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The heads of the nation’s top companies got the biggest raises in recent memory last year after taking a hiatus during the recession.
At a time most employees can barely remember their last substantial raise, median CEO pay jumped 27% in 2010 as the executives’ compensation started working its way back to prerecession levels, a USA TODAY analysis of data from GovernanceMetrics International found. Workers in private industry, meanwhile, saw their compensation grow just 2.1% in the 12 months ended December 2010, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Securities and Exchange Commission might have quietly overhauled the cybersecurity practices of every single publicly traded company that has an online network in the United States with a new set of guidelines it introduced on Thursday night, potentially paving the way for a flood of lawsuits against companies that fail to disclose to investors their cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities.
The new “CF Disclosure Guidance” document, posted Thursday online, isn’t “rule, regulation, or statement,” as the SEC takes care to point out in the opening section. It also doesn’t necessitate that companies list in detail every single risk or vulnerability, only those that present material risks – i.e. a potential for huge financial losses. The SEC doesn’t want companies to list every risk though because it is concerned about providing attackers with a “roadmap” for future attacks.
But if companies are found to have not broadly disclosed material cyber risks, the new guidance could be used as the basis of lawsuits from shareholders in the wake of expensive company data security breaches, such as the infamous hacking and month-long down time of the Sony Playstation Network in April, which cost Sony an estimated $170 million dollars.
Only drastic measures will save the U.S. and Europe from decades of devastating slump, a sweeping new economic proposal argues. Read the details. Plus, top economists give The Daily Beast their reactions.
[…] Policymakers and economists, according to the paper, have seen the crisis as a particularly severe “downturn”: uncomfortable, sure, but a natural part of the ebb and flow of capitalism. Alpert, Hockett, and Roubini think this view is catastrophically wrong. Instead, the current economic mess represents the simultaneous explosion of several trends that have radically destabilized the U.S. and Europe and shifted the advantage to “high-savings, export-oriented” economies such as China’s. “Fiscal demand stimulation,” things like Obama’s stimulus and his new jobs plan, are designed to give quick, temporary jolts to the economy. But they don’t stand a chance against the devastation wrought by the largest, most destructive global credit bubble in 70 years, and by the arrival of 2 billion new workers—mostly in Asia—in the world marketplace.
This confluence of destructive trends in Western economies and strong challenges posed by the rise of Eastern economies has brought the U.S. and Europe to a moment of truth in which political and monetary decisions will affect the lives of their citizens for decades. Alpert, Hockett, and Roubini argue that only an expansive program of forward-looking investment and backward-looking reform will change what has become a bleak long-term outlook. “Current economic conditions call for a much different kind of recovery program than those proposed or attempted thus far—one that is more sustained, more substantial, more concentrated, and more strategically aimed at creating new sources of growth,” they write. […]
The proposal is divided into three “pillars”:
1. An expansive five-year infrastructure investment. “U.S. public infrastructure is in a shambles, and is rapidly deteriorating,” the authors warn. We spend only 3 percent of our GDP on infrastructure, while China spends 9 percent, an investment that has vast economic returns. Aside from costing the economy billions in lost growth, many of the problems with American roads, tunnels, bridges, and other infrastructure are subject to “cost-acceleration,” meaning problems get exponentially more expensive to fix the longer repairs are postponed. Because so many Americans are unemployed and so many resources are idle right now, making the necessary restorations will never again be as cheap as it is now. The authors propose spending $1.2 trillion in addition to what the government has already budgeted to bring the total up to the bare minimum $2.2 trillion over the next five years.
2. Debt restructuring. The U.S. economy desperately needs to reduce debts at both the individual and the governmental level, or what the authors call “de-lever.” But saving to pay down debt contracts the economy and has the potential to push the recession so deep that paying off debt will be impossible. A complex, modern economy cannot save or cut its way out of a recession, and inflation—another way to reduce debts—has very dangerous risks. So the only option left is to restructure debt: debt will have to be adjusted and in some cases forgiven, and lenders will have to accept losses on loans they never should have made. Heavy indebtedness in relation to assets leads to the dire example the authors hope the U.S. can avoid—the “debt-deflationary” experience of modern Japan.
3. Global rebalancing. Alpert, Hockett, and Roubini say that none of the domestic reforms they advocate will matter “without complementary global reforms” by the G-20 and the International Monetary Fund, among others. The basic framework of these types of agreements has been international orthodoxy for a while: indebted nations like the U.S. and the U.K. need to reduce their deficits through tax increases and spending cuts, and high-surplus economies like China and Germany have to pick up the slack by expanding domestic demand. But the authors propose a more complex global rebalancing scheme, in which the U.S. shifts its demand from public consumption to more direct government-driven job creation, and emerging nations like China will be urged to continue their development into modern welfare states.
A program this large will inevitably raise concerns about the government bearing the financial burden, but the authors dismiss this as a “short-sighted” response to their proposal. “The program we are suggesting should be seen as taking advantage of a historically unique opportunity to put idle capital and labor to rebuild our economy at an extremely low cost and with potentially high returns, given the slack of the economy.” Because the economy is in such miserable shape, the government has a rare opportunity to remodel it cheaply—a project that would more than pay for itself when things, one hopes, get better.
[…] In a speech Friday morning, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton laid out State’s strategy for developing tools of “economic statecraft,” which is designed both to expand its involvement in the economic arena and increase Foggy Bottom’s role in the administration’s overall jobs agenda. […]
The new office is one piece of State’s drive to increase its focus on the interrelationship between economic policy and national security policy, Hormats said. He is also overseeing a host of new economic engagement programs, including the expansion of cooperation with chambers of commerce abroad, which is intended to boost both exports and foreign direct investment in the United States.
Another new initiative, which focuses on sub-national dialogue, will set up meetings between U.S. governors and provincial governors around the world. The first country this program is being applied to is China. Next week, Hormats will lead a delegation of six U.S. governors to meet with six Chinese provincial chairmen in Beijing.
“Our goal is to have more and more interchange between American governors and Chinese provincial leaders,” Hormats said. “And then we’re going to do the same thing with India, and we are thinking about doing something similar with Russia.”
[…]But on Friday, Murdoch made an altogether different sort of appearance in the US, headlining an education summit hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Murdoch has taken a sudden interest in the plight of poor American school children languishing in substandard schools, which he says have lower standards than “American Idol.” Of course, Murdoch’s interest in public schools seems mostly because of the money to be made there. He’s said that he sees the American education sector as a $500 billion market that’s largely been untapped by companies like his. News Corp. ventured into this world last year by purchasing the ed tech company Wireless Generation and hiring former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein.
But on Friday, Murdoch was all reformer, even though his speech was frequently interrupted by hecklers from Occupy Wall Street and elsewhere who yelled that he is “the worst thing that ever happened to education.” As the owner of Fox News, Murdoch didn’t seem much fazed by the disruptions. He went on to cite the now-familiar and dismal statistics about how few American high school graduates leave school prepared to do college-level work. “In truth, it’s the kind of number you would expect from a Third World country,” Murdoch said, prompting more boos and heckling.
As the cure for what ails the public schools, Murdoch invoked his “good friend Steve Jobs” as inspiration for how the country ought to approach school reform, even making classrooms look more like Apple stores. […]
Invoking the recently departed Jobs was a smart move by Murdoch. After all, although the public education establishment might recoil in horror at the idea of News Corp. getting into the classroom, few Americans see Apple that way. Apple and Jobs don’t carry any of the baggage that News Corp and Murdoch do. Apple is the quintessential technology company, beloved as the maker of the iPod and the instigator of creative destruction. If Apple ran the schools, things might be different, Murdoch argued. But Rupert Murdoch is no Steve Jobs. He’s the former employer of Glenn Beck. The protests during his speech suggest that he’s going to have a difficult time convincing the education establishment that he’s serious about the poor African-American and Latino students he cited in his speech and not simply looking to move some high-tech version Fox News Inc. into the public classroom.
According to Jim Hanna, the company’s sustainability director, bean farmers already have seen the effects of climate change, including changing rainfall patterns, severe weather, and the presence of new pests. Hanna announced Friday:
What we are really seeing as a company as we look 10, 20, 30 years down the road — if conditions continue as they are — is a potentially significant risk to our supply chain.[…]
In an open letter to climate change deniers and skeptics, Pacific Institute CEO Peter Gleick alerts us to another necessity of life that could go away as a result of climate change, writing:
It now appears that on top of all of the other potentially catastrophic, costly, damaging, or dangerous impacts of human-caused climate change, there is a very serious risk that it will threaten the production of chocolate.
Gleick points to a new analysis by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research that has found that as temperatures continue to rise and rainfall patterns change, the world will suffer a massive loss of area needed to grow cocoa.
As a result of stimulus spending and increased funding through the 2010 health-care law, the number of clinicians participating in a federal program to expand access to care in under-served communities has nearly tripled in the past three years.
About 10,000 doctors, nurses and other providers now participate in the National Health Service Corps, the highest number since the program was established in 1972, according to figures released by the Obama administration Thursday.
Officials estimated that the corps is serving about 10.5 million patients.
Since the 2009 fiscal year, the program has awarded medical professionals nearly $900 million in scholarships, loan repayments and other financial incentives in exchange for a commitment to provide two or more years of service in both rural and urban sites where clinicians are scarce. The new health-care law provided $290 million of that funding.
A federal appeals court on Friday blocked parts of a controversial Alabama immigration law.
The provisions that were enjoined — section 10 and section 28 — make it a crime for illegal immigrants to not have proper documentation and also make Alabama schools track the immigration status of their students.
But the court did not stop Alabama from enforcing a provision of the law which allows officials to ask for identification during a normal stop if there’s “reasonable suspicion” the suspect is in the country illegally.
The appeals court also didn’t stop Alabama from enforcing section 18, which allows the state to detainee anyone who is arrested for driving without a license if they are found to be in the country illegally. Alabama is also still allowed to not enforce contracts with illegal immigrants, with limited exceptions.
Section 30, which makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to engage in any “business transaction” with the state of Alabama, also was not enjoined by the court.
The Justice Department said in a statement that they were “pleased that the Eleventh Circuit has blocked Alabama’s registration provisions which criminalized unlawful presence and chilled access to a public education.” But they said they continue to believe “that the other key provisions we challenged are also preempted, and we look forward to the upcoming consideration by the court of appeals of the merits of the appeal.”
The development comes as a senior Justice Department official visits Alabama, where he said that the law was leading to dropouts and absenteeism in the state’s schools and that federal officials have gotten reports of bullying against Latino students.
U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance also said that federal officials had talked to people concerned about “vigilante enforcement of the law by private citizens.”
If Herman Cain becomes president, he’ll build an electrified border fence that could kill Mexicans who try to illegally cross into the U.S., the Republican candidate said Saturday.
“It’s going to be 20 feet high. It’s going to have barbed wire on the top. It’s going to be electrified. And there’s going to be a sign on the other side saying, ‘It will kill you — Warning,’” Cain said, according to the New York Times. He also said the sign would be “in English and in Spanish.” The newspaper continued:
Mr. Cain, speaking at a Tea Party-sponsored rally in Tennessee, made some of his most pointed remarks yet on the issue. He said he might use military troops “with real guns and real bullets” to stop intruders.
Responding to anyone who might consider his remarks “insensitive,” Mr. Cain said the real fault lies with some illegal immigrants. “It’s insensitive for them to be killing our citizens, killing our border agents,” he said. “That’s what’s insensitive. And that mess has to stop.”
Late update: Cain said on Meet the Press that the plan was “a joke.”
“You’ve seen very, very dramatic enforcement actions already by the enforcement authorities across the U.S. government, and I’m sure you’re going to see more to come. You should stay tuned for that,” he said.
Progressive groups have often pushed for Wall Street CEOs to be prosecuted for the financial crisis of 2008.
“I think there are some investigations — hopefully, they will lead to criminal charges, but what I think the average American is saying is that if a kid smokes marijuana, that kid could end up in jail. These people [on Wall Street], because of their activity, destroyed the economy. Millions of people lost their jobs, their homes, their life savings, and now they’re making more than they ever did before,” said independent Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last month on CNN.
Geithner Friday said the Obama administration had moved swiftly after the crisis to put into place new protections for consumers and investors.
“We moved very quickly to put in place a much stronger set of rules of the game across the financial sector. Now, we’re now facing a lot of resistance to those rules, but we’re going to make sure that we deliver the promise of those reforms, which is a much tougher set of rules across the system against risk-taking and much stronger protections for consumers,” he said.
Geithner responded to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations by asserting that their unhappiness was due to the sluggish pace of overall economic growth.
“What you see is a general sense across the country of concern that the U.S. economy is not growing faster, you’re not seeing incomes rise more rapidly, and people want to make sure that the government, Washington, is acting to make things better now. As part of that, they want to see us deliver much stronger protections for consumers and investors as an economy as a whole,” Geithner said on CNBC.
The Treasury Secretary added that the domestic focus was to ensure that Congress would take steps that would encourage economic growth and lower the deficit.
“What we’re focused on is trying to make sure that we are doing everything to encourage Congress. … to take some steps now that can make growth stronger in the United States, and tie that to reforms to bring down our long-term deficits,” he said.
Geithner’s comments about a new round of “enforcement actions” comes as Raj Rajaratnam, the former head of the Galleon Group hedge fund, was sentenced to 11 years in prison Thursday for insider trading — the strictest sentence ever for that crime.
Presidential candidate debates have a significant impact not just on voter sentiments but on media sentiments, according to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The study, to be released on Monday, used computer software and with human judgment to assess the tone of news and opinion coverage of the 2012 presidential race and found that the debates “have coincided with some notable shifts in tone.” The coverage of Rick Perry, the Texas governor who entered the race relatively late, in August, became more measurably negative around the same time he was perceived to have performed poorly at a Fox News debate on Sept. 22.
Still, the Pew study found that Mr. Perry received the greatest proportion of positive coverage of any candidate May 2 through Oct. 9. The recipient of the greatest proportion of negative coverage was President Obama.
During no week in the five months studied was coverage of Mr. Obama more than 10 percent positive. On average, it was judged to be about 57 percent neutral and about 34 percent negative. “These numbers are very stark for Obama,” said Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the project. Even the week in early May that Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, was killed, the positive sentiments were far outnumbered by negative ones. “That was striking,” he said.
The finding was even more outstanding, he said, when compared to the general election cycle of 2008, when the Republican nominee, John McCain, garnered markedly more negative coverage than Mr. Obama.
This time around, several Republican candidates are criticizing Mr. Obama, “and that has a kind of cumulative effect,” Mr. Rosenstiel said.
The computer algorithms set up by Pew analyze text content from thousands of news sources, blogs, social media postings and, in limited cases, television transcripts. The fact that the algorithms sense that roughly half of all the source statements, even including quotes, are neutral “shows you how much straight, factual reporting there still is,” Mr. Rosenstiel said.
The study found that coverage of Mitt Romney, the constant in the Republican race, has been similarly constant — about one-quarter positive, one-quarter negative and one-half neutral. Coverage ofHerman Cain, who was largely ignored by the media until recently, has turned more positive in recent weeks. “That’s because he tends to perform fairly well at these debates,” Mr. Rosenstiel said. Coverage of Michele Bachmann, meanwhile, has turned more negative recently.
The study will be repeated through the presidential election cycle to see how media coverage and online opinions shape perceptions of the race.
UPDATE: Since we went to press with this article, the Associated Press published a piece about Cain and his corporate sponsor, David Koch (via Americans for Prosperity and the AFP Foundation). The AP is a non-profit organization funded by the nation’s major news outlets.
[…] Given Cain’s clear and strong connection to the billionaire newsmaker David Koch, you’d think that Cain’s longstanding ties to the Americans For Prosperity Foundation, which is chaired by Koch, and its sibling organization, simply known as Americans For Prosperity, would be a meaty topic for enterprising reporters. Apparently not.
Mainstream media outlets have also ignored the checkered past of Cain’s campaign manager, Mark Block, who was banned from participation in Wisconsin politics for three years, 2002-2005, because of campaign law violations.
Significant players on Cain’s campaign staff are draw from the ranks of Americans for Prosperity or related organizations, beginning with campaign manager Mark Block, who served for six years as director of AFP’s Wisconsin chapter. And Cain himself, before launching his presidential campaign, was a frequently featured speaker at events hosted by the Americans For Prosperity Foundation.
At AlterNet, we’ve been keeping tabs on Cain’s Koch connection for more than a year, detailing his ties to Americans For Prosperity, as well as to Prosperity 101, a Koch-linked “worker education” program presented to employees of participating companies in their workplaces, mostly in Wisconsin, during the 2010 mid-term elections that yielded victories for Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Ron Johnson, and a bevy of Tea Party candidates for Congress and the Wisconsin state legislature. We reported the involvement Mark Block in a voter-suppression scheme in Milwaukee, during his tenure as Americans For Prosperity’s Wisconsin director. And, in June, we laid out the reasons why a Cain campaign makes good political sense for the interests of Koch and Americans for Prosperity. Here’s an excerpt:
When Cain’s presidential candidacy was launched, it’s likely that his AFP-linked backers never expected he would win the GOP presidential nomination, but that he would make an effective messenger for pushing the party further to the Koch positions. As it looks now, Cain could do even better than that, given the weak GOP presidential field. With each contest in primary season, contenders win delegates to the national convention, where the party platform is laid. Cain will likely do well in New Hampshire — he could even win the state, as Patrick J. Buchanan did with his populist rhetoric in 1996. And with that win, and strong showings in a few other states, the Buchananites won control of the GOP platform, causing the nominee, Bob Dole, to run on a platform he could hardly stomach. […]
Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate – The GOP frontrunner likes to tout his former role as CEO of Godfather’s Pizza; he’s less vocal about his former position in Americans For Prosperity, which dates back to 2005, for which he served as leader of the “Prosperity Expansion Project.” It’s difficult to know just what this project is (or was), since any description of it appears to have been scrubbed from the Americans For Prosperity Web site. Since then, Cain has been a featured speaker at virtually every conference the Americans For Prosperity Foundation has sponsored.
[…] His links to the Koch brothers could undercut his outsider, non-political image among people who detest politics as usual and candidates connected with the party machine. […]
Rick Perry’s wife Anita said Friday that she could sympathize with the plight of the unemployed because her son was forced to resign his job to take a more active role on his father’s presidential campaign.
“My son had to resign his job because of federal regulations that Washington has put on us,” Mrs. Perry said while campaigning for her husband in South Carolina, after a voter shared the story of losing his job.
“He resigned his job two weeks ago because he can’t go out and campaign with his father because of SEC regulations,” she continued, referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission. “He has a wife… he’s trying to start a business. So I can empathize.”
“My son lost his job because of this administration,” she said a few minutes later.
According to press reports, the Perrys’ son, Griffin, worked at Deutsche Bank.
President Obama and his team “have decided to turn public anger at Wall Street into a central tenet of their reelection strategy,” the Washington Post reports.
“And it sets up what strategists see as a potent line of attack against Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, a former investment executive whom Obama aides plan to portray as a wealthy Wall Street sympathizer.”
“But the strategy of channeling anti-Wall Street anger carries risks. Many of Obama’s senior advisers have ties to the financial industry — a point that makes Occupy protesters wary of the president and his party.”
“It is no secret that the relationship between President Obama and Wall Street has chilled. A striking measure of that is the latest campaign finance reports,” the New York Times reports.
“The imbalance exists at large investment banks and hedge funds, private equity firms and commercial banks… It could widen as Mr. Obama, seeking to harness anger over growing income inequality, escalates his criticism of the industry, after a year spent trying to smooth ties bruised by efforts to impose tougher regulations.”
One example: “Employees of Goldman Sachs, who in the 2008 campaign gave Mr. Obama over $1 million — more than donors from any other private employer in the country — have given him about $45,000 this year. Mr. Romney has raised about $350,000 from the firm’s employees.”
Robert Gates is rightfully concerned about the level of divisiveness and stupidity in our political discourse:
“I do believe that we are now in uncharted waters when it comes to the dysfunction in our political system — and it is no longer a joking matter,” former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told an audience two weeks ago at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, where he received the Liberty Medal for national service. “It appears that as a result of several long-building, polarizing trends in American politics and culture, we have lost the ability to execute even the basic functions of government much less solve the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country. Thus, I am more concerned than I have ever been about the state of American governance.”
Think about it. One of the two major parties is unapologetically attempting to sabotage the economy in order for the president, who is a member of the other major party, to fail. In and of itself, this is unprecedented in modern American history. But the fact that the sabotaging party, the Republicans, are treated as if their strategy is just another political game — it’s treated by the press as though it won’t have any consequences on real people. These saboteurs are taken just as seriously as they’ve ever been instead of being shamed and ostracized by, well, everyone.
It’s definitely not a joking matter.
[…] Although the bible never says god is in charge of America’s economy, fundamentalists who are typically poor and less educated have made a natural connection between religious conservatism and fiscal conservatism that prompts them to support Republicans’ economic agenda. In a study at Baylor University, researchers discovered that religious conservatism correlated with social conservatism, sexual conservatism, and lately, fiscal conservatism and that Republicans tapped into Christianity’s values regarding same-sex marriage and abortion. The study found that fundamentalists harbor a strong belief that god’s will, and the state of nature, is a free market system without any government regulation or taxation because it is disrupting and opposing the state of nature god intends for the economy. In fact, many believers “see government as a really profane object,” and it explains the obsession that “any liberal kind of suggestions on how to fix our economy” is anti-god and a war against faith.
Whether or not conservative Christians in Congress or Republicans really believe god controls the economy is irrelevant because they are using the poor, ignorant fundamentalists’ beliefs to garner support for their corporatist agenda. Because the fundamentalists tend to be poor and uneducated,they acquiesce to the party that panders to their belief-system and vote against policies that are in their own self-interests. Their belief is that if god controls the economy, then they don’t need education or social programs that would improve their lot in life. Human nature is such that people are going to trust leaders who are closely aligned with their own belief system, and instead of using common sense and voting for policies that are to their benefit, it is much easier to vote for politicians and conservative elites that oppose the government, gay and women’s rights, and social programs that help the poor.
The Baylor study also found that fundamentalists believe the unemployed, poor, and economically disadvantaged are lazy and are not taking advantage of America’s exceptional opportunities like the extremely wealthy have and therefore are undeserving of any assistance. Part of the problem with religious folks who believe god controls the economy and every person in America is that if someone loses their job, their home, and economic prosperity, it is god’s will. Many of the study’s respondents claimed it was the individual’s fault they lost their job and they do not merit receiving unemployment benefits or assistance from government programs. It is interesting that the fundamentalists ignore Jesus Christ’s commandment to clothe, feed, and assist the poor. There is no way to reconcile fundamentalists’ beliefs that it is acceptable to ignore the poorest among us to enrich the wealthy and corporations, but it is highly likely that because Republicans pander to fundamentalists’ bible-based dogma that encourages hatred of abortion, gays, and women, the fundamentalists are choosing the lesser of evils and willfully accept that god intends for millions of Americans to live in poverty. […]
The Baylor study shows that fundamentalists believe that, “If God is in control and in my life, there is one way to get this done, and that’s God’s way; and God’s way is always one way; and we may not understand, but that’s the way it is.” It is tragic that in 2011, America’s economy is being subverted by Republicans who use Christian fundamentalists’ belief that god wants 99% of the population to suffer so the wealthy and their corporations can prosper, and that any attempts by the government to help the economy is an affront to god’s supremacy.
If any American truly believes that Dominionists and Christian fundamentalists are not a serious threat to America and its economic prosperity, they are deluded and need to wake up. Republicans are awake and by the time they finish, there will be two classes of Americans; elite industrialists and the peasant class. The Christian fundamentalists are being manipulated by the clergy and Republican Party to facilitate the takeover by theocrats and plutocrats, and the Americans who sit idly by thinking Christians are harmless are just as guilty as the vile Republicans and evil clergy who have nearly destroyed this once-great country.
President Obama, in a letter to Congress, has authorized the deployment of about 100 U.S. combat forces to central Africa to assist in the fight against the notoriously savage Lord’s Resistance Army.
The goal: to track down LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony.
Here’s some things to know about Kony and the group:
The group claims to be Protestant, with influences of mysticism. Kony believes he is a medium of the Holy Spirit.
Kony is on the Specially Designated Global Terrorists list
The LRA, a sectarian religious and military group that has operated in northern Uganda and Southern Sudan since 1987. They have since spread their operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The U.S. Treasury has Kony on its list of “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.”
Kony’s aunt started the predecessor to the LRA
The Post’s William Branigin writes Kony “formed his Lord’s Resistance Army from the remnants of the Holy Spirit Movement, an armed group led by his aunt that fought the Ugandan government in the late 1980s.”
Responsible for mass human rights violations
Since its creation in 1987, the group has engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government and committed an extraordinary number of human rights violations. Most notably, his troops enter a village, killing the adults and kidnapping the children. The boys are enscripted into the army and the girls are taken as ‘bush wives.’
Obama notes in his letter that the LRA has “murdered, raped, and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women, and children in central Africa” and “continues to commit atrocities across the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan that have a disproportionate impact on regional security.”
Why is the US going in there?
In May of 2010, Obama signed a bill committing the United States to help arrest Kony. Kenneth Roth, the director of Human Rights Watch wrote in October of 2010 that Obama needed to put in practice what the president said during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: “Force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans.”
What does the LRA want?
The LRA wants to establish a theocratic state based on the Ten Commandments and the tradition of the Acholi people, an ethnic group in northern Uganda.
What is the political situation in Uganda?
According to the C.I.A. Factbook, Uganda suffered grave atrocities under the dictatorial regime of Idi Amin in the 1970s, but since 1986 the country has seen relative stability and economic growth under Youweri Museveni.
This three-minute short film was produced by the group Invisible Children, a non-profit organization working to end Kony’s rule. (Warning there are graphic images in the movie.)
Karoli at Crooks and Liars has a nice slideshow of the Occupy Ventura protest happening just a 20 minute walk from my apartment over the weekend (it’s unknown what will tonight once the park permit expires.) Ventura is a relatively small city and a minor part of the massive Occupy movement that has become a global phenomenon, but it’s a nice reminder of how universal the movement really is. I’ve attended the general assembly, spent some time down there yesterday and will do so again today.
But I’ll also be managing a phonebank today for our local Democratic endorsed city council candidates down at our local Dem Party headquarters. Why, you might ask? What could be more important than solidarity with the movement at this critical time?
Well, there’s the fact that even as Occupy Ventura is taking place, vote-by-mail ballots are already on the coffee tables of every permanent absentee voter in the city, ready to decide its fate. Our seven-member council is evenly divided with 3 Dems, 3 Republicans, and 1 conservative-learning Decline-to-State. The seats of two of the Dems and the DTS are up for grabs. And the local Tea Party is doing everything they can to take those seats over. […]
Why mention all this local backyard stuff? Because it’s an object lesson in why it’s necessary to walk and chew gum when considering political activity. Yes, it’s true that the reason Ventura and nearly every other city in America is in dire financial straits is that America has collectively failed to hold Wall St. and the plutocrats accountable. Political change in my backyard and across the country cannot truly take hold unless something is done about that, and it will take in part a popular uprising to do it.
But it’s just as true that no matter how long and aggressively the Occupiers hold their ground here in Ventura, if a lack of interest and enthusiasm in local elections leads to a conservative Republican sweep of the city council, the libraries will be privatized, the open spaces turned over to the hands of developers, the unions will be crushed underfoot, the professional firefighters will be replaced by undertrained volunteers, and city services will be further slashed once again, in turn reducing the public’s faith in local government. […]
I have taken a lot of heat here and elsewhere from all sides: critics from my left flank argue that I am foolish to continue to believe in the necessity of the electoral process to create change, and foolish to support Democrats at all; critics from the “Third Way” side argue that I should be less forceful in asking that influential Democrats actually support Democrats, and that they should be able to openly support more conservative politicians without repercussion; still others feel that I should be less critical of elected Democrats and be a better “team” player. Obviously, it’s logically impossible to make everyone happy–and that’s just on the supposedly left-of-center side of the aisle, to say nothing of conservatives.
In the end, what I’m really trying to do is walk and chew gum at the same time. As a progressive, it’s my obligation to do all of the following:
- support populist movements like our local chapters of Occupy Wall Street
- phonebank, walk, fundraise and recruit volunteers to do what’s necessary to keep the nutcases who want to privatize libraries and fire departments out of office
- rout out and reduce the influence of “Third Way” Dems who can’t even be bothered to support regular Dems, to say nothing of more progressive candidates
- continue writing here and elsewhere on the insanity of the conservative movement, and on the fecklessness of elected Democrats who do not hold to progressive principles.
It’s a constant struggle to try to do all of those things almost entirely in an unpaid capacity, in addition to the boring mostly non-political work that actually puts food on the table. It’s a lot of balls to juggle. But each of them is critically important in its own way, and each piece of the puzzle is necessary for the success of the movement.
The protests won’t do any good if conservative bozos win elective office, but electing Democrats won’t do much good if there isn’t an angry populist movement and a solidly progressive Democratic infrastructure to back them up and hold them accountable if they backslide. It’s the only real theory of change that makes any sense to me, and that doesn’t smack of magical thinking.
Fortunately, I believe that we as progressives can walk and chew gum at the same time.
Whatever happened to the strong, silent types?
The substance of current politics aside, what’s truly striking is the prevalence of cries of victimization. And it’s not lily-livered liberals who do the whining — they’re actually relatively stoic. No, it’s the supposed defenders of individualism and the American way. The wife of Rick Perry — who, given his performance recently, has obviously led an incredibly charmed and sheltered political life until now — believes that he’s being persecuted for his faith. Wall Street billionaires complain that the president has been looking at them funny, or whine that protestors don’t understand how much taxes they pay.Right-wing operatives with incredibly good lives compared with most Americans complain about having to work hard.
What’s the Greek for “rule by spoiled brats”?
Oh, and the title of this post comes from Feist, or actually Mountain Man, her backup singers.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry relied heavily on large donors and money from his home state to fund his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, a new fundraising report shows.
Perry took in $9.7 million from donors in Texas, more than half of the $17 million raised by his campaign during the quarter that ended Sept. 30, according to the report filed Saturday. […]
Perry’s biggest source of cash was the employees of Ryan, a Texas tax and accounting firm run by G. Brint Ryan, a supporter of the governor. The company’s employees gave $158,000 to Perry’s campaign. […]
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney came in second behind Perry, raising $14 million while spending $12 million on a growing campaign operation. […]
Businessman Herman Cain’s campaign raised $2.8 million in the quarter, including a $175,000 personal loan to his campaign, according to his disclosure report. […]
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) reported raising $3.8 million in contributions from people giving less than $200, far more than the three front-runners in the race. Altogether Paul raised $8.3 million, including a $500,000 transfer from his congressional campaign, according to a new filing. He spent the money almost as fast as he took it in, with $7.5 million in expenditures.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum reported raising less than $1 million in the third quarter. He had $190,000 in the bank to fund his campaign, while he owed vendors $72,000. The report shows the challenge that Santorum faces getting his message to voters in a crowded Republican nomination contest.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) raised $4.1 million in the third quarter but spent $6 million. Her campaign had $1.5 million in the bank at the end of September and was $550,000 in debt.
Obama dwarfed his GOP competition, raising $70 million for his campaign and the Democratic Party in the third quarter. The biggest source of cash for Obama was Microsoft, whose employees have given $316,000 to the president and the Democratic National Committee since March.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said repeatedly Sunday that Republicans agree that too few people control too much wealth in America.
“We know in this country right now that there is a complaint about folks at the top end of the income scales, that they make too much and too many don’t make enough,” Cantor said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, toning down his earlier criticism of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
“We need to encourage folks at the top of the income scale to actually put their money their work to create more jobs so we can see a closing of the gap,” he added.
E-mails obtained by The Daily Beast show an operative with close ties to Rick Perry’s campaign engaged in anti-Mormon cheerleading. McKay Coppins reports.
[…] On Oct. 12, Bott sent an email to Lane informing him that he would soon be recording an interview with the Rev. Robert Jeffress, the Perry backer and Baptist minister who had made headlines at the Value Voters Summit in early October for calling Mormonism a non-Christian “cult.” Jeffress also argued that Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney wasn’t deserving of the presidency because of his faith.
Bott indicated that the interview would be sympathetic to Jeffress, and defended the pastor for raising the Mormon issue: “What would anyone think if a candidate were a Scientologist?” Bott wrote. “Shouldn’t they want to know what the implications were that may flow therefrom? [sic]”
Lane responded the next day with a lengthy email that began, “Thank you for what you are doing and for your leadership. Getting out Dr. Jeffress [sic] message, juxtaposing traditional Christianity to the false god of Mormonism, is very important in the larger scheme of things.”
The teeming crowds of supporters who had cheered candidate Barack Obama’s agenda for “change you can believe in” receded quickly. The 2008 presidential election energized Americans who had never participated in politics before, particularly the young and minorities, and it attracted the interest and hopes of many independents, people who are usually less engaged in the political process. Once elected, the young president held to his word and pursued transformations in American social policy — healthcare reform, new tax breaks, and enhanced aid to college students — that vast majorities of Americans had long told pollsters they favored. Despite the usual travails of the legislative process, exacerbated in 2009 and 2010 by greater political polarization in Congress than at any other point in the post–World War II period, within 15 months Obama had already achieved much of what he set out to do on these issues. Yet Americans generally seemed unimpressed and increasingly disillusioned. The problem was that most of what was accomplished could not be seen: It remained invisible to average citizens.
The public had no trouble noticing the jockeying of special interests that sought favored treatment in legislation — that was plain to see — but the majority of Americans remained unaware of the contents of the president’s signature achievements, and they lacked a basic understanding of how they and their families might be affected by them. The first major piece of legislation that Obama had signed into law, the stimulus bill of February 2009, included a vast array of tax cuts: They totaled $288 billion, 37 percent of the cost of the entire bill. Among them, the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, one of his campaign promises, reduced income taxes for 95 percent of all working Americans. Yet one year after the law went into effect, when pollsters queried the public about whether the Obama administration had raised or lowered taxes for most Americans, only 12 percent answered correctly that taxes had decreased; 53 percent mistakenly thought taxes had stayed the same; and 24 percent even believed they had increased!
Healthcare reform represented Obama’s chief policy goal, and he expended a vast amount of political capital in pursuing it over his first 15 months in office. But in April 2010, just weeks after he signed the healthcare bill that extended coverage to the vast majority of working-age Americans and prohibited insurance companies from denying coverage to people who are ill, 55 percent of the public reported that they would describe their feelings about it as “confused.”
That same legislative package also contained sweeping changes in student aid policy that aimed to help more people attend college and complete degrees. Yet when Americans were asked how much they had heard about these changes, only 26 percent reported “a lot,” while 40 percent said “a little,” and fully 34 percent said “nothing at all.”
All told, the public seemed largely oblivious to the president’s major policy accomplishments.
While many who had voted for Obama grew complacent, grassroots mobilization emerged from another quarter, the insurgent Tea Party movement. Wielding placards at protests on tax day, town hall meetings and other public events, its supporters decried what they termed “government takeovers” of healthcare and student loans. At a gathering in Simpsonville, S.C., in August 2009, one man told Republican Rep. Robert Inglis, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare.” Inglis said later, “I had to politely explain that ‘Actually, sir, your healthcare is being provided by the government,’ but he wasn’t having any of it.”
While as of March 2010 only 13 percent of Americans reported that they considered themselves “part of the Tea Party movement,” nonetheless the frustration that it embodied resonated with growing numbers of Americans: 28 percent considered themselves supporters.
With the content of Obama’s legislative accomplishments appearing so opaque and incomprehensible even as the calls of opponents resonated loud and clear, most Americans registered reactions that were tepid at best, and many grew increasingly hostile. By the fall of 2010, 61 percent of likely voters told pollsters they favored a repeal of healthcare reform.
It was a sharp contrast to the warm reception given to sweeping social welfare laws achieved by earlier presidents. After Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act of 1935, 68 percent of the public voiced support for its “contributory old age insurance plan … which requires employers and workers to make equal contributions to workers’ pensions” — even though its benefits were not scheduled to begin for six years.
When Congress passed Lyndon Baines Johnson’s plan for Medicare in 1965, strong majorities repeatedly said they approved of it, as high as 82 percent in a December survey that year.
Until Obama’s presidency, perhaps never before had major laws that aimed to improve the lives of vast numbers of ordinary Americans gone so unrecognized and unappreciated by so many.
What explains the public’s reticence, frustration and confusion? Certainly its reactions owe partly to the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, with more than two years of near 10 percent unemployment. Some of the lackluster response was inevitable, furthermore, given the sheer scope and complexity of the policy tasks Obama took on. And a share of the blame belongs to his administration’s own public relations efforts, which many observers considered underwhelming. Yet while each of these commonly cited factors undeniably played a role, they do not, by themselves, explain Americans’ blasé response to major social policy accomplishments that reflected broadly shared values. Historical comparisons make this evident. The public voiced its high approval for the Social Security Act of 1935, for example, when the nation was still mired in the Great Depression and when twice the proportion of Americans, 20 percent, remained jobless. That legislation was also multifaceted and complex, and it was even more novel for the United States than the 2010 healthcare package, marking the first major involvement of the U.S. federal government in social provision for people besides veterans and their relatives.
The main difference confronted by Obama emanated from the types of policies that he sought to reform, ones that generate particularly formidable obstacles. Any leader who seeks to transform “politics as usual” is bound to confront resistance — challenges emanating from the policies, practices and institutions already in place.
But the nature and difficulty of the task vary depending on the particular goals that reformers select and the historical context in which they pursue them. Roosevelt confronted a political landscape that presented its own challenges — not least, a Supreme Court that served as a major roadblock to his policy ambitions. His administration had to attempt to fashion policies that would circumvent the court’s reach and to build as much as possible on what already existed, such as social policies adopted by some states. But Obama’s policy agenda, in the current political context, requires him to engage in a struggle more akin to that undertaken by Progressive Era reformers, who had to destroy or reconstitute deeply entrenched relationships if they were to achieve change.
He could not follow the path of Roosevelt, finding a way around political obstacles or merely building on top of what existed; rather, he had to find ways to work through them, by either obliterating them or restructuring them.
This is because Obama, given his policy agenda, had steered directly into the looming precipice of the submerged state: existing policies that lay beneath the surface of U.S. market institutions and within the federal tax system. Contrary to opponents’ charges that his agenda involved the encroachment of the federal government into private matters, Obama was actually attempting to restructure a dense thicket of long-established public policies, but ones that are largely invisible to most Americans — and that are extremely resistant to change. Efforts to transform these policies, which have become entrenched fixtures of modern governance, generate a deeply conflictual politics that routinely alienates the public, hindering the chances of success or the sustainability of the reforms.
The “submerged state” includes a conglomeration of federal policies that function by providing incentives, subsidies or payments to private organizations or households to encourage or reimburse them for conducting activities deemed to serve a public purpose. Over the past 30 years, American political discourse has been dominated by a conservative public philosophy, one that espouses the virtues of small government. Its values have been pursued in part through efforts to scale back traditional forms of social provision, meaning visible benefits administered fairly directly by government. In the case of some programs geared to the young or to working-age people, the value of average benefits has withered and coverage has grown more restrictive.
Ironically, however, the more dramatic change over this period has been the flourishing of the policies of the submerged state, which operate through indirect means such as tax breaks to households or payments to private actors who provide services. Since 1980 these policies have proliferated in number, and the average size of their benefits has expanded dramatically.
Most of these ascendant policies function in a way that directly contradicts Americans’ expectations of social welfare policies: They shower their largest benefits on the most affluent Americans. Take the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction (HMID), for example, which is currently the nation’s most expensive social tax break aside from the tax-free status of employer-provided health coverage. Let us assume that a family buys a median-value home and to finance it borrows $230,000 at an interest rate of 6.25 percent for 30 years. The richer the household, the larger the benefit: In the first year, the average family, with an income between $16,751 and $68,000, would owe around $3,619 less in taxes; those in the next income group, with earnings up to $137,300, would reap an extra $5,146; and so forth, on up to the wealthiest 2 percent of families, with incomes over $373,650, who would enjoy a savings of $6,673. Of course, in reality, these differences are likely to be much greater. Low- to moderate-income Americans usually do not have enough deductions to itemize, so they would forgo this benefit and receive instead only the standard deduction. Meanwhile, the most affluent are likely to purchase far more expensive homes; if a family in the top income category opts for a more upscale home and borrows $500,000 for a mortgage, it will reap a benefit of $14,506 from the HMID; if this family purchases a truly exclusive property and borrows $1 million for a mortgage, it will qualify to keep a whopping $29,012!
This pattern of upward redistribution is repeated in numerous other policies of the submerged state: Federal largesse is allocated disproportionately to the nation’s most well-off households. Such policies consume a sizable portion of revenues and leave scarce resources available for programs that genuinely aid low- and middle-income Americans.
Yet despite their growing size, scope and tendency to channel government benefits toward the wealthy, the policies of the submerged state remain largely invisible to ordinary Americans: Indeed, their hallmark is the way they obscure government’s role from the view of the general public, including those who number among their beneficiaries. Even when people stare directly at these policies, many perceive only a freely functioning market system at work. They understand neither what is at stake in reform efforts nor the significance of their success. As a result, the charge leveled by opponents of reforms — that they amount to “government takeovers” — though blatantly inaccurate, makes many Americans at least uncomfortable with policy changes, if not openly hostile toward them.
Exacerbating these challenges, at the same time as the submerged state renders the electorate oblivious and passive, it actually promotes vested interests, and it has done so especially over the past two decades. The finance, real estate and insurance industries all thrived until the recent recession, and in turn they invested heavily in strengthening their political capacity, making them better poised to protect the policies that have favored them. As a result, reform has required public officials to engage in outright combat or deal making with powerful organizations. Such politics disgust most Americans and hardly epitomize the kind of change Obama’s supporters expected when he won office.
Other presidents over the past century focused their energies on legislative battles that were far more visible and thus more comprehensible to the public. Towering figures such as Roosevelt and Johnson seized the power of the “bully pulpit” to create the major direct social programs of the New Deal and the Great Society. More recently, presidents have sought to engage in retrenchment, efforts to terminate or to reduce dramatically the size of programs, but here again they concentrated on visible forms of governance. Ronald Reagan took the lead on this approach, telling the nation, “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
While he failed to abolish full programs, some were curtailed in scope, and benefits stagnated in several that were not protected by mandatory automatic increases. Early in his presidency, Bill Clinton did set out to restructure some components of the submerged state but met with little success, failing at healthcare reform and achieving only a modest beginning on student loan reform. Thereafter, he turned instead to the highly visible task of attempting to “end welfare as we know it,” while simultaneously enlarging the submerged state through new and expanded tax breaks. By contrast to all of these, Obama took on an especially daunting agenda: He prioritized an entire set of social policy issues that each required transformation of the submerged state in order to be accomplished.
Against great odds, Obama has largely succeeded in these pursuits, achieving both healthcare reform and major student aid legislation. Yet even these and other new policies he has signed into law still cloak government activity in ways that may make it largely imperceptible to most citizens. Their designs hinder Obama’s ability to accomplish the broader goals he articulated during his campaign, namely, “reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our common sense of purpose,” and to “restore the vital trust between people and their government.”
The problem is not simply the typical policy complexity that alienates the public; rather, policies of the submerged state obscure the role of the government and exaggerate that of the market, leaving citizens unaware of how power operates, unable to form meaningful opinions, and incapable, therefore, of voicing their views accordingly.
American politics today is ensnared in the paradox of the submerged state. Our government is integrally intertwined with everyday life from healthcare to housing, but in forms that often elude our vision: Governance appears “stateless” because it operates indirectly, through subsidizing private actors. Thus, many Americans express disdain for government social spending, incognizant that they themselves benefit from it. Even if they do realize that the benefits they utilize emanate from government, often they fail to recognize them as “social programs.” People are therefore easily seduced by calls for smaller government — while taking for granted public programs on which they themselves rely.
Meanwhile, economic inequality has soared in the United States over the past 40 years, reaching levels not seen since 1929. Yet over this same period, policymakers have adamantly protected submerged-state policies that bestow their greatest rewards on the affluent.
Ordinary citizens fail to realize the upward bias of such policies. Political leaders who do seek to reform them, to make their benefits more accessible to Americans of low and moderate incomes, face charges of mounting a “government takeover.” If against the odds they manage to succeed, the policies achieved, especially if they still cloak government’s role, prove difficult to sustain.
Change is possible, however. We can expose the submerged state, reveal governance, and consequently enable citizens to become more engaged and active, reclaiming their voice in the political process. In order to make it possible to carry out reform, first policymakers must reconfigure the role of vested interests. To make reform meaningful, they must alter policies in order to ameliorate their bias toward the affluent. These changes alone, however, will be hard to achieve and even more difficult to sustain, and they will thwart the renewal of citizenship, unless leaders can transform policies to reveal to ordinary Americans their existence and basic effects. To facilitate this, specific strategies must be adopted at the stages of both policy enactment and subsequent implementation. Through policy design and delivery, as well as political communication, policymakers can shift the balance between visible and hidden policies, foster a basic awareness of government, and broaden participation in politics.
As long as the submerged state persists in its shrouded form, American democracy is imperiled. Contrary to popular claims, the threat to self-governance is not the size of government, but rather the hidden form so much of its growth has assumed, and the ways in which it channels public resources predominantly to wealthy Americans and privileged industries. We can reclaim governance, however, making it more visible and comprehensible to ordinary Americans, and using policies to ameliorate rather than to exacerbate inequality. With political will and purposeful action, public policy can be refashioned to revitalize democracy.
Two of the more significant political developments on Capitol Hill yesterday dealt with a similar subject. In the afternoon, Senate Republicans unveiled a pseudo jobs bill, and a few hours later, Speaker Boehner got into an argumentwith President Obama over whetherGOP officials actually care about creating jobs.
It prompted Josh Marshall to raise a good point.
I don’t suggest that the president’s political fortunes have shifted dramatically. Yet despite the fact that Senate Republicans were able to block a vote on his jobs bill, it seems to have gone with relatively little notice — probably because it’s right there in plain sight — how much the president’s day in and day out push on jobs has simply shifted the national conversation, the focus on what the issue is that requires solving.
I think this is a bigger deal than we realize.
At a certain level, this may seem counter-intuitive. After all, President Obama launched an aggressive, all-encompassing push on jobs shortly after Labor Day, and surface-level conditions haven’t changed that much in the six weeks since — the president’s approval ratings are still in the low 40s; Republicans still don’t want to make the economy better; public anxiety still reigns. Early September looks an awful lot like mid October.
But I think Josh is right about the larger conversation. For the better part of 2011, the battle lines were drawn in a way that Republicans loved. The only topics of conversation that were permitted dealt with debt reduction, entitlement “reforms,” spending cuts, and austerity. The question wasn’t whether Washington would impose pain on an already-suffering populace, but how much.
The discourse is now a very different place, because the White House had the sense to take a conversational detour. Thanks in part to a concerted p.r. campaign from President Obama, and with some pushes from Occupy Wall Street, the topics that now dominate are about job creation, financial industry responsibility, and tax fairness. What’s more, while the president’s approval rating hasn’t changed much, polls do show a striking shift in Obama’s direction when it comes to who voters trust to lower unemployment: “Obama has made big gains over Republicans onthe specific question of who is more trusted to handle jobs. Obama has a 15 point edge on the issue, 49-34, up from a tie of 40-40 in early September.”
Clearly (and tragically) the policy needle isn’t moving, at least not yet, but the austerity agenda is no longer at center stage, in large part because the president put the power of the White House into pushing it out of the spotlight. It’s a start.
[…] To political operatives, Wal-Mart Moms are no joke. They’re defined as women with kids who have shopped at the popular discounter within the past month. They’re generally white and working-class, with almost half having household incomes below $50,000. And just how big a political punch do they pack? In an age when candidates scratch and claw for every 1 percent of the vote, they represent a full 16 percent of the electorate.
In 2008, the bloc picked Barack Obama over John McCain, helping the Democrat to victory. In the 2010 midterms, they shifted to the Republicans, helping the party pick up major gains. No wonder politicos are paying attention.
To pick the brains of those moms, recent focus groups were put together by research firms Public Opinion Strategies and Momentum Analysis, on behalf of – you guessed it – Wal-Mart, eager to promote the importance of its own customer base.
The findings, as you might expect given a deeply troubled economy, are decidedly dark: “Although these moms were squeezed last year, there is a real sense that life is that much worse and the economic strain is taking its toll,” the report’s authors write. “Every week is another crisis for these moms, and they wonder when it is going to end.”
It has to be asked, though: What happened to all the past political flavors-of-the-month, like Soccer Moms and Nascar Dads (a demographic based on fans of auto racing sports events)? Are they still out there in the political landscape, pining by the phone for a pollster to call?
They haven’t gone away, exactly. But the influence of voting blocs waxes and wanes with each new election result. “Pollsters put theories out there, and those theories can be proven or disproven by elections,” says Amy Leveton, senior vice president at powerhouse political research firm Penn Schoen Berland.
“Soccer Moms did indeed turn elections, and were a swing vote that helped decide winners. With Nascar Dads, it wasn’t as clear that anything turned on their votes, and so they’ve become less newsworthy.”
Indeed, the Wal-Mart Mom might just be updated packaging for that critical Soccer Mom demographic. Packaging designed by Wal-Mart itself, since it injects customers and their concerns into the political conversation.
That trick might not work for a smaller demographic, of course. (Applebee’s Uncles, anyone?) But when you’re as ubiquitous as Wal-Mart – 4,400 stores and 1.4 million employees in the U.S., serving customers 200 million times a week around the globe – you apparently have the kind of clout to be defining voting blocs.
Wal-Mart wants “to be seen as thought leaders, with their finger on the pulse of what their customers are thinking and feeling. And they get some ink, with plenty of coverage for the exact audience they’re trying to appeal to,” Leveton says.
Those moms on the sidelines of the soccer field, juggling various leisure activities, had more of an upper-middle-class sheen; they were once described by pollster Ron Lester as being wearers of “Bruno Magli shoes,” with average incomes of $50,000 on their own.
Wired has posted a series of photos of seed vaults, storage units that bank tens of thousands of seeds in an attempt to preserve biodiversity against threats of extinction and climate change, and we can safely say they’re the creepiest way of ensuring that species survive. This is some mad-science stuff!
The Svalbard Seed Vault, for example, is housed practically at the North Pole, is built to be impervious to terror attacks, and has been compared to a Bond villain’s lair. Wired calls it “the world’s insurance policy against botanical holocaust.”
The vaults hold tens of thousands of seeds, in a bid to be as completist as possible. The Millennium Seed Bank Project in England, for instance, has collected specimens for 90 percent of Britain’s plant species, and hopes to have 25 percent of the world’s flora by 2020. Bring on the zombie asteroid ice age!
Media Matters’ Political Correction:
An ugly old tradition is back: exploiting anti-Semitism to break the backs of popular movements that threaten the power of the wealthiest 1 percent of our population. It is being used to undermine the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has conservatives in a state of near panic.
I don’t know the first time the tactic was used, although it dates back almost to the beginning of the Jewish diaspora.
Perhaps its most famous use was by the viciously anti-Semitic Czar Nicholas, whose supporters concocted the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” at the start of the 20th century to prevent Russians from joining socialist movements and other reform efforts that were fighting to get the czar to cede some power to an elected parliament.
The Protocols were a forged document purporting to show that a cabal of Jews met regularly to solidify their supposed control of the entire world. According to the Protocols, Jews were behind socialist and liberal movements but also ran the banks and Wall Street. (A modern version of this ridiculous theme was a staple on Glenn Beck’s television program that ran on Fox News until being canceled this summer.)
The Protocols have had a long life, used by the czar, the Nazis, and even today by extremist and fringe Muslim groups opposed to the existence of Israel.
But they were primarily used not so much against the Jews as against reform and revolution. Linking a progressive movement to the Jews would destroy progressive movements and preserve the power of those in control.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a bizarre variant of this phenomenon is now being deployed against Occupy Wall Street.
Because utilizing anti-Semitism directly would not succeed in this country today, the reactionary defenders of the economic status quo are using the flip side of the coin: the fear of being labeled anti-Semitic. They are accusing Occupy Wall Street of anti-Semitism, relying on the old myth that Wall Street is Jewish and hence that opposition to Wall Street’s agenda is just opposition to Jews.
Not surprisingly, the first right-wing commentator to use this formulation in the Obama era was Rush Limbaugh. In 2010, Limbaugh told his radio audience that Jews might be having “buyer’s remorse” about having voted for President Barack Obama because “[h]e’s assaulting bankers. He’s assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) condemned those remarks, labeling them a “new low” for Limbaugh. ADL National Director Abe Foxman explained that Limbaugh’s references to “Jews and money” were “offensive and inappropriate.”
Foxman continued: “While the age-old stereotype about Jews and money has a long and sordid history, it also remains one of the main pillars of anti-Semitism and is widely accepted by many Americans.”
And now the “age-old stereotype” is back, flipped on its head by right-wingers who seek to discredit Occupy Wall Street by accusing it of anti-Semitism, an accusation based on the idea, as Foxman said, “widely accepted by many Americans,” that Wall Street is Jewish.
One of the first conservatives after Limbaugh to use this tactic was the usually quite proper Ivy League conservative, New York Times columnist David Brooks. In an October 10 column dismissing the Wall Street protests as “trivial sideshows,” Brooks wrote:
Take the Occupy Wall Street movement. This uprising was sparked by the magazine Adbusters, previously best known for the 2004 essay, “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?” — an investigative report that identified some of the most influential Jews in America and their nefarious grip on policy.
Interesting. Brooks essentially is charging that a magazine few have heard of “sparked” the movement and, even worse, smearing the movement as anti-Semitic by bringing up an article that magazine published seven years ago about the Jewish “grip” on policy. Quite a reach.
And then yesterday the Emergency Committee For Israel, a far-right Republican group run by Bill Kristol, issued a video flat-out accusing Occupy Wall Street of anti-Semitism, with side swipes at leading Democrats (what a coincidence!) like President Obama and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who have sympathized with the movement and are therefore, by implication, probably anti-Semitic themselves.
The Emergency Committee’s evidence is presented in the video, which shows three anti-Semites and two anti-Semitic signs among the protesters. That’s it, out of a crowd of thousands. (Far be it from me to guess at the number of anti-Semites who might be at a Tea Party event, but they don’t define that movement either. Mass movements attract all kinds of people, some invariably unsavory.)
In any case, the Emergency Committee for Israel is not concerned about anti-Semitism or Israel. It is, rather, dedicated to defeating Democrats and promoting its billionaire donors’ economic interests. During the 2010 congressional campaigns, it produced videos almost as deceitful as the Wall Street video that lied about Democratic candidates. It used Israel and Jews as devices to direct money and votes toward the Republicans. (See this profile.)
In attacking Occupy Wall Street, the Emergency Committee’s goal is simply to smear Democrats. If, in the process, it reinforces the stereotype that Jews and Wall Street are interchangeable, so what? How different is that from its usual practice of suggesting strongly that American Jews should vote only based on Israel’s supposed interests, not America’s? To put it not-so-mildly, the Emergency Committee for Israel does not care about fueling anti-Semitism in America.
Because that last video of a couple of anti-Semites may have left a bad taste in your mouth, here’s another one. It was shot at the Wall Street demonstration on Yom Kippur Eve and it features not a few anti-Semites but thousands of Jews celebrating the holiest day of the Jewish year, a day dedicated to the same ideals as Occupy Wall Street: repentance for putting our desires before the needs of the poor, the homeless, and the exploited.
[These are just a FEW of the Jewish events which TOOK PLACE at OWS]
Here is the Twitter avatar for #OccupyJudaism:
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
[…] The Taco Bell manager had to call police because Falkner was out cold at the pick-up window and holding up customers behind him. Clearly this was not a victimless crime, and our hearts go out to the hungry folks who had to wait so long for their late-night munchies.
A deputy awoke Falkner and then asked for his ID. Falkner said no before reaching into his bag and presenting the officer with a taco. Another deputy clarified they were asking for an ID, not a taco. Falkner chuckled and began eating the taco.
Then deputies noticed Falkner had fallen asleep with his foot on the accelerator while his truck was in park. The engine had caught fire, and fire extinguishers were used to put it out.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: