MAJOR Catch-up Edition! You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.
Now that the supercommittee seems to have gridlocked, we default to the automatic cuts—the sequester. The fact that these are split evenly between defense and non-defense has some members of Congress* talking about “reconfiguring” the deal to take less from defense, and implicitly more from non-defense spending (entitlements are largely exempted from the sequester).
This is pure bait and switch. I’m sorry they don’t like the deal they cooked up to get out of the debt-ceiling mess they created. I’m not a big fan either. But the trigger was structured as tough on defense to make it something they’d want to avoid. And let’s remember: the $900 billion of cuts already on the books came exclusively from the non-defense part of the budget from important programs that are already strained—Head Start, child care, education, infrastructure, R&D, and more.
As far as the reconfigurers tag-line—“a threat to national security”—well, I don’t buy it and they should have thought of that before. Defense spending is up to around $550 billion per year, and security, adding in Homeland Security et al, gets you up to close to $900 billion. So $55 billion of cuts per year for nine years is a worthy goal, especially in a world where a flexible, efficient military is much more important than a huge one.
But I’m no expert and if I’m wrong—if defense cuts of that magnitude are too large—than they should be diminished dollar-for-dollar with the cuts on the non-defense side. Yes, that means less than $1.2 trillion in deficit savings but so be it. It’s an arbitrary target anyway, set because that was the increase in the debt ceiling, which itself is a useless construct. The concentric circles of crazy here are truly daunting.
*And the defense secretary, Leon Panetta, whom the White House needs to bring back on the reservation–quickly.
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones:
So there’s this bipartisan group of elected officials known as “Congress” that passed $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions into law. They also designated a random group of wankers to come up with some alternative $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions as a substitute. They didn’t come up with a substitute. So we have the original path to deficit reduction as opposed to the potential substitute.
Why the press has mostly taken the position that some unspecified substitute would be better, or that cuts are implicitly good…
Right. We already have a plan to cut the budget by $1.2 trillion over ten years. So who really cares whether there’s a different plan to cut $1.2 trillion from the budget? Why isn’t the existing plan good enough?
In any case, this should basically be viewed as a total victory for Republicans. Any alternative plan would have included some tax increases, so failure to come up with an alternative means that we get a big deficit reduction that’s 100% spending cuts, just like they wanted. And the 50-50 split between domestic and defense cuts was always sort of a joke. Republicans never had any intention of allowing the Pentagon’s half of the cuts to materialize, and the domestic spending half of the cuts was about as big as they wanted them to be. Big talk aside, they know bigger cuts would run the risk of seriously pissing off voters.
So Republicans got domestic spending cuts that were about as big as they really wanted. They know they’ll never have to implement most of the defense cuts. And there are no tax increases.
Given all that, why is anyone surprised that they were unwilling to seriously consider any alternative? Why should they when they already had what they wanted?
Crooks and Liars:
A bad deal can be worse than no deal at all. And over the last few weeks, the deals offered by both sides were bad deals. They cut too deeply into some areas of government — like the education, transportation and competitiveness programs in the “non-defense discretionary spending” category — and did too little on taxes, entitlements, and defense.
Perhaps worse, a bad deal now would make it harder to reach a good deal later. Most economists think we need about $4 trillion of deficit reduction over the next decade or so. There’s a good chance, if the economy doesn’t begin to improve more rapidly, that we need a lot more. There’s little chance that we need a lot less. By the end, the supercommittee was discussing a $1.2 trillion deal. If you add in the spending cuts already agreed to in the debt-ceiling deal, that’s a $2.1 trillion deal. That would have left trillions in deficit reduction undone.And the trillions it would have left would be in the hardest categories to reach agreement on. Taxes. Entitlements. Defense. Reaching a deal on those items is going to be difficult under the best of circumstances.
We have Republicans on the Super Committee who take their pledge to Grover Norquist more seriously than their pledge to their constituents. We have capitulating, compromised Democrats who have embraced wholeheartedly the failed Milton Friedman economics and ignore that the austerity measures taken in Europe have not only failed to save the economy there, but have plunged them into worse shape.
And the truth of the matter is that even if the Super Committee fails, the automatic cuts to Defense are more than likely going to be subverted by Republicans in Congress any way.
As Senator Sherrod Brown points out, Democrats do better when they unapologetically act like Democrats. It’s time they do that. Hell, they can’t possibly have a lesser approval rate than they already do. RJ Eskow:
Voters already believe that Obama has been acting in good faith to fix the economy, and that the Republicans are not. If Democrats defend Social Security in the process of saving their government, polls show that voters (including many Republicans) will reward them for it.
The committee’s members are being warned that all of them will suffer in any future bids for leadership if the committee “fails” to put forward a plan. The economic and polling data make the answer to that clear: Not if they “fail” like leaders. Now is the time for Democrats to explain why there are more important things at stake than peace at any price within the Super Committee — and why the kind of deal Republicans want is worse than no deal at all.
Last week’s [Nov. 8] oil industry conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston was supposed to be an industry confab just like any other — a series of panel discussions, light refreshments and an exchange of ideas.
t was a gathering of professionals to discuss “media and stakeholder relations” in the hydraulic fracturing industry — companies using the often-controversial oil and gas extraction technique known as “fracking.”
CNBC has obtained audiotapes of the event, on which one presenter can be heard recommending that his colleagues download a copy of the Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual. (Click here to hear the audio.)That’s because, he said, the opposition facing the industry is an “insurgency.”
Another told attendees that his company has several former military psychological operations, or “psy ops” specialists on staff, applying their skills in Pennsylvania. (Click above to hear.)
The comments were recorded by an environmental activist, who passed along audio files to CNBC. The activist, Sharon Wilson, is the director of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project for the nonprofit environmental group Earthworks. She said she paid full price to attend the two day event, and wore a nametag identifying her organization as she recorded the conference.
In a session entitled “Designing a Media Relations Strategy To Overcome Concerns Surrounding Hydraulic Fracturing,” Range Resources communications director Matt Pitzarella spoke about “overcoming stakeholder concerns” about the fracking process.
“We have several former psy ops folks that work for us at Range because they’re very comfortable in dealing with localized issues and local governments,” Pitzarella said. “Really all they do is spend most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances and things like that. But very much having that understanding of psy ops in the Army and in the Middle East has applied very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania.”
“Download the U.S. Army-slash-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Manual, because we are dealing with an insurgency,” Carmichael said. “There’s a lot of good lessons in there and coming from a military background, I found the insight in that extremely remarkable.”
Reached by CNBC to provide context to his remarks about psychological operations, Range Resources’ Matt Pitzarella explained that he was referring to one employee of the firm, whose military background makes him particularly good at handling emotional meetings with local representatives.
“Range employs dozens of veterans and active service men and women,” Pitzarella said. “One employee who works with municipal governments in Pennsylvania has a background in psychological operations in the Army. Since the majority of his work is spent in local hearings and developing local regulations for drilling, we’ve found that his service in the Middle East is a real asset.”
Pitzarella explained that Range operates transparently with local communities, and pointed out that it was the first company in the United States to fully disclose all the fracking fluids that it uses. He also took issue with Carmichael’s comments about using Marine Corps tactics on opponents in an “insurgency.”
Carmichael emailed a comment to CNBC, explaining his remarks. “The comment was simply suggesting industry embracing a broader move toward more active community engagement and increased transparency, as it’s very important to build fact-based knowledge to maintain public trust amidst special interests that often use misinformation to create fear,” he said.
“There are no black helicopters here,” Tucker said. “No one’s rappelling down from a helicopter at three a.m. looking through people’s trash. We go to township meetings, and we hear what people have to say.”
If you want to understand why conservatives are relentlessly highlighting the theatrical excesses, violence, and bowel movements of a select few Occupy Wall Street protesters, this chart explains it in a nutshell.
In theory, high economic anxiety — combined with the increased focus on inequality and Wall Street lack of accountability that have resulted from the protests — should help Democrats. In this environment, Dems should have a better shot at winning over working class swing voters — by calling for higher taxes on the rich, more oversight of Wall Street, and nixing tax breaks for corporations, all of which are supported by these voters — than when the focus is on Dem Big Government excess, as it was in 2010.
The battle over what Occupy Wall Street means actually represents a larger battle over this key consistuency. If conservatives can highlight protesters’ excesses to push the cultural buttons of working class voters — making them less receptive to the protests’ message about what’s really gone wrong for them — then they may be able to reduce Dem inroads with these voters. There are some signs this push is working. But if organized labor can get these voters to focus on the overall message embodied by the movement, that’s better for Dems.
Working America, the arm of the AFL-CIO that organizes workers from non-union workplaces, has produced a chart and an accompanying report that demonstrate just how crucial and volatile this constituency really is. The chart, which is based on exit poll data, shows how big the swing was among these voters from 2008 to 2010:
In these five swing states, working class voters — defined as coming from households making under $75,000 — went from a big margin for Obama in 2008 to a negative or equal margin for Dems two years later.
The accompanying report goes even further on a national level. Of the national vote that swung between 2008 and 2010, the largest segment — 44 percent — is made up of these voters, i.e, those under $75,000. Breaking down the numbers further, it finds that white working class voters in households under $50,000 make up one out of every five swing voters.
“The working-class vote is not just vital but volatile,” the report says. “Their changing preferences have shaped the vastly different outcomes of the past two election cycles. As a group, these voters are more affected by the struggling economy than any other. Their votes will be essential to electoral outcomes in 2012.”
This is why Working America and organized labor are standing by the protests, and working so hard to tie them to a larger working class constituency. If a genuine populist message is resonating among these voters next year — if they figure out who’s really on their side and who isn’t — Dems have a better shot at winning them back. Similarly, this is also why conservatives and Republicans are seizing on the protesters’ excesses to exploit the long running cultural fault line between working class voters and middle class liberal activists such as those in Zuccotti Park. The hope is to tar the overall critique of inequality and Wall Street’s excessive influence — as well as Dem policies designed to address them — as radical and extreme, in hopes that resurgent populism won’t persuade these swing voters to give Dems another look.
NYT: QUESTIONS FOR MARK YUDOF (President of the University of California System)
Big Man on Campus
As president of the University of California, the most prestigious of the state-university systems, you have proposed that in-state tuition be jacked up to more than $10,000, from $7,788. Are you pricing education beyond the reach of most students?
In 2009, U.C. adopted the Blue and Gold Program, guaranteeing that no student with a family income below $60,000 would pay any fees, and this guarantee will continue in 2010. That’s the short answer.
U.C. is facing a budget shortfall of at least $753 million, largely because of cuts in state financing. Do you blame Governor Schwarzenegger for your troubles?
I do not. This is a long-term secular trend across the entire country. Higher education is being squeezed out. It’s systemic. We have an aging population nationally. We have a lot of concern, as we should, with health care.
The shine is off of it. It’s really a question of being crowded out by other priorities.
Already professors on all 10 U.C. campuses are taking required “furloughs,” to use a buzzword.
Let me tell you why we used it. The faculty said “furlough” sounds more temporary than “salary cut,” and being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you, but no one is listening. I listen to them.
The word “furlough,” I recently read, comes from the Dutch word “verlof,” which means permission, as in soldiers’ getting permission to take a few days off. How has it come to be a euphemism for salary cuts?
Look, I’m from West Philadelphia. My dad was an electrician. We didn’t look up stuff like this. It wasn’t part of what we did. When I was growing up we didn’t debate the finer points of what the word “furlough” meant.
How did you get into education?
I don’t know. It’s all an accident. I thought I’d go work for a law firm.
Some people feel you could close the U.C. budget gap by cutting administrative salaries, including your own.
The stories of my compensation are greatly exaggerated.
When you began your job last year, your annual compensation was reportedly $828,000.
It actually was $600,000 until I cut my pay by $60,000. So my salary is $540,000, but it gets amplified because people say, “You have a pension plan.”
What about your housing allowance? How much is the rent on your home in Oakland?
It’s about $10,000 a month.
Does U.C. pay for that on top of your salary?
Yes, and the reason they do that is because they have a president’s house, it needed $8 million of repairs and I decided that was not the way to go. Why the heck would I ever authorize $8 million for a house I didn’t want to live in anyhow?
Why can’t you have architecture students repair the house for course credit?
Let me ponder that.
Do you raise a lot of income from private donations?
We don’t do it in the office of the president. The focus is campus by campus: Santa Cruz or U.C.L.A. or Berkeley or San Diego, Davis. They have their own development offices, and I’m there to — some of the things I do very well. I smile, I shake hands, I tell jokes.
Why can’t you raise money, too?
I’m out there hustling, but I go where the chancellors invite me. Otherwise they get upset.
What about Hollywood people? Do they just give to U.C.L.A. at the expense of the other campuses?
I don’t know where they give. I’ve only met a few. I met Marg Helgenberger from “C.S.I.” at a dinner for Nobel laureates. I don’t know how either one of us got invited, but I enjoyed that, sure.
What do you think of the idea that no administrator at a state university needs to earn more than the president of the United States, $400,000?
Will you throw in Air Force One and the White House?
A federal energy panel issued a blunt warning to shale gas drillers and their regulators today, saying they need to step up efforts to protect public health and the environment or risk a backlash that stifles further development.
“Concerted and sustained action is needed to avoid excessive environmental impacts of shale gas production and the consequent risk of public opposition to its continuation and expansion,” said members of the Energy Department’s Shale Gas Subcommittee in a draft report released today.
The seven-member committee, appointed in January by Energy Secretary Steven Chu, provides a way for the Obama administration to weigh in on gas drilling, which is primarily overseen by state regulatory agencies.
In August, the panel issued a lengthy set of recommendations to state and federal agencies and the gas industry for making gas drilling safer.
Today’s report – acknowledging that progress on the panel’s suggestions has been slow – sets out who needs to do what in order to turn recommendations into reality. The panel also stressed the importance of shale gas to the nation’s energy policy, noting that it already makes up 30 percent of domestic gas production.
The report calls on the EPA to revise a proposed rule on air emissions to include limits on methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and criticizes recent moves by the agency that have hindered efforts to get better data from the oil and gas industry, a crucial step toward improving controls.
The report also concludes that joint federal and state efforts to ensure water quality are “not working smoothly” and urges the EPA to move unilaterally to improve oversight as it carries out a study on potential effects of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water.
The panel’s recommendations are not binding, but Amy Mall, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said they carry significant weight.
“We need more experts acknowledging publicly that there are real risks and they can be addressed,” she said. NRDC and other environmental organizations sent a letter to President Obama last week, urging him to issue an executive order directing federal agencies to carry out the panel’s recommendations.
Drilling companies have in the past resisted some policy changes that the panel is recommending, such more stringent federal limits on emissions. Reid Porter, a spokesman for the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, would not comment on the specific recommendations, but said API members have begun to implement some of the panel’s recommendations, including working with state agencies to strengthen best practices on well design and minimizing water use.
The Energy Department’s advisory board will hold a public meeting on the draft report on Monday before finalizing it.
Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday rejected an attempt by Democrats to subpoena the CEOs of BP and the other companies blamed for last year’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, offered a motion to subpoena the CEOs of BP, Halliburton, Transocean and Cameron. But in a 17-13 party-line vote, every Republican on the committee voted to table the subpoena request.
“Republicans have put the CEOs from the companies responsible for the worst offshore oil spill in our history into a witness protection program, when they should be helping to produce these witnesses before the committee so they can answer questions about their spill,” Markey said in a statement after Wednesday’s vote. […]
Last year’s oil spill dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf and resulted in the death of 11 rig workers.
And more from Nola.com (please link over):
“For these companies,” said Markey “CEO doesn’t just mean Chief Executive Officer, it also stands for Continuing to Evade Oversight.”
Of course, Darrell Issa is too busy scrambling around for something, anything, on President Obama to provide any responsible oversight in his own committee. Well, that and tryinghis level best to destroy the EPA; and this committee is just as reprehensible.
To quote my friend and frequent source Hugh Kaufman (senior policy analyst with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response):
Thank you Teabagger Republicans for being a wholly owned subsidiary of BP and their cronies. A dark day for democracy.
The Obama administration is calling for 18 new wilderness and conservation area declarations in nine Western states, according to a report released Thursday by the secretary of the Interior that he hopes will result in new legislation from Congress establishing the new land protections.
Most of the areas proposed for new protections are in the West, where the administration previously came under fire for a scuttled proposal to name new land protections as part of a presidential declaration. The administration says the new proposals have “significant local support.”
They include creation of San Juan Islands National Conservation Area in Washington, protections for New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte and 16 other sites. The areas have often been under consideration for advanced protection status for years, such as 406,000 acres of wilderness and conservation area proposed for the Sleeping Giant study along the Missouri River’s scenic Holter Lake in Montana.
Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey said there is room for more wilderness even as the BLM pushes for more oil, gas and other energy development on its land. The agency pointed out that since 1964, only about 3.5 percent of the land it manages has been so far declared wilderness.
The nation’s largest retailer and employer now wants to become its largest primary-care provider as well. Last month Walmart sent out a request for information seeking partners to help it “dramatically … lower the cost of healthcare … by becoming the largest provider of primary healthcare services in the nation.” The document, obtained by NPR and Kaiser Health News, says the company would offer a range of services, from basic prevention to the management of chronic conditions such as HIV and depression. Analysts say the retailer is likely attempting to boost store traffic. Partners will be selected in January.
UPDATE:After NPR and Kaiser Health News reported yesterday on Wal-Mart’s plans to become a big provider of primary care in the U.S., the retailer said its document that served as an invitation to partners for the effort was “overwritten and incorrect.”
To be clear, the retailer never disputed the authenticity of the document. And when contacted before the story ran, company spokeswoman Tara Raddohl declined to discuss the specifics or characterize it beyond saying it was an effort to determine “strategic next steps.”
So exactly which parts of the document aren’t right? Kaiser’s Julie Appleby askedRaddohl late Wednesday. She told Appleby the incorrect part was the one about intent, which kicked off the request for partnership proposals.
Here’s that section, if you missed it:
1.1 RFI Intent
This Request for Information (RFI) is being sent to potential vendors who currently have products or services that may address all or part of the requirements associated with Walmart’s strategic direction. Walmart intends to build a national, integrated, low-cost primary care healthcare platform that will providepreventative and chronic care services that are currently out of reach for millions of Americans. Walmart intends to do this in an affordable and accessible way while maintaining or improving quality outcomes. Walmart seeks partners who have a care model or capability that can help dramatically drive down the costof care, while maintaining or improving quality on a national level.
It’s not as clear which parts of the document Wal-Mart thinks are “overwritten.”
Yesterday’s statement from Wal-Mart’s Dr. John Agwunobi, head of health and wellness, did say what the company doesn’t want to do: “We are not building a national, integrated, low-cost primary care health care platform.”
That sounds like a straw man, though. Just about anything less than a total transformation of the country’s health care system wouldn’t violate that statement. Even the controversial federal law overhauling health care doesn’t do that.
Imagine, for instance, if Wal-Mart pursues regionally organized low-cost primary care services offered in partnerships with hospitals or health systems? That’s doable and would be more consistent with the way health care is already structured in the U.S. And Wal-Mart has already done something like that by leasing space in some stores to hospital systems.
Simply adding more in-store clinics that offer more sophisticated services would be another way to go.
So even with the public provisos about the document, Wal-Mart’s ambitions to do something bigger in health care remain pretty clear. The company is looking for help managing chronic health conditions — from asthma to osteoporosis — that are among the most prevalent problems in the U.S. Other services might include some common lab tests, including PSA, and physical exams.
Wal-Mart hasn’t said to whom it sent the request for proposals. And it may well be that the responses Wal-Mart gets will guide its ultimate strategy. “It’s a fishing expedition,” consultant Adam Fein told The Wall Street Journal. “Wal-Mart knows where the money is,” he said. “It’s not in HDTVs. Over time, it’s going to be in health care.”
A 645-page report from the United States Sentencing Commission found that federal mandatory minimum sentences are often “excessively severe,” not “narrowly tailored to apply only to those offenders who warrant such punishment,” and not “applied consistently.” That is especially so for sentences of people convicted of drug-trafficking offenses, who make up more than 75 percent of those given federal mandatory minimum sentences. […]
The racial disparities in sentencing are also stark. In some cases, mandatory minimums can be reduced for offenders if the crime did not involve violence or a gun. But most African-American drug offenders convicted of a crime carrying a mandatory minimum sentence could not meet these and other requirements: only 39 percent qualified for a reduction compared with 64 percent of whites.
The report notes that inequitable sentencing policies “may foster disrespect for and lack of confidence in the federal criminal justice system.” Not “may.” Given the well-documented unfairness, Congress needs to rescind all mandatory minimum sentences.
There’s some good news in polling out today – but you wouldn’t know it if you just read the headlines.
First of all, Politico titles the article about their latest poll this wayBattleground Poll: Obama Vulnerable. But when you read the actual results – you get a slightly different picture.
Against a generic, unnamed Republican challenger, Obama tied 43 to 43. But when voters were pushed to pick between Obama and the GOP front-runner, Mitt Romney, the president took a 6-percentage-point lead. Obama beat Herman Cain by 9 percentage points in the survey…
Obama leads Romney by 6…that’s HUGE!!! As a comparison, Obama beat Cain by 7 in 2008.
Then there’s how Rasmussen leads with their recent polling data.
The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Monday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Thirty-eight percent (38%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15.
Its not until the 4th paragraph that you get to this.
Overall, 50% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president’s job performance. That’s the first time since June that the president has reached the 50% mark.
These folks really ought to decide if delusion about what’s really going on here is a good way to go. LOL
Update: Yeah for CNN, the network that doesn’t bury the lead:Support Rises for Insurance Mandate.
According to the poll, 52% of Americans favor mandatory health insurance, up from 44% in June. The survey indicates that 47% oppose the health insurance mandate, down from 54% in early summer.
[…] In “Back to Work,” Clinton said he was mystified that Democrats last year would have agreed to Republican demands to extend the Bush era tax cuts without insisting on a simultaneous increase in the federal debt limit. Better bargaining by Obama, Clinton suggested, would have deprived Republicans of a chance to score points with debt-limit brinksmanship—a drama that played out all last summer—after they took control of the House in 2011.
But Clinton—being interviewed by his daughter Chelsea Clinton—said he recently received a clarifying email from Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling, who also worked in the Clinton White House. Sperling, Clinton recounted, assured him that, “Oh, we tried.” The Democrats’ efforts, according to Clinton’s account of what Sperling told him, were thwarted by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who threatened to filibuster the entire package if an increase in the debt limit was included. Clinton said he incorrectly believed that Senate rules would not have allowed a filibuster of this type of fiscal measure.
“I was wrong—see that didn’t hurt too bad,” Clinton told the audience.
Make no mistake about it: The actions of the police department in Oakland last night were a military assault on a legitimate political demonstration. That it was a milder military assault than it could have been, which is to say it wasn’t a massacre, is very much beside the point. There was no possible provocation that warranted this display of force. (Graffiti? Litter? Rodents? Is the Oakland PD now a SWAT team for the city’s health department?) If you are a police department in this country in 2011, this is something you do because you have the power and the technology and the license from society to do it. This is a problem that has been brewing for a long time. It predates the Occupy movement for more than a decade. It even predates the “war on terror,” although that has acted as what the arson squad would call an “accelerant” to the essential dynamic.
Basic law enforcement in this country is thoroughly, totally militarized. It is militarized at its most basic levels. (The “street crime units,” so beloved by, among other people, the Diallo family.) It is militarized at its highest command positions. It is militarized in its tactics,and its weaponry and, most important of all, in the attitude of the officers themselves, and in how they are trained. There is a vast militarized intelligence apparatus that leads, inevitably, to pre-emptive military actions, like the raids on protest organizations that were carried out in advance of the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. Sooner or later, this militarized law enforcement was going to collide head-on with a movement of mass public protest, and the results were going to be ugly. (There already had been dry runs elsewhere, most notably in Miami, in 2003, during protests of a meeting of trade ministers.)
Meet Oakland, Singapore-by-the-Bay. There will be more of these. Depend on it. After all, they have fans out there.
(It should be noted here that John Timoney, the police chief in Miami who crushed the protests there, is now a recognized authority on how to keep order in the face of public demonstrations. Chris Matthews even has him on Hardball to talk about it. That’s the way the wind’s blowing here.)
And why shouldn’t the police be militarized? After all, we keep handing them “wars” to fight. A war on drugs. A war on terror. A war on graffiti. (Thanks, Rudy.) Wars are not properly fought with half-measures. Wars are fought over territory and wars are fought over power. You put enough war propaganda into the heads of young men, hand them weapons, and give them a license to use them, and they are not going to see fellow citizens through the visors on their helmets. They are going to see enemies. Wars have enemies. In Oakland last night, the police took action against enemies.
To their credit, libertarians have been warning about this dangerous drift of law enforcement for longer than most people have been aware of it. Republicans have too much to gain from any get-tough strategies, and Democrats are too timid to stand against them with any real zeal. Most people are perfectly willing to live with the beanbags, and the rubber bullets, and the clubs, as long as it’s happening to other people, especially other people who are really, you know, Other People. Or who can be made into Other People by the judicious cherry-picking of comments, the judicious parceling out of anonymous tidbits of information, or the judicious use of idiotic innuendo such as that which was fed to Boston television stations last night:
“Capillo isn’t pointing any fingers (Ed Note: That’s TV’s job, dammit), but the breaks have coincided with the arrival of the Occupy Boston movement, with the notable exception being first break-in on Sept. 29, the day before the protests began.”
(Ed. Note: All the break-ins have “coincided” with Occupy, unless you count the first one, which didn’t.)
Classic black propaganda. Somebody should get a raise there.
It’s time for the country to realize that something is dangerously out of control here, and that it’s not a bunch of people in sleeping bags in the public parks. There is a tradition of public protest in this country. Hell, this country is itself an act of public protest. Preserve that, or preserve nothing else, because there’s nothing else worth preserving. Police officers are public servants. They are not soldiers, facing down enemies. This is not a war. This is America.
The primary reason the tactic of occupation has resonated so far and wide is because it has served as a symbol about standing up to powerful elites on their own doorstep.
On some level we have to separate the reasons for this broad resonance from some things the physical occupation has meant to the dedicated people occupying on the ground. Within Liberty Square there is a thriving civic space, with ongoing dialogues and debates, a public library, a kitchen, live music, General Assemblies, more meetings than you can imagine, and all sorts of activities. In this sense, occupation is more than just a tactic. Many participants are consciously prefiguring the kind of society they want to live in.
But it is also a tactic. A tactic is basically an action taken with the intention of achieving a particular goal, or at least moving toward it. In long-term struggle, a tactic is better understood as one move among many in an epic game of chess (with the caveat that the powerful and the challengers are in no sense evenly matched). A successful tactic is one that sets us up to eventually achieve gains that we are presently not positioned to win. As Brazilian educator Paulo Freire asked, “What can we do today so that tomorrow we can do what we are unable to do today?”
By this definition, the tactic of physical occupation in the case of Occupy Wall Street has been enormously successful already. We have, at least for a moment, subverted the hegemonic conservative narrative about our economy and our democracy with a different moral narrative about social justice and real democratic participation. We are significantly better positioned than before to make bold demands, as we can now credibly claim that our values are popular—even that they are common sense—and connected to a social base.
By ROBERT HASS’ NYT:
LIFE, I found myself thinking as a line of Alameda County deputy sheriffs in Darth Vader riot gear formed a cordon in front of me on a recent night on the campus of theUniversity of California, Berkeley, is full of strange contingencies. The deputy sheriffs, all white men, except for one young woman, perhaps Filipino, who was trying to look severe but looked terrified, had black truncheons in their gloved hands that reporters later called batons and that were known, in the movies of my childhood, as billy clubs.
The first contingency that came to mind was the quick spread of the Occupy movement. The idea of occupying public space was so appealing that people in almost every large city in the country had begun to stake them out, including students at Berkeley, who, on that November night, occupied the public space in front of Sproul Hall, a gray granite Beaux-Arts edifice that houses the registrar’s offices and, in the basement, the campus police department.
It is also the place where students almost 50 years ago touched off the Free Speech Movement, which transformed the life of American universities by guaranteeing students freedom of speech and self-governance. The steps are named for Mario Savio, the eloquent graduate student who was the symbolic face of the movement. There is even a Free Speech Movement Cafe on campus where some of Mr. Savio’s words are prominently displayed: “There is a time … when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part.”
Earlier that day a colleague had written to say that the campus police had moved in to take down the Occupy tents and that students had been “beaten viciously.” I didn’t believe it. In broad daylight? And without provocation? So when we heard that the police had returned, my wife, Brenda Hillman, and I hurried to the campus. I wanted to see what was going to happen and how the police behaved, and how the students behaved. If there was trouble, we wanted to be there to do what we could to protect the students.
Once the cordon formed, the deputy sheriffs pointed their truncheons toward the crowd. It looked like the oldest of military maneuvers, a phalanx out of the Trojan War, but with billy clubs instead of spears. The students were wearing scarves for the first time that year, their cheeks rosy with the first bite of real cold after the long Californian Indian summer. The billy clubs were about the size of a boy’s Little League baseball bat. My wife was speaking to the young deputies about the importance of nonviolence and explaining why they should be at home reading to their children, when one of the deputies reached out, shoved my wife in the chest and knocked her down.
Another of the contingencies that came to my mind was a moment 30 years ago when Ronald Reagan’s administration made it a priority to see to it that people like themselves, the talented, hardworking people who ran the country, got to keep the money they earned. Roosevelt’s New Deal had to be undealt once and for all. A few years earlier, California voters had passed an amendment freezing the property taxes that finance public education and installing a rule that required a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature to raise tax revenues. My father-in-law said to me at the time, “It’s going to take them 50 years to really see the damage they’ve done.” But it took far fewer than 50 years.
My wife bounced nimbly to her feet. I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines.
Chris Hayes, MSNBC:
A well-known Washington lobbying firm with links to the financial industry has proposed an $850,000 plan to take on Occupy Wall Street and politicians who might express sympathy for the protests, according to a memo obtained by the MSNBC program “Up w/ Chris Hayes.”
The proposal was written on the letterhead of the lobbying firm Clark Lytle Geduldig & Cranford and addressed to one of CLGC’s clients, the American Bankers Association.
CLGC’s memo proposes that the ABA pay CLGC $850,000 to conduct “opposition research” on Occupy Wall Street in order to construct “negative narratives” about the protests and allied politicians. The memo also asserts that Democratic victories in 2012 would be detrimental for Wall Street and targets specific races in which it says Wall Street would benefit by electing Republicans instead.
According to the memo, if Democrats embrace OWS, “This would mean more than just short-term political discomfort for Wall Street. … It has the potential to have very long-lasting political, policy and financial impacts on the companies in the center of the bullseye.”
The memo also suggests that Democratic victories in 2012 should not be the ABA’s biggest concern. “… (T)he bigger concern,” the memo says, “should be that Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies.”
Two of the memo’s authors, partners Sam Geduldig and Jay Cranford, previously worked for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Geduldig joined CLGC before Boehner became speaker; Cranford joined CLGC this year after serving as the speaker’s assistant for policy. A third partner, Steve Clark, is reportedly “tight” with Boehner, according to a story by Roll Callthat CLGC features on its website.
Jeff Sigmund, an ABA spokesperson, confirmed that the association got the memo. “Our Government Relations staff did receive the proposal – it was unsolicited and we chose not to act on it in any way,” he said in a statement to “Up.”
CLGC did not return calls seeking comment.
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel declined to comment on the memo. But he responded to its characterization of Republicans as defenders of Wall Street by saying, “My understanding is that President Obama is the single largest recipient of donations from Wall Street.”
On “Up” Saturday, Anita Dunn, Obama campaign adviser, responded by saying that the majority of the president’s re-election campaign is fueled by small donors. She rejected the suggestion that the president himself is too close to Wall Street, saying “If that’s the case, why were tough financial reforms passed over party line Republican opposition?”
The CLGC memo raises another issue that it says should be of concern to the financial industry — that OWS might find common cause with the Tea Party. “Well-known Wall Street companies stand at the nexus of where OWS protestors and the Tea Party overlap on angered populism,” the memo says. “…This combination has the potential to be explosive later in the year when media reports cover the next round of bonuses and contrast it with stories of millions of Americans making do with less this holiday season.”
The memo outlines a 60-day plan to conduct surveys and research on OWS and its supporters so that Wall Street companies will be prepared to conduct a media campaign in response to OWS. Wall Street companies “likely will not be the best spokespeople for their own cause,” according to the memo. “A big challenge is to demonstrate that these companies still have political strength and that making them a political target will carry a severe political cost.”
Part of the plan CLGC proposes is to do “statewide surveys in at least eight states that are shaping up to be the most important of the 2012 cycle.”
Specific races listed in the memo are U.S. Senate races in Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Mexico and Nevada as well as the gubernatorial race in North Carolina.
The memo indicates that CLGC would research who has contributed financial backing to OWS, noting that, “Media reports have speculated about associations with George Soros and others.”
“It will be vital,” the memo says, “to understand who is funding it and what their backgrounds and motives are. If we can show that they have the same cynical motivation as a political opponent it will undermine their credibility in a profound way.”
Just heard on the radio that egyptian police set occupier tents on fire. Just saying
- Kerick Walters if it wouldn’t give Obamba just cause to call out the U.N. troops to restore order I would be all for this.
- Dave Greenup he was just saying–i don’t think i could get close enough–smell from the occupy would kill me
- John Figueroa Kerick, that is terrible… this is Portland we are talking about, those tents are probably worth money, we could sell them instead
- Jeff Pettijohn Haha! Awesome! US occupiers have been given way to much leniency.
- Ted Johnson Smoke em’…..
- Kerick Walters john you got a point but… one has to consider the time and money it would take in sanitizing those tents and removing the stench so people could buy them… Obama would see this as economic growth but he would, cos spending more to earn less is the democratic party’s way
- Jim Loennig Just saying what, Alex Jones just had a segment on the video games, the shoot’em ones, and recently they through SPLC are shooting Americans as part of the game!
What are they conditioning our young children to shoot Americans for??
No we make everybody the enemy. Crazy!
Across the country, police have used undercover and/or plainsclothed police officers to monitor occupations and protests that are a part of the 99 Percent Movement. Earlier today, the Tennessean published excerpts from emails sent by the Tennessee Highway Patrol that confirmed not only that police were infiltrating Occupy Nashville but that they were hoping for the movement’s demise.
In a video released last month, Oakland Police Officer Fred Shavies was outed as one of these plainsclothed officers at Occupy Oakland.
Now, in an interview with Justin Warren, Shavies said that he was just doing his job and that he actually supports the movement. He said that the police brutality that occurred could be our generation’s Birmingham — referring to the civil rights struggle in the South — and that he hopes the movement is a turning point for changing the country:
SHAVIES: I’m a police officer. I’m part of the 99 percent. […] In the ’60s when people would protest, would gather in order to bring about change, right? Those protests were nonviolent they were peaceful assemblies. They were broken up with dogs, hoses, sticks. […] It looks like there was a square, and police shot tear gas. That could be the photograph or the video for our generation. That’s our Birmingham. So, twenty years from now this movement could be the turning point, the tipping point, right. It’s about time your generation stood up for something. It’s about time young people are in the streets. […] Ya’ll don’t need to throw gas canisters into a group of people occupying an intersection.
James Fallow, The Atlantic:
Apart from the updates that a variety of readers sent yesterday about the affectless sadism of a UC Davis policemen, let me mention a few more links and resources:
1) Notice the crowd. This is a point I wish I had made the first time around. While the first 60 seconds of the 8-minute YouTube video are dominated by the shockingly calm brutality of the policeman, the rest of it is remarkable mainly for the stoicism and resolve of the protestors. You don’t have to idealize everything about them or the Occupy movement to recognize this as a moral drama that the protestors clearly won. The self-control they show, while being assaulted, reminds me of grainy TV footage I saw as a kid, of black civil rights protestors being fire-hosed by Bull Connor’s policemen in Alabama. Or of course the Tank Man in Tiananmen Square. Such images can have tremendous, lasting power.
What is going on is a war of ideas, based in turn on moral standing. This engagement, which started in Minute 1 with police over-reaction and ended in Minute 8 with nervous police retreat, was a rout.*
2) What this shows about our police, and us. Three of my Atlantic colleagues have analyses very much worth reading. Alexis Madrigal, on whythis is less about the individual policeman who held the spray can than about an overall change in police strategy; Garance Franke-Ruta on whether this latest episode might have a last-straw effect in forcing recognition of how needlessly violent and brutal police response has been across the country; and Ta-Nehisi Coates on the potential of this episode to direct attention to long-standing patterns of abuse. As he says, “Not to diminish what happened at UC Davis, but it’s worth considering what happens in poor neighborhoods and prisons, far from the cameras. I’m not saying that to diminish this video in anyway. But I’d like people to see this a part of a broad systemic attitude we’ve adopted as a country toward law enforcement.”
3) Shooting vs spraying. Reader MS sends in a link to a different UC Davis video.
I’d like to direct to you to this far less publicized video that starts a couple of minutes earlier in the incident, where Officer Pike [who did the spraying] seems to have threatened the students that he and his men would shoot them:
At that point in the video, they are clearly brandishing their non-lethal guns.
Again, more questions…
– I’m sure he would now try to say he meant ‘shoot them with pepper spray’, but notice his officers’ posture and that Pike immediately rejoins their ranks. It’s only later, after the crowd yelling “don’t shoot students” and some seeming deliberation that the pepper spray is fetched. Plus, why use the verb “shoot”, when “spray” would be more appropriate?
– How non-lethal is it to shoot those guns from a standing position down towards the heads of protesters at close range?
– Does it not at least violate policy to shoot even non-lethal guns at perps that have their back turned to you, aren’t menacing anyone, and aren’t fleeing?
– It’s clear to a viewer of the video that Pike meant that his officers would shoot protesters with non-lethal weapons, not their lethal firearms. However, considering the seated protesters had their backs to the officers, did/could they know that?
4) Cameras. As many people have written in to point out, the sign of a modern protest movement is the omnipresence of cameras. Some police officials, some protestors, and nearly all onlookers are recording whatever goes on. We can’t imagine all the effects of the panopticon society, but one benefit is certainly the one T-N Coates points out: some greater accountability and reality-test for police claims that they “had” to use excessive force. Andrew Sprung has just written on this aspect.
5) Police dressed as storm troopers. My previous post included a question. A reader quotes it and offers an answer:
“And by the way, when did we accept the idea that local police forces would always dress up in riot gear that used to be associated with storm troopers and dystopian sci-fi movies?”
About the early-1990s, with Daryl Gates’ LAPD. Gates always saw the police as paramilitary — I remember the LA Times pointing out during that time LAPD had more helicopters than Libya.
But it was Gates’ “SWAT-ification” of the force that was the turning point — one whose need appeared justified to the (middle-class) public by the Rodney King riots (which were mostly by Latinos by arrests and fatalities, but leave that aside).
I’ve been a Republican all my adult life. I have worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, at Forbes magazine, at the Manhattan and American Enterprise Institutes, as a speechwriter in the George W. Bush administration. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation, and limited government. I voted for John McCain in 2008, and I have strongly criticized the major policy decisions of the Obama administration. But as I contemplate my party and my movement in 2011, I see things I simply cannot support.
America desperately needs a responsible and compassionate alternative to the Obama administration’s path of bigger government at higher cost. And yet: This past summer, the GOP nearly forced America to the verge of default just to score a point in a budget debate. In the throes of the worst economic crisis since the Depression, Republican politicians demand massive budget cuts and shrug off the concerns of the unemployed. In the face of evidence of dwindling upward mobility and long-stagnating middle-class wages, my party’s economic ideas sometimes seem to have shrunk to just one: more tax cuts for the very highest earners. When I entered Republican politics, during an earlier period of malaise, in the late seventies and early eighties, the movement got most of the big questions—crime, inflation, the Cold War—right. This time, the party is getting the big questions disastrously wrong.
It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as “balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.” By 2011, Republican commentators were noisily complaining that the poorer half of society are “lucky duckies” because the EITC offsets their federal tax obligations—or because the recession had left them with such meager incomes that they had no tax to pay in the first place. In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked “churches, synagogues, and mosques.” By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult. In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55. Today, the Fed’s pushing down interest rates in hopes of igniting economic growth is close to treason, according to Governor Rick Perry, coyly seconded byTheWall Street Journal. In 2000, the same policy qualified Alan Greenspan as the “greatest central banker in the history of the world,” according to Perry’s mentor, Senator Phil Gramm. Today, health reform that combines regulation of private insurance, individual mandates, and subsidies for those who need them is considered unconstitutional and an open invitation to “death panels.” A dozen years ago, a very similar reform was the Senate Republican alternative to Hillarycare. Today, stimulative fiscal policy that includes tax cuts for almost every American is “socialism.” In 2001, stimulative fiscal policy that included tax cuts for rather fewer Americans was an economic-recovery program.
Ican’t shrug off this flight from reality and responsibility as somebody else’s problem. I belonged to this movement; I helped to make the mess. People may very well say: Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you work in the George W. Bush administration that disappointed so many people in so many ways? What qualifies you to dispense advice to anybody else?
Fair question. I am haunted by the Bush experience, although it seems almost presumptuous for someone who played such a minor role to feel so much unease. The people who made the big decisions certainly seem to sleep well enough. Yet there is also the chance for something positive to come out of it all. True, some of my colleagues emerged from those years eager to revenge themselves and escalate political conflict: “They send one of ours to the hospital, we send two of theirs to the morgue.” I came out thinking, I want no more part of this cycle of revenge. For the past half-dozen years, I have been arguing that we conservatives need to follow a different course. And it is this argument that has led so many of my friends to demand, sometimes bemusedly, sometimes angrily, “What the hell happened to you?” I could fire the same question back: “Never mind me—what happened to you?”
The Monkey Cage:
A second, and more important, point: Obama is not “pretty well doomed.” I’ve now seen, publicly or privately, about 5 forecasts of the presidential election that rely mostly or in part on economic indicators, and those forecasts predict that Obama will get somewhere between 47 and 52% of the vote. See Alan Abramowitz, Ray Fair, or Nate Silver, for example. The variation arises because different models rely on different specific factors, economic and non-economic. But an average of those models is usually more accurate; see Brendan Nyhan and Jacob Montgomery for more. I haven’t done the sophisticated averaging that Nyhan and Montgomery describe, but I think back-of the-envelope math is sufficient at this early date. And that math suggests that Obama is likely going to face a tight race, but he is not “doomed.”
The problem with getting the prediction wrong is that it encourages all kinds of unwarranted speculation about why the prediction is wrong. In 2008, David Brooks was wondering why it wasn’t a landslide for Obama, even though the fundamentals didn’t predict a landslide. In 2011, Tomasky is wondering why it’s not already a landslide for Republicans. It’s not supposed to be.
But let’s get to the meat of Tomasky’s argument:
Obama’s secret weapons in this election are Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor, and the way things are headed they’re going to have economic-determinist political scientists going back to the drawing board in 2013 and adding a corollary to their theory: if economic conditions are bad, the incumbent will lose, unless the people have decided to blame the bad economy on the opposition party in Congress.
So, third point. Tomasky is right that this would be an unusual outcome. As I have noted before, previous research finds that presidents get blamed for bad economies, even under divided government. So could 2012 be different? As Tomasky notes, this outcome depends on the extent of GOP obstruction between now and then as well as Democratic strategies for exploiting voters’ concerns about the GOP:
And eventually, the GOP nominee will have to deal with this. Yes, that candidate will speak of the future and his plans, and I’m not saying that Floridians or Ohioans are going to be walking into the voting booth thinking of Eric Cantor. But the GOP’s reputation is so low, and its image (and reality) as obstructionist so steadily solidifying, that it’s going to hang like the stink of garlic around the nominee’s neck. This scenario depends on the Democrats handling all this the right way politically, which is not exactly the most dependable assumption, especially with this White House.
I’d add something equally or perhaps more important: it depends on how much the Republican nominee embraces the House GOP. Imagine this:
Obama: “Our economy is weak and my jobs bill would help. But the Republicans in Congress won’t pass it! Why would we elect another Republican when the ones we’ve got won’t do anything?”
Romney: “Our economy is indeed very weak, thanks in part to the ineffective policies of my opponent. That’s why I’ve proposed my 59-point plan. If you elect me president, I’ll be able to work effectively with Congress to get it passed.”
Even if the GOP is obstructionist and won’t pass Obama’s jobs plan, the GOP nominee will still have a jobs plan. In that case, why should voters blame, say, Mitt Romney for the fact that Mitch McConnell like to filibuster? Someone like Romney could conceivably sidestep the Republicans in Congress: he hasn’t served there and isn’t allied with the conservative hard-liners most likely to oppose Obama’s agenda. Indeed, what’s to keep Romney from occasionally taking veiled swipes at the GOP in Congress? Like this: “I’m running for president to get stuff done. It’s not enough to say “no” to what you don’t like. You’ve got to act affirmatively to create jobs and get the economy back on track.”
Of course, it’s not that Obama wouldn’t try to make GOP obstructionism “hang like the stink of garlic around the nominee’s neck.” But why couldn’t the GOP nominee neutralize this strategy?
In theory, revelations like these would shake up the Republican presidential race, but that assumes Mitt Romney has competent primary rivals who actually want to win.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s past support for abortion rights and state-funded family planning, especially during his Senate run in 1994 against Ted Kennedy, is well known. But Romney’s support has lasted longer, and goes deeper, than many may assume.
During Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign, he sought the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts by filling out a questionnaire that made his continued support clear. The document was first circulated in 2007, but is now taking on new relevance as Romney tries to clarify his opposition to abortion rights and government-funded family planning.
Romney pledged his support for Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects women’s choice, for laws protecting the safety of abortion clinics, for increased access to the morning-after pill and for late-term abortions when the mother’s health is at risk. Romney also indicated on the form that he supported the “state funding of abortion services through Medicaid for low-income women.”
At a certain level, this seems huge. Romney, in his only successful campaign for public office, put his commitment to reproductive rights in writing — not only endorsing protections for Roe, but also expressing support for using taxpayer money to pay for abortion services.
This is about the time we’d see every other Republican presidential campaign launch their rapid-response operations, raising hell with every political reporter they can find. We’d see press releases, web videos, the works.
But in 2011, that just never seems to happen.
I thought, for example, the GOP field would be apoplectic when we learned that Romney had promised center-left activists he would “act asessentially a sleeper agent within the Republican Party, adopting liberal stances, rising to national prominence, and thereby legitimizing them and transforming the Party from within.” But the other Republican campaigns let it slide.
I also thought the GOP field would go berserk when we learned that Romney’s health care program in Massachusetts uses taxpayer money to provide medical care to undocumented immigrants. But the other Republican campaigns let this slide, too.
I also thought the GOP field would pounce immediately on revelations that Romney’s policy team advised the Obama White House on how best to shape “Obamacare.” But, again, the other Republican campaigns said nothing.
I thought Romney would be slammed repeatedly for his support of health care mandates. And his support for gun control. And his record supporting gay rights. And his belief in climate change. And now his support for taxpayer-financed abortions. Sure, he’s flip-flopped on all of these issues and more, and has become something of a far-right extremist, but at one time, Romney was practically a liberal — a detail that might matter to some Republican primary voters.
And yet, with fewer than eight weeks to go before the Iowa caucuses, there are no attack ads targeting Romney airing anywhere in the country, and in last night’s debate, no one even tried to lay a glove on him.
It’s one thing to note how lucky Romney has been, but this is something else altogether. We’re talking about an entire GOP presidential field that practically seems willing to let Romney win.
First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Bidenwere on hand this afternoon at the Homestead-Miami Speedway to Grand Marshall NASCAR’s Sprint Cup finale, and to support Joining Forces, an initiative to hire and train veterans. When they were introduced to kick off the race, however, loud booing could be heard above the cheers. At an event with such an apparently unifying theme, the crowd’s reaction was an ugly reminder of how personally some have taken the political divisions in our country.
However, the Associated Press reports that the First Lady and Dr. Biden did receive a standing ovation at a pre-race driver’s meeting, much more in keeping with the spirit of the occasion.
Angry Black Lady:
This was quite a week for fans of the truth.
Whether the truth was being covered up, as at Penn State, or whether it has been willfully obscured by revisionists with an agenda, as with the corporate media’s and the (un)Professional Left’s continuing hit-job on the Obama administration, people started speaking out.
As friend of this blog Goldie Taylor says, #TruthMatters.
Here’s a compilation of links to the best truth-telling we’ve read on the internets this week, along with a review of some of our own most-discussed posts.
The Penn State football program was not a shining city on a hill.
In the aftermath of the stunning revelations about how the Penn State athletic program shielded a child rapist in their midst for decades, our own asiangrrlMN took on the thankless task of reading the grand jury report and breaking it down for all of us in a seies of four unforgettable posts.
The consequences of the crimes committed by this one accused predator are staggering enough on their own. But when you multiply that by the total number of perpetrators and the many lives each of them has invaded, you begin to realize how many walk among us carrying the memories of abuse. The more people come forward and talk about their own experience, the better. Our brave pal Goldie Taylor wrote a series of tweets, followed up on her blogand gave interviews about her decision to name and confront the man who used his position as a coach to prey upon her and other girls. Our own Extreme Liberal’s latest post chronicles his childhood abuse and offers a set of helpful resources.
Twitter addicts watched as Michael Moore set out on a campaign to link President Obama directly with the police violence at OWS sites, first by “asking” if it were so, then palming off an obscure blog post without any on-the-record sources as evidence. Imani ABL was one of the first to write about this meme-generating campaign in two posts. Joshua Holland, no Obamabot he, takes the whole kerfluffle in stride, thinks through the “evidence” and concludes that there was probably no coordination. Tommy Christopher finishes Moore off at Mediaite.
What’s truly mystifying, though, is Michael Moore’s desperation to attack President Obama. There are many liberals who are critical of the President (myself included), but it’s rare that a liberal outpaces the most rabid of right-wing fabricators to do so.
Firebaggers and Emoprogs are invested in untrue narratives.
In a refreshing change of pace, more mainstream respected left-of-center journalists and bloggers have started taking a closer look at some of the persistent memes our perpetually disgruntled pundits and opinion-shapers on the left use to berate the Obama administration, and subjecting them to analysis and interpretation.
Jonathan Bernstein at WaPo’s Plum Line concludes that Obama didn’t sell out the public option in the health-care debate.
Smartypants takes on the collective myth that President Obama and Democrats “cave” and deconstructs it with relish.
Krugman recognizes that the supercommittee was designed to fail and that this is a good thing.
Steve Benen at Washington Monthly dissects the counterfactual nature of Drew Westen’s increasingly nasty and fact-free screeds against the Obama administration.
We at ABLC heartily endorse this trend, and remain hopeful that, as with Michael Moore’s most recent experiment, we denizens of the internet will be more effective, timely and pro-active in shooting down false memes before they have an opportunity to become entrenched.
Chris Matthews has a book to sell.
Chris would like you to read his book about JFK. He has a funny way of selling his book that mostly involves comparing the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and his family negatively to the idol of his youth. Matthews mouthed off in an interview on MSNBC that the Obamas haven’t demonstrated enough “gratitude” and said, “If I could say one thing to Barack Obama, it’s ‘stop showing us how smart you are and lead us!’”, and set off a Tweetstorm. Friends of this blog Joy Reid and Marion Watts weighed in with sharply contrasting opinions on the substance and implications of Matthews’ comments, and to what extent his comments were racial dogwhistles. We at ABLC see merits in both their posts, and would like to remind you that while people are talking about where Chris Matthews sits on the racial animus spectrum, Pat Buchanan is still on the payroll at MSNBC.
UC Davis has some explaining to do.
Imani ABL flagged this amazing video of UC Davis police pepper-spraying Occupy demonstrators, and the firestorm that has ensued. We’d like to share aFacebook status update from Christopher Cabaldon, the mayor of Davis neighbor West Sacramento, that manages to assimilate all conflicting opinions toward the Occupy movement while standing firm against police brutality.
I’m a progressive and I also govern a police department and public spaces. Having been forged in the anti-apartheid movement, I know the power and the desperate need for protest, even as I’m troubled by the misdirected targeting of good public servants and the people’s sacred realm of public spaces rather than the truly corrupted (and THEIR property, assets, and playgrounds) whose power extends beyond the triviality of a campus or city limits. But even through many mixed feelings and a search for the right path, there is no doubt in my mind or soul that what UCDPD did on Friday was fundamentally wrong. And that the powerful moment captured by this video says so much about tragedy, meaning, and reflection.
Chris Cillizza, WaPo:
Everyone knows that President Obama has a problem with his political base heading into 2012. Except that he doesn’t.
One of the most persistent story lines for the president has been that the liberal left has grown increasingly dissatisfied with his actions (or inaction) on some of its priorities — including single-payer health insurance, the extension of the George W. Bush tax cuts and whether to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
But an examination of the polling data among key subgroups that constitute Obama’s base makes clear that he has as much support from them as any modern president seeking a second term.
“There is one immutable fact about President Obama’s reelection chances: Nobody has a more solid 44 percent base than he does,” Democratic pollster Peter Hart wrote in a not-entirely-uncritical memo assessing the state of political affairs a year out from the election.
As evidence, Hart noted that in the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Obama takes 44 percent in a three-way race with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) running as an independent; has a 44 percent job approval rating; and has a 45 percent positive personal rating. In the same survey, 45 percent said they “probably” will vote for Obama in 2012.
At the heart of the president’s enduring strength among his base are African Americans who have never wavered in any meaningful way after 95 percent of black voters opted for the Illinois senator in 2008.
In Gallup’s latest weekly tracking polling, Obama’s job approval rating stands at 43 percent among the general public but is nearly double that — 84 percent —among African Americans. In the November NBC-WSJ poll, Obama’s approval rating among black voters stood at a stratospheric 91 percent.
Given that African Americans made up 13 percent of the overall electorate in 2008 — and, hence, a much larger chunk of the Democratic base vote — Obama’s continued support among that key demographic makes any sort of widespread base erosion in 2012 unlikely.
That’s a reality that even Republicans acknowledge.
“Anyone who thinks African Americans are not going to turn out and vote in numbers similar to 2008 are fooling themselves,” said Glen Bolger, a leading GOP pollster. “There is no way they are going to say, ‘Well, we didn’t get everything we wanted from making history, so let’s sit on our hands.’ ”
Although African Americans remain the base group most broadly supportive of Obama, liberals and Democrats are very much in his camp as well. In Gallup’s most recent data, Obama’s job approval rating stood at 78 percent among Democrats and 70 percent among liberals.
Those numbers are similar to where President Bill Clinton stood in November 1995, when 78 percent of Democrats in Gallup polling approved of the job he was doing. (Bush had the support of 87 percent of Republicans in the fall of 2003, but those numbers were the result of the boosts he received from the start of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
That’s not to say that there aren’t elements of softness in Obama’s base. His latest job approval rating in Gallup’s tracking survey is at 50 percent among 18-to-29-year-olds and Hispanics, both significant drop-offs from the 66 percent and 67 percent, respectively, he won among those two groups in the 2008 election.
Of course, comparing job approval ratings to vote share is an inexact science — approval ratings judge Obama against himself, while an election will force members of his base to choose between the incumbent and a Republican with whom they agree on very little.
“Democratic base voters will start focusing on the election just as the Republican not-ready-for-prime-time players start coming to a theater near them,” longtime Democratic strategist Steve Rosenthal predicted.
Obama’s base strength does not mean that he will face an easier-than-expected road to reelection. The country’s economy continues to sputter, large majorities of the public think the nation is headed in the wrong direction, and Obama’s numbers among electorally critical independents are nowhere near where his team would like them to be. And, if Obama’s base is largely united, so, too, is the opposition; in an October Washington Post-ABC News poll, 46 percent of respondents said they would not even consider voting for him.
But it does mean that Obama starts with a rock-solid 43 to 44 percent of the vote and that the focus of the next 11 months is almost certain to be on improving his numbers among independents in states such as Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin.
“Is the president’s base upset? You bet, but they aren’t upset at Obama,” said Cornell Belcher, who conducts polling for the Democratic National Committee. “They are in fact sympathetic to what Obama is trying to do and what he is going through.”
And Hart wrote in his year-out memo: “His base will be invaluable, and this has been underestimated. It should not be.”
By Ronald Brownstein
New polls released late last week in three behemoth swing states underscore a central opportunity Mitt Romney could provide Republicans in the general election-and the threat he could pose to President Obama.
In the Quinnipiac University surveys in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania released on November 10, Romney ran more strongly against President Obama than Rick Perry, Herman Cain or Newt Gingrich. One key reason: Romney performed much better than his rivals among college-educated white voters.
That’s an ominous trend for Democrats because those upscale whites have become an increasingly central piece of their party’s electoral coalition. From the 1950s through the 1970s, polls found that Democratic presidential nominees invariably ran significantly better among white voters without a college education than those with advanced degrees. But in a process I’ve called the class inversion, those lines converged under Bill Clinton (who ran as well among whites with a degree as those without one) and then crossed in 2000: according to exit polls, Al Gore ran four percentage points better among college-educated than non-college whites. In 2004, John Kerry ran six points better.
In 2008, the exit poll found, Barack Obama won only 40 percent of the vote among non-college whites, but 47 percent among college educated whites. In Pennsylvania, according to the 2008 exit polls, college-educated whites gave Obama a five percentage point margin over John McCain; in Ohio, they split almost exactly evenly between the two men; and in Florida, they preferred McCain by 12 percentage points. In each case, Obama’s showing with college whites, combined with his overwhelming majorities among minorities, helped him overcome big deficits with working-class whites to carry the state.
Against that backdrop, Romney’s performance among better-educated whites in the Quinnipiac polls should raise some eyebrows among Democrats. Obviously, neither side has truly framed the general election choice yet. But privately most Democrats acknowledge that Romney could be a stronger competitor than any other Republican for the votes of those upscale whites, because he conveys competence on the economy and does not appear as ideologically rigid (especially on social issues) as his rivals. The very suspicion that hurts Romney in the primaries-the fear among social conservatives that his conversion to their causes is skin-deep-could help him with suburban swing voters in the general election.
The results of the Quinnipiac surveys, conducted from October 31 to November 7 in all three states, should reinforce those Democratic concerns. The poll surveyed 1,185 voters in Florida, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points; 1,312 voters in Ohio with a 2.7 percentage point margin of error; and 1,436 voters in Pennsylvania with a 2.6 percentage point error margin.
In Pennsylvania, according to Quinnipiac, college-educated white voters preferred Obama over Perry by a 16 percentage point margin, over Gingrich by a 13 percentage point margin and over Cain by eight percentage points. In each of those potential match ups, Obama drew at least 50 percent of the vote. But Romney held Obama to a 45 percent to 45 percent draw among Pennsylvania college-educated whites.
Among college-plus whites in Ohio, Obama led Perry by 10 percentage points, Gingrich by nine and Cain by six. In each case, Obama drew at least 49 percent of the vote. But the poll showed those same college-plus whites preferred Romney over Obama by a 47 percent to 44 percent margin.
In Florida, which is a tougher environment for Obama even among college-whites, those better-educated voters preferred Perry over the president by two percentage points, and Gingrich and Cain by eight percentage points. But those voters stampede toward Romney: he leads Obama among Florida college-educated whites by a resounding 18 percentage points, 56 percent to 38 percent. None of the other Republicans attracted more than 51 percent among Florida college-educated whites in the survey.
In all three states, Romney also runs more strongly against Obama than any of his three principal rivals among non-college whites as well. But Romney’s relative advantage over Perry and Gingrich in match-ups against Obama is consistently greater with the well-educated whites.
For instance, in the Pennsylvania poll, Romney draws 50 percent among non-college whites against Obama while Perry attracts 46 percent. That’s a four percentage point advantage for Romney. In the same hypothetical match up, Romney’s advantage over Perry among college whites doubles to eight percentage points (meaning that against Obama, Romney draws 45 percent of them compared to just 37 percent for Perry). In the Florida test against Obama, Romney outpolls Perry among non-college whites again by just four points (54 percent to 50 percent), but by fully 10 percentage points among the college-whites (56 percent for Romney compared to 46 percent for Perry).
With Gingrich the pattern is similar. In the Florida test against Obama, Romney outpolls Gingrich by five percentage points among college whites and just two among non-college whites. In Pennsylvania the differences are six and four points respectively. With Cain the patterns are not as clear: in the tests against Obama, Romney’s advantage relative to Cain is about the same among non-college and college whites.
Another question in the Quinnipiac survey helps explain why Romney performs better against Obama among college whites than the other Republicans. When Quinnipiac asked respondents who they believed could better handle the economy, regardless of who they intended to vote for, eachRepublican led Obama among non-college whites in all three states, except in one case: Gingrich and the president tied among those voters in Ohio.
But among college whites, the story was very different. On that economic question, Obama led Cain, Perry and Gingrich among those better-educated whites in both Ohio and Pennsylvania (albeit sometimes within the survey’s margin of error). By sharp contrast, Romney held a double digit advantage over the president on the economy among those college-plus voters in both Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Florida, college educated whites preferred all four of the Republicans to Obama on the economy, but Romney’s advantage over the president was nearly double that of any of his rivals.
In a race against Romney senior Democrats believe that even if the former Massachusetts governor can cut into Obama’s strength in upscale suburbs, the president can make up any lost votes by running better than expected among blue-collar voters; those voters, the Obama team hopes, will blanch at Romney’s boardroom background. It remains to be seen whether Obama can really win back more of such working-class whites voters, who have hardened in their support for Republicans in presidential elections since 1980. If Obama can’t recapture more blue-collar voters, it will increase the pressure on him to find arguments that can dent what these polls show is a very strong initial impression by Romney in the comfortable suburbs at the foundation of the modern Democratic coalition.–Scott Bland contributed.
Proposed Constitutional Amendment
TO PRESERVE THE FREEDOM OF OHIOANS TO CHOOSE THEIR HEALTH CARE
AND HEALTH CARE COVERAGE
Proposed by Initiative Petition
To adopt Section 21 of Article I of the Constitution of the State of Ohio
A majority yes vote is necessary for the amendment to pass.
The proposed amendment would provide that:
1. In Ohio, no law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or
health care provider to participate in a health care system.
2. In Ohio, no law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health
3. In Ohio, no law or rule shall impose a penalty or fine for the sale or purchase of health
care or health insurance.
The proposed amendment would not:
1. Affect laws or rules in effect as of March 19, 2010.
2. Affect which services a health care provider or hospital is required to perform or provide.
3. Affect terms and conditions of government employment.
4. Affect any laws calculated to deter fraud or punish wrongdoing in the health care
If approved, the amendment will be effective thirty days after the election.
Vote Yes or No
Thomas and Scalia’s speeches at Federalist Society dinner underscore need for ethics at the high court
Hours after considering whether to hear challenges to national health care reform, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia were honored Thursday at a fundraiser sponsored in part by law firms engaged in the litigation. This is an apparent breach of ethical standards that apply to every other federal judge.
That morning, all nine justices met to review appeals from lower federal courts. Their agenda included a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which the court announced today it would hear this term
A few hours later, Scalia and Thomas were honorees and speakers at an annual fundraising dinner for the Federalist Society, which describes itself as “conservatives and libertarians interested” in the law
Donors for the event included corporations like the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, which has a critical stake in the outcome of the health care litigation, as well as lawyers and law firms directly involved in bringing suits challenging the law
According to the Code of Conduct for US Judges, which binds all other federal judges, “a judge may attend fundraising events of law related and other organizations, although the judge may not be a speaker, a guest of honor, or featured on the program of such an event.”
“This stunning breech of ethics and indifference to the code belies claims by several justices that the Court abides by the same rules that apply all other federal judges,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “The justices were wining and dining at a black tie fundraiser with attorneys who have pending cases before the court. Their appearance and assistance in fundraising for this event undercuts any claims of impartiality, and is unacceptable.
The dinner program indicates that Justice Scalia was seated at a table with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. As keynote speaker for the society’s 2010 conference, McConnell told Federalist Society members: “I know I can count [on] the support of the Federalist Society in helping us in our challenges to this affront,” referring to the health care case.
Paul Clement, counsel for parties in the 11th Circuit case that challenged the law, sat at a table sandwiched between Scalia and Thomas, according to the program. His law firm, Bancroft PLLC, is listed as a “silver” sponsor of the dinner. Justice Samuel Alito, a past speaker, was also in attendance. The law firm Jones Day, another “silver” sponsor, is representing parties in another case challenging the law the Supreme Court agreed to hear today.
Click here to view the list of sponsors in the Federalist Society’s dinner program.
A Supreme Court justice on Tuesday expressed major concerns that the government would engage in round-the-clock surveillance reminiscent of the totalitarian world of the George Orwell novel 1984 if the court ruled in the government’s favor.
The court heard oral arguments in the Jones case, in which the outcome will determine whether warrantless GPS tracking by law enforcement is an invasion of Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
Justice Stephen Breyer questioned what a democratic society would look like if people believed the government was tracking them for days at a time.
“If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States,” Breyer said. “So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like1984 from their brief.”
U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben contended that if all Americans viewed warrantless tracking as an Orwellian invasion of privacy, Congress would step in with a legislative solution.
Chief Justice John Roberts said that unlike earlier technology, GPS tracking gives law enforcement a “mosaic” that gives them the “whole picture” rather than just a slice of it.
Police suspected D.C. nightclub owner Antoine Jones of dealing cocaine and used a GPS tracker over the course of a month to trace his movements to a stash house in Maryland. Their warrant was expired when they installed the tracker.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) is turning up the heat on Justice Clarence Thomas based on new information that builds upon previous reports of his alleged ethical lapses.
In late September, Slaughter had sent a letter to the Judicial Conference of the United States to request official action on Thomas’ multiyear failure to disclose his wife’s income from various conservative think tanks and activist organizations. The Judicial Conference is the principal policy-making and administrative body for the federal court system.
On Friday, Slaughter submitted a new letter, this time addressed to Chief Justice John Roberts in his capacity as the presiding officer of the Judicial Conference, to update and clarify the September letter.
At issue is the fact that Thomas repeatedly checked a box titled “none” on annual financial disclosure forms in response to a question about the sources of spousal income. Yet during those years, his wife, Virginia Thomas, worked for the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation and for the Tea Party lobbying group Liberty Central, which she helped found.
The first letter asserted that Thomas’ nondisclosures persisted “[t]hroughout his entire tenure of the Supreme Court,” which began in 1991. It was fair to infer from his “high level of legal training and experience,” Slaughter wrote, that the justice’s failure presented the type of “willful” behavior that federal law requires the Judicial Conference to refer to the Department of Justice for investigation.
Friday’s letter, however, states that Thomas actually did report the sources of his wife’s income until 1997, therefore heightening the inference that the justice had not “misunderstood the reporting instructions,” as he asserted in January when he filed seven pages of addenda correcting his omissions over a six-year period. Citing information obtained by the left-leaning watchdog groups Common Cause and Alliance for Justice, Slaughter wrote that “Justice Thomas accurately filed his financial disclosure forms, including his wife’s employment, for as many as 10 years beginning in 1987 when he was Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”
Noting in the new letter that the accurate filing continued through Thomas’ tenure as a federal appeals court judge and his first five years as a Supreme Court justice, Slaughter wrote that “it is very difficult for Justice Thomas to make a credible argument that he understood the filing instructions for ten years but then misunderstood them for the next thirteen years.”
Indeed, this new information appears to strengthen her argument to her colleagues that Thomas’ actions — or, rather, inactions — were willful, therefore warranting a Justice Department inquiry. Only 19 other members of Congress joined her September letter; Friday’s letter had the support of another 51 members.
Still, that is only 12 percent of the House, and all are Democrats. And with Justices Stephen Breyer and Antonin Scalia, as well as retiredJustice John Paul Stevens, already waving away questions about their colleague’s ethics, it is not likely that the chief justice or the Judicial Conference will accede to Slaughter’s request.
Here’s the write-up of that PPP Poll I mentioned yesterday about the public losing sympathy for he Occupy movement:
The Occupy Wall Street movement is not wearing well with voters across the country. Only 33% now say that they are supportive of its goals, compared to 45% who say they oppose them. That represents an 11 point shift in the wrong direction for the movement’s support compared to a month ago when 35% of voters said they supported it and 36% were opposed. Most notably independents have gone from supporting Occupy Wall Street’s goals 39/34, to opposing them 34/42.
Voters don’t care for the Tea Party either, with 42% saying they support its goals to 45% opposed. But asked whether they have a higher opinion of the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street movement the Tea Party wins out 43-37, representing a flip from last month when Occupy Wall Street won out 40-37 on that question. Again the movement with independents is notable- from preferring Occupy Wall Street 43-34, to siding with the Tea Party 44-40.
I don’t think the bad poll numbers for Occupy Wall Street reflect Americans being unconcerned with wealth inequality. Polling we did in some key swing states earlier this year found overwhelming support for raising taxes on people who make over $150,000 a year. In late September we found that 73% of voters supported the ‘Buffett rule’ with only 16% opposed. And in October we found that Senators resistant to raising taxes on those who make more than a million dollars a year could pay a price at the polls. I don’t think any of that has changed- what the downturn in Occupy Wall Street’s image suggests is that voters are seeing the movement as more about the ‘Occupy’ than the ‘Wall Street.’ The controversy over the protests is starting to drown out the actual message.
As I said yesterday, the “controversy” is a direct result of right wing lizard brain propaganda about Occupiers being sub-human beasts. The drumbeat has been loud and constant, particularly on local news, and it was almost inevitable that the notion would take hold among some people. Add to that the sight of heavily armed Robo Cops swarming all over our cities as if they were staging an assault on Falluja and people get nervous. That’s not an accident either.
This is not a static situation so these numbers could bounce around. And I don’t think the Occupiers are obligated to react to them in any case. They are on their own trajectory. But this thing was bound to run along America’s cultural fault line whether it set out to or not and in the end it will likely fall on one side of it. That’s ok. That’s doesn’t mean it won’t have the impact everyone seeks. It’s just that the idea of the 99% vs the 1% is a great slogan and its certainly valid. But in our culture, we just don’t divide that way.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
We cannot see things that stare us in the face until the hour comes that the mind is ripened. — Emerson