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.
Zillionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer says his marginal propensity to consume is lower than mine:
Since 1980, the share of the nation’s income for fat cats like me in the top 0.1 percent has increased a shocking 400 percent, while the share for the bottom 50 percent of Americans has declined 33 percent. At the same time, effective tax rates on the superwealthy fell to 16.6 percent in 2007….In my case, that means that this year, I paid an 11 percent rate on an eight-figure income.
One reason this policy is so wrong-headed is that there can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. Like everyone else, I go out to eat with friends and family only occasionally.
….I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages.
If the average American family still got the same share of income they earned in 1980, they would have an astounding $13,000 more in their pockets a year. It’s worth pausing to consider what our economy would be like today if middle-class consumers had that additional income to spend.
The rest is worth a read. We need entrepreneurs, but we need a thriving middle class even more. Washington DC’s centrist punditocracy needs to have this pounded into their skulls.
“I’m a very rich person. As an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, I’ve started or helped get off the ground dozens of companies in industries including manufacturing, retail, medical services, the Internet and software. I founded the Internet media company aQuantive Inc., which was acquired by Microsoft Corp. in 2007 for $6.4 billion. I was also the first non-family investor in Amazon.com Inc. Even so, I’ve never been a “job creator.” I can start a business based on a great idea, and initially hire dozens or hundreds of people. But if no one can afford to buy what I have to sell, my business will soon fail and all those jobs will evaporate. That’s why I can say with confidence that rich people don’t create jobs, nor do businesses, large or small. What does lead to more employment is the feedback loop between customers and businesses. And only consumers can set in motion a virtuous cycle that allows companies to survive and thrive and business owners to hire. An ordinary middle-class consumer is far more of a job creator than I ever have been or ever will be.”
[…] Even though the Labor Department is expected to report on Friday that employers added more than 100,000 jobs in November, a new study shows just how rare people like Ms. Mowery are. According to the study, to be released Friday by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers, just 7 percent of those who lost jobs after the financial crisis have returned to or exceeded their previous financial position and maintained their lifestyles.
The vast majority say they have diminished lifestyles, and about 15 percent say the reduction in their incomes has been drastic and will probably be permanent.
After 22 years on the job, Mr. Loftis, 44, was laid off from a company that produces air filters and valves in Sterling Heights, Mich., three years ago. Managers “looked me dead in the eye,” he recalled, “and said, ‘We’re laying you off, but don’t worry, we’re calling you back.’ ”
He has heard nothing since. Despite applying for more than 100 jobs, he has been unable to find work. He has drained most of his 401(k)retirement fund, amassed credit card debt, and is about to sell his car, a 2006 Dodge Charger. “It’s looking hopeless,” he said.
According to the Rutgers study, those with less education were the most ravaged by job loss during the recession. Even among those who found work, many made much less than before the downturn.
“The news is strikingly bad,” said Cliff Zukin, a professor of public policy and political science at Rutgers who compiled the study, which was based on surveys of a random sample of Americans who were unemployed at some point from August 2008 to August 2009. The numbers represent “a tremendous impression of dislocation and pain and wasted talent,” he said.
More than two years after the recovery officially began, American employers have reinstated less than a quarter of the jobs lost during the downturn, according to Labor Department figures. Of the 13.1 million people still searching for work, more than 42 percent have been unemployed for six months or longer. About 8.9 million more are working part time because they cannot find full-time work.
While health care and some energy-related jobs have boomed throughout in recent years, the other winners have mostly been in skilled professions like computer systems design,management consulting and accounting, where employers have added back as many or more jobs than were cut during the downturn.
Companies like Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers, which offer accounting and other business advisory services, as well as management consulting firms like Bain & Company, have returned to peak hiring levels. Many Silicon Valley firms are aggressively recruiting. Google, for example, announced that it has hired more people in 2011 than in any previous year.
Other employers are adding back jobs that were cut, though not yet enough to reach prerecession peaks. What is more, these jobs are in areas like retail, hospitality and home health care, categories that pay low wages and are unlikely to give workers much economic security.
The sectors that have been slowest to recover are those that endured the most acute job losses, like construction and state and local government. Construction workers are among the biggest sufferers, stung by a housing collapse that led to the loss of two million jobs. Since the recovery began, the industry has added just 47,000 jobs.
Even manufacturing, which has shown a relatively healthy pace of job creation during the recovery, has added just over a tenth of the 2.3 million jobs that disappeared in the downturn.
NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF:
If you want to understand why the Occupy movement has found such traction, it helps to listen to a former banker like James Theckston. He fully acknowledges that he and other bankers are mostly responsible for the country’s housing mess.
As a regional vice president for Chase Home Finance in southern Florida, Theckston shoveled money at home borrowers. In 2007, his team wrote $2 billion in mortgages, he says. Sometimes those were “no documentation” mortgages.
“On the application, you don’t put down a job; you don’t show income; you don’t show assets,” he said. “But you still got a nod.”
“If you had some old bag lady walking down the street and she had a decent credit score, she got a loan,” he added.
Theckston says that borrowers made harebrained decisions and exaggerated their resources but that bankers were far more culpable — and that all this was driven by pressure from the top.
“You’ve got somebody making $20,000 buying a $500,000 home, thinking that she’d flip it,” he said. “That was crazy, but the banks put programs together to make those kinds of loans.”
Especially when mortgages were securitized and sold off to investors, he said, senior bankers turned a blind eye to shortcuts.
“The bigwigs of the corporations knew this, but they figured we’re going to make billions out of it, so who cares? The government is going to bail us out. And the problem loans will be out of here, maybe even overseas.”
One memory particularly troubles Theckston. He says that some account executives earned a commission seven times higher from subprime loans, rather than prime mortgages. So they looked for less savvy borrowers — those with less education, without previous mortgage experience, or without fluent English — and nudged them toward subprime loans.
These less savvy borrowers were disproportionately blacks and Latinos, he said, and they ended up paying a higher rate so that they were more likely to lose their homes. Senior executives seemed aware of this racial mismatch, he recalled, and frantically tried to cover it up.
Theckston, who has a shelf full of awards that he won from Chase, such as “sales manager of the year,” showed me his 2006 performance review. It indicates that 60 percent of his evaluation depended on him increasing high-risk loans.
In late 2008, when the mortgage market collapsed, Theckston and most of his colleagues were laid off. He says he bears no animus toward Chase, but he does think it is profoundly unfair that troubled banks have been rescued while troubled homeowners have been evicted.
When I called JPMorgan Chase for its side of the story, it didn’t deny the accounts of manic mortgage-writing. Its spokesmen acknowledge that banks had made huge mistakes and noted that Chase no longer writes subprime or no-document mortgages. It also said that it has offered homeowners four times as many mortgage modifications as homes it has foreclosed on.
Still, 28 percent of all American mortgages are “underwater,”according to Zillow, a real estateWeb site. That means that more is owed than the home is worth, and the figure is up from 23 percent a year ago. That overhang stifles the economy, for it’s difficult to nurture a broad recovery unless real estate and construction revive.
All this came into sharper focus this week as Bloomberg Markets magazine published a terrific exposé based on lending records it pried out of the Federal Reserve in a lawsuit. It turns out that the Fed provided an astonishing sum to keep banks afloat — $7.8 trillion, equivalent to more than $25,000 per American.
The article estimated that banks earned up to $13 billion in profits by relending that money to businesses and consumers at higher rates.
The Federal Reserve action isn’t a scandal, and arguably it’s a triumph. The Fed did everything imaginable to avert a financial catastrophe — and succeeded. The money was repaid.
Yet what is scandalous is the basic unfairness of what has transpired. The federal government rescued highly paid bankers from their reckless decisions. It protected bank shareholders and creditors. But it mostly turned a cold shoulder to some of the most vulnerable and least sophisticated people in America. Last year alone, banks seized more than one million homes.
Sure, some programs exist to help borrowers in trouble, but not nearly enough. We still haven’t taken such basic steps as allowing bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of a mortgage on a primary home. Legislation to address that has gotten nowhere.
My daughter and I are reading Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” aloud to each other, and those Depression-era injustices seem so familiar today. That’s why the Occupy movement resonates so deeply: When the federal government goes all-out to rescue errant bankers, and stiffs homeowners, that’s not just bad economics. It’s also wrong.
A bit of a mixed bag of indicators, but I’ll still take it.
WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. factories grew last month at the fastest pace since June, helped by a jump in new orders and production.
The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing managers, said Thursday that its manufacturing index rose to 52.7 in November, up from 50.8 in October. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Manufacturing expanded last month at faster pace Manufacturing has grown for 28 straight months, according to the index. Factories were among the first businesses to start growing after the recession officially ended in June 2009.
Separately, the Labor Department said the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week rose above 400,000 for the first time in four weeks. The figures suggest the hiring market is recovering at a slow and uneven pace.
And a third report showed that U.S. builders spent more in October on new homes, offices and shopping centers. Construction spending rose for a third straight month, the Commerce Department said. Despite the gains, overall construction spending remained depressed.
Renewable energy is surpassing fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments, shaking off setbacks from the financial crisis….
Electricity from the wind, sun, waves and biomass drew $187 billion last year compared with $157 billion for natural gas, oil and coal, according to calculations by Bloomberg New Energy Finance using the latest data. Accelerating installations of solar- and wind-power plants led to lower equipment prices, making clean energy more competitive with coal.
That’s the latest, amazing news from Bloomberg.
Federal officials say the Arctic region has changed dramatically in the past five years – for the worse.
It’s melting at a near record pace, and it’s darkening and absorbing too much of the sun’s heat.
A new report card from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration rates the polar region with blazing red stop lights on three of five categories
and yellow cautions for the other two. Overall, these are not good grades, but it doesn’t mean the Arctic is doomed and it still will freeze in the winter, said report co-editor Jackie Richter-Menge.
The Arctic acts as Earth’s refrigerator, cooling the planet. What’s happening, scientists said, is like someone pushing the fridge’s thermostat much too high.
“It’s not cooling as well as it used to,” Richter-Menge said.
The dramatic changes are from both man-made global warming and recent localized weather shifts, which were on top of the longer term warming trend, scientists said.
The report, written by 121 scientists from around the world, said statistics point to a shift in the Arctic health in 2006. That was right before 2007, when a mix of weather conditions and changing climate led to a record loss of sea ice, from which the region has never recovered. This summer’s sea ice melt was the second worst on record, a tad behind 2007.
“We’ve got a new normal,” said co-author Don Perovich, a geophysicist at the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Research and Engineering Lab. “Whether it’s a tipping point and we’ll never recover, who’s to say?”
The report highlighted statistics to show an Arctic undergoing change:
-A NASA satellite found that 430 billion metric tons of ice melted in Greenland from 2010 to 2011, and the melting is accelerating. Since 2000, Greenland’s 39 widest glaciers shrunk by nearly 530 square miles, about the equivalent of 22 Manhattans.
-The past five years have had the five lowest summer sea ice levels on record. For two straight years, all three major passages through the Arctic have been open in the summer, which is unusual.
-Seven of 19 polar bear sub-populations are shrinking.
-This year’s temperature is roughly 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit higher than what had been normal since 1980.
What’s even more troubling to scientists is that there’s been a record darkening of the normally white Arctic land and sea. White snow and ice reflects solar energy, but a melting darker Arctic in the summer absorbs that heat.
Marco Tedesco of the City College of New York, a co-author, said the darkening is like a speeding train going downhill, adding to the acceleration of warming.
Richter-Menge said the darkening of the Arctic from melting ice and snow “causes more heating, which causes more melting, and on the cycle goes.”
But there are some winners in the warming. The phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean, at the base of the marine food chain, has increased 20 percent compared with the past decade, and some plants are doing better, scientists said.
What GAO Found
Foster children in the five states GAO analyzed were prescribed psychotropic
drugs at higher rates than nonfoster children in Medicaid during 2008, which
according to research, experts consulted, and certain federal and state officials,
could be due in part to foster children’s greater mental health needs, greater
exposure to traumatic experiences and the challenges of coordinating their
medical care. However, prescriptions to foster children in these states were also
more likely to have indicators of potential health risks. According to GAO’s
experts, no evidence supports the concomitant use of five or more psychotropic
drugs in adults or children, yet hundreds of both foster and nonfoster children in
the five states had such a drug regimen. Similarly, thousands of foster and
nonfoster children were prescribed doses higher than the maximum levels cited
in guidelines developed by Texas based on FDA-approved labels, which GAO’s
experts said increases the risk of adverse side effects and does not typically
increase the efficacy of the drugs to any significant extent. Further, foster and
nonfoster children under 1 year old were prescribed psychotropic drugs, which
GAO’s experts said have no established use for mental health conditions in
infants; providing them these drugs could result in serious adverse effects.
The always-fascinating Kaiser poll about ACA had its latest installment yesterday, and the numbers hinted at a new opportunity for Barack Obama: it’s possible that older Americans could be a potential source of new support for the law in 2012.
First, the topline results, which are nicely summarized by Kevin Drum. There’s not much that’schanged. Overall, more people dislike ACA than like it, but a plurality either support the law or want it strengthened. Only a minority want it repealed, with or without Republican replacement. And almost every individual provision of the law remains popular, with the biggest exception being the individual mandate. Interestingly, most ACA opponents say that their opposition is based on a general dislike of “the direction of the country and what’s going on in Washington right now” rather than anything specific about the law – which is surprising to me, because my impression is that it’s rare for people to admit to such influences on their opinions.
It’s also the case that people don’t actually know what’s in the law. Here’s where we get to the hint about seniors. Kaiser has been tracking, among other things, whether people believe that certain provisions are part of ACA. In most cases, knowledge has been deteriorating over time – for example, 71% of respondents knew that the individual mandate was in the law in April 2010, but only 62% knew that now; 64% used to know about expanding Medicaid, down to 53% now.
That’s reversed, however, in two areas. Slightly more people (51% to 49%) know now that ACA will eliminate the “donut hole” on Medicare prescription medication. And more also know about eliminating co-pays and deductibles for preventative care (36% to 29%, although in this case the “before” was just a few months ago instead of last year). Notably, the first of these is a pure Medicare issue, and the other has been a Medicare issue so far.
My guess is that what’s happening here is that seniors have a strong interest in knowing about what’s actually happening to Medicare, as well as good resources to let them know. Moreover, these are both tangible benefits that will be fairly easy to directly connect to ACA, unlike something like preventing rescissions, which was critically important but something very people knew about until it happened to them, so eliminating it is invisible. It’s also worth noting that, while increasing, the awareness of this stuff is still low, although presumably it’s much higher among Medicare recipients; alas, no crosstabs on this in the detailed release. It sure seems to me that all of this sounds like a real opportunity for the Obama campaign as it targets swing-voting seniors next year.
The bad news for Obama, however, is that as anticipated people are going to blame anything they are dissatisfied about in health care and health insurance on ACA, and therefore on Obama, while generally not being very aware of the benefits. I do expect that to continue, and since costs will likely be going up and since people are still going to not like their insurance companies, there’s a built-in difficulty with gaining support. Again, that’s partially because the benefits are being implemented slowly, but in large part it’s because of the nature of the benefits. After all, there is precisely no one who is going to be cheering if their premiums go up less than they would have otherwise, even if that’s exactly what happens. So even if everything works exactly as Obama and Waxman and the rest of them hoped, it’s gonna be a tough sell. (Although then again a lot of this, as Kaiser found, is more a reflection of what people think of Obama in general; if unemployment was at 5% and Obama at 55%, ACA would be a lot more popular).
Anyway: I have no idea how large the chunk is of seniors who are swing voters, but I do suspect they are the group mostly likely to be successfully targeted on health care by the Democrats.
Even with more children living in poverty because of the rough economy, the number of children without health insurance in the U.S. has dropped by 1 million in the past three years, according to a report released Tuesday by Georgetown University.
Many states have expanded eligibility for, and simplified access to, the children’s Medicaid program. This has helped shrinkthe number of uninsured children from 6.9 million in 2008 to 5.9 million in 2010. Experts say the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care overhaul that requires states to maintain income eligibility levels and discourages other barriers to coverage, has played a key role in the improvement.
Overall, 34 states had a significant decrease in the rate of uninsured children.
Florida made the most progress, dropping from 667,758 to 506,934 during that time period, although the state still has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the nation.
Minnesota, Kansas and Wisconsin saw an increase in the number of uninsured children.
Nevada has the highest rate of uninsured children while Massachusetts has the lowest, according to the report.
The findings are based on an analysis of new health insurance data from the Census Bureau. It was done by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families.
The news comes as the number of uninsured adults has risen in the past few years.
High unemployment rates and the increasing cost of private insurance are driving more families to the federal-state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs, also known as CHIP. Both programs provide health insurance for children, but come from different funding streams and allow states more flexibility in how they run their programs.
President Barack Obama signed an extension of CHIP and provided $87 billion to help states pay for Medicaid in the 2009 economic stimulus, and experts say a bipartisan national commitment aimed at covering children has given states new tools and incentives to follow through. For example, some states once required face-to-face interviews; now many states have online applications.
The Affordable Care Act should also help preserve these gains going forward, said Joan Alker, co-executive director of the Georgetown University research center
“We will move to a culture of coverage. The presumption is everyone has insurance,” she said. “Families will feel there’s an option out there for them.”
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments challenging the constitutionality of the historic health care overhaul next year.
Florida led the nation in reducing the number of uninsured children, in part because the state’s Medicaid rolls swelled as the economy soured. But legislation passed in 2009 has also simplified the process and reduced penalties for those who don’t pay premiums.
South Carolina is trying to make it easier for low-income children who already qualify for health care coverage to enroll in Medicaid. The state’s Medicaid director is requesting an additional $35 million for next year’s budget. Nearly $30 million of that would pay to add an estimated 70,000 children to Medicaid rolls by streamlining the application process.
While Tuesday’s report is promising, experts worry that increased enrollment may be difficult to sustain as state lawmakers slash budgets, especially for big-ticket expenses such as health care.
“These gains are fragile and could quickly be reversed if state or federal support erodes,” said Alker.
More than 128,000 children are on the waiting list in Arizona after officials froze program enrollment in 2010 to help balance the state budget. The program now has approximately 15,000 children — down from 45,820. The state recently submitted a two-year plan for federal approval that would allow enrollment of 19,000 children now on a waiting list.
Still, Arizona was able to drop from 258,339 uninsured children in 2008 to 207,967 in 2010, according to the report.
Wisconsin state officials are looking to move 215,000 Medicaid-eligible children into a stripped-down version of the program with reduced benefits.
Texas also decreased the number of uninsured children, but some health advocates fear major state cuts to address that state’s massive budget crisis. In 2003, when the state was facing a smaller shortfall, more than 200,000 children were kicked off of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Minnesota saw the largest increase in uninsured children, jumping from 72,493 in 2008 to 84,165 in 2010, according to the report.
Charges have been dropped against Ichiro Yada, the Japanese Honda employee who was arrested in Alabama for being in violation of HB 56, the state’s immigration law. Eric Patterson, mayor of Leeds, Alabama, told the Birmingham News that Yada had been ticketed for driving without a license and then arrested for being in violation of a section of the draconian law that requires everyone to have a valid license while driving. Originally, the AP reported that Yada had both his passport and an international license when he was stopped by police. Charges were dismissed when his attorney faxed a copy of Yada’s valid driver’s license to the Leeds city judge. Yada was the second foreign employee of a car manufacturer charged under Alabama’s immigration law, after Mercedes employee Detlev Hager was arrested two weeks ago for not having his passport with him.
[…] The Pew Hispanic Center found that 35 percent of adult illegal immigrants have lived in the U.S. for 15 years or more, a figure that has more than doubled since 2000. That year, just 16 percent had resided in the U.S. for at least 15 years.
Meanwhile, just under half of all these illegal immigrant adults — 46 percent, or 4.7 million — are parents of minor children. That’s a much larger percentage than either legal immigrants, with 38 percent having children, or U.S.-born adults at 29 percent. Part of the reason, Pew wrote, is that the median age of illegal immigrant adults is so young, at 36.2 years of age, compared to legal immigrants, 46.1, or U.S.-born adults at 46.5.
The report also stated that 91 percent of Latinos who are illegal immigrants support a path to citizenship, and 86 percent of all Latinos are in favor of a way for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship if certain conditions are followed. Just under three-fourths of all Americans, or 72 percent, say they also support a path to citizenship if the illegal immigrants pay fines, are employed and pass background checks, Pew wrote.
Illegal immigrants make up 3.7 percent of the population, or about 11.2 million total, Pew estimates. The figure is about a million lower than its 2007 peak of 12 million illegal immigrants.
The report’s estimates come from the U.S. Census Bureau’?s March 2010 Current Population Survey, along with the Pew’s own analysis of the illegal immigrant population and its 2010 National Survey of Latinos. That survey, conducted Aug. 17 through Sept. 19, 2010, surveyed 1,375 Latino adults.
The Massachusetts attorney general has filed a lawsuit against five large U.S. banks accusing them of deceptive foreclosure practices, a signal of ebbing confidence that a multi-state agreement can be worked out.
For more than a year, state and federal officials have been negotiating a deal in which banks would pay billions of dollars in fines – to go toward housing relief – in exchange for legal protection against future suits.
The Massachusetts lawsuit, filed in state court in Boston, accuses Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co Inc, Citigroup Inc, Wells Fargo & Co and GMAC of deceptive foreclosure practices, such as using robo-signers and false documents.
The attorney general in Iowa, Tom Miller, who is leading the negotiations for the states, said in a statement they hope to reach a settlement “soon.” He also said Coakley had indicated she is still open to joining the settlement.
However, analysts said Coakley’s lawsuit is a bad sign for banks, which hope a deal with states and federal authorities could help the industry move beyond the legal fallout that has dogged it since the peak of the financial crisis.
The discussions have been bogged down by states concerned the deal was either too lenient or provided the wrong kinds of relief, and by the banks who sought release from mortgage-related claims beyond the original conduct at issue.
The Massachusetts complaint accuses the banks of using fraudulent documents when processing foreclosures; of foreclosing on properties without holding the actual mortgage; and of failing to uphold promises to modify loans for the state’s homeowners.
A person familiar with the talks said Massachusetts has sought to protect its ability to pursue certain claims against the banks for their use of MERS. Those liability issues are still being hashed out in negotiations, the person said.
Coakley, who took office in 2007, has been aggressive in moving against Wall Street firms and U.S. banks. Her office said it has secured more than $600 million in relief for investors and borrowers, while keeping more than 24,000 people in their homes.
The broadcast media’s ignorance and unwillingness to cover the National Defense Authorization Act, a radical piece of legislation which outrageously redefines the US homeland as a “battlefield” and makes US citizens subject to military apprehension and detainment forlife without access to a trial or attorney, is unacceptable.
Guys, this is far more important than Penn State’s Disgusting Creep of the Decade, or even Conrad Murray’s sentencing.
Call it what you will: a military junta, a secret invalidation of Americans’ civil rights, a Congress gone mad. Whatever it is, it needs to be covered by the press, and quickly.
Anderson Cooper, Brian Williams, Rachel Maddow, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Neil Cavuto and the other handful of household names that mainstream America relies on for news should be talking about this non-stop.
I emailed producers and on-air talent at the three major cable news networks yesterday: not one of them was willing to step up to the plate and report on this appalling legislation, which would give Americans roughly the same protections as citizens in China or Saudi Arabia.
Bloggers and the ACLU’s analysis have already made the work easy for you guys. Even an ADD segment producer can do the math:
- Pay special attention to Section 1031 of the bill.
- This bill violates the Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385), as it will allow federal military personnel to engage in domestic law enforcement. This is profoundly unconstitutional and scary.
- Also read Sen. Lindsey Graham’s chilling defense of the offending provision in this bill, calling to make the homeland a “battlefield.” Has anyone told these guys that Osama bin Laden and his deputies are dead? Those still alive are running from drone strikes on a daily basis. So who exactly are we fighting against? Are you protecting us from a handful of (almost entirely peaceful) college kids at the Occupy protests? If so, martial law and throwing out 200+ years of basic civil rights seems rather excessive.
- Finally, as the ACLU points out, you won’t have any trouble booking an expert talking head who will tell you how dangerous and counterproductive the National Defense Authorization Act is: “The Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the FBI and the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division have all said that the indefinite detention provisions in the NDAA are harmful and counterproductive.” Book one of them on your program, and do it quickly. The Senate has already rejected an amendment which would have banned the indefinite detention provisions from the bill.
Please, do your jobs. This is the kind of story that wins journalism awards and makes careers. It’s the kind of story that makes viewers trust you.
Video from the author summarizing why the National Defense Authorization Act (FY 2012) in its current form is so harmful, and must be stopped:
Media Action Center:
Just before the big Thanksgiving holiday, the Federal Communications Commission leaked information that they are once again reviewing the broadcast media ownership rules, and that — get this — they intend to leave local TV and Radio ownership rules in place, and plan to move ahead with the same newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules that Republican chair Kevin Martin put into place.
But wait, don’t they remember the 3 million people who wrote them in 2005, saying they want more owners of fewer radio and TV stations, not the other way around? Or what about President Obama’s January 2009 directive, originally reported in BradBlog, that we need to diversify media ownership? Or the recent Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling specifically surrounding the newspaper cross ownership issue, which said the FCC had not properly listened to the public, and that they must do so before making such a rule? […]
It gets worse. True to form, the FCC quietly announced that there will be an FCC hearing about media ownership rules held in Atlanta, Georgia December 1. They announced the forum in their Daily Digest the day after Thanksgiving, just 6 days before the public event. The hearing will be the last public event held before the final notice of proposed rulemaking for 2010 Quadrennial Ownership Review is released, the last opportunity for the public to make comments about OUR public airwaves for the next four years!
It is clear the FCC does not want to hear from the very public it serves.
So I am not kidding about Occupying the FCC.
[Last night’s] episode of Harry’s Law literally takes on the banks and uses the show, as a Populist soapbox. The plot contrasts how a homeless, foreclosed on, single mother, turned bank robber, gets 20 years, yet if one is incorporated and has lobbyists, then one gets $7.7 trillion in Federal Reserve loans. The episode is below.
To wit we have this post on the Philly OWS eviction, pointing out the absurdity of a massive police presence:
The Philadelphia Police Department is currently ‘protecting’ virtually every corner in Washington and Rittenhouse Squares, with police cars and vans squatting square in the middle of each entrance to the parks.
The above post documents how Cities magically have unlimited resources to intimidate peaceful protests, including press departments to blame the protestors for costs, yet are laying off cops, teachers. These same city police departments supposedly do not have the resources to investigate fraud and white collar crime.
Most importantly, there have been no prosecutions any of the banks or executives who caused the financial crisis and ongoing economic malaise. As the above post put it:
No resources to fight economic crimes against the vulnerable, but many resources to protect us from the threat of people protesting… economic crimes and inequality.
Think Progress got one right when calling out the mayor for such brazen hypocrisy.
LA Mayor Says He Evicted Protesters Out Of Concern For Children, But City Has 13,000 Homeless Kids.
Even people working on Wall Street are getting a conscience and speaking up, warning people the game is rigged:
The financial markets are rigged. 99% of the investing public has access to services such as basic brokerages, 401k/IRA’s, mutual funds, pension plans, etc. Some of these services, especially pension funds, will invest into hedge funds, who take an additional 2 and 20 (meaning 2% of assets plus 20% of capital gains).
What this means is that if you go any of the traditional retail routes, you are utterly screwed facing off against the hedge funds.
First, you are paying exorbitant fees. Commissions on every stock trade. Mutual fund managers taking a cut – an annual % cut, as well as a % per profit cut. If these managers (i.e. pension plans) invest in another fund, that fund is also taking another % cut. You’re down 2% the minute you invest your money.
Next, if you’re doing the investing yourself, you’re paying ridiculous spreads. The bid/ask spread of a stock will cause you to be down another 2-3% the minute you buy the stock. For example, if you’re buying a share of company at $4.25, you can sell back at only $4.15.
Furthermore, you have absolutely no chance in terms of access to the best services. Hedge funds have a direct line to investment bank’s institutional brokerage teams – these are the guys that spend day and night sucking up to hedge funds, trying to get them the best deals at the cheapest rates. This means that while you’re buying stocks and bonds, hedge funds are getting special rights, warrants, sweetheart deals, private placement deals, in-the-money options, bigger discounts on bonds, and much better bulk commission rates and lower spreads on stocks. If you’re paying 4.25$ for a 4.15$ stock, they are paying something like 4.16$. And they are eating alive your profits because when the stock goes up to $4.30, they can activate another warrant to purchase 20m shares at $4.25, diluting the value of your shares.
Next, you lack information and exposure. You have no idea what is going on in the market besides what you see on the news – while hedge funds have analysts working around the clock and a bunch of service providers who give minute-by-minute analysis of their portfolio opportunities and weaknesses in all markets with exposures to nearly everything. Meaning, if there is an opportunity in the real estate market (i.e. legislation), it might take you weeks to get in – hedge funds will have gotten in the minute the legislation was passed. Furthermore, when IPOs come out for companies, hedge funds get top billing on the primary market shares – which means investment banks are selling directly to them. Once the secondary market becomes available, hedge funds are up 15-20% on these investments, sometimes within hours.
Finally, you have no capital compared to these hedge funds. The people who invest in these hedge funds are not just the 1%, they are the 0.1%. These are the guys with 500million dollar bank accounts and the ability to do whatever the fuck they want. Hedge funds know this, and they invest without having to care about whether their clients can pay the rent or send their kids to college. All of that is irrelevant. Their sole purpose is to earn money, not to mitigate risk.
What does this all mean? It means the hedge fund industry is making a gigantic proportion of the profits. The top .1% is earning nearly half of the profits in the industry, through not just hedge funds, but other similar vehicles.
The finance industry is a complete scam, designed to funnel money from the 99% investing public into the hands of the top .1%.
Think about it. Why should someone who brandishes a gun and robs a bank get 20 years in prison when the Banksters rip off people everyday, to the point of homelessness and destitution, yet nothing ever happens?
How many times have you watched the local news, thinking what an idiot that guy is, holding up the local bank, when white collar crime not only pays well, there is pretty much zero consequence?
MSNBC contributor Meghan McCain interviewedMichele Bachmann and spoke glowingly about the Republican presidential candidate on Thursday’s edition of Now with Alex Wagner. “I famously said a statement earlier where I said Michele Bachmann was the poor man’s Sarah Palin,” McCain recalled. “I am completely wrong. This is the thinking man’s Sarah Palin.” When questioned by Newsweek‘sRichard Wolffe about why, McCain replied “she’s more smarter.”
“I connected with her,” McCain added. “I didn’t know what to expect and I’m a person who has been around politicians my entire life. I connected to this woman and I thought, this is what she should be doing, talking about being a mother and on foreign policy things. I don’t understand why this woman I met yesterday hasn’t been coming across. That’s the thing I don’t understand. I don’t think her campaign has done her a service. I loved her.”
“What’s interesting about Bachmann is her religion and her faith are important to her,” Wagner observed. “If we look at the GOP field, indiscretions and sort of sexual liaisons have been in the news.”
“I did bring it up, and as a Republican woman, character is how I vote for someone.” McCain opined. “Is Newt Gingrich’s indiscretions and the possibility of Herman Cain having a 13-year affair, does this matter to you? She answered politically and referenced her founding fathers.”
In McCain’s interview, Bachmann said when the founding fathers talked about the qualifications to be President, “they didn’t talk about wealth, they didn’t talk about property ownership, they didn’t talk about education, what they talked about was character. Character was a fundamental importance of a chief executive.”
There has been a LOT of complaining about the poor messaging coming out of the White House. It’s hard to find anyone on the anti-Obama left that doesn’t have some negative thing to say about it, in fact. What most people don’t realize is that the White House has pretty fantastic messaging when it comes to the main media sources. From Daily Press Guidances that give the next day’s events along with background to official White House statements, press releases and speech transcripts, they are providing America’s media with plenty of fodder for their reporting. So far as I can tell, the vast majority ends up in the trash folder.
I am on the White House Media Office mailing list so every day, I get the same emails every major media outlet gets. There isn’t a day that goes by that I see evidence that the White House team is on message, on target and doing all they can to let America know, through the media, what they are thinking, planning and trying to accomplish.
Let me give you an example. Here is a snippet of comments made by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest to journalists aboard Air Force One yesterday on their way to Scranton, PA.
The President is traveling to Scranton today to urge Republicans in Congress to join Democrats to ensure that taxes don’t go up on 160 million Americans, including 6.8 [million] hardworking Pennsylvanians. By extending and expanding the payroll tax cut, we would save Pennsylvanians $7.8 billion next year. In fact, the President will meet with a family in Scranton today who would benefit from the extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut. We’ll have a little bit more on them later this afternoon.
As you know, the President included an extension and expansion of the payroll tax cut in the American Jobs Act. Republicans voted against the American Jobs Act, citing their opposition to increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires.
And even as we parsed out specific pieces of the American Jobs Act, Republicans continued to oppose those measures, citing their opposition to increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires.
So there’s obviously a proposal on the Senate floor to help communities fund new police officers and firefighters. Republicans opposed it and said they didn’t want to increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires.
There’s a proposal on the floor to make important investments in our roads, railways and runways.Republicans voted against it, citing their opposition to raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires.
And now there’s some talk as the Senate considers extending and expanding the payroll tax for working Americans that Republicans will not go along with it, citing their opposition to increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires.
So the question for today is we’ve obviously seen Republicans demonstrate a pretty aggressive defense of the tax cuts that are enjoyed by millionaires and billionaires. The question is if they are going to join Democrats in aggressively fighting to protect the tax cuts of 160 million working Americans.
From my perspective, that’s great messaging. The main thrust, that Republicans are working hard to protect millionaires and billionaires, even at the expense of rebuilding infrastructure, giving tax relief to the 99%, and getting our economy jump-started, is repeated in clear language.
Did you read about this anywhere? Chances are good that you didn’t. Because there are too many shiny things for “journalists” to report. It’s not “news” in their minds that the GOP is intentionally and hypocritically sabotaging our economy to score a political advantage. The evidence is there. The White House message is there. But it’s not making headlines. And it should.
President Obama and his staff are doing what they can to get their message out since the media in our country are failing so miserably at their jobs. But, when you hear someone tell you they are doing nothing to speak the truth to Americans about what is happening, it’s bunk, pure and simple. It’s far more enticing to report that Herman Cain made over 60 calls over a four-month period with a woman who claims she had an adulterous affair with the pizza mogul. It’s much sexier to give coverage to a twice-divorced former House Speaker who left two wives when they became ill and had an illicit affair while he was impeaching the President of the United States for adultery. It’s much more fun to cover a Texan idiot who thinks the 2012 presidential election will be on November 12th and that people 21 or older can vote or that New Hampshire has a caucus rather than a primary.
In this new pathetic media landscape, it’s damn hard to get attention when you’re talking sane, rational efforts to improve our country’s economy. But never doubt that they are doing everything they can to get that attention. Because they are.
P.S. Did you know that President Obama issued an Executive Order this week to modernize the management of federal records? He did. It’s major step forward in transparency, historical documentation and cost savings. And it went nearly unreported.
Dahlia Lithwick, Slate:
Why is the Senate so determined to allow the U.S. military to arrest and detain U.S. citizens?
On Tuesday 60 members of the United States Senate voted to preserve a provision in theNational Defense Authorization Act—that would be the bill that funds the Pentagon—allowing the U.S. military to pick up and detain, without charges or trial, anyone suspected of terrorism, including American citizens, and to restrict transfers of prisoners out of Guantanamo Bay. Specifically, 60 senators voted against an amendment that would have invalidated the part of the bill which empowers the president and the military to detain anyone they suspect was involved in the 9/11 attacks or supports al-Qaida, the Taliban, or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”
There are two disputed sections of the bill, as Charlie Savage explains. One “would require the government to place into military custody any suspected member of Al Qaeda or one of its allies connected to a plot against the United States or its allies. The provision would exempt American citizens, but would otherwise extend to arrests on United States soil. The executive branch could issue a waiver and keep such a prisoner in the civilian system.”The second provision “would create a federal statute saying the government has the legal authority to keep people suspected of terrorism in military custody, indefinitely and without trial. It contains no exception for American citizens.”
So forget the presumption of innocence. Forget the protections of the Constitution. If you are suspected of terrorism, you may be held indefinitely, maybe even shipped off to Guantanamo. And in this war that will last forever and play out on every square inch of the planet, the chances that these new powers will ever be rolled back are negligible. Even long after the war on terror has waned.
Now, perhaps you suspect these thorny questions about the handling of terrorists are best left to the experts, and that the Senate was simply listening to them. Such suspicions would be unfounded. The secretary of defense, the director of national intelligence, the director of the FBI, the CIA director, and the head of the Justice Department’s national security division have all said that the indefinite detention provisions in the bill are a bad idea. And the White House continues to say that the president will veto the bill if the detainee provisions are not removed. It sees the proposed language as limiting its flexibility.
There may be no good outcome here. It could be an unholy victory for both the prospect of unbridled executivepower and for the collapse of any meaningful separation betweendomestic law enforcement and military authority. The law manages to expand the role of the military in domestic terror prosecutions and also limit the authority of the civilian justice system to thwart terrorism. These were legal principles to which even the Bush administration said they adhered.
As Adam Serwer explains: This new legislation will “overturn a precedent that was followed almost without exception by the Bush administration: Domestic terrorism arrests are the province of law enforcement, not the military.” Raha Wala of Human Rights First notes that “authorizing the military to detain terror suspects apprehended within the United States clearly goes against the spirit of the Posse Comitatus Act, a law that has prevented the military from taking on domestic law enforcement functions since the Civil War.” Ifyou think the blurring of domestic policing and military authority is an Orwellian fantasy, you may want to consider the treatment of Occupy Wall Street protestors in recent weeks,or Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s claim that “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world.”
We don’t bring the battlefield into our backyard for any number of obvious reasons, and redefining our backyard as the battlefield for all time doesn’t make any of us safer or more free. As Sen. Mark Udall, who proposed the amendment removing these provisions from the bill, wrote Monday in the Washington Post: “These proposed changes would require the military to take on a new responsibility as police, jailors and judges—jobs for which it is not equipped and which it does not want. These changes to our laws would also authorize the military to exercise unprecedented power on U.S. soil.”
The underlying rationale for allowing the military such unprecedented power is the tiresome assertion that all of our current strategies against terrorism have failed. It’s almost as if the bill’s sponsors think that there have been multiple successful terrorist attacks since 9/11; that dozens of terrorists have been freed as a result of the sloppy civilian justice system; and that domestic law enforcement has failed in its efforts to combat terror. None of that is true. Congress appears determined to do away with every tactic that has identified and halted terror attacks in the past 10 years, and to enshrine into the law everything that has failed.
Those who voted against the Udall Amendment were at great pains to say that the law targets only bad terrorists, not good Americans. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said: “The enemy is all over the world. Here at home. And when people take up arms against the United States and [are] captured within the United States, why should we not be able to use our military and intelligence community to question that person as to what they know about enemy activity? They should not be read their Miranda rights. They should not be given a lawyer. They should be held humanely in military custody and interrogated about why they joined al Qaida and what they were going to do to all of us.”
But who decides what constitutes the “all of us” and what constitutes the “they”? That’s the very definition of due process. The detainee language only makes us all safer if you assume that “they” are always guilty whenever the government says so. It’s the job of the courts to decide whether the government is right. Justice Antonin Scalia himself put it this way: “Where the Government accuses a citizen of waging war against it, our constitutional tradition has been to prosecute him in federal court for treason or some other crime. … The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive.”
One of the two Republican senators to vote for the Udall Amendment yesterday was Sen. Rand Paul, who quoted Thomas Jefferson: “The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become instruments of tyranny at home.” No. Truer. Words. At this moment in America we seem to be so fond of dividing Americans into us and them that we have created all sorts of intriguing new legal double standards for the thems. Don’t think for a minute that these new powers will be used only against suspected terrorists. We already know that suspected illegal immigrants, suspected environmental activists, and suspected protesters have very different legal rights—which is to say, far more limited rights—than anyone else.And as Benjamin Wallace Wells detailed last August, the landmark anti-terror legislation known as the Patriot Act has, in the 10 years since its passage, been used in 1,618 drug cases and 15 terrorism cases. You’d never know it from watching the GOP hopefuls joyfully demonize women, immigrants, the poor, the prisoners, OWS protesters, and union members, but at some point, them always becomes us.
[…] The debate over terrorism suspects on Thursday divided Democrats, with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., squaring off over the language with Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
Democratic opponents of the provisions, who offered a series of amendments to strike or water down the language, appear to face an uphill effort to find the votes to amend the detainee language as almost all Republicans and most Armed Services Committee Democrats support it.
By moving ahead with the bill without a deal—the White House threatened to veto the bill earlier Thursday—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., reduced the leverage and ability of opponents to force changes. Feinstein said she isn’t confident the bill can be amended, saying only that she strongly opposes the provisions. She declined to comment on Reid’s decision to press ahead with the bill but several Democratic aides said his move caught Democratic opponents of the provision by surprise. The aides said Reid told Democrats he is eager to move ahead with the bill in the face of pressure from Republicans and his own desire to clear “must pass” bills that are ready for the floor.
The Obama administration threatened to veto the major defense authorization bill because of language paving the way for many terror suspects to be put under military custody, a sharp escalation of its battle with Congress over the future course of the war on terror.
Another sign that the Occupy movement might be losing its way as it’s hijacked by libertarians and anarchists.
TPM has learned a group of DC Occupiers plan to hold a demonstration outside a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee high-dollar fundraiser for, among other members, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ).
The event (which comes with a $75,000 PAC sponsorship price; the cheapest ticket is $5,000) will feature speeches from all the top leaders of the House Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and DCCC chair Steve Israel. […]
On its website, OccupyDC calls the event “elitist” and “indicative of how the Democrats represent a major part of our government’s failure to represent 99% of its citizenry.” This is ironic considering the Democrats inside the closed-to-the-public and closed-to-the-press fundraiser are among the most vocal supporters of the Occupy movement in politics.
Protesting a DCCC fundraiser does nothing to “change the conversation” when those in attendance are already discussing the things you want them to discuss.
Jobs. Taxing the rich and shameless. Financial regulations.
Nancy Pelosi even presided over the most sweeping regulation of Wall Street in decades while she was Speaker of the House, which President Obama later signed into law.
And “elitist?” […]
Do you think the Democratic Party, or anyone else for that matter, can defeat the Right Wing Noise Machine without fundraising? They will be lucky to out-pace Corporate America’s new-found power following the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United.
And this idea that a PAC fundraiser means Democrats do not represent the 99 percent is utterly nonsensical. An overwhelming majority of President Obama’s re-election funds have come from people like you and I. Individual donors making small donations of between 5 and 50 dollars each. The Obama campaign has already received donations from over 1 million individuals and it’s not even 2012 yet.
Furthermore, you won’t find a single politician in existence who doesn’t schmooze and booze with a who’s who list of lobbyists, think-tank presidents, pundits, and CEOs. Who they shoot the shit with after a long day of listening to conservative blowhards explain why we need to outlaw abortion in congress doesn’t matter. What matters is their voting record and the legislation they have personally supported or opposed.
Review the record, and you will find the Democratic Party ardently supports, or has passed, legislation that benefits the majority of America.
This isn’t about “pragmatists” vs “idealists” on the left, this is bigger than all of us. Please recognize that when considering where all of America is today. Not that I am a better arbiter than you may be, that’s just how I see it outside of this Democratic blog.
And I can see it coming already, on one hand the GOP insults OWS activists, on the other hand they are quietly trying to co-opt our message and turn this whole thing into a “blame Obama-fest”.
Because we all know from day one that the GOP decided they would be a do-nothing congress during Obama’s first term so they could lay the blame of the 2008 market collapse at the feet of President Obama. The GOP is counting on everyone blaming Obama and Obama alone for the mess they helped create.
Don’t blame Wall Street. Blame Obama.
Don’t blame Wall Street. Blame the Government and Obama.
Don’t blame Wall Street or Republicans. Blame the Government and Obama.
Republicans who voted down every reform Obama offered so they can have more tax cuts for the rich would just LOVE IT if OWS became a liberal bash Obama-fest.
But OccupyWallStreet is NOT liberal, it is American. It is moderate and independent and a little liberal and a little libertarian, but overall it is American.
But since the GOP and Fox News can not wholly own it, they must destroy it. […]
The GOP wants to divide OWS activists and pit them against Obama supporters, thus turning off Democrats and Independents who might be supportive of OccupyWallStreet’s pro-working class anti-corporate special interest message and vice versa. This is a classic “divide and conquer” tactic. The goal is to destroy anything that doesn’t support Republicans, and this tactic usually works.
Now, I have said it before and I will say it again, I will NOT allow either party to co-opt OccupyWallStreet, neither Democrat or Republican, because our problem lies within the corrupt two party system, but at the same time, I must admit, that there is a good chance that if we play our cards right we can force the Democratic party to actually fight for working class people the way they are supposed to. There is no chance of that ever happening with the GOP. None. Zero. Zilch.
I have accepted the fact that many Fox News viewers are a lost cause. They represent the pro-1% wing of the 99%, and they keep voting to screw themselves and the rest of the 99% because Fox News told them that everything that is not conservative is Hitler, so I’m not too worried about losing the potential support of the die-hard Fox viewers.
But I am concerned about losing the support of sensible people in the middle ranges of American politics, those of us who are neither the far left or the far right, people who don’t hate Obama with a passion, people who will not support Obama no matter what he does, people who might support him or would at least pressure him with constructive criticism to do the rightthing for millions of working class Americans. These are the people that OccupyWallStreet risks losing if they allow themselves to become an anti-Obama fest. Corporate Republicans (and the Corporate Democrats who love them) would be thrilled if OWS began to focus on protesting Obama fundraisers while ignoring the real problems such as America’s corrupt campaign finance system, growing income inequality and the sordid business practices in America’s boardrooms that haven’t changed a bit since the crash of 2008.
So let’s keep our eyes on the prize, people. The goals of OccupyWallStreet, as I see them, are larger than just one session of congress or one election. Winning an election is not the goal, but neither should we allow the bad guys to win one either because we we’re so busy at each others throats that they managed again to have their way (and yes, I’m calling the Wall Street conservatives who call me a dirtbag the bad guys, though they are not alone in this regard.)
The GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the wealthiest 1%, and for far too long the Dem Establishment has been their willing partner in crime. I say that we should SHIFT FOCUS, away from the Presidency and over to Congress and Wall Street, the corrupt Houses of Boehner and Reid and the corporate boardrooms that bribe our politicians. Yes, we should protest fundraisers, all the fundraisers, including President Obama’s, but we must be vigilant and make sure that we do not allow the GOP to co-opt OccupyWallStreet and turn it into a “blame Obama-fest”, because that’s exactly what Wall Street lobbyists would want.
Tips and flames for my humble thoughts on this matter . . . .
Cheers, and peace and love to all.
The Republican Governor’s Association met in Florida this week and featured pollster Frank Luntz, who offered a coaching session for attendees about how they should communicate to the public. Yahoo! News’ Chris Moody was there, and captured some of Luntz’s comments on Occupy Wall Street.
Luntz told attendees that he’s “scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I’m frightened to death.” The pollster warned that the movement is “having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism.” So the pollster offered some advice for them about how to fight back. Here’s a few snippets of what he said, according to Moody:
– Don’t Mention Capitalism: Luntz said that his polling research found that “The public…still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we’re seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we’ve got a problem.”
– Empathize With The 99 Percent Protesters: Luntz instructed attendees to tell protesters that they “get it”: “First off, here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ … ‘I get that you’re. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.”
– Don’t Say Bonus: Luntz told Republicans to re-frame the concept of the bonus payment — which bailed-out Wall Street doles out to its employees during holidays — as “pay for performance” instead.
– Don’t Mention The Middle Class Because Americans Don’t Trust Republicans To Defend It: “They cannot win if the fight is on hardworking taxpayers,” Luntz instructed the audience. “We can say we defend the ‘middle class’ and the public will say, I’m not sure about that. But defending ‘hardworking taxpayers’ and Republicans have the advantage.”
– Don’t Talk About Taxing The Rich: Luntz reminded Republicans that Americans actually do want to tax the rich, so he reccommended they instead say that the government “takes from the rich.”
[…] On Tuesday’s edition of Fox News’ The Five, one of the members of the panel suggested the occupiers should beware of gun-slinging Americans who oppose the Occupy movement. It is nothing new for Fox to encourage their listeners to consider 2nd Amendment remedies for any number of perceived grievances, but suggesting that Americans shoot peaceful protestors has crossed the line.
The Fox panel was discussing families in Arizona who posed for Christmas card photos with Santa Claus while the parents and children held a variety of firearms. Now, it is unclear what the relationship Christmas, Santa Claus, families, and machine guns is about, but perhaps in Arizona it is a custom to associate the birth of Jesus Christ with bazookas and AK-47s. One of the panel members, Greg Gutfeld, was commenting on how awesome it is that Americans have a love-affair with guns and how he likes that it “scares the hell out of visiting Europeans who already think we’re crazy people and they think my god, we’re never invading this country.” Gutfeld is correct; Europeans do think Americans are violent nut-jobs for the wild-west mentality that guns solve all problems, but he could not help but throw out a not-so-veiled threat at the Occupy movement. He continued that, “plus, it’s a reminder to all you Occupy Wall Streeters that if there is a revolution, the other side is better armed.” One of the women panelists added that, “we have better weapons.” Wait, what? Who said the Occupy movement was armed or considering a violent revolution? […]
Coulter has made some inflammatory comments about the Occupy movement recently, and none were accurate. She said, “I knew there would be mob uprisings again. They are demonic,” and “I guess it’s fun to destroy stuff; it’s lots of fun to just start randomly murdering people – this is the way it always is with mobs.” Then Coulter intimated she knew the solution to shutting down the Occupy Wall Street protests when she said, “Remember, it just took a few shootings at Kent State to shut that down for good.” On Fox & Friends, they attempted to tie the alleged White House shooter to the Occupy movement by calling him the “occupy shooter” to impute the movement is armed and dangerous.
The Senate late Thursday blocked Democratic and Republican plans to extend a payroll tax cut due to expire at the end of the month.
Both plans went down in procedural votes, each needing 60 approvals to pass.
The Democratic plan to tax the rich to pay for President Barack Obama’s plan to renew — and make more generous – the extension failed 51-49.
A Republican proposal to renew the existing 2 percentage point payroll tax holiday and pay for it with cuts to the federal workforce went down 78 against, 20 for.
The moves are the opening steps in end-of-session maneuvering over renewing the payroll tax cut, the centerpiece of Obama’s jobs plan.
Republicans have signaled they’ll permit passage of at least an extension of the current tax holiday, but the two sides haven’t begun negotiating over how to finance it.
The vote followed Republicans and Democrats bickering and blusternig toward eventual compromise legislation extending expiring Social Security payroll tax cuts and long-term jobless benefits through 2012, each seeking political advantage for elections almost a year distant.
The White House weighed in with a written statement opposing the GOP approach, which presidential press secretary Jay Carney said includes “window dressing” hung by Republicans seeking to cut costs by freezing federal workers’ pay through 2015 and reducing the government bureaucracy.
By contrast, Obama and most Democrats in Congress want to extend and expand the payroll tax cut and pay for it by slapping a 3.25 percent surtax on incomes of $1 million or more.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republican opponents “insist on helping the very wealthy while turning their back on the middle class,” while another member of the leadership, Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, said they “put up a transparent fig leaf” that would kill jobs rather than create them.
In remarks on the Senate floor, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said the issue reflected poorly on both Obama and his allies in Congress.
“There’s no reason folks should suffer even more than they already are from the president’s failure to turn this jobs crisis around,” he said. “But there’s also no reason we should pay for that relief by raising taxes on the very employers we’re counting on to help jolt this economy back to life.”
That left both parties seeking the political high ground — Democrats accusing Republicans of siding with the rich, and Republicans countering that Democrats were taxing small business owners who create jobs — in advance of a pair of Senate test votes expected late Thursday or Friday morning.
Talks in the House
Across the Capitol, House Republicans readied legislation of their own that aides said likely would include the tax cut extension as well as renewed benefits for long-term victims of the worst recession in decades and a painfully slow recovery.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made clear that all costs must be paid for, and said higher taxes were a non-starter.
“Republicans are ready to work with the president and the Democrats to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance temporarily, but they must be offset with spending cuts elsewhere,” he said.
There were other issues under negotiation as lawmakers looked toward the end of a highly partisan year, the first in a new era of divided government.
Boehner said lawmakers were discussing a bill to avoid a scheduled 27 percent cut on Jan. 1 in reimbursement rates for doctors treating Medicare patients.
The two parties also looked for agreement on a measure to fund the government through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year.
Boehner added that he likely would try to include some of the 20 House-passed bills that are part of a GOP jobs package in one of the year-end wrap-up bills. Most of the measures would block federal regulations on various industries, and are stalled in the Senate.
With unemployment hovering around 9 percent nationally, Obama urged Congress in September to renew and expand the Social Security payroll tax cut for workers that he signed a year ago, and called as well for an extension of benefits that can cover up to 99 weeks for the long-term jobless.
House Republicans want to kill the federal agency charged with making sure voting machines work.
Republicans in state legislatures across the country have spent the past year mounting an all-out assault on voting rights, pushing a slew of voter ID and redistricting measures that are widely expected to dilute the power of minority and low-income voters in next November’s elections. Now that effort has come to Capitol Hill, where a congressional committee will vote Thursday on a GOP-backed bill to eviscerate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC)—the last line of defense against fraud and tampering in electronic voting systems around the country.
The EAC was created in the wake of 2000’s controversial presidential election as a means of improving the quality standards for electronic voting systems. Its four commissioners (two Republicans and two Democrats) are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The commission tests voting equipment for states and localities, distributes grants to help improve voting standards, and offers helpful guidance on proofing ballots to some 4,600 local election jurisdictions. It also collects information on overseas and military voters and tracks the return rate for absentee ballots sent to these voters.
On Friday, a House subcommittee on elections will vote on Rep. Gregg Harper’s (R-Miss.) bill eliminating the EAC along with the longstanding public financing system for presidential campaigns. Republicans claim that the commission has already achieved its aim of cleaning up elections. Its responsibilities, they argue, can be reabsorbed by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which oversaw voting machine certification prior to the EAC’s creation in 2002. Ending the EAC, Republicans estimate, will save $33 million over the next five years.
Good-government groups, including the Campaign Legal Center, the League of Women Voters, and People for the American Way, have leaped to the commission’s defense, arguing that eliminating it would pose a “threat to the health of our democracy and yet another distraction from the vital and unfinished business before the House.”
Democrats have argued that eliminating the EAC will shift the cost of administering elections to state and local governments at a time they can least afford it. Having the FEC, which oversees campaign spending, handle voting machine certification precipitated the Florida recount in 2000. That debacle led directly to the EAC’s creation in the first place. “I…do not want to see another fiasco like what we endured in 2000,” wrote Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) in a statement denouncing the move. “It seems Republicans are more interested in keeping people from the polls than protecting the right to vote.”
While Republicans want to kill the EAC, election security experts like the Brennan Center for Justice’s Larry Norden advocate its expansion. Last year, he wrote a report listing roughly 200 cases of inaccurate vote tallies and other problems attributed to voting systems dating back to 2002. In many of the cases Norden examined, voting machine vendors like Hart InterCivic and big-time player Election Systems & Software (ES&S) blamed the mistakes on election officials rather than their machines.
During a primary election in May 2010 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, for instance, roughly 10 percent of new ES&S machines froze up. While ES&S officials blamed county election officials, similar problems surfaced with the same model of machines in Florida. This past March, ES&S senior vice president of systems Ken Carbullido told a congressional committee that ES&S had fixed the bug. “While we may respectfully disagree with the EAC on the length of time that transpired in moving these corrections through the process, and while we may disagree with their decision to seek a formal investigation, we cannot overemphasize our willingness to be part of this program,” Carbullido said.
Just five days later, though, the commission fired back, saying in a statement that ES&S hadn’t fixed the “anomalies” in the system in question. “EAC eagerly awaits the submission of this information by ES&S so it can be tested, certified, and installed in the field to make sure that it will address and solve the issues,” the commissioners wrote in the statement.
“This is where having a national agency like the EAC to publicize these problems to all local election officials, and to force the vendors to deal with these problems as quickly a possible, is…important,” the Brennan Center’s Norden argues. Primary election snafus “may not sound that major. But on Election Day, having the machines freeze could be a disaster.”
Because regulations for voting machines vary greatly from state to state—some require that their election must be EAC-certified, while others ignore federal guidelines altogether—Norden recommends empowering the EAC to create a national database for election equipment makers. The database would offer guidelines to standardize voting machines across the country and keep tabs on the billions of dollars that have been spent by federal and local governments on new voting equipment over the past several years.
Critics have charged the EAC with exaggerating concerns over voter fraud, underplaying charges of voter discrimination, and being swayed by political influence from both parties. Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California-Irvine, says that the EAC has never quite lived up to its promise. “There were a few commissioners early on who tried to make the agency into a more relevant player, but they failed and the agency became mired not only in the voting wars between Democrats and Republicans over voter fraud,” Hasen says. “It also became the target for extinction by state and local election officials who feared for any encroachment on their turf.”
But Hasen adds that the EAC has still played a key role as a clearinghouse for information on voter technology issues. Its elimination would “mark a defeat for efforts at greater centralization and rationalization of our election processes.”
While the EAC may still be working out its own problems, Norden says that it’s nowhere near as dysfunctional as the perpetually deadlocked FEC: “The public would lose an agency that—after years of building up its expertise—for all its flaws is actually functioning and regulating votingsystems. They would lose that, and that’s a dangerous thing.”
Previous efforts to quash the commission haven’t gone as planned. In June, the House rejected a bill to end the EAC. Undeterred, House Republicans again targeted the EAC for destruction in October, recommending that its funding be eliminated as part of the congressional supercommittee’s effort to cut $1.2 trillion in government spending. For now, the EAC plans to continue moving forward with preparations for 2012 “until someone shuts the doors or tells us to stop,” says Jeannie Layson, a spokeswoman for the commission.
Ultimately, money could determine whether or not the lights stay on at the EAC. Between 2000 and 2004, ES&S spent nearly $300,000 lobbying Congress; so far in 2011, it has spent $15,000. In October, it retained the services of Russ Klenet and Associates, a prominent Washington lobbying firm. Vendors like ES&S have a vested interest in preventing a regulatory body like the EAC from evaluating their systems—regulatory scrutiny makes it harder for them to market and sell their equipment to elections commissions around the country. (ES&S did not respond to a request for comment.)
But if the GOP’s EAC demolition plan gets through Congress, it could give ES&S and companies like it free rein to run roughshod over accountability standards.
“Given that we are seeing this war on voting around the country,” Norden says, “it would be a terrible message that Congress would be sending to get rid of the one federal agency left to make sure our elections are actually working.”
Newt Gingrich’s riff on the idea of students working as custodians had no visible impact on his Republican support. Funny how that works: The Daily Show audience is outraged by things that don’t outrage the GOP electorate.
So Gingrich is still talking about it. ThinkProgress clips his latest flight of character-building fantasy.
The mystery isn’t why he keeps on saying this. The mystery is why or when this will get on Tea Partiers’ nerves. They are madly in love with Gingrich, but at the same time, they don’t know why we have a Department of Education in the first place. Rick Perry wants to abolish it, when he can remember that he feels that way. Ron Paul wants to abolish it. Lots of Tea Party candidates want to abolish it. And yet Gingrich is talking, in a presidential campaign, about an extremely local issue. The assumption hanging over it is that President Gingrich thinks about ways that government-run schools could instill more discipline. Odd that this isn’t irritating the Tea Party.
If 2008 was the year a generation of impressionable young voters rallied behind Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich is hoping 2012 is the year the elderly strike back. And so far, his plan seems to be working.
The former Speaker has made senior citizens a key plank of his strategy since the beginning of his run. Gingrich’s first major speech after declaring his candidacy was in front of a conference on Alzheimer’s disease. And after his campaign collapsed, he identified the elderly as a crucial part of his comeback plan, making the nation’s “grotesquely underfunded” research into treating the disease a centerpiece of his fundraising speeches.
“I’m going to campaign on, how do we deal with Alzheimer’s, which really affects millions of Americans,” Gingrich told FOX News’ Neil Cavuto in June.
Seniors’ place in his campaign is perhaps the best lens for explaining some of Newt’s most perplexing early decisions, like his tendency to tack left on entitlements and right on Obama conspiracy theories. You might say, to understand Newt Gingrich you have to understandelderly anti-Obama thinking.
A lot of people were shocked in May, for example, when Gingrich came out strongly against Paul Ryan’s proposal to replace Medicare with a private voucher system, dismissing it as “right wing engineering.”
Similarly, Gingrich turned heads when he dipped into birther territory to praise the “stunning insight” behind a Dinesh D’Souza book’s absurd claim that Obama supported a laundry list of longtime Democratic priorities because of his shady foreign roots.
“What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]?” Gingrich told the National Review in 2010. “That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
Guess which demographic hated the proposed changes to Medicare the most, but also was most likely to open that all-caps chain e-mail about the font in Obama’s birth certificate? Hint: it’s the one surrounding Gingrich in his primetime interview with Sean Hannity last night.
His attention to older white voters, who were central the GOP’s 2010 wave, seems to be paying off. So far, Gingrich is attracting a disproportionate share of the senior vote across the board. And given that Iowa and Florida are two of the five oldest states, there’s plenty to recommend the strategy. Indeed, the most dramatic movement for Gingrich so far is in Florida, where one PPP poll showed him with a 47-17 lead over Romney. PPP flagged his senior surge nationally with the chart below:
UNBELIEVEABLE! Mother Jones rediscovers the Newt Gingrich-Ali G interview
[…] Norquist met with Republican members today to let them know that opposing the extension of the payroll tax cut — which would provide many families an extra $1,000 a year — would not amount to supporting a tax increase, National Journal’s Billy House reported today: […]
That stands in contrast, however, to Norquist’s position on tax cuts for the wealthy. Norquist has repeatedly warned GOP members about voting in favor of repealing the Bush tax cuts for the rich or tax hikes on millionaires, even verbally sparring with a member of a group of millionaires advocating for higher taxes on themselves last month in Washington, D.C. And yet, when it comes to tax cuts for the middle class meant to drive economic recovery, Norquist clearly takes a different stance.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday called on President Obama to intercede in the growing push to change the automatic spending cuts to military and domestic programs triggered by the congressional supercommittee’s failure to strike a deficit-reduction deal.
The $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts will take effect in 2013, and Republican leaders, along with some Democrats, have said they want to change them to protect the military. Obama has threatened to veto any effort to undo the trigger, known as sequestration, although the White House is still pushing for a broad deficit pact.
The Democratic National Committee is today pulling the wrapping off a new initiative to call attention to voter suppression efforts across the country.
The centerpiece of the launch is a new website Protecting The Vote alongside a new report “A Reversal in Progress: Restricting Voting Rights for Electoral Gain.”
Here’s a shot of some of the facts the DNC is seeking to highlight:
[…] I guess truth in advertising went the way of the Fairness Doctrine. Here is a shining example of just how far people can go in their advertising without consequence. Via PRWatch.org:
In the ad, the voice over intones: “They told us the sky would fall. And Wisconsin would end as we know it. But the sky’s still there. And Wisconsin is stronger than ever. Thanks to our budget reforms.” A charming family waves at the camera, but the family is not from Wausau, Waukesha or even Wisconsin. As MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow first pointed out, they are “Family on a Bridge” I-stock photo number 10268583.
The problem with the ad is that virtually none of it is true.
[…] By the way, Wisconsin’s unemployment claims were the highest in the nation in October. It could be argued that it’s not working, not at all, and specifically because of the right-wing policies foisted on the state by Governor Scott Walker and his merry band of legislators.
Newt, Mitt and other GOP candidates are peddling policies based on this discredited justification for inequality
What kind of society, exactly, do modern Republicans want? I’ve been listening to Republican candidates in an effort to discern an overall philosophy, a broadly-shared vision, an ideal picture of America.
They say they want a smaller government but that can’t be it. Most seek a larger national defense and more muscular homeland security. Almost all want to widen the government’s powers of search and surveillance inside the United States – eradicating possible terrorists, expunging undocumented immigrants, “securing” the nation’s borders. They want stiffer criminal sentences, including broader application of the death penalty. Many also want government to intrude on the most intimate aspects of private life.
They call themselves conservatives but that’s not it, either. They don’t want to conserve what we now have. They’d rather take the country backwards – before the 1960s and 1970s, and the Environmental Protection Act, Medicare, and Medicaid; before the New Deal, and its provision for Social Security, unemployment insurance, the forty-hour workweek, and official recognition of trade unions; even before the Progressive Era, and the first national income tax, antitrust laws, and Federal Reserve.
They’re not conservatives. They’re regressives. And the America they seek is the one we had in the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century.
It was an era when the nation was mesmerized by the doctrine of free enterprise, but few Americans actually enjoyed much freedom. Robber barons like the financier Jay Gould, the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, controlled much of American industry; the gap between rich and poor had turned into a chasm; urban slums festered; women couldn’t vote and black Americans were subject to Jim Crow; and the lackeys of rich literally deposited sacks of money on desks of pliant legislators.
Most tellingly, it was a time when the ideas of William Graham Sumner, a professor of political and social science at Yale, dominated American social thought. Sumner brought Charles Darwin to America and twisted him into a theory to fit the times.
Few Americans living today have read any of Sumner’s writings but they had an electrifying effect on America during the last three decades of the 19th century.
To Sumner and his followers, life was a competitive struggle in which only the fittest could survive – and through thisstruggle societies became stronger over time. A correlate of this principle was that government should do little or nothing to help those in need because that would interfere with natural selection.
Listen to today’s Republican debates and you hear a continuous regurgitation of Sumner. “Civilization has a simple choice,” Sumner wrote in the 1880s. It’s either “liberty, inequality, survival of the fittest,” or “not-liberty, equality, survival of the unfittest. The former carries society forward and favors all its best members; the latter carries society downwards and favors all its worst members.”
Newt Gingrich not only echoes Sumner’s thoughts but mimics Sumner’s reputed arrogance. Gingrich says we must reward “entrepreneurs” (by which he means anyone who has made a pile of money) and warns us not to “coddle” people in need. He opposes extending unemployment insurance because, he says, ”I’m opposed to giving people money for doing nothing.”
Sumner, likewise, warned against handouts to people he termed “negligent, shiftless, inefficient, silly, and imprudent.”
Mitt Romney doesn’t want the government to do much of anything about unemployment. And he’s dead set against raising taxes on millionaires, relying on the standard Republican rationale millionaires create jobs.
Here’s Sumner, more than a century ago: “Millionaires are the product of natural selection, acting on the whole body of men to pick out those who can meet the requirement of certain work to be done… It is because they are thus selected that wealth aggregates under their hands – both their own and that intrusted to them … They may fairly be regarded as the naturally selected agents of society.” Although they live in luxury, “the bargain is a good one for society.”
Other Republican hopefuls also fit Sumner’s mold. Ron Paul, who favors repeal of Obama’s healthcare plan, was asked at a Republican debate in September what medical response he’d recommend if a young man who had decided not to buy health insurance were to go into a coma. Paul’s response: “That’s what freedom is all about: taking your own risks.” The Republican crowd cheered.
In other words, if the young man died for lack of health insurance, he was responsible. Survival of the fittest.
Social Darwinism offered a moral justification for the wild inequities and social cruelties of the late nineteenth century. It allowed John D. Rockefeller, for example, to claim the fortune he accumulated through his giant Standard Oil Trust was “merely a survival of the fittest.” It was, he insisted “the working out of a law of nature and of God.”
Social Darwinism also undermined all efforts at the time to build a nation of broadly-based prosperity and rescue our democracy from the tight grip of a very few at the top. It was used by the privileged and powerful to convince everyone else that government shouldn’t do much of anything.
Not until the twentieth century did America reject Social Darwinism. We created the large middle class that became the core of our economy and democracy. We built safety nets to catch Americans who fell downward through no fault of their own. We designed regulations to protect against the inevitable excesses of free-market greed. We taxed the rich and invested in public goods – public schools, public universities, public transportation, public parks, public health – that made us all better off.
In short, we rejected the notion that each of us is on his or her own in a competitive contest for survival.
But make no mistake: If one of the current crop of Republican hopefuls becomes president, and if regressive Republicans take over the House or Senate, or both, Social Darwinism is back.
[OMG–YIKES! YIKES! YIKES! YIKES! YIKES!] Man Finds Enormous Giant Weta, Single Largest Insect on Record
Pictured above is a giant weta. Actually, it’s a giant giant weta. You see, giant wetas are, as a species, larger than any other species of insect currently in existence. The one above is the largest particular giant weta, a goliath of goliaths. The specimen was found by former park ranger Mark Moffett on Little Barrier Island in New Zealand, the only place giant wetas are known to currently live. Surprisingly enough, Moffett was actually looking for the bugs, so the discovery was something to be celebrated, not something to be feared and haunted by, as I initially assumed upon seeing the picture.
This little gargantuan bugger has a wingspan of about seven inches and weighs about as much as three mice. It also has the ability to eat your dreams and can literally frighten your heart out of your body if encountered unexpectedly. Moffet however, seems to be immune to the fact that the giant weta is positively terrifying, and had this to say:
“Three of us walked the trails of this small island for two nights scanning the vegetation for a giant weta. We spent many hours with no luck finding any at all, before we saw her up in a tree.”
“She enjoyed the carrot so much she seemed to ignore the fact she was resting on our hands and carried on munching away. She would have finished the carrot very quickly, but this is an extremely endangered species and we didn’t want to risk indigestion. After she had chewed a little I took this picture and we put her right back where we found her.”
I do have to admit that after looking at these pictures for a bit, she’s actually sort of cute, in a blood-curdling sort of way.
[…] Interest groups keep stirring the fight, though, so far, no party in the case has asked either justice to step aside and experts in legal ethics generally concur that a strong case for recusal hasn’t yet been made. Even so, conflict-of-interest charges diminish the court and draw it further into politics. This latest fight should leave no doubt that when concerns are raised about a justice’s impartiality, it should not be left to that justice to decide whether to withdraw from the case.
It is time for the court to follow the model of the lower federal courts by adopting a transparent process for reviewing and deciding recusal requests. This is all the more important because the justices are the only federal judges who are not covered by a code of conduct.
Under the federal law that requires recusal when there is personal bias or other conflicts, the lower courts have developed sound standards and an evenhanded process, including appellate review of recusal decisions and a way to give advisory opinions on judicial conduct. Judges customarily explain their decisions in written rulings as a basis for review by other judges, which is important to bolster the perception of fairness.
The Supreme Court is not controlled by any of these provisions. It has not spelled out rules that the justices should follow, even though the law on judicial disqualification applies to them. Basically, the justices leave themselves free to decide when they will withdraw from a case. And, with rare exceptions, they do not explain their actions at all.
This failure undermines the court’s reputation. The justices insist on maintaining their independence, which is proper. But their independence would not be harmed if they created guidelines on conflicts (perhaps calling on nonpartisan ethics experts to help); established a process for a committee of justices to review the recusal decisions of other justices; and required that justices issue opinions explaining their recusal decisions.
Clear and forthright standards would enhance the court’s credibility and the public’s trust. There is simply no reason for the Supreme Court not to operate by principles that apply to all other federal judges in the country.
Boeing Co (BA.N) has made an early deal with its biggest union for a four-year contract extension, which if ratified would end the planemaker’s dispute with the National Labor Relations Board and ensure the new 737 MAX single-aisle plane is built in Washington state.
The agreement, nine months before expiration of the current contract, gives Boeing some comfort that strikes will not disrupt its operations as it ramps up production of many of its models, and gives the union the local jobs for which it has campaigned.
The contract deal is “a very significant and hopeful development,” said Lafe Solomon, acting general counsel for the NLRB. He added that the NLRB would discuss next steps with both parties after the contract was ratified.
“This is huge,” said Scott Hamilton, aviation industry consultant at Leeham Co. “For IAM 751 and Boeing to reach a labor agreement before contract negotiations even truly commence is pretty much unprecedented. The fact that it would settle the NLRB case is huge for all the parties involved.”
Boeing has always made its wide-body jets in Everett, 30 miles north of Seattle, and its single-aisle planes in Renton, 10 miles south of the city, but it has a rocky history with the local workforce.
The IAM has had four strikes in the last 22 years, most recently a 58-day stoppage in 2008 that delayed the already-late 787. The company has lost more than 200 production days to strikes over the past two decades.
The union and the NLRB accused Boeing of punishing local workers for those strikes by putting a second 787 production facility in South Carolina, which opened this year. The company has said the decision was made purely on business grounds.
A high-profile court battle over the issue has become the fulcrum of a larger conflict between supporters of labor union rights and those who believe U.S. companies should have the freedom to build factories where they want, for whatever reasons they choose.
Boeing’s decision to build the new 737 MAX at its Renton factory is a major victory for the union. Narrow-body jets are the short-haul workhorse for the global airline industry, feeding the big hubs or operating quick turnarounds for low-cost carriers.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…
[…] The Times reports from the Santa school, where prospective St. Nicks are now being taught how to quickly assess a family’s financial situation before responding to children’s requests in such a manner that leaves them feeling cheerful, but not overly expectant. Some Santas plan to tell kids that times are tough even in the North Pole, while another strategy is to tell kids that not everyone gets everything they ask for.
Yet not all children seem totally out of the loop when it comes to their parent’s financial worries. A few Santas say they’ve had to field wishes not for kids’ toys, but for employment for mom or dad.
“In the end, Santas have to be sure to never promise anything,” a seasoned Santa named Fred Honerkamp told the Times. “It’s hard to watch sometimes because the children are like little barometers, mirrors on what the country has been through.”
Which is precisely why it’s so heartening to hear that there are Santas out there that still care enough to bring some cheer.
We’re a day late, but some stories just beg to be passed along:
“Utah Duck Hunter Shot In Buttocks By His Dog.” (The Salt Lake Tribune)
It seems two guys and a dog were out hunting on Sunday. One man was in their boat with the canine. A loaded shotgun was lying across the bow pointed toward the other guy, who was in the water. Fido got excited, stepped on the gun and … a little while later doctors were plucking 27 pieces of birdshot out of a butt.
He’ll be OK.
No ducks were injured.
The injured party, said to be 46 years old, hasn’t been identified.
The big five oil companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell – have made over $100 billion in profits so far in 2011.
At the same time, these same corporate giants are also receiving billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies each year.
Just in case corporations and the ultra-wealthy didn’t already have far too much power in our elections, leave it to Karl Rove.
Rove and his Super PAC American Crossroads want to tear down the thin wall that prevents Super PACs — which can accept unlimited, easily hidden contributions — from running ads coordinated directly with candidates and their campaigns — which have strict contribution limits.
The prohibition on coordination is one of the few remaining rules separating our so-called democratic elections from becoming a no-holds-barred, corporate cash free-for-all. So it’s no surprise that Rove has asked the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) if he can get around it, by running coordinated political advertisements, featuring candidates the PAC is supporting.
The FEC has already issued four draft opinions. It is supposed to issue a final ruling within days and is accepting public comments on Rove’s request.
The deeply damaging Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate donations and spending by Political Action Committees, so long as they were independent of the campaign.
But Rove’s FEC request flouts even that. In a truly “what the definition of ‘is’ is” moment, Rove literally states that what is coordinated, shouldn’t be considered coordinated:
“While these advertisements would be fully coordinated with incumbent Members of Congress facing re-election in 2012, they would presumably not qualify as ‘coordinated communications,’.”
And yet, three of the four draft responses posted by the FEC would allow Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC, to air these coordinated-yet-not-coordinated ads featuring, and approved by, political candidates.1
The limits that exist to prevent coordination between Super PACs, officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” and political candidates are already astonishingly weak — allowing discussion of strategy, and even for candidates to fundraise directly for a Super PAC.2
Now Rove wants to use these unlimited pots of Super PAC money to essentially fund candidate’s official advertising campaigns. That’s going way, way too far. And we need to tell the FEC to stop it.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.