In the Belly of the Beast: 4/17/11: UPDATE on Bradley Manning’s Move to Kansas

INDEX (stories follow)

The Wikileaks News & Views Blog, for Tuesday, Day 143: UPDATE on Bradley Manning’s Move to Kansas

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

“POLITICS”
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”
THE ECONOMY


ENVIRONMENT




NUCLEAR POWER


Headlines for April 19, 2011

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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The Wikileaks News & Views Blog, for Tuesday, Day 143: UPDATE on Bradley Manning’s Move to Kansas

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Pulitzer Prize for arch-conservative who thinks Fukushima wasn’t a disaster

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

Looks like the Pulitzer Prize folks are feeling the need to pander to the right. I’m sure someone must have beaten them up. But seriously, giving the prize to a guy who thinks the Japanese nuclear disaster isn’t a big deal?

One of his columns, from this past January 19, not among the entries (it was probably past the deadlline), continued the drumbeat. Its headline: “ObamaCare Howlers.” Six days before that another one: “New Jersey Sits Out ObamaCare Fight. ”

But young Rago is an expert on many subjects. Check out his March 21 punditry: “No Nuke Disaster…. the catastrophe that wasn’t in Fukushima.”

Just last week he co-authored a review of Obama’s “toxic” budget speech: “Did someone move the 2012 election to June 1? We ask because President Obama’s extraordinary response to Paul Ryan’s budget yesterday—with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions—was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. Mr. Obama’s fundamentally political document would have been unusual even for a Vice President in the fervor of a campaign.” And: “The speech he chose to deliver was dishonest even by modern political standards.”

An amusing note: Among the 10 entries was a column blasting PolitiFact for calling the right’s (e.g. Rago and the Journal) successful branding of Obama’s “government takeover of health care” as its “lie of the year.” Nowhere did he mention that PolitiFact recently won a Pulitzer of its own. This didn’t seem to bother the judges, although perhaps they agree: Pulitizers don’t nearly matter as much as people claim.


“POLITICS”

Krugman: Right now, bipartisanship would be a “corrupt, undemocratic way to make decisions”

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius

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What some call shrill, others call being reasonable to a fault. I’m in the latter group with Paul Krugman’s latest column.

I’d love to quote the whole thing, since it contains a great take-down of the Heritage Foundation and the mainstream media’s susceptibility to wonk-pretending nonsense. (Sample: “[T]he two parties don’t just live in different moral universes, they also live in different intellectual universes, with Republicans in particular having a stable of supposed experts who reliably endorse whatever they propose.”)

Instead I’ll just leave you with the close (my emphasis):

Which brings me to those calls for a bipartisan solution. Sorry to be cynical, but right now “bipartisan” is usually code for assembling some conservative Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans — all of them with close ties to the wealthy, and many who are wealthy themselves — and having them proclaim that low taxes on high incomes and drastic cuts in social insurance are the only possible solution.

This would be a corrupt, undemocratic way to make decisions about the shape of our society even if those involved really were wise men with a deep grasp of the issues. It’s much worse when many of those at the table are the sort of people who solicit and believe the kind of policy analyses that the Heritage Foundation supplies.

So let’s not be civil. Instead, let’s have a frank discussion of our differences. In particular, if Democrats believe that Republicans are talking cruel nonsense, they should say so — and take their case to the voters.

This is not at all about Obama and what he might do; nor is it really about Paul Ryan’s known “joke of a plan“. It’s about the Professor, calling it right. Bipartisanship at this point would be both “corrupt” and “undemocratic” for all the reasons stated in the column.

Georgia Set to Enact First Arizona Copycat Anti-Immigrant Bill

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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GeorgiaGeorgia is set to become the first state since Arizona to empower local and state police to demand documentation of residency and to detain people they suspect are in the country without permission. Last Thursday, Georgia lawmakers passed a bill modeled on Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, known by critics as the “show me your papers” law. Georgia’s first-term Republican governor, Nathan Deal, campaigned on passing the bill and says he will soon sign it into law. We speak to Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the National Security and Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia, and Seth Freed Wessler, a senior research associate at the Applied Research Center and an investigative reporter forColorLines.com. [includes rush transcript]

Anti-govt, anti-tax, anti-stimulus Texas governor now begging for federal funds

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris

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So the same person who complained about the stimulus yet kept his state afloat because of the stimulus money is now asking for federal tax dollars to help with wildfires. If Perry had his way, there would be even fewer federal tax dollars. Where does he think this money is going to come from? It always seems to be the states that complain the most about taxes who are always grumbling for more tax dollars. It’s not that their requests are unreasonable, but when they make it their mission to attack the system and then come forward with hands out, then there’s a big issue. What a complete fraud.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry sought additional federal help in battling wildfires across his drought-parched state as a woodland blaze gutted at least six homes on Sunday and threatened hundreds more in Austin, the state capital.

An estimated 1.5 million acres of tinder-like brush and grasslands have gone up in flames in Texas since January 1, about half of that during the past week alone under some of the driest conditions in Texas history.

Some 220 homes in all have been lost, according to a letter released on Sunday from Perry to President Barack Obama requesting a federal disaster declaration.

What has happened to Dick Durbin? He’s criticizing Bernie Sanders over Social Security

Senator Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, used to be a fairly reliable liberal voice. Not anymore. He’s now part of the Senate “gang of six” working on the budget, deficit, debt proposal.

One of the problems is that the “gang” will come up with what they view as a “reasonable” — but it will become the starting point for negotiations with the hard-core GOP proposal offered by Paul Ryan. That means the final package will be closer to what the GOP wants. The very, very rich will continue to benefit. The safety net will be further shredded.

Durbin, as the senior Senator from Illinois, is considered one of Obama’s closest allies on Capitol Hill. But, for whatever reason, he has lost his bearings. Now, using right-wing talking points, Durbin is even criticized Bernie Sanders over Social Security. Via ABC News:

Durbin criticized a resolution put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent from Vermont, that says Social Security should not be cut under a deficit reduction plan. Durbin said he would not vote for such a resolution.

“I think Bernie is going too far with his language,” Durbin said.

“In 2037, as we know it, Social Security falls off a cliff,” he said. “There’s a 22 percent reduction rate in payments, which is really not something we can tolerate. If we deal with it today, it’s an easier solution than waiting. I think we ought to deal with it. Many of my colleagues disagree, put it off to another day. But from my point of view, leaving it out makes it easier politically, including it, I think, meets an obligation, which we have to senior citizens.”

Yep. That’s Durbin adopting right-wing talking points. I think Durbin has already gone way too far with his language and his actions. This whole fiscal debate has been defined on the GOP’s terms.

But, it’s our fault for not getting it according to Durbin:

“Many of my friends on the left — they are my friends, these are my roots politically — are going through the stages of grief: denial, anger, frustration, sadness, resignation,” Durbin said. “They are going through those stages because they understand that borrowing 40 cents for every dollar you spend, whether it’s for missile or food stamps, is just unsustainable. But you’ve got to do something.”

Yeah. Blame us. It’s our fault the President and the Senate caved on the Bush tax cuts, among other things.

It’s astounding how often some Democratic leaders sacrifice principles when critical issues are at stake. They cave — constantly. But, then expect their “friends on the left” to do the work and give the money to reelect them.

The Tea Party is over

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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The Tea Party has apparently lost its fervor. Funny how dispiriting things get once your own guys get in power.From ThinkProgress:

Yesterday was tax day and as in previous years, Tea Party activists rallied across the country on the movement’s most significant organizing day since it exploded on tax day 2009. But as observers wonder if the movement is waning in popularity, a ThinkProgress analysis found that in many cities, turnout was significantly lower at this year’s rallies than those on tax days in 2010 and 2009.

Moreover, there seemed to be fewer rallies this year than last. A listing of events on the umbrella group Tea Party Patriots’ website for Monday and Friday showed a total of 145 events — the same listing shows 638 events on tax day 2010. Notably, there was also no tax day tea party rally in Washington, D.C. this year, unlike in years past.

And in dozens of state capitals and major cities across the country, turnout at rallies on Monday and Friday (the typical tax day of April 15) was down precipitously from last year, as a small sampling from ThinkProgress’ analysis shows.


Voters want taxes raised on the rich by 2-1, want hands off Medicare/Medicaid

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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Let’s hope the President is emboldened by this. There is no reason to even negotiate with the Republicans on this, other than to rub it in their collective faces. From McClatchy:


CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Saving What’s Left of the Constitution

from Informed Comment by Juan

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Hmm. Somehow I missed this one. The American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the US government under George W. Bush regarding surveillance of phone calls made and emails sent overseas by US citizens was reinstated last month by an appeals court.

The suit began because of the revelation that the National Security Agency had been ordered by Bush to engage in warrantless eavesdropping on the telephone calls of Americans overseas. Bush claimed an ‘inherent right’ of the executive to spy on US citizens in this way.

The ACLU launched the class action suit on behalf of activists who might plausibly expect to have been spied on as part of the Bush program. It was initially turned back by a US district court over questions of standing, insofar as the parties to the suit, including journalist Christopher Hitchens, only had a reasonable suspicion that they might have been subject to eavesdropping, not actual proof.

Judge Gerard Lynch, writing for a 3-judge Federal appeals panel, accepted the argument that the groups and individuals potentially targeted had had to incur extra expenses and trouble to avoid being the object of such illegal wiretaps, since Bush’s policy made them plausible targets. Lynch wrote:

“The government overstates the standard for determining when a present injury linked to a contingent future injury can support standing… The plaintiffs have demonstrated that they suffered present injuries in fact – concrete economic and professional harms – that are fairly traceable to the FAA and redressable by a favorable judgment.”

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states,

‘ The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. ‘

Although the Fourth Amendment does not explicitly mention communications, from early in the history of the Republic, courts and government practice recognized the right to privacy in land mail handled by the US post office, and this principle was explicitly extended to telephone calls in later rulings.

Although Congress in 2008 tried to address the issue of warrantless wiretapping and surveillance of email by putting the issue in the hands of courts functioning under the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, Bush continued to insist that he had the inherent right to listen in on your phone calls and read your email without a warrant. The secrecy of the FISA courts and the lack of oversight over them has alarmed civil libertarians.

Bush administration officials repeatedly argued that there had been no known abuses in the surveillance – that is, it was only targeting individuals who were in contact with persons of interest abroad. But the secrecy of the program means that we don’t have any way of knowing about abuses, and they may have been legion.

I am relieved that Judge Lynch and his colleagues reinstated the suit, and a little surprised, as well. The courts, prosecutors and even the present attorney general have let the Bush administration get away with so many crimes that I had begun to suspect that that our system had just become too corrupt and/or politicized to protect basic American freedoms.

Scott Walker planning financial martial law in Wisconsin

Enough is never enough with these extremists. Now Walker is reportedly planning to extend his overreach even more in Wisconsin. If nothing else, it should continue to help motivate Democrats to organize recall votes against the Republican agenda. Forbes:

Following the lead of Michigan GOP Governor Rick Snyder, Walker is said to be preparing a plan that would allow him to force local governments to submit to a financial stress test with an eye towards permitting the governor to take over municipalities that fail to meet with Walker’s approval.

According to the reports, should a locality’s financial position come up short, the Walker legislation would empower the governor to insert a financial manager of his choosing into local government with the ability to cancel union contracts, push aside duly elected local government officials and school board members and take control of Wisconsin cities and towns whenever he sees fit to do so.

Such a law would additionally give Walker unchallenged power to end municipal services of which he disapproves, including safety net assistance to those in need.

THE ECONOMY

Why We Must Raise Taxes on the Rich

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It’s tax time. It’s also a time when right-wing Republicans are setting the agenda for massive spending cuts that will hurt most Americans.

Here’s the truth: The only way America can reduce the long-term budget deficit, maintain vital services, protect Social Security and Medicare, invest more in education and infrastructure, and not raise taxes on the working middle class is by raising taxes on the super rich.

Even if we got rid of corporate welfare subsidies for big oil, big agriculture, and big Pharma – even if we cut back on our bloated defense budget – it wouldn’t be nearly enough.

The vast majority of Americans can’t afford to pay more. Despite an economy that’s twice as large as it was thirty years ago, the bottom 90 percent are still stuck in the mud. If they’re employed they’re earning on average only about $280 more a year than thirty years ago, adjusted for inflation. That’s less than a 1 percent gain over more than a third of a century. (Families are doing somewhat better but that’s only because so many families now have to rely on two incomes.)

Yet even as their share of the nation’s total income has withered, the tax burden on the middle has grown. Today’s working and middle-class taxpayers are shelling out a bigger chunk of income in payroll taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes than thirty years ago.

It’s just the opposite for super rich.

The top 1 percent’s share of national income has doubled over the past three decades (from 10 percent in 1981 to well over 20 percent now). The richest one-tenth of 1 percent’s share has tripled. And they’re doing better than ever. According to a new analysis by the Wall Street Journal, total compensation and benefits at publicly-traded Wall Street banks and securities firms hit a record in 2010 — $135 billion. That’s up 5.7 percent from 2009.

Yet, remarkably, tax rates on the top have plummeted. From the 1940s until 1980, the top tax income tax rate on the highest earners in America was at least 70 percent. In the 1950s, it was 91 percent. Now it’s 35 percent. Even if you include deductions and credits, the rich are now paying a far lower share of their incomes in taxes than at any time since World War II.

The estate tax (which only hits the top 2 percent) has also been slashed. In 2000 it was 55 percent and kicked in after $1 million. Today it’s 35 percent and kicks in at $5 million. Capital gains – comprising most of the income of the super-rich – were taxed at 35 percent in the late 1980s. They’re now taxed at 15 percent.

If the rich were taxed at the same rates they were half a century ago, they’d be paying in over $350 billion more this year alone, which translates into trillions over the next decade. That’s enough to accomplish everything the nation needs while also reducing future deficits.

If we also cut what we don’t need (corporate welfare and bloated defense), taxes could be reduced for everyone earning under $80,000, too. And with a single payer health-care system – Medicare for all – instead of a gaggle of for-profit providers, the nation could save billions more.

Yes, the rich will find ways to avoid paying more taxes courtesy of clever accountants and tax attorneys. But this has always been the case regardless of where the tax rate is set. That’s why the government should aim high. (During the 1950s, when the top rate was 91 percent, the rich exploited loopholes and deductions that as a practical matter reduced the effective top rate 50 to 60 percent – still substantial by today’s standards.)

And yes, some of the super rich will move their money to the Cayman Islands and other tax shelters. But paying taxes is a central obligation of citizenship, and those who take their money abroad in an effort to avoid paying American taxes should lose their American citizenship.

But don’t the super-rich have enough political power to kill any attempt to get them to pay their fair share? Only if we let them. Here’s the issue around which Progressives, populists on the right and left, unionized workers, and all other working people who are just plain fed up ought to be able to unite.

Besides, the reason we have a Democrat in the White House – indeed, the reason we have a Democratic Party at all – is to try to rebalance the economy exactly this way.

All the President has to do is connect the dots – the explosion of income and wealth among America’s super-rich, the dramatic drop in their tax rates, the consequential devastating budget squeezes in Washington and in state capitals, and the slashing of vital public services for the middle class and the poor.

This shouldn’t be difficult. Most Americans are on the receiving end. By now they know trickle-down economics is a lie. And they sense the dice are loaded in favor of the multi-millionaires and billionaires, and their corporations, now paying a relative pittance in taxes.

The President has the bully pulpit. But will he use it?

Conservative David Frum: Two cheers for the welfare state

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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David Frum:

“In the aftermath of the catastrophe, the free-market assumption and expectation that an unemployed person could always find work somewhere has been massively falsified,” Frum writes. “Speaking only personally, I cannot take seriously the idea that the worst thing that has happened in the past three years is that government got bigger. Or that money was borrowed. Or that the number of people on food stamps and unemployment insurance and Medicaid increased. The worst thing was that tens of millions of Americans – and not only Americans – were plunged into unemployment, foreclosure, poverty. If food stamps and unemployment insurance, and Medicaid”–an Axis of Not-Evil!–“mitigated those disasters, then two cheers for food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid.”

(H/t HuffPost Hill)

US banks race to be first to come in last place

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris

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Bloomberg has two articles today about the “race” between JPMorgan and Wells Fargo to see who can release microchip bank cards first. The only problem is that it’s not much of a race since these cards have been standard in France for a few decades and standard around the world for years (and it’s the reason an increasing number of American credit cards no longer work in Europe). Adding the chip costs a bit more money for the banks and they’re definitely more secure than the old fashioned magnetic strip which is easy to read. Ultimately it’s a good thing for consumers but to call this a race is not very accurate. It’s as laughable as US Internet providers pretending to offer state of the art service when it is lagging years behind the rest of the world. 

It would be nice if politicians didn’t accept such laziness by American business, and asked them to actually compete in a global market. Consumers deserve much more.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the second- biggest U.S. bank by assets, said it plans to win the race against rival Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) to bring microchip-embedded credit cards to the wealthiest consumers.

“Absolutely, we would beat Wells Fargo to market,” David Porter, general manager for Chase Card Services, said in an interview yesterday, after Wells Fargo announced its plan to distribute chip cards later this year.

Both banks are courting U.S. clients who have encountered problems using their cards while traveling abroad. The EMV-chip technology, which is more secure than the magnetic-stripe that stores account data on U.S.-issued cards, has become a standard in Europe and much of the rest of the world. The chip cards may boost transaction revenue and help JPMorgan lure affluent customers from rivals such as American Express Co. (AXP), Porter said.


ENVIRONMENT

“5 Million Barrels of Oil Does Not Disappear”: Author, Activist Antonia Juhasz on the BP Spill, One Year Later

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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BlacktideThis week marks the one-year anniversary of the worst maritime oil spill in history. Last year on April 20 an oil rig leased by oil giant BP exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and releasing nearly 200 million gallons of oil, tens of millions of gallons of natural gas and 1.8 million gallons of chemicals. We speak to Antonia Juhasz, author of the new book, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill. Juhasz attended the BP shareholders meeting in London last week and spoke on behalf of Gulf Coast residents denied entry. [includes rush transcript]

BP tried to control oil spill damage science, White House helped too

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris

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Why anyone in Washington thought this company could be trusted to be a fair partner in any way, shape or form remains a mystery. There’s nothing in their history that suggests they should be trusted. There was a lot of damage caused by BP and by manipulating the process, a substantial amount of money could be lost, leaving the costs to local and state governments who do not have the money. It’s disappointing that even the White House was involved in propping up BP and dismissing real science. Didn’t we have enough of that during the Bush years? The Guardian:

BP officials tried to take control of a $500m fund pledged by the oil company for independent research into the consequences of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, it has emerged.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show BP officials openly discussing how to influence the work of scientists supported by the fund, which was created by the oil company in May last year.

Russell Putt, a BP environmental expert, wrote in an email to colleagues on 24 June 2010: “Can we ‘direct’ GRI [Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative] funding to a specific study (as we now see the governor’s offices trying to do)? What influence do we have over the vessels/equipment driving the studies vs the questions?”.





NUCLEAR POWER

As Radiation Continues to Leak from Japan Nuke Plant, Owners of Vermont Yankee Plant Sue to Stay Open

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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Playjapan_nukesWorkers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility in Japan have started to pump radioactive water from a leaking reactor into a makeshift storage area—an effort they say is a crucial step toward easing the nuclear crisis. The Tokyo Electric Power Company says it will take six to nine months to achieve a “cold shutdown.” Meanwhile in the United States, the owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant have filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against a state law that gives the Vermont state legislature veto power over operation of the reactor when its current license expires next March. We speak with longtime nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen in Burlington, Vermont. [includes rush transcript]

Fukushima: continued radiation spikes raise fear of new leaks

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

Radioactivity levels skyrocketed in the sea surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan late last week, raising fears that a new leak in the facility needs to be sealed. Radioactive iodine-131 levels hit 6,500 times the legal limit on April 15—1,100 times the previous day’s readings, although still below samples taken earlier this month. “We want to determine the origin and contain the leak, but I must admit that tracking it down is difficult,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (incorrectly identified by the NY Daily News of April 16 as the “Nuclear and Safety Division”).

read more

Italy: government shelves nuclear development plans

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

Italy’s government on April 19 announced it is indefinitely suspending plans to build the country’s first nuclear power plants—ahead of a June referendum on the nuclear development plans, which the administration says is no longer necessary. “The program had been halted in order to acquire more scientific evidence,” the government said in a surprise clause inserted in the text of a decree which submitted to parliament. The damage at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactors “has imposed a pause for reflection,” Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said.

read more

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

“POLITICS”
CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”
THE ECONOMY


ENVIRONMENT




NUCLEAR POWER



Headlines for April 19, 2011

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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The Wikileaks News & Views Blog, for Tuesday, Day 143: UPDATE on Bradley Manning’s Move to Kansas

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

Pulitzer Prize for arch-conservative who thinks Fukushima wasn’t a disaster

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

Looks like the Pulitzer Prize folks are feeling the need to pander to the right. I’m sure someone must have beaten them up. But seriously, giving the prize to a guy who thinks the Japanese nuclear disaster isn’t a big deal?

One of his columns, from this past January 19, not among the entries (it was probably past the deadlline), continued the drumbeat. Its headline: “ObamaCare Howlers.” Six days before that another one: “New Jersey Sits Out ObamaCare Fight. ”

But young Rago is an expert on many subjects. Check out his March 21 punditry: “No Nuke Disaster…. the catastrophe that wasn’t in Fukushima.”

Just last week he co-authored a review of Obama’s “toxic” budget speech: “Did someone move the 2012 election to June 1? We ask because President Obama’s extraordinary response to Paul Ryan’s budget yesterday—with its blistering partisanship and multiple distortions—was the kind Presidents usually outsource to some junior lieutenant. Mr. Obama’s fundamentally political document would have been unusual even for a Vice President in the fervor of a campaign.” And: “The speech he chose to deliver was dishonest even by modern political standards.”

An amusing note: Among the 10 entries was a column blasting PolitiFact for calling the right’s (e.g. Rago and the Journal) successful branding of Obama’s “government takeover of health care” as its “lie of the year.” Nowhere did he mention that PolitiFact recently won a Pulitzer of its own. This didn’t seem to bother the judges, although perhaps they agree: Pulitizers don’t nearly matter as much as people claim.


“POLITICS”

Krugman: Right now, bipartisanship would be a “corrupt, undemocratic way to make decisions”

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Gaius Publius

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What some call shrill, others call being reasonable to a fault. I’m in the latter group with Paul Krugman’s latest column.

I’d love to quote the whole thing, since it contains a great take-down of the Heritage Foundation and the mainstream media’s susceptibility to wonk-pretending nonsense. (Sample: “[T]he two parties don’t just live in different moral universes, they also live in different intellectual universes, with Republicans in particular having a stable of supposed experts who reliably endorse whatever they propose.”)

Instead I’ll just leave you with the close (my emphasis):

Which brings me to those calls for a bipartisan solution. Sorry to be cynical, but right now “bipartisan” is usually code for assembling some conservative Democrats and ultraconservative Republicans — all of them with close ties to the wealthy, and many who are wealthy themselves — and having them proclaim that low taxes on high incomes and drastic cuts in social insurance are the only possible solution.

This would be a corrupt, undemocratic way to make decisions about the shape of our society even if those involved really were wise men with a deep grasp of the issues. It’s much worse when many of those at the table are the sort of people who solicit and believe the kind of policy analyses that the Heritage Foundation supplies.

So let’s not be civil. Instead, let’s have a frank discussion of our differences. In particular, if Democrats believe that Republicans are talking cruel nonsense, they should say so — and take their case to the voters.

This is not at all about Obama and what he might do; nor is it really about Paul Ryan’s known “joke of a plan“. It’s about the Professor, calling it right. Bipartisanship at this point would be both “corrupt” and “undemocratic” for all the reasons stated in the column.

Georgia Set to Enact First Arizona Copycat Anti-Immigrant Bill

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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GeorgiaGeorgia is set to become the first state since Arizona to empower local and state police to demand documentation of residency and to detain people they suspect are in the country without permission. Last Thursday, Georgia lawmakers passed a bill modeled on Arizona’s controversial SB 1070, known by critics as the “show me your papers” law. Georgia’s first-term Republican governor, Nathan Deal, campaigned on passing the bill and says he will soon sign it into law. We speak to Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the National Security and Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia, and Seth Freed Wessler, a senior research associate at the Applied Research Center and an investigative reporter forColorLines.com. [includes rush transcript]

Anti-govt, anti-tax, anti-stimulus Texas governor now begging for federal funds

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris

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So the same person who complained about the stimulus yet kept his state afloat because of the stimulus money is now asking for federal tax dollars to help with wildfires. If Perry had his way, there would be even fewer federal tax dollars. Where does he think this money is going to come from? It always seems to be the states that complain the most about taxes who are always grumbling for more tax dollars. It’s not that their requests are unreasonable, but when they make it their mission to attack the system and then come forward with hands out, then there’s a big issue. What a complete fraud.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry sought additional federal help in battling wildfires across his drought-parched state as a woodland blaze gutted at least six homes on Sunday and threatened hundreds more in Austin, the state capital.

An estimated 1.5 million acres of tinder-like brush and grasslands have gone up in flames in Texas since January 1, about half of that during the past week alone under some of the driest conditions in Texas history.

Some 220 homes in all have been lost, according to a letter released on Sunday from Perry to President Barack Obama requesting a federal disaster declaration.

What has happened to Dick Durbin? He’s criticizing Bernie Sanders over Social Security

Senator Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, used to be a fairly reliable liberal voice. Not anymore. He’s now part of the Senate “gang of six” working on the budget, deficit, debt proposal.

One of the problems is that the “gang” will come up with what they view as a “reasonable” — but it will become the starting point for negotiations with the hard-core GOP proposal offered by Paul Ryan. That means the final package will be closer to what the GOP wants. The very, very rich will continue to benefit. The safety net will be further shredded.

Durbin, as the senior Senator from Illinois, is considered one of Obama’s closest allies on Capitol Hill. But, for whatever reason, he has lost his bearings. Now, using right-wing talking points, Durbin is even criticized Bernie Sanders over Social Security. Via ABC News:

Durbin criticized a resolution put forward by Sen. Bernie Sanders, a liberal independent from Vermont, that says Social Security should not be cut under a deficit reduction plan. Durbin said he would not vote for such a resolution.

“I think Bernie is going too far with his language,” Durbin said.

“In 2037, as we know it, Social Security falls off a cliff,” he said. “There’s a 22 percent reduction rate in payments, which is really not something we can tolerate. If we deal with it today, it’s an easier solution than waiting. I think we ought to deal with it. Many of my colleagues disagree, put it off to another day. But from my point of view, leaving it out makes it easier politically, including it, I think, meets an obligation, which we have to senior citizens.”

Yep. That’s Durbin adopting right-wing talking points. I think Durbin has already gone way too far with his language and his actions. This whole fiscal debate has been defined on the GOP’s terms.

But, it’s our fault for not getting it according to Durbin:

“Many of my friends on the left — they are my friends, these are my roots politically — are going through the stages of grief: denial, anger, frustration, sadness, resignation,” Durbin said. “They are going through those stages because they understand that borrowing 40 cents for every dollar you spend, whether it’s for missile or food stamps, is just unsustainable. But you’ve got to do something.”

Yeah. Blame us. It’s our fault the President and the Senate caved on the Bush tax cuts, among other things.

It’s astounding how often some Democratic leaders sacrifice principles when critical issues are at stake. They cave — constantly. But, then expect their “friends on the left” to do the work and give the money to reelect them.

The Tea Party is over

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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The Tea Party has apparently lost its fervor. Funny how dispiriting things get once your own guys get in power.From ThinkProgress:

Yesterday was tax day and as in previous years, Tea Party activists rallied across the country on the movement’s most significant organizing day since it exploded on tax day 2009. But as observers wonder if the movement is waning in popularity, a ThinkProgress analysis found that in many cities, turnout was significantly lower at this year’s rallies than those on tax days in 2010 and 2009.

Moreover, there seemed to be fewer rallies this year than last. A listing of events on the umbrella group Tea Party Patriots’ website for Monday and Friday showed a total of 145 events — the same listing shows 638 events on tax day 2010. Notably, there was also no tax day tea party rally in Washington, D.C. this year, unlike in years past.

And in dozens of state capitals and major cities across the country, turnout at rallies on Monday and Friday (the typical tax day of April 15) was down precipitously from last year, as a small sampling from ThinkProgress’ analysis shows.


Voters want taxes raised on the rich by 2-1, want hands off Medicare/Medicaid

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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Let’s hope the President is emboldened by this. There is no reason to even negotiate with the Republicans on this, other than to rub it in their collective faces. From McClatchy:


CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Saving What’s Left of the Constitution

from Informed Comment by Juan

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Hmm. Somehow I missed this one. The American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the US government under George W. Bush regarding surveillance of phone calls made and emails sent overseas by US citizens was reinstated last month by an appeals court.

The suit began because of the revelation that the National Security Agency had been ordered by Bush to engage in warrantless eavesdropping on the telephone calls of Americans overseas. Bush claimed an ‘inherent right’ of the executive to spy on US citizens in this way.

The ACLU launched the class action suit on behalf of activists who might plausibly expect to have been spied on as part of the Bush program. It was initially turned back by a US district court over questions of standing, insofar as the parties to the suit, including journalist Christopher Hitchens, only had a reasonable suspicion that they might have been subject to eavesdropping, not actual proof.

Judge Gerard Lynch, writing for a 3-judge Federal appeals panel, accepted the argument that the groups and individuals potentially targeted had had to incur extra expenses and trouble to avoid being the object of such illegal wiretaps, since Bush’s policy made them plausible targets. Lynch wrote:

“The government overstates the standard for determining when a present injury linked to a contingent future injury can support standing… The plaintiffs have demonstrated that they suffered present injuries in fact – concrete economic and professional harms – that are fairly traceable to the FAA and redressable by a favorable judgment.”

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states,

‘ The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. ‘

Although the Fourth Amendment does not explicitly mention communications, from early in the history of the Republic, courts and government practice recognized the right to privacy in land mail handled by the US post office, and this principle was explicitly extended to telephone calls in later rulings.

Although Congress in 2008 tried to address the issue of warrantless wiretapping and surveillance of email by putting the issue in the hands of courts functioning under the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act, Bush continued to insist that he had the inherent right to listen in on your phone calls and read your email without a warrant. The secrecy of the FISA courts and the lack of oversight over them has alarmed civil libertarians.

Bush administration officials repeatedly argued that there had been no known abuses in the surveillance – that is, it was only targeting individuals who were in contact with persons of interest abroad. But the secrecy of the program means that we don’t have any way of knowing about abuses, and they may have been legion.

I am relieved that Judge Lynch and his colleagues reinstated the suit, and a little surprised, as well. The courts, prosecutors and even the present attorney general have let the Bush administration get away with so many crimes that I had begun to suspect that that our system had just become too corrupt and/or politicized to protect basic American freedoms.

Scott Walker planning financial martial law in Wisconsin

Enough is never enough with these extremists. Now Walker is reportedly planning to extend his overreach even more in Wisconsin. If nothing else, it should continue to help motivate Democrats to organize recall votes against the Republican agenda. Forbes:

Following the lead of Michigan GOP Governor Rick Snyder, Walker is said to be preparing a plan that would allow him to force local governments to submit to a financial stress test with an eye towards permitting the governor to take over municipalities that fail to meet with Walker’s approval.

According to the reports, should a locality’s financial position come up short, the Walker legislation would empower the governor to insert a financial manager of his choosing into local government with the ability to cancel union contracts, push aside duly elected local government officials and school board members and take control of Wisconsin cities and towns whenever he sees fit to do so.

Such a law would additionally give Walker unchallenged power to end municipal services of which he disapproves, including safety net assistance to those in need.

THE ECONOMY

Why We Must Raise Taxes on the Rich

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It’s tax time. It’s also a time when right-wing Republicans are setting the agenda for massive spending cuts that will hurt most Americans.

Here’s the truth: The only way America can reduce the long-term budget deficit, maintain vital services, protect Social Security and Medicare, invest more in education and infrastructure, and not raise taxes on the working middle class is by raising taxes on the super rich.

Even if we got rid of corporate welfare subsidies for big oil, big agriculture, and big Pharma – even if we cut back on our bloated defense budget – it wouldn’t be nearly enough.

The vast majority of Americans can’t afford to pay more. Despite an economy that’s twice as large as it was thirty years ago, the bottom 90 percent are still stuck in the mud. If they’re employed they’re earning on average only about $280 more a year than thirty years ago, adjusted for inflation. That’s less than a 1 percent gain over more than a third of a century. (Families are doing somewhat better but that’s only because so many families now have to rely on two incomes.)

Yet even as their share of the nation’s total income has withered, the tax burden on the middle has grown. Today’s working and middle-class taxpayers are shelling out a bigger chunk of income in payroll taxes, sales taxes, and property taxes than thirty years ago.

It’s just the opposite for super rich.

The top 1 percent’s share of national income has doubled over the past three decades (from 10 percent in 1981 to well over 20 percent now). The richest one-tenth of 1 percent’s share has tripled. And they’re doing better than ever. According to a new analysis by the Wall Street Journal, total compensation and benefits at publicly-traded Wall Street banks and securities firms hit a record in 2010 — $135 billion. That’s up 5.7 percent from 2009.

Yet, remarkably, tax rates on the top have plummeted. From the 1940s until 1980, the top tax income tax rate on the highest earners in America was at least 70 percent. In the 1950s, it was 91 percent. Now it’s 35 percent. Even if you include deductions and credits, the rich are now paying a far lower share of their incomes in taxes than at any time since World War II.

The estate tax (which only hits the top 2 percent) has also been slashed. In 2000 it was 55 percent and kicked in after $1 million. Today it’s 35 percent and kicks in at $5 million. Capital gains – comprising most of the income of the super-rich – were taxed at 35 percent in the late 1980s. They’re now taxed at 15 percent.

If the rich were taxed at the same rates they were half a century ago, they’d be paying in over $350 billion more this year alone, which translates into trillions over the next decade. That’s enough to accomplish everything the nation needs while also reducing future deficits.

If we also cut what we don’t need (corporate welfare and bloated defense), taxes could be reduced for everyone earning under $80,000, too. And with a single payer health-care system – Medicare for all – instead of a gaggle of for-profit providers, the nation could save billions more.

Yes, the rich will find ways to avoid paying more taxes courtesy of clever accountants and tax attorneys. But this has always been the case regardless of where the tax rate is set. That’s why the government should aim high. (During the 1950s, when the top rate was 91 percent, the rich exploited loopholes and deductions that as a practical matter reduced the effective top rate 50 to 60 percent – still substantial by today’s standards.)

And yes, some of the super rich will move their money to the Cayman Islands and other tax shelters. But paying taxes is a central obligation of citizenship, and those who take their money abroad in an effort to avoid paying American taxes should lose their American citizenship.

But don’t the super-rich have enough political power to kill any attempt to get them to pay their fair share? Only if we let them. Here’s the issue around which Progressives, populists on the right and left, unionized workers, and all other working people who are just plain fed up ought to be able to unite.

Besides, the reason we have a Democrat in the White House – indeed, the reason we have a Democratic Party at all – is to try to rebalance the economy exactly this way.

All the President has to do is connect the dots – the explosion of income and wealth among America’s super-rich, the dramatic drop in their tax rates, the consequential devastating budget squeezes in Washington and in state capitals, and the slashing of vital public services for the middle class and the poor.

This shouldn’t be difficult. Most Americans are on the receiving end. By now they know trickle-down economics is a lie. And they sense the dice are loaded in favor of the multi-millionaires and billionaires, and their corporations, now paying a relative pittance in taxes.

The President has the bully pulpit. But will he use it?

Conservative David Frum: Two cheers for the welfare state

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Aravosis (DC)

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David Frum:

“In the aftermath of the catastrophe, the free-market assumption and expectation that an unemployed person could always find work somewhere has been massively falsified,” Frum writes. “Speaking only personally, I cannot take seriously the idea that the worst thing that has happened in the past three years is that government got bigger. Or that money was borrowed. Or that the number of people on food stamps and unemployment insurance and Medicaid increased. The worst thing was that tens of millions of Americans – and not only Americans – were plunged into unemployment, foreclosure, poverty. If food stamps and unemployment insurance, and Medicaid”–an Axis of Not-Evil!–“mitigated those disasters, then two cheers for food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Medicaid.”

(H/t HuffPost Hill)

US banks race to be first to come in last place

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris

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Bloomberg has two articles today about the “race” between JPMorgan and Wells Fargo to see who can release microchip bank cards first. The only problem is that it’s not much of a race since these cards have been standard in France for a few decades and standard around the world for years (and it’s the reason an increasing number of American credit cards no longer work in Europe). Adding the chip costs a bit more money for the banks and they’re definitely more secure than the old fashioned magnetic strip which is easy to read. Ultimately it’s a good thing for consumers but to call this a race is not very accurate. It’s as laughable as US Internet providers pretending to offer state of the art service when it is lagging years behind the rest of the world. 

It would be nice if politicians didn’t accept such laziness by American business, and asked them to actually compete in a global market. Consumers deserve much more.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), the second- biggest U.S. bank by assets, said it plans to win the race against rival Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) to bring microchip-embedded credit cards to the wealthiest consumers.

“Absolutely, we would beat Wells Fargo to market,” David Porter, general manager for Chase Card Services, said in an interview yesterday, after Wells Fargo announced its plan to distribute chip cards later this year.

Both banks are courting U.S. clients who have encountered problems using their cards while traveling abroad. The EMV-chip technology, which is more secure than the magnetic-stripe that stores account data on U.S.-issued cards, has become a standard in Europe and much of the rest of the world. The chip cards may boost transaction revenue and help JPMorgan lure affluent customers from rivals such as American Express Co. (AXP), Porter said.


ENVIRONMENT

“5 Million Barrels of Oil Does Not Disappear”: Author, Activist Antonia Juhasz on the BP Spill, One Year Later

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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BlacktideThis week marks the one-year anniversary of the worst maritime oil spill in history. Last year on April 20 an oil rig leased by oil giant BP exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and releasing nearly 200 million gallons of oil, tens of millions of gallons of natural gas and 1.8 million gallons of chemicals. We speak to Antonia Juhasz, author of the new book, Black Tide: The Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill. Juhasz attended the BP shareholders meeting in London last week and spoke on behalf of Gulf Coast residents denied entry. [includes rush transcript]

BP tried to control oil spill damage science, White House helped too

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by Chris in Paris

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Why anyone in Washington thought this company could be trusted to be a fair partner in any way, shape or form remains a mystery. There’s nothing in their history that suggests they should be trusted. There was a lot of damage caused by BP and by manipulating the process, a substantial amount of money could be lost, leaving the costs to local and state governments who do not have the money. It’s disappointing that even the White House was involved in propping up BP and dismissing real science. Didn’t we have enough of that during the Bush years? The Guardian:

BP officials tried to take control of a $500m fund pledged by the oil company for independent research into the consequences of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, it has emerged.

Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show BP officials openly discussing how to influence the work of scientists supported by the fund, which was created by the oil company in May last year.

Russell Putt, a BP environmental expert, wrote in an email to colleagues on 24 June 2010: “Can we ‘direct’ GRI [Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative] funding to a specific study (as we now see the governor’s offices trying to do)? What influence do we have over the vessels/equipment driving the studies vs the questions?”.





NUCLEAR POWER

As Radiation Continues to Leak from Japan Nuke Plant, Owners of Vermont Yankee Plant Sue to Stay Open

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

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Playjapan_nukesWorkers at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility in Japan have started to pump radioactive water from a leaking reactor into a makeshift storage area—an effort they say is a crucial step toward easing the nuclear crisis. The Tokyo Electric Power Company says it will take six to nine months to achieve a “cold shutdown.” Meanwhile in the United States, the owners of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant have filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against a state law that gives the Vermont state legislature veto power over operation of the reactor when its current license expires next March. We speak with longtime nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen in Burlington, Vermont. [includes rush transcript]

Fukushima: continued radiation spikes raise fear of new leaks

from World War 4 Report blogs by Bill Weinberg

Radioactivity levels skyrocketed in the sea surrounding the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan late last week, raising fears that a new leak in the facility needs to be sealed. Radioactive iodine-131 levels hit 6,500 times the legal limit on April 15—1,100 times the previous day’s readings, although still below samples taken earlier this month. “We want to determine the origin and contain the leak, but I must admit that tracking it down is difficult,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (incorrectly identified by the NY Daily News of April 16 as the “Nuclear and Safety Division”).

read more

Italy: government shelves nuclear development plans

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

Italy’s government on April 19 announced it is indefinitely suspending plans to build the country’s first nuclear power plants—ahead of a June referendum on the nuclear development plans, which the administration says is no longer necessary. “The program had been halted in order to acquire more scientific evidence,” the government said in a surprise clause inserted in the text of a decree which submitted to parliament. The damage at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactors “has imposed a pause for reflection,” Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said.

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This entry was posted in Background & Analysis, Bradley Manning, Civil Liberties, Events, Human Rights, Nuclear Power, Obama, US. Bookmark the permalink.

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