst, supporters had given more than $2 million to the little-known congressman, urged on by conservative bloggers and Wilson’s own campaign. His Democratic challenger cited Wilson’s remark in his own fundraising, prompting a sudden campaign arms race.
“Our office has been overwhelmed with phone calls, letters and contributions,” Wilson said several days after the incident.
Former congressman Alan Grayson, a liberal firebrand from Florida, attracted GOP condemnation in 2009 after he said on the House floor that the Republican health-care plan amounted to “Die quickly.” He quickly raised nearly $1 million. […]
But the real champion of money blurts is Bachmann, according to a comparison of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data and television appearances. […]
Even blurts by Bachmann’s opponents seem to have worked to her advantage. On the day that former president Bill Clinton attacked her as an extremist, Bachmann raised $90,000 from named donors, more than two-thirds of it from those giving less than $500.
Bachmann’s ubiquitous media presence and tea party support helped her raise $13.5 million in the 2010 cycle, making her the top fundraiser in the House. Her campaign also received a crucial burst of contributions last week after her well-received appearance at the GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire, where she formally announced her run for the White House.
“President Obama is a one-term president!” Bachmann proclaimed to applause.
Bachmann’s presidential campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment last week.
Political strategists and campaign finance experts say the use of money blurts marks a modern twist on an age-old strategy of capitalizing on key moments to raise money. The tactic is helped along by the ease of impulse giving on the Internet, while campaigns gain thousands of new names for their donor lists.
Michael Malbin of the Campaign Finance Institute, which studies political contributions, said a crucial moment in attracting broad support can come when candidates are recognized as an alternative to a disliked status quo. A well-timed call to arms can often serve that purpose, he said.
“They’re appealing to enough people with enough intensity that they are motivated to act,” Malbin said.
That doesn’t mean it’s always a good strategy, however. Grayson, the former Florida congressman, used an aggressive campaign of Internet ads to raise money in connection with his frequent TV appearances. But his appeal to liberal die-hards around the country apparently did not play well in his moderate Orlando area district; he was defeated in 2010 by Daniel Webster (R).
“You can turn on the money spigot but still end up digging your own grave,” Bonjean said.
It’s hard to tell how much of the money-blurt phenomenon is truly spontaneous — merely taking advantage of an opportunity — or whether some outbursts are timed for maximum financial impact.
Few campaigns will talk candidly about the issue, but media consultants and other strategists say it’s clear that campaigns are getting increasingly sophisticated about the timing of fundraising appeals.
In Bachmann’s case, for example, her debate performance last week was accompanied by a prominent call for donations on the Drudge Report, the conservative news Web site. Her line about a one-term Obama presidency, which garnered widespread notice, was one she has used repeatedly at lesser events in recent months.
Jeff Cosgrove, managing director of the CommonSense Media online advertising network, which has clients in both parties, said a growing number of campaigns book ads in connection with television appearances or other public events.
“These things aren’t necessarily as organic as you would think,” Cosgrove said. “They seem to be often premeditated.”
An interesting line from the Glenn Thrush/Kasie Hunt article on Jon Huntsman’s family business and its dealings with Iran:
But the issue of the subsidiary — first brought to POLITICO’s attention by a Huntsman opponent — suggests that Huntsman faces political risk from his connection to Huntsman Corp., which has 12,000 employees worldwide and revenue exceeding $9 billion as of 2010, when, as expected, he declares his candidacy for president.
The article is interesting in itself, but the fact that Huntsman’s political opponents—whether inside or outside the Republican Party—are already beginning to dump opposition research on him shows that it’s not just the media that’s taking him seriously. It’s his political rivals, too. No matter how strong Mitt Romney’s position may seem, there’s still a long way to go in the GOP primary season.
In 2005, DailyKos published an article about tactics by a US Senator. The author said:
According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists[..] we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in “appeasing” the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda. The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.
I think this perspective misreads the American people.I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don’t think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent. They don’t think that corporations are inherently evil (a lot of them work in corporations), but they recognize that big business, unchecked, can fix the game to the detriment of working people and small entrepreneurs.
Of course, the Senator was Senator Obama.
After Network Nation’s whinefest about how the President has somehow betrayed the progressives who hated him anyways by governing exactly as he said he would, and not the way that he said he wouldn’t, it’s kind of interesting to go back and see how clearly he delineated the issue way back in 2005. But President Obama was not to first to make this observation. Saul Alinsky said something similar in 1971. Forty years of failure, however, have not deterred America’s “left” from its addiction to fail.
Here’s another example of what’s becoming increasingly clear is a systematic program to dismantle the institutional left:
Last month, scores of public officials across Los Angeles County opened their mail to find nearly identical requests for information: Members of the Los Angeles City Council and the county Board of Supervisors, the Community Redevelopment Agency and Community College District Board of Trustees, the city of Long Beach and untold others were asked to produce records relating to the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. It was the first blow, silently delivered, in what could be a nasty fight, of a sort that is becoming increasingly common in American and California politics.
LAANE, as it’s known, is an 18-year-old advocacy organization that seeks to fashion and influence public policy relating to jobs, the environment and community development. The group, widely perceived as having a strong liberal slant, has a staff of 45 people and an annual budget of $4 million, and it is headed by a shrewd executive director, Madeline Janis. Housed in a tiny suite of offices just west of downtown (LAANE rents the space from the union UNITE-HERE), its modest quarters give little evidence of its impact, which is profound. In project after project — from winning passage of the city’s Living Wage Ordinance to revamping the way the Los Angeles port handles truck traffic to reimagining the region’s approach to recycling — LAANE has shown itself to be one of Southern California’s most potent political organizations.
That has made it plenty of enemies, and one of them is now quietly but unmistakably striking back. The group that filed the requests for information under the California Public Records Act is called MB Public Affairs, a Sacramento-based operation that specializes in “opposition research,” the art of ferreting out dirt on one’s enemies. MB Public Affairs is headed by Mark Bogetich, a garrulous operative known to his friends as “Bogey,” who has helped a number of Republican candidates neutralize their opponents…
When MB Public Affairs filed more than 50 public records requests for information on LAANE, it was not a casual act. It was almost certainly intended to find something damaging, and it’s costing someone serious money. One operative who knows this business well estimated the price of such a digging campaign at roughly $50,000.
The politics of personal destruction have turned into the politics of institutional destruction. No evidence is needed since the real intent is to smear through innuendo and intimidate public figures through guilt by association.
The left could make them pay a price for this by similarly going after the massive rightwing infrastructure and wingnut welfare, but it wouldn’t be polite.
In 2008 Mitt Romney ran a Gumby campaign, turning himself inside out trying to be everything to everybody. He bought in to every straw poll, competed in Iowa, signed most pledges–and lost. This time around, Romney seems intent on avoiding the same mistake. He’s not competing in Iowa any straw polls. He refused to take conservative bait and renounce the landmark health-care plan he pushed through as governor of Massachusetts. In last week’s debate, Romney intimated he might support a quicker withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, outraging GOP hawks. And over the weekend he wrote an op-ed explaining why he’s refusing to sign the Susan B. Anthony List’s pro-life pledge, which earned rebukes from social-conservative rivals Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. Clearly, Romney isn’t aiming for the Tea Party endorsement this time around.
The former Bain Capital CEO is still looking for support from all three legs of Ronald Reagan’s coalition – defense, fiscal and social conservatives. He’s just not going for each group monolithically. If it’s possible, Romney is attempting to run an even more nuanced campaign than in 2008. He’s also trying to shed the flip-flopper label by sticking to his positions this time, even when they anger extreme wings of the party. […]
Can a resolute Romney win the nomination in the era of the Tea Party? It remains to be seen. But if the last few weeks have shown anything, it’s that he’ll need the courage of his convictions to weather the storms and appeal to the center of the party. His strategy of appealing to shorter legs of the stool only works if the base is solid.
Let me start by saying that, on an instinctual almost primordial level, I enjoy partisan red meat as much as the next lefty. But at the same time, it makes me nauseous.
This was my first time attending the annual progressive blogger convention that is Netroots Nation. And I was largely impressed — very thoughtful panels on a variety of important issues and tactics, and some exceptionally fun parties. But two prominent moments left a sour taste in my mouth — and left me wondering if our animosity toward those who don’t perfectly agree with us is, albeit cathartic, ultimately self-defeating.
First, in appearance dubbed as going into “the lion’s den”, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer appeared before the Netroots audience to field hostile questions and, at times, endure booing. Now, should the “professional left” aggressively and passionately push the Obama administration to do more for working families and marginalized communities? Hell yeah! Such critical friendship is the essential balancing act that progressive activists must play when their imperfect allies are in power. Yet for an audience that, according to the Netroots Nation straw poll, is 80% supportive of President Obama and his Administration, the tone of the questioning and the audience response was infinitely more critical than friendly. Writing for the Washington Post, Rachel Weiner described the reception Pfeiffer received as “chilly”. Frankly, I think that’s being generous.
Yet the treatment of Pfeifer may have seemed downright warm and fuzzy compared with the other interesting incident at Netroots Nation — the moment when Andrew Breitbart tried to enter the Netroots exhibit hall. Breitbart, with a throng of supporters and a camera crew and reporters in tow, was confronted by at least one Netroots attendee who proceeded to yell at Breitbart and ask attacking questions. You can watch the video here. Now, are progressives right to be upset that Breitbart has systematically attacked and undermined a number of progressive organizations and leaders? Hell yeah! But does getting in Breitbart’s face and screaming, creating the kind of circus-like atmosphere on which he thrives — and gains further attention — help us or him? Again, it might have felt cathartic. But was it constructive? The fact that one of the leading media stories coming out of Netroots Nation was the left’s hostile response to Breitbart suggests that we didn’t do ourselves any favors.
But what’s more, the juxtaposition of these two events is deeply revealing — suggesting that we on the left often have a hard time respectfully, even cheerfully disagreeing not only with our enemies but even our allies. Which may seem like a naïve point if your goal is to rattle the President’s communications chief or Breitbart. But if your goal is to win over the everyday Americans who watch incidents like these unfold — and who are judging progressives not just on their ideas but their character — like it or not, when we think we may be getting in a cathartic shot or two at others, we’re more likely shooting ourselves in the foot.
A straw poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research showed that 80 percent either approve or strongly approve of the president more than a year before voters head to the polls to decide whether he deserves a second term. The results broke down to 27 percent strongly approving of Obama and 53 percent approving “somewhat.” Thirteen percent said they “somewhat disapprove,” and 7 percent strongly disapprove of the president.
Chris Cillizza has some good news for the Democrats: Unemployment is bad, but it’s less bad in the states they need to win than it is elsewhere:
According to a state-by-state analysis conducted by Matt McDonald, a partner at the GOP-aligned Hamilton Place Strategies, the unemployment rate outpaced the national average in only four swing states last month: Florida, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina. … Those four states will account for 66 electoral votes in 2012. Both parties are likely to target 10 states that have unemployment rates below the national average — Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Those states have a total of 106 electoral votes.
As Chris writes, “that means Obama could lose all four states where unemployment is above the national average and — assuming he can retain the other states he won in 2008 — still win a relatively comfortable reelection with 299 electoral votes.” That said, as you can see from the graph atop this post, the issue here is that the unemployment rate is really, really high, not that the unemployment rate in the swing states is low. The fact that Iowa’s 8.6 percent unemployment rate is being seen as good news of any sort for the administration is evidence of how bad things are out there.
Gutting POTUS’ power: GOP says no recess appointments, no signing statements, & no confirmation votes
“The largest differences in opposition to voting for a Mormon for president are by educational level, with adults who have not attended college more resistant than those with some college experience or college graduates. This educational pattern is seen in attitudes about voting for someone from almost all of the specific religious or demographic groups tested in the poll.”
[ Got me thinking: Why are Jews considered a major religious group at only 1.7% of the US population? Wikipedia: Non-Christian religions (including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism), collectively make up about 3.9% to 5.5% of the adult population. Another 15% of the adult population identifies as having no religious belief or no religious affiliation. ]
By almost a 2:1 margin, the state’s voters are against the Paul Ryan Medicare proposal. Without Ryan’s name or party mentioned, 47% of voters are opposed to seniors receiving a voucher for private insurance, with only 24% in support. At 17-61, Democrats are starkly against the plan, as are independents (22-40), but even Republicans fall only 35- 33 in support. Seniors are the most opposed, with only 18% supporting and 56% opposing the Ryan plan. But the youngest voters, those who would be affected by the plan in 25 years or so, are also very much against it, 24-52.
The Hill Poll finds an overwhelming number of voters — 72% — believe the United States is involved in too many foreign conflicts and should pull back its troops,
Importantly, voters also do not think having U.S. soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq has made the country safer.
“The findings reflect a fatigue with war after a decade dominated by U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan that are now unwinding. War fatigue was also highlighted by House votes last month on Afghanistan in which more Republicans than ever before supported withdrawing U.S. troops immediately.”
The Political Carnival:
Another very good reason to work extra hard for an Obama second term. This is shame the way they were treated.
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court won’t hear an appeal from ACORN, the activist group driven to ruin by scandal and financial woes, over being banned from getting federal funds.
The high court on Monday refused to review a federal court’s decision to uphold Congress’s ban on federal funds for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
Congress cut off ACORN’s federal funding last year in response to allegations the group engaged in voter registration fraud and embezzlement and violated the tax-exempt status of some of its affiliates by engaging in partisan political activities.
ACORN sued, but the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City upheld the action. The high court refused to hear its appeal.
Justice Clarence Thomas is an ethics problem in a black robe. Just eight months after ThinkProgress broke the story of Thomas’ attendance at a Koch-sponsored political fundraiser, we learn that Thomas doesn’t just do unethical favors for wealthy right-wing donors — they also do expensive favors for him.
Leading conservative donor Harlan Crow, whose company often litigates in federal court, provided $500,000 to allow Thomas’s wife to start a Tea Party group and he once gave Thomas a $19,000 Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass. The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank which frequently files briefs in Thomas’ Court, also gave Thomas a $15,000 gift.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because America has seen this movie before. Indeed, the Thomas scandal is little more than a remake of the forty year-old gifting scandal that brought down Justice Abe Fortas. Like Thomas, Fortas liked to associate with wealthy individuals with potential business before his Court. And like Thomas, Fortas took inappropriate gifts from his wealthy benefactors.
Fortas’ questionable gifts first came out when President Johnson nominated him for a promotion to Chief Justice of the United States in 1968. Fortas had accepted $15,000 to lead seminars at American University — far more than the university normally paid for such services — and the payments were bankrolled by the leaders of frequent corporate litigants including the vice president of Phillip Morris. Fortas survived this revelation, although his nomination for the Chief Justiceship was filibustered into oblivion.
Just a year later, the country learned that Fortas took another highly questionable gift. In 1966, one year after Fortas joined the Court, stock speculator Louis E. Wolfson’s foundation began paying Fortas an annual retainer of $20,000 per year for consulting services. Fortas’ actions were legal, and he eventually returned the money after Wolfson was convicted of securities violations and recused himself from Wolfson’s case, but the damage to Fortas — and the potential harm to the Supreme Court’s reputation — were too great. Fortas resigned in disgrace.
It is difficult to distinguish Fortas’ scandal from Thomas’. Like Fortas, Thomas accepted several very valuable gifts from parties who are frequently interested in the outcome of federal court cases. One of Thomas’ benefactors has even filed briefs in his Court since giving Thomas a $15,000 gift, and Thomas has not recused himself from each of these cases.
Of course, Thomas is also the least likely Justice to actually follow the command of precedent. Thomas embraces a discredited theory of the Constitution which would return America to a time when federal child labor laws were considered unconstitutional. His fellow justices criticize him for showing “utter disregard for our precedent and Congress’ intent.” Even ultra-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia finds Thomas’ approach to the law too extreme — in Scalia’s words “I am a textualist. I am an originalist. I am not a nut.”
But Thomas’ disregard for what has come before him changes nothing about the precedent he faces. If Abe Fortas had to resign his seat, so too should Clarence Thomas.
In several instances, news reports of Mr. Crow’s largess provoked controversy and questions, adding fuel to a rising debate about Supreme Court ethics. But Mr. Crow’s financing of the museum, his largest such act of generosity, previously unreported, raises the sharpest questions yet — both about Justice Thomas’s extrajudicial activities and about the extent to which the justices should remain exempt from the code of conduct for federal judges.
Although the Supreme Court is not bound by the code, justices have said they adhere to it. Legal ethicists differed on whether Justice Thomas’s dealings with Mr. Crow pose a problem under the code. But they agreed that one facet of the relationship was both unusual and important in weighing any ethical implications: Justice Thomas’s role in Mr. Crow’s donation for the museum.
The code says judges “should not personally participate” in raising money for charitable endeavors, out of concern that donors might feel pressured to give or entitled to favorable treatment from the judge. In addition, judges are not even supposed to know who donates to projects honoring them.
While the nonprofit Pin Point museum is not intended to honor Justice Thomas, people involved in the project said his role in the community’s history would inevitably be part of it, and he participated in a documentary film that is to accompany the exhibits.
Deborah L. Rhode, a Stanford University law professor who has called for stricter ethics rules for Supreme Court justices, said Justice Thomas “should not be directly involved in fund-raising activities, no matter how worthy they are or whether he’s being centrally honored by the museum.”
On the other hand, the restriction on fund-raising is primarily meant to deter judges from using their position to pressure donors, as opposed to relying on “a rich friend” like Mr. Crow, said Ronald D. Rotunda, who teaches legal ethics at Chapman University in California.
“I don’t think I could say it’s unethical,” he said. “It’s just a very peculiar situation.”
Justice Thomas, through a Supreme Court spokeswoman, declined to respond to a detailed set of questions submitted by The New York Times. Mr. Crow also would not comment.
Supreme Court ethics have been under increasing scrutiny, largely because of the activities of Justice Thomas and Ms. Thomas, whose group, Liberty Central, opposed President Obama’s health care overhaul — an issue likely to wind up before the court. Mr. Crow’s donation to Liberty Central was reported by Politico.
With the dismissal of a sex-discrimination lawsuit brought on behalf of 1.5 million women who have worked at Wal-Mart, the Supreme Court on Monday significantly tightened the rules for how a large group of individuals can join together to sue a company for alleged harm done to them.
The court’s decision will not just make it harder to bring big, ambitious employment class-action cases asserting discrimination based on sex, race or other factors, legal experts said. In the majority opinion, the court set higher barriers for bringing several types of nationwide class actions against a large company with many branches.
In its majority opinion, the court essentially said that if lawyers brought a nationwide class action against an employer, they would have to offer strong evidence of a nationwide practice or policy that hurt the class. In the Wal-Mart case, the court wrote that the plaintiffs had not demonstrated that Wal-Mart had any nationwide policies or practices that discriminated against women. The opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, noted that Wal-Mart’s official corporate policy opposed discrimination, while the company gave the managers at its more than 3,400 stores considerable discretion over pay and promotions.
“In a company of Wal-Mart’s size and geographical scope, it is quite unbelievable that all managers would exercise their discretion in a common way without some common direction,” Justice Scalia wrote.
Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law Center, said similar reasoning might make it tougher for plaintiffs to bring a class action against a mortgage lender accusing it of having a nationwide policy of defrauding borrowers. “A big mortgage broker might say, ‘At the national level, we have policies to abide by all of the rules and regulations that are applicable, and we delegate a lot of discretion to our branches,’ ” she said.
The ruling was widely hailed by business groups, some of which filed amicus briefs urging the court to limit class actions.
“We applaud the Supreme Court for affirming that mega-class actions such as this one are completely inconsistent with federal law,” said Robin S. Conrad, executive vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center. “Too often the class-action device is twisted and abused to force businesses to choose between settling meritless lawsuits or potentially facing financial ruin.”
The ruling will push plaintiffs’ lawyers into filing fewer huge class actions and more cases on behalf of individuals or smaller groups, lawyers said. That will raise costs and give lawyers less incentive to take on class actions and other complex litigation. The Wal-Mart case, for example, has stretched for a decade, with lawyers and the legal foundation that brought the case expecting to receive some portion of the back pay for 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart employees if they eventually won the case in court or reached a settlement.
The Supreme Court decision “strikes a blow to those who face discrimination in the workplace to be able to join together and hold companies, especially large companies, accountable for the full range of discrimination they may be responsible for,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.
In his opinion, Justice Scalia said it was unacceptable to allow employment discrimination lawsuits to proceed as huge class actions when monetary awards would be based on a broad formula per plaintiff, without having an individual assessment of how much each plaintiff had suffered.
He wrote that to allow that to happen in the Wal-Mart case, the largest employment class action in American history, would have been hugely unfair to Wal-Mart because it might have had to pay out damages without many of the plaintiffs demonstrating how much they were injured.
Paul Grossman, a lawyer in Los Angeles for the Paul Hastings firm who represents many employers, including Wal-Mart, in employment lawsuits, said employers were seeing many unmeritorious class-action cases. “Now you need a real class action with similarly situated people where common issues predominate,” he said.
All nine Justices today agreed on a legal point about whether the women suing Wal-Mart count as a single class. It’s where they disagreed, 5-4 along ideological lines, that matters — namely, whether you can have a discriminated class without a written policy of discrimination. Guess which side all three female justices were on?
The decision was unanimous when it came to whether the plaintiffs, who were trying to sue on behalf of a broad swath of women who worked at Wal-Mart since 1998, had “improperly sued under a part of the class action rules that was not primarily concerned with monetary claims,” as The Times put it.
But Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion lost four justices — former civil rights attorney Ruth Bader Ginsburg, plus Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer — when he argued that there could be no class that was discriminated against because there was no written policy covering them all:
The conceptual gap between an individual’s discrimination claim and “the existence of a class of persons who have suffered the same injury,”…must be bridged by “[s]ignificant proof that an employer operated under a general policy of discrimination,”…Such proof is absent here. Wal-Mart’s announced policy forbids sex discrimination, and the company has penalties for denials of equal opportunity. Respondents’ only evidence of a general discrimination policy was a sociologist’s analysis asserting that WalMart’s corporate culture made it vulnerable to gender bias.
The contempt dripping from Scalia’s pen every time he mentions that sociologist is palpable. Also, the plaintiffs cited the fact that promotion decisions are made at the individual level by managers as an engine of discrimination, but Scalia saw in it the opposite: “Wal-Mart has no testing procedure or other companywide evaluation method that can be charged with bias….The whole point of permitting discretionary decisionmaking is to avoid evaluating employees under a common standard.”
Indeed, he seems to have unyielding faith in that discretionary decision-making:
To the contrary, left to their own devices most managers in any corporation—and surely most managers in a corporation that forbids sex discrimination—would select sex-neutral, performance-based criteria for hiring and promotion that produce no actionable disparity at all.
This is a novel trap: Because clearly individuals don’t discriminate against a class of people — say, women who they think are less likely to be competent or committed — and nothing is on the books, systemic discrimination must not exist. Case closed!
Of course, Ginsburg and her Democratic-appointed colleagues saw it differently. In arguing that they would have sent the plaintiffs to a lower court and try the case under different rules, Ginsburg pointed out, “Women fill 70 percent of the hourly jobs in the retailer’s stores but make up only 33 percent of management employees,” and that “the plaintiffs’ ‘largely uncontested descriptive statistics’ also show that women working in the company’s stores ‘are paid less than men in every region’ and ‘that the salary gap widens over time even for men and women hired into the same jobs at the same time.” Those are a lot of individual decisions that have nothing to do with each other.
And Ginsburg didn’t have nearly as rosy view of what world the individual decisions, influenced by a top-down culture, would create:
Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware. The risk of discrimination is heightened when those managers are predominantly of one sex, and are steeped in a corporate culture that perpetuates gender stereotypes.”
In the world depicted by Scalia, Thomas, Alito, Roberts, and Kennedy, systemic discrimination only exists when written down or with a distinct policy, which in today’s lawyered world is an exceedingly high standard. Ladies, you’re on your own.
The Supreme Court held today that a coalition of states, New York City and private land trusts could not use common-law nuisance suits to cap the emission of carbon dioxide by various power companies and the federal Tennessee Valley Authority. Such suits, the Court held, were preempted by the authority given to the federal government to regulate greenhouse gasses under the federal Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking processes.
The Court was unanimous in result, with Justice Ginsburg writing for the majority and Justices Alito and Thomas in a separate concurrence (with no affect on the outcome). (Justice Sotomayor recused herself after having participated in the case on the Second Circuit at an earlier stage.) The Court did split 4-4 on whether the plaintiffs had standing to pursue this matter at all, and a tie on the Court means that the prevailing party below (the plaintiffs) prevails.
Justice Ginsburg for the Court, explains why federal law displaces state action:
In the cases on which the plaintiffs heavily rely, States were permitted to sue to challenge activity harmful to their citizens’ health and welfare. We have not yet decided whether private citizens (here, the land trusts) or political subdivisions (New York City) of a State may invoke the federal common law of nuisance to abate out-of-state pollution. Nor have we ever held that a State may sue to abate any and all manner of pollution originating outside its borders…. We need not address the parties’ dispute in this regard. For it is an academic question whether, in the absence of the Clean Air Act and the EPA actions the Act authorizes, the plaintiffs could state a federal common law claim for curtailment of greenhouse gas emissions because of their contribution to global warming. Any such claim would be displaced by the federal legislation authorizing EPA to regulate carbon-dioxide emissions.
“[W]hen Congress addresses a question previously governed by a decision rested on federal common law,” the Court has explained, “the need for such an unusual exercise of law-making by federal courts disappears.” Legislative displacement of federal common law does not require the “same sort of evidence of a clear and manifest [congressional] purpose” demanded for preemption of state law.“ [D]ue regard for the presuppositions of our embracing federal system … as a promoter of democracy” does not enter the calculus, for it is primarily the office of Congress, not the federal courts, to prescribe national policy in areas of special federal interest. The test for whether congressional legislation excludes the declaration of federal common law is simply whether the statute “speak[s] directly to [the] question” at issue.
We hold that the Clean Air Act and the EPA actions it authorizes displace any federal common law right to seek abatement of carbon-dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants. Massachusetts v EPA made plain that emissions of carbon dioxide qualify as air pollution subject to regulation under the Act. And we think it equally plain that the Act “speaks directly” to emissions of carbon dioxide from the defendants’ plants.
And that the EPA hasn’t actually moved against defendants’ greenhouse gas emissions yet isn’t enough to change this:
If the plaintiffs in this case are dissatisfied with the outcome of EPA’s forthcoming rulemaking, their recourse under federal law is to seek Court of Appeals review, and, ultimately, to petition for certiorari in this Court.
Indeed, this prescribed order of decisionmaking—the first decider under the Act is the expert administrative agency, the second, federal judges—is yet another reason to resist setting emissions standards by judicial decree under federal tort law. The appropriate amount of regulation in any particular greenhouse gas-producing sector cannot be prescribed in a vacuum: as with other questions of national or international policy, informed assessment of competing interests is required. Along with the environmental benefit potentially achievable, our Nation’s energy needs and the possibility of economic disruption must weigh in the balance.
The Clean Air Act entrusts such complex balancing to EPA in the first instance, in combination with state regulators.
If the government is going to tackle global warming, it starts with the EPA and Congress — not the Courts.
The president of the Christian conservative Family Policy Network — a group best known for confronting attendees at gay pride events about Jesus’ power to cure homosexuality — sent a letter to Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) today calling on him to follow the lead of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and resign. Vitter admitted to frequenting prostitutes in 2007, but did not step down and, unlike Weiner, never faced much pressure from his own party to do so. Family Policy Network President Joe Glover added in his letter that Republicans “are committing outright hypocrisy” as long Vitter remains in office, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports:
“There are a lot of people that I think are committing outright hypocrisy and are forced to do so as long as he (Vitter) remains in office,” said Joe Glover, the president of the Family Policy Network, based in Forest, Va. “I don’t think the senator should put those folks in the untenable position of having to pragmatically defend his presence in the Senate.”
Glover noted, for example, that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, had called on Weiner to resign, but had also contributed to Vitter’s 2010 re-election campaign.
An article that will be posted on the group’s website tomorrow asks, “So what did Republican leaders do about Senator Vitter? They let him off the hook.” The article continues, “[T]he public’s perception of Vitter as a sleazy, hypocritical Christian only served to tarnish the name of Christ among unbelievers.”
At Netroots Nation [last week] Dan Choi was approached by Organizing for America volunteer Nick Tschida, an organizer at one of Minnesota’s legislative districts who working hard against a proposed state constitutional amendment in Minnesota to ban same sex marriages that will be up for a popular vote in 2012. So instead of giving this man kudos and shoring up support in favor of the effort to defeat the ban, Dan Choi insulted and humiliated the OFA volunteer by ripping up his Obama and yelling at him. The problem? Nick Tschida mentioned that he wasn’t sure he supported full marriage equality.
Yes, it’s painful to hear from one of the people who are working on our side that they are not sure of their support for marriage equality. But that is no excuse for us not to recognize the hard work people are doing to keep discrimination and bigotry from being written into the Constitutions of our states. Whether this volunteer believes in marriage equality or not, he and OFA are working hard for the cause of marriage equality by organizing against such a discriminatory amendment.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
Forty-four years ago this past weekend, a group of musicians, impresarios, and true believers in the nascent, acid-soaked counterculture of San Francisco staged the Monterey International Pop Music Festival. Billed as three days of “Music, Love, and Flowers,” Monterey mixed 32 musical acts and an arts exposition with elements of a political rally and a church service, sparking a revolution. It was the first true rock festival—progenitor of and template for every one that followed, from Woodstock two years later to this month’s Bonnaroo.
Musically, Monterey was a jailbreak—a creative explosion. There had never been a festival line-up so varied, with room for Johnny Rivers’ rockabilly, Hugh Masekela’s trumpet, and Ravi Shankar’s sitar. By embracing such a stunning range of musicians, and by giving instant legends like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and The Who national exposure for the first time, Monterey announced that rock had come of age as a serious art form. Monterey declared that it was in rock music, not jazz, where the most innovative musicians were to be found; that it was in rock, not folk, where the growing youth protest movements would find a voice; and it was rock stars, not poets, painters, authors, filmmakers or any other sort of artist who would be most effective at communicating new, counter-cultural values to mainstream American society.
That communication could be explicit, like when Country Joe McDonald sang his antiwar protest, the “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag.” Or it could be implied, like with the long hair, love beads, and phosphorescent wardrobe of MC Brian Jones, all of which seemed a calculated assault on middle-class values. Or Janis Joplin, who took the stage and embodied the liberated woman in all her passionate contradictions, living feminism in way that academics like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan could only describe.
But the festival also marked the debut of a new national archetype—an entirely new stock character in the American repertoire soon to be as iconic, and arguably as influential, as the cowboy, quarterback, or frontiersman in a coonskin cap. At Monterey, the world met the hippie, who lived by the newborn creed of Flower Power in the experimental communities rising in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, perhaps best exemplified by the colorful, placid, and often communally-minded fans of the Grateful Dead. Before the festival, hippies were a few thousand denizens of one neighborhood in a medium-sized city. After Monterey, hippies and their sensibility would become a global phenomenon.
For most of the United States, the middle of 1967 would be known as “The Long, Hot Summer,” with race riots breaking out in seemingly incongruous cities like Buffalo and Tampa. Not so in San Francisco, where the success of Monterey and subsequent media attention set off the famed “Summer of Love,” a mass migration of nearly 100,000 young people who converged on Haight-Ashbury, many sporting flowers as instructed by Scott McKenzie’s saccharine rendition of “San Francisco.”
Kathleen Kennedy Townsend:
[…] For the Greeks, excellence could be manifest only in a city or a community. Since human beings were political animals, the best way to exercise virtue and justice was within the institutions of a great city (the polis). Only beasts and gods could live alone. A solitary person was not fully human. In fact, the Greek word “idiot” means a private person, someone who is not engaged in public life. It was only in a fair and just society that can men and women could be fully human–and happy.
This is what the American Revolution was all about. Jefferson declared that the pursuit of happiness was an inalienable right, along with life and liberty. The story goes that Jefferson, on the advice of Benjamin Franklin, substituted the phrase “pursuit of happiness” for the word “property,” which was favored by George Mason. Franklin thought that “property” was too narrow a notion.
But what exactly did “happiness” mean to the colonists? It was a topic of lively discussion in pubs, public squares, broadsheets, and books. Was happiness individual prosperity, or something else?
Conservatives argue that the American Revolution exalted the individual. Certainly, the colonists didn’t want the British Crown telling them what to do. But the Revolution wasn’t just about getting the government out of people’s lives so the Founders could pursue their private desires.
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had nice houses. They could have enjoyed contented private lives. But it was not just about their property. They believed that you attained happiness, not merely through the goods you accumulated, or in your private life, but through the good that you did in public. People were happy when they controlled their destiny, when their voice was heard, when they participated in public events, when the government did not do things to them, or even for them, but with them.
The American revolutionaries wanted to have their voice heard and to participate in government. After all, their slogan was not “No taxation”–which is such a popular rallying cry today–but “No taxation without representation.” Representation was critical to happiness. The Founders’ long recitation of grievances set out the numerous ways in which they couldn’t control their destiny. They were subject to England, while they wished to be citizens of America. As citizens, they were able to take control of their government and create a just state where the rule of law was respected, domestic tranquility assured, and defense maintained.
As political animals, human beings need a city, a nation, in which to flourish. People can develop their talents only in society. The good society nurtures many talents, and the political system makes that possible by what it rewards and encourages. […]
There is still much to be done. We need to create and sustain jobs that let men and women say to their community, to their family, to their country, and most important, to themselves, “I helped to build this city. I am a participant in its great public ventures. I count.”
It’s not only through our jobs but through participating in public life that we help build the city. In fact, research shows that people who take part in political activities such as voting, advocating for laws, and helping to make government work for themselves and their community are happier than those who don’t.
At the moment, unfortunately, few people would regard building the city as a source of happiness, even when they’re doing it. A few weeks ago, I was at a political event in Washington. Over 12,000 people from all over the country had come to participate. When I asked the woman who was standing next to me what made her happy, she described the purchase of a lovely piece of pottery. She never thought of saying, “Standing here, working for my country, making my mark on American policy.” Yet she had devoted hundreds of hours to doing just that. She simply did not see what she was doing. She didn’t have a name for it.
Surveys won’t give her the answer. Only thoughtful discussions of the true meaning of happiness and prosperity will awaken people to what it is that really fulfills them and will give them the words to describe it.
HOLD THE MEDIA ACCOUNTABLE AND DEMAND GOOD JOURNALISM
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Media Activism Groups: Find out what’s going on around the country and in your area.
Online News Sources: Where to keep up with the news
Challenging Hate Radio: A Guide For Activists. Some tips on documenting hate speech, and what activists can do about it.
Starting today, you and other ProPublica readers can share essential watchdog reporting with our reporters and readers using our newest feature, #MuckReads.
#MuckReads will curate the day’s essential accountability stories, discovered and shared by our reporters and editors, and readers like you—stories about the abuse of prisoners, the education levels of our country’s legislators and the laundering of public funds. Our mission is to do journalism that has real-world impact, and we’re especially keen to find and promote work from others that has the same impetus.
Since ProPublica launched—three years ago almost to the day—we have been highlighting the best investigative and accountability journalism around the Web. #MuckReads is the next evolution of our “Investigations Elsewhere” feature (an archive of “Investigations Elsewhere” is available).
#MuckReads is primarily Twitter-driven, at least at the outset. You can contribute by simply including the hashtag #MuckReads when you tweet an article. (Here’s an example.) If you don’t use Twitter, just email your recommendation to [email protected]. We will look through your recommendations and add our favorites to the #MuckReads page, ProPublica’s homepage, and to our daily email. We will also retweet favorites from @ProPublica—all giving full credit to you.
Even though our feature’s name has the word “reads” in it, we are interested in everything: stories, interactive graphics and databases, comics, podcasts, video, etc. What matters is that the journalism is essential, excellent and focused on holding the powerful to account. We also hope to turn the flow of recommendations into an ongoing newsroom resource.
Your participation is key to making #MuckReads a success. Be ruthlessly discriminating. Evaluate a reporter’s assumptions and arguments. Local stories suggestive of larger, perhaps national, problems make great #MuckReads candidates.
We believe strongly in giving credit where credit is due and intend that #MuckReads will provide a transparent way to share your recommendations with our newsroom and readers. The images below show how that will work: On the right is what a published recommendation looks like on #MuckReads. The image on the left shows a recommendation on ProPublica’s homepage.
#MuckReads was inspired by Mark Armstrong’s @Longreads, a community-driven effort to aggregate the best long-form journalism on the web. Since @Longreads launched, we have actively contributed to its stockpile of stories, tweeting our favorite long-form journalism with the hashtag #longreads. Our experience participating in @Longreads led us to rethink our Investigations Elsewhere feature.
#MuckReads is an experiment in social aggregation. The feature as you see it is just the beginning. We’ve got big plans for feature upgrades and integration with Facebook, but first we want to see what works and what needs more tinkering. If you have suggestions or find problems, please email me a note or tweet @ProPublica.
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. Our work focuses exclusively on truly important stories, stories with “moral force.” We do this by producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them.
Investigative journalism is at risk. Many news organizations have increasingly come to see it as a luxury. Today’s investigative reporters lack resources: Time and budget constraints are curbing the ability of journalists not specifically designated “investigative” to do this kind of reporting in addition to their regular beats. This is therefore a moment when new models are necessary to carry forward some of the great work of journalism in the public interest that is such an integral part of self-government, and thus an important bulwark of our democracy.
The business crisis in publishing and — not unrelated — the revolution in publishing technology are having a number of wide-ranging effects. Among these are that the creation of original journalism in the public interest, and particularly the form that has come to be known as “investigative reporting,” is being squeezed down, and in some cases out.
ProPublica is led by Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. Stephen Engelberg, a former managing editor of The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon and former investigative editor of The New York Times, is ProPublica’s managing editor. Richard Tofel, the former assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal, is general manager.
ProPublica is headquartered in Manhattan. Its establishment was announced in October 2007. Operations commenced in January 2008, and publishing began in June 2008.
NewsTrust helps people find and share good journalism online, so they can make more informed decisions as citizens.
Our nonprofit news service provides a wide range of tools that empower citizens to access quality news and information — and learn to separate fact from fiction about important public issues. We promote good journalism, news literacy and civic engagement — and we welcome donations to support our service. […]
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