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Why We Occupy: Visualizing The 2012 Federal Discretionary Budget 


One reason so many people have taken to the streets as part of the 99 Percent Movement is because of the country’s lopsided priorities. The following graphic shows the makeup of federal discretionary spending in the Fiscal Year 2012 budget. As you can see, the military eats up a lion’s share of the spending, while social priorities fall by the wayside:

For a more detailed analysis of Fiscal Year 2012 spending, see the National Priorities Project’s take.





LEAKED: Secret Sara Lee Marketing Memo

Mother Jones:

 The company is best known for its sickly-sweet pies and cakes, but it has emerged as a major player in the packaged-meats market, with a brand list that includes Ball Park franks, Jimmy Dean sausages, and Hillshire Farm deli meats. (Well, it’s called Hillshire Farm for the time being anyway—as you’ll see below, that may subtly change soon.) Sara Lee has announced plans to split into two parts, one of them focused solely on packaged meat company (a “pure play” meat company, in Wall Street jargon). The plan I received highlights marketing ideas for the emerging meat company.

Below are some highlights. Warning: We are about to enter the strange arena of marketing, where fictional worlds are conjured up out of whole cloth for the sole purpose of moving goods.

From what I can tell, the intention expressed here is to brush up the image of Hillshire Farm and roll out two new premium brands: “Smith & Smith Fine Meats” and “Flat Iron Ranch.” The campaign is “foundational,” the one slide declares, “and demonstrates how the new,purposeful Sara Lee will manifest: Modern. Authentic. Simple.”

From there, we get the new plan for Hillshire Farm(s):

So, this “small network of farms” isn’t so much about actually supplying the company, but more about projecting “aspirations.” Then we get a slide featuring the logo:





The Average Bush Tax Cut For The 1 Percent This Year Will Be Greater Than The Average Income Of The Other 99 Percent


As Occupy Wall Street protestors continue to demonstrate across the country, congress’ fiscal super committee failed to craft a deficit reduction package due to Republican refusal to consider tax increases on the super wealthy. In fact, the only package that the GOP officially submitted to the committee included lowering the top tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, even as new research shows that the optimal top tax rate is closer to 70 percent.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who co-chaired the super committee, explained that the major sticking point during negotiations with the GOP was what to do with the Bush tax cuts. With that in mind, the National Priorities Project points out that those tax cuts this year will give the richest 1 percent of Americans a bigger tax cut than the other 99 percent will receive in average income:

The average Bush tax cut in 2011 for a taxpayer in the richest one percent is greater than the average income of the other 99 percent ($66,384 compared to $58,506).

“The super committee failed to grapple with the extraordinarily costly Bush tax cuts for the richest—tax policies that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, cost more in added federal debt than they add in additional economic activity,” explained Jo Comerford, NPP’s Executive Director. Frank Knapp, vice chairman of the American Sustainable Business Council, added in a statement yesterday, “the high-end Bush tax cuts are a big part of the problem – not the solution…It’s obscene to keep slashing infrastructure and services for everybody on Main Street to keep up tax giveaways for millionaires and multinational corporations.”

The Bush tax cuts have done nothing but blow up the federal debt and hand billions in tax breaks to the Americans who needed them least. As a reminder, past grand bargains when it came to the budget included substantial new revenues, to balance the pain of getting the country’s budget in order. Instead of adopting that approach, the GOP wants to continue lavishing tax breaks onto the 1 percent, while asking everyone else to sacrifice.




Chart of the Day: What a Central Bank Does

Kevin Drum:

The chart above is from Bloomberg, and it’s an example of how much liquidity the Fed pumped into the banking system during the height of the financial crisis in 2008. Felix Salmon explains what it means:

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what a lender of last resort looks like….On September 16, 2008, Morgan Stanley owed $21.5 billion to the Fed. The next day, that number doubled, to $40.5 billion. And eight working days later, on the 29th, the bank’s total borrowings from the Fed reached $107 billion. The Fed didn’t blink: it kept on lending, as much as it could, to any bank which needed the money, because, in a crisis, that’s its job.

Why is this relevant today? Because the European banking system has gone from bad to worse in just the last few days and Europe desperately needs a lender of last resort now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have one because the European Central Bank is either unable or unwilling to take on the role. Here is Wolfgang Münchau:

In virtually all the debates about the eurozone I have been engaged in, someone usually makes the point that it is only when things get bad enough, the politicians finally act — eurobond, debt monetisation, quantitative easing, whatever. I am not so sure….With the spectacular flop of the German bond auction and the alarming rise in short-term rates in Spain and Italy, the government bond market across the eurozone has ceased to function.

The banking sector, too, is broken. Important parts of the eurozone economy are cut off from credit. The eurozone is now subject to a run by global investors, and a quiet bank run among its citizens….Technically, one can solve the problem even now, but the options are becoming more limited. The eurozone needs to take three decisions very shortly, with very little potential for the usual fudges. First, the European Central Bank must agree a backstop of some kind….

Like Münchau, I’ve long been a member of the “when things get bad enough” school, but my faith is being sorely tested. This is likely to be a very, very bad week in Europe.




Since Gov. Christie took over, New Jersey is 6th worst state for job growth 





Demonstrators Disrupt UC Regents Meeting


A University of California spokesperson tells TPM that demonstrators at today’s Regents meeting disrupted the gathering for about 45 minutes, toward the end of the meeting. Students and members of the public chanted and temporarily took over the meeting.

At that time, Regents and members of the press were relocated to another room to continue the meeting, UC spokesman Brad Hayward told TPM. Hayward said he wasn’t aware of any arrests today.

“Occupy” protesters last week promised to shut down the meeting in a “general strike” against the university system. The protesters erroneously claimed the Regents were considering a massive increase in fees. Also addressed at the Monday meeting were concerns over the shocking pepper spraying incident on campus.







Give Military Women the Health Care Coverage They Deserve

National Women’s Law Center:

Under current law, women in the military who are survivors of rape and incest are denied coverage for abortion care. This coverage is less than the coverage provided to other women who rely on the federal government for health insurance. Military women sacrifice for our country every day — we should not thank them by giving them less health care coverage than their civilian counterparts. The ban on health care coverage for abortion care in case of rape and incest should be lifted immediately.

Women in the Military Who Are Survivors of Sexual Violence Do Not Get Coverage for Abortion Services

Current law bans Department of Defense funding of abortion except in the case of life endangerment. This ban means that military women and their family members who receive their health insurance from the Department of Defense and find themselves survivors of rape or incest will not receive any coverage for abortion care.

Women in the Military Are Not Receiving the Same Coverage as Civilians Who Receive Health Insurance Coverage from the Federal Government

The coverage for military women is less than the coverage provided to civilians who also receive health insurance through the federal government, including the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan, Medicaid and Medicare, where coverage for abortion care is provided in the case of rape and incest, as well as life endangerment. Although any restriction on coverage of abortion care harms women’s health, the disparity in coverage for women in the military versus their civilian counterparts is inexcusable and should be fixed immediately.

Sexual Violence Happens in the Military Context Just As It Does in the Civilian Context

Nothing about service in the military suggests that servicewomen who are survivors of rape and incest should be treated differently from civilian survivors of rape and incest. Indeed, the Department of Defense reported that there were over 3,000 reported sexual assaults involving service members in the fiscal year 2010.1 Servicewomen subjected to such violence should at least get the same level of care and coverage as their civilian counterparts. Any argument to the contrary is insulting to the sacrifices that servicewomen make every day to serve our country.




Thanks to health reform we know that Trustmark wants to raise healthplan rates for Alabama smallbiz by 27% 

Thanks to health reform we know Montana Blue Cross wants to raise rates for individuals by 12-18%





SEC says its proposed $286 million settlement with Citigroup was fair. Judge says it’s “pocket change” for Citi


When the Securities and Exchange Commission struck a deal with Citigroup over a failed security that the bank sold to investors, we asked whether regulators had handed Citigroup too sweet a deal.

Today in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff appeared to reach that very conclusion: “If the allegations of the Complaint are true, this is a very good deal for Citigroup,” Rakoff wrote as he refused to sign off on the $285 million proposed settlement agreement.

While the full opinion is worth reading, here’s a summary of the judge’s objections:

The SEC’s allegations don’t match the charges.

The SEC, in its complaint, alleged that Citigroup knowingly misrepresented or failed to disclose to investors key information about the collateralized debt obligation, or CDO, known as Class V Funding III. We first reported on Class V last year in our story on CDO self-dealing, noting that the CDO contained risky pieces of other Citigroup CDOs.

Specifically, the SEC charged that Citi put risky assets into the deal, bet against it and didn’t disclose that to investors. According to the SEC, “Citigroup knew it would be difficult” to sell the CDOs if it disclosed all that to investors.

Judge Rakoff concluded, “This would appear to be tantamount to an allegation of knowing and fraudulent intent.”

But in the end, the SEC only charged Citigroup — and one low-level exec — with negligence, for which there’s a lower standard of proof than for intentional fraud. Charges were not filed against more senior Citi execs who, according to the SEC, also knew details of the deal.

The settlement’s boilerplate language forbidding future violations by Citigroup is essentially meaningless.

“By the S.E.C.’s own account, Citigroup is a recidivist,” wrote Rakoff, who noted that the SEC had not sought to enforce that prohibition for at least a decade.

The context here is more than adequately explained by a recent New York Times article that found that Citigroup had agreed on at least four other occasions not to violate that same anti-fraud statute, only to continually break that promise.

The fine is too modest to have a deterrent effect.

According to Rakoff, the fine in this case is “pocket change to any entity as large as Citigroup” and amounts to just a cost of doing business.

Rakoff loathes the longstanding practice of reaching settlements without admissions of wrongdoing.

Sure, it’s standard in deals like this, and judges have routinely signed off on such language, but Rakoff has signaled that he has serious qualms about non-admission, non-denial settlements.

For one, he said the Citi deal shortchanges investors, who lost more than $700 million, according to the SEC: With no mea culpa from Citi, private investors will have a much harder time bringing their own lawsuits against the company — which, for Citigroup, is precisely the point.

Rakoff also argued that this practice cheapens judicial power, which must be used in conjunction with “cold, hard, solid facts.” A non-admission of guilt but agreement to pay, while in keeping with conventional procedure, denies the court of established facts on which to decide whether the settlement is reasonable, he said.

The truth should come out.

Finally, Rakoff argued that, especially regarding the financial sector – and especially now, the public deserves to know the truth: “In any case like this that touches on the transparency of financial markets whose gyrations have so depressed our economy and debilitated our lives, there is an overriding public interest in knowing the truth.”

One thing Rakoff didn’t touch on? A discrepancy we raised last month: Citigroup seems to believe this deal would have settled all of its potential liability over CDOs — something the SEC has denied.

The SEC’s response

The SEC issued a statement today defending its settlement: “We believe that the proposed $285 million settlement was fair, adequate, reasonable, in the public interest, and reasonably reflects the scope of relief that would be obtained after a successful trial,” said Robert Khuzami, the SEC’s head of enforcement.

Khuzami pointed out that Rakoff’s objection to the lack of an admission of guilt “ignores decades of established practice throughout federal agencies and decisions of the federal courts.”

That response is in line with what Khuzami has said in the past — that securing confessions from companies like Citi, while ideal, would slow down the agency’s investigations.

“No one disagrees with the sort of abstract notion that you’d like to have admissions in your cases,” Khuzami said earlier this month. “One has to make choices between competing demands.”

The SEC also has argued that taking banks to costly trials would divert scarce resources from its other efforts to fight securities fraud, and prove counterproductive.

What’s next?

The case has been scheduled for trial next year — something Citigroup would presumably like to avoid, given the mountains of evidence in the SEC’s possession that would become public in a trial.

But a trial is still not a sure thing. Rakoff initially rejected a proposed SEC settlement with Bank of America but eventually approved a deal last year after the agency came back with a bigger fine. It remains to be seen whether the SEC will try to do the same this time around.






Would you support a law requiring media to label images “Retouched” when they (photoshop) a pic of a model?


A new photograph-analyzing tool quantifies changes made by digital airbrushers in the fashion and lifestyle industry, where image alteration has become the psychologically destructive norm.

“Publishers have legitimate reasons to alter photographs to create fantasy and sell products, but they’ve gone a little too far,” said image forensics specialist Hany Farid of Dartmouth University. “You can’t ignore the body of literature showing negative consequences to being inundated with these images.”

In a Nov. 28 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, Farid and doctoral student Eric Kee debut a computational model developed by analyzing 468 sets of original and retouched photographs. From these, Farid and Kee distilled a formal mathematical description of alterations made to models’ shapes and features. Their model then scored each altered photograph on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 signifying heavy retouching.

To validate the scores, Farid and Kee then asked 50 people randomly picked through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk task outsourcing service to evaluate the photographs. Computational and human scores matched closely. “Now what we have is a mathematical measure of photo retouching,” said Farid. “We can predict what an average observer would say.”

The researchers started developing their model after learning of the British government’s plans to label photographic alterations in advertising. Psychologists have become vocally critical of such images: By employing an arsenal of retouching techniques, from unnaturally slimmed limbs to the old standby of cleaned-up skin, retouchers create unattainable standards of both beauty and normalcy, ultimately leading to self-destructive body image disorders.

In June, the American Medical Association urged advertisers to work with activists in developing alteration standards. Setting limits, however, is easier said than done.

“One criticism of the British legislation is that they were presenting a blunt instrument. Photographs would be labeled as retouched or not. Anybody knows that there’s different types,” said Farid. “It’s an interesting scientific problem: How much is too much? That got us thinking about whether we could quantify this.”

Farid and Kee’s model doesn’t precisely determine a numerical boundary between psychologically appropriate and inappropriate; that’s a judgement call to be made by society, Farid said. But they do provide an objective metric for evaluating images and trends.

“You look at what photographs looked like in magazines 10 years ago, and there’s a huge difference. And that is escalating,” said Farid.




Washington Post separates their Opinion Section into Left-leaning, Right-leaning, and Neutral. This was under the “Neutral” category:

The supercommittee failed because Democrats insisted on $1 trillion in new taxes




Adventures in Headline Selection: “Obama and White Voters” Edition


Tom Edsell reads the new Judis/Texiera report on the Democrats and their base, and adds some reporting about party strategy. “Preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class,” he writes. “All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment… and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.”

The NYT assigns this headline.

Fox Nation assigns this one.

The funny thing here is that “abandoning” the white working class means “continuing to lose voters who have been voting Republican since 1966.” In 2008, when he rather easily won an electoral college mandate, Obama won 43 percent of the white vote –– 41 percent of white males — and only 40 percent of whites who didn’t graduate from college. Obama isn’t switching policies in or out of a playbook because whites won’t vote for him. Edsell doesn’t suggest that he will. But with Fox Nation we get an illustration of Obama gritting his teeth and waving “see ya,” while flanked by his wife and an unidentified black guy. This is quite subtle.




A NATO attack on Pakistani soldiers over the weekend has strained US ties with the country. Is this the last straw? 

The Week:

Best Opinion:  American Thinker, Atlantic, NY Times…

U.S.-Pakistan relations have gone from bad to worse. Over the weekend, U.S. special forces and Afghan commandos were conducting a mission along the “poorly defined, mountainous border” with Pakistan when they reportedly took incoming fire from two Pakistani outposts. NATO retaliated with air strikes that killed approximately two dozen Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan claims that NATO’s two-hour assault was unprovoked, and that NATO ignored Pakistani pleas to stop the attack. Though high-ranking U.S. officials apologized and NATO promised to investigate, thousands of Pakistanis protested in several cities, shouting “Down with America!” and burning an Obama effigy and the U.S. flag. Pakistan has closed its border to trucks delivering supplies to western troops in Afghanistan, and is threatening to bar the U.S. from using a Pakistani base for drone strikes. Can frayed U.S.-Pakistan ties be mended?

Nope. This is the last straw: NATO is foolish to think a mere apology can “wash away its crime,” says Pakistan’s The Nation in an editorial. Pakistan wisely cut off western supply lines — but that’s just a “starting point.” It’s time that Pakistan showed some courage, namely, with a “swift movement to [disengage] from the USA’s so-called War on Terror.” We must show the world that we regard our “own citizens’ lives with importance equal to, if not greater than, some other state’s.”
“Now NATO attacks”

C’mon. Pakistan is overreacting: Our so-called ally claims the U.S. is “trying to destroy Pakistani sovereignty,” says Rick Moran at American Thinker. “That’s nonsense.” Let’s not turn “a tragic accident into a diplomatic crisis.” Clearly, Pakistan has “been looking for a fight since we took down Osama. And now they’ve got one.” The real lesson here? We need “alternate supply lines through central Asia.” We can’t allow our troops in Afghanistan to “be held hostage to the political whims of the Pakistanis.”
“Pakistan tells U.S. to leave air base where drones are launched”

Actually, it’s easy to see why Pakistan is livid: Let’s be honest, says D.B. Grady at The Atlantic. Even if this was an accident — and I believe it was — it’s still “yet another violation of Pakistani sovereignty.” Between America’s “armed drones and commando operations,” we’ve “essentially claimed the right to much of Pakistan’s airspace.” Is it any wonder our relationship is “in a perpetual state of collapse”?
“Another very bad day for U.S.-Pakistan ties”

Sadly, this is part of a familiar pattern: This is hardly the first spat between two uneasy allies, says Steven Lee Myers at The New York Times. Remember the CIA contractor arrested for killing two Pakistanis? And the controversial bin Laden raid? Each time, Pakistan responds with “anger and tit-for-tat retaliation,” and the U.S. expresses “regret laced with frustration and suspicion.” This latest episode will only deepen distrust. And even if the U.S. was provoked, it will now be much harder “to sustain political support inside Pakistan for the strategic cooperation that both countries acknowledge is vital to winning the war in Afghanistan.”
“In fog of war, rift widens between U.S. and Pakistan”




Military Contractor Under Investigation for Overbilling Taxpayers in No-Bid Contracts to Feed Troops

Daily Beast:

Supreme Group, a king of U.S. military logistics, earned billions supplying food to troops in Afghanistan. Now, in a case reminiscent of Halliburton’s Iraq scandal, the contractor is under investigation for overbilling taxpayers. Aram Roston reports.





Occupy protests invade GOP primary

Daily Kos:

[…] Over the weekend, the wingnut (but influential, supposedly) Union Leader in New Hampshire endorsed Newt Gingrich. The publisher explained their decision to Fox News:

“I think — and this is crazy, but so are we — that Gingrich is going to have a better time in the general election than Mitt Romney,” said McQuaid. “I think it’s going to be Obama’s 99% versus the 1%, and Romney sort of represents the 1%.”

This is a tacit confession that the Occupy message is working. Of course, New Hampshire’s king conservatives are too stupid to realize that Gingrich isn’t exactly working class—he made $2.5 million last year, and nothing says “1 percenter” like million-dollar credit lines at Tiffany & Co.

But hey, it’s hard to be a conservative—trying to balance their worship of extreme wealth, in an environment where it has become a massive political liability.




The UC board of regents totally learned its lesson, that’s why cops came dressed for a riot this morning 




Occupy Phoenix to Protest at ALEC Summit on November 30

We will no longer remain passive while our country is sold to the highest bidder.

Phoenix, AZ 11/22/11 — On November 30, Occupy Phoenix will lead a protest at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) States & Nations Policy Summit at Scottsdale’s Westin Kierland Hotel. The 99% will be joined by members of other local groups and Occupiers from other cities as they answer a national call for action against this heinous organization.

The protests shine a light on the corporate takeover of state legislatures. Via ALEC, corporations hand legislators changes to laws that directly benefit their bottom line, such as Arizona’s notorious SB 1070. Currently 35 AZ State Representatives and 15 AZ Senators have ties to the organization. Recently recalled Senate President Russell Pearce is a member of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force Executive Committees.

ALEC is at the core of what is wrong with our political system today. This organization promotes and enacts the sale of local and national legislation. We will no longer remain passive while our country is sold to the highest bidder.




Occupy Wall Street: The Origin Story

Bob Cesca:

Utterly fascinating read.

Patient Zero for OWS turns out to be a 69-year-old anarchist, Kalle Lasn along with his collaborator Micah White, and Phase II is about to begin.

Lasn and White quickly hammered out a post-Zuccotti plan. White would draft a new memorandum, suggesting that Phase I—signs, meetings, camps, marches—was now over. Phase II would involve a swarming strategy of “surprise attacks against business as usual,” with the potential to be “more intense and visceral, depending on how the Bloombergs of the world react.” White could hear the excitement in Lasn’s voice. Even as Lasn vented about the morning’s counterrevolution, he was doing what he could not to splash.

By the way, Lasn and White’s magazine, Adbusters, promoted a boycott of The Huffington Post. Hmm.

Meanwhile, targeting President Obama is the wrong idea. If they’re going to focus on lawmakers, their first priority ought to be congressional Republicans and K Street lobbyists who are blocking job creation and economic stimulus, and who are preventing a reinstatement of Glass-Steagall, etc.

I’m not sure where, exactly, all of this will lead, but I’m very concerned that OWS is slipping off the rails. Worse, I’m concerned that there aren’t any rails at all. If the movement doesn’t plan to work within the system by pushing a legislative agenda and they simply want to disrupt the system from the outside with some kind of diffuse neo-anarchist attempt at revolution, they’re going to lose. Spectacularly.




Occupy L.A.: LAPD makes arrests, but camp still standing  

L.A. Times:

The Los Angeles Police Department arrested several people Monday morning as it worked to deal with a swelling crowd that came to protest the planned eviction of Occupy L.A. campers on the lawn of City Hall.

When the LAPD announced that it wanted the campers out by midnight Sunday, officials hoped many protesters would leave voluntarily. Instead, the deadline prompted hundreds of people to converge on the area.

An estimated 1,000 protesters blocked streets around City Hall, creating a standoff with authorities.

Shortly after 5 a.m., police issued an order to disperse to demonstrators gathered at the intersection of 1st and Main streets. Most people complied, but a few refused to leave.

At one point, some protesters started throwing objects at police. Several people were then arrested; one person was carried away by officers.

Police said that there are still no plans to begin evicting people from the park around City Hall, which was officially closed at midnight. They said their main intention was to clear the streets for morning commuters.

“It is not our intent to clear the park at this time,” an officer said over a loudspeaker. “It is only our intent to clear the street. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.”

“Right now we have no plans to go into the encampment,” said LAPD Cmdr. Andy Smith.

L.A. officials have been agonizing for weeks over how to end the encampment. Authorities in Oakland and New York moved in and forcibly pushed out Occupy campers, but both of those actions were criticized as being heavy-handed.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck had hoped Los Angeles could have a more peaceful result. The city had proposed that the protesters leave in exchange for office space and land to farm, but protesters vowed to stay.

The city’s deadline appeared to embolden some protesters, as many people came out early Monday morning to support the cause.

Clutching a sign that read “This is My First Occupation,” Jessica Macias sat on a curb of 1st Street near City Hall early Monday while a throng of protesters held hands behind her, attempting to forge a human wall around the building.

Macias, 24, said she had driven an hour from her home in San Bernardino County to spend several weekends at the City Hall encampment.

She said she was laid off from her job at a private university corporation in February, but witnessed the president of the company purchase a new Jaguar. Macias said she is living off her savings and is worried about making her rent.

She said her parents lost their home last year and had to move in with her brother. Her father, a 25-year post office employee, was forced into early retirement, she said.

Macias said she has applied for numerous jobs, including at Pizza Hut and Target, but remains unemployed. She said could relate to the Occupy movement and decided to join in the campaign against economic inequality.

“It’s not fun to sleep on concrete,” she said. “It’s not luxurious.”




Occupy L.A. protesters to seek court order to block eviction 




Has the LAPD turned a corner under Chief Charlie Beck? Their cooperation with OccupyLA (so far!) suggests as much:

The Brad Blog:

It was a long night at the OccupyLA encampment outside of City Hall. The celebratory mood during the day had turned to tension at night, as the 12:01am Monday deadline loomed for what Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa had announced on Fridayas the “date certain” when peaceful demonstrators would no longer be able to peacefully demonstrate in the overnight encampment on the lawn at City Hall.

57 days of free speech and peaceable assembly were fine, apparently, but 58 days would simply be a bridge too far. Or so Villaraigosa had made it sound during his presser that night, with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck by his side. They each took the opportunity then to praise the “Occupy LA movement for its peaceful efforts to change the national political and economic conversation.”

But, as LAPD cops and the Mayor had been telling (often skeptical) demonstrators for the last several days: “We are not Oakland. We are not New York City.” They had promised that there would not be a repeat of the horrific scenes which had gone viral on YouTube in other cities, where peaceful demonstrators were shot, beaten,”nudged”, pepper sprayed, threatened and tear gassed during violent confrontationscreated by the police themselves, as they attempted to evict OWS encampments elsewhere.

One long-time demonstrator told us hours prior to the expected shut down last night, the LAPD had taken great pains to work with the L.A. protesters from the beginning of their encampment nearly two months ago. There has been a cooperative spirit with them from the beginning, she explained, noting that it seemed the LAPD was “still haunted” by the 2007 May Day Riots (which The BRAD BLOG covered live as it happened, and again when they finally reached a $13 million settlement in 2009 with the victims of their outrageous, inappropriate and unnecessary violence which included rubber bullet attacks on peaceful demonstrators and attacks against journalists attempting to cover it.)

Last night’s eviction never came, as protesters, media — both corporate and citizen — all took to the streets (and skies) around City Hall all night long. There was little show of force by the police, as they were mostly missing all together through the night, with a few hundred, at best, appearing in the very early hours with helmets (but not full riot gear as seen elsewhere) largely to patrol intersections in an attempt to keep folks out of the street. Ironically, at about 3:30am, they spread the word that protesters should go back to City Hall Park, that they’d only be arrested if they were in the streets. There were just three such arrests total last night and the camp is still standing as of this morning.

The mixed messages from officials led one citizen journalist — an OccupySF live video streamer who had come down from the Bay Area to cover the deadline here in L.A. — to mention wryly as his camera rolled in the early hours: “The LAPD seem to want something from us, but it’s unclear what their demands are”…

‘Ample Time’

We were torn on whether to head downtown ourselves last night, to cover things live on the ground, or whether we’d be able to do a better job back here, with access to all of the corporate and, more importantly, citizen media, livestreams and tweets from folks both on the ground and elsewhere. In the past, while we’ve been able to report interesting stories from on the ground, we’ve found we’re often able to offer a better overall picture of events like this when we’re not down inside of them.

It’s not that we don’t like the taste of pepper spray at midnight, but in this case, we had direct contact with a lot of folks on the ground throughout the night, in addition to what was available on the Internets (and, very occasionally, on television) as events unfolded in very slow motion through dawn’s early light. We tweeted our live coverage from here instead.

The mood varied between tension and celebration all night, as demonstrators had difficulty, understandably, trusting the words of the Mayor or the police or media reports suggesting that there would not be a full raid on the encampment at 12:01am or in the hours immediately following.

During the day, Villaraigosa had issued another statement on the “upcoming closure of City Hall Park”, largely echoing his remarks from Friday.

“As Chief Beck has made clear,” his statement read, “though the park will officially close tonight at 12:01 a.m., the department will allow campers ample time to remove their belongings peacefully and without disruption.”

“I am proud of the fact that this has been a peaceful, non-violent protest,” Villaraigosa repeated. “It has been peaceful because we have done things differently in Los Angeles. I trust that we can manage the closure of City Hall Park in the same spirit of cooperation.”

He went on to list the city’s efforts planned for that “spirit of cooperation,” including a walk through the encampment “handing out bilingual flyers with information about the park closure,” by General Services Officers and by L.A. Homeless Services Authority “to inform people about social and public health services that are available.” On Monday, he said, 50 shelter beds would be made available “for those individuals from the encampment who are homeless and will need an alternate place to spend the night.” He noted that they would “make nearby parking available to make it easier for people to move their belongings and personal property.”

“We have and will continue to work hard to ensure that the park closure will be peaceful and non-violent,” he said, adding again that “The movement has played an important role in focusing the national conversation on economic equality.” He urged demonstrators “to expand their efforts far beyond the confines of the City Hall Park in the coming months.”

‘They Don’t Want to Hurt Us’

Whether Villaraigosa’s sentiments hold in the coming days remains to be seen. But what a starkly different picture is painted in comparison to cities elsewhere where demonstrators were tricked, disparaged and viscously abused by Mayors (both Democratic and Republican alike) and by steroid-pumped, riot-geared, paramilitary troops masquerading as municipal police departments, all too eager to try out their new, violent, post-9/11 goodie-bag of anti-terror toys not against terrorists, but against peaceful U.S. citizens.

Between Friday’s announcement and Sunday night’s planned closure, long-time BRAD BLOG reader, now LAOccupier Jeannie Dean told us, the city had kept its end of the bargain. Folks from social services were indeed making their way through City Hall Park — redubbed Solidarity Park by the demonstrators — helping to find shelter for those who needed it, such as the many homeless families, including one woman with three young children, who had no place else to go.

“Some families were put into motels,” Dean said, adding that “Occupy Animals” had also been on hand to help find shelters for the many Occupuppies and other pets that had become mainstays at the park.

Though she had come armed with the “I’m Getting Arrested” app on her iPhone, just in case, she said that the city had “been great. They don’t want to hurt us.”

When asked if she believed the police would be able to distinguish between OccupyLA’s actual peaceful demonstrators, versus those who might show up as provocateurs hoping to spark violence, she responded, optimistically, “Yes! They know us. We know them. They’re our neighbors!”

She said that City Council Member Bill Rosendahl had even participated in the afternoon General Assembly, telling demonstrators they “don’t have to be arrested,” and inviting them “to come in to City Hall and we’ll continue the work.”

The L.A. City Council, as a whole, has been extremely supportive of the encampment from Day 1, even going so far as to file an extraordinary resolution in support of both them and the Occupy Wall Street movement as a whole, officially titled “The Responsible Banking Measure” [PDF].

On a rainy cold morning several weeks ago, just after the Occupation had gotten under way, Villaraigosa had even sent over a hundred rain ponchos to the park. Last week the LAPD sent several turkeys to the demonstrators for Thanksgiving. (The latter prompted one cynical observer to tweet last night before the 12:01am deadline: “LAPD gives stuffed turkeys to #OccupyLA, in advance of driving them from land. It’s just like the First Thanksgiving!”)

Freedom of the Press

Unlike in New York City, where Mayor Michael Bloomberg had appallingly restricted Freedom of the Press by barring media from observing in Zuccotti Park as the riot-geared NYPD violently and shamefully shut it down without warning in the middle of the night two weeks ago, sending thousands of protesters onto the cold streets, purportedly to help protect their “health and safety”, L.A.’s corporate media were largely on hand to cover the event from on the ground and even from helicopters in the sky for most of the night.

Some coverage was better than others, naturally.





Occupy Philadelphia’ avoids scheduled eviction | The Raw Story




OccupytheHouse: Dec 12-19 we go to district offices and make our voices heard!


Occupy Congress, an action in which the 99% introduces ourselves to members of Congress in their district offices and welcomes them home for the holidays

Funny tagline:  ”Hello, Congress, welcome home for the holidays.  We’d like to introduce ourselves.  We’re the 99%, you know, the people you’re supposed to represent.”

Copy for bumper sticker or flyer:  ”This holiday season, show Congress you care.  OCCUPY CONGRESS Coming to a district office near you Dec. 19-23


December 19-23, 2011


1)  To bring the Occupy movement to the next level.  This is Occupy 2.0  where we expand our movement from one center of power, Wall Street, to another equally important if not more important center, Congress.  After all, the banks just did what Congress allowed them to do. In this venue, occupiers with specific legislative demands will be able to directly lobby the people who can make them happen.  As the Occupy movement is grassroots and locally based, starting with the district offices is important.  Plus, not every occupier can get to DC.

2)  To counter the paid lobbyists for the 1%.  Up until this point, progressives have lobbied their representatives primarily by writing letters, making phone calls and signing petitions.  But rarely do we show up in person.  The only people who physically show up at the offices of elected officials are lobbyists.  The power of the Occupy movement is that we physically show up.  So now we are taking that power to Congress.

3)  To challenge the stereotype of the movement by the mainstream media and to garner more support from the general public.  This action will show that Occupy movement is extends beyond camping in parks, taking over bank buildings, blocking bridges and highways and preventing people from getting to work.  This can garner us more favorable coverage in the press and gain us new members.  If we can get at least one person to each office at the same time – there are between 600-700 offices across the country – it would be huge.


Each GA will determine the specifics of their own action.  But the general idea is that Occupiers and people who find out about this action through supportive progressive groups will have a constant and hopefully large presence in front of their Congress person’s office during business hours from Monday through Friday.  People will be encouraged to bring their handmade signs with the issues of concern to them as well as letters explaining their positions in more detail that can be handed directly to Congress people.

There will be a website for this action that we will promote to GAs and to the general public through a press release.  The site will have a tool where people can put in their address and find the district office closest to them.  There will also be a form for people to write letters if they are physically unable to attend the action.  The letters will be downloaded and handed to the Congress person at the action.  Finally, there will be a place where people can upload photos and videos from the event.

GA’s could try to schedule a meeting with the Congress person inside his or her office.   But they will have to figure out who could be spokespeople for the group, as it is not feasible for a Congress person to meet with more than 10-15 people inside their office.  It is advisable to try set up this meeting in advance.

If people would like to Occupy the member’s office, not leave when told to and get arrested, that is up to the individual GAs and individual people.  It is not something the working group organizing this action is encouraging.


The working group will release a general press release to the national press on 12/12, a week before the action.  It will be clear that it is coming from only the Occupied cities who have ratified the action and plan to participate by the time of the release.

The action will be brought to the attention of 120 progressive groups who are expected to promote this action to their millions of members.

Individual GAs should write their own press releases and get them out to their local media in advance of the action.


If you have a direct action committee that this has to go to first, please propose it ASAP and then take it to the GA.  If not, go straight to the GA.  We need as many cities and towns as possible signed up by 12/12 when the national press release is issued.

When your action has been ratified, please contact Lauren Steiner at [email protected] so you can be included in the national press release.

Then just plan your action and promote it to your members and to the community at large.








Bill Moyers: What two things don’t mix well? Plutocracy & democracy. Watch the “must-see” video in which Bill explains why. 

BILL MOYERS: You’ve no doubt figured out my bias by now. I’ve hardly kept it a secret. In this regard, I take my cue from the late Edward R. Murrow, the Moses of broadcast news.

Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is okay as long as you don’t try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy.

Plutocracy is not an American word but it’s become an American phenomenon. Back in the fall of 2005, the Wall Street giant Citigroup even coined a variation on it, plutonomy, an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer with government on their side. By the next spring, Citigroup decided the time had come to publicly “bang the drum on plutonomy.”

And bang they did, with an “equity strategy” for their investors, entitled, “Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer.” Here are some excerpts:

“Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governmentshave allowed the rich to prosper…[and] take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years…”

“…the top 10%, particularly the top 1% of the US– the plutonomists in our parlance– have benefited disproportionately from the recent productivity surge in the US…[and] from globalization and the productivity boom, at the relative expense of labor.”

“…[and they] are likely to get even wealthier in the coming years. [Because] the dynamics of plutonomy are still intact.”

And so they were, before the great collapse of 2008. And so they are, today, after the fall. While millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their savings, the plutonomists are doing just fine. In some cases, even better, thanks to our bailout of the big banks which meant record profits and record bonuses for Wall Street.

Now why is this? Because over the past 30 years the plutocrats, or plutonomists — choose your poison — have used their vastly increased wealth to capture the flag and assure the government does their bidding. Remember that Citigroup reference to “market-friendly governments” on their side? It hasn’t mattered which party has been in power — government has done Wall Street’s bidding.

Don’t blame the lobbyists, by the way; they are simply the mules of politics, delivering the drug of choice to a political class addicted to cash — what polite circles call “campaign contributions” and Tony Soprano would call “protection.”

This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom, with little but anxiety and dread in between, as middle class Americans feel the ground falling out from under their feet. According to a study from the Pew Research Center last month, nine out of ten Americans give our national economy a negative rating. Eight out of ten report difficulty finding jobs in their communities, and seven out of ten say they experienced job-related or financial problems over the past year.

So it is that like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy.

Now we have come to another parting of the ways, and once again the fate and character of our country are up for grabs.

So along with Jim Hightower and Iowa’s concerned citizens, and many of you, I am biased: democracy only works when we claim it as our own.




Spreading the Wealth’ in Democrats’ Favor

John Harwood, NYT:

Fighting from behind in the final days of the 2008 presidential election, Senator John McCain found a weapon in an unscripted encounter between his opponent, Senator Barack Obama, and a voter.

“When you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody,” Mr. Obama told Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber. Mr. McCain seized on the remark as evidence of Mr. Obama’s adherence to “socialism.”

In most respects, the 2012 Republican nominee will enjoy a more promising electoral landscape than Mr. McCain did. But would spread-the-wealth “socialism” be as inviting a target today? Maybe not.

Indeed, it is a measure of the altered political environment that Democrats now see the distribution of income as a weapon of their own.

“The whole battleground has changed,” Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the top political strategist among Democrats in the chamber, said in an interview. “There’s been a major shift in public opinion.”

Mr. Schumer is, at least in part, making a case for accountability. In 2009 and 2010, Democrats shouldered the blame for voters’ economic pain since they controlled the White House and Congress. Now they share it with a House Republican majority that is committed to government cutbacks.

But he is also talking about the consequences of Occupy Wall Street that linger after the removal of the tents from Zuccotti Park. By highlighting the widening disparity between top earners and everyone else, Mr. Schumer said, the movement has created an opening for Democrats even as the Obama-era economy remains weak.

“Jobs and income inequality are going to be the No. 1 issue” in 2012, he said. “Simply cutting government isn’t going to work.”

After Zuccotti Park

Mr. Schumer’s argument carries a heavy burden of proof. So far, the most conspicuous piece of the Democrats’ inequality agenda has flopped.

During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama argued for ending the so-called Bush tax cuts for individuals who make $200,000 or more and for couples who earn above $250,000.

But in 2009, as president, Mr. Obama did not seek to roll back the tax cuts, on the grounds that doing so might further weaken the economy. Last year, Democratic Congressional leaders could not muster the votes to end them. And after Republicans routed his party in the midterm elections, Mr. Obama agreed to extend the cuts — along with those for other taxpayers — for two more years.

But now, Mr. Schumer insisted, conditions are tilting in the Democrats’ favor.

First, successive rounds of Tea Party-driven budget cuts this year have clarified this tradeoff: unless taxes go up on the wealthy, Medicare and Social Security must be cut drastically.

Second, Occupy Wall Street drew attention to the extent to which income has shifted in favor of the wealthy over the past three decades.

“The Republican/Tea Party narrative about the economy has been superseded by a different narrative — one that emphasizes the growing gap between those at the very top of the economic ladder and the rest of the country,” Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster who advises Mr. Schumer, wrote in a memorandum last week.

Third, Mr. Schumer prevailed in his argument with White House officials that Democrats should focus on taxing million-dollar incomes. That makes it harder for Republicans to persuade middle-income voters that their taxes would rise, too (while also conveniently sparing many upper-middle-class New Yorkers).

Still, Mr. Obama’s approval ratings remain weak, and Democrats have not proved that they can harness the sort of political energy Republicans reaped from the Tea Party in 2010.

“That is our challenge,” Mr. Schumer said.

G.O.P. Takes Note

David Winston, a pollster who advises House Republicans, respects Mr. Schumer’s acumen. He credits Mr. Schumer for being earlier than most to spot Republicans’ vulnerability during the Bush administration over stagnant middle-class incomes.

And he acknowledges that hard times heighten concerns about income disparities in the American tug of war between policies that enhance individual opportunity and those that equalize outcomes.

But the weakness in Mr. Schumer’s analysis, Mr. Winston said, is that Democrats have not persuaded voters of their plans for generating economic growth as opposed to curbing income inequality.

There are signs of Republican caution about the income gap just the same. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, generally considered the party’s most likely presidential nominee next year, has focused his proposed capital gains tax cut on people who earn under $200,000, in the name of helping those facing the greatest economic squeeze.

This week, Senate Democrats intend to pressure Republicans with a vote on financing Mr. Obama’s proposed payroll tax cuts using a surtax on million-dollar incomes. They plan similar votes later for infrastructure and energy programs.

Their reward for persistence, Mr. Schumer said, will be job-creating legislation, political traction or both.

“You can’t do it with just one vote,” he said. “We’re going to keep at it through the winter and spring.”




The Professional Left and The Wizard of Oz

In the UK, there’s a time-honoured Christmas tradition known as pantomime. It dates from the Middle Ages, from the old Christmas court pagentry. It’s basically a drama enactment on stage of well-known folk tales and nursery rhymes. Usually, it consists of a sweet young actress (or more recently the current boyband heartthrob) playing the male ingenu figure (or the “principle boy”) as well as an older comedian, in drag, playing the stock character of the Widow Twankey.

Just imagine if the Professional Left put on a special pantomime this year. Here’s how I think it would look.




“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore. Oh my goodness! Who are all these horrible, smelly, little paupers? Munchkins? Oh … dear … of course their plight must be bettered, but … please … the stench … the poor are always so much better further away, don’t you think, Toto? Toto … Toto … FILTHY DOG! What have you done? Oh, my ruby slippers, my ruby Jimmy Choos … I TOLD you Toto, never to do poopsie in the middle of the road where I’m walking. Munchkin … you, Munchkin … clean my shoe.”

Ed Schultz as the Scarecrow:-

“We gotta see that damned Wizard, but first we gotta rid ourselves of this old slut, I mean, wicked witch. Here, lemme see. Anybody gotta gun? And those munchkins, ya know, they can get ridda that bitch, I mean witch simply by not voting. YA HEAR THAT, MUNCHKINS, DON’T VOTE!”






Mitt vs Mitt




Newt vs Newt

Taegan provides the quote, we provide the rejoinders:

“I wouldn’t lie to the American people. I wouldn’t switch my positions for political reasons.” – Newt Gingrich, quoted by the New York Times, in a not-so-veiled reference to GOP primary rival Mitt Romney.

1. That entire quote is itself a lie. Next.

2. “I wouldn’t switch my positions for political reasons.” Um…






How 2008 Should Have Radicalized Us All

Mother Jones:

Now that Bloomberg has peeled another layer off the Federal Reserve onion, we know a bit more about just how much money they spent rescuing the banking system in 2008. Matt Yglesias sums up his reaction, and I think he gets it exactly right:

NOT SCANDALOUS — Lending vast sums in a banking panic.

DUBIOUS — These weren’t penalty rates.

DEFENSIBLE — Erring on the side of activism.

THE REAL SCANDAL — Abandoning activism for the rest of us:If I had fully understood what the Fed was doing in the fall of 2008 and the winter of 2008-2009, the truth is that I would have defended it all….The real scandal has only emerged with clarity in the subsequent years. Having ensured the basic stability of the banking system, monetary policymakers in America proceeded to forget all about their go-getter attitude and ability to reach deep into the practical and legal toolkit in order to get what they want. We’re heading into the winter of 2011, with three years of mass unemployment under our belt and no end in sight. That’s not happening because the Fed was too generous with the free money for banks at the height of the crisis. It’s because once the acute phase of the banking crisis ended, suddenly we returned to small thinking and small-c conservatism. But it can’t be both. If in a time of crisis, the right thing to do is to get “crazy” then there’s plenty more crazy stuff the Fed could be doing to boost overall spending in the American economy. Or if the right thing to do is to stay orthodox and ignore the human consequences, then there was no reason not to stay orthodox three years ago and refuse to lend at anything other than a penalty rate.

Yes, we aimed a big bazooka full of money at the banksters in 2008. That’s galling, and there’s a good case to be made that we should have done it differently. Maybe more executives should have been fired, maybe the Department of Justice should have tossed more Wall Street traders in jail, and maybe a couple of big money center banks should have been placed in temporary receivership. But even conceding all that, the Fed and Congress (kicking and screaming, but eventually doing the right thing) saved the banking system, and that had to be done. There’s a certain amount of unfairness that’s inherent in any banking rescue, and I can live with that when the alternative is a second Great Depression.

But hoo boy, what a contrast with how the rest of us were treated. Things like principal write-downs, second waves of stimulus, aid to states, and mortgage cramdown all got a bit of idle chatter but were then left to die. For some reason, it would have been unfair to hand out money to profligate homeowners, state and local workers, and the millions who have been unemployed for more than a year.

And yes, in some cosmic sense, perhaps it would have been unfair. Massive financial crashes always produce some inherent unfairness. For some reason, though, we were willing to overlook that unfairness when it was Wall Street that came begging, but became obsessed with it when all the rest of us came begging.

This is how 2008 radicalized me. It’s one thing to know that the rich and powerful basically control things. That’s the nature of being rich and powerful, after all. But in 2008 and the years since, they’ve really rubbed our noses in it. It’s frankly hard to think of America as much of a true democracy these days.




Barney Frank Offers Several Reasons For Retiring

In his live press conference, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) offered a laundry list of reasons for retirement, among them: the fact he would be campaigning in a new district, meaning it would be a tough re-election; the fact that he doesn’t like raising money; and the desire to spend his next few years focusing on academic writing.




Huntsman: Romney “is in the hip pocket of Wall Street”


[…] “Anyone who is in the hip pocket of Wall Street because of all the donations they are picking up, like Mr. Romney, is in these days not going to be the change agent who is going to fix the too-big-to-fail banking system,” Huntsman said.

The candidate, who touts his civil approach to campaigning and rarely mentions other candidates by name, also told the audience:

“You should be wary of any candidate who carries the endorsements of every member of Congress, because it means they’re going to be a status-quo president.”

Huntsman spoke to an audience of about 80 voters in a town hall building in Merrimack.

He offered three suggestions for tackling congressional gridlock: limit the terms a member may serve; institute a lifetime ban preventing a former member from lobbying; and tie members’ pay to their output.

“I want to cut the pay of members of Congress until they can balance the damn budget,” he said, citing a “corrosive” lack of trust in Congress.

Huntsman will campaign in New Hampshire through Thursday, then head to South Carolina for the weekend.





Anti-Brownback Tweet Goes Viral: High school student won’t apologize to Kansas governor. 

Instead of getting an apology, it was Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas who had to apologize. Brownback said his office “overreacted” and shouldn’t have asked 18-year-old high-school student Emma Sullivan to say sorry for tweeting a disparaging comment. Last week Sullivan tweeted: “Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.” She admitted that she didn’t make that comment and that the tweet was a joke. But when her principal demanded she write an apology to Brownback, she refused. She had more than 10,000 followers as of Monday afternoon (@emmakate988), more than triple that of Brownback (@govsambrownback).





Schumer pushes back HARD on GOP claims that #OWS will be liability for Dems: Middle class is “part of the 99%”

Greg Sargent: 

It’s become an article of faith among Republicans, and even some neutral commentators: By embracing the larger message of Occupy Wall Street, and by pushing issues of income inequality and tax fairness to the fore, Democrats risk alienating swing voters who will be turned off by angry populism and “class warfare.”

Dem messaging chief Chuck Schumer is having none of it.

In an interview with me today, Schumer vowed that inequality would be a central issue in the campaign that Dems would focus on “like a laser.” Schumer rejected the GOP idea that Occupy Wall Street would be a liability for Dems, claiming that Republicans who believe ads tying Dems to the protests would be effective are “inside their own bubble.” Whatever their view of the protesters themselves, he said, middle class Americans feel like “part of the 99 percent.”

Schumer said that a fundamental shift had occurred with the electorate’s perceptions of the economy, one directly related to the hollowing out of the middle class, that would make the electorate receptive to the Dem message about inequality in a new way next year.

“The number one fact of our political economy for the last decade is declining middle class incomes,” Schumer said. “When the American Dream is no longer a virtual certainty to most Americans, it becomes a different country…Inequality is a driving issue. What highlights inequality is middle class incomes declining.”

Schumer said that when middle class Americans are doing well, they don’t mind that those at the top are doing really well, too. “But when middle class incomes are declining and the top one percent are doing extremely well, that makes people say, `Wait a second. We have to do something about it.’”

Schumer added that growing public awareness about inequality would ensure that the 2012 elections would be different from 2010.

“Middle class incomes were declining,” Schumer said, speaking about the last elections. “But in 2010 Democrats were not seen as focusing on those issues, but rather seen as focused on health care, which was the right thing to do, but the benefits were not well understood by most voters. Republicans came in and said, `We can solve your problem by shrinking government.’”

“We tried their theory,” Schumer continued. “The American people resent government paralysis, but most of them would say that government is doing too little to help them, not too much.” Schumer added that Dems would make 2012 an “election of choice” in which Democrats are the ones focused on the “decline in middle class incomes.”

“It’s intuitive that we’re more interested in those issues, but obviously we have to focus on them like a laser,” Schumer continued. “If we do I believe the 2012 election, despite the economy being flat, is going to be a good one for us.”

Pressed on whether he thought Occupy Wall Street could become a liability for Democrats, as Republicans are trying to make happen by linking Dems to the protests, Schumer said focusing on the protests themselves misses the larger point.

“Occupy Wall Street has resonance far beyond the protests,” Schumer said. “Whether middle class people agree with the protests or not, the vast majority believes that they’re part of the 99 percent and that something should be done to help them.” Republicans who think this tactic will work with “swing voters,” Schumer said, are “inside their own bubble.”

Asked if Dems had erred both politically and substantively by adopting the GOP’s austerity frame and prioritizing the deficit after the 2010 elections, Schumer again disagreed. “There is a consensus that the government spends a lot of money wastefully,” he said. “I don’t think Democrats can ignore it.”

Schumer insisted that Dems had even managed to turn the deficit into a winning issue for them by insisting on shared sacrifice by the wealthy. “Even in the deficit argument, it’s swinging in our direction,” he said. “People want a balanced approach.” In other words, Dems can win on turf historically favorable to Republicans — the deficit — preciselybecause of the public’s growing preoccupation with inequality.

Shorter Schumer: It’s the inequality, stupid.



Some Essays That Every Progressive Should Read








Poll numbers suggest Republicans are primarily to blame for the supercommittee’s failure

[…] Dig beneath the surface of Gallup’s new poll showing that 55 percent of Americans blame both parties for the failure of the supercommittee, and you’ll see the remaining breakdown leans decidedly against the GOP: 24 percent say Republicans were to blame, while 15 percent point the finger at Democrats. Among independent voters the split is even starker: 21 percent say the GOP was to blame, while just 9 percent say Democrats were the primary problem.



If Americans could choose between Obama and Bush, they would pick Obama..



Bob Casey leads all of his GOP rivals for PA-Sen by double-digits





Barton: God Wants Us To Work Six Days A Week [and so do my corporate bosses]

Right Wing Watch:

The more we listen to David Barton, the more clear it becomes that it is his goal to see the United States operate strictly in accordance with the Bible in literally every regard.  As Barton says, “anything the Bible talks about cannot be considered secular,” which means that every aspect of public life ought operate in accordance with Biblical teachings, including education, immigration, health care, taxes and economic policy, employment regulations, the role of government, and even our building codes.

Every once in a while, Barton provides a glimpse of just what America would look like if it became the “Christian nation” he desires in which everything ran according to the Bible, such as when he says that it would mean our schools would open with prayer and our government would stop helping the poor.

And last week, he told Concerned Women for America that if the nation followed Biblical principles when it came to work regulations, there would be no limits on the length of work days and people would work six days a week because that is what God commands:

We used to have what was called the Puritan Hard Work Ethic, which – it’s really not Puritan – it’s a Biblical hard work ethic. The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about working five days a week, eight hours a day or less – it says “six days shalt thou work.” You rest on the seventh, but the command is you’re going to work six days. And you’ll find that hard working people that work those six days – rural people tend to work longer hours than bankers and lawyers and other and they tend to have less physical problems; they have less burn-out, less stress, less whatever, less high blood-pressure. Folks who work harder and longer tend to do better because God told us to do that; that’s the way he kind of made our bodies.







The US Congress is considering America’s first system for censoring the Internet.

Despite public outcry, the Internet Censorship bill could pass at any time.

If it does, the Internet and free speech will never be the same.

If SOPA or Protect IP passes, the government can order internet providers to block any site for its users’ infringing posts, using the same DNS-blocking methods as China or Iran.

Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users

It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are an ordinary noncommercial user. Singing a pop song on Facebook could be a felony.

Chaos for the Internet

Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn’t be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.

Congress is trying to use the jobs crisis as an excuse to censor the internet. Tell them NO WAY, sign up now for the massive call-in day next week.



Force government to protect Medicare and find permanent solution to budget problems!: (H/T bito)




Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Cher, re: 2008 bailouts. It certainly radicalized me in many ways, most of which I won’t get into here…but my moment of clarity came in 2009 as we were struggling to emerge from the collapse.

It was Senate bill 256, the Bankruptcy bill that was passed in 2005 that suddenly stood out in my mind. Looking back to 2005 I remember thinking; “Why now?” “Why this?” Why would a bankruptcy bill be passed with such speed and haste? Why would any exceptions for individuals be stripped out by the GOP, but exceptions for corporations allowed to stay? Is the GOP simply malevolent? What’s going on?

Well in 2009 I got my answer to why banks and credit card companies were blitzing Congress with bales of money and lobbyists: They knew what was coming. Credit card companies realized they had given a card to everyone and their mother and that they were overextended in their hunt for more profit. Banks knew that they had made questionable loans and created questionable investments.

Their answer? Make sure that when the collapse came that consumers were still going to be forced to pay them. No exceptions for medical debt, no exemptions for the elderly to stay in their homes, no exemptions for victims of identity theft, no exemptions for those serving in active duty overseas, no exemptions for someone who just lost their job.

However trusts are exempt, so the wealthy can pile all of their money into trust and then declare bankruptcy, and corporations were rescued by the Senators from Delaware (where over 50% of corps are domiciled) who realized that if corps were forced to declare bankruptcy in the state they operate in, that Del would lose tens of millions in fees.

They knew it was coming and they fucked us. All of us.