In the Belly of the Beast: 7/20/11: HuffPost Hill: “Obama isn’t weak, he’s just bad”

The Democrats: Master Negotiators

from Ted Rall’s Rallblog by Ted Rall

The Democrats: Master Negotiators

Barack Obama gives John Boehner everything he asks for yet another clever ruse by evil Democrats!

INDEX (full text of stories follow Democracy Now headlines)

“POLITICS”

Broadly speaking: “Gang of Six” Plan slashes Social Security

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs

Ralph Nader: Obama is a “Political Coward” for Not Picking Elizabeth Warren to Head Consumer Bureau

PPP poll: “Obama in perilous shape” for re-elect

Roger Ebert: The Republicans “are moving out of history”

Murdoch’s Denials Are Tough to Believe, Former Wall Street Journal Reporter Sarah Ellison Says

NYC Schools Approve $2.7 Million Deal with Murdoch-Linked Firm to Track Student Performance

Weakening of Media Consolidation Rules Helped Murdoch Build U.S. Media Empire

Murdoch Empire “Pummeled” by Phone-Hacking Scandal Exposed by Guardian Journalist Nick Davies

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

British PM Cameron Refuses to Apologize for Murdoch Scandal, But Acknowledges BSkyB Takeover Talks

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)
RACISM, SEXISM, CIVIL LIBERTIES TODAY
“Fascism is the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary sector of monopoly capital”

Bad “Bitches,” True Women

By Sikivu Hutchinson
THE ECONOMY

 

The Shameful Murder of Dodd Frank


Jump Start Possibilities

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN
     
THE ULTRA-RIGHT


      
ENVIRONMENT





NUCLEAR POWER


      

Headlines for July 21, 2011

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

“POLITICS”

HuffPost Hill: “Obama isn’t weak, he’s just bad”

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

From HuffPost Hill, an email publication of the Huffington Post, written by Ryan Grim, Christina Wilkie & Sam Stein (and like the Economist, they’re kinda bitchy and we don’t know who wrote what):

OBAMA ISN’T WEAK, HE’S JUST BAD – The White House insists that July 22nd is the last day that Congress can introduce debt-ceiling legislation and still pass it in time to avert default, yet is showing little interest in the legislation with the greatest chance of becoming law, McConnell-Reid, which would effectively transfer debt-ceiling authority to the executive branch in exchange for $1.5 trillion in cuts. Instead, the administration is myopically focused on a “big [f’g] deal” that would cut $3 trillion in spending, yet include no enforceable means of raising additional revenue. Can we for once and for all abandon this notion that Obama is a weak negotiator? He’s not weak, he just wants different stuff than most Americans. A New Fox News poll asked respondents if they would still support a favored candidate if that candidate voted to increase taxes. The result? More said they would, by a 45% to 38% margin. Obama last week called the debt ceiling a “unique opportunity to do something big” — by which he means “do less for the American people” — and he has little intention of passing it up, even if it means driving the nation to the brink of default. And what are Senate Democrats mad about? That they had to hear about it from us.

What’s the economic impact going to be of any budget deal, and shouldn’t we know this before voting on it?

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

You’ll note that little discussion is taking place about whether, and to what extent, any debt ceiling/deficit deal is going to increase unemployment and/or hurt economic growth.  Even the rudimentary outline of the deal we saw yesterday had “immediate” cuts of $500bn.  That’s a lot.  And depending on what specific cuts are taking place, and when they’re taking place, more people could be unemployed as a result of this deal.  Shouldn’t we have an independent analysis on the economic impact before we reach any decision on whatever deal is reached?

And with nearly 100 conservative Republicans, if not more, expected to vote against any deal that increases the debt ceiling, Democrats may end up responsible for the bill’s final passage.  Yes, you heard that correctly. The final irony is that it may be Democrats who cut Social Security, cut Medicare, and increase unemployment going into the 2012 elections.  Good luck with that, and enjoy your final year in office.

TPM: Obama looking at deal that’s all program cuts, no tax increases

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

A lot of news hitting on the budget front.  Make sure you read Joe’s piece about this grand bargain, and Gaius’ piece suggesting the President actually wants even MORE cuts.  Brian Beutler:

A Congressional aide briefed on ongoing negotiations between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama says the two principals may be nearing a “grand bargain” on to raise the debt limit which would contain large, set-in-stone spending cuts but only the possibility of future revenue increases.

“All cuts,” the aide said. “Maybe revenues some time in the future.”

Sam Stein: Reid-McConnell nearly on “life support” — Obama pushing instead for biggest cuts possible

The news is flying today. Joe just posted about the NYT report that Obama and Boehner are on the verge of deal, but Amanda Terkel at HuffPo is saying to “ignore the NYT alert.” And Brian Beutler at TPM reports that the President is pushing for all program cuts and no tax increases at all. Sam Stein, Amanda says, has the real story, and it’s not good.

The Gang of Six deal looks like a dying swan, as many have predicted at this time yesterday. So what’s President Obama’s response? Try for something even worse.

Sam Stein with this breaking Huff Post report (my emphasis):

The fail-safe debt ceiling plan crafted by the Senate’s top two leaders, Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) – is close to being put on political life support, those familiar with negotiations tell The Huffington Post, as lawmakers coalesce around a major deal instead.

Sources on the Hill Thursday morning expressed a newfound — at times defeatist — sense of worry about the political prospects of the proposal, which would cut roughly $1.5 trillion over ten years while granting authority to the president to suggest (but not sign off on) future spending cuts as a condition of raising the debt ceiling now. House Republicans have told leadership that they are sour on the idea, with more than 90 members pledging to oppose it. Another factor contributing toward its demise, however, has been the Obama administration’s decision to continue to push for a bigger deficit-reduction package, which has led many lawmakers to consider the McConnell-Reid option both insufficient and potentially unnecessary.

Will the man never stop? And by “the man” I mean Barack Obama.

Apparently not. Stein again:

What such a deal would look like is difficult to pin down in detail, as much of the Gang of Six proposal requires congressional committees to write in the specific cuts to programs under their purview. But it would involve steep reductions in health care spending — both in Medicare and Medicaid. In previous debt ceiling negotiations, the administration has supported further means-testing elements of Medicare as well as raising the eligibility age of the program. Cuts to Medicare suppliers would also be part of a larger package, as would adjusting the payment structure of Social Security so that a lower level of benefits was paid out over time.

How much clearer do things have to get? “He hurts me less than the last bad daddy” — is that where we are? Forget the cuts to the safety net. Even that massive spending package will kill in its sleep any recovery we might be on the verge of.

So what to do? At this point, I’m fishing around for ways to dead-stop this stuff. Suggestions welcome; effective plans please. Here’s two to consider as a start. Let’s assume that it’s more important to stop a Dem from dismantling the safety net, that it is for a Dem to be a party loyalist. With that as a given:

■ Progressives in the House could join with the Tea Party to kill any deal. The only recourse would be the McConnell workaround to a clean bill — the only deal I think Progressives should find acceptable.

■ Someone could Eugene McCarthy Barack Obama; give him a primary challenge. Someone with nothing to lose and some decent integrity, who could offer voters a place to protest-vote as 2012 comes around. A way to show Obama that we don’t negotiate from weakness with hostage takers.

If we’re not willing to be effective — and effective plans mean risk — if we’re going to cave to this stuff time after time, maybe we should put the blame on ourselves and not our stars. After all, we’re actors in this drama as well.

Cliff Schecter: For most congressional Democrats, “not standing up for Social Security & Medicare is a death knell”

Cliff Schecter and Sam Seder had a fascinating and enlightening discussion on their most recent Friday news-in-review segment on Majority.fm. I want to focus on the discussion of Obama and the debt ceiling deal.

The first clip below is the first ten minutes of the segment, and contains an analysis of where we stand up to the point of Obama’s press conference (since which, nothing has changed).

Notable:

■ Schecter’s analysis of the players in this four-handed game starts at 2:20 in the clip. Note that he too says McConnell offered Obama a “clean vote.”

■ Seder’s discussion (5:30) of the “adult” left-leaning mainstream media types is really instructive. He mentionsEzra Klein as an example, then says (0araphrasing): They are, to a person, amazed that Obama got McConnell into a position where he [McConnell] was throwing in the towel, and yet Obama didn’t accept this, and is still pursuing cuts. … Obama really believes in austerity as a way to grow the economy.

■ Sam (at 9:15; paraphrasing again): The McConnell deal would have gotten Obama off the hook.

Schecter: He doesn’t want to be off the hook.

In the long version of the segment, there are two telling exchanges — one at 14:55, where they discuss to what extent most DC Democrats (with some exceptions, like Grijalva, Grayson, Nadler, and indies like Sanders) are driven by Wall Street.

But at 17:00, Seder asks Schecter, a political consultant, what he would advise a Democratic congressperson to do if the McConnell plan passes — in other words, how he would suggest that person campaign, given that the natural line (“I protected Social Security and Medicare”) means that you are also protecting it from your own party’s president.

Here’s the segment in full; let it download, then jump to the relevant times.

I want to quote verbatim the exchange at 18:15 (my emphasis):

Sam: If you were advising a congressperson running, how would you advise them to handle this [the idea that you’re protecting the safety net from your own president]?

Cliff: I would advise them to oppose it, all efforts. … For virtually any Democrat at this point, not standing up for Social Security, not standing up for Medicare, is a death knell. … I don’t know how I could advise them not to stand up to their own president, as painful and dangerous as that is in some ways.

And that’s just from a political standpoint. From a moral standpoint I really don’t know — how do you look at what’s going on right now, how do you look at people making $500 million a year and cut Social Security?

This discussion captures the situation — and the problem today — perfectly. Either Lawrence O’Donnell is rightand Obama will take McConnell’s clean bill deal; or he’s oh-so-very wrong (and embarrassingly lectury in being so).

If O’Donnell’s wrong, Obama and Reid are “helping” McConnell “fix” his deal so Obama (and all other neo-liberal Dems, as near as I can tell) can ram through a forced vote in Congress on massive spending cuts andreductions to Social Security and Medicare.

We’ll know very soon, won’t we. The final bill will be clean or it won’t. DC Dems will support it or they won’t. Commentariat types will “grudgingly” like it or not. Everyone gets called out; no one gets to hide.

Me? I want to thank those involved in this fiasco for taking a muddy analog situation and making it totally digital — just in time for the billion dollar ad campaign in 2012.

Broadly speaking: “Gang of Six” Plan slashes Social Security

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs

So everybody loves the “gang of six” suddenly. It’s big a pool party.

Looking at the plan closely, however, it is pretty clear that the $3.7 trillion plan, including $1 trillion in new taxes, doesn’t represent “shared sacrifice.” It targets programs that aid the poor, working families, and other social programs far too much of the cost of deficit reduction. And this is on the heels of a recession from which working families have yet to recover. Even the tax portion, which we need more detail on to fully understand, seems like it could target tax credits for middle-income families, at least in part.

It seems that the Obama/Democratic strategy is to try to get the Republicans to accept massive new taxes, forcing huge divisions in their voting base over the issue, even major opposition to it. OK fine. But this neither solves the problem or protects the social programs working families rely on.

Right now, best bet is to tell your Senator not to jump in yet; someone may have peed in the pool.

Below are some additional comments:

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on “Gang of Six” Plan:

Both parties keep telling us that deficit reduction requires “tough choices” and “shared sacrifice” and “taking on sacred cows.”  But then we keep seeing bipartisan support for plans like the so-called “Gang of Six” that cut Social Security benefits, kill jobs, give tax incentives for corporations to export good jobs overseas, tax health benefits, and lower tax rates for billionaires and corporations.  There’s no shared sacrifice here.  The only sacred cows being gored are working people, the middle class, seniors and the poor.  Though the plan is very specific when it comes to spelling out tax cuts for rich people, there are still a lot of blanks to be filled in.  Even so, we’ve seen enough to know that there is nothing here for working people.  We need to keep asking our leaders: “Who got us into this mess?”  It wasn’t working people.  The people who got us into this mess are getting off scot-free, and this Gang of Six proposal shows they have accomplices in both parties.

Statement from the Strengthen Social Security Campaign:

Gang of Six Plan Will Cut Social Security Immediately and Lead to Devastating Cuts Later

(Washington, D.C.) — The following is a statement from Nancy Altman, Co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, in response to the release of the Gang of Six’s “Bipartisan Plan to Reduce Our Nation’s Deficits.”

“The Gang of Six proposes immediate and significant cuts to Social Security benefits, and a process for addressing the program’s funding shortfall projected to appear 25 years from now. The process would virtually guarantee devastating cuts. This plan breaks faith with the American people, who overwhelmingly oppose benefit cuts.

“The Gang of Six framework contains very few specifics but one is glaring – the immediate cuts that would affect all 55 million Social Security beneficiaries by changing the way the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is calculated. Their plan would substitute the less accurate and less-generous chained consumer price index (CPI) for the current CPI in calculating the COLA. This breaks a promise made by many politicians to not cut the benefits of anyone over age 55.

“Over the next ten years alone, the chained CPI would take $112 billion directly out of the pockets of beneficiaries with cuts growing larger each year and pushing many of the oldest old, primarily women, into poverty. The COLA cut would reduce benefits by 3.7 percent after 10 years, 6.5 percent after 20 years and 9.2 percent after 30 years. For a typical senior who retires at age 65, their Social Security benefits would be $1,000 less by the time they are 85 – on a benefit of just $16,000 a year. That’s a big loss of income that may be affordable for politicians in Washington but not for most people across the country.

“Adopting the chained CPI goes in the wrong direction. Most people who depend on Social Security devote a much larger share of their income to health care, and these costs are increasing at a much higher rate than other living costs. They need a more accurate formula that reflects these higher costs, which would result in a COLA increase, not a COLA cut. Seniors and other Social Security beneficiaries have not gotten a COLA for two years. Apparently some in Washington think that was too generous.

For more on the problems with the chained CPI go here.

“Especially troubling is that the Gang of Six plan would hold a gun to the heads of all those who contribute to and depend on Social Security.  If a supermajority of the Senate did not agree to a major overhaul of Social Security, then a deficit-reduction bill would not proceed. This leverage would virtually guarantee devastating cuts to Social Security benefits along the line of what Bowles-Simpson proposed, including raising the retirement age to 69 and dramatically changing the current benefit formula.

“Social Security should be considered on its own, separate and apart from the deficit because Social Security does not contribute a penny to the deficit. It should not be used as a bargaining chip in a Washington game of chicken. Social Security should be strengthened not cut. With stagnant wages, reduced savings, declining home values and fewer employers offering pensions, Social Security benefits should be expanded.  While it is fully funded for the next 25 years, Social Security’s long-range funding gap should be closed but not by cutting its modest benefits. Scrapping the payroll tax cap and requiring those with wages over $106,800 a year (and their employers) to pay taxes on all of their earnings would accomplish that.

“Social Security is too important to have a long-term fix be done when the focus is budget cutting, not protecting and improving the economic security of the American people.”

    

Ralph Nader: Obama is a “Political Coward” for Not Picking Elizabeth Warren to Head Consumer Bureau

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

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Nader_warren_buttonAfter months of fierce opposition from Wall Street, corporate lobbyists and Republican lawmakers, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officially launches this week in Washington, D.C. A product of last year’s overhaul of financial regulation, the bureau was established to protect consumers from deceptive practices. Republicans have sought to weaken its reach with a number of restrictive measures, including granting other regulatory bodies veto power over the bureau’s decisions. This week, Republicans scored another victory with President Obama’s announcement of his choice to head the bureau. Obama has tapped former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray instead of Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor who first proposed the bureau and has overseen its establishment for the past year. “[Cordray] is no Elizabeth Warren. He doesn’t have her communication skills,” says Nader. “She is a rare find. And by throwing her overboard, Obama has signaled to hundreds of good, smart people all over the country, who would like to turn our government around and make it stand for the people, that they may be too good for the president, they may be too good for the rogue Republicans.” [includes rush transcript]

PPP poll: “Obama in perilous shape” for re-elect

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

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As our own Joe Sudbay always says, PPP is eerily accurate come election time, that’s their reputation. Here is their own summary:

Obama’s numbers are worse than they appear to be on the surface. The vast majority of the undecideds in all of these match ups disapprove of the job Obama’s doing but aren’t committing to a candidate yet while they wait to see how the Republican field shakes out. Here’s an idea of where these various match ups might stand once all voters have made up their minds:

-In the Obama/Romney head to head 21% of undecideds approve of Obama and 61% disapprove. If you allocate them based on their approval/disapprove of Obama, Romney would lead 52-48.

-In the Obama/Bachmann head to head 10% of undecideds approve of Obama and 67% disapprove. If you allocate them based on their approval/disapprove of Obama, Obama would lead only 51-49.

-In the Obama/Pawlenty head to head 9% of undecideds approve of Obama and 75% disapprove. If you allocate them based on their approval/disapprove of Obama, the race would be tied at 50%.

-In the Obama/Cain head to head 8% of undecideds approve of Obama and 76% disapprove. If you allocate them based on their approval/disapprove of Obama, Obama would lead only 51-49.

-In the Obama/Palin head to head 5% of undecideds approve of Obama and 84% disapprove. If you allocate them based on their approval/disapprove of Obama, Obama would lead only 54-46.

So if you dig deeper into the numbers Obama’s position is a lot worse than meets the eye. There’s a very good chance Obama would lose if he had to stand for reelection today.



Roger Ebert: The Republicans “are moving out of history”

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

2 people liked this

You think of Roger Ebert as a film critic, and one of the best and most readable. But he’s also a serious watcher of the scene outside the reality window, the movie that we call our lives.

As witness, there’s this from his blog at the Sun Times — “The Republicans exit history”. The death of political parties isn’t common, but it does happen — witness the Whig Party in the U.S., which lived from 1833 to 1856 and elected two presidents. (They even had Lincoln as a member for a while.)

Ebert seems to suggest that a similar process may be at work here. As usual with Ebert, the piece is a model of clear prose (a click won’t lead you to the swamp that most of us produce). And there’s far more to it than this quote suggests (my emphasis):

What I read [in the news, on the net] is that the Republican Party is abandoning its hopes of speaking for a majority of Americans. It will still win elections. It controls the House. Perhaps it will elect the next President. But steadily and fatally it is moving out of history.

There are trigger issues in which the GOP no longer reflects the thinking of mainstream Americans of either party. In Tuesday’s charade as the House put the Tea Party debt legislation to a vote, what we saw was an example of the kind of coalition voting common in Europe, where separate parties arrive at an agreement to govern. There are now essentially three parties in Congress: Democrats, Republicans, and the Tea Party. Reasonable Republicans with a sense of the possible do not subscribe to the Tea Party’s implacable ideology, but they feel they must deal with it to placate its zealots. They are essentially in a coalition with a third party.

The article continues by identifying eight issues in which this GOP coalition no longer reflects the thinking of mainstream Americans, issues like debt & taxes, health care, church & state, gay rights, even nutrition.

But the implication in the part I quoted is that we may be seeing a moment in history, the death of a political party.

About those Whigs, here’s how they pulled it off (my paragraphing):

The party was ultimately destroyed by the question of whether to allow the expansion of slavery to the territories. With deep fissures in the party on this question, the anti-slavery faction successfully prevented the renomination of its own incumbent President Fillmore in the 1852 presidential election; instead, the party nominated General Winfield Scott.

Most Whig party leaders thereupon quit politics (as Lincoln did temporarily) or changed parties. The northern voter base mostly joined the new Republican Party. By the 1856 presidential election, the party was virtually defunct. In the South, the party vanished, but as Thomas Alexander has shown, Whiggery as a policy orientation persisted for decades and played a major role in shaping the modernizing policies of the state governments during Reconstruction after 1865

I would argue that there are four political parties in the U.S. — the Progressive Party, the NeoLiberal Party(mainly but not exclusively Dems), Traditional Republicans (including NeoLibs and traditional Movement Conservatives), and the Tea Party (“new-right” Movement Conservatives). The boundaries between the middle two parties isn’t clear, since they often vote alike.

If I’m right, the two strongest parties at the moment are the NeoLiberal Party, which has pulled off a coup of the Democratic Party control structure, and the Tea Party, which is attempting a coup on the Republican side.

If the middle two parties start to merge (NeoLiberals and Traditional Republicans), we could see a battle for control of the country between NeoLib–financing billionaires (NY hedge funders, for example) and Tea Party–financing billionaires (Coors-crazy and Koch-addled types). I’m serious.

Progressives? If they ever grow a spine (or move to a state-based strategy), we’ll see where they stand. They certainly have potential, if they choose to accept it, and could marshal the actual voting humans.

But right now Progressives are the Table Scraps Wing of the NeoLiberal Party, and a little conflicted about staying there. Or, as Sam Seder noted on his Majority Report program today (paraphrasing): It’s odd how the Obama administration starts showing up on one of the progressive social issues, just when it’s screwing them on an economic one.

Murdoch’s Denials Are Tough to Believe, Former Wall Street Journal Reporter Sarah Ellison Says

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

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Ellison_buttonTo discuss the phone-hacking scandal engulfing the Rupert Murdoch media empire from Britain to the United States, we are joined by longtime journalist Sarah Ellison. She is a Vanity Fair contributing editor and author of the book “War at the Wall Street Journal: Inside the Struggle to Control an American Business Empire,” which chronicled the sweeping changes at the publication after Murdoch acquired the newspaper in 2007. Ellison spent 10 years working at the Wall Street Journal. Commenting on Murdoch denying responsibility for the scandal, Ellison says, “It’s even more difficult to really believe that when you know the way that his news organizations work… There’s a sort of myth that we all know about Rupert Murdoch, that his editors know what he wants without him even having to tell them. And so he creates a culture in which everyone is of one like mind… It’s difficult to imagine that some of the responsibility wouldn’t lie at his feet, given that it is his organization.” [includes rush transcript]

NYC Schools Approve $2.7 Million Deal with Murdoch-Linked Firm to Track Student Performance

Nyc_schools_buttonThe New York City-based group Class Size Matters has just launched a petition calling on New York officials to reject a no-bid contract that would give the company Wireless Generation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, access to the personal data of schoolchildren. The deal was awarded shortly after the former head of New York City schools, Joel Klein, joined News Corp.’s board. Klein attended the British parliamentary hearing with Murdoch on the phone-hacking scandal today in London. We speak to Leonie Haimson, a New York public school parent and executive director of Class Size Matters. [includes rush transcript]

Weakening of Media Consolidation Rules Helped Murdoch Build U.S. Media Empire

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

3 people liked this

Murdoch_empire_buttonThe intense scrutiny on Rupert Murdoch and practices by News Corp. employees is also widening the spotlight on its vast media holdings in the United States. News Corp. owns a number of outlets, including Fox Broadcasting Company, Fox News Channel, the National Geographic Channel, HarperCollins, TV Guide, the Weekly Standard, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, as well as the film studios 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight. News Corp.’s dominant standing in the U.S. media received a major boost in the early 1990s when the Federal Communications Commissions waived a regulation meant to curb media consolidation. We speak to Matt Wood, policy director at the media reform group, Free Press. [includes rush transcript]

Murdoch Empire “Pummeled” by Phone-Hacking Scandal Exposed by Guardian Journalist Nick Davies

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

3 people liked this

Nick_davies_buttonTo talk more about the phone-hacking scandal and what it reveals about the Rupert Murdoch media empire, we speak with the British journalist who has been most responsible for exposing the widening story. Nick Davies has been covering the phone-hacking case at The Guardian newspaper with 75 stories over the past three years. He has been described as Britain’s one-man Woodward and Bernstein, a comparison to the legendary Washington Post reporters who exposed the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. Just over two weeks ago, Davies revealed the Murdoch-owned News of the World had illegally hacked into the phone of the missing schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, and her family in March 2002, interfering with police inquiries into her disappearance. “The Milly Dowler story was fantastically powerful… But I never foresaw this extraordinary chain reaction of emotion, which just pummeled the entire Murdoch camp,” Davies says. “Within three days, it reached a point where nobody could be seen to be Murdoch’s ally anymore. For years, the opposite has been the case, that nobody could been seen to be Murdoch’s enemy.” [includes rush transcript]

British PM Cameron Refuses to Apologize for Murdoch Scandal, But Acknowledges BSkyB Takeover Talks

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

1 person liked this

Cameron_testifying_buttonMedia mogul Rupert Murdoch has returned to the United States as his media empire faces a growing number of challenges over the phone-hacking scandal that’s led to a number of arrests in Britain and prompted an investigation here in the United States. British Prime Minister David Cameron appeared before an emergency session of Parliament on Wednesday to address the scandal. Cameron refused to apologize for hiring Andy Coulson, a former Murdoch employee who recently served as Cameron’s communications chief at Downing Street, but admitted that he had talked to Murdoch executives about News Corp.’s attempt to take over the satellite company BSkyB. [includes rush transcript]

RACISM, SEXISM, 
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Home > Blogs > Sikivu Hutchinson’s blog > Bad “Bitches,” True Women

Bad “Bitches,” True Women

By Sikivu Hutchinson
Created 07/20/2011 – 12:16
Submitted by Sikivu Hutchinson on Wed, 07/20/2011 – 12:16

by Sikivu Hutchinson

The Casey Anthony trial caused such consternation in white America because it “underscores how deeply the ideal of white womanhood is steeped in reverence for white motherhood” – as opposed to “the dark uncivilized Other of Africa, Asia and Latin America.” Yet the “violent moral policing” of non-white women is a central chapter in the American story. Women of color face “racist drug enforcement and sentencing policies, coupled with mainstream assumptions of bad black motherhood.”

Bad “Bitches,” True Women

by Sikivu Hutchinson

Central to the Cult of True Womanhood was the ideal of white women as the moral protectors of home, hearth and family.”

As Middle America shuffles out of its hangover from the Casey Anthony trial and into the debt ceiling morass, the war on women has been fueled by an insidious 21st century cult of true womanhood. Every month, more states are proposing craftier anti-abortion laws and provisions with blinding speed. Anti-abortion legislation, anti-abortion billboards, fetal homicide laws [4], restrictions on family planning access and the gutting of child welfare services have become the moral virus of American public policy, cutting a bloody swath through poor working class communities.

The violent moral policing of women’s bodies has always been crucial to American national identity. And the rising tide of public policy that is fundamentally anti-family and anti-woman is rooted in a very particular regime of gender, race and class. In the 19th century, when the U.S. was in its ascent as an imperial power, the Cult of True Womanhood was the standard for American femininity. Central to the Cult of True Womanhood was the ideal of white women as the moral protectors of home, hearth and family. As the model of purity, religious piety and supreme sacrifice, the “true woman” was the moral symbol of American nationhood reigning over the dark uncivilized Other of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The mainstream media’s slobbery obsession with the Casey Anthony trial underscores how deeply the ideal of white womanhood is steeped in reverence for white motherhood. As many cultural commentators have observed, Anthony was appealing because she was a perverse representation of the Middle American “us.” She epitomized the seductive quandary of how seemingly good middle class white girls, good white mothers, could go so colossally bad. The white masses were transfixed and outraged by the tawdry saga of innocent little Caylee Anthony’s disappearance because she was “every child,” thus putting the sanctity of white motherhood on trial.

Fetal homicide laws disproportionately criminalize poor pregnant women of color.”

Being marked as bad “bitches” already, women of color don’t have far to fall when it comes to the pathological mother immorality sweepstakes. To paraphrase Gil Scott Heron, the realities of neglectful mothers of color will not be televised. They will not be the object of round-the-clock cable news, Court TV or supermarket tabloid frenzy. They will not elicit thousands of dollars in donations to defray their legal expenses because the subtext of the bad black or Latino mother is the good white mother whose children are America’s children. For example, fetal homicide laws disproportionately criminalize poor pregnant women of color. Like decades-old legislation that has penalized generations of pregnant black women for crack cocaine use, fetal homicide laws are the new frontier in the anti-abortion backlash. One of the more egregious examples of this is the case of Rennie Gibbs[5]. Gibbs is an African American Mississippi woman facing a life sentence for murder after giving birth to a stillborn baby in 2006 when she was 16-years old. The state of Mississippi has charged that Gibbs’ stillbirth was due to her alleged cocaine use. Although medical reports concluded that Gibbs’ cocaine was not a contributing factor in her child’s death, the case is nonetheless progressing in criminal court after five years.

In some states, fetal homicide language loosely defines a person as an “unborn child in utero at any stage of development regardless of viability.” And it is no accident that the majority of these laws have been enacted in the South and the Midwest, where unrestricted access to safe, legal abortion resources is rapidly disappearing.

In an amicus brief [6] in defense of Gibbs, several Mississippi health providers argue that these policies further criminalize drug addiction and discourage women from seeking treatment. White women drug abusers are far more likely to receive counseling, treatment and other rehabilitative care than are black women. Consequently, racist drug enforcement and sentencing policies, coupled with mainstream assumptions of bad black motherhood, make fetal homicide policies far more insidious for black women. Currently black women constitute over 30% of the U.S. prison population. They are primarily incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses and a significant majority of them are mothers. As the proportion of incarcerated black women swells the right wing assault on child social welfare services will cause both the ranks of black children in the foster care system and amongst the homeless to grow. Dispossessing black women of their humanity, the new cult of true womanhood trains a bullseye squarely on communities of color.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars [7].

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THE ECONOMY

Krugman: What recovery? “Companies step up layoffs”

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

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Paul Krugman has the goods, in a simple chart that says it all. This is one of the broadest, and perhaps the truest, measures of unemployment, the Employment-to-Population Ratio. Here’s the latest:


Krugman adds:

[W]e’ve been basically flat on the employment front since late 2009, with nothing suggesting a sustained break back toward better performance[.]

Like a bouncing ball that flutters till it dies on the floor. This is what it looks like when stimulus money runs out and nothing triggers new demand. This is what it looks like when frightened job-holders try to pay down thatmassive household debt overhang with failing and uncertain incomes.

But wait, it could get worse. Watch when Obama’s eager austerity kicks in. Think that will change the 2012 election dynamic just a tad?

Me too.

UPDATE: David Frum has a similar chart, going back to the 1940s. This one shows labor’s share of national income, a great measurable. Note the Icarus-like fall from grace as soon as Bush II (and his tax cuts) took office.


By the way, the source of both charts is the St. Louis Fed and its great chart-making capability.

Ralph Nader’s Solution to Debt Crisis: End Corporate Welfare and Corporate Tax Loopholes

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

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Nader_obamaAs negotiations continue on a debt deal, we ask longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader for his solution. Nader says, “Now we have the situation with the deficit and the debt and spending and jobs. And it’s not that difficult to get out of it. The first thing you do is you get rid of corporate welfare. That’s hundreds of billions of dollars a year. The second is you tax corporations so that they don’t get away with no taxation. The Citizens for Tax Justice put out a report recently. They had 12 major corporations, like Honeywell, Verizon, General Electric, and in three years, they made $167 billion in profit, paid zero tax, and got $2.5 billion back from the Treasury.” [includes rush transcript]

Jump Start Possibilities

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN

Brad DeLong and Karl Smith have been arguing that America, after 5 years of housing bust, now has a housing shortfall:

This seems plausible. But housing demand now remains weak, basically because people don’t have jobs, and the lousy job market has inhibited household formation. A lot of relatives are still living in the basement.

What neither Brad nor Karl has pointed out, however, is that this would seem to be precisely the kind of situation in which the much-overused metaphor of a “jump start” for the economy — that is, a temporary stimulus that leads to sustained recovery — might well be accurate.

Suppose that Obama announces that we face a clear and present danger from Ruritania, and that to meet that threat we need immediate investment in roads and rail (to move troops, of course). The economy surges on the emergency spending — and newly employed men and women at last get to move out of their relatives’ basements. Home construction surges.

Then Obama apologizes, says that his advisers have learned that there is no such country as Ruritania, and cancels the program. But we still have the new roads and rail links; plus, the surge in housing demand is now self-sustaining, and the economy remains strong.

Of course, we could do all this without the Ruritanian threat; but we won’t.

The Shameful Murder of Dodd Frank

from Robert Reich

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Happy Birthday Dodd Frank,
Happy Birthday to you,
You’ve lost all your muscle,
And your teeth are gone, too.

One full year after the financial reform bill spearheaded through Congress by Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank was signed into law, Wall Street looks and acts much the way it did before. That’s because the Street has effectively neutered the law, which is the best argument I know for applying the nation’s antitrust laws to the biggest banks and limiting their size.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says the financial system is “on more solid ground” than prior to the 2008 crisis, but I don’t know what ground he’s looking at.

Much of Dodd-Frank is still on the drawing boards, courtesy of the Street. The law as written included loopholes big enough to drive bankers’ Lamborghini’s through — which they’re now doing.

What kind of derivatives must be traded on open exchanges? What are the capital requirements for financial companies that insure borrowers against default, such as AIG? How should credit rating agencies be funded? What about the much-vaunted Volcker Rule requiring that banks trade their own money if they’re going to gamble in the stock market – how should their own money be defined? What “stress tests” must the big banks pass to maintain their privileged status with the Fed?

The short answer: whatever it takes to maintain the Street’s profits and perquisites.

The law included a one-year delay, ostensibly to give regulators time to iron out these sorts of details. But the real purpose of the delay, it’s now obvious, was to give the Street time to expand the loopholes and fill the details with pablum — when the public stopped looking.

Since Dodd Frank was enacted a year ago, Wall Street has spent as much – if not more – on lobbyists and political payoffs designed to stop the law’s implementation than it did trying to kill off the law in the first place. The six largest banks spent $29.4 million on lobbying last year, according to firm disclosures — record spending for the group. This year they’re on track to break last year’s record.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the Street and other financial institutions engaged about 3,000 lobbyists to fight Dodd-Frank – more than five lobbyists for every member of Congress. They’ve hired almost the same number to delay, weaken, or otherwise prevent its implementation.

Meanwhile, the portion of the law that’s now supposed to be in effect is barely being enforced. That’s because the agencies charged with enforcing it, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, don’t have enough money or staff to do the job. Congress hasn’t seen fit to appropriate these necessities.

Several of these agencies are still lacking directors or commissioners. Senate Republicans have refused to confirm anyone. They wouldn’t even consider Elizabeth Warren to run the new consumer bureau.

Many of same business leaders who blame the sluggish economy on regulatory uncertainty are complicit in all this. A senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce told the New York Times that “uncertainty among companies about the rules of the road is keeping a lot of capital on the sidelines.” The Chamber has been among the groups responsible for keeping Dodd Frank at bay.

But it’s the biggest Wall Street banks – the ones that got us into this mess in the first place, and got bailed out by the public – that have taken the lead in killing off Dodd-Frank. They can afford the hit job.

At the same time, their executives  – enjoying pay and bonuses as large as in the boom days of the housing bubble – are busily bankrolling both political parties, although Republicans are favored in this election cycle. A significant portion of Mitt Romney’s sizable war chest has come from the Street. President Obama is no slouch when it comes to pulling at the Street’s purse strings.

Bankers try to justify their shameful murder of Dodd-Frank by saying tightened regulatory standards will put them at a disadvantage relative to their overseas competitors. JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon had the nerve to publicly accost Ben Bernanke recently, complaining that the law’s implementation would harm the Street’s competitiveness.

The argument is pure claptrap. In the wake of global finance’s near meltdown, Europe has been more aggressive than the United States in clamping down on banks headquartered there. Britain is requiring its banks to have higher capital reserves than are so far contemplated in the United States. In fact, senior Wall Street executives have warned European leaders their tighter bank regulations will cause Wall Street to move more of its business out of Europe.

Wall Street is global because capital is global. JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Morgan Stanley are doing business in every corner of the world. Goldman even advised Greece on how to hide its growing indebtedness, before the rest of the world got wind, through a derivatives deal that circumvented Europe’s deficit rules.

The real reason Wall Street has spent the last year bludgeoning Dodd-Frank into meaninglessness is the vast sums of money it can make if Dodd-Frank is out of the way. If you took the greed out of Wall Street all you’d have left is pavement.

Wall Street is the richest and most powerful industry in America with the closest ties to the federal government – routinely supplying Treasury secretaries and economic advisors who share its world view and its financial interests, and routinely bankrolling congressional kingpins.

How else can you explain why the Street was bailed out with no strings attached? Or why no criminal charges have been brought against any major Wall Street figure – despite the effluvium of frauds, deceptions, malfeasance and nonfeasance in the years leading up to the crash and subsequent bailout? Or why Dodd-Frank has been eviscerated?

As a result of consolidations brought on by the bailout, the biggest banks are bigger and have more clout than ever. They and their clients know with certainty they will be bailed out if they get into trouble, which gives them a financial advantage over smaller competitors whose capital doesn’t come with such a guarantee. So they’re becoming even more powerful.

Face it: The only answer is to break up the giant banks. The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was designed not only to improve economic efficiency by reducing the market power of economic giants like the railroads and oil companies but also to prevent companies from becoming so large that their political power would undermine democracy.

The sad lesson of Dodd-Frank is Wall Street is too powerful to allow effective regulation of it. We should have learned that lesson in 2008 as the Street brought the rest of the economy – and much of the world – to its knees. Now we’re still on our knees but the Street is back on top. Its leviathans do not generate benefits to society proportional to their size and influence. To the contrary, they represent a clear and present danger to our economy and our democracy.

They should be broken up, and their size must be capped. Congress won’t do it, obviously. So we’ll need to rely on the nation’s two antitrust agencies — the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department. The trust-busters are now investigating Google. They should be turning their sights onto JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Goldman Sachs instead.

Murdoch, Gang of Six, etc.

from Dollars & Sense Blog by Chris Sturr

Laffer Curve NapkinLaffer Curve Napkin

(1) Laffer’s Latest Curve-ball: Subscriber Kris W. alerted us that the dumb op-ed Arthur Laffer co-wrote for theWSJ a while back, which John Miller critiques in his July/August Up Against the Wall Street Journal column, is posted all over the web on anti-union websites and elsewhere. In connection with the NLRB’s recent decision against Boeing, which moved production to South Carolina, Laffer claims that right-to-work states have better growth rates than those with (as he puts it) “forced unionism.”  Anyhow, I just posted John’s column, Wrong About Right-to Work. I liked Kris’s tweet about the article: “Dollars & Sense thoroughly debunks the latest trash Laffer left on the @WSJ curb: “Wrong About Right-to-Work”. [Look for a great feature on Boeing in our Sept/Oct issue.]

(2) Speaking of Laffer… I was looking for an image to go with this post, and typed “Laffer napkin” into Google images.  I found the image above, which accompanied the amusing campaign Mark Ames is starting at The Exiled:  FOC the RATS!: Bring back Ike’s Tax Rate on the Rich! As amusing as it is timely (actually–overdue).

(3) Speaking of rats… Good stuff from Dean Baker on the Gang of Six’s dastardly plan to balance the budget by slashing Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid:  CEPR Statement on the Gang of Six Plan.  Of course we should all be supporting The People’s Budget. [Look for an Economy in Numbers on The People’s Budget in our Sept/Oct issue.]

(4) The Smell of Murdoch in the Morning: William Rivers Pitt at Truthout did us the favor of watching the Murdochs’ testimony before Parliament yesterday morning–on Fox News.  His live blogging is amusing. When I got to the part about the pie-ing, I had to check other news outlets to make sure he wasn’t making that up!  I especially liked his observation that even though, astoundingly, Fox covered long stretches of the hearings without commercial interruption, apparently Fox reported that they could tell from their viewers’ feedback (via IM, etc.) that they couldn’t really tell what the hearings were all about.  This was because Fox News hadn’t been covering the scandal much, of course, so how would their viewers know?

Joe Nocera’s column excoriating the Wall Street Journal‘s non-coverage of the scandal, The Journal Becomes Fox-ified, was somewhat less compelling–who would go to the Journal for coverage of the scandal anyhow? (I know, if they had integrity they would cover it fairly, even doggedly.) Nocera’s more recent column, The Tables are Turned on Rupert Murdoch, was much more compelling–it explained why we’re justified in feeling more than a bit of schaudenfreude while we watch Murdoch’s empire unraveling.

(5) On a completely different topic: From the Boston GlobeRomney fundraiser lobbied for foreclosure firm, apparently one of those robo-signing foreclosure factories.  So enough with the campaign-stop crocodile tears about people being thrown out of their homes, ok Mitt?

(6) On a completely different topic: You may have heard about the collapse of the stage at a Cheap Trick concert in Ottawa on Sunday.  I heard about it yesterday morning on WMBR’s Late Risers’ Club, and hat-tip to the DJ for this tidbit:  though miraculously, no one was hurt, the band’s equipment was completely destroyed, their manager, Dave Frey, managed to quip, “We’re trying to get gear set up for our show tomorrow [July 19] in Buffalo. Do you know where we can rent a five-neck guitar?” (as reported on the Gibson website). The tracks played on WMBR recently were sounding pretty good–I had no clue.

–Chris Sturr


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