In the Belly of the Beast: 7/26/11: Krugman: Obama “wasn’t the one we were waiting for”

There’s Got To Be One

from Ted Rall’s Rallblog by Ted Rall

There’s Got To Be One

Obama wakes up in the middle night, worrying that there’s some principle he forgot to sell out.

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





Headlines for July 26, 2011


Krugman: Obama “wasn’t the one we were waiting for”

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

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Paul Krugman in a short, succinct comment:

At this point, we just have to accept it as a fact of life: Obama doesn’t, and maybe can’t, do outrage — no matter how much the situation calls for it. The purpose of last night’s speech, if there was one, was to rally the nation against crazy Republicans. But there were no memorable lines, no forceful statements of the very stark reality. “Now, now, that’s not reasonable” isn’t going to move multitudes.

It turns out, I’m sorry to say, that he wasn’t the one we were waiting for.

Krugman is referring to Obama’s lack of outrage in his most recent speech. But he might as well be referring to his lack of fight for progressive (or even Democratic) values.

There is no party in American politics, and no presidential candidate, who represents Progressive policy and values. That’s a problem.

There’s no place to vote your dissatisfaction, which means there’s no way to measure your dissatisfaction.Obama needs a primary as a gift, the way a blind man need eyesight. How will he see what’s out there waiting for him if there’s no way to show him.

Without a primary, 2012 will be a battle between the Koch-financed and the Bank-financed for control of the country. Dueling billionaires, like choosing between the third son of Caesar and the fourth son to wear the crown.

Graphic shows how Bush created deficit, not Obama

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

Click for larger version

The GOP would have you believe that Obama created the debt. And Obama would have you believe that both sides created the debt. In fact, it’s George Bush who created the lion’s share of our debt. Sadly, no one wants to talk about that fact.

Geithner’s role in the debt ceiling disaster

It’s been written that the current most powerful economics adviser in the White House is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. You could argue that the team-lead on the Dem side of this disaster is Treasury, and Geithner.

That said, here’s Felix Salmon on how we got here, via Brad DeLong. Bottom line — Treasury decided to “go big” and this is the result (my emphasis):

The lion’s share of the blame here belongs with the Republicans in general, the House Republicans in particular, and the Tea Party caucus within the House Republicans most of all. But it’s not like these people’s existence or intransigence was any great secret. And so the White House tactics over the course of the past few months look dangerously naive….

The budget debate, of course, sets near-term taxation and spending. So seeking to make a virtue out of necessity, Treasury entered negotiations over the debt ceiling to do something longer-term: to put in place a decade-long “fiscal straitjacket” which would constrain future Democratic and Republican administrations alike…. Treasury’s bright idea backfired catastrophically. Far from putting the US on a course of long-term fiscal prudence, it put the country on a log raft with no paddle, careening straight towards a deathly waterfall…. [E]ngag[ing] the House Republicans on long-term fiscal issues was a silly idea — these are people who think you can raise revenues by cutting taxes. A fiscal straitjacket, necessarily, involves some mechanism for raising taxes; since that was always going to be anathema to the Republicans, there was no point even trying to construct one.

The cost of Treasury’s tactical mistake is going to be enormous.

Naiveté? Possibly? Electorally driven (and entirely self-centered)? Certainly. Does it matter?

I guess we’ll find out. However this turns out, I hope Geithner finds a nice place for himself on Thank You Street when this mess is over and the next president gets to mislead us. The workman is worth his wages.

AP: Obama allegedly offered to cut the meager tax increases in half to save HCR

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

It certainly sounds like something he’d do. Check out this tidbit buried in an AP story from yesterday:

Each side offered accounts of secret maneuvering designed to put the other side in a poor light.

Democratic officials said Obama called Boehner on Saturday night, one day after the collapse of compromise talks, and offered to reduce his demand for new tax revenue by $400 billion.

In return, Obama said that he wanted Republicans to abandon their demand to cancel parts of the year-old health care law if future deficit cuts did not materialize.

This official said Boehner rejected the proposal on Sunday.

Obama wants compromise. Boehner is still holding the debt limit hostage.

Well, we’ve got one more week to go before the government of the United States defaults. The President spoke to the nation tonight and asked people to call Congress to prevent that from happening.

From the NY Times:

It was a day filled with legislative chess moves, back-to-back party caucuses and closed-door meetings that ended with a nationally televised presidential address followed by a rebuttal by the House speaker, John A. Boehner. Just a week ago the two men were in private negotiations on a “grand bargain”; their separate speeches captured that the two sides are farther apart than ever.

“Because neither party is blameless for the decisions that led to this problem,” Mr. Obama said in an address to the nation Monday night, “both parties have a responsibility to solve it.”

Actually, the Republicans spent the first eight years of the last decade ballooning the debt. I don’t understand why Obama will never ever say that. Yes, Obama added to the debt with the stimulus. But, we needed to the stimulus because of the economic crisis created by Republicans. Yet, Obama assigns blame evenly. Why is that so hard to say?

And, all that blather on bipartisanship for the past two years hasn’t paid off. That was evidenced by Boehner tonight:

In response to Mr. Obama, Mr. Boehner said: “The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. That is just not going to happen.”

Mr. Boehner urged the president to sign a Republican plan to raise the debt limit. “If the president signs it,” he said, “the ‘crisis’ atmosphere he has created will simply disappear. The debt limit will be raised.”

Hostage taking at its finest.

Although, this isn’t all fun and games for Boehner. He’s getting cranky. CBS News Capitol Hill Producer Jill Jackson tweeted this tonight:

Overheard Boehner saying “I didn’t sign up for going mano-a-mano with the President of the United States” leaving the Capitol.

Mano-a-mano combat. That’s what this has become. It’s only our financial future that is at stake. Boehner and his fellow GOPers already tanked our economy — and everybody’s 401ks — just three years ago. Instead of facing political banishment for that, he’s now the Speaker and Republicans control the House. Maybe they really don’t see a political downside in default.

The President’s approval rating is again at its lowest point, according to Gallup: 43 percent. But, that’s all probably part of the grand political scheme that none of the rest of us understand.

Pelosi supports Reid’s debt plan, saying “It is clear we must enter an era of austerity”

Last week, at a blogger meetup on the Hill, Nancy Pelosi provided an outline for a debt plan that sounded a lot like what Harry Reid is proposing. TPM’s Brian Beutler wrote about it here. So, it’s not a surprise that Pelosi is supporting Reid’s plan. But, the first line of her statement sure made me feel uncomfortable. I guess we can be happy that, unlike the President, Reid and Pelosi don’t want to share the sacrifice by cutting by cutting Social Security and Medicare. Here’s the statement:

“It is clear we must enter an era of austerity; to reduce the deficit through shared sacrifice.

“The President has called for a ‘grand bargain,’ which provides long-term deficit reduction based on shared values and sends a message of confidence to the markets.

“The latest proposal from the House Republicans is a short-term plan that burdens the middle class and seniors, and continues this debate about whether we will default in a few months from now.

“Senator Reid has put forward a responsible plan to reduce the deficit that protects the middle class, and Medicare, Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries. It also includes many proposals already supported by Republicans.

“We must come together for an agreement because our economy and middle class will suffer from a default.”

Republicans got us into the financial mess. Yet, they’ve completely defined the debate.

If Reid’s plan were to pass (and who knows if it even has a chance), at least House and Senate Democrats can hold on to the Medicare issue and they won’t have to run against Obama’s efforts to cut it. Same for Social Security. It was heading that way — and still may.

And, if anyone in DC did anything about creating jobs, many families and the country would be in a better place financially.

Also, Boehner will be giving a rebuttal after Obama’s 9:00 PM ET speech tonight.    

A key point absent in DC: American people care about jobs and the economy

While Washington dithers and brings the country to the brink of another economic collapse, the American people are pretty cranky about jobs and the economy. And neither party is free of their wrath. It really is the economy, stupid. And jobs, stupid. From the Washington Post:

More than a third of Americans now believe that President Obama’s policies are hurting the economy, and confidence in his ability to create jobs is sharply eroding among his base, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But Americans’ discontent does not stop there. The survey also found that Americans harbor negative feelings toward congressional Republicans. Roughly as many people blame Republican policies for the poor economy as they do Obama. But 65 percent disapprove of the GOP’s handling of jobs, compared to 52 percent for the president.

There’s bad news for both parties in this poll. That’s because people aren’t feeling particularly good about the economy:

The dissatisfaction is fueled by the fact that many Americans continue to see little relief from the pain of a recession that technically ended two years ago. Ninety percent of those surveyed said the economy is not doing well, and four out of five report that jobs are difficult to find.

And, while we know the White House is hyper-focused on independent voters, this should be worrisome:

Still, Obama receives higher marks from crucial independents than Republicans when it comes to jobs. But appeasing his own party could prove to be a bigger challenge.

The Post-ABC poll found that the number of liberal Democrats who strongly support Obama’s record on jobs plunged 22 points from 53 percent last year to 31 percent. The number of African Americans who believe the president’s actions have helped the economy has dropped from 77 percent in October to just over half of those surveyed.

So, maybe the base does matter. And it’s a safe bet the unemployment rate will matter next year, too.

For two years now, I’ve been hearing people say: “Next, we’re going to pivot to jobs.” Seems like the American people haven’t seen the pivot yet, either.

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

My account of July 22nd and its aftermath in Norway

from Mondoweiss by Tord Steiro

I had been in Oslo for a couple of days, visiting one of my best friends. He works for the UN in Damascus, and was back in Norway for a short vacation. Wednesday and Thursday were beautiful days, the sun was shining, and the people were happy. The atmosphere were most peaceful – as peaceful as a summerday can be. However, that friday I was disturbed. As a programme coordinator with responsibility for our Malawi operation, I had received shocking news of riots and violence after the demonstration there on July 20th. I considered returning to work, to get an overview of the situation, but, after calling most of our people there, I decided not to do so. They were safe, and our operation were not in danger.

Instead, my parents decided to come to Oslo and join us. Originally we planned to meet in the centre, perhaps in Youngs Square, but they were delayed, as usual, and came directly to Grunerløkka were I stayed. They arrived around three o’clock. We sat down for a late lunch. We did not really notice the blast – it was a busy street outside, construction work going on around, and a busy place. Suddenly, the waitress turns pale behind the counter, and she starts to inform us that a bomb has gone off in Oslo. a lady next to us rushes out as her phone rings, and then bursts into tears. Her sister was on a bus – and is now on her way to hospital. My friend turns pale as well. Another good friend works in the government offices. He rushes out with the phone in his hands. I follow him, I, too, have friends to call. Check if they are OK. Most are, and we return to his apartment to check the news. I check facebook.

Firstly, I see a friend – a young member of parliament, and a true friend of Palestine – having posted the night before that she enjoyed wonderful moments at Utøya. No further updates. I believe she is safe, and not in the area around the blast. Many other friends are also there. In safety, I think. At the offices of my party, Venstre, which is three blocks away from the blast, two persons reports light injuries from the bomb. My thoughts go to Libya and Ghaddafi. He would have access to the necessary resources for such a bomb, and bombing our government would be a logic response to our bombing of his government. It had to be Ghaddafi. We discuss the matter.

It is obvious that Al-Qaida would never manage such a blast. The few attempts they have had in Scandinavia have been feeble and incompetent. Directly pathetic. Cells are arrested before doing anything wrong. Are there really a threat here at all from Al-Qaida? Nobody believes so. It got to be Ghaddafi.

The short discussion ends. The doorbell rings, it is the boyfriend of one of the girls in the apartment. He is in shock, sweat is pouring from him. He has run from the centre, were he was meters from the blast. He is physically unhurt, but obviously disturbed. The blast came just a few inches closer. We all sink deeper into shock and disbelief.

At this point, I would like to clearify a few things. Firstly, I have been active in politics for the better half of my life, hence, I know many people both in the labour party, and in their youth organization. I know many people who works for the government as well. My friend is a member of the labour party. He knows a lot more people than me. His sisters, whose apartment we are sitting in, are both members of AUF – the labour party’s youth organisation. They have friends on Utøya. So far, most of the people we know are safe, or only lightly injured.

Then we get the first report of shooting at Utøya. Disbelief. Soon after, we get the first witness statement: A white Norwegian male. It dawns on us; this is not Ghaddafi, this is right-wing extremism. Nothing new, they have always been there, but not like this! Unlike the usual suspects of violent extremists, the right wingers have more or less followed democratic rules. Spewing their hatred in internet chat forums, and little else. No more, it seems. The main threat to our democracy isn’t Islamism, it is, in fact, christian cultural conservatism – In Norwegian, the three ‘K’s of Kristen Kultur-Konservatisme makes sense in their own, violent, way.

The Prime Minister speaks. Good speech. ‘We will retaliate with more democacy!’ I am proud to be Norwegian. So much better than GWB’s ‘We will hunt them down!’ from 9/11.

A new wave of shock. The friends we thought were safe, are now in an inferno. We keep on getting information from unofficial sources, friends, witnesses, facebook, twitter, and so on. Some say 30-50 dead. All point to a Norwegian male. By 19.00 the police have denied all claims toward Islamic terror. The police stresses that there is a link between the two attacks – probably the same perpetrator. By 21.00 friday evening the Norwegian press has mainly discarded the now obviously wrong Islamic track. My parents cancel their hotel room for the night, and we decide to drive back to my parents place in Hamar.

Driving through Oslo on friday evening, we spot no living soul. The bars and night clubs are closed. People are home, watching the news. The city is deserted – it’s an eerie feeling.

At my parents place, I scan through the channels. We are the main headline in all international media. CNN still reporting on the Islamic terror plot. I am appalled. More than appalled. At this time, we have known for hours that this is a right-wing hate crime, with no Islamic link whatsoever. I am not sure if it is incompetence or islamophobia that misleads CNN, but I am appalled – hurt – by the fact that they reduce themselves to send out the same message as the gunman: Muslims are terrorists, and should be watched closely. They are posing as an accomplice in his horrible deeds. They openly support his views, and that in this situation! I swear to never speak a positive word of CNN again, and turns to Norweigan media.

Finally, at about midnight, I think all my friends are safe. The last one, the MP, states that she has been sleeping all day, and have now awakened to hell. I am still in shock, I can’t sleep. I stay up on facebook, apparently, I have more friends on Utøya than I realized. A 32 year old from Hamar among those. He is there to volunteer, while looking after his younger brothers. At a quarter to three I check on his profile again. It is full of condolences. Shock! I feel sick. Scan through the latest news. FOX is still playing the Islamist card, spewing out the exact same ideas and viewpoints as the man who conducted the massacre, as the man who bombed my government. I feel even sicker. In an instant, Murdoch gets 5 million passionate enemies in Norway, I wonder when he will apologize to us.

Back to my friend. I wonder what is going on. He is injured in the leg, not serious. Good. His younger brother is shot dead. Bad. I am exhausted, going to bed. Sleeping a little, crying a little. While reflecting on the events, I wonder why I have such a strong reaction, when almost all I know are safe and well. I should be used to this, after all. Occasionally, I work in dangerous places. I see mayhem quite often. The same with my friend who lives in Damascus. He lives in Mayhem. Nevertheless, he reacts even stronger than me. I conclude it has to be because of our work. We go to dangerous places, risky situations, and we are alert. Then, exhausted, we return home to absolute safety. Little, peaceful, Norway. This peace has now been broken, and we do not relax even a little bit.

Saturday is unreal. My wife arrives, and we return home. I am in shock, my wife is annoyed. Why am I so upset? These kind of things happens! Relax! She grew up in Yugoslavia, she should know. But it’s different. If a bomb went of next to me in Belgrade, or Split, or Sarajevo, I would probably not be so shaken. It would perhaps not be expected, but such things could happen there. But not here. Another friend calls me. He has a friend in the hospital after the blast. Situation is critical, but stable. The question now is how bad his head injuries are. They don’t know. How bad? Head injuries! Sounds awful…

I give up on the international news. They make me sick – adding insult to injury with their still appalling reporting. They are spreading lies and cheap ideological propaganda on our catastrophe. Abusing our national trauma in the worst possible way. Particularly FOX – I feel they are a category worse than the gunman. A lower form of life. I wonder when they will apologize. When they will admit that the major threat to our democracy and our way of life is people echoing their opinions and their ideology of hate. At least, that is how I feel. And I am apparently not alone. Norwegian news reports the same observation.

Sunday goes fast. I get up late. In shock. Make a very nice barbeque with my wife. Cooking usually makes me relax, makes me think of other things. Clears my mind. But not this time. The day is like a black hole. I hope monday will be better.

Monday, still no names released. FOX stop reporting the matter. I realize that both SKY and BBC have actually been decent. It’s mostly the US media that has disgraced themselves. But it has occupied my mind. Added insult and pain. Christian Whiton in particular. A lower form of life.

Some names are out. Missing, dead. Official body count is reduced. I feel better. There is a commemorative observation at 18.00. I go with my wife. Impossible to find parking. The whole town is out, to go to the observation. Carrying roses, people walk through the centre, and stop in front of the town hall. I did not get hold of any roses, I feel bad. The mayor speaks – not very good, then the bishop follow – excellent speech. I feel better. Meet friends. We are a lot of people. Police say around 10.000 – which is a lot considering the fact that my town has less than 20.000 inhabitants in total. We sing ‘Til Ungdommen’. It is a beautiful poem, and a beautiful song. Reminds me of my youth. I feel better, my spirits are up. It is time to fight for our beliefs, to make sure that the dead did not die in vain. It is spoken of tolerance, it is spoken of democracy. Of non-violence. My thoughts go to my Israeli and Palestinian friends who struggle with such harsh conditions for the non-violent struggle. Such harsh conditions for the basic ingredients of democracy: The right to assembly, the right to speech, the right to information. The right to a fair trial. Basic human rights. We will not be mislead by hate. We will not hate. Even Mr. Behring Breivik deserves a fair trial. 4 in 5 Norwegians have stated that they do not support the death penalty for him. A 30 year prison sentence – the longest permitted by Norwegian law – will do. Mr. B.B. has himself said that he expects to be tortured in jail. We will prove him wrong.

Back at a friends place – still no news on the head injuries – we turn on the news. 120,000 out in Oslo. Some say 100,000-150,000 in Stavanger. Millions all over Norway – it seems like half the country is out walking, commemorating. We stand united for democracy. We stand united for openness. United for a society were top politicians can move freely around without armed guards, and united for a society in which politically committed youth can gather safely, without armed guards around. We stand united, as a nation, for what we are.

Perhaps some are not embracing the ideals of multi-culturalism. Perhaps most are not embracing them. I don’t know. But I am embracing them, especially now. It is not multi-culturalism that is threatening our society, as the gunman believed. It is intolerance. Ignorance and narrow-mindedness. It is the willingness to use violence to attain political goals. Certainly, the political left have done this in the past. Conservative Islamists too. And now, conservative ‘Christianists’ – if you can call them that. Multi-culturalism is not the problem, extremism is, in all its forms. People who advocate violence as the main mean to solve problems, they are themselves the real problem, regardless of religion, ethnicity, or shoe size, for that matter.

I believe Norway, as a nation, will stay stronger after this. When we talk about democracy and tolerance, we are not joking (we always think the americans are), we actually mean it. It is good to see that my entire country is solidly behind the ideals of democracy and human rights. Democracy and human rights in the Nowegian way. Tonight, I will sleep well. It will be the first night in a while. With ‘Mitt Lille Land’ in my ears I say goodnight.

Tord Steiro works as a programme coordinator for the NGO FORUT, coordinating projects in Malawi, and is currently active in the centrist liberal party (Venstre). He has been interested in issues regarding Israel/Palestine for the past 5-6 years, although the Middle East has been high on his family’s agenda since the 1930’s, when his grandfather grew up in the Zionist ‘Israel Mission Church’ (the family turned away from that worldview during his service as a UN officer in the Golan during the early 1970s). Steiro grew up in Hamar, Norway where his parents still live and are active in friendship projects between Hamar and Khan Younis.

Eyewitness to Norwegian Massacre: Survivor Recalls Attack at Island Youth Camp

Norway_ali_buttonNorwegian police have widened their investigation into Friday’s mass killing after the alleged shooter, Anders Behring Breivik, told a court in Oslo on Monday that he had “two further cells” in his organization. During the hearing, Breivik accepted responsibility for the attacks but denied charges of terrorism. Norwegian media reports that if he is convicted of crimes against humanity, he could receive a 30-year sentence. At least 76 people were killed and 96 others wounded when Breivik allegedly set off a bomb outside government buildings in Oslo and then opened fire on a Labour Party summer camp for youth activists. We are joined from Oslo by Ali Esbati, one of the survivors of the shooting. He is an economist who was at the camp on Norway’s Utoya Island to give a workshop and escaped the shooting by diving into the water. “I saw a young girl, 18 or 19, who had been shot, and she kept repeating that ‘If I die here, please remember that you’re all fantastic, and keep up your struggle.’” [includes rush transcript]

Anti-Muslim law enforcement trainer cited by Norway killer rakes in U.S. taxpayer cash

from Mondoweiss by Alex Kane

The U.S. government has strongly denounced the recent massacre by a right-wing extremist in Norway, whichkilled at least 76 people. But at the same time, sectors of the U.S. government have paid an anti-Muslim activist who helped fuel Anders Behring Breivik’s twisted ideology. Breivik has admitted to being behind the massacre in Norway.

The American Prospect’s Adam Serwer writes:

Walid Shoebat, a “terrorism expert” with a dubious background who was paid by the U.S. government to train law enforcement in counterterrorism, is frequently cited in the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik, the alleged right-wing terrorist who is accused of killing more than 90 people in Oslo last week. Brevik cites Shoebat more than 15 times.

Brevik cites Shoebat to support his arguments that immigration from Muslim countries threatens the West. “This is why the face of Islamic fundamentalism in the West has a façade that Islam is a peaceful religion,” Brevik cites Shoebat as saying, “Because they are waiting to have more Islamic immigrants, they are waiting to increase in number, waiting to increase their political power.”

As I reported here, Shoebat, the subject of a recent CNN report that debunks his purported life story as a former Palestinian terrorist, rakes in U.S. taxpayer cash.

Two months ago, Shoebat delivered a keynote address to law enforcement officers attending a South Dakota conference on homeland security. Shoebat was paid $5,000 for the appearance by the South Dakota Office of Homeland Security–the money coming a federal grant administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

At a similar counter-terrorism event held last year in Las Vegas, Shoebat reportedly told the audience that the way to solve the threat of Islamic extremism was to “kill them…including the children.”

Shoebat is one of many anti-Muslim activists from the United States cited in Breivik’s online manifesto. It’s a disturbing reality that Shoebat’s views on Islam are being funded with federal grants and listened to by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. The revelation that Breivik’s manifesto is laced with citations of Shoebat should be a wake-up call to the U.S. government that Shoebat, and others like him, have no place training law enforcement officers, and should certainly not be taking money from U.S. taxpayers.

Alex Kane, a freelance journalist currently based in Amman, Jordan, blogs on Israel/Palestine, where this post originally appeared. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.


Vicious Cycles: Why Washington is About to Make the Jobs Crisis Worse

from Robert Reich

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We now live in parallel universes.

One universe is the one in which most Americans live. In it, almost 15 million people are unemployed, wages are declining (adjusted for inflation), and home values are still falling. The unsurprising result is consumers aren’t buying — which is causing employers to slow down their hiring and in many cases lay off more of their workers. In this universe, we’re locked in a vicious economic cycle that’s getting worse.

The other universe is the one in which Washington politicians live. They are now engaged in a bitter partisan battle over how, and by how much, to reduce the federal budget deficit in order to buy enough votes to lift the debt ceiling.

The two universes have nothing whatever to do with one another — except for one thing. If consumers can’t and won’t buy, and employers won’t hire without customers, the spender of last resort must be government. We’ve understood this since government spending on World War II catapulted America out of the Great Depression — reversing the most vicious of vicious cycles. We’ve understood it in every economic downturn since then.

Until now.

The only way out of the vicious economic cycle is for government to adopt an expansionary fiscal policy — spending more in the short term in order to make up for the shortfall in consumer demand. This would create jobs, which will put money in peoples’ pockets, which they’d then spend, thereby persuading employers to do more hiring. The consequential job growth will also help reduce the long-term ratio of debt to GDP. It’s a win-win.

This is not rocket science. And it’s not difficult for government to do this — through a new WPA or Civilian Conservation Corps, an infrastructure bank, tax incentives for employers to hire, a two-year payroll tax holiday on the first $20K of income, and partial unemployment benefits for those who have lost part-time jobs.

Yet the parallel universe called Washington is moving in exactly the opposite direction. Republicans are proposing to cut the budget deficit this year and next, which will result in more job losses. And Democrats, from the President on down, seem unable or unwilling to present a bold jobs plan to reverse the vicious cycle of unemployment. Instead, they’re busily playing “I can cut the deficit more than you” — trying to hold their Democratic base by calling for $1 of tax increases (mostly on the wealthy) for every $3 of spending cuts.

All of this is making the vicious economic cycle worse — and creating a vicious political cycle to accompany it.

As more and more Americans lose faith that their government can do anything to bring back jobs and wages, they are becoming more susceptible to the Republican’s oft-repeated lie that the problem is government — that if we shrink government, jobs will return, wages will rise, and it will be morning in America again. And as Democrats, from the President on down, refuse to talk about jobs and wages, but instead play the deficit-reduction game, they give even more legitimacy to this lie and more momentum to this vicious political cycle.

The parallel universes are about to crash, and average Americans will be all the worse for it.

The Biggest Driver in the Deficit Battle: Standard & Poor’s

from Robert Reich

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If you think deficit-reduction is being driven by John Boehner or Harry Reid, think again. The biggest driver right now is Standard & Poor’s.

All of America’s big credit-rating agencies — Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s — have warned they might cut America’s credit rating if a deal isn’t reached soon to raise the debt ceiling. This isn’t surprising. A borrower that won’t pay its bills is bound to face a lower credit rating.

But Standard & Poor’s has gone a step further: It’s warned it might lower the nation’s credit rating even if Democrats and Republicans make a deal to raise the debt ceiling. Standard & Poor’s insists any deal must also contain a credible, bipartisan plan to reduce the nation’s long-term budget deficit by $4 trillion — something neither Harry Reid’s nor John Boehner’s plans do.

If Standard & Poor’s downgrades America’s debt, the other two big credit-raters are likely to follow. The result: You’ll be paying higher interest on your variable-rate mortgage, your auto loan, your credit card loans, and every other penny you borrow. And many of the securities you own that you consider especially safe – Treasury bills and other highly-rated bonds – will be worth less.

In other words, Standard & Poor’s is threatening that if the ten-year budget deficit isn’t cut by $4 trillion in a credible and bipartisan way, you’ll pay more – even if the debt ceiling is lifted next week.

With Republicans in the majority in the House, there’s no way to lop $4 trillion of the budget without harming Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as education, Pell grants, healthcare, highways and bridges, and everything else the middle class and poor rely on.

And you thought Republicans were the only extortionists around.

Who is Standard & Poor’s to tell America how much debt it has to shed in order to keep its credit rating?

Standard & Poor’s didn’t exactly distinguish itself prior to Wall Street’s financial meltdown in 2007. Until the eve of the collapse it gave triple-A ratings to some of the Street’s riskiest packages of mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations.

Standard & Poor’s (along with Moody’s and Fitch) bear much of the responsibility for what happened next. Had they done their job and warned investors how much risk Wall Street was taking on, the housing and debt bubbles wouldn’t have become so large – and their bursts wouldn’t have brought down much of the economy.

Had Standard & Poor’s done its job, you and I and other taxpayers wouldn’t have had to bail out Wall Street; millions of Americans would now be working now instead of collecting unemployment insurance; the government wouldn’t have had to inject the economy with a massive stimulus to save millions of other jobs; and far more tax revenue would now be pouring into the Treasury from individuals and businesses doing better than they are now.

In other words, had Standard & Poor’s done its job, today’s budget deficit would be far smaller.

And where was Standard & Poor’s (and the two others) during the George W. Bush administration – when W. turned a $5 trillion budget surplus bequeathed to him by Bill Clinton into a gaping deficit? Standard & Poor didn’t object to Bush’s giant tax cuts for the wealthy. Nor did it raise a warning about his huge Medicare drug benefit (i.e., corporate welfare for Big Pharma), or his decision to fight two expensive wars without paying for them.

Add Bush’s spending splurge and his tax cuts to the expenses brought on by Wall Street’s near collapse – and today’s budget deficit would be tiny.

Put another way: If Standard & Poor’s had been doing the job it was supposed to be doing between 2000 and 2008, the federal budget wouldn’t be in a crisis — and Standard & Poor’s wouldn’t be threatening the United States with a downgrade if we didn’t come up with a credible plan for lopping $4 trillion off it.

So why has Standard & Poor’s decided now’s the time to crack down on the federal budget — when it gave free passes to Wall Street’s risky securities and George W. Bush’s giant tax cuts for the wealthy, thereby contributing to the very crisis its now demanding be addressed?

Could it have anything to do with the fact that the Street pays Standard & Poor’s bills?

EXCLUSIVE: Fired Army Whistleblower Receives $970K for Exposing Halliburton No-Bid Contract in Iraq

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)

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Halliburton_buttonBunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse, the former chief oversight official of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, has reached a $970,000 settlement six years after she was demoted for publicly criticizing a multi-billion-dollar, no-bid contract to Halliburton—the company formerly headed by then-Vice President Dick Cheney. Greenhouse had accused the Pentagon of unfairly awarding the contract to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root. Testifying before Congress in June 2005, she called the contract the worst case of government abuse she had ever witnessed in her 20-year career. Just two months after that testimony, Greenhouse was demoted at the Pentagon, ostensibly for “poor performance.” She had overseen government contracts for 20 years and had drawn high praise in her rise to become the senior civilian oversight official at the Army Corps of Engineers. With the help of the National Whistleblowers Center, Greenhouse filed a lawsuit challenging her demotion. In a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive, Greenhouse announces that a settlement has been reached in what is seen as a major victory for government whistleblowers. We’re also joined by Greenhouse’s attorney, Michael Kohn, and by Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center. [includes rush transcript]

Worth watching: Boeing and FAA investigative report

from AMERICAblog: A great nation deserves the truth by John Moyers

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At midnight last Friday, a Congressional funding impasse led the Federal Aviation Administration into partial shutdown. As a consequence, some 4,000 FAA workers have been furloughed. Although crucial air traffic control functions continue, airport construction and collection of ticket taxes will halt until some solution is worked out.ThinkProgress reported that the root of the shutdown is a GOP effort to strip FAA employees of union rights — what a surprise! According to the Washington Post, House Dems will introduce a bill to end the shutdown. But all this is just introduction, not the point of this post.

Seeking news about the FAA led me to this documentary which I highly recommend you watch. It’s about Boeing allegedly knowing that production of some aircraft has been faulty, yet doing nothing to fix the situation. Toward the end, the report gets into the ‘regulated-industry-as-customer’ approach to oversight that characterizes the worst of our corporate-captured government’s failure.
It’s a great piece of muckraking journalism by al Jazeera English, a multi-faceted story about which I’d heard nothing until now. It was originally published in late 2010 but it remains relevant. It’s a classic story of the public put into peril by corporate malfeasance in the name of profits, and enabled by higher-ups at a, ahemresponsivegovernment agency. There’s a cast of many, including honorable and courageous whistleblowers from the ranks of Boeing and the FAA — people who put their public-interest ethics ahead of their careers and paid the price. Well worth your time. It’s led me to check on which kind of aircraft I’ll be flying on later this summer. Really.

Video: Flash mob in DC calls out Wal-Mart

from PA Editors Blog by Political Affairs


Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On FAA Shut Down

from The WashTech Blog by Dan

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka
On FAA Shut Down
July 25, 2011

Yet again, the House Republicans are playing politics instead of building a strong, secure America. In another blatant example of political theater, the House Republicans refused to pass a routine measure to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), forcing lay-offs of thousands of FAA and construction workers, with tens of thousands more jobs at risk.

Republican members of Congress need to stop playing ideological games and get down to the serious business of creating jobs, instead of laying off FAA aviation experts and tens of thousands of construction workers, who are already experiencing close to 20 percent unemployment rates nationally. Adding insult to injury, just as the government reaches its debt limit, this disruption of the FAA means that aviation taxes – totaling up to $200 million a week – that normally fund our aviation infrastructure may instead end up in the airlines’ pockets.

The House Republicans are undertaking this extraordinary disruption of the operations of the FAA for one reason – to play to a political ideology focused on scapegoating workers. Instead of laying off the people responsible for safe, secure aviation, our elected leaders ought to be building a high wage, high skill economy where our middle class is strong and America thrives.


Right wing seeks to paint Breivik as neo-Nazi so as to disguise the truth, of shared beliefs

from Mondoweiss by Eleanor Kilroy

Carousel Norway ki 1350089vThe online edition of the Murdoch tabloid The Sun is still using the ‘Nazi’ tag for Anders Behring Breivik. In today’s print edition ‘Nazi’ has been replaced by ‘Devil’. Breivik had his own label for the leader of Nazi Germany: Hitler was ‘The great Satan’. From his compendium, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, under the section headingThe great Satan, his cult and the Jews:

Whenever someone asks if I am a national socialist I am deeply offended. If there is one historical figure and past Germanic leader I hate it is Adolf Hitler. If I could travel in a time-machine to Berlin in 1933, I would be the first person to go – with the purpose of killing him. Why?… Hitler had the military capabilities necessary to liberate Jerusalem and the nearby provinces from Islamic occupation. He could have easily worked out an agreement with the UK and France to liberate the ancient Jewish Christian lands with the purpose of giving the Jews back their ancestral lands. The UK and France would perhaps even contribute to such a campaign in an effort to support European reconciliation.The deportation of the Jews from Germany wouldn’t be popular but eventually, the Jewish people would regard Hitler as a hero because he returned the Holy land to them… Were the majority of the German and European Jews disloyal? Yes, at least the so called liberal Jews, similar to the liberal Jews today that opposes nationalism/Zionism and supports multiculturalism.

Jews that support multiculturalism today are as much of a threat to Israel and Zionism (Israeli nationalism) as they are to us. So let us fight together with Israel, with our Zionist brothers against all anti-Zionists, against all cultural Marxists/multiculturalists. Conservative Jews were loyal to Europe and should have been rewarded. Instead, he just targeted them all… So, are the current Jews in Europe and US disloyal? The multiculturalist (nation-wrecking) Jews ARE while the conservative Jews ARE NOT. Aprox. 75% of European/US Jews support multiculturalism while aprox. 50% of Israeli Jews does the same. This shows very clearly that we must embrace the remaining loyal Jews as brothers rather than repeating the mistake of the NSDAP. Whenever I discuss the Middle East issue with a national socialist he presents the anti-Israeli and pro-Palestine argument. He always seem unaware of the fact that his propaganda is hurting Israeli nationalists (who want to deport the Muslims from Israel) and that he is in fact helping the Israeli cultural Marxists/multiculturalists with his argumentation… Never target a Jew because he is a Jew, but rather because he is a category A or B traitor. And don’t forget that the bulk of the category A and B traitors are Christian Europeans. 90% of the category A and B traitors in my own country, Norway, are Nordic, Christian category A and B traitors.

It is customary for Israel loyalists and apologists to label progressive Jewish voices as ‘traitors’, and that at least is something they and Breivik can agree on: there are ‘Good Jews’ and ‘Bad Jews’, and bad Jews are ‘pro-Palestinian’. Right-wing and Zionist commentators yet refuse to acknowledge that the motives for this killing spree cannot be reduced to the influence of Nazism and violent Islamism. This political ideology should be feared for what it is: Fascism, with its (inevitably violent) struggle for racial purity, singular collective identity and defense of a superior culture ‘under threat’ from the morally degenerate Other – this ideology is alive and thriving in the west and Israel.

The Times, being a Murdoch broadsheet has employed the ‘Nazi’ tag more subtly in today’s op-ed by Ben Macintyre (who appears to be their resident expert on Nazism). The byline is “The resolute way that Norway stood up to the Nazis shows the futility of Anders Behring Breivik’s terrorism”. Once the journalist has established an association with violent Islamism, (“Bin Laden and Breivik may be on opposite sides of the conflict they both sought to inflame but they belong to the same school of apocalyptic non-history”), it is fast rewind to the 1940s: “The last time extremist evil erupted in Norwegian society on this scale it came in the shape of Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian fascist leader who seized power in an Nazi-backed coup as the Germans invaded Norway in 1940… Quisling, like Breivik, declined to kill himself after the horror… The spirit that sustained Norway under the Nazis is widely in evidence today… ”

Over at the CST (Community Security Trust) ‘Protecting the Jewish Community’ blog, they initially comforted themselves on Sunday that the self-confessed Norwegian killer could be grouped with Neo-Nazis: “Previously, most attempts by neo-Nazis or other adherents of far right ideologies to perpetrate terrorist attacks have failed for logistical reasons, but there are enough examples that succeeded…” As early as Saturday, Nottingham University’s Dr Matthew Goodwin, author of New British Fascism, had already explained in a piece for the Guardian that “The sources of [Breivik’s] ideological influences have started to become clear. He was far from what we might term a traditional rightwing extremist. While he was profoundly concerned about the effects of immigration, multiculturalism, Islam and the growth of settled Muslim communities, he was also dismissive of crude racial supremacist and neo-Nazi ideas and parties that espoused these ideas, naming for example the British National Party (BNP).” Late to catch up, CST published a blog post today in which the emerging facts entirely contradict their original thesis. They concede: “Breivik brackets multiculturalism with Communism, Islam and National Socialism as ‘hate ideologies’…”

The right-wing press in the west is desperately scrambling around trying to deflect attention from its own long-standing incitement of hatred towards Muslims and immigrants and dissociate itself from the ‘extreme’ right-wing, but it is only the crude nature of the expression of these racial supremacist ideas that it is disavowing.

Right wing media: Norway terrorist not Muslim but acts like it

Yes, the American right wing loons have their excuses lined up because you know, Christians are never terrorists. Forget about what you see in Northern Ireland because that also doesn’t count. Timothy McVeigh was a premature Muslim terrorist as well if you buy into their wacko theory. For that matter, ignore the US bombings in the name of the war on terror because sending guided missiles into foreign countries where the people aren’t white skinned doesn’t count. Killing innocent civilians only counts when it’s in the name of Islam because Christians could never do such a thing despite evidence to the contrary.

More from Media Matters.

Among the conservative to rush to judgment were Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post, CNN contributor Erick Erickson, and Andrew Breitbart’s The Breitbart website surmised that the attacks could have meant that Norway’s “big Muslim problem” had “just blown up in its face.” Erickson wrote via Twitter: “Terrorist bombing in Oslo. I bet you it was not Lutherans who did it.”

Now that they’re uninformed and ideologically motivated guesswork has been proven wrong, these same conservatives are adopting the “No True Scotsman” fallacy and claiming that Breivik’s abhorrent behavior was not that of a Christian, but more akin to that of a Muslim.

Norway Attacks Reveal Growing Violent, Anti-Muslim Sentiment in Europe

Anders Behring Breivik, who has admitted to the mass shooting and bombing in Norway, has been described as an anti-Islamic, right-wing extremist who claimed to be acting in order to save Norway and Europe from “Marxist and Muslim colonization.” To discuss the prevalence and legitimacy of these views, we speak with Kari Helene Partapuoli, the director of the Norwegian Center Against Racism. She says Breivik’s ideology was shaped in part by the Norwegian Defence League and the group Stop the Islamisation of Norway. “He didn’t just go on a shooting spree. He was also shaped by this political environment on the right wing,” says Partapuoli. [includes rush transcript]

Boycott Beck! Brands Child Victims Hitler Youth

from Informed Comment by Juan

Glenn Beck, who was purveyed to the American public in their millions by Time Warner’s CNN for some time, before he was picked up and built up by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Cable News, is obviously unstable and has done a good job of encouraging others to be unstable.

But on his radio show on Monday, he went so far that if he ever has another gig where he is allowed to address more than 50 people (and those would have to be fellow inmates in the asylum) it will be one of the great media travesties of all time.

As bereaved parents are burying and mourning their children, Beck said of Anders Breivik’s killing rampage at Utoya Island,

‘ “As the thing started to unfold and there was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler Youth. Who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing…” ‘

The audio link can be found here.

Beck himself sponsored a children’s political summer camp, to indoctrinate the poor things in Beckism, so his statement is doubly macabre.

The irony is that Beck, in painting ordinary political liberals as fascists, is projecting his own dark desires on liberal democracies. Mussolini’s banning of labor unions and punitive policies toward the poor are exactly what Beck calls for.

It is hard to know what provoked the heartless comment. One could speculate Beck cannot sympathize with Breivik’s victims because Breivik’s political philosophy and obsessions resemble Beck’s so much. But perhaps it isn’t support for Breivik that led Beck to his monstrous statement, but rather hatred for the Labor Party and its policies. But when you hate a mainstream political party so much that you display this level of indifference to human suffering, then it raises questions about the judgment of radio station owners who choose to push this excrement at us.

In contrast to Beck’s poisonous hatred, which for-profit radio is making money off of, some 100,000 Norwegians in Oslo, and more around the country, responded to Friday’s massacre by calling for nonviolence.

We should honor the dead children, and honor the masses of Norwegians who stood up for non-violence, by boycotting any radio company that carries his sick rants to six million people every day, as well as the products of the companies that pay to keep him on the air. Beck has a right to say what he wants to say. But he does not have a right to be picked up in syndication by private businesses, who can choose other programs if they like. Private businesses have obligations to their customers, and one of those obligations is not to purvey to them political pornography of this sort.



Glenn Greenwald: Norway Attacks Expose U.S. Media’s Double Standard on “Terrorism”

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by (Democracy Now!)

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Norway_glenn_buttonNumerous news outlets and commentators initially blamed the attacks in Norway on Islamic militants. Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper, The Sun, ran a front-page headline that read, “‘Al-Qaeda’ Massacre: Norway’s 9/11.” In the United States, Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal also initially blamed “jihadists,” reporting that “Norway is targeted for being true to Western norms.” Meanwhile, on the Washington Post’s website, Jennifer Rubin wrote, “This is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists.” To discuss the media coverage of the attacks, we’re joined by Glenn Greenwald, constitutional law attorney and political and legal blogger who has written about the media coverage of the attacks in Norway for “When it became apparent that Muslims were not involved and that, in reality, it was a right-wing nationalist with extremely anti-Muslim, strident anti-Muslim bigotry as part of his worldview, the word ‘terrorism’ almost completely disappeared from establishment media discourse. Instead, he began to be referred to as a ‘madman’ or an ‘extremist,'” says Greenwald. “It really underscores, for me, the fact that this word ‘terrorism,’ that plays such a central role in our political discourse and our law, really has no objective meaning. It’s come to mean nothing more than Muslims who engage in violence.” [includes rush transcript]

Washington Post on Norway

Read it and weep. On the Post’s site Jennifer Rubin first quotes the Weekly Standard, in a rushed item about the Norway horror:

>>We don’t know if al Qaeda was directly responsible for today’s events, but in all likelihood the attack was launched by part of the jihadist hydra. Prominent jihadists have already claimed online that the attack is payback for Norway’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan.<<

Then she goes on to argue on her own:

>>Moreover, there is a specific jihadist connection here: “Just nine days ago, Norwegian authorities filed charges against Mullah Krekar, an infamous al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist who, with help from Osama bin Laden, founded Ansar al Islam – a branch of al Qaeda in northern Iraq – in late 2001.”

This is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too expensive to wage a war against jihadists. I spoke to Gary Schmitt of the American Enterprise Institute, who has been critical of proposed cuts in defense and of President Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan. “There has been a lot of talk over the past few months on how we’ve got al-Qaeda on the run and, compared with what it once was, it’s become a rump organization. But as the attack in Oslo reminds us, there are plenty of al-Qaeda allies still operating. No doubt cutting the head off a snake is important; the problem is, we’re dealing with global nest of snakes.”<<

No, this is a sobering reminder for those who think it’s too tedious to reserve judgment about horrifying events rather than instantly turning them into talking points for pre-conceived views.” (thanks Nabeel)

O’Reilly’s Muslim-Hatred and Christian Terrorists

from Informed Comment by Juan

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Television commentator Bill O’Reilly lambasted the press for referring to Anders Breivik as a Christian terrorist, on the grounds that he was not a practicing Christian and on the grounds that no true Christian can be a terrorist and on the grounds that Christian fundamentalists are essentially different from Muslim fundamentalists (“those crazy jihadis”).

O’Reilly, who has engaged in hate speech toward Muslims of the sort that inspired Breivik’s violence, is in part trying to change the discussion so that his guilt in fostering an atmosphere of rancor is not brought up. In fact, O’Reilly has insisted that “Muslims killed us on 9/11,” the kind of ‘shouting fire in a theater” discourse that could easily get people killed.

Breivik is a “cultural Christian,” believing in a monocultural Christian Europe, and said he wants Protestants to return to the fold of Catholicism so as to present a united front. He also had a cult of the Knights Templar. I mean, it is not as if he was a Buddhist.

Ironically, Breivik’s form of Christianity is precisely like the “Islam” of many Muslim fundamentalists, who are only nominal Muslims but see the religion as a bulwark against Western dominance. Thus, many of the al-Qaeda figures were not particularly pious. Thus, September 11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah was from a secular Sunni family (an uncle was a Baathist) and he had a live-in Turkish girlfriend, and danced at a wedding not long before his horrible mass murder spree.

Since O’Reilly insists that Jarrah was a Muslim, we’d have on the same grounds to insist that Breivik is a Christian.

It is darkly humorous to see O’Reilly annoyed at Christianity being tarred with the brush of Breivik; now he knows what it was like for Muslims who had nothing to do with al-Qaeda (i.e. almost all of them) to suddenly fall under a cloud because of the actions of a small number of militants.

What of the argument that whereas a true Christian could never murder because the New Testament forbids it, the Qur’an commands holy war against infidels?

It is not actually clear that the New Testament is a pacifist document. Jesus says he brings a “sword.” Peter cut off the ear of the Roman soldier who came to arrest his master; you can’t cut off someone’s ear with a broadsword unless you were trying to kill him. And it was certainly Christian authorities who called for, e.g., the Crusades.

But it is equally important to stress that the Qur’an forbids murder. The command to fight in the Qur’an is against militant polytheists of Mecca who were trying to wipe out the Muslims– i.e. it is about self-defense. Islamic law forbids terrorizing people or depriving people of life and property when they have done nothing wrong. Christians and Jews in traditional Muslim society were under the law guaranteed the right to life and property, though of course in the real world sometimes there were pogroms (just as Christians conducted pogroms against Muslims and Jews despite the fine words in the New Testament). Classical Muslim law forbids individual laypersons just to declare jihad one morning; it has to be declared by duly constituted Muslim authorities. Today’s Muslim terrorists are not authorized by any major Muslim religious authority, and have been condemned by all the ones that count.

So the “jihadis” are no more exemplars of believing Islam than Breivik is of believing Christianity. O’Reilly delivered himself of a self-loving and bigotted diatribe.

As for whether believing Christians can be terrorists, of course they can. The Crusades often involved terrorism (the use of violence against innocent civilians by non-state actors for political purposes). They don’t call it theWars of Religion in France for nothing (they are why France is not today a largely Protestant country). There were some believing priests in the IRA (again, they may have had legitimate grievances, but killing innocents is not OK). More recently we have the example of the murders of physicians who perform surgery to terminate pregnancies. Or post-colonial movements like the Lord’s Resistance Army.

O’Reilly is just engaged in special pleading. He is embarrassed at how much like his own diatribes parts of Anders Breivik’s Manifesto sound. Ironically, he uses exactly the same arguments about the transcendental virtue of Christianity that Muslim fundamentalists use about Islam.

O’Reilly has ambushed guests and whipped up bigotry and sexually harassed co-workers (remember the loofah?). That he is a major voice on American television tells you how weird the media environment is in the US. Imagine what it was like for Norwegians to hear that Glenn Beck had compared the innocent children shot down by Breivik to Hitler Youth. And now they will hear from O’Reilly that Breivik was a) not a Christian and b) that Breivik’s views on Islam and Muslims were correct. American “news” is being Breivikized before our eyes.

The Cult That Is Destroying America

from Paul Krugman by By PAUL KRUGMAN

Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis — a wholly self-inflicted crisis, which may nonetheless have disastrous consequences — it’s increasingly obvious that what we’re looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

And no, I don’t mean the fanaticism of the right. Well, OK, that too. But my feeling about those people is that they are what they are; you might as well denounce wolves for being carnivores. Crazy is what they do and what they are.

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

And yes, I think this is a moral issue. The “both sides are at fault” people have to know better; if they refuse to say it, it’s out of some combination of fear and ego, of being unwilling to sacrifice their treasured pose of being above the fray.

It’s a terrible thing to watch, and our nation will pay the price.

Murdochalypse Now

from War Times blogs by Jen Soriano

Q – What do you call a media empire that has been deliberately used to shape public opinion in favor of the Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libyan wars?

A – A Weapon of Mass Destruction

To me, that’s not an overstatement. According to PressTV, Murdoch admitted that his “media empire had done its best to shape public opinion of the wars”. Given this, and also that FOX News was the most watched news network for coverage of the Iraq war between 2003 and 2006 (according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), it’s clear to me that the Fox News outfit has earned its distinction as perhaps the first Weapon of Mass Destruction of the Media Kind (related to WMD of the Financial Kind, the derivatives that caused the foreclosure disaster).

Fox has uniquely been able to influence the masses of viewers as well as decision-makers that these wars have been good to fight. And they have been — for News Corporations’ profits. And at the expense of thousands upon thousands of Iraq, Afghan, now Libyan, Pakistani people’s and US soldiers’ lives.

I think it’s a general universal law that your ends determine your means, so if one of the main ends of the Murdoch empire was to promote military aggression in the Middle East for the sake of economic and cultural dominance (this has also been shown through Murdoch’s comments and practices over the years), then it came as no surprise to me whatsoever that his media empire would use means characteristic of police and military aggression to pump out their own Texas tea (in this case, sensationalist and outright inhumane material to sell New of the World).

Hacking into phones. A classic surveillance tactic with a history of use and abuse against war resisters, human rights activists, and revolutionaries. It may be a new low of barbarism to have used this tactic against a family desperate to find their missing child.

But such are the consequences of the marriage of military, corporate, and media empire.

And of course there’s the war at home that Fox has waged on people of color, especially African-Americans and Latinos — through its gleeful airing of the likes of Glenn Beck, Patrick Buchanan, and Bill O’Reilly not to mention the host of new younger pundits who spew the same crap. The Center for Media Justice monitored Fox radio in the mid 2000s, and Color of Change has recently tracked the many racist trangressions of Fox broadcasting and has a Turn off Fox online campaign. One thing’s for sure – Fox does not subscribe to the generally liberal delusion of a colorblind society.

The horrors of their racist, deceptive, and violence-inciting coverage must end.

This could be accomplished by say, completely dismantling of the Fox “News” empire. Short of that, we need to continue to confront the racism, the threats, the lies, and undermine Fox’s authority to pass as “news”. Strip it of its political influence, and starve it of its advertising resources.

Murdochalypse is a good beginning to this end.

A couple years ago, most of us would have thought Murdoch was too big to fail. But he overstretched his empire, and in this moment I can’t resist quoting Jimmy Cliff – “The Harder They Come, The Harder They’ll Fall — One and All”

This entry was posted in Corporations, Corruption, Deficit, Islamophobia, Israel, Medicare, Obama, Social Security, Terrorism, UltraRight. Bookmark the permalink.

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