In the Belly of the Beast: 7/16/11: Wash Post: “Top lawmakers target ‘grand bargain’ for debt plan”

Wash Post: “Top lawmakers target ‘grand bargain’ for debt plan”

<Editorial Comment>
So clearly Obama is cutting social security and Medicare because “he wants to”, not because the republicons are making him. So just like Clinton, Obama is doing bad stuff that the Republicans were unable to do. So explain to me why I have to vote for Obama because “the alternative is worse”?? The logical conclusion is: “don’t ever elect a Democrat president again: who knows what havoc s/he will succeed in doing, that the Republicons could only threaten”. Perhaps if Gore was elected (wait! he was!) we would have already lost Social Security…
Seriously folks: WHY should we ever want another Democrat as president??
</Editorial Comment>

Just out in the Washington Post, looks like the Dems are having their way with the Republicans. Boehner et alhave agreed to work on the Grand Bargain, complete with massive cuts, after all. “Democrat” Kent Conrad plays a key supporting role (natch).

The Post headline says it all, but of course there’s more (h/t Jim Roberts; my emphasis):

Top lawmakers target ‘grand bargain’ for debt plan

Even as President Obama and congressional leaders focus on a fallback plan to lift the nation’s debt ceiling, top Democrats and Republicans have begun to map a new way to craft the same sort of ambitious deficit-cutting plan they abandoned last week.

As part of the deal being discussed to raise the debt ceiling, leaders on Capitol Hill are forming anespecially powerful congressional committee that would be charged with drawing up a new “grand bargain,” possibly by the end of the year.

Key elements for a big deal remain in place. Obama has been clear that he wants one and has started making the case to skeptical factions of his own party that getting the nation’s fiscal house in order is in their best interest. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) also remains committed to an ambitious plan, having told his troops that he didn’t become speaker to do small things. And, perhaps most critically, the markets are demanding it. The credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s says Washington must agree to reduce the debt by $4 trillion over 10 years to avert a downgrade.

“We cannot as a country fail to deal with the debt threat,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), one of the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators who tried to reach an agreement in recent months.

The article is chock full. For example, there’s the “balanced budget amendment” dance still on the Kabuki Card. And if you start reading here…

To get backing from House Republicans, McConnell and Reid are adding $1.5 trillion in spending cuts. And they are drawing up the committee, with six lawmakers from each party, which would report by the end of the year.

…you’ll learn about that “especially powerful” congressional committee, whose report would be “protected from Senate filibuster” and “not … subject to amendment.” Take that, sixty votes; I knew there was a way if they really wanted one.  (NOTE FROM JOHN: Funny how they found a way around the filibuster in order to do something the Republicans want.)

A few things to note:

(1) Obama seems to get a “Lawrence O’Donnell eleventy-mensional” pass in the first sentence, but is handed responsibility lower down.

(2) A snarky headline writer might have titled this article: Obama to Republicans: “You know you want it; it’s here in my hand.”

(3) Note the role of the S&P in this. They’ve been banker-handmaidens for decades. They created the illusion of safety in the housing mortgage fraud-scheme (sorry, derivatives crisis). Now they’re creating the illusion of danger, by playing “confidence fairy of last resort,” since no other bond vig has shown up. Nice of them. I’m sure there’s a Thank You down the road. (Prosecution? Nah, they’ve “suffered” enough.)

(4) Digby notes the role of the “U.S.” (my snark) Chamber of Commerce in this article. Everyone has a role.

It’s kind of over, isn’t it, unless the progressives in both houses grow an unbending spine. (Mr. Franken, Mr. Sanders — don’t senators get “holds” on legislation?)

Time to move to the states. For example, there’s an excellent opportunity for someone to be governor of Wisconsin in a recall of Gov. Scott (“Reporting for duty, Mr. Koch“) Walker of Wisconsin.

INDEX (full text of stories follow Democracy Now headlines)

“POLITICS”

Obama ditches Elizabeth Warren

CFPB Sadness

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN

Penny-Wise Policy

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN
RACISM, SEXISM, CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”
THE ECONOMY

Reaganite Delusions

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN
      


      

“POLITICS”

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

1 person liked this

The differences between Obama and GOP front-runner Mitt Romney are so small, it’s hard to come up with a good argument to care about his 2012 campaign. There are some differences but each time Obama charges into GOP territory, they become smaller and smaller. If this is the best the Democrats can deliver, count me out.Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama has chosen a candidate other than Elizabeth Warren as director of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, according to a person briefed on the matter.

The president’s choice is a person who already works at the consumer agency, the person said today. Obama may make the nomination as soon as next week, another person briefed on the administration’s plans said.

The people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process isn’t public, didn’t give the name of the choice.

   

CFPB Sadness

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN

As expected:

President Obama said Sunday that he would nominate Richard Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio, to lead the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, passing over Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor who was the driving force behind the agency’s creation.

Was this a decision that “reflects political realities”, as the report says? Well, the report itself refutes that claim:

While Ms. Warren received the brunt of the scrutiny, Wall Street executives also bristled at the selection of Mr. Cordray to lead the bureau’s enforcement team. Seen as a zealous prosecutor of financial crime, Mr. Cordray is a similarly contentious figure among bankers and lobbyists.

Republicans made it clear on Sunday that they were no more likely to confirm Mr. Cordray than Ms. Warren. Forty-four Republican senators have signed a letter saying they would refuse to vote on any nominee to lead the bureau, demanding instead that the agency replace a single leader with a board of directors.

What’s going to happen, then, is no director for the CFPB in any case. But meanwhile Obama has passed up a chance to symbolically align himself with the public and against the banksters.

Sad. Really sad.

Penny-Wise Policy

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN

Mark Thoma sends me to Jonathan Schwarz making the case that Obama knew perfectly well that the stimulus should have been bigger. I’m not sure that lets his advisers completely off the hook; there’s a big difference between saying, well, the macroeconomic case says this should be bigger, but smaller is OK, and saying — as they should have, and maybe some did — that a weak stimulus runs a large risk of setting us on a path toward a lost decade.

Never mind. What really struck me was this quote from Obama that Schwarz found:

Well, we are still in consultation with members of Congress about the final size of the package. We expect that it will be on the high end of our estimates, but [it] will not be as high as some economists have recommended because of the constraints and concerns we have about the existing deficit.

Aside from the fact that Obama was being cautious about the deficit when he really, really shouldn’t have been, think about how this has actually played out. A weak stimulus together with caution on other fronts, including mortgage relief, led to a weak economy in 2010. This led to a big GOP victory in the midterms. And this led to Republican success in getting the high-end Bush tax cuts extended for two years and quite possibly indefinitely — which will do far more damage to the US debt position that a bigger stimulus in 2009 would have done.

And yes, it’s quite possible that even aside from the political-economy angle, the weak stimulus directly made our long-run debt position worse.

Penny-wise, pound-foolish; or make that multi-trillion dollar foolish.

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

Carlos Montes and the Security State: A Cautionary Tale

By Chris Hedges

On May 17 at 5 in the morning the Chicano activist Carlos Montes got a wake-up call at his home in California from Barack Obama’s security state. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s SWAT team, armed with assault rifles and wearing bulletproof vests, as well as being accompanied by FBI agents, kicked down his door, burst into his house with their weapons drawn, handcuffed him in his pajamas and hauled him off to jail. Montes, one of tens of thousands of Americans who have experienced this terrifying form of military-style assault and arrest, was one of the organizers of the demonstrations outside the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., and he faces trial along with 23 other anti-war activists from Minnesota, as well as possible charges by a federal grand jury.

The widening use of militarized police units effectively nullifies the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which prohibits the use of the armed forces for civilian policing. City police forces have in the last few decades amassed small strike forces that employ high-powered assault rifles, armored personnel carriers, tanks, elaborate command and control centers and attack helicopters. Poor urban neighborhoods, which bear the brunt of the estimated 40,000 SWAT team assaults that take place every year, have already learned what is only dimly being understood by the rest of us—in the eyes of the state we are increasingly no longer citizens with constitutional rights but enemy combatants. And that is exactly how Montes was treated. There is little daylight now between raiding a home in the middle of the night in Iraq and raiding one in Alhambra, Calif.

Montes is a longtime activist. He helped lead the student high school walkouts in East Los Angeles and anti-war protests in the 1960s and later demonstrations against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was one of the founding members of the Brown Berets, a Chicano group that in the 1960s styled itself after the Black Panthers. In the 1970s he evaded authorities while he lived in Mexico and he went on to organize garment workers in El Paso, Texas. He and the subpoenaed activists are reminders that in Barack Obama’s America, being a dissident is a crime.

“It was an FBI action, as I recall,” Sgt. Jim Scully told reporters of the Pasadena Star-News. “We assisted them.”

Montes was arrested ostensibly because he bought a firearm although a felony conviction 42 years ago prohibited him from doing so. The 1969 felony conviction was for throwing a can of Coke at a police officer during a demonstration. The registered shotgun in his closet, bought last year at a sporting goods shop, became the excuse to ransack his home, charge him and schedule him for trial in August. It became the excuse to seize his computer, two cellphones and files and records of his activism on behalf of workers, immigrants, the Chicano community and opposition to wars. Prosecutors said Montes should have disclosed his four-decade-old felony charge when he bought the shotgun at Big 5 Sporting Goods. Because he neglected to do this he will face six felony charges. The case is to be tried in Los Angeles.

“The gun issue was clearly a pretext to investigate my political activities,” he said when I reached him at his Alhambra home. “It is about my anti-war activities and my links to the RNC demonstrations. It is also about my activism denouncing the U.S. policy of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, their support for Israel and the Colombian government. I have been to Colombia twice.”

“I thought someone is breaking in, somebody is trying to jack me up,” he said. “I was a victim of an armed robbery in December of 2009 in my home. I do have a gun in my bedroom for self-defense. I was startled. I jumped out of bed. I saw lights coming from the front-door area. They looked like flashlights. I saw men with helmets and rifles. I gravitated towards the front door. I didn’t take my gun. I could have done that. I have it there. It is a good thing I didn’t pick anything up and put it in my hand.”

“I yelled, ‘Who is it?’ ” he said. “They said, ‘The police. Carlos Montes, come out’ or ‘come forward,’ something like that. I approached the entryway. They rushed in. They grabbed my hands. They turned me around. There were two police officers on each arm. They brought me out holding my arms. I have a little patio. They handcuffed me and patted me down. I am on a little hill. I looked down the street and [it was] full of sheriff’s vehicles, patrol cars and two large green vans. They were bigger than vans. People could stand in there. They didn’t have any logos on them.… I thought it was an Army truck at first. Later on I found it was from the sheriff.”

“It was kind of misty,” he said. “The ground was wet. They put me in the back seat of the car. I was handcuffed. They closed the doors and the windows. I was sitting there looking around, in a state of shock, thinking is this a dream or the real thing? I tried to close my eyes for a little while to see if I could wake up from this nightmare. I always had it in the back of my mind, one day they will come and raid me. My name was on the anti-war committee FBI search warrant raid in Minnesota. People were saying ‘we all got raided and your name is there.’ The lawyers said, ‘Beware—it could happen to you sooner or later.’ They were raided on Sept. 24 last year.”

Those who were raided were all issued subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago. They have refused to testify. The March on the RNC organizing committee was infiltrated by an agent although the protest groups had obtained licenses to demonstrate at the Republican National Convention. The Justice Department’s inspector general later released a report that criticized the FBI for invoking anti-terrorist laws to justify its investigations and harassment of peace and solidarity groups, including Greenpeace, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the Catholic Worker.

While Montes was in the back of the police car a man in a windbreaker and a baseball cap approached the vehicle. The sheriff’s deputies rolled down the right rear window. The man in the baseball cap told Montes he was from the FBI and wanted to speak with him.

“I blurted out, ‘Do you have a card?’ ” Montes said. “He laughed and said, ‘I don’t have a card.’ He said, ‘I want to talk to you about Freedom Road Socialist Organization.’ I didn’t say anything. I kept quiet. And then he walked away.”

Montes has written articles for the newspaper Fight Back News about Chicano immigrants’ rights struggles in Los Angeles, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fight against the rise of charter schools. He said he was not a member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization. The organization, a Marxist group, is reportedly being investigated by the FBI because of connections with the Colombian rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Palestinian group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, both of which have been labeled as terrorist organizations. The Sept. 24, 2010, search warrant for the anti-war committee offices in Minneapolis lists Montes’ name among the group’s affiliates.

Montes was taken to the Los Angeles County Jail, known as the Twin Towers, and held for 24 hours until he was able to post a $35,000 bail.

“They called my sister to secure [my] house,” he said. “She called the handyman and he put a piece of plywood over my door. I did not have my wallet with me. When I got out of the county jail I did not have any phone numbers or money or an ID. I was walking around in slippers—at least they gave me slippers—and my pajamas. I got back about 5:30 the next morning. I got the door off. There were files and papers on the floor along with photograph albums of the anti-war movement, Latinos Against the War, the ’92 Rebellion, my son’s wedding, my daughter’s birthday, scattered on my kitchen table and floor. It looked like they lined up a bunch of stuff on tables and went through it. It was the same thing with my living room table. They had a file out from 1994 when we did a campaign against police brutality when the sheriffs were going crazy killing people. In my closet I had Chicano archives going back to the 1960s and 1970s. Those were pulled out and on the floor. They went through all my political documents, including my work with the Southern California Immigration Coalition and the campaign to elect a school board member, which we won, to stop the privatization of the local high school and the charters coming in. They went through all those files. It took me a couple of weeks to clean things up. They took a bunch of stuff.”

“The government sees the Chicano people as a threat,” he said. “We were able to turn out millions of people in 2006. In 1994 we had hundreds of thousands. We are growing. There are millions in the Southwest. We are all over the country, but especially in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California. We are still unorganized, but if we get organized we could really demand changes. We had millions of people out in 2006 and then they came after us hard in 2007. There was a lot of police repression, especially in Los Angeles. They fear the Chicano people challenging the status quo.”

“Many of the activists that were raided by the police are anti-war and solidarity activists,” he went on. “And even though the anti-war movement is not massive right now, the potential is there because there is an economic crisis. There is mass disgust with this economic system. People are out of work. It is not yet like COINTELPRO [Counter Intelligence Program] started under Hoover and the FBI to carry out surveillance, infiltrate and disrupt domestic political organizations, but the situation is getting worse. That is why we have to have demonstrations to put a stop to it now.”

Carlos Montes

Carlos Montes addresses supporters at a rally outside the Alhambra branch of Los Angeles County Superior Court on June 16.

Tomgram: Stephan Salisbury, How Muslim-Bashing Loses Elections

from TomDispatch – Blog by Stephan Salisbury

During the 2010 midterm election campaign, virtually every hard-charging candidate on the far right took a moment to trash a Muslim, a mosque, or Islamic pieties…

Murdoch whistleblower found dead—not being treated as suspicious by police

The Guardian reports (h/t Marcy Wheeler and Keith Olbermann):

Sean Hoare, the former News of the World showbiz reporter who was the first named journalist to allege Andy Coulson was aware of phone hacking by his staff, has been found dead, the Guardian has learned.

Hoare, who worked on the Sun and the News of the World with Coulson before being dismissed for drink and drugs problems, is said to have been found dead at his Watford home.

Hertfordshire police would not confirm his identity, but the force said in a statement: … “The death is currently being treated as unexplained, but not thought to be suspicious. Police investigations into this incident are ongoing.”

We’re obviously not in a novel — in most novels, justice is done. On the one hand, there are those “drink and drug problems.” And on the other, well, you guess.

And on the third hand, if this really is foul play, it’s the most inept timing of a murder in modern media history; guys, there is no “Monday morning news dump.”

The whole story makes great reading. There’s a nice run-down of Hoare’s history with the Murdoch gang, and also as a whistle-blower. The writers also describe “pinging” — the “police technology” used to locate people using their mobile signals by triangulating with cell phone towers, in “exchange for payments to police officers.”

Hoare gave further details about the use of “pinging” to the Guardian last week. He described how reporters would ask a news desk executive to obtain the location of a target: “Within 15 to 30 minutes someone on the news desk would come back and say ‘right that’s where they are.'”

He said: “You’d just go to the news desk and they’d just come back to you. You don’t ask any questions. You’d consider it a job done. The chain of command is one of absolute discipline and that’s why I never bought into it, like with Andy [Coulson] saying he wasn’t aware of it and all that. That’s bollocks.”

Your national security state at work, folks. That’s not snark. Once the apparatus is built, it’s for sale. Good thing only a small number of people have most of the money; otherwise, the corruption of police surveillance would be too widespread.

We’ll be watching this. It has potential, but so far, that’s all.

UPDATE: More on “pinging” and police corruption from the New York Times (buried at the end of a related story):

A former show-business reporter for The News of the World, Sean Hoare, who was fired in 2005, said that when he worked there, pinging cost the paper nearly $500 on each occasion. He first found out how the practice worked, he said, when he was scrambling to find someone and was told that one of the news desk editors, Greg Miskiw, could help. Mr. Miskiw asked for the person’s cellphone number, and returned later with information showing the person’s precise location in Scotland, Mr. Hoare said. Mr. Miskiw, who faces questioning by police on a separate matter, did not return calls for comment.

A former Scotland Yard officer said the individual who provided the information could have been one of a small group entitled to authorize pinging requests, or a lower-level officer who duped his superiors into thinking that the request was related to a criminal case. Mr. Hoare said the fact that it was a police officer was clear from his exchange with Mr. Miskiw.

“I thought it was remarkable and asked him how he did it, and he said, ‘It’s the Old Bill, isn’t it?’ ” he recalled, noting that the term is common slang in Britain for the police. “At that point, you don’t ask questions,” he said.

I’m not sure what UK police have to live on these days, but $500 seems cheap to me. The Times goes on to say that Hoare’s account of the practice was corroborated.

THE ECONOMY

Reaganite Delusions

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN

Michael Boskin has always been a politically ambitious Republican; but he used to know how to read basic economic data. Not anymore, I guess:

How does Michael Boskin do math?

He writes in the Wall Street Journal this morning:

The lower marginal tax rates in the 1980s led to the best quarter-century of economic performance in American history.

The delusion that we never had good growth until Reagan came along is very widespread on the right; somehow the whole postwar generation, in which everyone’s incomes doubled, has been erased from memory. But it’s still there in the national accounts:

That’s annual data; surely the case for the miracles of Reaganomics can’t rest on choosing just one quarter in 1982 as a starting point? (And as Richard Green shows, even that doesn’t work). Yes, the numbers starting from the 1930s are high, because growth looks good when you start from a depressed base; but the same is true for 1982, the year beloved by Reaganites.

More broadly, what normal observer, looking at this chart, would see evidence that something wonderful happened beginning in the early 1980s? The good years for US economic growth were those beginning soon after the war — and that growth, very much unlike post-1980 growth, was widely shared with the middle class.

But all that happened with high marginal tax rates and strong unions. Inconceivable! And therefore it must not have happened.


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