Published: Tuesday 16 July 2013

After watching Bill Moyers­­­­­­’ PBS Frontline piece: "Two American Families,” I have a compelling urge to write on the current political scene and why it perturbs me. In the post-recession period, where Barack Obama has been elected for a second run in the Oval office, the idealism in the country isn’t shot; it’s that lofty pragmatism, fueled with a general mistrust and apathy in government, that has hijacked the spotlight; and furthermore, unyielding party politics renders the 113th Congress dysfunctional as Jonathan Weisman puts it aptly for The New York Times.

Presently, Congress has failed our youth, allowing interest rates on new federal loans to double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent, at a time when education couldn’t be more important for folks in the lower rungs, desperate to claim a decent living from the shameful income inequality and distribution of wealth in America. (Watch "Park Avenue" or read “A Tax System Stacked Against The 99 Percent.”)

Even comprehensive Immigration reform, a priority of President Obama's second term, reeks of desperation on the Senate’s and the President’s part, and in the process of passing this hallmark legislation through the House of Representatives, what is clear, is draconian measures in securing the Southern Border - by throwing 46 billion dollars to a

Published: Friday 21 June 2013

It was an eventful day for President Obama in Belfast, as he addressed the people of Northern Ireland,  particularly the younger generation - urging them to imagine and work to live beyond the constructs and conservativeness of the reigning generation - to secure peace and prosperity, both domestically and in the global front. And, despite the grinding deadlock in Congress, or the recent irks in his administration pertaining to the handling of leaks and the conflicting case of Edward Snowden, and his erratic foreign policy execution in Syria - as Obama may have been egged to intervene in Syria, but supplying low-grade weapons to the rebels isn't going to stem the rising death toll of 93,000 Syrian lives, lest alone topple Assad's regime, which remains well-financed and backed by Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah in Lebanon - I admire Obama's personal vision for the future of my generation.

On the trade side of things - which was on the official agenda of the G8 Summit - Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the POTUS, Barack Obama in Lough Erne, announced the launch of ...

Published: Tuesday 15 January 2013
“The bottom line is that President Obama and many leading Democrats are prepared to give seniors a larger hit to their income than they gave to the over $250,000 crowd.”

According to inside Washington gossip, Congress and the President are going to do exactly what voters elected them to do; they are going to cut Social Security by 3 percent. You don’t remember anyone running on that platform?  Yeah, well, they probably forgot to mention it.

Of course some people may have heard Vice President Joe Biden when he told an audience in Virginia that there would be no cuts to Social Security if President Obama got re-elected. Biden said:

“I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.”

But that’s the way things work in Washington. You can’t expect the politicians who run for office to share their policy agenda with voters. After all, we might not like it. That’s why they say things like they will fight for the middle class and make the rich pay their fair share. These ideas have lots of appeal among voters. Cutting Social Security doesn’t.

While the politics of cutting Social Security are bad, it also doesn’t make much sense as ...

Published: Saturday 12 January 2013
Published: Tuesday 8 January 2013
Published: Tuesday 8 January 2013
Kerry has repeatedly demonstrated an incredible level of hubris and arrogance regarding American military power.

 

President Obama's selection of John Kerry as the next secretary of state sends the wrong signal to America's allies and adversaries alike. Though one of the more progressive members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier in his career, Kerry later became a prominent supporter of various neoconservative initiatives, including the invasion and occupation of Iraq, undermining the authority of the United Nations, and supporting Israeli militarism and expansionism.

Kerry was an outspoken supporter of the Bush Doctrine, which declares that the United States has the right to unilaterally invade foreign countries, topple their governments, and occupy them indefinitely if they are deemed to pose even a hypothetical threat against the United States. In 2002, he voted against an unsuccessful resolution authorizing the president to use force against Iraq only if the United Nations Security Council permitted such force under the UN Charter and instead voted for an alternative Republican resolution, which authorized President Bush to invade that oil-rich country unilaterally in violation of the UN Charter.

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Published: Tuesday 8 January 2013
Make no mistake: the war against Social Security has been launched.

 

The all-out assault on Social Security has begun.

The set-up for the big battle was the Fiscal Cliff charade. That hyped drama in the last days of December was a moment of truth for the Democratic Party and for President Barack Obama to make it clear whether they were still defenders of the New Deal legacy, or whether they were ready to toss Social Security overboard on behalf of the party’s new constituency: the Wall Street gang.

The president and the Democrats in House and Senate could have said there would be no deal on the artificial Fiscal Cliff that was created by Congress back in August 2011 unless Congressional Republicans agreed not to hold the nation hostage again this February over the issue of raising the national debt ceiling. Republicans were in a weak position, since if the “cliff” deadline were allowed to pass, the Bush tax cuts would have expired. They would have been put in the position of being unable to pass new legislation restoring tax cuts for the wealthy, while Democrats could have forced them to pass tax cuts for those in the middle and lower classes.

Instead of doing that, the president and his vice president, former Senator from the über-corporate headquarters state of Delaware, Joe Biden, offered a “compromise” that give tax breaks to the 1% of Americans who earn between $250,000 and $400,000 a year, protected up ...

Published: Thursday 3 January 2013
Published: Monday 31 December 2012
Reed believes something has to be done soon to fight against the rapid reconfiguration of the United States into a corporate, feudal state. But he is not sure the Occupy movement is the answer.

Ishmael Reed has spent the last five decades smashing idols—idols of race, idols of capitalism, celebrity idols and the idols of national virtue and greatness. His essays, novels, poems, plays, songs and cartoons routinely shatter the delusions and myths of a nation stubbornly unwilling to confront its past or understand its present. He rips open a history that saw white Europeans exterminate one race and enslave another to create the nation’s prosperity, a past that includes the violent plundering of nations around the globe—Cuba, the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan among them—to show us who we have become. He names the corrosive disease of empire. He excoriates what Alexis de Tocqueville called our “perpetual practice of self-applause.” He battles back against the sophisticated forms of propaganda—especially from Hollywood—that perpetuate patriotic fantasies and pander to the dark streams of paranoia, racism and fear that run like electric currents through white society.

Reed’s righteous fury is a heartening antidote to the squeamishness of liberals and the lunacy of the right wing. He says the editors of The New York Times and most other major media outlets “sound like they get their instructions from Julius Streicher [the Nazi propagandist] when it comes to blacks.” He calls the HBO series “The Wire” “a Neo-Nazi portrait of black people” and dismisses the movie “Precious” as a film that “makes D.W. Griffith look like a ...

Published: Saturday 29 December 2012
Published: Thursday 27 December 2012
Published: Tuesday 25 December 2012
It was clear the President was a good man and a deeply-committed father of young children.

 

The tendency to identify manhood with a capacity
for physical violence has a long history in America.

- Marshall Fishwick

Violence is as American as cherry pie.
- H. Rap Brown
 
Watching President Barack Obama wipe away a tear as he spoke to the nation on the day a 20-year-old Adam Lanza dressed himself up like a Navy SEAL and took out 20 little kids and six of their teachers, it was clear the President was a good man and a deeply-committed father of young children.

The same day, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted the President’s touching emotions but quickly stressed it was time to strike hard and fast on gun control legislation. The problem of violence in America had gone unaddressed for decades and weapons were becoming more accessible and more lethal.

Meanwhile, Dan Rather told Rachel Maddow he felt President Obama returned to his first term M.O. and caved in to the right on the Susan Rice nomination for Secretary of State. Rather felt the President didn’t like to initiate fights and that when they came or were on the horizon, his first move, before the fight even began, was to concede and seek a centrist compromise.

 

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Published: Sunday 23 December 2012
President Barack Obama has selected Senator John Kerry as his next Secretary of State.

U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Massachusetts Senator John Kerry on Friday to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, calling him “the perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead”.

But Obama offered no hints as to whom he will pick for the rest of his national security team, including replacements for Pentagon chief Leon Panetta and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director General David Petraeus (retired), who resigned abruptly last month in the wake of reports of an affair.

The White House reportedly intended to announce its picks for all three posts Friday but backed off, primarily in response to an intense campaign led by prominent neo-conservatives and leaders of the Israel lobby against the possibility of former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as head of the Pentagon.

Hagel, who currently serves as co-chair of the president’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and like Kerry is a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has come under heavy fire for his outspoken criticism of Israeli policies and the influence of the Israel lobby on Capitol Hill.

Published: Thursday 20 December 2012
Published: Thursday 20 December 2012
No One Thinks So, But It Just Might Happen

 

Here’s the question no one is asking as 2012 ends, especially given the effusive public support the Obama administration offered Israel in its recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza: Will 2013 be a year of confrontation between Washington and Jerusalem?  It’s on no one’s agenda for the New Year. But it could happen anyway.

It’s true that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process appears dead in the water. No matter how much Barack Obama might have wanted that prize, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rebuffed him at every turn.  The president appears to have taken it on the chin, offering more than the usual support for Israel and in return getting kloom (as they say in Hebrew).  Nothing at all.

However, the operative word here is “appears.” In foreign affairs what you see -- a show carefully scripted for political purposes -- often bears little relation to what you actually get.

While the Obama administration has acceded to the imagery of knee-jerk support for whatever Israel does, no matter how outrageous, behind the scenes its policies are beginning to look far less predictable. In fact, unlikely as it may seem, a showdown could be brewing between the two countries. If so, the outcome will depend on a complicated interplay between private diplomacy and public theater.

The latest well-masked U.S. intervention came in the brief November war between Israel and Gaza. It began when Israel assassinated a top Hamas leader deeply involved in 

Published: Thursday 20 December 2012
Tick tock. Ten days left. The hostages wait for forces beyond their control to decide their fate.

 

President Obama criticized House Speaker John Boehner’s “Plan B” proposal today because it  lacks an extension for unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless.

If the president fails to win on this issue, two million people will face tough choices. The mortgage or the car payment? Go to the doctor or hope for the best? Cash in the 401(k) or take the kids out of college?

Tick tock. Ten days left. The hostages wait for forces beyond their control to decide their fate.

Yet it is up to all of us. Will we send these two million unfortunates a brochure with their last check? A few words of encouragement and instructions for signing up for the food stamps that Republicans love to hate? Don’t forget to say “Happy New Year.”

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Published: Tuesday 18 December 2012
Published: Tuesday 18 December 2012
Why Zero Dark Thirty Won’t Settle the Torture Question or Purge Torture From the American System

 

If you look backward you see a nightmare. If you look forward you become the nightmare.

There’s one particular nightmare that Americans need to face: in the first decade of the twenty-first century we tortured people as national policy. One day, we’re going to have to confront the reality of what that meant, of what effect it had on its victims and on us, too, we who condoned, supported, or at least allowed it to happen, either passively or with guilty (or guiltless) gusto. If not, torture won’t go away. It can’t be disappeared like the body of a political prisoner, or conveniently deep-sixed simply by wishing it elsewhere or pretending it never happened or closing our bureaucratic eyes. After the fact, torture can only be dealt with by staring directly into the nightmare that changed us -- that, like it or not, helped make us who we now are.

The president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made it clear that no further investigations or inquiries will be made into America’s decade of torture. His Justice Department failed to prosecute a single torturer or any of those who helpedcover up evidence of the torture practices.  But it did deliver a jail sentence to one

Published: Sunday 16 December 2012
Published: Thursday 13 December 2012
Published: Thursday 13 December 2012
Why the Formerly Grand Old Party Needs to Change and Won’t

 

Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next.  Some Republicans -- and many Democrats -- now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo.  Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the U.S. heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party.  Others say: not so fast.

In the month since 51% of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I’ve spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators, and voters.  While the Party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.

Do any of their proposals exhibit a willingness to make the kind of changes the GOP will need to attract members of the growing groups that the GOP has spent years antagonizing like Hispanics, Asian Americans, unmarried women, secular whites, and others?  In a word: no.

Instead, from my informal survey, it looks to this observer (and former Republican) as if the party is betting all its money on cosmetic change.  Think of it as the Botox ...

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
Abu-Jamal, who was a young activist in the Black Panthers and later one of the most important radical journalists in Philadelphia, a city that a few decades earlier produced I.F. Stone, has long been the bête noire of the state.

I am sitting in the visiting area of the SCI Mahanoy prison in Frackville, Pa., on a rainy, cold Friday morning with Mumia Abu-Jamal, America’s most famous political prisoner and one of its few authentic revolutionaries. He is hunched forward on the gray plastic table, his dreadlocks cascading down the sides of his face, in a room that looks like a high school cafeteria. He is talking intently about the nature of empire, which he is currently reading voraciously about, and effective forms of resistance to tyranny throughout history. Small children, visiting their fathers or brothers, race around the floor, wail or clamber on the plastic chairs. Abu-Jamal, like the other prisoners in the room, is wearing a brown jumpsuit bearing the letters DOC—for Department of Corrections.

Abu-Jamal was transferred in January to the general prison population after nearly 30 years in solitary confinement on death row and was permitted physical contact with his wife, children and other visitors for the first time in three decades. He had been sentenced to death in 1982 for the Dec. 9, 1981, killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. His sentence was recently amended to life without parole. The misconduct of the judge, flagrant irregularities in his trial and tainted evidence have been criticized by numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International.

Abu-Jamal, who was a young activist in the Black Panthers and later one of the most important radical journalists in Philadelphia, a city that a few decades earlier produced I.F. Stone, has long been the bête noire of the state. The FBI opened a file on him ...

Published: Sunday 9 December 2012
The Republicans should not have been caught off-guard by Americans’ interest in issues like disenfranchisement and gender equality

 

After a hard-fought election campaign, costing well in excess of $2 billion, it seems to many observers that not much has changed in American politics: Barack Obama is still President, the Republicans still control the House of Representatives, and the Democrats still have a majority in the Senate. With America facing a “fiscal cliff” – automatic tax increases and spending cuts at the start of 2013 that will most likely drive the economy into recession unless bipartisan agreement on an alternative fiscal path is reached – could there be anything worse than continued political gridlock?
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In fact, the election had several salutary effects – beyond showing that unbridled corporate spending could not buy an election, and that demographic changes in the United States may doom Republican extremism. The Republicans’ explicit campaign of disenfranchisement in some states – like Pennsylvania, where they tried to make it more difficult for African-Americans and Latinos to register to vote – backfired: those whose rights were threatened were motivated to turn out and exercise them. In Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor and tireless warrior for reforms to protect ordinary citizens from banks’ abusive practices, won a seat in the Senate.

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Published: Saturday 8 December 2012
Published: Thursday 6 December 2012
Published: Thursday 6 December 2012
“With an Obama 2.0 administration soon to be in place, the time to solve the immensely complex Iranian nuclear drama is now.”

In Election 2012’s theatre-of-the-absurd “foreign policy” debate, Iran came up no less than 47 times. Despite all the fear, loathing, threats, and lies in that billionaire’s circus of a campaign season, Americans were nonetheless offered virtually nothing substantial about Iran, although its (non-existent) WMDs were relentlessly hawked as the top U.S. national security issue. (The world was, however, astonished to learn from candidate Romney that Syria, not the Persian Gulf, was that country’s “route to the sea.”)

Now, with the campaign Sturm und Drang behind us but the threats still around, the question is: Can Obama 2.0 bridge the gap between current U.S. policy (we don't want war, but there will be war if you try to build a bomb) and Persian optics (we don't want a bomb -- the Supreme Leader said so -- and we want a deal, but only if you grant us some measure of respect)? Don’t forget that a soon-to-be-reelected President Obama signaled in October the tiniest of possible openings toward reconciliation while talking about the “pressure” he was ...

Published: Thursday 6 December 2012
Will the United States ever change its policy of obstructing international action to stop climate change? If so, the political pressure to change the country’s role will have to come from the American people.

As the second week of international climate negotiations begins here in Doha, Qatar, rich and poor countries are staking out very different positions and digging in their heels. The big debates on the floor are about how rich and poor countries will strike a deal to reduce their emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases. And the provision of fair and effective financing for clean development, adaptation to climate change, and compensation for loss and damages is emerging as the make-or-break flashpoint

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Published: Wednesday 5 December 2012
NASA plans to send a new rover to Mars in 2020 as it prepares for a manned mission to the Red Planet. This announcement came a day after NASA released the results of the first soil tested by the Curiosity rover. Traces of some of the compounds like water and oxygen that are necessary for life were found. President Barack Obama's administration "is committed to a robust Mars exploration program”, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. The design of the new rover will be based on Curiosity in order to cut costs and reduce risks of engineering errors.
Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
How a Community Organizer and Constitutional Law Professor Became a Robot President

President Barack Obama 

The White House 

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW 

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Obama,

Nothing you don’t know, but let me just say it: the world’s a weird place. In my younger years, I might have said “crazy,” but that was back when I thought being crazy was a cool thing and only regretted I wasn’t.

I mean, do you ever think about how you ended up where you are? And I'm not actually talking about the Oval Office, though that’s undoubtedly a weird enough story in its own right.

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Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
Published: Monday 3 December 2012
Now that the voting is past, a group of independent advisers to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly urged her to consider pursuing an informal accord with Russia aimed at lowering the number of nuclear weapons the two countries might deploy under existing treaties

 

The Pentagon’s budget is almost assuredly going down in coming years, under heavy pressure from those who wish to trim the federal deficit and see the agency – whose budget increased by two-thirds over the last decade – as a ripe target. But it also looks like a specific weapon system,  the nation’s stockpile of nuclear warheads, is also headed down, with Barack Obama’s reelection.

This is not a great surprise. Obama promised in a 2009 speech in Prague, after all, that the U.S.-Russian arms control treaty he was then negotiating “will set the stage for further cuts.” But the administration’s planning was not detailed publicly before the election to avoid creating controversy.

Now that the voting is past, a group of independent advisers to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has publicly urged her to consider pursuing an informal accord with Russia aimed at lowering the number of nuclear weapons the two countries might deploy under existing treaties. Its report, issued Nov. 27, has also acknowledged official support for deeper cuts inside the administration.

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Published: Saturday 1 December 2012
Published: Saturday 1 December 2012
“America’s national debt has more than doubled in the past five years, and is set to rise to more than 100% of GDP over the next decade unless changes in spending and taxes are implemented.”

The United States may be headed for a recession in 2013. Even if the country avoids going over the “fiscal cliff,” a poorly designed political compromise that cuts the deficit too quickly could push an already weak economy into recession. But a gradual phase-in of an overall cap on tax deductions and exclusions (so-called tax expenditures), combined with reform of entitlement spending, could achieve the long-run fiscal consolidation that America needs without risking a new recession.

The US economy has been limping along with a growth rate of less than 2% during the past year, with similarly dim prospects in 2013, even without the shock of the fiscal cliff.  That is much too weak a pace of expansion to tolerate the fiscal cliff’s increase in tax rates and spending cuts, which would reduce demand by a total of $600 billion – about 4% of GDP – next year, and by larger sums in subsequent years.

President Barack Obama’s proposed alternative to the fiscal cliff would substantially increase tax rates and limit tax deductions for the top 2% of ...

Published: Saturday 1 December 2012
Thursday unveiled a major new strategy for pushing towards achieving an “AIDS-free generation.”

 

At perhaps a critical turning point in the global fight against HIV/AIDS, the U.S. government, the single largest funder in that fight, on Thursday unveiled a major new strategy for pushing towards achieving an “AIDS-free generation”, the stated U.S. goal.

The far-reaching new blueprint for what’s known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is being widely lauded, yet little attention has been given to a document, published in October, that stipulates how new PEPFAR funding can be used. According to that guidance, “PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities.”

While this would include a broad set of contraception, under PEPFAR definition, condoms – a central component in comprehensive AIDS-prevention strategies around the world – are not considered “family planning”, and thus the ban does not apply to condom procurement.

Still, such a line was not included in a similar directive offered last year, and some now say that it indicates President Barack Obama’s capitulation to conservative forces in the United States – with potentially negative ramifications on the ground.

“The language in the guidance was put there to make clear what exactly (PEPFAR) could and couldn’t pay for – that’s problematic,” Mary Beth Hastings, with the Center for Health and Gender Equity, a Washington advocacy group, told IPS.

“We believe strongly that funding for family planning is critical, especially in countries where there is no funding from USAID (the United States’ foreign aid department) for family planning or where there are very few services for family planning.”

Published: Friday 30 November 2012
“President Barack Obama proclaimed in his victory speech on Nov. 6 this year, just over a week after Superstorm Sandy devastated New York City and much of New Jersey, killing more than 100 people.”

 

The annual United Nations climate summit has convened, this year in Doha, the capital of the oil-rich emirate of Qatar, on the Arabian Peninsula. Dubbed “COP 18,” an army of bureaucrats, business people and environmentalists are gathered ostensibly to limit global greenhouse-gas emissions to a level that scientists say will contain the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.8 degrees Fahrenheit), and perhaps stave off global climate catastrophe. If past meetings are any indication, national self-interest on the part of the world’s largest polluters, paramount among them the United States, will trump global consensus.

“We want our children to live in an America ... that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet,” President Barack Obama proclaimed in his victory speech on Nov. 6 this year, just over a week after Superstorm Sandy devastated New York City and much of New Jersey, killing more than 100 people. These are fine aspirations. The problem is, action is needed now to avert the very scenario that President Obama has said he wants to avoid. The United States, which remains the greatest polluter in world history, stands as one of the biggest impediments to a rational global program to stem global warming.

Latest findings suggest that the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius may now be beyond reach, and that we may now be locked into a 4- to 6-degree temperature increase. “The only way to avoid the pessimistic scenarios will be radical transformations in the way the global economy currently functions: rapid uptake of renewable energy, sharp falls in fossil fuel use or massive deployment of CCS [carbon capture and storage], removal of industrial emissions and halting deforestation.” These are not the words of some wild-eyed environmental activist, but from business advisers at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP ...

Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
It seems insane that this nation’s leaders, corporate and political, would even now still be deliberately refusing to take action to protect the Earth, which of course they and their children and grandchildren will also have to live on, and yet almost to a one they are on the side of the deniers or the delayers.

 

What if the leaders of the United States -- and by leaders I mean the generals in the Pentagon, the corporate executives of the country’s largest enterprises, and the top officials in government -- have secretly concluded that while world-wide climate change is indeed going to be catastrophic, the US, or more broadly speaking, North America, is fortuitously situated to come out on top in the resulting global struggle for survival?

I’m not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but this horrifying thought came to me yesterday as I batted away yet another round of ignorant rants from people who insist against all logic that climate change is a gigantic fraud being perpetrated, variously, by a conspiracy of the oil companies who allegedly want to benefit from carbon credit trading, the scientific community, which allegedly is collectively selling out and participating in some world-wide system of omerta in order to get grants, or the world socialist conspiracy, which of course, is trying to destroy capitalism), or all the above. (God, whenever I write anything on climate change these people hit me with flame-mail like mayflies spattering a car windshield in mating season!)

What prompted me to this dark speculation about an American conspiracy of inaction was the seemingly incomprehensible failure of the US -- in the face of overwhelming evidence that the Earth is heating up at an accelerating rate, and that we are in danger of soon reaching a point of no return where the process feeds itself -- ...

Published: Tuesday 27 November 2012
Published: Monday 26 November 2012
“Israel launched Operations Summer Rains and Autumn Clouds in 2006, and Hot Winter and Cast Lead in 2008 -- all involving ground invasions.”

 

“There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” President Barack Obama said at a press conference last week. He drew on this general observation in order to justify Operation Pillar of Defense, Israel’s most recent military campaign in the Gaza Strip. In describing the situation this way, he assumes, like many others, that Gaza is a political entity external and independent of Israel. This is not so. It is true that Israel officially disengaged from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, withdrawing its ground troops and evacuating the Israeli settlements there. But despite the absence of a permanent ground presence, Israel has maintained a crushing control over Gaza from that moment until today.

The testimonies of Israeli army veterans expose the truth of that “disengagement.” Before Operation Pillar of Defense, after all, Israel launched Operations Summer Rains and Autumn Clouds in 2006, and Hot Winter and Cast Lead in 2008 -- all involving ground invasions. In one testimony, a veteran speaks of “a battalion operation” in Gaza that lasted for five months, where the soldiers were ordered to shoot “to draw out terrorists” so they “could kill a few.”

Israeli naval blockades stop Gazans from fishing, a main source of food in the Strip. Air blockades prevent freedom of movement. Israel does not allow building materials into the area, forbids exports to the West Bank and Israel, and (other than emergency humanitarian cases) prohibits movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. It controls the Palestinian economy by periodically withholding import taxes. Its restrictions have impeded the expansion and upgrading of the Strip’s woeful sewage infrastructure, which could render life in Gaza untenable within a decade. The blocking of seawater desalination has turned the water ...

Published: Saturday 24 November 2012
Published: Thursday 22 November 2012
Published: Thursday 22 November 2012
Dear Lord, indeed! Please save us from the pathetic pieties of such messianic political bosses.

 

The sky is falling! The end times are upon us! It's all over for America! And it's all because of you execrable voters.

This is the wretched wail of a few corporate chieftains who claim to be somewhere between flummoxed and furious that Barack Obama is back in the White House. With his diabolical Obamacare and tax-the-rich attacks on us wealthy job creators, they moan, this president is out to destroy American business. "There's a tsunami coming," cried one, so we must save ourselves.

How do these trembling titans of free enterprise intend to do that? By firing employees, thus sending a message to workers that voting for Democrats is bad for their health.

"Elections have consequences," exclaimed a Las Vegas boss, after offing 22 workers the day after Obama was re-elected. Echoing this self-serving political ethic, a Georgia owner of an aviation outfit told C-SPAN that his fear of Obamacare made him fire enough workers to exempt his business from providing health care. "I tried to make sure that the people I had to lay off voted for Obama," he noted, spewing spite.

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Published: Thursday 22 November 2012
Four years ago, candidate Obama made a commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder with working people if their rights were ever threatened. That time has come.

 

With Barack Obama’s reelection last night, we witnessed the labor movement once again, as in every successful Democratic presidential race in recent decades, saving the president. Its ground troops and financial backing provided the bulwark to shore up Obama’s lead against Romney. By aiding in Obama's victory, unions helped avert the crisis that the election of Romney/Ryan would have represented—an attack not only on organized labor, but on women's rights and the whole of the social safety net.

But what, in terms of a positive agenda, should working people expect that's different from when President Obama was first elected? After the election of the last two Democratic presidents, organized labor had a clear legislative priority to hand to the successful candidate—the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in the case of Obama’s first term, and a proposed ban on striker replacement in the case of President Clinton. In both cases, labor waited for the White House to lead on those issues, and that never happened. Neither EFCA nor the striker replacement ban came to pass.

This time around, labor does not have a single marquee piece of legislation that it is rallying around. We already know that any worker-friendly legislation that the White House advances will certainly face a blockade from Congressional Republicans. But that's no excuse for the president to neglect using the bully pulpit to stand in defense of the rights of ...

Published: Wednesday 21 November 2012
“With his diabolical Affordable Care Act and tax-the-rich attacks on us wealthy job creators, they moan, this president is out to destroy American business.”

The sky is falling! The End Times are upon us! It's all over for America! And it's all because of you working-class voters.

That's the wretched wail of a few corporate chieftains who claim to be somewhere between flummoxed and furious that Barack Obama is getting another four years in the White House. With his diabolical Affordable Care Act and tax-the-rich attacks on us wealthy job creators, they moan, this president is out to destroy American business.

How are these trembling titans of free enterprise responding? By firing employees, thus sending a message to workers that voting for Democrats is bad for them. "Elections have consequences," exclaimed one Las Vegas boss, who asked for anonymity when he explained on a radio show why he fired 22 workers the day after Obama's re-election.

Echoing this self-serving political ethic, a man who also claimed to be a business owner but wouldn't identify himself other than as "Stu" told C-SPAN that his fear of Obamacare made him fire enough workers to exempt his business from providing health care. "I tried to make sure that the people I had to lay off voted for Obama," he noted.

Then there's Papa John's, the billion-dollar-a-year fast food giant. John Schnatter, the company's CEO and founding "papa," had warned this summer that he'd jack-up the consumer price of the chain's pizza if Obama won, because he wasn't going to eat the cost of assuring health coverage for employees.

Post-election, however, Schnatter decided not to slap his customers, but to smack Papa John's workers instead, by cutting their hours to part-time so he doesn't have to pay for their health coverage. "That's what you do," Schnatter snapped, "you pass on costs."

Published: Tuesday 20 November 2012
Despite China’s greater weight in world affairs, Xi faces internal strains that make China more fragile than is generally understood.

 Xi Jinping, China’s newly anointed president, made his first visit to the United States in May 1980. He was a 27-year-old junior officer accompanying Geng Biao, then a vice premier and China’s leading military official. Geng had been my host the previous January, when I was the first US defense secretary to visit China, acting as an interlocutor for President Jimmy Carter’s administration.
 

Americans had little reason to notice Xi back then, but his superiors clearly saw his potential. In the ensuing 32 years, Xi’s stature rose, along with China’s economic and military strength. His cohort’s ascent to the summit of power marks the retirement of the last generation of leaders designated by Deng Xiaoping (though they retain influence).

Despite China’s greater weight in world affairs, Xi faces internal strains that make China more fragile than is generally understood. China’s export-led economic model has reached its limits, and the transition to domestic-led growth is intensifying internal frictions. Managing unrest through repression is more difficult than in the past, as rapid urbanization, economic reform, and social change roils a country of 1.3 billion people. Ethnic conflicts in outlying regions will also test Xi’s political control.

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Published: Monday 19 November 2012
Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“The turmoil surrounding Ms. Rice is totally trumped up and the media, once again, is acting like a parade of willing propaganda puppets.”

 

Once again, the Republicans have raised a false alarm with the aim of embarrassing Obama and  obstructing the policy process.  This time, it's foreign policy and the object of Republican bile is UN Ambassador Susan Rice, rumored to be at the top of Obama's short list to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.  The turmoil surrounding Ms Rice is totally trumped up and the media, once again, is acting like a parade of willing propaganda puppets.

 

The "controversy" involves the tragic attack in Benghazi, Libya last September.  The incident resulted in the death of four US citizens, including US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.  When the attack occurred, Ms Rice was given the unenviable task of explaining what happened on morning talk shows.  Her account, based on talking points supplied by intelligence agencies, portrayed the Benghazi siege as a spontaneous protest exploited by extremists.  For whatever reason, she failed to say it was a premeditated terrorist attack.  "Within days," writes New York Times reporter Mark Landler, "Republicans in Congress were calling for her head."

 

Why?  A cover up, what else?  A conspiracy to bamboozle the American people into believing that President Obama, an African-American whose Kenyan father was raised in a Muslim family, was trying to hide his complicity in the attack.  And who else would he pick to be his accomplice but Susan Rice, another African-American?  NOW do you see the perfidy in this evil plot?  WELL, DO YOU?

 

A word about Susan Rice.  She's a Rhodes scholar, earned degrees ...

Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an oil and gas industry front group, CEA Counsel John Northington said he believes a ‘Keystone XL North’ rubber stamp is in the works by the Obama Administration.”

The Tar Sands Blockade of TransCanada Corporation's "Keystone XL South" continues in Texas, but former members of the Clinton and George W. Bush cabinets believe the northern half will soon be green-lighted by President Barack Obama. 

In a Nov. 13 conference call led by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an oil and gas industry front group, CEA Counsel John Northington said he believes a "Keystone XL North" rubber stamp is in the works by the Obama Administration. 

“I think the Keystone will be approved in fairly short order by the administration,” Northington said on the call.

Northington has worn many hats during his long career:

[He] served in the Clinton Administration at the Department of the Interior as Senior Advisor to the Director of the Bureau of Land Management. Mr. Northington also served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management with energy policy responsibility for the former Minerals Management Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Mr. Northington began his government service at the Department of Energy, ...

Published: Saturday 17 November 2012
Published: Saturday 17 November 2012
Published: Saturday 17 November 2012
“Keystone XL is a means for reckless expansion of the tar sand industry, which is game over for the climate.”

This Sunday, activists are organizing another round of protests at the White House to urge the President to kill the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This marks the beginning of a new post-election campaign to pressure the Administration to abandon dirty fossil fuel projects. Below is a piece, written by three of the organizations leading the protests: Oil Change International, 350.org, and Bold Nebraska.

As the President kicks off his second term, there has been much chatter about town as to whether or not he will approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Mitt Romney made it clear that he would approve the pipeline on his first day in office—and even went so far as to say he would build it himself if he had too—while the President has emphasized the importance of climate change and renewable energy.

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Published: Saturday 17 November 2012
“Barack Obama campaigned for president pledging to respect state marijuana laws and his Justice Department in 2009 issued a memo reiterating that promise. But by 2011, the same Justice Department countermanded that directive and authorized a federal crackdown.”

 

What's next? Amid all the munchie-themed jokes from reporters, political elites and late-night comedians, this remains the overarching question after Coloradans voted overwhelmingly to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in the same way alcohol is already legalized, regulated and taxed. Since those anti-Drug-War principles are now enshrined in Colorado's constitution, only the feds can stop this Rocky Mountain state — if they so choose. But will they? And should they even be able to?

The answer to the former is maybe. Barack Obama campaigned for president pledging to respect state marijuana laws and his Justice Department in 2009 issued a memo reiterating that promise. But by 2011, the same Justice Department countermanded that directive and authorized a federal crackdown. Now, with the results of the 2012 election, Colorado's Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has been forced into the awkward position of fighting off the feds in defense of a state constitutional amendment he tried to defeat.

Because of Hickenlooper's cynical contradictions — the beer mogul opposed pot legalization after making millions selling the more hazardous drug called alcohol — he is not trusted by those pushing for a more rational narcotics policy. That distrust only intensified after the election. Instead of acknowledging the seriousness of a Drug War that is unduly arresting thousands and that often disproportionately targets minorities, Hickenlooper reacted to the ballot measure's passage with his own infantile attempt at comedy.

"Don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly," he snickered.

Not surprisingly, proponents of the pot initiative, which passed with more votes than either Obama or Hickenlooper have ever received in Colorado, weren't laughing with the governor. They suspect Hickenlooper's recent consultations with ...

Published: Friday 16 November 2012
“It’s amusing that at this late date, the Republican who distanced himself from health care reform claims that Obamacare helped Obama to win.”

 

Trying to explain away his decisive, sweeping and very expensive rout to his disappointed supporters — those one-percent Republicans — Mitt Romney offered a new version of the discredited "47 percent" argument that was so ruinous in its original form. In a Wednesday afternoon conference call, the defeated Republican nominee told donors and fundraisers that President Obama had won by lavishing generous "gifts" upon certain groups, including young voters, African-Americans and Latinos.

"With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest was a big gift," said Romney, after apologizing for losing what he called a "very close" election (he lost by more than 100 electoral votes and more than 1 percent of the popular vote, perhaps as much as 4 percent when all the state results are eventually certified).

"Free contraceptives were very big with young, college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because, as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents' plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2009 ... Likewise, with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group."

It's amusing that at this late date, the Republican who distanced ...

Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
As the movement for that strong social safety net grows around the world, and locally here at home, the mandate is clear: Austerity is not the answer.

Amaia Engana didn’t wait to be evicted from her home. On Nov. 9, in the town of Barakaldo, a suburb of Bilbao in Spain’s Basque Country, officials from the local judiciary were on their way to serve her eviction papers. Amaia stood on a chair and threw herself out of her fifth-floor apartment window, dying instantly on impact on the sidewalk below. She was the second person in two weeks in Spain to commit suicide as a result of an impending foreclosure action. Her suicide has added gravity to this week’s general strike radiating from the streets of Madrid across all of Europe. As resistance to so-called austerity in Europe becomes increasingly transnational and coordinated, President Barack Obama and the House Republicans begin their debate to avert the “fiscal cliff.” The fight is over fair tax rates, budget priorities and whether we as a society will sustain the social safety net built during the past 80 years.

The general strike that swept across Europe Nov. 14 had its genesis in the deepening crisis in Spain, Portugal and Greece. As a result of the global economic collapse in 2008, Spain is in a deep financial crisis. Unemployment has surpassed 25 percent, and among young people is estimated at 50 percent. Large banks have enjoyed bailouts while they enforce mortgages that an increasing number of Spaniards are unable to meet, provoking increasing numbers of foreclosures and attempted evictions. “Attempted” because, in response to the epidemic of evictions in Spain, a direct-action movement has grown to prevent them. In city after city, individuals and groups have networked, creating rapid-response teams that flood the street outside a threatened apartment. When officials arrive to deliver the ...

Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012
“All the early indicators are that the second term Obama will be a lot like the first term one.”

 

PART I  --  Positives and Negatives

 

Barack Obama won reelection last week (6 November 2012). And, what was the Left’s reaction?  “So what?”  Well, we are spared four years of Mitt Romney.  Again,  “so what?  They are both two peas from the same pod.”  Well maybe, but even peas can vary.  Here are some positive differences to consider.  These will be followed by some negative similarities to Romney and his conservative advisers.  We will start with the bright side:

 

-- In terms of probabilities,  under Obama the U.S. is less likely to find itself at war with Iran then would be the case with Romney.  On such issues as war in the Middle East, Obama seems to be able to think relatively independently while Romney, by his own admission, can’t tell the difference between U.S. interests and those of racist Israel. 

 

-- Obama took a sensible attitude toward the Arab Spring uprising except, of course, in Bahrain where its support for the monarchy was lamentable to say the least.  Romney’s reaction would have been to ring up Netanyahu and ask him what to do.  

 

-- On issues of women’s rights, Gay rights, environmental and educational concerns an Obama administration is much preferable to a Romney one.

 

-- If there are Supreme Court vacancies in the next four years we are much less likely to have extreme conservatives nominated than would have been the case under Mitt Romney.

 

-- Obama dropped Bush’s torture ...

Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012
“Overall, the Republican Tea Party was slammed not simply because Democrats ran terrific campaigns, but because so many core GOP contradictions imploded, then exploded, the huge price for living too long in deluded bubbles.”

Enough uplifting, all-purpose notions why Obama and Democrats prevailed, some pertinent (like demographics), many laughable: it was Sandy the storm, tons of “stuff” Obama promised, or Democratic voter repression (right!). “No, no,” shout disbelievers, “Mitt was too moderate, or too extreme, his V.P. too fixated.” Or Obama was simply superior on the stump. Below such media noise rumbles a larger tectonic, thus my nomination for what made this election significant: a gang of rightwing contradictions reared up, then crashed and burned.  


  
While this trend transcends any one folly, Romney was the ideal, fossilized Republican awash in a fantasy golden age when bountiful bosses generated jobs and pampered laborers. Likewise, what bizarre political deviance tabbed Paul Ryan as more than a shrill ideologue with zero national clout? For the first time, both misfits atop a ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
“Lawmakers appear to be out of touch with public opinion.”

 

President Obama and Congress now have just over seven weeks to reach an agreement on the federal budget that would avert a round of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts in defense and social programs that members of both parties have depicted as draconian.

Jan. 1 is the deadline set by the so-called “sequestration” law of 2010 that imposes substantial cuts automatically – over a ten-year period – if the government fails to whack away at the federal deficit. Front and center in the punishment will be the Defense Department, which accounts for a fifth of all federal spending and about a half of so-called “discretionary” funds, or those that lawmakers review and approve annually.

Fifty program areas at the Pentagon would collectively take a roughly $500 billion hit, which seems like a lot but would actually be less than ten percent of the $5.8 trillion that the Obama administration wants the Pentagon to spend from 2013 to 2021. Military leaders have complained fiercely, partly because the Obama administration last year chose to halt a planned 16 percent increase in defense spending, keeping the military’s budget essentially level after a decade of steep growth.

Only a few Democrats and Republicans on ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that no one understands this better than the profiteering electioneers cashing in on Democracy, Inc.

 

The pundit class has offered a slew of postmortems in the attempt to extract meaning in the aftermath of the 2012 elections. Missing from the majority of these analyses altogether: the real winner of the 2012 election.  No, not Democratic Party President-elect Barack Obama nor Republican candidate Mitt Romney, but rather what Portland State University Professor of Urban Studies and Planning called the “Global Electioneering” industry in his 2005 book by that namesake.  “Corporate domination, centralization, and professionalization of political space have eliminated almost all but limited symbolic participation of ordinary people” in the electoral politics, Sussman explained in the first chapter of his book. On Nov. 10, The Washington Post reported that tens of millions of dollars were made by private consultants during the 2012 presidential campaign alone, writing:

In the presidential race alone, the two main media firms working for President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney earned profits for handling more than half a billion dollars of campaign advertising, according to disclosures and ad tracking data. Neither company is required to report how much it received in compensation for that work, but their combined cut could easily be $25 million or more at standard industry rates. 

Other big earners were the digital strategy companies, telemarketing firms, air charter services, pollsters and consultants who saw a spike in business in a presidential contest that cost at least $2.6 billion. The surge in spending was a ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
The corporate state, faced with rebellion from within and without, does not know how to define or control this rising power, from the Arab Spring to the street protests in Greece and Spain to the Occupy movement.

 

The presidential election exposed the liberal class as a corpse. It fights for nothing. It stands for nothing. It is a useless appendage to the corporate state. It exists not to make possible incremental or piecemeal reform, as it originally did in a functional capitalist democracy; instead it has devolved into an instrument of personal vanity, burnishing the hollow morality of its adherents. Liberals, by voting for Barack Obama, betrayed the core values they use to define themselves—the rule of law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions, the preservation of social welfare programs, environmental accords, financial regulation, a defiance of unjust war and torture, and the abolition of drone wars. The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become. 

“The American Dream has run out of gas,” wrote the novelist J.G. Ballard. “The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now. …”

Liberals have assured us that after the election they will build a movement to ...

Published: Tuesday 13 November 2012
Community organizers around the country worked overtime to hand the election to President Barack Obama. Now we need him to stand up for our values and vision.

President Obama’s big win last Tuesday was a victory for the middle class, a rejection of trickle-down economics, and a statement from a new generation of Americans that they are a force to be reckoned with

But most of all, it was a vindication for the much-maligned community organizer.

Remember all those folks on the right who mocked the organizers who work patiently and tirelessly in communities across the country? The way they tried to tar President Obama for passing up lucrative opportunities to instead take a job as an organizer on the South Side of Chicago? Recall, if you can bear it, Sarah Palin

Published: Sunday 11 November 2012
Published: Sunday 11 November 2012
“A far-left charge against those of us who rallied to support the incumbent was that we were fearful and lacked imagination.”

There was a lot less dancing in the streets this Election Day than in 2008, when the nation celebrated the election of the first African-American president. But progressives can nonetheless feel great relief at the re-election of Barack Obama. 

 

A far-left charge against those of us who rallied to support the incumbent was that we were fearful and lacked imagination. I plead guilty. I was fearful of energized conservatives eager to have the country run by an asset-stripping vulture capitalist. I was fearful of the vast waves of SuperPAC money that flooded Pennsylvania, where I live, with ads crucifying anyone who would challenge the goodness of the coal industry. 

 

Probably because of my lapsed subscription to the Weekly Standard, I received a robo-call last week from Dick Morris, urging me to donate money to his favorite cause: none other than the infamous group Citizens United. Conservatives, Morris’s recorded voice intimated, not only had a chance to oust Obama; they had an opportunity to “decimate the radical left.” At that point, I was concerned that we had become fearful too late. 

 

At the same time, I do not have illusions about what the White House will deliver in the next four years. Those who refused to vote for Obama may have been wrong if they argued that “there is no difference” between the two main parties, but they are surely correct that the Democrats have pushed dangerously to the right and that the left is hitched to them at its peril. 

 

I supported voting for Obama on the grounds that social movements are stronger when they can battle against tepid centrists in office than when forced into rear-guard battles against elected conservatives with a rabid desire to attack unions, ...

Published: Sunday 11 November 2012
“Under President Barack Obama, the number of drone strikes carried out by the United States has soared, with more than 300 UAV attacks reported in Pakistan alone.”

“Sometime they’ll give a war and nobody will come,” the American poet Carl Sandburg wrote hopefully in 1936. His sentiment seems more apt than ever nowadays, but not because humanity has turned pacifistic. Rather, wars are increasingly fought remotely, with drones – or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – doing the killing.

 

Under President Barack Obama, the number of drone strikes carried out by the United States has soared, with more than 300 UAV attacks reported in Pakistan alone. In March 2011, the US Air Force for the first time trained more pilots for drones than for any other purpose.

 

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Barbara Lochbihler, click here.

 

This raises serious ethical questions. With no military personnel risking their lives, UAVs make it easier to kill, and to justify war operations to the public at home. Moreover, a human being’s reticence to kill is inversely related to the distance between attacker and target. In the case of a pilot flying drones over Yemen by operating a joystick in Nevada, the threshold to pulling the trigger is dangerously low. Killing is just a part of the job, to be followed by bowling, perhaps, or a quiet evening at home.

Meanwhile, the mere sound of drones terrorizes whole populations, indicating to enemies and civilians alike that they are being watched and might be attacked at any moment – which could well play into the hands of terrorist recruiters.

From a legal and human-rights point of view, the US drone ...

Published: Saturday 10 November 2012
Organizations co-founded by the GOP’s most effective fundraiser spent more than $175 million only to see President Barack Obama win a second term and Democrats actually gain seats in the U.S. Senate.

If Karl Rove was an NFL coach and not a political strategist, he would probably be looking for a new job about now.

Organizations co-founded by the GOP’s most effective fundraiser spent more than $175 million only to see President Barack Obama win a second term and Democrats actually gain seats in the U.S. Senate.

According to a Center for Public Integrity review of spending records, Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads, went 3-10 during the 2012 election cycle, while Crossroads GPS, its nonprofit counterpart, went 7-17. The two groups, which were both active in a handful of contests, had a combined 9-21 record.

When asked by Fox News host Chris Wallace on Election Night if his groups’ spending was “worth it,” Rove was unapologetic: "Look, if groups like Crossroads were not active, this race would have been over a long time ago.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Collegio, the spokesman for the two Crossroads organizations, has maintained that “sub-optimal candidate quality” contributed to Republican losses in the Senate and that his groups will be a “permanent entity on the center-right.”

“By leveling the financial playing field, conservative super PACs kept this race close and winnable all the way until the end,” Collegio told the Center for Public Integrity. “Our ...

Published: Friday 9 November 2012
“All of us suddenly sobered folks, who voted for Barack Obama because the alternative was so horridly wrong, have got to accept the moral implications of that choice. ”

Yes, election night was a heck of a party and it’s great that the really bad guys lost. Karl Rove and his reactionary ilk were defeated by a new American majority that is younger, more tolerant, rainbow colored and multilingual and one in which women now trump the depressing ignorance of so many older white men. But morning in America already feels too much like a hangover. The house is still a wreck, the family is dysfunctional and there are enormous bills to pay that are not about to go away.

All of us suddenly sobered folks, who voted for Barack Obama because the alternative was so horridly wrong, have got to accept the moral implications of that choice. We won but at what cost? Fool me once, shame on Obama, but fool me twice and I’m the one responsible. That goes for his promises to right the economy by leveling the playing field as well as to end what Obama termed in his victory speech “a decade of war.”

It is now our fingers on the video game buttons that order the drones to kill innocent civilians, and we bear responsibility if the president maintains the Guantanamo gulag and continues to vilify Bradley Manning and Julian Assange for confronting America with its war crimes. Will he make good on his promise to hold the line on the incessant demands of the congressional defense contractor caucus or will he find yet another “good war”?

What about our expectation that Obama will be more vigilant than his vulture capitalist opponent in reining in the greed of the Wall Street crowd that has caused so much economic turmoil? The good news is that Obama, and his party, are far less beholden to the titans of the financial industry than they were the first time around. His own funding from top Wall Street firms that favored him in 2008 was way down, and across the country voters rejected the deregulation and lower tax on high roller income that the finance industry thought it ...

Published: Friday 9 November 2012
“Now that the election is over, what steps can the president and new Congress take to ensure our nation’s ongoing clean-energy leadership?”

The election is over and the people have spoken. After months of highly-charged attacks, lively and lackluster debate performances, and never-ending punches and counterpunches, Barack Obama has prevailed as the winner of the 2012 election. It won’t be an easy job. Mr. Obama will need to enable the creation of millions of new jobs, embolden U.S energy, environmental, and national security, and lead our country into a robust economic future – all while dealing with a sharply divided electorate.

 

Now that the election is over, what steps can the president and new Congress take to ensure our nation’s ongoing clean-energy leadership? Here are five actions for Mr. Obama that, if implemented, we believe would supercharge the U.S.’s clean-tech economy:

1) Open Up Master Limited Partnerships to Renewables and Efficiency

After the energy crisis of the 1970s, Congress created an effective investment structure to support domestic oil, natural gas, coal extraction, and pipeline projects called Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs). These tax-advantaged structures now comprise more than $220 billion in assets, and on average return between five and 12 percent annually to their investors. The president should call on Congress, in a bipartisan manner, to open up these same investment tools to renewables as soon as possible. There’s no reason that fossil fuels should get special treatment, and this effective investment structure is well suited to renewables which have their own built-in annuity streams (electricity generation from a solar, wind, or geothermal installation, for example, could provide a regular revenue stream to investors). U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware) has written a bill entitled the MLP Parity Act, which if enacted, could level the playing field and open up ...

Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
“The collapse of sardine fisheries in the southern Caribbean during the past decade may have been driven by global climate change, according to a study.”

Investors wasted no time running from what had been a nice little three-month rally in coal stocks ahead of the 2012 presidential election. [Market Watch]

US President Barack Obama has hinted he will make another push to fight climate change after cruising to a new term, but his room for maneuver will be limited even with a new focus after megastorm Sandy. [AFP]

Barack Obama’s invocation of “the destructive power of a warming planet” in his victory speech has stoked ...

Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
“Back in 2007 during his campaign tour, Obama addressed the serious issue of GMOs with a promise that he would immediately ‘let folks know’ whether or not they are consuming GMOs through proper labeling.”

With the passing of election day 2012, massive awareness was spread throughout the country thanks to the California GMO labeling bill known as Proposition 37. While the bill did not pass through California legislation due to the many dirty tactics employed by the ‘No on 37′ campaign such as falsely using FDA backing and even sending out fake voting flyers, it has truly invigorated the discussion on proper GMO labeling. Labeling that was promised back in 2007 by the newly re-elected Barack Obama.

Back in 2007 during his campaign tour, Obama addressed the serious issue of GMOs with a promise that he would immediately ‘let folks know’ whether or not they are consuming GMOs through proper labeling. You can hear the statement yourself in the video below:

Now more than 5 years later, Obama has not addressed the issue of GMO labeling — at least not in the way you might think. Instead, Obama appointed the former Vice President of Monsanto Michael Taylor as a senior adviser to the FDA back in 2009. Taylor is currently a Deputy Commissioner for Foods for the FDA. These are the facts, and this is not a partisan issue. I am not a republican, nor am I a democrat. I am, however, against Monsanto and tumor-linked genetically modified organisms. I am also for the direct labeling of genetically modified foods, an initiative that was promised 5 years ago by Obama before he took office for the first time.

Meanwhile, concerned citizens around the country has been demanding GMO labeling through numerous outlets. Polls indicate that anywhere from 93-95% of United States citizens are in favor of labeling GMOs. After all, if the general public actually knew that most of what they are consuming contains GMOs they simply would no longer eat them. Ultimately, corporations using GMOs ...

Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
“People organized around this country, fighting for a more just, sustainable world. Now the real work begins.”

The election is over, and President Barack Obama will continue as the 44th president of the United States. There will be much attention paid by the pundit class to the mechanics of the campaigns, to the techniques of microtargeting potential voters, the effectiveness of get-out-the-vote efforts. The media analysts will fill the hours on the cable news networks, proffering post-election chestnuts about the accuracy of polls, or about either candidate’s success with one demographic or another. Missed by the mainstream media, but churning at the heart of our democracy, are social movements, movements without which President Obama would not have been re-elected.

President Obama is a former community organizer himself. What happens when the community organizer in chief becomes the commander in chief? Who does the community organizing then? Interestingly, he offered a suggestion when speaking at a small New Jersey campaign event when he was first running for president. Someone asked him what he would do about the Middle East. He answered with a story about the legendary 20th-century organizer A. Philip Randolph meeting with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Randolph described to FDR the condition of black people in America, the condition of working people. Reportedly, FDR listened intently, then replied: “I agree with everything you have said. Now, make me do it.” That was the message Obama repeated.

There you have it. Make him do it. You’ve got an invitation from the president himself.

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Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
“As this storm has shown, those who will bear the brunt of extreme weather in the future will be those who are already struggling to survive. ”

On Tuesday morning, as New Yorkers were beginning to vote, 60 polling stations had been either destroyed or turned into emergency shelters. Above the same waters that had flooded many of the city’s coastal neighborhoods a week before, I and other Occupy movement activists hung a banner at the midpoint of the Manhattan Bridge. With the intention of drawing a line between the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy and fossil fuels, it said, “Got climate change blues? Fuhgeddabout fossil fuels!”

Six days earlier, on Halloween night, I pedaled past that same spot. Everything below 39th Street, with the exception of the Empire State Building, was dark. Locals took to referring to Lower Manhattan as the “dead zone.” Areas of the city like Red Hook, Rockaway and Staten Island had been inundated with floodwaters and scarred by electrical fires. Public transit was completely shut down, and fuel scarce. People had taken to riding bicycles, for more reasons than one. In Brooklyn, for instance, the direct action bike troop Times Up! set up a bicycle generator — the same one used to power Zuccotti Park last fall — to help Manhattan refugees streaming over the Williamsburg Bridge power their cellphones and call their loved ones.

This was just one tiny facet of a massive do-it-yourself relief effort that New Yorkers have mounted after the storm. It’s also one of many attempts to show that this storm and the suffering it has caused are intimately related to the business that the dark towers of Lower Manhattan symbolize.

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Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Had any CEO -- especially a bold, venture capitalist and quarter-billionaire who hates high taxes -- plus a Mormon -- ever come closer to seizing the White House?”

Note: Professional ethics, if not bodily safety, entails keeping the source for this putative concession draft as secret as Mitt keeps his top bundlers (fundraisers), tax returns, offshore accounts, et al. Romney deviated from Barack Obama, George W. Bush and John McCain by refusing to identify his deepest pockets, sources so terrified of publicity the details of all meetings remain hush-hush.   

 

My true Americans:

 

Even if we fall short in the end, think what first-time, historic thresholds we've established: a self-made, self-effacing finance guy nearly dislodged Mr. Silver-tongued, Minority-loving, Incumbent Populist. One more week -- and one less darn super-storm -- and who knows?   Even Reagan might have lost if Carter had a hurricane behind him.

 

Of course, hats off it to any hustler who outscores my accomplished operation, even if one idiot advisor brought up Etch-a-Sketching. Heck, we'd have gotten plastered without being all things to all voters. So unselfishly, I agreed that neither my past nor principles would stand in the way of winning. I make no apology, however, for identifying that slothful 47% of yokels. I knew all along Obama only had to patch 3% liberals to the 47% losers to reach his gullible majority.  

 

But look how close we came, an outsider taking on huge odds and the two slickest incumbents to ever come down the pike, Obama and Bill Clinton. Had any CEO -- especially a bold, venture capitalist and quarter-billionaire who hates high taxes -- plus a Mormon -- ever come closer to seizing the White House? Never, and President Ryan in 2016 will acknowledge this breakthrough by naming me ambassador to France, or Treasury secretary, oh, Federal Reserve chiefdom would do.       

 

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Adelson was top backer of the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future super PAC, with $20 million in donations.”

Money can't buy happiness, nor can it buy an election, apparently.

The top donors to super PACs in 2012 did not fare well — casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the No. 1 super PAC contributor with more than $53 million in giving, backed eight losers at this writing.

Adelson was top backer of the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future super PAC, with $20 million in donations. Romney lost to President Barack Obama. In addition, Adelson's contributions to super PACs backing U.S. Senate candidates in Florida, Virginia and New Jersey were also for naught.

He was not the only conservative billionaire who had a bad night.

Contran Corp. CEO Harold Simmons, (No. 2), homebuilder Bob Perry (No. 3) and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, (No.4), also bet on Romney. Collectively, the trio gave $13.4 million to Restore Our Future, and Ricketts’ super PAC, Ending Spending Action Fund, spent an additional $9.9 million helping Romney’s failed bid.

The super donor winner of the night was Newsweb Corp. CEO Fred Eychaner (No. 5). Eychaner gave $3.5 million to pro-Obama super PAC Priorities ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Over the weekend, long lines were reported across the state as voters braved cold weather to line up for hours at the polls. Even longer lines were reported in Florida, where early voters waited for up to six hours to cast their ballot.

With the presidential election just one day away, 11th-hour Republican voter suppression could swing the critical battleground state of Ohio for GOP nominee Mitt Romney. On Friday, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted issued a last-minute directive which could invalidate a large number of legal provisional ballots by placing the burden on the voter to correctly record the form of identification provided to election officials. Over the weekend, long lines were reported across the state as voters braved cold weather to line up for hours at the polls. Even longer lines were reported in Florida, where early voters waited for up to six hours to cast their ballot. We’re joined from Cleveland by Ari Berman, contributing writer for The Nation magazine and author of "Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics."

AMY GOODMAN: Well, there are problems around voting outside of Superstorm Sandy, so we’re going to go to Ohio right now. As Mitt Romney and President Obama push for a strong Election Day turnout, the 2012 election will likely wind up setting a record for early voting. More than 1.6 million people have already voted in the critical battleground state of Ohio, either at the polls or with absentee ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
Kafka was right: The modern world has made the irrational rational.

I learned at the age of 10, when I was shipped off to a New England boarding school where the hazing of younger boys was the principal form of recreation, that those who hunger for power are psychopathic bastards. The bullies in the forms above me, the sadistic masters on our dormitory floors, the deans and the headmaster would morph in later life into bishops, newspaper editors, college presidents, politicians, heads of state, business titans and generals. Those who revel in the ability to manipulate and destroy are demented and deformed individuals. These severely diminished and stunted human beings—think Bill and Hillary Clinton—shower themselves, courtesy of elaborate public relations campaigns and an obsequious press, with encomiums of piety, patriotism, devoted public service, honor, courage and vision, not to mention a lot of money. They are at best mediocrities and usually venal. I have met enough of them to know.

So it is with some morbid fascination that I watch Barack Obama, who has become the prime “dominatrix” of the liberal class, force us in this election to plead for more humiliation and abuse. Obama has carried out a far more egregious assault on our civil liberties, including signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), than George W. Bush. Section 1021(b)(2), which I challenged in federal court, permits the U.S. military to detain American citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities. U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest struck down the ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
This election is about picking the lesser of two evils.

It’s crunch time, and I want to be on record, just in case some still undecided independent voter cares what I think. And one might, since I did write a decidedly nonpartisan book on the origins of the economic crisis entitled “The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street.” I have been a harsh critic of Barack Obama for continuing that bipartisan capitulation to Wall Street, but on this and every other matter of serious contention in this election, Mitt Romney is decidedly worse.

A vote for Obama in a swing state is a no-brainer, because, on a host of issues, including immigration, women’s rights, gay rights, health care, campaign finance, income inequality, tax breaks for the rich and the legitimacy of trade unions, there is a vast partisan difference that should not be ignored. It matters greatly who appoints an anticipated two justices to the Supreme Court, which is already dominated by right-wing ideologues.

In a state where a protest vote will not elect Romney, a vote for the Green Party’s admirable Jill Stein, the consistent Libertarian Gary Johnson, or the populist Rocky Anderson sends an appropriate but measured signal of contempt for the sorry state of our two-party system.

That disgust is warranted by the fact that this president has followed the broad ideological outlines of his predecessor on national security. Witness the continuing assault on due process that is the island prison of ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
“The climate -- the heating oceans breeding stronger storms, melting the ice and raising the sea level, breaking the patterns of the weather we had always had into sharp shards: burning and dying forests, floods, droughts, heat waves in January, freak blizzards, sudden oscillations, acidifying oceans.”

 

The first horseman was named al-Qaeda in Manhattan, and it came as a message on September 11, 2001: that our meddling in the Middle East had sown rage and funded madness. We had meddled because of imperial ambition and because of oil, the black gold that fueled most of our machines and our largest corporations and too many of our politicians. The second horseman came not quite four years later. It was named Katrina, and this one too delivered a warning.

Katrina’s message was that we needed to face the dangers we had turned our back on when the country became obsessed with terrorism: failing infrastructure, institutional rot, racial divides, and poverty. And larger than any of these was the climate -- the heating oceans breeding stronger storms, melting the ice and raising the sea level, breaking the patterns of the weather we had always had into sharp shards: burning and dying forests, floods, droughts, heat waves in January, freak blizzards, sudden oscillations, acidifying oceans.

The third horseman came in October of 2008: it was named Wall Street, and when that horseman stumbled and collapsed, we were reminded that it had always been a predator, and all that had changed was the scale -- of deregulation, of greed, of recklessness, of amorality about homes and lives being casually trashed to profit the already wealthy. And the fourth horseman has arrived on schedule.

We called it Sandy, and it came to tell us we should have listened harder when the first, second, and third disasters showed up. This storm’s name shouldn’t be Sandy -- though that means we’ve run through the alphabet all the way up to S this hurricane season, way past brutal Isaac in August -- it should be Climate Change.  If each catastrophe came with a message, then this one’s was that global warming’s here, that the old rules don’t apply, and that not doing anything about ...

Published: Monday 5 November 2012
Published: Monday 5 November 2012
“You can be a patriotic American with all the rights of citizenship even if your first language is Spanish.”

 

To be a Democrat in 2012 probably (liberals never ever agree on everything) means you believe:

 

1.  Every man, woman, and child in America has a right to affordable health care.

 

2.  You can be a patriotic American with all the rights of citizenship even if your first language is Spanish.

 

3.  Pretending to put the good of the country above personal gain while firing workers and outsourcing everything possible to India is dishonest and hypocritical, not to mention un-American.

 

4.  Banks too big to fail cannot be trusted to make financial decisions affecting the well-being of us all without regulation but a woman can be trusted with decisions about her own body.

 

5.  This president did not cause the Great Recession; the conservative extremists in Congress sought to thwart him at every turn because as Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in an interview in the National Journalon October 23, 2010, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

 

6.  Jesus loves you even if you're are a socialist, homosexual, pacifist, Rastafarian, vegan, tree-hugger, African-American, union member, or your Kenyan father was raised in a Muslim family.  

 

7.  Corporations are not people.  If it doesn't have a heart, it's not a person.  If it has more rights than people, it's a corporation. 

 

8.  The difference between people and corporations is obvious unless you're on the Supreme Court.  When the Supreme Court ruled that free speech under the First Amendment creates ...

Published: Monday 5 November 2012
It’s not just campaign season braggadocio when Romney claims that he would be far tougher on Iran than the president by threatening “a credible military option.” 

 

It’s the consensus among the pundits: foreign policy doesn’t matter in this presidential election.  They point to the ways Republican candidate Mitt Romney has more or less parroted President Barack Obama on just about everything other than military spending and tough talk about another “American century.”

The consensus is wrong. There is an issue that matters: Iran.

Don’t be fooled.  It’s not just campaign season braggadocio when Romney claims that he would be far tougher on Iran than the president by threatening “a credible military option.”  He certainly is trying to appear tougher and stronger than Obama -- he of the drone wars, the “kill list,” and Bin Laden’s offing -- but it’s no hollow threat.

The Republican nominee has surrounded himself with advisors who are committed to military action and regime change against Iran, the same people who brought us the Global War on Terror and the Iraq War.  Along with their colleagues in hawkish think tanks, they have spent years priming the public to believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, making ludicrous claims about “crazy” mullahs nuking Israel and the United States, pooh-poohing diplomacy -- and getting ever shriller each time credible officials and analysts disagree.

Unlike with Iraq in 2002 and 2003, they have it easier today.  ...

Published: Monday 5 November 2012
“There were stories of elderly women eating food out of dumpsters in still-blacked-out Lower Manhattan.”

 

I’m not sure when I realized that we were in the middle of a full-blown disaster. Maybe it was when I saw the outline of a National Guard soldier hanging off the side of a hummer on a blackened strip of Rockaway Boulevard. Perhaps it was when I received a panicky email from an assemblyman’s office saying that “ppl are starving in Broad Channel.” I’m sure the comparisons to Hurricane Katrina and September 11 helped speed the realization. All I know for sure is that by Thursday, when widespread gas shortages swept New York City and out-of-staters began offering to donate bio-diesel trucks, I understood that we were organizing in the midst of a crisis.

Communication and travel in the affected areas has been difficult for lack of electricity and cell reception, but reports are nevertheless circulating among the network of volunteers who have mobilized since Tuesday morning, when Hurricane Sandy abated. There were stories of elderly women eating food out of dumpsters in still-blacked-out Lower Manhattan; a large ship cresting the median of a highway in Rockaway; the Red Cross aid station in the center of a desolate parking lot in Staten Island, guarded by NYPD barricades and serving only military rations; trick-or-treating through the pitch-black streets of Red Hook; the anxiety over running out of gas; kids navigating the former streets in a canoe; seniors stuck in their homes; families told to abandon their pets because the emergency shelters can’t accommodate animals. In some of these isolated pockets of the city, the logistical challenges are so daunting that federal authorities were just getting their feet on the ground as late as Thursday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a grassroots network of community-run relief stations and free kitchens has sprung up in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The response began small and grew rapidly. On Monday there appeared

Published: Saturday 3 November 2012
Published: Friday 2 November 2012
“A poll released last week by the Associated Press-GfK found women are split right down the middle, with each candidate receiving 47 percent of the vote.”

A few weeks ago, President Barack Obama was seen as certain to collect the majority of women’s votes in the Nov. 6 presidential election. Four days before the election, however, the women’s vote is thought to be divided equally between Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

A poll released last week by the Associated Press-GfK found women are split right down the middle, with each candidate receiving 47 percent of the vote. These numbers mirror the tightness of the popular vote overall and are a significant turnaround from a month ago, when the same poll showed Obama with a 16-point lead among women voters.

“Presidential races always tighten towards the end as local trends come to the national level – this is not a surprise,” Judy Lloyd, executive editor of Thoughtfulwomen.org and an appointee for former presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, told IPS.

Even so, Obama does appear to have suffered a dramatic loss in his lead with women voters. According to many analysts, the shift could be due to women focusing on the economy rather than on the “women’s issues” for which Obama has been fighting, such as equal pay in the workplace or funding for family planning.

The fight for the women vote has grown more heated as each candidate vies for women’s attention by criticizing his opponent’s policies.

“The Obama campaign has engaged in a despicable game of gender politics and fear-mongering this election in an effort to shore up a critical Democratic constituency – single women.” Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of Independent Women’s ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
Published: Friday 2 November 2012
This campaign season teaches us how little has changed since the early Cold War days when Republican stalwarts screamed, “Who lost China?”

 


Who lost Libya? Indeed, who lost the entire Middle East? Those are the questions lurking behind the endless stream of headlines about “Benghazi-gate.” Here’s the question we should really ask, though: How did a tragic but isolated incident at a U.S. consulate, in a place few Americans had ever heard of, get blown up into a pivotal issue in a too-close-to-call presidential contest?

My short answer: the enduring power of a foreign policy myth that will not die, the decades-old idea that America has an inalienable right to “own” the world and control every place in it. I mean, you can’t lose what you never had.

This campaign season teaches us how little has changed since the early Cold War days when Republican stalwarts screamed, “Who lost China?” More than six decades later, it’s still surprisingly easy to fill the political air with anxiety by charging that we’ve “lost” a country or, worse yet, a whole region that we were somehow supposed to “have.”

The “Who lost...?” formula is something like a magic trick.  There’s no way to grasp how it works until you take your eyes away from those who are shouting alarms and look at what’s going on behind the scenes.

Who’s in Charge Here?

The curious case of the incident in Benghazi was full of surprises from the beginning. It was the rare pundit who didn’t assure us that voters wouldn’t care a whit about foreign affairs this year. It was all going to be “the economy, stupid,” ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
A poll conducted by the Democratic Party of Vermont had the independent senator with a 69–21 lead over his rival, Republican John MacGovern, a businessman and four-term Massachusetts state legislator who promised to replace “the only admitted socialist in the US Senate.”

The narratives spun by political and media elites at the close of the 2012 election campaign were all about money and television buys, polls and personalities. Both major parties focused on a narrow set of issues, and an even narrower set of appeals directed to a conventional wisdom that imagined Americans wanted only drab variations on the moderate themes sounded by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in their last debate. But up in Vermont, one of the most refreshingly unconventional politicians in America was coasting toward re-election with a campaign that broke all the rules. A week before the election, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders had run no attack ads. In fact, he hadn’t run any TV commercials. He was still speaking in full sentences, not soundbites; still inviting voters to ask complicated questions on controversial issues—and still answering with big, bold proposals to address climate change, really reform healthcare with a single-payer “Medicare for All” program, steer money away from the Pentagon and toward domestic jobs initiatives, and counter the threat of plutocracy posed by Citizens United by amending the Constitution. Rejecting the empty partisanship of the pre-election frenzy, Sanders was ripping the austerity agenda of Romney and Paul Ryan, while warning that Obama and too many Democrats were inclining toward an austerity-lite “grand bargain” that would make debt reduction a greater priority than saving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

And Sanders was winning—big. A poll conducted by the Democratic Party of Vermont had the independent senator with a 69–21 lead over his rival, Republican John MacGovern, a businessman and four-term Massachusetts state legislator who promised to replace “the only admitted socialist in the US Senate.” Sanders was ahead among women and men, across income and education categories, and in every region. “I go crazy with all ...

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
President Barack Obama takes a small lead late in the Presidential race.

 

With less than a week left in the 2012 election campaign and much of the Northeast recovering from Hurricane Sandy, President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, former governor Mitt Romney, are running neck and neck in the national popular vote, according to the most recent surveys.

Online bettors and seasoned political analysts, however, appear to agree that by virtue of his edge in about nine key battleground, or “swing” states, the president will most likely emerge victorious after the final ballots are cast on November 6.

Instead of a direct popular vote, the presidency is determined by the electoral college, through which each state is allocated a certain number of votes based on their representation in Congress. Almost all states use a winner-take-all formula, so that the candidate that wins a majority receives all of a state’s electoral votes. With most states either solidly “red” (Republican) or “blue” (Democratic), “purple” swing states are critical.

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Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
As power is restored to the millions without it, there is a power that cannot be taken from us.

 

Millions of victims of Superstorm Sandy remain without power, but they are not powerless to do something about climate change. The media consistently fail to make the link between extreme weather and global warming. Through this catastrophe, people are increasingly realizing that our climate has changed, and the consequences are dire.

One meteorologist who defies the norm is Dr. Jeff Masters, who founded the weather blog Weather Underground. As Sandy bore down on the East Coast, I asked Masters what impact climate change was having on hurricanes. He said: “Whenever you add more heat to the oceans, you’ve got more energy for destruction. Hurricanes ... pull heat out of the ocean, convert it to the kinetic energy of their winds.”

Masters’ blog became so popular, it was purchased by The Weather Channel. As Sandy moved up the coast, Masters continued with our interview: “When you do heat the oceans up more, you extend the length of hurricane season. And there’s been ample evidence over the last decade or so that hurricane season is getting longer—starts earlier, ends later. You’re more likely to have this sort of situation where a late-October storm meets up with a regular winter low-pressure system and gives us this ridiculous combination of a nor’easter and a hurricane that comes ashore, bringing all kinds of destructive effects.”

Mitt Romney must rue that line in his Republican National Convention speech, days after Hurricane Isaac narrowly ...

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
Eighteen beliefs you probably have if you are a republican.

 

To be a Republican nowadays you have to believe concurrently that:

 

 1. Jesus loves you, but shares your deep hatred of homosexuals, gay marriage, gun control advocates, conservationists, animal rights activists, and Barack Obama.

 

 2. "Support our troops" means backing old white men who have no qualms about sending other people's kids to die in wars we can't win in countries whose people hate us for being there.   

 

 3.  The best way to restore growth and prosperity to the US economy is to fire your workers and outsource everything possible to Asia.

 

 4.  Venture capitalists who makes millions of dollars slicing and dicing companies and loading the unlucky ones with so much debt that they have to declare bankruptcy and cease operations cannot possibly continue to create jobs unless they get huge tax breaks and pay at an average rate of 14% or less; otherwise, they won't be "incentivized" to go on making millions while transacting important business on the golf course. 

 

5.  Being a lesbian, petty thief, or drug addict is a sign of moral degeneracy unless you're the daughter of a conservative politician, investment banker, or extreme right-wing radio host. Then it's either laudable or an illness for which the appropriate remedy is prayer, not punishment.

 

6.  The National Rifle Association and the American Legislative Exchange Council are trying to protect the public, but non-profit public interest groups like the Sierra Club, The Trust for Public Land, and  the Urban Land Institute only care about taking away our freedoms and turning everybody into tree huggers and vegetarians.

 

7.  Providing comprehensive family health care and generous job benefits to members of Congress, federal employees, ...

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2012
“Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.”

Over the weekend, Romney debuted an ad in Ohio showing cars being crushed as a narrator says Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”

In fact, Chrysler is retaining and expanding its Jeep production in North America, including in Ohio. Its profits have enabled it to separately consider expanding into China, the world’s largest auto market.

Responding to the ad, Chrysler emphasized in a blog post that it has “no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China.”

“They are inviting a false inference,” says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on political advertising.

This is only the most recent in a stream of lies from Romney. Remember his contention that the President planned to “rob” Medicare of $716 billion when in fact the money would come from reduced payments to providers who were overcharging — thereby extending the life of Medicare? (Ryan’s plan includes the same $716 billion of savings but gets it from turning Medicare into a voucher and shifting rising health-care costs on to seniors.)

Remember Romney’s claim that Obama removed the work requirement from the welfare law, when in fact Obama merely allowed governors to fashion harder or broader work requirements?  

Recall Romney’s assertion that he is not planning to give the rich a tax cut of almost $5 trillion, when in fact that’s exactly what his budget plan does? Or that his budget will reduce the long-term budget deficit, when in fact his numbers don’t add up? 

And so on. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” says Neil ...

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2012
“It has unleashed mad-dog corporate bosses to tell employees how to vote.”

As feared, our people's democratic authority has been dogged nearly to death by the hounds of money in this election go 'round, thanks to the Supreme Court's reckless decree in the now-infamous Citizens United case.

That rank political power play by five black-robed judicial partisans unleashed the Big Dogs of corporate money to bite democracy right in the butt this year, poisoning our elections with the venom of unlimited special-interest cash. But there's also been another, little-reported consequence of the malevolent Citizens United decision: It has unleashed mad-dog corporate bosses to tell employees how to vote.

Prior to that 2010 Court ruling, top executives were barred by federal law from using corporate funds to instruct, induce, intimidate or otherwise push workers to support particular candidates. No more, thanks to the five Supremes. Having been given a legal pass, bosses have openly and aggressively conscripted employees to be political troopers for corporate-backed candidates.

For example, CEO David Siegel of Westgate Resorts, a major peddler of time-share schemes, warned his 7,000-strong workforce against voting for Obama. To do so, he wrote in a letter to each of them, would "threaten your job." Obama, Siegel declared, planned to raise taxes on multimillionaires like him, which would give him "no choice but to reduce the size of this company."

Likewise, Dave Robertson, president of the Koch brothers' industrial empire, notified 30,000 workers that they would suffer assorted "ills" if they helped re-elect Obama. In case that message was too subtle, Robertson helpfully included a slate-card of Koch-approved candidates for them to take into the polling booth.

Of course, corporate chieftains say they're not making threats — just suggestions. As Boss Siegel disingenuously put it: "There's no way I ...

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2012
“The names of their top donors are revealed to the IRS — but not to the public.”

In the 2012 election, nonprofits have been the preferred vehicle for donors who prefer to keep their identities secret. But with the right lawyers, super PACs, which are supposedly transparent about their donors, can accomplish the same feat.

Social welfare nonprofits, known as 501(c)(4)s by the Internal Revenue Service, file tax returns with the IRS. The names of their top donors are revealed to the IRS — but not to the public.

Super PACs, on the other hand, do report their donors. In some instances, though, those donors are nonprofits. Or the funds might come from shell corporations, which have passed through millions of dollars to the political organizations from unidentified donors in this election.

Aetna’s oops

Occasionally, the veil is lifted on the secrecy of these groups, sometimes inadvertently.

Insurance giant Aetna accidentally disclosed to insurance regulators earlier this year that in 2011, it had contributed $3 million to the American Action Network, a 501(c)(4) group that has spent $11 million targeting mostly Democratic candidates for Congress.

The company later scrubbed the disclosure from its filing and declined to elaborate on it despite demands from institutional shareholders for an explanation.

Last week, the American Energy Opportunity Fund, a 501(c)(4) group led by two executives at an oil and gas company, revealed it had paid for nearly $800,000 in radio ads targeting President Barack Obama on his energy policy and the funds came thanks to a donation from Las Vegas casino titan

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
“Meteorologists say Sandy could be the largest storm ever to hit the U.S. mainland.”

Much of the East Coast is shut down today as residents prepare for Hurricane Sandy, a massive storm that could impact up to 50 million people from the Carolinas to Boston. The storm has already killed 66 people in the Caribbean, where it battered Haiti and Cuba. "This thing is stitched together from elements natural and unnatural, and it seems poised to cause real havoc," says Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. New York and other cities have shut down schools and transit systems. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been evacuated. Millions could lose power over the next day. Meteorologists say Sandy could be the largest storm ever to hit the U.S. mainland. The megastorm comes at a time when President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney have refused to make climate change an issue on the campaign trail. For the first time since 1984, climate change was never addressed during a presidential debate. "It’s really important that everybody, even those who aren’t in the kind of path of this storm, reflect about what it means that in the warmest year in U.S. history, ... in a year when we saw, essentially, summer sea ice in the Arctic just vanish before our eyes, what it means that we’re now seeing storms of this unprecedented magnitude," McKibben says. "If there was ever a wake-up call, this is it." We’re also joined by climate scientist Greg Jones from Southern Oregon University.

Transcript: 

AMY GOODMAN: READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
“When it came to saving the U.S. carmakers, Romney was no Superman. He was a super-panderer willing to sell out America’s industrial heartland for a few right-wing votes.”

Of Mitt Romney's many costume changes, the new Superman outfit portraying him as the would-be savior of the American auto industry wins for most imaginative. Understood: His infamous "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" op-ed has proven a great inconvenience to winning votes in the industrial Midwest. But continually insisting that one didn't say what one said is severely not honest. Romney is the kind of politician you ask, "Trick or treat?" and he answers "both."

A new Romney campaign ad for Ohio intones, "He has a plan to help the auto industry." A nice sentiment now that the carmakers no longer need saving. His plan in the winter of 2009, when General Motors and Chrysler were clearly going under, was to deny them government aid. (As you ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
The high levels of interest mean that Latinos will further cement the community’s importance in the current and, particularly, future election.

 

Just over a week before the United States votes in a highly anticipated and historically tight presidential election, a new poll released Monday finds that interest by Latino voters has strengthened significantly over the past two months, and that turnout among Hispanics could be higher than the records set in 2008.

According to the latest impreMedia-Latino Decisions poll of registered Hispanic voters, 45 percent say they are more excited about the current election than they were for the 2008 election, when Barack Obama was elected. That number has gone up by eight percent over the past 10 weeks, when the poll was first taken.

Further, a full 87 percent of respondents say they would most likely be voting when national polling sites open on Nov. 6, with eight percent having already taken advantage of the early voting options made available in certain states. During the last presidential election, 84 percent of registered Latino voters cast ballots – far higher than the U.S. national turnout, of 57 percent, that same ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
This election is not between Obama and Romney, it is between corporate power and us.

 

The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, although I could as easily vote for Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. I will step outside the system. Voting for the “lesser evil”—or failing to vote at all—is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.

All the major correctives to American democracy have come through movements and third parties that have operated outside the mainstream. Few achieved formal positions of power. These movements built enough momentum and popular support, always in the face of fierce opposition, to force the power elite to respond to their concerns. Such developments, along with the courage to defy the political charade in the voting booth, offer the only hope of saving us from Wall Street predators, the assault on the ecosystem by the fossil fuel ...

Published: Monday 29 October 2012
You can blame it all on greed: the refusal to do anything about climate change, the attempts by the .01% to destroy our democracy, the constant robbing of the poor, the resultant starving children, the war against most of what is beautiful on this Earth.

 

In ancient China, the arrival of a new dynasty was accompanied by “the rectification of names,” a ceremony in which the sloppiness and erosion of meaning that had taken place under the previous dynasty were cleared up and language and its subjects correlated again. It was like a debt jubilee, only for meaning rather than money.

This was part of what made Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign so electrifying: he seemed like a man who spoke our language and called many if not all things by their true names. Whatever caused that season of clarity, once elected, Obama promptly sank into the stale, muffled, parallel-universe language wielded by most politicians, and has remained there ever since. Meanwhile, the far right has gotten as far as it has by mislabeling just about everything in our world -- a phenomenon which went supernova in this year of “legitimate rape,” “the apology tour,” and “job creators.”  Meanwhile, their fantasy version of economics keeps getting more fantastic. (Maybe there should be a rectification of numbers, too.)  

Let’s rectify some names ourselves. We often speak as though the source of so many of our problems is complex and even mysterious. I'm not sure it is. You can blame it all on greed: the refusal to do anything about climate change, the attempts by the .01% to destroy our democracy, the constant robbing of the poor, the resultant starving children, the war against most of what is beautiful on this Earth.

Calling lies "lies" and theft "theft" and violence "violence," loudly, clearly, and consistently, until truth becomes more than a bump in the road, is a powerful aspect of political activism. Much of the work around human rights begins with accurately and aggressively reframing the status quo as an outrage, whether it’s misogyny or racism or ...

Published: Sunday 28 October 2012
President Barack Obama wants to extend the Bush administration’s supposedly “temporary” tax cuts for the richest members of this imaginary middle class.”

Yes, my job
Is in the ditch;
But not the incomes
Of the rich.

America is big on fantasies. We savor staged reality shows and overhyped football games. We fawn over celebrities and video games. But perhaps our biggest fantasy is the persistent belief that nearly all of us are middle class. More than 80 percent of us think we're perched on one of its rungs.

President Barack Obama wants to extend the Bush administration's supposedly "temporary" tax cuts for the richest members of this imaginary "middle class." At the high end, that includes families making up to $250,000 and unmarried individuals raking in up to $200,000.

While that kind of cash wouldn't grant you that famed 1 percent status, it's plenty for entry into the pretty comfy 2 percent club. Even if you stink at math, it's easy to see that folks in that tax bracket earn way more than what passes for middle class in a country where the median household income in 2011 was just $50,054.

Meanwhile, down at the bottom of the range, very few people care to admit that they're poor — even when they really are. That's especially the case if their families were once a part of the middle class and they're among the 7.8 percent of us now unemployed. Since you can't even claim to be working class if you don't have a job, you might as well continue your middle class fantasy and hope for the best.

Sadly, wishing won't make it so. Median family income is sinking, the social safety net is tattered, and only the

Published: Sunday 28 October 2012
While the so-called Nevada “issues guides” don’t specifically endorse Romney, the pamphlets strongly imply that Obama’s policies could cause workers to lose their jobs.

Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who has donated more than $50 million to Republicans, is now pressuring his casino employees to vote for Mitt Romney. According to the Huffington Post, Adelson’s Management at Las Vegas Sands Corp. “has been distributing voter guides friendly to Republican nominee Mitt Romney and critical of President Barack Obama to its casino employees in Las Vegas.”

While the so-called Nevada “issues guides” don’t specifically endorse Romney, the pamphlets strongly imply that Obama’s policies could cause workers to lose their jobs. “Too much of big government doesn’t just affect our company; it affects our employees, our customers, and our shareholders,” the guide says. “Voting is an important way for you no only to do your civic duty, but to protect your job.” It goes on to misrepresent Obama’s health, tax, and energy policies — while painting Romney’s proposal in a favorable light:

HEALTH CARE: “The federal government requiring all U.S. citizens to buy or otherwise obtain health insurance coverage as a condition of their citizenship is not good for America, our company, and our employees….Gov. Romney favors reform that encourages competition and brings down costs.”

TAXES: “The President would increase many types of taxes, including those on businesses that file taxes as individuals…The governor supports a flatter, simpler and fairer tax code for all Americans that will help businesses and families to prosper.”

ENERGY: “[Obama's] administration restricted the expansion of leases for oil and gas exploration on government ...

Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
“As a consequence we will be taking huge amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere, even as we’re also saving folks money at the pump and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

 

Finally the climate silence is broken and it took MTV to do it. In an interview with MTV’s Sway Williams, President Barack Obama breaks the climate silence in his answer to a question about climate change. Obama says he’s “surprised it [climate change] didn’t come up in the debates.”

 

Williams asks in the interview:

Until this year global climate change has been discussed in every presidential debate since 1988. It was a big part of your previous campaign but pushed back on the back burner. Given the urgency of the threat, do you feel that we’re moving quickly enough on this issue, number one, and Samantha from New Jersey wants to know what will you do to make it a priority?

President Obama replies:

The answer is number one, we’re not moving as fast as we need to. And this is an issue that future generations, MTV viewers, are going to have to be dealing with even more than the older generation. So this is a critical issue. And there is a huge contrast in this campaign between myself and Governor Romney.

I am surprised it didn’t come up in one of the debates. Gov. Romney says he believes in climate change. That’s different than a lot of members of his own party that deny it completely. But he’s not sure that man-made causes are the reason. I believe scientists who say we are putting too much carbon emissions into the atmosphere and it’s heating the planet and it’s going to have a severe effect.

There are a lot of things we have done a lot of things in the last four years. We have already doubled the fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks. That’s the first increase in 30 years in the fuel ...

Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
“Romney has created far more uncertainty. He offers a virtual question mark of an economy.”

 

As we close in on Election Day, the questions about what Mitt Romney would do if elected grow even larger. Rarely before in American history has a candidate for president campaigned on such a blank slate. 

Yet, paradoxically, not a day goes by that we don’t hear Romney, or some other exponent of the GOP, claim that businesses aren’t creating more jobs because they’re uncertain about the future. And the source of that uncertainty, they say, is President Obama — especially his Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Act, and uncertainties surrounding Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.

In fact, Romney has created far more uncertainty. He offers a virtual question mark of an economy

For example, Romney says if elected he’ll repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else. He promises he’ll provide health coverage to people with pre-existing medical problems but he doesn’t give a hint how he’d manage it. 

Insurance companies won’t pay the higher costs of insuring these people unless they have extra funds — which is why Obamacare requires that everyone, including healthy young people, buy insurance. Yet Romney doesn’t say where the extra money to fund insurers would come from. From taxpayers? Businesses? 

Talk about uncertainty.

Romney also promises to repeal Dodd-Frank, but here again he’s mum on what he’d replace with. Yet without some sort of new regulation of Wall Street we’re back to where we were before 2008 when Wall Street crashed and brought most of the rest of us down with it. 

Romney hasn’t provided a clue how he proposes to oversee the biggest banks absent Dodd-Frank, what kind of capital requirements he’d require of them, and what mechanism he’d use to put them ...

Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
Obama betrayed many of his campaign promises, not merely by turning over his economic policymaking to corporate-connected insiders, but, as the Washington Post this week documents, by additionally championing more-extreme versions of the Bush-era civil liberties and national security policies that he once criticized from his platform as a venerated “constitutional lawyer.”

A confession: I recently received my Colorado ballot but, even though my state will play a key role in the presidential election, I still haven't voted. Yes, I'm one of the oft-ridiculed undecideds, and here's why:

I am a left-leaner who previously voted for Barack Obama with clear eyes. Having looked at his record, I knew he was no progressive, much less a Marxist, as his conservative detractors claim. He has always been a thumb-to-the-wind politician who shrouds corporate-backed policies in the veneer of altruistic liberalism. But I voted for him because in 2008 he presented the best opportunity for change.

Sadly, that opportunity was missed. Obama betrayed many of his campaign promises, not merely by turning over his economic policymaking to corporate-connected insiders, but, as the Washington Post this week documents, by additionally championing more-extreme versions of the Bush-era civil liberties and national security policies that he once criticized from his platform as a venerated "constitutional lawyer."

Now, four years later, Obama and Democratic Party-affiliated media outlets are demanding that voters ignore this record, or at least believe that a President Mitt Romney will automatically make things worse.

For liberals, that belief certainly has some merit. On economics, Romney proposes punitive trickle-down policies to reward the wealthy "makers" with new tax cuts and punish impoverished "takers" with cuts to public services. Likewise on social issues, he stands against same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose an abortion.

That said, there are far more similarities between the candidates than differences. They both support entitlement cuts, corporate tax cuts, the Drug War, expanded fossil fuel drilling, privatizing education, warrantless surveillance, ...

Published: Friday 26 October 2012
The alternative to cynicism is to become more involved in politics. Help create a progressive force in this nation that grows into a movement that can't be stopped.

 

This is for those of you who consider yourself to be progressive but have given up on politics because it seems rotten to the core. You may prefer Obama to Romney but don't think there's a huge difference between the two, so you may not even vote.

Your cynicism is understandable. But cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you succumb to it, the regressives who want to take this nation back to the 19th century win it all.

The Koch brothers, Karl Rove, the rabid Republican right, CEOs and Wall Street titans who want to entrench their privileges and tax advantages -- all of them would like nothing better than for every progressive in America to throw in the towel. 

Then America is entirely theirs.

The alternative to cynicism is to become more involved in politics. Help create a progressive force in this nation that grows into a movement that can't be stopped.

We almost had it last year in the Occupy movement. We had the arguments and the energy. What we lacked was organization and discipline.

I've spent years in Washington and I know nothing good happens there unless good people outside Washington are organized and mobilized to put pressure on Washington to make it happen.

This isn't new. In the election of 1936, a constituent approached FDR with a list of things she wanted him to do if reelected. "Ma'am," he said, "I'd like to do all those things. But if I'm reelected, you must make me."

We must make them.

I suggest a two-step plan...

Step one: Vote for Barack Obama for President and vote for every Democratic senator and representative in Congress. Get off your ass and make sure your friends and relatives do the same.

Step two: Starting Election Day, regardless of who's elected, commit at ...

Published: Friday 26 October 2012
In recent weeks, some of the possible fruits of Dempsey’s “strategic seminars,” military missions far from the confines of Quantico, have repeatedly popped up in the news.

 

 

They looked like a gang of geriatric giants. Clad in smart casual attire -- dress shirts, sweaters, and jeans -- and incongruous blue hospital booties, they strode around “the world,” stopping to stroke their chins and ponder this or that potential crisis. Among them was General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a button-down shirt and jeans, without a medal or a ribbon in sight, his arms crossed, his gaze fixed. He had one foot planted firmly in Russia, the other partly in Kazakhstan, and yet the general hadn’t left the friendly confines of Virginia.

Several times this year, Dempsey, the other joint chiefs, and regional war-fighting commanders have assembled at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico to conduct a futuristic war-game-meets-academic-seminar about the needs of the military in 2017. There, a giant map of the world, larger than a basketball court, was laid out so the Pentagon’s top brass could shuffle around the planet -- provided they wore those scuff-preventing shoe covers -- as they thought about “potential U.S. national military vulnerabilities in future conflicts” (so one participant told the New York Times). The sight of those generals with the world underfoot was a fitting image for Washington’s military ambitions, its penchant for foreign interventions, and its contempt for (non-U.S.) borders and national sovereignty.

A World So Much Larger Than a Basketball Court

In recent weeks, some of the possible fruits of Dempsey’s “strategic seminars,” military missions far from the confines of Quantico, have repeatedly popped up in the ...

Published: Friday 26 October 2012
“Records show that Johnson has raised more than $2.1 million for his presidential quest through the end of September, including about $333,750 in public financing, while Stein has raised about $644,000, including $100,000 in public funds.”

 

While President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, heartily disagree about the role of money in politics, campaign finance reform was never breached in any of the three presidential debates this month.

But the issue was front and center during a debate Tuesday in Chicago sponsored by the nonprofit Free and Equal Elections Foundation that featured four dark-horse presidential candidates.

During the debate, which was moderated by former CNN host Larry King, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein advocated for a constitutional amendment to “clarify that money is not speech and corporations are not people.”

Rocky Anderson, the former Democratic mayor of Salt Lake City Mayor now running for president under the banner of the Justice Party, assailed the “corrupting influence” of money and alleged that both Obama and Romney have been “bought and paid for.”

Former Virginia Congressman Virgil Goode, the nominee of the conservative Constitution Party, called for the elimination of all political action committees, including super PACs, saying the nation should sever ties with the groups just as we “threw off” King George during the American Revolution.

Even Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson, the former two-term GOP governor of New Mexico, suggested that politicians be required to wear NASCAR-like jackets with the logos of their sponsors.

Stein, Anderson, Goode and Johnson were barred from participating in the three presidential debates between Obama and Romney, but their names will appear on the ballot across the country.

The Libertarian Party is qualified for the ballot in nearly all 50 states, and both the Green Party and Constitution Party will appear on the ballot in dozens of states. The Justice Party will appear on the ballot in 16 ...

Published: Wednesday 24 October 2012
“During the four nationally televised debates held so far – three presidential and one vice presidential – neither Democratic incumbent Barack Obama nor his Republican challenger Mitt Romney has even mentioned the subject of climate change.”

 

The United States endured its hottest summer in history this year, with droughts and wildfires ravaging the country. And according to a new report from the global reinsurance giant Munich Re, insurance losses related to extreme weather have nearly quadrupled in the U.S. since 1980.

So one might expect that climate change would be a hot topic in the debates being held ahead of the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 6.

But during the four nationally televised debates held so far – three presidential and one vice presidential – neither Democratic incumbent Barack Obama nor his Republican challenger Mitt Romney has even mentioned the subject of climate change.

“It is a missed opportunity to talk about one of the most serious challenges that we face,” Bob Deans, senior advisor for the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, told IPS.

“According to a new survey from Texas University, 73 percent of the (U.S.) public believe that climate change is happening. In a recent Yale study, 70 percent say so. The surveys were made in September. So, what we see is that seven in 10 Americans notice this problem,” Deans said.

He cited the recent report from Munich Re, which found that natural disasters have increased more in North America than in any other region of the world since 1980. Insured losses from weather catastrophes in North America between 1980 and 2011 totaled 510 billion dollars, according to Munich Re.

This shows that climate change is just not an environmental issue – it is also a financial issue, Deans said.

“As people see the increase of extreme weather, people are getting the message that this is a serious economic issue, not ...

Published: Wednesday 24 October 2012
“There’s a wonderful old American postcard tradition of gigantism, a mixture of (and gentle mocking of) a national, but especially Western, urge toward bravado, braggadocio, and pride when it comes to this country.”

 

Obesity is an American plague -- and no, I’m not talking about overweight Americans.  I’m talking about our overweight, super sized presidential campaign.  I’m talking about Big Election, the thing that’s moved into our homes and, especially if you live in a “swing state,” is now hogging your television almost 24/7.

There’s a wonderful old American postcard tradition of gigantism, a mixture of (and gentle mocking of) a national, but especially Western, urge toward bravado, braggadocio, and pride when it comes to this country.  The imagery on those cards once ranged from giant navel oranges on railroad flatcars to saddled jackalopes (rabbits with antlers) mounted by cowboy riders on the range.  Think of the 2012 election season as just such a postcard -- without the charm.

Though no one’s bothered to say it, the most striking aspect of this election is its gigantism.  American politics is being super sized.  Everything -- everything -- is bigger. There are now scores of super PACs and “social welfare” organizations, hundreds of focus groups, thousands upon thousands of polls, hundreds of thousands of TV ads, copious multi-million dollar contributions to the dark side by the .001%, billions of ad dollars flooding the media, up to $3 billion pouring into the coffers of political consultants, and oh yes, though it’s seldom mentioned, trillions of words.

It’s as if no one can stop talking about what might otherwise be one of the least energizing elections in recent history: the most vulnerable president in memory versus a candidate who somehow threatens not to beat him, two men about as inspired as a couple of old beanbag chairs.  And yet the words about the thrill of it all just keep on pouring out.  They stagger (or perhaps stun) the imagination.  They are almost all ...

Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
During the last presidential debate on October 22nd, Romney told 24 myths in his 41 minutes of speaking time.

1) “Syria is Iran’s only ally in the Arab world. It’s their route to the sea.” Romney has his geography wrong. Syria doesn’t share a border with Iran and Iran has 1,500 miles of coastline leading to the Arabian Sea. It is also able to reach the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.

2) “And what I’m afraid of is we’ve watched over the past year or so [in Syria], first the president saying, well we’ll let the U.N. deal with it…. Then it went to the Russians and said, let’s see if you can do something.” While Russia and China have vetoed multiple resolutions at the U.N. Security Council on Syria, the United States has also been 

Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
While you’re watching the debate on television, remember the country we used to live in.

 

In tonight’s foreign policy debate, Mitt Romney will say that the way to get jobs back from China is with more free trade and lower taxes. But China‘s Communist. It already has tougher trade restrictions and higher taxes than we do. How, exactly, will more tax cuts help us compete?

He'll also push for an even more extreme version of “free trade” - one without workers' rights requirements or any other guiding principles. But unrestrained free trade is a recipe for global slavery. It gives the world's corporations the motive and the opportunity to locate their jobs wherever they can most easily exploit and abuse the workforce.

How can the loss of workers' rights in China or anywhere else create good jobs in the United States? Short answer: It can't. Throw in some even more exorbitant military spending, and you're headed for ... the RomneyZone.

The Definition of Insanity

READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Tuesday 23 October 2012
For a media obsessed with ratings, a strategy of complex falsity pays.

In the race to analyze polls and money raised, the media has lost the basic narrative of identity and character. Willard “Mitt” Romney personifies the mentality of a cheating athlete, the habits of a religious sinner, and a life story that is anti-American.

The sordid details of Lance Armstong’s doping ring – and subsequent loss of sponsors – absorb us, but we ignore Romney’s adaptation of these techniques for politics. A group led by Romney developed “performance enhancing” lies aimed at earning him a first place finish. Armstrong was unwilling to bet on outcomes earned through honest work, so too was Romney. After the Republican platform and post-convention attacks lost him support, his team accelerated the deceptions of “Romnesia”. Poll gains demonstrate he competes effectively only when his campaign’s centerpiece is frequent policy reversals, lies about the president’s record, and numbers that don’t add up. In our sports obsessed country, he deserves to be shamed by the press and hauled off the presidential field.

The media also seems to forget that Barack Obama embodies the American dream – a minority raised in difficult circumstances whose diligence earned him an outstanding education and the presidency. Republicans spent years trying to destroy this clear narrative. They called him a Muslim while blasting him for Christian Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s words, and promoted crazy birth certificate theories. They’ve decried him as a socialist, while applauding an "exceptionalism" that leaves America in the dust of all developed countries which have universal health care, and the many which surpass us academically. The president’s policies reflect his prototypically American background and corresponding commitment to the common man.

In contrast, the man ...

Published: Monday 22 October 2012
Just outside Toledo, in a chance campaign encounter, then-candidate Barack Obama explained to Wurzelbacher — soon to become the celebrated “Joe the Plumber” — that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

 

Americans haven't heard much at all from Joe the Plumber this election cycle. A shame. Without his rants against sharing the wealth, no one's bothering to debate how desperately America really needs to be sharing. And how desperate has our maldistribution of wealth become? Typical families in more equal nations -- like Japan -- now have over three times more wealth than typical families in the United States, says new data from Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse.

Four years ago, a plumber by the name of Joe Wurzelbacher injected a bit of a debate over inequality right into the heart of the 2008 Presidential race.

Just outside Toledo, in a chance campaign encounter, then-candidate Barack Obama explained to Wurzelbacher — soon to become the celebrated “Joe the Plumber” — that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

GOP Presidential candidate John McCain almost immediately jumped on Obama’s remark, as if his rival had committed some horrible gaffe, and wealth redistribution suddenly became one of the campaign’s hottest issues.

Now four years later Joe the Plumber has largely faded from view. He’s running a lack luster campaign for Congress, as a conservative Republican. And the issue that gave Joe the Plumber celebrity status — wealth redistribution — has more or less totally disappeared.

Last week, the second Presidential debate of 2012 came and went without a single mention of the word “inequality” or America’s incredibly top-heavy ...

Published: Monday 22 October 2012
“Both positions could favor Romney and the Republicans who, since last month’s killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three of his staff in Benghazi, have argued that Obama’s policy toward the Arab world is unraveling.”

 

On the eve of Monday’s foreign policy debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney, the electorate appears increasingly disillusioned with the so-called Arab Spring, according to a new survey released by the Pew Research Center here.

A majority (57 percent) of the more than 1,500 respondents said they do not believe that recent changes in the political leadership of Arab countries will “lead to lasting improvements” for the region, while only 14 percent – down from 24 percent 18 months ago – said they believe the changes will be “good for the United States”.

Nearly three out of four voters said the changes will either be “bad” for Washington (36 percent) or won’t have much of an effect either way (38 percent).

Both positions could favor Romney and the Republicans who, since last month’s killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three of his staff in Benghazi, have argued that Obama’s policy toward the Arab world is unraveling.

Friday’s killing in Beirut of Lebanon’s top intelligence officer and at least seven other people could add to that perception, as Col. Wissam al-Hassan was aligned with the “March 14” coalition, a Sunni-led faction with close ties to Washington and strongly opposed to the Al-Assad regime in Syria.

The poll, which was conducted Oct. 4-7, also found a somewhat tougher position toward both Iran’s nuclear program and on China’s trade policies.

Monday’s debate, the third and last in a series between the two candidates before the Nov. 6 election, is not expected to draw the huge television audiences – over 65 million people – of the last two, due to the relative lack of interest in foreign policy compared to domestic issues, especially the economy.

Published: Sunday 21 October 2012
“The show reported last week that Arthur Allen of ASG Software Solutions emailed his employees that they’d only have themselves to blame if they lose their jobs after Obama wins.”

growing number of CEOs are pressuring their employees to vote for Mitt Romney, whose tax cut plan could offer millionaires an $87,000 tax break. Now, MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, has uncovered at least one executive who called on his employees to donate up to $2,500 to the GOP presidential candidate’s campaign.

The show reported last week that Arthur Allen of ASG Software Solutions emailed his employees that they’d only have themselves to blame if they lose their jobs after Obama wins. But Allen sent another email on the eve of the Republican convention soliciting donations for the former Massachusetts governor:

To all ASG domestic employees,

This coming Monday, Mitt Romney will be officially nominated as the Republican Presidential candidate. I am encouraging everyone to go to the Romney for President web site and contribute as much as you can to his campaign for President, up to the maximum of $2500.00 per person. I am also encouraging you to contact all of your friends and relatives and ask them to support Romney and to go to the polls and ...

Published: Sunday 21 October 2012
According to a newly released list from the Obama campaign, a total of 758 bundlers have raised at least $180 million for the president’s re-election efforts, including scores of well-connected individuals from California, New York and Obama’s home state of Illinois.

President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign added 120 new fundraising “bundlers” during the third quarter who have brought in at least $17.5 million, including a former secretary of state and a platinum blonde pop star who has sold more than 40 million albums.

According to a newly released list from the Obama campaign, a total of 758 bundlers have raised at least $180 million for the president’s re-election efforts, including scores of well-connected individuals from California, New York and Obama’s home state of Illinois.

Notable additions to the list include Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under former President Bill Clinton and has raised at least $200,000; pop singer Gwen Stefani, who raised at least $500,000; fashion designer Tom Ford, who has raised at least $500,000; and Warner Brothers CEO and Chairman Barry Meyer and his wife Wendy, who raised at least $500,000.

Other new bundlers include former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen of Wisconsin, who raised at least $200,000; Connecticut Gov. Daniel Malloy, 

who raised at least $200,000; and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who raised at least $100,000 and spoke at the Democratic National Convention last month.

These funds have benefited not only the Obama campaign but also the “Obama Victory Fund” — a joint fundraising organization that funnels cash to his campaign, the Democratic National Committee and party entities in several battleground states.

Individuals may donate up to $75,800 to the Obama Victory Fund. The first $5,000 is directed to the Obama campaign while the next $30,800 goes to the DNC. The remaining funds are split between other participating party committees.

Because the Obama campaign voluntarily only discloses broad ranges of how much money its bundlers have collected, it’s ...

Published: Saturday 20 October 2012
Published: Friday 19 October 2012
“Like Brewster, if Perot ran for president today on that budget, he'd be lambasted by pundits and politicos not for spending too much but for spending too little.”

 

The two names that best explain money's unprecedented political influence in America are not Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, but Montgomery Brewster and Ross Perot. The former duo, who will each raise nearly $1 billion for their presidential campaigns, are mere symbols of the problem. The latter, by contrast, tell us how huge the problem now is and how quickly it has grown.

Let's start with Brewster, the fictional character played by Richard Pryor in 1985's satirical film "Brewster's Millions." An adaptation of a Gilded Age book of the same name, the movie is about Brewster accepting a relative's challenge to try to spend $30 million in 30 days without accruing any assets. This feat is portrayed as hilariously difficult, even with the protagonist figuring out that he can waste lots of money by running a "vote none of the above" campaign.

Today, Montgomery Brewster is more than just a fixture of cable's vast wasteland of '80s reruns. When he periodically appears on our televisions, he proves how crazy this era's politics have become. Whereas spending $30 million in 1985 — or about $64 million current dollars — in a month was once considered impossible and thus a narrative for Hollywood humor, the two real-life presidential candidates will each spend roughly three times that amount in the last 30 days of the ultra-serious 2012 election. Put another way, if Montgomery Brewster were today a presidential candidate, his $64 million would still be a comedic punch line. Only the laugh wouldn't be about his profligacy, it would be about how poorly financed a candidate he is.

Then there is Perot, the businessman who, in 1992, mounted one of history's most electorally successful independent presidential candidacies. During his campaign, he spent $63 million. For that, he has been ...

Published: Friday 19 October 2012
“At the heart of this acerbic relationship, however, is Pakistan’s arsenal of 110 nuclear bombs which, if the country were to disintegrate, could fall into the hands of Islamist militants, possibly from inside its own security establishment.”

 

 

The United States and Pakistan are by now a classic example of a dysfunctional nuclear family (with an emphasis on “nuclear”). While the two governments and their peoples become more suspicious and resentful of each other with every passing month, Washington and Islamabad are still locked in an awkward post-9/11 embrace that, at this juncture, neither can afford to let go of.

Washington is keeping Pakistan, with its collapsing economy and bloated military, afloat but also cripplingly dependent on its handouts and U.S.-sanctioned International Monetary Fund loans.  Meanwhile, CIA drones unilaterally strike its tribal borderlands.  Islamabad returns the favor. It holds Washington hostage over its Afghan War from which the Pentagon won’t be able to exit in an orderly fashion without its help. By blocking U.S. and NATO supply routes into Afghanistan (after a U.S. cross-border air strike had killed 24 Pakistani soldiers) from November 2011 until last July, Islamabad managed to ratchet up the cost of the war while underscoring its indispensability to the Obama administration.

At the heart of this acerbic relationship, however, is Pakistan’s arsenal of 110 nuclear bombs which, if the country were to disintegrate, could fall into the hands of Islamist militants, possibly from inside its own security establishment. As Barack Obama confided to his aides, this remains his worst foreign-policy nightmare, despite the decision of the U.S. Army to

Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
The Green Party wasn’t represented at Tuesday’s presidential debate. Here’s what we might have heard if Jill Stein had gotten her say.

 

Like many of us here at YES!, medical doctor Jill Stein has been frustrated by the narrowness of this year's campaign for president of the United States. Crucial issues such as climate change, poverty, and the cost of war are completely left out of the conversation.

No one tackles this problem as directly as Stein, who is running for president on the Green Party ticket. On Tuesday, she and her running-mate, Cheri Honkala, were arrested while attempting to enter the debate hall at Hofstra University in an effort to join Obama and Romney in debate.

While Stein was unable to gain access to the stage, her campaign has already achieved a great deal. She and Honkala will appear on 85 percent of ballots nationwide this November, and she has qualified for federal matching grant to support her campaign.

Think what you will about whether it makes sense to vote for Stein, she and Honkala are doing everything they can to widen the range of issues this election is about. So when she was visiting Seattle 

Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
“The debate left me relieved — the President’s performance will almost certainly stop Romney’s momentum, and may turn the tide — but also left me perplexed.”

 

He’s back. 

Tonight our president was articulate and forceful — in sharp contrast to his performance in the first presidential debate. He stated his beliefs. He defended his record. He told America where he wanted to take the nation in his second term. 

And he explained where Romney wanted to take us. 

For example: “Romney says he’s got a five-point plan. Governor Romney doesn’t have a five-point plan; he has a one-point plan. And that plan is to make sure that folks at the top play by a different set of rules. That’s been his philosophy in the private sector; that’s been his philosophy as governor; that’s been his philosophy as a presidential candidate. You can make a lot of money and pay lower tax rates than somebody who makes a lot less. You can ship jobs overseas and get tax breaks for it. You can invest in a company, bankrupt it, lay off the workers, strip away their pensions, and you ...

Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
Describing the deficiencies of the Republican program, a famous man once said, “it‘s arithmetic” — and as usual, the Romney campaign can‘t seem to add or subtract without cheating.

 

When innocent citizens asked about unemployment last night at the town hall presidential debate on Long Island, would Mitt Romney again tout his plan to create 12 million jobs? Unable to Etch-a-Sketch away that often repeated claim — one that he has hired several conservative economists to endorse — the Republican candidate had little choice. It's up on his campaign website, it's there in his own well-advertised words, and it is the central appeal of his candidacy for the non-billionaire voting bloc.

But there is a serious problem with that promise. It now stands exposed as a complete fraud by Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post fact-checker, who pinned upon it his highest (lowest?) prize of four “Pinocchios.”

Here is how Kessler reached that troubling conclusion. After requesting the specific numbers behind Romney's jobs claim, he soon discovered that the citations offered by the campaign made no sense, and, in fact, the attempted deceptions were transparently obvious.

Romney's economic program has three basic elements that he says will produce those 12 million jobs, as outlined in a TV ad quoted by Kessler:

READ FULL POST 15 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
Like genocide itself, prevention is a process, not an event.

Never before has the idea of preventing genocide been so widely discussed, and so popularly supported, in the United States. Thus President Barack Obama’s creation, in April 2012, of the Atrocities Prevention Board, the first high-level U.S. government initiative on the issue. Shortly afterward, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum commissioned a public opinion poll that found 66 percent of Americans believe genocide is preventable and 69 percent think the United States should prevent or stop genocide or mass atrocities from occurring in other parts of the world.

 

In the public discourse, however, there is still little agreement, never mind discussion, about what it actually means to prevent. With this in mind, there are four points I'd like to emphasize (based on the approach the ...

Published: Thursday 18 October 2012
It is fundamental that we learn the lessons of the past, that we give our eyes memory.

The situation in Greece is reaching a point comparable to that of mid-1930s Spain. On the brink of civil war, as a lab rat in the ongoing neoliberal austerity experiment, Greek society is being pushed further and further towards the complete obliteration of democratically achieved civil and human rights and is becoming a festering sore of rightwing nationalism.

 

Last week, as the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union, this troubling zeitgeist was clearly illustrated by further police repression and the violence of fascist gangs on the streets of Athens.

There seems to be no end to the rank hypocrisy. As hundreds of thousands of Europeans have been driven into poverty just in the past few months by austerity measures imposed by the Troika; as the gates of Europe have been slammed shut in the faces of destitute refugees overwhelmed by crises of all kinds; and as courageous, angry citizens across the continent have given democratic voice to their resentment of neoliberal policies only to be answered with clubs and teargas: Europe is being recognized for its efforts at achieving peace.

The esteemed ladies and gentlemen in Oslo are acting on false hopes, not reality. Similar to how they awarded Barack ...

Published: Wednesday 17 October 2012
Published: Wednesday 17 October 2012
In the interest of keeping vital global issues in the discussion, Foreign Policy in Focus reached out to scholars at the Institute for Policy Studies—our institutional home—to sketch out progressive perspectives on the world issues we don’t expect to get fair treatment in the debates.

 

There is no other policy arena in which the president of the United States has greater latitude than foreign affairs. With U.S. foreign policy less constrained by Congress and relatively free from the media scrutiny that attends the president’s more domestic endeavors, foreign affairs largely remains the domain of the commander in chief. Indeed, broadcast regularly into living rooms all across the globe, the U.S. president is often the singular face of the United States of America in the world—especially in lands where few Americans tread.

Yet global issues routinely get short thrift in presidential debates, especially in yet another election year characterized by economic malaise and divisive social issues. And with media coverage focused primarily on the performance of the candidates and the debates’ impact on the national horserace, crucial questions about how the United States behaves on the world stage routinely fall between the cracks. This neglect is exacerbated by the fact that, when it comes to foreign policy, there is a tremendous amount of overlap between the major candidates.

In the interest of keeping vital global issues in the discussion, Foreign Policy in Focus reached out to scholars at the Institute for Policy Studies—our institutional home—to sketch out progressive perspectives on the world issues we don’t expect to get fair treatment in the debates. Without an informed citizenry, these crucial topics will always fall by the wayside. So read up, and share widely!

1. Making Global Finance Work
—Sarah Anderson, Director, IPS Global Economy Project

I would love to think that President Obama, in the middle of a debate, will don a green Robin Hood hat and announce his support for a financial transaction tax. Popularly known as a Robin Hood Tax, this is the idea of putting a small, fraction-of-a-percent ...

Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
There comes a time when we must say to the ruling elite: No more!

The next great battle of the Occupy movement may not take place in city parks and plazas, where the security and surveillance state is blocking protesters from setting up urban encampments. Instead it could arise in the nation’s heartland, where some ranchers, farmers and enraged citizens, often after seeing their land seized by eminent domain and their water supplies placed under mortal threat, have united with Occupiers and activists to oppose the building of the Keystone XL tar sand pipeline. They have formed an unusual coalition called Tar Sands Blockade (TSB). Centers of resistance being set up in Texas and Oklahoma and on tribal lands along the proposed route of this six-state, 1,700-mile proposed pipeline are fast becoming flashpoints in the war of attrition we have begun against the corporate state. Join them.

The XL pipeline, which would cost $7 billion and whose southern portion is under construction and slated for completion next year, is the most potent symbol of the dying order. If completed, it will pump 1.1 million barrels a day of unrefined tar sand fluid from tar sand mine fields in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Tar sand oil is not conventional crude oil. It is a synthetic slurry that, because tar sand oil is solid in its natural state, must be laced with a deadly brew of toxic chemicals and gas condensates to get it to flow. Tar sands are boiled and diluted with these chemicals before being blasted down a pipeline at high pressure. Water sources would be instantly contaminated if there was a rupture. The pipeline would cross nearly 2,000 U.S. waterways, including the Ogallala Aquifer, source of one-third of the United States’ farmland irrigation water. And it is not a matter of if, but when, it ...

Published: Monday 15 October 2012
“The Obama campaign pioneered the data-mining strategy, and the Romney team put one together once he won the primary.”

A new Mother Jones report looks at how the Romney and Obama campaigns are digitally mining personal data in order to get out the vote. Focusing their efforts online, the campaigns have been using cookies and various data mining techniques to determine which voters to target, and how to do it on a scale and scope that has never been seen before. The Obama campaign pioneered the data-mining strategy, and the Romney team put one together once he won the primary. We’re joined by Mother Jones reporter Tim Murphy.

Published: Monday 15 October 2012
“The order is meant to address longstanding concerns that whistleblowers in the intelligence agencies lacked legal protections like those available to employees of the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.”

 

President Barack Obama signed an executive order last week creating new protections for national security and intelligence community whistleblowers, effectively sidestepping a congressional impasse provoked by the reservations of congressional Republicans.

The order — formally known as "Presidential Policy Directive 19" and signed by Obama out of public view on Oct. 10 and without a White House announcement — directs intelligence agencies to establish procedures for the protection of employees reporting waste, fraud and abuse.

The order is meant to address longstanding concerns that whistleblowers in the intelligence agencies lacked legal protections like those available to employees of the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.

The new order bans retaliation against whistleblowers in the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and other intelligence organizations. Until now, these agencies were not specifically prohibited from retaliating against whistleblowers. 

A House bill aimed at improving protections for most federal employees, known as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act and passed by that chamber in September, lacked the safeguards ordered by Obama. Angela Canterbury, from the Washington, D.C. watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, said House Republicans had narrowed the bill’s focus due to worries that its provisions might encourage Wikileaks-type disclosures of sensitive information.

She called this a "red herring," explaining that by protecting those with security clearances who want to blow the whistle on wrongdoing at intelligence agencies, a new law could have encouraged them to “use safe internal channels.” The Senate has yet to take up its own version of the bill.

In the meantime, ...

Published: Monday 15 October 2012
Published: Sunday 14 October 2012
“What we are currently witnessing looks worryingly like the end of the American Dream for most of us and, in a real sense, the last act in the America Revolution.”

Revolutions typically start with a theory and talk and transition into practice and political action.  They almost always end in disaster for the societies they disrupt and the economies they destroy.  That's the story of the French Revolution and Russia's October Revolution, but not the American Revolution, which had a happier ending – until now. 

   

What we are currently witnessing looks worryingly like the end of the American Dream for most of us and, in a real sense, the last act in the America Revolution.  What started back in 1776 remained a work in progress until a) the Civil War freed the slaves; and b) women and African-Americans finally won the right to vote after World Wars I and II, respectively.   But, within a decade of extending the franchise, preparations to undermine its effects – and prevent the wider distribution of wealth it implied – were in full swing.   

       

It started with two University of Rochester business-school professors, Michael Jensen and William Meckling, and a theory – the so-called "Theory of the Firm" published in the obscure,  academic Journal of Financial Economics in 1976.  It debunked the old corporate model as unsuited to the new realities of the emerging global economy; and it offered a new model that called for a wholesale restructuring of the corporate commanding heights of the economy.  The declining competitiveness of US business and industry was proof the old model was no longer working.  It found the separation of ownership and management to be at the heart of the problem and the underlying cause of poor strategic planning and operations. CEOs were too quick to make concessions to unions, not cost-conscious enough, and too reluctant to streamline operations, adopt new ...

Published: Sunday 14 October 2012
Ever since Bill Clinton appointed Goldman honcho Robert Rubin to be his Treasury secretary, the firm has been the top corporate supporter of the Democrats, according to the authoritative Center for Responsive Politics.

Maybe I have been too harsh in judging Barack Obama’s economic performance. Instead of following George W. Bush’s lead in bailing out the bankers first, I wanted Obama to do more for beleaguered homeowners and less for the Wall Street swindlers who trafficked in toxic mortgages. But the president must have done something right, or the hucksters at Goldman Sachs wouldn’t hate him so. 

Ever since Bill Clinton appointed Goldman honcho Robert Rubin to be his Treasury secretary, the firm has been the top corporate supporter of the Democrats, according to the authoritative Center for Responsive Politics. And the investment paid off big time when Clinton followed Rubin’s lead and teamed up with congressional Republicans to reverse the sensible restraints on Wall Street that had kept the economy sound for six decades. Thanks to that decision, Goldman, a high-rolling investment house, was allowed to suddenly become a commercial bank and avail itself of the cheap money provided by the Federal Reserve to bail out troubled banks.

The financiers thought the fix was in once again when Obama turned to Rubin protégé Lawrence Summers as his key economic adviser in the 2008 campaign. Summers had replaced Rubin as Clinton’s Treasury secretary and had been even more vigorous in destroying the regulations that had maintained a stable financial system for 60 years. Wall Street turned against the GOP and its candidate John McCain, much preferring Obama. It should burnish the president’s reputation in the eyes of ordinary voters that those merchants of greed now feel so betrayed. 

As The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday: “When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, no major U.S. corporation did more to finance his campaign than Goldman Sachs Group Inc. This election, none has done more to defeat him.”

The high rollers at Goldman have given $900,000 to ...

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
“How can we continue to justify this war begun to avenge the 9/11 attacks and punish those responsible?”

Matt Sitton knew the war in Afghanistan was going badly. He knew it because he was fighting it. He could see for himself. Twenty-six years old, with a wife and child back home, Staff Sergeant Sitton was on his third combat tour there.

Time and again, he and his men were sent through what he called “a minefield on a daily basis.” His comrades were being blown apart — at least one amputee a day, he said, “Because we are walking around aimlessly through grape rows and compounds that are littered with explosives.”

Morale was low; the men struggled to remain alert. Sitton said he asked his officers to give them a break but was told to stop complaining.

“I am all for getting on the ground and fighting for my country when there is a desired endstate and we have clear guidance of what needs to be done,” he wrote. “But when we are told basically to just walk around for a certain amount of time is not sitting well with me.”

READ FULL POST 17 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
As a practical matter, then, negotiations over America’s budget deficit will drag on into the new year, right over and beyond the fiscal cliff. A deal might not be struck until February, or even March.

These are awkward days for deficit hawks who believe the American economy can get back to health only if the nation gets its fiscal house in order. If they get their wish, the economy goes over a cliff.

Regardless of what happens Election Day, at the beginning of next year more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts automatically go into effect. That’s equivalent to about 5 percent of the entire U.S. economy, more than the projected growth of the whole gross domestic product next year.

The problem is, if we fall off this fiscal cliff we plunge into recession. That’s because the cliff withdraws too much demand from the economy too quickly, at a time when unemployment is still likely to be high.

The Congressional Budget Office projects real economic growth will drop at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the first half of 2013, and unemployment will rise to 9.1 percent by the end of next year.

As Spain and Great Britain have demonstrated, launching fiscal austerity at a time when a nation’s economic capacity is substantially underutilized causes the economy to contract. This makes the debt even larger in proportion to the size of the economy. Rather than reassure global lenders and investors, it spooks them more.

America is about to fall off the fiscal cliff because Democrats and Republicans in Congress haven’t been able to agree on a plan for long-term deficit reduction – and this failure will trigger automatic spending cuts in January. Meanwhile, the temporary tax cuts enacted by former President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003, and extended for two years by President Obama, will run out December 31st, as will the President’s temporary jobs measures – a payroll-tax holiday and extended unemployment benefits.

In a rational world, deficit reduction on this scale wouldn’t happen until the economy is once again healthy – when unemployment has dropped to below 6 ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
Progressive movements are stronger when they can take on centrists or liberals than when pitted against elected conservatives.

At summer’s end, Barack Obama’s campaign has already aired tens of millions of dollars worth of advertisements. You don’t have to believe their promises to think that his re-election would be preferable from a social movement standpoint to the coronation of Mitt Romney, one of Wall Street’s own. In fact, you don’t need to believe that the president will be a friend to social justice causes at all.

You can hope for Obama’s re-election for a more counter-intuitive reason: namely, that he will make a better adversary.

While this proposition may sound strange, the crux of the argument is simple. Progressive movements are stronger when they can take on centrists or liberals than when pitted against elected conservatives.
 
 
 

 

 

Let’s review the recent history. In 2008, after suffering two successive Bush administrations, it was easy to feel that some fresh air could do wonders for US politics. Expectations soared. People could have felt good just knowing that their votes kept Sarah Palin from being one cardiac failure away from command of 5,100 nuclear warheads. But instead, they began to see something more in the youthful Senator Obama. They started to look to him as someone who would do the work of social movements for them.

This delusion was not merely domestic. How foolishly premature was the Norwegian Committee’s move to award Obama the Nobel Peace Prize? The 2009 citation praised Obama’s ‘extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples’ at a time when the new president had barely finished decorating his Oval Office desk. Its predictions ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“The political views of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have been evaluated and dissected by hundreds of websites and countless political pundits.”

As Election Day looms, voters across the country are deciding which of the two candidates will get their vote. The political views of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama have been evaluated and dissected by hundreds of websites and countless political pundits. We’ve seen the two candidates debate on TV and approve countless commercial messages. We’ve heard their talking points and read their plans. However, we wanted to know how they got so smart.

To read more please visit DegreeJungle.com

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“Even the Israeli President has effusively praised President Obama’s leadership on getting American and international sanctions on Iran, which have significantly slowed Iran’s progress.”

1) “It took the president two weeks to acknowledge that [the Libya attack] was a terrorist attack.” Obama used the word “terrorism” to describe the killing of Americans the very next day at the Rose Garden. “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,” Obama said in a Rose Garden statement on September 12.

2) “The administration was blocking us every step of the way. Only because we had strong bipartisan support for these tough [Iran] sanctions were we able to overrule their objections and put them in spite of the administration.” Even the Israeli President has effusively praised President Obama’s leadership on getting American and international sanctions on Iran, which have significantly slowed Iran’s progress.

3) “Medicare and Social Security are going bankrupt. These are indisputable facts.” [T]he possibility ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“Given the recent flurry of attention, we thought it would be helpful to examine how much federal funding actually affects public broadcasting.”

Are Big Bird’s 15 minutes up yet? Last week, Mitt Romney pulled public broadcasting into the presidential campaign when he said he would “stop the subsidy” to PBS, despite his love for the furry yellow Muppet.

The remark launched endless Internet memes, fueled late night television jokes and spawned a satirical Obama campaign ad (which the Sesame Workshop, a private, non-partisan charitable organization, has requested the campaign pull). Given the recent flurry of attention, we thought it would be helpful to examine how much federal funding actually affects public broadcasting.

How large is the federal subsidy to public broadcasting?

It’s not exactly breaking the bank. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the entity created by Congress in 1967 to disperse funds to nonprofit broadcast outlets like PBS and NPR, is set to receive $445 million over the next two years. Per a statutory formula, public television gets about 75 percent of this appropriation while public radio receives 25 percent.

This amounts to roughly .012 percent of the $3.8 trillion federal budget – or about $1.35 per person per year. (Some global perspective:

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“Obama, after winning the presidency, repaid all that campaign largesse, appointing bank industry lackeys and executives to top positions.”

 

One thing you can say about the financial industry. It has no sense of loyalty.

Back in 2008, most of the biggest contributors to presidential candidate Barack Obama were financial companies. According to the campaign fund tracking website Open Secrets, after the $1.65 million donated by a political action committee (PAC) for the University of California, the next biggest contributor was a PAC for the giant bank, Goldman Sachs, whose employees ponied up a reported $1 million. Right up there among the top contributors to the Obama campaign that year were two other of the nation’s top banks too: JP Morgan Chase, whose employee PAC gave $809,000, and Citigroup, which gave $737,000. Two more big banks, UBS and Morgan Stanley, as well as General Electric, which less than a year later bought a bank to enable itself to benefit from the government’s largesse in doling out billions of “rescue” dollars under the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), were among Obama’s top 20 campaign donors, handing over $533,000, $512,000 and 530,000 respectively to support his election.

Obama, after winning the presidency, repaid all that campaign largesse, appointing bank industry lackeys and executives to top positions. He made Timothy Geithner, who as head of the New York Federal Reserve branch during the Bush administration, had ignored the scandalous derivatives scandals that brought on the financial crash, his Treasury Secretary, and Lawrence Summers, who as Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton, had pushed for the deregulation of derivatives, and for allowing banks to merge with investment banks, and who during the Bush years earned millions as a consultant to the hedge fund industry and from speaking fees provided by Wall Street banks, got the post of head of Obama's Council of Economic Advisors. Meanwhile, GE's chairman and CEO, ...

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
“Today, the place that was home to the dawn of the Nuclear Age still maintains America’s biggest nuclear arsenal. Los Alamos National Laboratory is the nation’s foremost nuclear weapons lab.”

In this special broadcast from just outside Los Alamos National Laboratory, we look at the radioactive legacy of New Mexico. The atomic bombs used in World War II were designed and developed here, and the state still plays a key role in maintaining the nation’s massive nuclear arsenal. We’re joined by two guests: Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, and Chuck Montaño, a former investigator and auditor at Los Alamos who turned whistleblower after calling attention to wasteful spending and fraud at the nation’s foremost nuclear weapons lab.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: We’re in our 100-city tour here in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Yes, we are broadcasting from Los Alamos, the birthplace of the atomic bomb. We’re here at the historic Fuller Lodge, built in 1928 as a boarding school for boys. Gore Vidal was one of the better-known students here. The school was taken over by the U.S. government in 1943 to house the scientists for the Manhattan Project, the secret military program based here that produced the first U.S. nuclear weapon. The work was led by the physicist J. Robert ...

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
Will we really do better by imitating the United Kingdom and other nations where those policies have already failed?

 

Unemployment is still too high, income is still too low and the recovery is still much too slow — but the United States is faring considerably better than other developed nations against the threat of a renewed recession.

Don’t believe it? Maybe you should stop listening to the right-wing propaganda machine, which has been trash talking the U.S. recovery ever since Barack Obama's inauguration, and start paying attention to economic analysts who know what they're talking about — and provide hard data to back up their findings.

They provide a hard, factual, real-world context for our often-absurd political debate, especially as the presidential election approaches.

Every few months, a fresh report appears showing that the U.S. recovery is continuing and even strengthening, despite stagnation and austerity in Europe that drag down the entire global economy. Last June, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development noted that the U.S. recovery was gaining momentum, in contrast to its weak trading partners, despite continuing problems in housing and construction and its report praised the Obama administration's policy initiatives on employment, the budget and taxation.

READ FULL POST 11 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
American Crossroads top spender since Labor Day.

 

Since Labor Day, the once-unofficial start of the election season, 70 percent of outside spending on the presidential race made possible by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision has benefited Mitt Romney, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

More than $106 million of the $117 million spent on the Obama-Romney matchup since Sept. 3 has been on negative ads, with President Barack Obama absorbing more than $80 million in attacks, according to the analysis of Federal Election Commission data.

By way of comparison, the Obama campaign has spent $346 million over the entire election and Romney has spent $288 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

American Crossroads, a conservative super PAC co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, is the top anti-Obama spender as well as the top overall spender among outside groups in the presidential election. Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC, is the second-biggest outside spender in the race and the primary source of anti-Romney ads.

READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“David Siegel, who owns Florida-based Westgate Resorts, sent an email to all his employees yesterday to discuss the upcoming election.”

The CEO of a massive timeshare company sent an email about the upcoming election to his employees yesterday, threatening to fire some of them if President Obama wins re-election.

David Siegel, who owns Florida-based Westgate Resorts, sent an email to all his employees yesterday to discuss the upcoming election. “The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job,” Siegel wrote, noting that the company is “the most profitable [it's] ever been.” “What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration.” He went on to say that although he “can’t tell you whom to vote for,” if Obama is re-elected, it would mean “fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”

Here are a few select paragraphs from the email:

Subject: Message from David Siegel
Date:Mon, 08 Oct 2012 13:58:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: [David Siegel]
To: [All employees]

To All My Valued Employees,

As most of you know our company, Westgate Resorts, has continued to succeed in spite of a very dismal economy. There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever ...

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“September’s jobs report showed unemployment down to 7.8 percent for the first time in more than three years.”

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows Mitt Romney ahead of President Barack Obama among likely voters, 49% to  45%. But the latest Gallup poll shows the President Obama leading Romney among likely voters, 50% to 45%.

What gives? The Pew poll covered the days immediately following last Wednesday’s presidential debate. It didn’t include last weekend. The Gallup poll, by contrast, included the weekend — after September’s jobs report showed unemployment down to 7.8 percent for the first time in more than three years.

So it’s fair to conclude the bump the President received from the jobs report bump made up for the bump Romney got from the debate. No surprise that voters care more about jobs than they do about debate performance.

But don’t be misled. The race has tightened up.

Moreover, polls of “likely voters” are notoriously imprecise because they reflect everyone who says they’re likely to vote – including those who hope to but won’t, as well as those who won’t but don’t want to admit it. 

Remember: The biggest party in America is neither Democrats nor Republicans. It’s the party of non-voters — a group that outnumbers the other two. 

So the real question is which set of potential supporters is more motivated on Election Day (or via absentee ballot) to bother to vote.

The biggest motivator in this election isn’t enthusiasm about either of the candidates. The Republican base has never particularly liked Romney, and many Democrats have been disappointed in Obama.

The biggest motivator is fear of the other guy.

There’s clear reason for Democrats and Independents to fear Romney and Ryan — their reverse Robin-Hood budgets that take from the poor and middle class and reward the rich; their ...

Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
“On specific policy recommendations, however, Romney failed to substantially distinguish his own from Obama’s.”

 

In what was billed as a major foreign policy address, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney Monday assailed Barack Obama for “passivity” in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, arguing that it was “time to change course” in the Middle East, in particular.

Dispensing with some of the neo-conservative rhetoric he has used in the past, he nonetheless argued that the “risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when (Obama) took office” and that Washington should tie itself ever more closely to Israel.

“I will re-affirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security – the world must never see any daylight between our two nations,” he told cadets at the Virginia Military Institute, adding that Washington must “also make clear to Iran through actions – not just words – that their (sic) nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.”

As he has in the past, he also called for building up the U.S. Navy, pressing Washington’s NATO allies to increase their military budgets in the face of a Vladimir Putin-led Russia, and ensuring that Syrian rebels “who ...

Published: Monday 8 October 2012
“All told, Gill, who did not respond to a request for comment, has doled out nearly $3.7 million to state and federal causes and campaigns in the past five years, making him the largest political donor from Colorado who wasn’t funding his own campaign.”

 

The focus on billionaires’ and corporations’ contributions to Super PACs this year has highlighted the impact of the rich and powerful on the presidential campaigns.

 

But an analysis by the Investigative News Network of contributions by wealthy individuals in seven states shows that their giving is greater than any one cause or race reveals — with millions flowing into state, federal and even local campaigns, parties and committees far and wide.



Take Colorado software entrepreneur and gay rights activist Tim Gill. He has given $450,000 to Colorado independent expenditure committees so far this political cycle, which began in 2011. He’s also given generously out of state —$100,000 to the Ohio Democratic Party Executive Committee and $25,000 to the Iowa Democratic Party—and smaller amounts to 26 candidates and causes in that time, from President Barack Obama to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, to candidates running for the Colorado state house.



All told, Gill, who did not respond to a request for comment, has doled out nearly $3.7 million to state and federal causes and campaigns in the past five years, making him the largest political donor from Colorado who wasn’t funding his own campaign.



Gill is no exception.



Wealthy Iowans put most of their money into causes at home, but they have also donated to candidates, parties and causes in New Jersey and Washington state this election cycle. Likewise, donors from Missouri have given to political parties and campaigns in Tennessee and Indiana. Money from ...

Published: Monday 8 October 2012
Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
“With the election seemingly in the bag, Obama was tempted to run out the clock.”

We’ve all seen the first presidential debate.  Barack Obama was flat as a bug on Mitt Romney’s windshield.  But I don’t think it changed anything.  I’m going out on a very shaky limb and say Obama is still going to win.

 

For a day or two the commentators might feign surprise at how close the election got overnight.  I don’t believe it.  I think Mitt Romney has about as much chance of becoming president as Pussy Riot does of headlining the opening ceremonies at Sochi.

 

With the election seemingly in the bag, Obama was tempted to run out the clock.  He thought all he had to do in the debates was take a knee three times while Romney twisted himself into knots running away from all the extreme positions he was forced to take to get the nomination, and never really believed in anyway, insofar as that political polygamist believes in anything other than Mitt Romney.  But playing defense isn’t working.  Obama needs to make this election about something.

 

The next month is his opportunity.  I still believe the American people will say no to the thugs and extremists who have seized control of the Grand Old Party.  They’ll say no even when the face of that party is a bland white guy who’s about as scary as Liberace.

 

But what are they saying yes to?

 

I’m not privy to the workings of the big brains in Obama’s war room, but if they’re serious about winning, they need to spare a little bandwidth to come up with a few progressive ideas they intend to implement when they do.

 

I’m no wonk, but here are a couple of thoughts to get that conversation started. 

 

Mitt Romney said, ...

Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
“The candidates in US debates address carefully selected journalists who rarely follow up on a question.”

What is the point of a presidential debate? In the context of American presidential elections, “debate” is something of a misnomer. When former French President Nicolas Sarkozy faced his Socialist challenger, François Hollande, that was a debate – addressing substantive issues and lasting more than two hours. By contrast, presidential debates in the United States are more like staged performances, where the answers to every possible question have been rehearsed endlessly with teams of coaches and advisers.

 

The candidates in US debates address carefully selected journalists who rarely follow up on a question. And the candidates’ performances are scrutinized less on the substance of their arguments than on their presentation, body language, facial tics, unguarded sighs, smiles, sneers, and inadvertent eye rolling. Does the candidate come across as a snob, or a friendly guy whom one can trust? Do the smiles look real or fake?

 

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Ian Buruma, click here.

 

These “optics” can be of great importance. After all, Richard Nixon’s race against John Kennedy in 1960 is said to have been lost on television: Kennedy looked cool and handsome, while Nixon scowled into the camera, with sweat trickling down his five o’clock shadow. In his debates with Ronald Reagan in 1980, Jimmy Carter came across as smug and humorless, and Reagan as a friendly old uncle. Carter lost.

In 2000, Al Gore, was unable to make up his mind about which role he wished to play in his debates with George W. Bush, so he ...

Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
“Watching the debate on Wednesday, actually, reminded me of the saying to the effect that if voting made a whit of difference, it would be illegal.”

 

John Denver — who sang about “raining fire from the sky” in Colorado — would have been disappointed. There was no fire from the sky, no fireworks, no zingers, hardly any pulse. Wednesday night’s much anticipated first presidential debate at the University of Colorado was one long snooze fest. Watching the debate on Wednesday, actually, reminded me of the saying to the effect that if voting made a whit of difference, it would be illegal. And for lots of people (like many felons), it is illegal. But mostly, people don’t vote because they don’t see the point.

President Obama wore a plush blue tie and called Michelle “sweetie.” Mitt Romney wore a striped red tie and stared at Obama during the split screens with the expression of a condescending puppy. (I welcome suggestions for an alternative description because puppies cannot be condescending.) Jim Lehrer, veteran and venerated journalist, barely registered during those longest 90 minutes of my life — aside from asking a few softball questions and genteelly requesting specifics from the two candidates as they recited talking points and statistics.

I think I would have had a better time if I had been playing one of the many debate drinking games that were available. One drink for ObamaCare? Really, Buzz Feed? Between the two of them, it was uttered 21 times!

Rachel Maddow called debate night her “favorite night in politics,” but I ...

Published: Saturday 6 October 2012
“There are two disturbing problems with Axelrod’s statements.”

 

Many centuries ago, the Jewish scholar Hillel posed a question that is as prescient as any Nostradamus prophecy: "If not now," he asked, "when?" It's a rhetorical query many of us contemplate during the high holy days, which concluded last month. And after a revealing comment by President Obama's top political aide, it's a question that now haunts Social Security.

The remark in question came during last week's debate about fiscal issues on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." In an otherwise forgettable conversation, things became newsworthy when the conversation turned to Obama's position on Social Security reforms. At that point, the president's consigliere, David Axelrod, responded not with a clear position, but instead by trying to halt the conversation.

"I'll tell you what, when you get elected to the United States Senate and sit at that table, we'll have that discussion," he told the panel.

When pressed, Axelrod insisted that the election season meant no debate should proceed. "This is not the time, he said. "We're not going to have that discussion right now."

There are two disturbing problems with Axelrod's statements. First and foremost is his suggestion that a Social Security policy debate should only be conducted between White House officials and U.S. senators — not between all government officials and the general public. It's a fundamentally elitist idea that evokes notions of smoky back rooms and secret deals. Not only that, it both contradicts basic notions of civic engagement and confirms Americans' fears about a government that wholly disregards the citizenry.

Along the same lines is Axelrod's insistence that even if we were to have a public debate about Social Security, we somehow shouldn't "have that discussion right ...

Published: Friday 5 October 2012
Published: Friday 5 October 2012
Big Bird and Sesame Street could get the axe for Mitt Romney’s big budget cut.

 

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney held the first presidential debate of the general election last night, and our own co-founder, Van Jones, was there to provide analysis on CNN.

 
Published: Friday 5 October 2012
The debates are run by the Commission on Presidential Debates, an organization described by George Farah, founder and executive director of Open Debates, as “a private corporation financed by Anheuser-Busch and other major companies, that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties to seize control of the presidential debates from the League of Women Voters.”

 

A few miles south of the campus arena in the Mile High City where Barack Obama and Mitt Romney met in their first debate, “Democracy Now!” news hour broke the sound barrier by expanding their gated debate to include two third-party presidential candidates. Dr. Jill Stein, of the Green Party, and Rocky Anderson, of the Justice Party, responded to the same questions put to the major-party candidates, in real time, from their own podiums a little ways down the road. The goal was to open the forum, to bring out voices that are ignored or marginalized by the mainstream media. (Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson was also invited to participate, but declined.)

President Obama made a good point in late 2011, when he told “60 Minutes,” “Don’t judge me against the Almighty; judge me against the alternative.” If only the public had a full range of alternatives against which to judge. In fact, most people do. They just don’t know it. The reason they don’t know it is because the media don’t report on third-party politics or campaigns. These campaigns also lack the funds to purchase television airtime, or to compete against the Democratic and Republican campaign fundraising juggernauts. This leads to less diversity of voices, and far fewer alternatives on the ballot.

It hasn’t always been this way. In 1980, the League of Women Voters ran the debates, and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson was allowed to participate (President Jimmy Carter opposed his participation and boycotted the event). In 1992, billionaire Ross Perot used his personal funds to overcome the media blockade of his presidential campaign. His successful debate performance temporarily propelled him ahead of both Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush in the polls.

Since then, no third-party candidate has been allowed into the presidential debates. The ...

Published: Friday 5 October 2012
“There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war.”

 

With the quadrennial presidential election extravaganza reaching its peak, it’s useful to ask how the political campaigns are dealing with the most crucial issues we face. The simple answer is: badly, or not at all. If so, some important questions arise: why, and what can we do about it?

There are two issues of overwhelming significance, because the fate of the species is at stake: environmental disaster, and nuclear war.

The former is regularly on the front pages. On Sept. 19, for example, Justin Gillis reported in The New York Times that the melting of Arctic sea ice had ended for the year, “but not before demolishing the previous record – and setting off new warnings about the rapid pace of change in the region.”

The melting is much faster than predicted by sophisticated computer models and the most recent U.N. report on global warming. New data indicate that summer ice might be gone by 2020, with severe consequences. Previous estimates had summer ice disappearing by 2050.

“But governments have not responded to the change with any greater urgency about limiting greenhouse emissions,” Gillis writes. “To the contrary, their main response has been to plan for exploitation of newly accessible minerals in the Arctic, including drilling for more oil” – that is, to accelerate the catastrophe.

This reaction demonstrates an extraordinary willingness to sacrifice the lives of our children and grandchildren for short-term gain. Or, perhaps, an equally remarkable willingness to shut our eyes so as not to see the impending peril.

That’s hardly all. A new study from the Climate Vulnerability Monitor has found that “climate change caused by global warming is slowing down world economic output by 1.6 percent a year and will lead to a doubling of costs in the next two decades.” ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
“Obama has more Santas – almost four times more – than Romney, but they give less: Barack’s donors give $50 on average, while Mitt’s give about $140.”

As we head into autumn, and Thanksgiving, we should remember how lucky our presidential candidates really are: Every month, their “friends” give them tens of millions of dollars in political money. Since our summer infographic, fundraising has only accelerated, giving the candidates record piles of loot—over 700 million dollars between them. For Obama and Romney, Christmas started this summer and will last half the year.

Obama has more Santas – almost four times more – than Romney, but they give less: Barack’s donors give $50 on average, while Mitt’s give about $140. The rate of giving has increased every month, and while Romney had some good months at the end of the summer, in September Obama took back the lead. Check out a detailed break-down of gifts, and when they came, in the graphic.

In all this, remember that a lot of the money is coming from big donors, and even the small donors are giving about $30 on average. Autumn’s harvest is ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
The question now is whether Team Obama understands that our President must be more aggressive and commanding in the next two debates — and be unafraid to respectfully pin Romney to the floor.

 

In Wednesday night’s debate, Romney won on style while Obama won on substance. Romney sounded as if he had conviction, which means he’s either convinced himself that the lies he tells are true or he’s a fabulous actor.

But what struck me most was how much Obama allowed Romney to get away with: Five times Romney accused Obama of raiding Medicare of $716 billion, which is a complete fabrication. Obama never mentioned the regressiveness of Romney’s budget plan — awarding the rich and hurting the middle class and the poor. He never mentioned Bain Capital, or Romney’s 47 percent talk, or Romney’s “carried-interest” tax loophole. Obama allowed Romney to talk about replacing Dodd-Frank and the Affordable Care Act without demanding that Romney be specific about what he’d replace and why. And so on.

I’ve been worried about Obama’s poor debate performance for some time now. He was terrible in the 2008 primary debates, for example. Expectations are always high — he’s known as an eloquent orator. But when he has to think on his feet and punch back, he’s not nearly as confident or assured as he is when he is giving a speech or explaining a large problem and its solution. He is an educator, not a pugilist, and this puts him at a disadvantage in any debate.

Romney stayed on script. If you look at a transcript of his remarks you’ll see that he repeated the same lines almost word for word in different contexts. He has memorized a bunch of lines, and practiced delivering them. The overall effect is to make him seem assured and even passionate about his position. He said over and over that he cares about jobs, about small businesses, and ordinary Americans. But his policies and his record at Bain tell a very different story.

The question now is whether Team Obama understands that our President must be more aggressive and commanding in the next two ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
Republicans will blame their defeat in November on the Fed’s monetary stimulus (if not on the ineffectiveness of Mitt Romney’s blunder-filled campaign).

James Carville, Bill Clinton’s chief campaign strategist in 1992, famously expressed a bit of established insider wisdom about winning elections: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Incumbents win if the economic outlook is rosy, and are vulnerable – as George H. W. Bush was – when times are hard. Indeed, throughout Europe – in France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom – governments have been turned out of office in the face of a crisis that they have seemed unable to address.

By this standard, President Barack Obama should now be in a hopeless situation. According to United States Census data, household income fell in 2011 for the fourth consecutive year. Unemployment remains persistently high, despite the $787 billion stimulus package in 2009, and house prices, though recovering slowly, remain far below their pre-2008 peak.

And yet Obama seems likely to be reelected in November. One reason is that there is no reliable way to render an instant judgment about ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
If the President opts for the elite's failed austerity economics, voters are likely to conclude that the real re-election victory went to the one candidate they never wanted in the first place: The plutocracy.

 


The conventional wisdom says that when a President runs for re-election the race becomes a referendum on the economy. Unemployment's still at record highs, poverty has soared, and middle-class Americans are struggling to stay afloat. And yet the President has a commanding lead in the polls.

Why? The polls hold some clues: Voters believe that billionaires and corporations have come to dominate our political process, and they think the President has very little ability to affect their economic future.

They have a point. Both political parties are concentrating on government deficits at a time when they should be focused on jobs and growth the middle class. That's the mark of a plutocracy: government by and for the wealthy.

In many ways, the real incumbent isn't Barack Obama. The real incumbent is the plutocracy. And whose very being screams “plutocrat” more than Mitt Romney's?

READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 3 October 2012
Contrary to Obama’s rosy claim, it reveals that from the start, his administration was “determined to use OIRA as the leading edge of its political efforts to placate big business in an effort to neutralize its attacks on the Administration...”

Forget ALEC--at least for the moment.  For although ALEC represents a frightening degree of collusion between industry and government, there is a more insidious entity that erodes the system from within, gutting regulations and leaving no trace.  It's called OIRA (pronounced “O-EYE-ra”).  Though many well-informed people have never even heard of the agency, the familiar EPA, FDA, and OSHA are all beholden to its decisions, which are secret and thus unaccountable.

Until recently, the head of OIRA (Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) was legal scholar Cass Sunstein, a professor at the Law Schools of both Harvard and the University of Chicago; his wife is Obama's Special Assistant at the National Security Council, Samantha Power, who has famously promoted armed intervention as a solution to humanitarian conflicts, and savaged Hillary Clinton's penchant for deceit. 

As Sunstein left the agency on August 3, his performance earned acclaim from both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and President Obama, with the latter offering fulsome praise and gratitude: his chief regulator had shown that it was “possible to support economic growth without sacrificing health, safety and the environment... his efforts will benefit Americans for years to come.”

 

How did Sunstein achieve this near-miracle of compromise?  According to Mr. Obama, it resulted from his “tenacious promotion of cost-benefit analysis...” 

 

But the real fruits of the approach that Obama so admires were in evidence last November, when the Center for Progressive Reform issued a devastating report on OIRA's ...

Published: Wednesday 3 October 2012
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for President Obama no matter what.”

The subject of so-called “entitlements” is sure to come up at tonight’s first presidential debate and so perhaps it makes sense to disabuse candidate Romney of his transfer payment fallacies and fantasies before he begins to speak. 

By now we’ve all seen the footage.  First publicized by Mother Jones in September, the infamous seven-minute clip depicts Mitt Romney openly excoriating the “47 percent” of parasitic “Americans dependent of government” at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. (As an aside, the inflation-adjusted median household income for an American family is currently $50,054.)

I give you, Mitt, in his own words…

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for [P]resident [Obama] no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Although Romney’s claim that “47 percent” of freeloading Americans don’t pay income tax is easy enough to disclaim, his remarks represent a more insidious worldview that many conservatives unwittingly embrace. Romney’s anomic “entitlement society” theory begs the question: Exactly who  do republicans think benefit most from programs like unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps (SNAP), and Medicaid?

Well, remember ...

Published: Tuesday 2 October 2012
Published: Monday 1 October 2012
“At one point, angry demonstrators breached the embassy grounds from which they tore down an American flag.”

 

The wave of unrest in the Middle East caused by blasphemous depictions of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad last month – and events near the U.S. embassy in Cairo in particular – does not appear to have impaired Egypt’s longstanding ‘strategic partnership’ with Washington, say local analysts.

“Recent demonstrations and clashes near the U.S. embassy, and the reaction of Egypt’s new Islamist leadership to those events, has not led to a dramatic shift in Egypt-U.S. relations as had been initially feared,” Tarek Fahmi, political science professor at Cairo University told IPS.

“The relationship is a very deep one and has many dimensions: political, economic, military and otherwise,” Fahmi added. “It won’t be seriously impacted by embassy rallies or one-off statements by officials from either side.”

On Sep. 11, thousands of Egyptian protesters converged on the U.S. embassy in Cairo following the appearance online of a short film mocking Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. At one point, angry demonstrators breached the embassy grounds from which they tore down an American flag.

On the same day, the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed along with three colleagues during a similar anti-film demonstration outside the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

In Cairo, no members of the U.S. embassy staff were hurt – or threatened with harm – by protesters. Nevertheless, for the next three days, Egyptian demonstrators skirmished with security forces in the area around the embassy, adjacent to Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

On Sep. 12, in a move that many saw as a possible sign of shifting regional policy, U.S. President Barack Obama contentiously described Egypt as neither ally nor enemy.

“I don’t think that we would consider them (Egypt) an ...

Published: Monday 1 October 2012
“Think of these as five hard truths that will determine the future of this country.”

 

Five big things will decide what this country looks like next year and in the 20 years to follow, but here’s a guarantee for you: you’re not going to hear about them in the upcoming presidential debates. Yes, there will be questions and answers focused on deficits, taxes, Medicare, the Pentagon, and education, to which you already more or less know the responses each candidate will offer.  What you won’t get from either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is a little genuine tough talk about the actual state of reality in these United States of ours.  And yet, on those five subjects, a little reality would go a long way, while too little reality (as in the debates to come) is a surefire recipe for American decline.

So here’s a brief guide to what you won’t hear this Wednesday or in the other presidential and vice-presidential debates later in the month.  Think of these as five hard truths that will determine the future of this country.

1. Immediate deficit reduction will wipe out any hope of economic recovery: These days, it’s fashionable for any candidate to talk about how quickly he’ll reduce the federal budget deficit, which will total around $1.2 trillion in fiscal 2012.  And you’re going to hear talk about the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan and more like it on Wednesday.  But the hard truth of the matter is that deep deficit reduction anytime soon will be a genuine disaster.  Think of it this way: If you woke up tomorrow and learned that Washington had solved the deficit crisis and you’d lost your job, would you celebrate? Of course not. And yet, any move to immediately reduce the deficit does increase the likelihood that you will ...

Published: Saturday 29 September 2012
“For U.S. officials the transition from Mubarak to Morsi will probably cause some headaches and certainly require a few tough conversations.”

Historically, Washington has been more comfortable extolling democracy than accepting its consequences, particularly in the strategically important Middle East. Algerian democracy had no place in the "new world order" of former President George H.W. Bush. His administration backed a military coup against an elected Islamist parliament in Algeria. Palestinian democracy did not fit in the "Freedom Agenda" of George W. Bush, who refused to deal with the Hamas-led government Palestinian voters elected in 2006. Now, as Egyptians build their own democracy, the Obama administration is struggling to synch its policies with its early hopes for "A New Beginning" in U.S.-Muslim relations, particularly evident in this week's New York visit by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for the U.N. General Assembly.

Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, was elected in 2005 with 6.3 million votes. No independent observers considered the contest free or fair, and Mubarak's landslide 88 percent victory said more about his iron-fisted rule than his popularity. Prior to being ousted in February 2011, Mubarak met multiple times with U.S. President Barack Obama: in Egypt, before Obama delivered his speech at Cairo University, as well as at the White House for bilateral and multilateral discussions.

The 61-year old Morsi comes to the United Nations with far greater legitimacy. In June 13.2 million Egyptians (nearly 52 percent of voters) sent Morsi to the presidential ...

Published: Saturday 29 September 2012
“The latest signal of just how profitable a business politics remains is available on Sunlight’s Follow the Unlimited Money, which shows outside spending at nearly $465 million as of Sunday evening.”

 

With just over a month before election day, the problem of the current campaign finance system is really starting to take form. The Sunlight Foundation reports that:

The latest signal of just how profitable a business politics remains is available on Sunlight’s Follow the Unlimited Money, which shows outside spending at nearly $465 million as of Sunday evening. That’s more than the total for the entire 2010 campaign.

In the Congressional races this year, outside spending alone, not accounting for the spending by the candidates themselves, has eclipsed the total spending of PACs, candidates and their parties in 2010. Combined! And that’s just for Congressional races. Overall spending for the first 18 months just topped $4 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money enough to fund student pell grants for roughly two million students for a full year.

Barack Obama out-raised Mitt Romney for the first time in August, and he did so substantially. Obama broadened his grassroots base, taking in donations from over 3 million donors. However, this isn’t to say that the President’s pulling ahead in the funds race is strictly on “hard money.” The New York Times reports that:

The ...

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
Romney arguably lost every possible remaining undecided voter when the “47%” video was uncovered on Sept. 18.

 

Mitt Romney arguably lost Ohio on November 18, 2008, when he penned an oped titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." Today, 64% of Ohio voters call President Obama's restructuring of the auto industry "mostly good."

Mitt Romney arguably lost Florida, with its heavy concentration of older voters, when he picked as his vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan, the face of the conservative plan to end Medicare as we know it.

The CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac poll now has Obama leading Romney by 9 points in Florida, up from a 3 point lead in late August.

In August, Romney was ahead among Florida voters 65 and older by 13 points. Now, Obama is ahead among voters 55 and older (don't ask me why Quinnipiac didn't publish the same age breakdowns) by 8 points. This tracks with what the national Reuters poll found. Romney used to have a 20 point lead with voters 60 and over, now it's less than ...

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
“Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise.”

 

Dear Allies,

Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.

O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.

Leftists Explain Things to Me

The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.

The same has been true of other politicians: the recent governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in some respects quite good on climate change. Yet it was impossible for me to say so to a radical without receiving an earful about all the other ways in which Schwarzenegger was terrible, as if the speaker had a news scoop, as if he or she thought I had been living under a rock, as if the presence of bad things made the existence of good ones irrelevant. As a result, it was ...

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
Known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), it’s operated for a year now, with mixed results, according to civil society groups that follow the issue.

 

 In the wake of the epidemic of home foreclosures, banking scandals and resulting massive financial regulation overhaul two years ago known as the Dodd-Frank legislation, the U.S. government created a new federal agency to protect consumers from being taken advantage of by banks and other institutions.

Known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), it’s operated for a year now, with mixed results, according to civil society groups that follow the issue.

“Obviously, the agency’s been stifled somewhat by Congress,” Jamie Court, president of the non-profit California-based group Consumer Watchdog, told IPS. “Given the scrutiny they face, and the budget limitations, they’ve done a good job of starting to break new ground on mortgage regulations and financial services regulations, disclosure for consumers.”

Republicans, particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives, have been vehemently opposed to the CFPB.

“It’s a very tough job in this political and budgetary climate. They’ve done a good job of letting the public know their doors are open. The question is, how responsive they are to petitions from the public, and how much can they do as quickly as possible?” Court said.

“They have a good staff that understands consumer protection. The real fate of the agency will be determined by the (November U.S. presidential) election. The election is really a mandate for this agency to go forward or not,” he said.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney opposes the CFPB, while President Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, supports it.

The CFPB is “pretty much what Obama got for the consumer out of financial reform, which was too little. It’s ...

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
“It is the way the U.S. political system is run that makes politicians so vulnerable to lobby power.”

 

I. The Israel Lobby and How it Operates

 

Much is being made of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s involvement in the on-going American presidential campaign.  His public stance has been characterized as an Israeli effort to  “openly…topple [President] Obama.”  The truth is that the only thing unusual about this meddling is its open and advertised nature.  In a more discrete fashion, Zionist pressure bordering on blackmail and bribery goes on every day.  

 

I have written elsewhere about this corrupting process that I call “lobbification.“  In brief, this is how it operates:

 

Step One:  A lobbyist, in this case someone from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), approaches Congresspersons or Senators.  At some point in time that means every single one of them has been approached:  all 435 voting members of Congress and every one of the 100 voting members of the Senate.  Party affiliation is not an issue here.  

 

Step Two:  The lobbyist offers to organize financial campaign assistance, positive media coverage, briefings on situations in the Middle East, trips to Israel, etc. 

 

Step Three: All that is asked in return is that the recipient consistently vote in a pro-Israel way.  In other words, AIPAC wants the politician to surrender a part of his or her mind to them — that part that might exercise critical and considered judgment on issues pertaining to Israel.  

 

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
You may never have heard of Sensata Technologies, but in this election season, you’ve probably heard the name of its owner, Bain Capital, the company co-founded and formerly run by Mitt Romney.

 

Freeport, Ill., is the site of one of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates. On Aug. 27, 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debated there in their campaign for Illinois’ seat in the U.S. Senate. Lincoln lost that race, but the Freeport debate set the stage for his eventual defeat of Douglas in the presidential election of 1860, and thus the Civil War. Today, as the African-American president of the United States prepares to debate the candidate from the party of Lincoln, workers in Freeport are staging a protest, hoping to put their plight into the center of the national debate this election season.

A group of workers from Sensata Technologies have set up their tents in a protest encampment across the road from the plant where many of them have spent their adult lives working. Sensata makes high-tech sensors for automobiles, including the sensors that help automatic transmissions run safely. Sensata Technologies recently bought the plant from Honeywell, and promptly told the more than 170 workers there that their jobs and all the plant’s equipment would be shipped to China.

You may never have heard of Sensata Technologies, but in this election season, you’ve probably heard the name of its owner, Bain Capital, the company co-founded and formerly run by Mitt Romney. When they learned this, close to a dozen Sensata employees decided to put up a fight, to challenge Romney to put into practice his very campaign slogans to save American jobs. They traveled to Tampa, Fla., joining in a poor people’s campaign at a temporary camp called Romneyville (after the Hoovervilles of the Great ...

Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“Consider then-candidate Obama’s description of working class people in Pennsylvania, made in the heat of the 2008 campaign.”

For Democrats caught up in the race for U.S. presidential power, Mitt Romney’s description of “the 47 percent” is a great chance to pile on. Here is a super-rich Republican showing his contempt for the working class, many people are thinking — let’s make the most of it!

But sometimes the “caught in the act” statements of politicians are worth more than a quick dismissal. Consider then-candidate Obama’s description of working class people in Pennsylvania, made in the heat of the 2008 campaign. He told people in a San Francisco fundraiser that small-town Pennsylvania voters “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” to explain their economic frustrations.

The two remarks are different. Romney’s is contemptuous, while Obama’s is only condescending. As someone brought up working class, I can tell the difference; I voted for Obama because I’ve been condescended to a lot in my life, and that doesn’t stop me from making reasoned choices. I’ll vote for him again. But my point here is that both remarks reveal the striking lack of agency that is assigned by leaders of political parties to the working class.

What made Obama’s remark condescending was that he made it as a leading Democrat. If the Democratic Party had been fighting for the agency of working class people, then the labor movement would be so strong that we would now be enjoying full employment, universal health care, and low or no college tuition. The financial sector would have been too regulated to throw us into the current recession, and if it somehow had done so anyway, the priority in 2008 and 2009 would have been Main Street, not Wall Street.

In other words, the economic frustrations that Obama linked to certain cultural expressions in small-town Pennsylvania were exacerbated by his own party. His remark ...

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
Sebelius, Holder pledge scrutiny of electronic records in wake of Center series.

Top federal officials are stepping up scrutiny  for doctors and hospitals that may be cheating Medicare by using electronic health records to improperly bill the health plan for more complex and costly services than they deliver.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder notified five medical groups of their intention to ramp up investigative oversight, including possible criminal prosecutions, by letter on Monday.

The government action follows The Center for Public Integrity’s “Cracking the Codes”  series,  published last week. The year-long investigation found that thousands of medical professionals have steadily billed higher rates for treating seniors on Medicare over the last decade — adding $11 billion or more to their fees.

The Center’s probe uncovered a broad range of costly billing errors and abuses that have plagued Medicare for years—from confusion over how to pick proper payment codes to outright overcharges. The findings indicated that Medicare billing problems are worsening as doctors and hospitals switch to electronic health records.

 “There are troubling indications that some providers are using this technology to game the system, possibly to obtain payments to which they are not entitled,” the letter states, adding: “There are also reports that some hospitals may be using electronic health records to facilitate ‘upcoding’ of the intensity of care or severity of patients’ condition as a means to profit with no commensurate improvements in the quality of care.”

The letter said that “false documentation of care is ...

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
We will be assaulted this January when automatic spending reductions, referred to as “the fiscal cliff,” begin to dismantle and defund some of our most important government programs. Mitt Romney will not stop it. Barack Obama will not stop it.

We will all swallow our cup of corporate poison. We can take it from nurse Romney, who will tell us not to whine and play the victim, or we can take it from nurse Obama, who will assure us that this hurts him even more than it hurts us, but one way or another the corporate hemlock will be shoved down our throats. The choice before us is how it will be administered. Corporate power, no matter who is running the ward after January 2013, is poised to carry out U.S. history’s most savage assault against the poor and the working class, not to mention the Earth’s ecosystem. And no one in power, no matter what the bedside manner, has any intention or ability to stop it.

If you insist on participating in the cash-drenched charade of a two-party democratic election at least be clear about what you are doing. You are, by playing your assigned role as the Democratic or Republican voter in this political theater, giving legitimacy to a corporate agenda that means your own impoverishment and disempowerment. All the things that stand between us and utter destitution—Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, Head Start, Social Security, public education, federal grants-in-aid to America’s states and cities, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and home-delivered meals for seniors—are about to be shredded by the corporate state. Our corporate oligarchs are harvesting the nation, grabbing as much as they can, as fast as they can, in the inevitable descent.

We will be assaulted this January when automatic spending reductions, referred to as ...

Published: Monday 24 September 2012
Published: Monday 24 September 2012
“In every way that they can control, the Obama people have simply been smarter.”

 

Since this is my version of an election piece, I plan to get the usual stuff out of the way fast.

So yes, the smartest political odds-givers around believe President Obama has a distinct edge over Mitt Romney coming out of the conventions, the Senate is trending Democratic, and who knows about the House.  In fact, it almost seems as if the Republicans put forward the only man in America incapable of defeating an economically wounded and deeply vulnerable president (other than, of course, the roster of candidates he ran against for the nomination).

In every way that they can control, the Obama people have simply been smarter.  Take those conventions: in each of them, the presidential candidate was introduced by a well-known figure who went on stage and ad-libbed.  One was an 82-year-old guy talking to an empty chair (and I still thought he was the best thing the Republicans had to offer, including his shout-out about withdrawing all our troops from Afghanistan) and the other was... well, Bill Clinton.

It wasn’t even a contest.  As for the upcoming debates, if you think Romney can out duel Obama without wandering in among the thorns, I have a Nigerian prince I'd like to introduce you to.  In other words, it should really all be over except for the usual shouting and the gazillions of dollars of attack ads that will turn swing-state TV screens into a mind-numbing blur of lies. Even there, however, some Super PAC and dark-money types may evidently be starting to consider shifting funds from beating up on Obama to beating up on Democratic senatorial candidates.  It's a sign that the moneybags of the Republican ...

Published: Sunday 23 September 2012
Published: Saturday 22 September 2012
“According to the most recent U.S. census statistics, a quarter of all Native Americans live in poverty and nearly a third lack health insurance, suffering from several health problems at far higher rates than the rest of the country.”

A top United Nations official has presented the first ever international investigation into the situation of indigenous peoples in the United States, urging the adoption of new policies and mechanisms to “address persistent deep-seeded problems related to historical wrongs, failed policies of the past and continuing systemic barriers”.

 

Based on research in the United States this past spring, James Anaya, the U.N.’s special reporter on the rights of indigenous peoples, presented his final report to the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Tuesday. The process marks the first time that the United States has allowed an external body to formally investigate and comment on the situation of its indigenous communities, a notably sensitive issue.

 

Speaking before the council, Anaya stated that indigenous communities in the United States (also referred to as American Indians) continue to “face significant challenges that are related to widespread historical wrongs, including broken treaties and acts of oppression, and misguided government policies, that today manifest themselves in various indicators of disadvantage and impediments to the exercise of their individual and collective rights.”

 

The U.S. mission to the UNHRC has offered a formal response to the concerns raised, highlighting several new and recent government initiatives and policy changes.

 

These include a three-percent increase – to 19.4 billion dollars – in President Barack Obama’s budget request for 2013 in funding earmarked for indigenous communities, as well as changes under the country’s newly expanded health insurance legislation that would include a 29-percent increase to the budget of the Indian Health Service over 2009 figures.

 

(By ...

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“The worse the state of the economy, the higher the unemployment rate, the worse President Obama’s chances for reelection become.”

 

For a long time — basically ever since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell infamously stated that the Republican Party's #1 goal was to defeat President Obama — it has been plainly obvious that the Republican Party was committed to a strategy of economic sabotage to further their political ambitions.

The rationale is simple: The worse the state of the economy, the higher the unemployment rate, the worse President Obama's chances for reelection become. Thus their sabotage strategy: Make sure the economy doesn't recover. Make sure the unemployment rate stays high. Oppose all attempts to create jobs. Kill jobs that have already been created. Turn the public against Obama. Win back the White House and Congress.

Like I said, this has been their transparent plan from the very beginning. Anyone who doesn't think this is the game plan is either disingenuous or blind. And in case you had any doubts, the Romney campaign just laid this strategy out in the most blatant way possible.

READ FULL POST 15 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 20 September 2012
“Believe me the Obama brand is collapsing just as the Bush brand before him became so craven even the most deluded had to recognize the fraud that had been perpetrated upon the American people.”

 

I believe Barack Obama was put into office to do what no Republican could ever have gotten away with. Obama has extend the wars, created new wars, extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich, given additional bail out money to the banks, allowed the health insurance industry to write the healthcare bill, extended the Patriot Act and signed the NDAA.

Under his watch not one member of the Bush Administration has been held accountable for leading us into wars built on false evidence and lies; not one banker has been held accountable for the fraud and corruption that brought down the global economy. And the final nail in the coffin, Mr. Slim Shady signed the NDAA bill on New Year’s Eve while most American’s sipped champagne and sang Auld Lang Syne. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) makes America the battlefield and allows indefinite detention of U.S. citizens suspected of ‘terrorist” leanings without due process. http://www.aclu.org/national-security/president-obama-signs-indefinite-detention-bill-law

But why be so negative you might ask? Here are a few things Obama did manage to do. He extended unemployment benefits because they’re no jobs as his stimulus package was too small. He also managed to cut payroll taxes, which is a back door way to defund Social Security, He helped cover up the BP oil spill in the Gulf by allowing Corexit, a toxic disbursement not allowed in other countries, to break up the oil which then dropped to the bottom instead of just cleaning it up. In other words, allowing them to hide the body.

Obama hates truth tellers such as Julian Assange of WikiLeaks and whistleblowers like Bradley Manning who’s been held in detention for almost two years for, according to Obama, exposing state secrets aka a horrendous war crime. That is if Manning is the ...

Published: Wednesday 19 September 2012
“Even if Occupy protests have petered out, the movement has affected the political narrative in our country.”

It's been a year since the Occupy Wall Street movement sprang up. Since then, it has fizzled, but this does not mean that the underlying issues that gave rise to the protests have gone away.

Until last year, mainstream political discourse did not include nearly as much emphasis on such populist concerns as rising income inequality, tax policies that favor the rich, growing influence by large corporate interests in elections and the reckless deregulation of financial institutions that resulted in the 2008 crisis. It is hard to miss them now.

These concerns still impact 99% of Americans. Even if Occupy protests have petered out, the movement has affected the political narrative in our country.

We can see Occupy's impact in the current presidential campaign. Whereas Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election strategy focused on the idea of "triangulation" -- taking centrist positions on key economic issues to isolate his Republican opponent on the right -- President Barack Obama has taken on much more of a populist stance, mobilizing his Democratic base and economically stressed independents against an opponent whom his campaign is depicting as the quintessential representative of the 1%.

Occupy activists justifiably express skepticism over how much to trust the president's left-leaning rhetoric when his actual economic policies have been decidedly centrist. Still, the fact that Obama's re-election campaign recognizes the advantage of decrying unfair tax laws and similar policies that affect middle class Americans is indicative of how the tone has shifted.

Unfortunately, much of the decline of the Occupy movement can also be attributed to the distraction from this year's election campaigns. Despite the Democrats' mixed record, the unions and many other potential allies necessary in building a real movement have felt obliged to focus their energy on ...

Published: Tuesday 18 September 2012
Even the Nour party – the Brotherhood’s right-wing Islamist rival which some analysts blamed for the original attack – condemned the violence, as well as the video that sparked it, and called for future demonstration to take place away from the embassy.

 

While Tuesday’s killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. officials in Benghazi dominated the headlines here last week, the larger concern for most foreign policy experts here was focused on neighbouring Egypt and specifically how the government of President Mohamed Morsi was dealing with anti-U.S. protests.

Five days after demonstrators breached the walls of Washington’s Cairo embassy and replaced the U.S. flag with a black banner that some media here identified with Al-Qaeda, it appears that the bilateral relationship has survived the crisis.

As relative calm returned to the Egyptian capital this weekend after three days of protests against a privately produced video that defamed the Prophet Muhammad, U.S. officials voiced measured satisfaction with Morsi’s reaction, however belated.

Tuesday’s attack on the embassy, which may have sparked the fatal assault on the Benghazi consulate, provoked angry calls by some right-wing commentators and lawmakers to immediately cut U.S. aid to Cairo – ...

Published: Tuesday 18 September 2012
The government has now lost four times in a litigation that has gone on almost nine months.

 

In January I sued President Barack Obama over Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorized the military to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely, strip them of due process and hold them in military facilities, including offshore penal colonies. Last week, round one in the battle to strike down the onerous provision, one that saw me joined by six other plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, ended in an unqualified victory for the public. U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest, who accepted every one of our challenges to the law, made her temporary injunction of the section permanent. In short, she declared the law unconstitutional.

Almost immediately after Judge Forrest ruled, the Obama administration challenged the decision. Government prosecutors called the opinion “unprecedented” and said that “the government has compelling arguments that it should be reversed.” The government added that it was an “extraordinary injunction of worldwide scope.” Government lawyers asked late Friday for an immediate stay of Forrest’s ban on the use of the military in domestic policing and on the empowering of the government to strip U.S. citizens of due process. The request for a stay was an attempt by the government to get the judge, pending appeal to a higher court, to grant it the right to continue to use the law. Forrest swiftly rejected the stay, setting in motion a fast-paced appeal to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and possibly, if her ruling is upheld there, to the Supreme Court of the United States. The ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“Occupy didn’t seem remarkable on September 17, 2011, and not a lot of people were looking at it when it was mostly young people heading for Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park.”

 

Occupy is now a year old.  A year is an almost ridiculous measure of time for much of what matters: at one year old, Georgia O’Keeffe was not a great painter, and Bessie Smith wasn’t much of a singer. One year into the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was still in progress, catalyzed by the unknown secretary of the local NAACP chapter and a preacher from Atlanta -- by, that is, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Occupy, our bouncing baby, was born with such struggle and joy a year ago, and here we are, 12 long months later.

Occupy didn’t seem remarkable on September 17, 2011, and not a lot of people were looking at it when it was mostly young people heading for Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. But its most remarkable aspect turned out to be its staying power: it didn’t declare victory or defeat and go home. It decided it was home and settled in for two catalytic months.

Tents and general assemblies and the acts, tools, and ideas of Occupy exploded across the nation and the western world from Alaska to New Zealand, and some parts of the eastern world -- Occupy Hong Kong was going strong until last week. For a while, it was easy to see that this baby was something big, but then most, though not all, of the urban encampments were busted, and the movement became something subtler. But don’t let them tell you it went away.

The most startling question anyone asked me last year was, “What is Occupy’s 10-year plan?”

Who takes the long view? Americans have a tendency to think of activism like a slot machine, and if it doesn’t come up three jailed bankers or three clear ...

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“Leading with fists is the way large brawlers with little brains settle disputes. We have tried that approach for the past eight years.”

During his first term in office, President Obama has sent mixed messages and tried to appease his implacable critics on the right while greatly disappointing many of his friends on the left. It's no secret: Obama's indecisiveness and failed attempts to woe the rabid right (in the deficit debate debacle, for example) has disappointed moderates and progressives, as well as his liberal base. So far, Obama has appeared in the guise of a tragic figure, would-be leader who lacks the mettle to lead. Many hoped that the 2008 election would be a turning point, that Obama would abandon an over-reliance on military muscle in favor of a more traditional reliance on diplomacy, one that would restore our badly damaged reputation in the world. Here are six keys to a more sane and sensible - and less self-defeating - foreign policy.


First, give peace a fighting chance before chancing a fight. Leading with fists is the way large brawlers with little brains settle disputes. We have tried that approach for the past eight years. It worked out very well if you happened to be a friend of George Bush or one of Dick Cheney's cronies. If so, chances are you were also a big defense contractor, beltway bandit, or revolving door lobbyist on the most corrupt corridor in America, otherwise known as K-Street. For the rest of us, whether we know it or not, it was an unmitigated disaster.


Second, avoid unilateralism like the plague because that what it is. The United States was plagued by the protracted war in Vietnam as the old Soviet Union was plagued by the war in Afghanistan. As we know, that "plague" killed (or contributed greatly to the demise of) the once-mighty Soviet empire. The perpetrator became the victim of its own misguided use of force. A formidable arsenal of nuclear weapons could not save the patient. And it was the economic, as well as the social and political consequences, of unilateral armed intervention ...

Published: Saturday 15 September 2012
“Here in Pennsylvania, Terry Williams, a man who has been living on death row for three decades after being convicted murdering two men when he was only 17 and 18, is slated to be executed October 3.”

 

Just because someone has the ability to do something, does not mean he or she should do it.

We have two examples of such a situation before us at the moment: President Barack Obama and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

Here in Pennsylvania, Terry Williams, a man who has been living on death row for three decades after being convicted murdering two men when he was only 17 and 18, is slated to be executed October 3. He has exhausted his appeals and his family, his attorney, and even the wife of one of the men he killed, are asking the state's governor and former attorney general, Republican Tom Corbett, to grant him clemency. Why? Williams was repeatedly raped by his two victims, beginning when he was only a 13-year-old boy. It’s ironic that the same Gov. Corbett who turned a blind eye to Penn State serial boy rapist and football coach Jerry Sandusky is now, at least so far, allowing this obscene execution to go forward. Corbett signed the death warrant for Williams’ execution early this month.

Then we have President Obama. Last fall he signed into law the Constitution-shredding National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which includes a provision allowing the military, inside the United States, to arrest and detain indefinitely without trial American citizens. He initially assured the public that he would not use that tyrannical power as president. Not wanting to trust that all presidents would say the same thing, a group of journalists and other plaintiffs then filed suit in federal court, claiming the law was unconstitutional (the sixth amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, guarantees to all people -- not just citizens -- the right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury”). Two days ago, Federal District Judge Katherine Forrest (an Obama appointee to the bench) issued a permanent injunction in New York declaring ...

Published: Friday 14 September 2012
“Only a tiny percentage of voters in November will have read the article or will have any idea that the US military is so, um, active in so many places around the world some two decades after the end of the Cold War.”

 

 

 

A recent article in Nation of Change (Tom Engelhardt, "Monopolizing War", September 13, 2012) starts with a multiple choice question about Marines carrying out combat operations in a certain foreign country. The article goes on to list nine possible answers (that's right, boys and girls, not the usual four) – and one of the choices wasn't "all of the above.” It turns out it was a trick question.  In fact, the correct answer was all of the countries on the list, to include Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Central Africa, Northern Mali, the Philippines, and Guatemala.

 

Only a tiny percentage of voters in November will have read the article or will have any idea that the US military is so, um, active in so many places around the world some two decades after the end of the Cold War.  Okay, okay.  Let's not forget that the shocking events of 9-11 changed the game 11 years ago (as we are all gravely reminded every year at this very time with a barrage of hair-raising, heart-breaking images, look-backs, documentaries, op-eds, flags, and bumper-stickers).

 

We're in a war.  On terror.  It's different from all other wars.  Even the Cold War.  Different from all the wars that have ever been fought.  Anywhere.  Anytime.  It's a war without end.  Against a fanatical, hate-filled enemy that is also invisible, amorphous, and relentless.   An enemy that has no state and no army, navy, or air force.  An enemy that cannot be defeated by conventional or unconventional military means.  Or nuclear weapons.  Ever.

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
“For now, one can only conclude that, come 6 November 2012, it will be a lose-lose situation for progressives and their ideals.”

Part I – Reality TV At The Democratic Convention

On Wednesday the 5th of September, 2012, in the middle of the Democratic Party convention, U.S. democracy took a big hit. Essentially the convention managers rigged a vote in the manner of those dictatorships that stuff ballot boxes and then announce that 99% of the voters support the dictator in question. Worse yet, the Democrats did this on national TV so millions of other Americans could watch them do it. Here is how it went:

  • The Democratic platform committee had decided to keep all issues pertaining to a final treaty between Israelis and Palestinians out of the platform. After all, Israel and Palestine are foreign nations. Among these issues is the final status of the city of Jerusalem.
  • However, the Republican platform “envisions” Israel with Jerusalem as its capital. Having set this gold standard, the Republicans were trying their best to make the status of Jerusalem a major campaign issue.
  • So, President Obama apparently decided that the politically savvy thing to do was to match the Republicans and put into the .Democratic platform language declaring that “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” (See amendments in picture above).
  • To amend the platform at this point in time required a two-thirds majority vote from the convention floor. So on Wednesday the 5th, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was chairing the Democratic convention, confidently called for the amending vote.
  • If you would like bear witness to what happened then, click the following: Here is what ...
Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
I’m a reporter, and it’s not my job to preserve Democrats. But preserving democracy, with that fragile little d, that means something to me.

The following is an excerpt from Greg Palast's upcoming book "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits." Stay tuned to NationofChange for updates on the book's release.  

Why Obama Is Likely to Lose in 2012” is the title of a column Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal in June 2011.

It’s not Rove’s prediction: this is his plan to make sure Obama will lose. That’s fine with me—if Rove prefers vanilla to chocolate, hey, it’s a free country. But how Rove plans to take Obama down is contained in the subhead, and it gives me the chills:

“even a small drop in the share of black voters would wipe out [Obama’s] winning margin in North Carolina.”

Here, Rove is not talking about winning by convincing black voters to vote Republican. The key to victory is preventing the black vote. Period. Rove suggests, with a wink and nudge, the Game Plan:

READ FULL POST 11 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
President Barack Obama publically mourned the death of the US Ambassador, the first to die in over two decades, and denounced the violent protesters.

The US ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staffers, were killed on Tuesday evening when an enraged mob assailed the American Consulate in Benghazi in response to a short American film that mocked the founding prophet of Islam.

The film in question portrayed the Prophet Mohammed as a prurient buffoon and a charlatan. In a short clip posted on YouTube, the venerable prophet is shown preforming a lewd sex with an unidentified woman. The film, released in 2011, was recently translated to Arabic and promoted by Terry Jones, the American pastor made notorious for publically burning a Quran.

Egyptian media publicized the film, entitled the “Innocence of Islam,” and news of it quickly spread throughout the region. Within hours, a mob of protesters in Libya had mobilized and, armed with automatic rifles and rocket launchers, attacked the American Consulate and set it afire.

A group of Libyans not associated with the protesters discovered Stevens body within the burned down building, and carried him to a nearby hospital. He was pronounced dead by doctors an hour and half after arriving. The doctor tasked with treating him said that the cause of death was asphyxiation.

In addition, three other security guards were killed. Among them was Sean Smith, an information management officer who had been in the Foreign Service for 10 years. The State Department pledged not identify the other two until their relatives are notified.

READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
Obama has followed the examples of Summers and Geithner instead of those of Warren and Harris, and that is what has made the election a tossup as voters continue to suffer in an economy that Democrats as well as Republicans wrecked.

 

Bill Clinton bears as much responsibility as any politician for the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the wild applause for his disingenuous speech at the Democratic National Convention last week is a sure sign of the poverty of what passes for progressive politics.

Do those convention delegates, and the fawning media that were wowed by the former president’s rhetorical seductions, not recall that just before he left office Clinton signed off on the game-changing legislation that ended the sensible rules imposed on Wall Street during the Great Depression? It was Clinton who cooperated with the Republicans in reversing the legacy of FDR’s New Deal, opening the floodgates of unfettered avarice that almost drowned the world’s economy during the reign of George W. Bush. 

How convenient to ignore the Financial Services Modernization Act, which Clinton signed into law to summarily end the Glass-Steagall barrier against the commingling of investment and commercial banking. Do the Democrats not remember that Citigroup, the first too-big-to-fail bank made legal by the law Clinton signed, became the $15 million employer of Robert Rubin, the Clinton treasury secretary who led the fight for the law that legalized the creation of Citigroup? Or that Citigroup—led by Sanford Weill, to whom Clinton gave one of the souvenir pens he used to approve that onerous legislation—went on to be a major player in the subprime mortgage swindles and had to be bailed out with more than $50 billion of taxpayer funds?

READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
What do you call a Justice Department that would rather do the defense’s job than its own?

 

If a recent report is true, the Justice Department will need a new name – and some of us will have to step up and admit we were wrong.

It was clear that the foreclosure fraud settlement which the Administration and most states reached with major U.S. banks was a great deal for the big banks – and a lousy deal for the public. But some of us found reason to hope against hope that the settlement would be accompanied by real investigation of crooked bankers, after years of flim-flammery and disgraceful inaction by the Justice Department.

Not that we were entirely naïve. The administration's track record was poor. and even had a slight resonance of bad faith. when it came to prosecuting Wall Street criminality. So, speaking only for myself, that cautious support came with renewed pressure on the Administration to back its words with action.

Some of us knew that, pace Pete Townshend, we very well might get fooled again.

READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 12 September 2012
“In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.”

 

In a school with some of the poorest kids in Chicago, one English teacher–I won't use her name–who'd been cemented into the school system for over a decade, wouldn't do a damn thing to lift test scores, yet had an annual salary level of close to $70,000 a year.  Under Chicago's new rules holding teachers accountable and allowing charter schools to compete, this seniority-bloated teacher was finally fired by the principal.

 

In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.  No teachers' union interference. The charter school was able to bring in an innovative English teacher with advanced degrees and a national reputation in her field - for $29,000 a year less than was paid to the fired teacher.

 

You've guessed it by now:  It's the same teacher.

 

It's Back to School Time!  Time for the ...

Published: Tuesday 11 September 2012
Contrary to Republican demands that the defence budget should be increased, two-thirds of respondents said it should be cut, and half of those said it should be cut the same or more than other government programmes.

 

Disillusioned by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. public is becoming increasingly comfortable with a more modest and less militarised global role for the nation, according to the latest in a biennial series of major surveys.

That attitude is particularly pronounced in the so-called Millennial Generation, citizens between the ages of 18 and 29, according to the poll. They are generally much less worried about international terrorism, immigration, and the rise of China and are far less supportive of an activist U.S. approach to foreign affairs than older groups, it found.

Political independents, who will likely play a decisive role in the outcome of November’s presidential election, also tend more than either Republicans or Democrats to oppose interventionist policies in world affairs, according to the survey, which was released at the Wilson Center for International Scholars here Monday by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA).

READ FULL POST

4 COMMENTS
Published: Tuesday 11 September 2012
Whether corporate political money shouts or whispers, it still corrupts.

 

Not only does corporate political money shout, scream, bellow, and bay in our elections, but afterwards it quietly slips into the back rooms of power to talk softly about payback.

Meet Exelon Corporation, America's biggest electric utility, owner of our country's largest array of nuclear power plants, and among the largest donors to Barack Obama's political career. One Exelon board member alone has raised more than $500,000 for Obama and is tight enough with him to get into the occasional presidential basketball game. Also, Obama's top political operative, David Axelrod, has been an Exelon consultant. Overall, Chicago-based Exelon is so connected that it boasts of being “the president's utility.”

This is a story of how corporate cash buys long-term relationships that then produce quiet access to the inner chambers of government, resulting in corporate favors. Last year, for example, the EPA was developing a new rule affecting how nuclear plants use water. Exelon executives and lobbyists got extraordinary access to top White House officials — far more meetings and at a higher level than other utilities got, and certainly more attention than environmental groups received. Then in March 2011, just days after Exelon lobbyists met with their Oval Office buddies, the EPA official in charge of drafting the rule was called to the White House and instructed to rewrite major sections to fit Exelon's needs. Since then, ...

Published: Tuesday 11 September 2012
If Obama gets a second term, recreating that bargain — and getting enough votes from Congress to do so — will be his central challenge, and America’s.

 

The question at the core of America’s upcoming election isn’t merely whose story most voting Americans believe to be true – Mitt Romney’s claim that the economy is in a stall and Obama’s policies haven’t worked, or Barack Obama’s that it’s slowly mending and his approach is working.

If that were all there was to it, last Friday’s report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the economy added only 96,000 jobs in August – below what’s needed merely to keep up with the growth in the number of eligible workers — would seem to bolster Romney’s claim.

But, of course, congressional Republicans have never even given Obama a chance to try his approach. They’ve blocked everything he’s tried to do – including his proposed Jobs Act that would help state and local governments replace many of the teachers, police officers, social workers, and fire fighters they’ve had to let go over the last several years.

The deeper question is what should be done starting in January to boost a recovery that by anyone’s measure is still anemic. In truth, not even the Jobs Act will be enough.

At the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, Romney produced the predictable set of Republican bromides: cut taxes on corporations and the already rich, cut government spending (mainly on the lower-middle class and the poor), and gut business regulations.

It’s the same supply-side nonsense that got the economy into trouble in the first place.

Corporations won’t hire more workers just because their tax bill is lower and they spend less on regulations. In case you hadn’t noticed, corporate profits are up. Most companies don’t even know what to do with the profits they’re already making. Not incidentally, much of those profits have come from replacing jobs with computer software or outsourcing them ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“The Islamic Republic of Iran considers the use of nuclear, chemical and similar weapons as a great and unforgivable sin.”

 

In his acceptance speech in Charlotte, N.C., President Barack Obama said, “The Iranian government must face a world that stays united against its nuclear ambitions.” It wasn’t much noted in the Western press, but in fact the recent Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Tehran last month delivered a slap in the face to the Israeli-American financial and commercial war on Iran over its nuclear enrichment program. The 120 countries of the movement, representing some two-thirds of United Nations member states and 55 percent of the world’s population, refused to boycott Iran. More, they upheld Iran’s right to pursue nuclear-powered electricity. But given that the U.S. and Europe constitute half of the world’s gross domestic product and maintain its most powerful standing armies, does the meeting’s symbolic gesture really matter?

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon defied severe pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and attended the Tehran summit. Some reports suggested that Ban went because he was annoyed by the vehemence of the Israeli government. India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh not only insisted on attending but brought a big delegation of businessmen with him looking for deals with Iran. For the first time since 1979, an Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, flew to Tehran, signaling an end to Cairo’s decades of obsequiousness toward the U.S.

The final communiqué upheld Iran’s right to pursue the enrichment of uranium for energy purposes and rejected the United States’ boycotts and sanctions on Iran. It further warned that any attack on nuclear facilities would be illegal under international law and a violation of basic human rights. It stressed Palestinian rights, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“There has been no political leader since FDR with Clinton's capacity to perform this rhetorical magic, and there is none today who can match him.”

 

Bill killed.

Nominating Barack Obama for a second term, the former president brought to bear the full weight of his political experience and forensic skill Wednesday night, on behalf of a man who was once his adversary. Rewritten up until the final hour before he took the podium, this was among his finest campaign speeches, even surpassing the address he delivered at the last Democratic convention in 2008. Clinton presented an exhaustive argument for Obama (and against the Republicans) with four key elements:

A lesson in presidential economics delivered in professorial style, acknowledging complexity while at the same time presenting issues in an understandable and even simple style. There has been no political leader since FDR with Clinton's capacity to perform this rhetorical magic, and there is none today who can match him. He possesses a singular authority to discuss employment, spending and debt, having proved his GOP opponents wrong so decisively in the past that they now attempt to cite him as a model.

Calling him out that way — as both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have done in recent weeks — was a woeful mistake. He repaid the cynical compliment by "scoring" them and their party on budgetary arithmetic and job creation, an exercise from which they did not emerge unscathed.

Republicans have ruled the country for more presidential terms than Democrats over the past 53 years, noted Clinton, but they have overseen the creation of only 24 million jobs, compared with 42 million credited to Democrats. He extended that theme into the present campaign, praising Obama for 250,000 new jobs in the restored auto industry and castigating Romney for his advice to bankrupt the industry, which would have created "zero" jobs (and probably caused the loss of millions). And the "country boy from Arkansas" did the sums that show why the ...

Published: Sunday 9 September 2012
“Democracy and free enterprise appear to be mutually reinforcing – it is hard to think of any flourishing democracy that is not a market economy.”

A real debate is emerging in America’s presidential election campaign. It is superficially about health care and taxes. More fundamentally, it is about democracy and free enterprise.

Democracy and free enterprise appear to be mutually reinforcing – it is hard to think of any flourishing democracy that is not a market economy. Moreover, while a number of nominally socialist economies have embraced free enterprise (or “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” as the Chinese Communist Party would say), it seems to be only a matter of time before they are forced to become more democratic.

Yet it is not clear a priori why democracy and free enterprise should be mutually supportive. After all, democracy implies regarding individuals as equal and treating them as such, with every adult getting an equal vote, whereas free enterprise empowers individuals based on how much economic value they create and how much property they own.

 

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more fromRaghuram Rajan, click here.

 

What prevents the median voter in a democracy from voting to dispossess the rich and successful? And why do the latter not erode the political power of the former? Echoes of such a tension are playing out as President Barack Obama tries to tap into middle-class anger, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appeals to disgruntled businesspeople.

 

One reason that the median voter rationally agrees to protect the property of the rich may be that she sees the rich as more efficient managers of that property. So, to the extent ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“Democrats staked out positions against secret election spending, big-money politics and the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision throughout the convention.”

President Barack Obama urged delegates at the Democratic National Convention to beware “the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election” in his acceptance speech Thursday night.

“If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election,” Obama said to a roaring crowd in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.

The impassioned speech came the same week that the main pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, said it raised $10 million in August, a record for the group, and enlisted the aid of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s campaign co-chairman, to help it raise money.

Democrats staked out positions against secret election spending, big-money politics and the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision throughout the convention.

The party is being seriously out raised by Republican super PACs and nonprofits, and its position is in stark contrast to Republicans, whose party platform opposes efforts to undo the high court’s decision.

The 2010 Citizens United ruling overturned an existing ban on corporate- and union-funded advertisements that advocate for the election or defeat of federal candidates.

It further said that independent political ads — even those funded with unlimited corporate cash — do not pose a threat of corruption. That’s a point that campaign finance reformers have disputed.

In other speeches, Democratic officials, including ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“The trajectory of HIV epidemics among MSM” – men who have sex with men – “is expanding virtually everywhere we look, in low-, middle- and high-income countries, and across all regions.”

 

Unlike the flattening or even declining rates of HIV infection among nearly all other communities, the epidemic among gay men globally is rapidly expanding.

But according to new research, the reason for this fast expansion is biological, not behavioral, thus countering some of the core priorities of traditional AIDS funding.

“The trajectory of HIV epidemics among MSM” – men who have sex with men – “is expanding virtually everywhere we look, in low-, middle- and high-income countries, and across all regions,” Chris Beyrer, a professor of international health, told a panel discussion here on Thursday.

“Much of this comes down to a fundamental biological reality: it’s not about gender but about the gut.”

Beyrer, who contributed to a recent groundbreaking special issue of The Lancet, the British medical journal, on HIV in MSM, says that researchers have found that the HIV virus is far more efficiently transmitted through the gut, hence leading to a far higher transmission probability in anal sex, for either a man or a woman – around 18 times more likely than through vaginal transmission.

Further, because gay men can switch sexual roles in a way that is impossible among heterosexual couples – acting as both the acquisition and transmission partner – the efficiency of transmission among MSM networks appears to be far higher than previously understood.

In a hypothetical MSM group in which men did not alternate their sexual roles, Beyrer reports that HIV incidence could be reduced by up to 55 percent.

“The network-level effects are really trumping the individual level,” he says. “So, people who have modest individual-level risks but who are having sex in ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“True, the unemployment rate fell to 8.1% from July’s 8.3%, but the size of the workforce continued to drop, according to a Labor Department report Friday.”

 

President Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention was long on uplifting rhetoric but short on specifics for what he’ll do if reelected to reignite the American economy. 

Yet today’s jobs report provides a troubling reminder that the economy is still in bad shape. Employers added only 96,000 non farm jobs in August. True, the unemployment rate fell to 8.1% from July’s 8.3%, But the size of the workforce continued to drop, according to a Labor Department report Friday.

Unfortunately for the President — and the rest of us — jobs gains have averaged only 94,000 over the last three months. That’s down from an average of 95,000 in the second quarter. And well below the average gain of 225,000 in the first quarter of the year And compared to last year, the trend is still in the wrong direction: a monthly average gain of 139,000 this year compared to last year’s average monthly gain of 153,000. 

Look, I desperately want Obama to win. But the one thing his speech last night lacked was the one thing that was the most important for him to offer — a plan for how to get the economy out of the doldrums.

Last week Mitt Romney offered only the standard Republican bromides: cut taxes on the rich, cut spending on programs everyone else depends on, and deregulate. They didn’t work for George W. Bush and there’s no reason to expect they’ll work again.

But the President could have offered more than the rejoinder he did — suggesting, even in broad strokes, what he’ll do in his second term to get the economy moving again. At least he might have identified the scourge of inequality as a culprit, for example, pointing out, as he did last December, that the economy can’t advance when so much income and wealth are concentrated at the ...

Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“His opponent in the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, tried to turn this hesitation to use hard power into a sign of a man too inexperienced to be entrusted with the presidency.”

 

Barack Obama is a smart guy. So why has he spent the last four years executing such a dumb foreign policy? True, his reliance on “smart power” -- a euphemism for giving the Pentagon a stake in all things global -- has been a smart move politically at home.  It has largely prevented the Republicans from playing the national security card in this election year. But “smart power” has been a disaster for the world at large and, ultimately, for the United States itself.

Power was not always Obama’s strong suit. When he ran for president in 2008, he appeared to friend and foe alike as Mr. Softy. He wanted out of the war in Iraq. He was no fan of nuclear weapons. He favored carrots over sticks when approaching America’s adversaries.

His opponent in the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton, tried to turn this hesitation to use hard power into a sign of a man too inexperienced to be entrusted with the presidency. In 2007, when Obama offered to meet without preconditions with the leaders of Cuba, North Korea, and Iran, Clinton fired back that such a policy was “irresponsible and frankly naïve.” In February 2008, she went further with a TV ad that asked voters who should answer the White House phone at 3 a.m. Obama, she implied, lacked the requisite body parts -- muscle, backbone, cojones-- to make the hard presidential decisions in a crisis.

Obama didn’t take the bait. “When that call gets answered, shouldn’t the president be the one -- the only one -- who had judgment and courage to oppose the Iraq war from the start,” his response ad intoned. “Who understood the real threat to America was al-Qaeda, in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Who led the effort to secure loose nuclear weapons ...

Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“Republicans have eschewed all detail, all fact, all logic. Theirs has been a campaign of ideological bromides mixed with outright bald-faced lies.”

 

Bill Clinton’s speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention was very long but it was masterful — not only in laying out the case for Barack Obama and against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, but in giving the American public what they most want and need in this election season: details, facts, and logic. 

Republicans have eschewed all detail, all fact, all logic. Theirs has been a campaign of ideological bromides mixed with outright bald-faced lies. 

Therein lies the importance of what Bill Clinton accomplished tonight. But, just as importantly, it wasn’t a wonky talk. He packaged the facts in a way people could hear. This is the highest calling of a public educator.

The question is not how many undecided voters saw the speech (I doubt many did) but whether it galvanizes Democrats — giving them the clarity of conviction and argument they need over the next nine weeks to explain why Obama must be re-elected, and why a Romney-Ryan administration would be a disaster for this country. 

I believe Clinton’s speech accomplished this perfectly. We shall see.

Published: Thursday 6 September 2012
Published: Thursday 6 September 2012
Pro-Obama super PAC raises $10 million.

 

Super PAC fundraiser Paul Begala climbed atop a table and told a roomful of VIP donors that “giving until it hurts” isn’t good enough.

“I want you to give until it feels good,” he said, because it will “really hurt” to wake up Nov. 7 with Republican Mitt Romney on his way to the White House.

The high-profile Democratic operative was addressing donors at a cocktail party in downtown Charlotte Tuesday, just blocks from the convention hall where Democrats unveiled a platform that condemns big-money politics.

If elected, Romney and his fellow Republicans will “repeal the 20th century,” Begala told the room.

Begala was one of President Bill Clinton’s chief strategists and is now a top adviser to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that is seeking to re-elect President Barack Obama.

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3 COMMENTS
Published: Thursday 6 September 2012
They’re certainly talking about the economy at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, which calls itself “the Wall Street of the South.” But, nobody’s talked about stronger oversight of Wall Street and other corporations,and nobody’s promised to defend Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts.

Here's a new Zen riddle: What is the sound of money not talking?

Sure, it talks sometimes. We heard it loud and clear at the Republican Convention. But sometimes the sound of money in politics is the sound of silence. It's the sound of crooked bankers being let off the hook, of economies left at risk, of Social Security and Medicare being weakened, of growing inequity being ignored. Wall Street is spending record amounts on this year's election, and sometimes the best response is silence.

They're certainly talking about the economy at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, which calls itself “the Wall Street of the South.” But as of this writing (mid-day on Wednesday), nobody's talked about stronger oversight of Wall Street and other corporations,and nobody's promised to defend Social Security and Medicare from benefit cuts.

Published: Wednesday 5 September 2012
The corporate sponsorship appears to fly in the face of the Democrats’ pledge to host a “people’s convention.”

While Democrats have touted their grassroots fundraising efforts for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, deep-pocketed corporate donors are helping underwrite the event.

Among the corporate sponsors at the Charlotte convention: AT&T Inc., Bank of America, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, UnitedHealth Group, Piedmont Natural Gas, US Airways and law and lobbying firm McGuire Woods.

The corporate sponsorship appears to fly in the face of the Democrats’ pledge to host a “people’s convention.”

The party’s 2012 “host committee” is not accepting contributions from corporations, lobbyists and political action committees. Democrats also capped how much money individuals can give at $100,000.

But the party is accepting in-kind donations from corporate firms. In addition, a second nonprofit, called “New American City” was established in May to “defray” administrative expenses and other costs. New American City does accept corporate money.

The exact levels of these companies’ financial support won’t be known until mid-October when filings will be submitted to the Federal Election Commission.

Like their GOP counterparts, the Democrats received about $18 million in public funding to finance their convention. And both parties raised tens of millions of additional dollars, funneled through nonprofit host committees that help facilitate the events.

Host committees have traditionally relied on corporate funders but top Democratic leaders — including President Barack Obama, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro — all penned ...

Published: Wednesday 5 September 2012
Since most of the examination of our President comes from either the daily hypocrasies of Mitt and friends or the coddling progressive left, I thought I would examine “our guy” on a few issues with a bit more scrutiny and fairness.

 

I wrote this a while back after Romney got the nom, and, in light of the blizzard of bullshit that will be coming at us in the next few months, I thought I would put it out now.

Now that the Republican primary circus is over, I began to think about what a vote for Obama would mean.

Since most of the examination of our President comes from either the daily hypocrasies of Mitt and friends or the coddling progressive left, I thought I would examine “our guy” on a few issues with a bit more scrutiny and fairness.

The typical arguments in favor of another Obama presidency are centered around avoiding a fantical rightwing take over of the Oval Office. Obama is perceived as the last line of defense from the corporate barbarians--and, of course, the Supreme Court. There is a cynical logic behind this view, and I tend to agree with Garry Wills' description of the Republican primaries as  “a revolting combination of con men & fanatics, and agree proundly that “the current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican party does not deserve serious consideration for public office.”

However, there are certain Rubicon lines, as constituational law professor Jon Turley calls them, that Obama has crossed that should not be ignored.

All political questions are not equal no matter how much you pivot. When people die or lose their physical freedom to feed certain economic sectors or ideologies, it becomes a zero sum game for me.

This is not an exercise in bemoaning regrettable policy choices or cheering favorable ones, but rather to ask a couple fundimental questions: Who are we? What are we voting for? And what does it mean?

Three markers — the Nobel prize acceptance speech, the escalation speech at West Point, and the recent speech by Eric Holder — crossed that Rubicon line for me.


During his 2008 campaign, ...

Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
“Politicians, including Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, serve the demented ends of corporations that will, until the final flicker of life, attempt to profit from our death spiral.”

I retreat in the summer to the mountains and coasts of Maine and New Hampshire to sever myself from the intrusion of the industrial world. It is in the woods and along the rugged Atlantic coastline, the surf thundering into the jagged rocks, that I am reminded of our insignificance before the universe and the brevity of human life. The stars, thousands visible in the night canopy above me, mock human pretensions of grandeur. They whisper the biblical reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Love now, they tell us urgently, protect what is sacred, while there is still time. But now I go there also to mourn. I mourn for our future, for the fading majesty of the natural world, for the folly of the human species. The planet is dying. And we will die with it.

The giddy, money-drenched, choreographed carnival in Tampa and the one coming up in Charlotte divert us from the real world—the one steadily collapsing around us. The glitz and propaganda, the ridiculous obsessions imparted by our electronic hallucinations, and the spectacles that pass for political participation mask the deadly ecological assault by the corporate state. The worse it gets, the more we retreat into self-delusion. We convince ourselves that global warming ...

Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
Stimulus helped, says CBO

“There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery,” President Barack Obama’s voice says as the camera pans over men and women lying on their backs across a dirt road.

A man in a plaid shirt rolls over. He stands up. In his hands is a sign saying, “I want a job when I graduate.”

“I’m an American. Not a bump in the road,” he says.

One by one, each person lying on the road stands up, holding a sign about unemployment, repeating, “I’m an American. Not a bump in the road.”

The new ad from the Republican National Committee seeks to hit Obama where Americans perceive his weakness to be — in unemployment and economic recovery.

Obama’s management of the economy may be the single biggest ...

Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
Published: Monday 3 September 2012
Published: Monday 3 September 2012
Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
Published: Friday 31 August 2012
Published: Tuesday 28 August 2012
How about telling the poor you will make sure our government stands between them and the cliff?

It’s just astonishing to us how long this campaign has gone on with no discussion of what’s happening to poor people. Official Washington continues to see poverty with tunnel vision – “out of sight, out of mind.”

And we’re not speaking just of Paul Ryan and his Draconian budget plan or Mitt Romney and their fellow Republicans.  Tipping their hats to America’s impoverished while themselves seeking handouts from billionaires and corporations is a bad habit that includes President Obama, who of all people should know better.

Remember: for three years in the 1980’s he was a community organizer in Roseland, one of the worst, most poverty-stricken and despair-driven neighborhoods in Chicago. He called it “the best education I ever had.” And when Obama left to go to Harvard Law School, author Paul Tough 

Published: Sunday 26 August 2012
“As even NPR pointed out this week, the Romney campaign is dredging up the welfare debate because, as a piece of political hot button–pushing, it works like magic.”

The sixteenth anniversary of TANF hit this week, and the Republican presidential candidate spent his time lying about the president’s position on it. President Obama, Mitt Romney insists, stripped the work requirements out of the temporary assistance program that replaced welfare for poor families under Bill Clinton in 1996.

Although every fact-check has shown he’s wrong, Romney and the Romney-phile propaganda groups keep pounding away at their message with ads like this one:

Unidentified male: “Under Obama’s plan you wouldn’t have to work and you wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.”

The president’s responded in typically Obaman fashion. Without wading into the welfare fray, he’s wagged his finger at Romney’s facts: “You just can’t make stuff up….” On the campaign trail this week, the Democrat beat the drum for “more popular” government programs, like those for seniors and students. He's closing all his rallies with Bruce Springsteen’s rousing paean to solidarity, “We Take Care of Our Own.”

Good as it is, a bit of the Boss won’t clear things up. As even NPR pointed out this week, the Romney campaign is dredging up the welfare debate because, as a piece of political hot button–pushing, it works like magic.

NPR’s Ari Shapiro spoke to Peggy Testa and her husband at a Paul Ryan rally outside Pittsburgh:

PEGGY TESTA: You know, we think that the fact that the work requirement has been taken out of welfare is the wrong thing to do.

SHAPIRO: I told her that’s not actually what happened.

Published: Saturday 25 August 2012
Published: Thursday 23 August 2012
The Wisconsin congressman may come to regret his flippant response to Carl Cameron last Saturday, when the Fox News reporter asked how he would respond to critics who question his weak national security resume.

 

Defending himself against the perception that he has no significant foreign policy experience, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has drawn fresh attention to one of the most controversial acts of the past decade: the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq before U.N. weapons inspections were completed. Ryan now points to his vote for war as a token of his readiness to serve in the White House, but he is on the wrong side of both history and public opinion.

The Wisconsin congressman may come to regret his flippant response to Carl Cameron last Saturday, when the Fox News reporter asked how he would respond to critics who question his weak national security resume.

"I've been in Congress for a number of years," he said. "That's more experience than Barack Obama had when he came into office." Perhaps he should have stopped there, but instead blundered on, "I voted to send people to war."

Does Ryan believe that voting for war constitutes foreign policy experience? If so, it is a kind of experience that reflects very poorly on him. Even he must realize that the underlying premise of the war, Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, quickly proved to be nothing more than a Bush administration hoax, along with the secondary claim that ...

Published: Wednesday 22 August 2012
Published: Wednesday 22 August 2012
“Conservative super PAC American Crossroads brought in $7.1 million finishing the month with $29.5 million in the bank.”

Conservative super PACs dominated their Democratic rivals in the latest round of fundraising, according to reports from the Federal Election Commission filed Monday.

Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, brought in $7.5 million in July, finishing with an imposing $20.5 million in the bank. Top contributors include Texas homebuilder and super donor Bob Perry, who gave another $2 million.

Perry was already top donor to the group and the latest donation pushes his total to a whopping $8 million. Another major donor was the Renco Group, a family-owned investment company associated with billionaire investor Ira Rennert, which gave $1 million.

Conservative super PAC American Crossroads brought in $7.1 million finishing the month with $29.5 million in the bank. Texas mega-donor and billionaire Robert Rowling’s TRT Holdings, a private holding company that includes Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym, gave $1 million. TRT also gave $1 million to American Crossroads in February. Rowling personally gave $1 million to the super PAC in May and another $1 million in July.

Meanwhile, the Democratic super PACs didn’t fare quite as well.

Published: Saturday 18 August 2012
Published: Saturday 18 August 2012
In June, South Carolina officials indicated in federal court filings that they will quickly implement the law before the November election if it is upheld.

 

Raymond Rutherford has voted for decades. But this year, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to cast a ballot.

The Sumter, S.C., resident, 59, has never had a government-issued photo ID because a midwife’s error listed him as Ramon Croskey on his birth certificate. It’s wrong on his Social Security card, too.

Rutherford has tried to find the time and money to correct his birth certificate as he waits to see if the photo voter ID law is upheld by a three-judge U.S. District Court panel, scheduled to convene in Washington, D.C., in late September.

In June, South Carolina officials indicated in federal court filings that they will quickly implement the law before the November election if it is upheld. Voters without photo ID by November would be able to sign an affidavit explaining why they could not get an ID in time.

South Carolina’s photo voter ID law is similar to a series of restrictive election measures passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures in states of the former Confederacy, including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia. North Carolina’s General Assembly failed to override Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a photo voter ID bill. 

Thirty-seven states have considered photo voter ID laws since 2010. In November, five states — Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, Kansas and Pennsylvania — will vote under new strict photo voter ID laws. A judge soon could decide whether the Pennsylvania law violates the state constitution, as voting rights advocates claim.

Supporters argue the laws are important protections against in-person voter impersonation fraud, but civil rights organizations and election historians see evidence of a more sinister legacy. Obtaining certificates of birth, marriage and divorce needed to get a proper photo ID can be an obstacle ...

Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
“This section of the NDAA, signed into law by Obama on Dec. 31, 2011, obliterates some of our most important constitutional protections.”

 

I was on the 15th floor of the Southern U.S. District Court in New York in the courtroom of Judge Katherine Forrest last Tuesday. It was the final hearing in the lawsuit I brought in January against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. I filed the suit, along with lawyers Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran, over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). We were late joined by six co-plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg.

This section of the NDAA, signed into law by Obama on Dec. 31, 2011, obliterates some of our most important constitutional protections. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to seize U.S. citizens deemed to be terrorists or associated with terrorists. Those taken into custody by the military, which becomes under the NDAA a domestic law enforcement agency, can be denied due process and habeas corpus and held indefinitely in military facilities. Any activist or dissident, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can be threatened under this law with indefinite incarceration in military prisons, including our offshore penal colonies. The very name of the law itself—the Homeland Battlefield Bill—suggests the totalitarian credo of endless war waged against enemies within “the homeland” as well as those abroad.

“The essential thrust of the NDAA is to create a system of justice that violates the separation of powers,” Mayer told the court. “[The Obama administration has] taken detention out of the judicial ...

Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
“What do you give a government program that has everything ... except a secure future of its own?”

Today, August 14, is Social Security's 77th birthday. That presents us with a difficult challenge: What do you give a government program that has everything ... except a secure future of its own?

Let's take a look at the options for this year's celebration.

The Gift Pile

Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Look what Social Security can already list among its gifts. It's got:

Hundreds of millions of people who love it. Polls consistently show that Social Security, along with Medicare, is one of our most popular government programs.

The best balance sheet in the entire government. Despite all the scare talk (which we'll get to shortly), no program in U.S. history is on a firmer financial footing than Social Security. It's a stand-alone program which isn't allowed to contribute to the overall government deficit, and is absolutely solvent until the mid-2030s.

No other program can say that.

A great profile. There's no way to say this delicately, so we'll come right out with it: Social Security has the slimmest, sleekest look in Washington. We don't like to encourage our society's fixation on thinness as the ideal of beauty, but let's face it -- Social Security is so cost-effective in delivering its benefits that it's got the most streamlined chassis around.

The Social Security Administration beats every private benefits program in the country when it comes to low overhead and efficient administrative design. One of the main reasons for that is the fact that everybody who pays into the system receives its benefits at qualification time.

There's no "means testing," no gamesmanship, no trick—just trim, no-overhead service delivery.

Great polls. Time and time again, overwhelming majorities of Americans have made it clear that they don't want this program to be cut. That means a lot: Of all the gifts in the world, the best ...

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
The ad features a former employee of a Bain-owned steel mill who says his wife put off visiting a doctor when she became ill because his family lost their health insurance following the closure of the plant where he worked.

Today, Priorities USA Action, a pro-President Barack Obama super PAC, released “Understands.” The minute-long ad takes aim at presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, condemning his actions when he was chairman and CEO of Bain Capital and linking the private equity firm's buyout of a steel company to a woman's death from cancer.

The ad features a former employee of a Bain-owned steel mill who says his wife put off visiting a doctor when she became ill because his family lost their health insurance following the closure of the plant where he worked. When the man’s wife finally went to the hospital, he says, it was too late — she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and died 22 days later.

“I don’t think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone,” he says. “And furthermore I do not think that Mitt Romney is concerned.”

Priorities USA Action reported spending almost $1.3 million on an anti-Romney television advertising buy in its most recent independent expenditure report to the Federal Election Commission. It is not certain whether or not the expenditure is tied directly to the ad.

Romney's campaign said "President Obama’s allies continue to use discredited and dishonest attacks in a contemptible effort to conceal the administration’s deplorable economic record," in response to the ad.

In other outside spending news:

Published: Saturday 11 August 2012
Published: Friday 10 August 2012
“Obama came to power when both the US and the world economy were in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.”

 

 

Public-opinion polls in the United States indicate a close presidential election in November. While President Barack Obama outpolls the Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, on foreign policy, slow economic growth and high unemployment – issues that are far more salient in US elections – favor Romney. And, even on foreign policy, Obama’s critics complain that he has failed to implement the transformational initiatives that he promised four years ago. Are they right?

 

Obama came to power when both the US and the world economy were in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Indeed, some of Obama’s economic advisers counseled him that unless urgent steps were taken to stimulate the economy, there was a one-in-three chance of entering a full-scale depression.

 

Thus, although Obama also inherited two ongoing wars, nuclear-proliferation threats from Iran and North Korea, and the continuing problem of Al Qaeda’s terrorism, his early months in office were devoted to addressing the economic crisis at home and abroad. His efforts were not a complete success, but he managed to stave off the worst outcome.

 

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Obama’s rhetoric during his 2008 campaign and the first months of his presidency was both inspirational in style and transformational in objective. His first year in office included a speech in Prague in which he established the goal of a nuclear-free world; a speech in ...

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
“It’s the consensus, not the gridlock, that’s the problem.”

Another mass murder, another shooting spree, leaving bodies bullet-riddled by a legally obtained weapon. This time, it was Oak Creek, Wis., at a Sikh temple, as people gathered for their weekly worship. President Barack Obama said Monday, “I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible, tragic events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul-searching.” Amidst the carnage, platitudes. With an average of 32 people killed by guns in this country every day—the equivalent of five Wisconsin massacres per day—both major parties refuse to deal with gun control. It’s the consensus, not the gridlock, that’s the problem.

The president’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said, “We need to take common-sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights and make it harder for those who should not have weapons under existing law from obtaining weapons.” It’s important to note where Jay Carney made that point, reiterating the phrase “common sense” five times in relation to the President’s intransigence against strengthening gun laws, and invoking “Second Amendment” a stunning eight times. He spoke from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the White House, named after one of Mr. Carney’s predecessors, shot in the head by John Hinckley during the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Brady survived and co-founded with his wife the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. After each of these massacres, the Brady Campaign has called for strengthened gun control.

This latest mass ...

Published: Wednesday 8 August 2012
Published: Saturday 4 August 2012
“Forget that the government is increasingly trampling on the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, with a burgeoning surveillance program and a growing militarization of the police.”

We Americans are taught it in school. The propaganda put out by Voice of America repeats the idea ad nauseum around the globe. Politicians refer to it in every campaign speech with the same fervor that they claim to be running for office in response to God’s call: America is a model of democracy for the whole world.

But what kind of democracy is it really that we have here?

Forget that only half of eligible voters typically vote in quadrennial presidential elections (less than 30% in so-called “off-year” elections for members of the House and a third of the Senate, and less than 25% in municipal and state elections). Forget that the government is increasingly trampling on the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, with a burgeoning surveillance program and a growing militarization of the police.

The US government doesn’t even do what the majority of the citizens want. In fact, these days it flat out ignores what we the people want.

Consider the polls, and what they show public sentiment to be on key issues, and then look at what the government, composed of supposedly elected representatives and an elected president, actually does:

1. Military spending

Most polls show that Americans, tired of the endless wars that have been raging almost without pause since the end of World War II, and the huge amount of taxes devoted to the military (currently over $1 trillion per year!), favor cutting the military. Just recently, the Center for Public Integrity conducted a poll and found that when asked whether they wanted to cut funding for education, veterans’ benefits, homeland security and other areas, or military spending, 65% of people said they wanted military spending to get the axe. Overall, people favored an 18% cut in the military budget. Democrats wanted a 22% cut, while even Republicans, usually perceived as pro-military, ...

Published: Saturday 4 August 2012
“The Democrats hope a growing coalition of white college graduates and immigrants will deliver Colorado to Barack Obama. Recent polls show the president and Republican Mitt Romney tied.”

When the sun goes down, the new Mountain West comes out swinging. Denver's Larimer Square and LoDo (Lower Downtown) district turns into a multicultural Mixmaster of educated professionals, ordinary folk and tourists jamming bars, hamburger joints, steak palaces and French bistros. Meanwhile, armies of largely Spanish-speaking immigrants work the kitchens and vacuum the deserted offices. For all the legends of the spacious West, the region is one of the most urbanized.

And it is getting more so, which is why once-dependably Republican Colorado is in the "leaning who-knows-where" category in the upcoming election. Similar demographic trends are visiting Nevada and New Mexico. And although Arizona remains Republican, that could change, as well.

An influx of newcomers has "raised educational levels, replaced older with younger generations and powered the rise of metropolitan areas where the overwhelming majority of the Mountain West population now lives." So writes Ruy Teixeira in "America's New Swing Region: Changing Politics and Demographics in the Mountain West," published by the Brookings Institution.

The Democrats hope a growing coalition of white college graduates and immigrants will deliver Colorado to Barack Obama. Recent polls show the president and Republican Mitt Romney tied. For the record, registered voters in Colorado split evenly among Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The demographic changes are certainly a wind at the Democrats' back. From 2000 to 2010, minorities' share of eligible Colorado voters rose nearly 3 percent. Working-age college graduates gained 2 percent. In the same period, the portion of eligible white voters who did not graduate from college — a group generally favorable to Republicans — fell almost 6 percent.

The problem for Republicans here goes beyond the new arrivals' ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
“Thanks to a last-minute declaration by the United States that it “needed more time” to review the short, 11-page treaty text, the conference ended last week in failure.”

 

Quick: What is more heavily regulated, global trade of bananas or battleships? In late June, activists gathered in New York’s Times Square to make the absurd point, that, unbelievably, “there are more rules governing your ability to trade a banana from one country to the next than governing your ability to trade an AK-47 or a military helicopter.” So said Amnesty International USA’s Suzanne Nossel at the protest, just before the start of the United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which ran from July 2 to July 27. Thanks to a last-minute declaration by the United States that it “needed more time” to review the short, 11-page treaty text, the conference ended last week in failure.

There isn’t much that could be considered controversial in the treaty. Signatory governments agree not to export weapons to countries that are under an arms embargo, or to export weapons that would facilitate “the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes” or other violations of international humanitarian law. Exports of arms are banned if they will facilitate “gender-based violence or violence against children” or be used for “transnational organized crime.” Why does the United States need more time than the more than 90 other countries that had sufficient time to read and approve the text? The answer lies in the power of the gun lobby, the arms industry and the apparent inability of President Barack Obama to do the right thing, especially if it contradicts a cold, political calculation.

The Obama administration torpedoed the ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
“By the time the next presidential term starts in January 2013, and contrary to the current narratives advanced by the Obama and Romney campaigns, the incumbent will find himself with limited room for maneuver on economic policy. ”

The conventional wisdom about the November presidential election in the United States is only partly correct. Yes, economic issues will play a large role in determining the outcome. But the next step in the argument – that the winner of an increasingly ugly contest will have the luxury of pursuing significantly different policies from his opponent – is much more uncertain.

By the time the next presidential term starts in January 2013, and contrary to the current narratives advanced by the Obama and Romney campaigns, the incumbent will find himself with limited room for maneuver on economic policy. Indeed, the potential differences for America are elsewhere, and have yet to be adequately understood by voters. They center on ...

Published: Tuesday 31 July 2012
Published: Sunday 29 July 2012
“Reminiscent of former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice’s statement, ‘We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,’ the fear-mongering ad doesn’t mention Mitt Romney, Obama’s November opponent for president.”

“You know,” she says, closing her laptop and shaking her head, “It seems these days, not a single one of us steps on a train, boards an airplane, attends a concert or a sporting event that doesn’t have at least a fleeting concern that terror could strike.”

It sounds like this suburban woman is speaking in the days after 9/11. And in fact, footage of the planes hitting the twin towers does flash across the screen.

But the ad, from the nonprofit Secure America Now, was released just this week. “Are We Safer Now? ”blasts President Barack Obama for undermining American security in a litany of ways, including  wanting to close Guantanamo Bay (which he didn’t), ending “enhanced interrogation techniques” and closing the CIA’s “black sites,” secretive prisons overseas outside America’s legal jurisdiction.

The ad ends with footage of burning cars, burning buildings, and then — an explosion.

Reminiscent of former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice’s statement, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” the fear-mongering ad doesn’t mention Mitt Romney, Obama’s November opponent for president. Instead, it calls on viewers to visit its “Are We Safer?” website so you can “learn the facts.”

The ad is rife with false and misleading statements. Among the most egregious:

  • Israel: Obama has not “all but abandoned Israel,” as the ad claims, though he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had their differences.
  • Iran: Iran does not have a “nuclear bomb,” as the ...
Published: Thursday 26 July 2012
Published: Tuesday 24 July 2012
Published: Monday 23 July 2012
“Speaking of illegitimate, the latest assault on the Obama family is a new movie purporting to show that the president’s father was not Barack Hussein Obama Sr., but an African-American radical and poet named Frank Marshall Davis.”

 

As the Obama years unfold, observers who lived through the Clinton era sometimes have the eerie feeling that they have been here before — particularly when directing their gaze toward the far right. The roiling paranoia and hatred that marred American politics when Bill and Hillary Clinton were in the White House has resurfaced in attacks on Barack and Michelle Obama, who like the Clintons have been maligned repeatedly as communist, subversive, Satanic and, above all, illegitimate.

Speaking of illegitimate, the latest assault on the Obama family is a new movie purporting to show that the president's father was not Barack Hussein Obama Sr., but an African-American radical and poet named Frank Marshall Davis. There is no more substance to this claim than that the president was actually born in Kenya and educated in an Islamist madrassa.

Taken seriously, this "neo-birther" fable would tend to erode the original "birther" claims. But logic and proof have no impact on such speculations, whose aim is to profit from prejudice and extremism.

Consider the source — in this instance, an individual named Cliff Kincaid, who runs an old extreme-right outfit called Accuracy in Media and, appropriately, venerates the likes of Richard Nixon and Joe McCarthy.

The last big plot promoted by Kincaid was the "bipartisan" scheme to portray the "murder" of Clinton White House counsel Vince Foster as a suicide. Among the conspirators fingered by Kincaid in this alleged cover-up was the Republican independent counsel Kenneth Starr, best known for his dogged, intemperate, $50 million effort to remove President Clinton from office.

Now Kincaid is insinuating that Davis was not merely a left-wing mentor who somehow transformed Barack Obama into a communist — an old theory that first surfaced in 2004 — but ...

Published: Sunday 22 July 2012
“Each year, the tiny program screens thousands of produce samples. It has found more than two dozen bacteria-laced examples that prompted recalls of lettuce, tomatoes and other foods from grocery stores.”

The nation's largest produce-safety testing program narrowly escaped closure thanks to a last-minute grudging reprieve from the Agriculture Department, and finding a permanent solution to keep tainted fruits and vegetables from reaching consumers could take an even bigger effort.

Each year, the tiny program screens thousands of produce samples. It has found more than two dozen bacteria-laced examples that prompted recalls of lettuce, tomatoes and other foods from grocery stores.

It was at risk of being scrapped after President Barack Obama's proposed budget slashed the effort's funding earlier this year. But USDA spokesman Justin DeJong said late Monday that although the Microbiological Data Program "does not align with USDA's core mission," it will operate through December, using existing agreements with states to keep testing for salmonella, E. coli and listeria over the next six months.

Public health officials and food safety advocates have long argued that getting rid of the program would leave the country without a crucial tool to investigate outbreaks of deadly food borne illnesses.

If samples test positive for bacteria, it can trigger nationwide recalls and keep contaminated produce from reaching the public.

Dr. Robert Tauxe, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's top food-germ investigator, has said the program's information can be key to pinpointing foods tied to outbreaks, and it could not easily be replaced by companies' internal tests or more modest federal sampling programs.

The CDC said contaminated fruits and vegetables caused nearly one-third of the major multi state food borne illness outbreaks last year.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., a longtime food safety advocate, said she would continue to push for the program to stay open beyond the year's end, since the House and ...

Published: Friday 20 July 2012
“At stake is could be as much as 600 billion dollars in Pentagon funding – much of which would presumably be spent on lucrative procurement contracts for new weapons systems – over the next 10 years, as well as what the hawks see as the further erosion of U.S. global military dominance.”

 

While Iran, Russia, and China are all pretty scary, the ominous word “sequestration” is what is keeping right-wing hawks and their friends in the defense industry up at night.

While they have been rallying their forces for most of the past year, their campaign to avoid the “specter of sequestration”, as they often refer to it, shifted into high gear on Capitol Hill this week, as top industry executives were summoned to testify to the urgency of the threat.

At stake is could be as much as 600 billion dollars in Pentagon funding – much of which would presumably be spent on lucrative procurement contracts for new weapons systems – over the next 10 years, as well as what the hawks see as the further erosion of U.S. global military dominance.

“It is clear that if the process of sequestration is fully implemented,” warned three of the right’s most hawkish think tanks – the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Heritage Foundation, and the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) – in a joint statement entitled “Defending Defense” last week, “the U.S. military will lack adequate resources to defend the United States and its global interests.”

“The specter of sequestration threatens the U.S. defense industrial base at a time when China, Russia, and other military competitors are ramping up their defense industries,” according to the statement, which helped raise the curtain on this week’s mantra from the military-industrial complex: hundreds of thousands of workers could lose their jobs as early as October – one month before the election – unless the sequestration nightmare goes away.

The sequestration specter arises from ...

Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
“House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is investigating the frequency with which Cabinet Secretaries appear at super PAC events and whether government funds have been used for travel to and from these events.”

 

Five months after the Center for Public Integrity reported that four of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet members were willing to raise money for Democratic super PACs, the top Republican investigator in the House is asking for details.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is “investigating the frequency with which Cabinet Secretaries appear at super PAC events and whether government funds have been used for travel to and from these events,” according to a July 12 letter obtained byPolitico.

In February, Obama reluctantly embraced super PACs and gave the go-ahead on a plan to allow senior campaign aides and top White House officials to fundraise for the nascent political advertising machines, which are legally allowed to collect unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations and unions.

Issa made a request for travel documents by Cabinet members, despite the fact that to date, none are known to have appeared at any such events.

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Published: Tuesday 17 July 2012
“Real-estate mogul Donald Trump, with his customary charm, thought it appropriate to refer to the brilliant and scholarly Roberts as a “dummy.”

Shortly after John Roberts, the conservative United States Supreme Court Chief Justice, sided with the Court’s four liberal justices to uphold President Barack Obama’s major health-care reform, he joked that he was leaving the country for the “impregnable island fortress” of Malta. Roberts was referring not so much to the mainstream media’s speculation about the reasons for his surprise vote, but rather to the fury and thirst for retribution among conservative bloggers and pundits.

Indeed, “traitor” was one of their common epithets, as were “coward” and “sellout.” Real-estate mogul Donald Trump, with his customary charm, thought it appropriate to refer to the brilliant and scholarly Roberts as a “dummy.”

The apoplectic rage that followed the Supreme Court’s decision on Obama’s health-care legislation is becoming routine in America’s public discourse, and it is a bipartisan malady. Though it may have started on the left – in response to Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush – it has become increasingly a right-wing phenomenon. Radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck (who recently signed a $100 million deal to spew more hatred on the airwaves) dwarf liberal commentators in audience size. The age of information and communications has given way to an age of anger.

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Published: Monday 16 July 2012
“President Obama pointed out that businesses did not build the roads and bridges that help them get their products to markets. He said that in the United States we succeed together.”

 

Did President Obama tell business owners they didn't build their businesses? That's what the entire right-wing media machine is saying he said. What did he really say?

Drudge Report headline: "Obama Goes Wild: 'If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen'..."

Drudge links to the Washington Times, which writes, "President Barack Obama addressed supporters in Roanoke, Virginia on Friday afternoon and took a shot at the business community. President Obama dismissed any credit business owners give themselves for their success:"

Heritage Foundation: Obama Tells Entrepreneurs "You Didn't Build" Your Business

Heritage writes: "That sound you hear is silence—as millions of small business owners and entrepreneurs were left speechless this weekend from President Obama's latest insult."

And so on across the right-wing media machine. Imagine the talk-radio discussion today!

What Did He Really Say?

President Obama pointed out that businesses did not build the roads and bridges that help them get their products to markets. He said that in the United States we succeed together. Here is the full quote:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by ...

Published: Sunday 15 July 2012
Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
“That four year cycle comes to us with the regularity of a returning comet, accompanied by a shroud of campaign fog that makes a guessing game of discerning fact from fiction when it comes to political promises.”

I – Come November


 
Soon it will be presidential voting time again in the U.S.. That four year cycle comes to us with the regularity of a returning comet, accompanied by a shroud of campaign fog that makes a guessing game of discerning fact from fiction when it comes to political promises.


 
A hefty minority have opted out of this process. Thus, if history runs consistent, when the designated day in November arrives, between 38 and 40% of America’s eligible voters will automatically (without even thinking about it) stay away from the polls. Voting appears not to be part of their local culture: they obviously do not think the results touch them in a personal way.  They feel their vote is meaningless, and they see the candidates as irredeemable liars not to be taken seriously. The behavior of this minority is not in doubt.


 
However, there is yet another group of eligible voters whose actions in November are in doubt. These are people who are regular voters, but are now so put off by their usual party candidate that they refuse to support him. They will either not vote at all or cast a vote for a minor third party. Back in 2000 and again in 2005, when George W. Bush, Jr. stood for election, a good number of moderate Republicans suffered a voting dilemma of this sort. Seeing the Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller (whatever we on the left might think of these folks) taken over by a proven neo-con screwball like Bush Jr. must have made many of them hesitate to vote in their usual fashion. Maybe that is what made the elections so close that only a series of fraudulent maneuvers got George W. elected.
 


 
This year an unknown ...

Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
“Liberals like the idea of a military draft because they think it would curb any president’s eagerness to go to war.”

 

Retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, bounced out of his job for revels in Paris as witnessed by Rolling Stone, has recycled a perennial chestnut: Bring back the draft — i.e., a conscripted military, not the volunteer military of today.

These days, McChrystal teaches at Yale University with what must be a protection unique in the annals of academic freedom. Everything he tells his students is, by contractual agreement, off the record. But he made his proposal about the draft in a public venue, at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival. McChrystal said: "I think we ought to have a draft. I think if a nation goes to war, it shouldn't be solely represented by a professional force, because it gets to be unrepresentative of the population. I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk. You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game."

It's certainly true that the volunteer military is a mess. The Associated Press reported recently that suicides are surging among the troops. According to the AP, "the 154 suicides for active-duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the U.S. forces killed in action in Afghanistan." The volunteer military struggles with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse and domestic violence.

Liberals like the idea of a military draft because they think it would curb any president's eagerness to go to war. There are indeed sound arguments for a draft. They were put eloquently not so long ago by Bill Broyles, a Vietnam vet: "In spite of the president's insistence that our very civilization is at stake, the privileged aren't flocking to the flag. The war is being fought by Other People's Children. The war is impersonal for the very people to whom it should be most personal. If the children of the nation's elites were facing enemy fire without body armor, riding ...

Published: Friday 13 July 2012
The Treasury Department said it was blacklisting 11 companies and several individuals associated with Iran’s defense ministry, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as Iran’s national shipping line.

 

In the latest ratcheting up of pressure on Iran, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday imposed new financial sanctions against Iranian and other companies whose operations allegedly support the country’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.

The Treasury Department said it was blacklisting 11 companies and several individuals associated with Iran’s defense ministry, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as Iran’s national shipping line.

It also blacklisted several companies in Hong Kong, Switzerland and Malaysia, as well as the National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), which the treasury alleged have been used by the national oil company to evade existing sanctions against Iranian oil experts.

“Iran today is under intense, multilateral sanctions pressure, and we will continue to ratchet up the pressure so long as Iran refuses to address the international community’s well-founded questions about its nuclear program,” said treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen.

“Today’s actions are the next step on that path, taking direct aim at disrupting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as its deceptive efforts to use front companies to sell and move its oil,” he added.

While the new sanctions were described by the State Department as part of the administration’s “dual-track approach” to both increase pressure on Tehran and engage it diplomatically, a number of observers said the latest escalation carried risks.

“The question is how much escalation can be tolerated before the whole diplomatic process falls apart, and, if it falls apart, what comes next,” noted Trita Parsi, the president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and the author of two ...

Published: Wednesday 11 July 2012
“Confidential sources say that the President’s much-touted Mortgage Fraud Task Force is being starved for vital resources by the Holder Justice Department.”

More and more Washington insiders are asking a question that was considered off-limits in the nation's capital just a few months ago: Who, exactly, is Attorney General Eric Holder representing? As scandal after scandal erupts on Wall Street, involving everything from global lending manipulation to cocaine and prostitution, more and more people are worrying about Holder's seeming inaction - or worse - in the face of mounting evidence.

Confidential sources say that the President's much-touted Mortgage Fraud Task Force is being starved for vital resources by the Holder Justice Department. Political insiders are fearful that this obstruction will threaten Democrats' chances at the polls. Investigators and prosecutors from other agencies are expressing their frustration as the ever-rowing list of documented crimes by individual Wall Street bankers continues to be ignored.

Meanwhile the scandals and revelations go on. The new LIBOR rate-fixing scandal led the bank-friendly and conservative magazine The Economist to run a cover about "Banksters" and to publish a piece entitled "The rotten heart of finance." People like Robert Reich are saying this could be the story that finally brings down the banks.

Where are the indictments?

But there have already been stories - lots of stories, terrible ones - about corruption, bribery, perjury, forgery, and a dozen different kinds of fraud. There have been stories about laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels, including a new lead that surfaced this week. There's already ample evidence that Wall Street bankers have defrauded cities, deceived investors, and cheated their own clients.

Published: Tuesday 10 July 2012
Published: Monday 9 July 2012
“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who took part in the Paris meeting, also praised Tlas’s defection and predicted that more would follow.”

 

The defection this week of a key general with longstanding ties to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad was hailed Friday by officials in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama as an important step towards ending the regime.

Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas, the son of former defense minister Mustafa Tlas, was reportedly smuggled by opposition activists to Turkey three days ago and may be en route to Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters Friday during a high-level meeting of the “Friends of Syria” group in the French capital. Fabius later stated that he had no indication of Tlas’s final destination.

“We welcome this defection and we believe it is significant,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby said, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who took part in the Paris meeting, also praised Tlas’s defection and predicted that more would follow.

“(I)t is important that there is this increasing stream of senior military defectors,” she told reporters after the meeting in reference to Tlas’s defection. “Because if people like him, and like the generals and colonels and others who have recently defected to Turkey are any indication, regime insiders and the military establishment are starting to vote with their feet.

“Those who have the closest knowledge of Assad’s actions and crimes are moving away, and we think that’s a very promising development,” she added.

Independent analysts here, including some who have long expressed skepticism over administration claims of the regime’s vulnerability, largely echoed that view, agreeing that Tlas’s departure has struck a major blow to the regime, which has relied for some 40 years on unity between the Alawite minority, of which the Assad are a part, and the Sunni military and business elite.

Published: Saturday 7 July 2012
“If America remains exceptional, it is thanks to the president and the hopeful citizens who elected him — and very much despite his partisan adversaries, those most pious, most misguided exponents of American exceptionalism.”

The Fourth of July is the birthday of American exceptionalism — originally, the idea cherished by the nation's Revolutionary founders that the practice of liberty, equality and democracy in these United States would kindle hope in a world downtrodden by every form of despotism, hierarchy and oppression.

Independence Day marked the determination of a new and diverse people to throw off the old yoke of hereditary rule, with all its attendant traditions of social and economic stratification. The founders believed that America would inspire other nations as an ally and friend, rather than dominate them by force of arms or money. They did not regard their weak new republic as intrinsically superior or chosen to rule the world by God — but argued instead that the ideals of popular sovereignty and constitutional freedom represented the natural rights and the future of humanity everywhere.

So July 4 is a holiday whose meaning still resonates, despite centuries of contradictory history and circumstance. And it ought to be a day ...

Published: Saturday 7 July 2012
“If the economy is moving in the right direction then - if unemployment is dropping and jobs are increasing - Obama has a good chance of being reelected. If the jobs doldrums continue - or worse - he won’t be.”

Bad news for the U.S. economy and for Barack Obama. We’re in the jobs doldrums. Unemployment for June is stuck at 8.2 percent, the same as in May. And only 80,000 new jobs were added. 

Remember, 125,000 news jobs are needed just to keep up with the increase in the population of Americans who need jobs. That means the jobs situation continues to worsen. 

The average of 75,000 new jobs created in April, May and June contrasts sharply with the 226,000 new jobs created in January, February and March. 

In Ohio yesterday, Obama reiterated that he had inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression. That’s true. But the excuse is wearing thin. It’s his economy now, and most voters don’t care what he inherited. 

In fact, a good case can be made that the economy is out of Obama’s hands — that the European debt crisis and the slowdown in China will have far more impact on the U.S. economy over the next four months than anything Obama could come up with, even if he had the votes. 

It’s also out of the Fed’s hands. No matter how low the Fed keeps interest rates, it doesn’t matter between now and Election Day. Companies won’t borrow to expand if they don’t see enough consumers out there demanding their products. Consumers won’t spend if they’re worried about their jobs and paychecks. And consumers won’t borrow (or be able to borrow) if they don’t have the means. 

Yet Obama must show he understands the depth and breadth of this crisis, and is prepared to do large and bold things to turn the economy around in his second term if and when he does have the votes in Congress. So far, his proposals are policy miniatures relative to the size of the problem.  

The real political test comes after Labor Day. Before Labor Day, Americans aren’t really focused on the upcoming election. After Labor Day, they ...

Published: Wednesday 4 July 2012
Indeed, two of the nation’s most respected forecasters predicted that the AJA would add 1.3-1.9 million jobs in 2012 and more than two million jobs by the end of 2013.

The United States has just completed its third year of economic recovery, but the unemployment rate remains above 8%, and there are worrisome signs of a slowdown. So it is no surprise that jobs have become a major focus in the presidential campaign – or that the candidates have very different ideas about how to boost employment.Last autumn, President Barack Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, a $450 billion package of fiscal measures aimed at job creation. The AJA amounted to about 3% of GDP and was designed to take effect in 2012, providing a timely employment boost and insurance for the US recovery against global headwinds. Most of its measures had enjoyed bipartisan support in the past; tax cuts comprised about 56% of the total cost; and the package was paid for in Obama’s long-term deficit reduction plan.

 

Several independent economists concluded that Obama’s plan would provide a significant lift to the job market in 2012-2013. Indeed, two of the nation’s most respected forecasters predicted that the AJA would add 1.3-1.9 million jobs in 2012 and more than two million jobs by the end of 2013. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also found that most of the AJA’s policies ranked high in budgetary effectiveness, measured by the number of jobs created in 2012-2013 per dollar of budgetary cost.

 

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Laura Tyson, click here.

 

The AJA was filibustered by Senate Republicans, and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives likewise prevented the bill from coming to a vote. Mitt Romney, now the ...

Published: Monday 2 July 2012
The next president won’t take office until Dec. 1, leaving a five-month period during which Mexico is expected to intensify its drive against the drug cartels.

 

In the wake of Mexico’s presidential election Sunday, analysts are expecting Mexico to launch a major “blitzkrieg surge” against the drug cartels during current president Felipe Calderon’s lame duck period.

 

The next president won’t take office until Dec. 1, leaving a five-month period during which Mexico is expected to intensify its drive against the drug cartels.

 

To the Mexican electorate – exhausted by six years of being affronted by the daily body count that was the product of Calderon’s militarization of the drug war – PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto promised to change strategy, and work to reduce violence.

 

“The task of the state, what should be its priority from my point of view, and what I have called for in this campaign, is to reduce the levels of violence,” he said in several interviews, by way of explaining his intention in shifting Calderon’s hard line against the various drug organizations operating throughout the country.

 

In private, however, Peña Nieto quietly reassured American officials that they could count on Mexico’s continued cooperation in current efforts to continue the war on drugs. A senior Obama official told reporters that Peña Nieto had assured the White House that “he is going to keep working with us.”

 

To make matters more complicated, Peña Nieto and Calderon have been working together, mindful of the opportunity presented by this lame-duck period – between July 1 and Dec. 1 – which affords Mexico the time frame to intensify military strikes against the drug cartels before the ...

Published: Monday 2 July 2012
Published: Monday 2 July 2012
Stock prices in the for-profit hospital industry soared, rising 7 percent in heavy trading immediately after the Court ruling.

 

Was today's ruling a victory for justice over corporate power? Did Chief Justice John Roberts rise above partisan differences because that's where an honest reading of the law took him?

Nah. The majority on this Supreme Court is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corporate America. Call it SCOTUS™ Inc., and it's brought to you by the same fine folks that gave you Citizens United and Bush v. Gore. John Roberts is its CEO, not its Chief Justice.

The point isn't to reinforce anybody's cynicism. But you can't be idealistic in an effective way until you see things as they really are.

Roberts Rules

It was a shrewd move. Remember, as CEO of SCOTUS™ Inc., John Roberts is running the subsidiary of a large conglomerate. I've had that job myself, and trust me: you've got to please the parent or you're out of business.

By casting the decisive vote (who knows whether it really was the deciding vote, or whether the right-wing majority made it look that way) Roberts acted in the best interests of corporate conservatism, for-profit healthcare companies, and - most importantly of all - of the far-right political force which is today's Republican Party.

He had three options: Strike down a signature piece of Democratic legislation in its entirety, which would look highly partisan; strike down the individual mandate, which would look even worse since it was a conservative Republican idea; or uphold the law in a way that's designed to do maximum political damage to the Democrats and protect the Court's current corporate status.

Weighing the Options

Striking down the law would have cost the Court immeasurably in what corporate accountants call "good will."It would have widened and deepened the common (and accurate) perception ...

Published: Sunday 1 July 2012
Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly is still blaming health care reform legislation for “uncertainty” that he warned is harming jobs growth - even after the Supreme Court issued a final ruling that the law is constitutional.

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly is still blaming health care reform legislation for "uncertainty" that he warned is harming jobs growth - even after the Supreme Court issued a final ruling that the law is constitutional. Economists and small business owners have said that lack of demand, not uncertainty, has held back jobs growth.

 

O'Reilly On Supreme Court's Health Care Ruling: "Uncertainty" For Businesses "Continues"

O'Reilly On Supreme Court's Health Care Ruling: "The Uncertainty Continues, The Hiring Is Going To Be Blunted." Calling in to his Fox News show, which was being guest-hosted by Laura Ingraham, to discuss the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act, Bill O'Reilly said: "[F]or business, it's bad. Because the uncertainty continues, the hiring is going to be blunted, and the economy is going to be harmed." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 6/28/12]

But The Ruling Settled Much Of The Alleged Uncertainty For Businesses Over The Health Care Law

EPI: Health Care Ruling "Gives Clarity And Certainty" To Businesses. Elise Gould, economist and director of health policy research at the Economic Policy Institute, wrote that the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the health care law is "important because it gives clarity and certainty to states and private industry that they should start preparing for the main provision to kick in in 2014. It resolves any uncertainty that was felt throughout the country by the important players, and now provides the necessary push for its ...

Published: Sunday 1 July 2012
Bauerlein and Kroll discuss the role of attorney James Bopp, a key legal advisor behind the Citizens United decision; how Karl Rove, Sheldon Adelson and others are quietly bankrolling Mitt Romney's campaign; and why President Obama has opted to accept unlimited super PAC donations.

 In our extended conversation with Monika Bauerlein and Andy Kroll of Mother Jones magazine, we continue to look at "dark money" -- the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by outside groups who are helping to make the 2012 presidential race the most expensive race in history. Bauerlein and Kroll discuss the role of attorney James Bopp, a key legal advisor behind the Citizens United decision; how Karl Rove, Sheldon Adelson and others are quietly bankrolling Mitt Romney's campaign; and why President Obama has opted to accept unlimited super PAC donations. "What the Supreme Court did in Citizens United was say that when you are not giving your money in a campaign directly to the candidate's official campaign committee, then we cannot regulate you, because you are free to speak your mind -- and spending a ton of money is a form of speaking your mind," Bauerlein says.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: The special we’ll be doing Thursday morning as the Supreme Court hands down its decision on healthcare will be at 10:00 a.m. Eastern [Daylight] Time. We turn now to dark money, the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by outside groups who are helping to make the 2012 presidential race the most expensive race in history. ...

Published: Saturday 30 June 2012
Published: Saturday 30 June 2012
Court records show that Broas, 58, was pulled over by police on June 19 at 1:18 AM on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase and charged with “attempting to drive a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.”

 

The White House has withdrawn the nomination of Washington attorney Timothy M. Broas — a top Obama campaign fundraiser — as ambassador to the Netherlands following charges of drunk driving and resisting arrest in suburban Maryland earlier last week.

 

Court records show that Broas, 58, was pulled over by police on June 19 at 1:18 AM on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase and charged with “attempting to drive [a] vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.”

He was ticketed for driving 47 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. He also faces a criminal charge of resisting arrest, according to Montgomery County District Court records. The White House announcement was made Thursday night.

Broas, a Chevy Chase resident, has been a major bundler for President Barack Obama, part of an elite group of fundraisers who collect donations from their friends and associates. Obama announced his intent to appoint him to the ambassadorship in April, as the Center for Public Integrity previously reported.

Prior to his nomination, Broas had raised more than $500,000 for Obama’s re-election efforts. He is one of only 117 bundlers to raise at least a half-million dollars for Obama, the Democratic National Committee and Democratic parties in battleground states.

During the president’s campaign four years ago, he also raised between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama.

Broas “withdrew his nomination for personal reasons,” said Debra Reed, a spokeswoman. “That’s the extent of what we’ll say about that.”

She added that Broas believed that the charges he faced would “be resolved under the transportation ...

Published: Friday 29 June 2012
Published: Friday 29 June 2012
“By immediately committing to reverse a health care reform based on the very program he implemented as governor of Massachusetts, Romney has gone to war with himself.”

 

Mitt Romney is an idiot or, even worse, is pretending to be one. His tantrum of a response on Thursday to the Supreme Court’s health care decision was pure playground: As president I will own the ball, and the game will be played by rules that leave me a winner.

That game has already been called in a decision written by the top-ranking conservative jurist, and shorn of the constitutional objection; Barack Obama’s health care plan now will be judged by its practical outcomes. Romney’s promise that “I will act to repeal Obamacare” from “my first day as president of the United States” is a prescription of destructive gridlock for a program already well under way. 

By immediately committing to reverse a health care reform based on the very program he implemented as governor of Massachusetts, Romney has gone to war with himself. Obviously, neither he nor his advisers has yet grasped that the decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts has changed the terms of the debate.

The issue is no longer one of states’ rights. That would have been the case if the court had relied on the Constitution’s commerce clause, leaving Romney to argue that it was legal for his state to have required a mandate but is illegal for the feds to do so. However, the court decision, based as it is on the right of the government to raise taxes to pay for a public need, makes the states’ rights claim irrelevant. 

The issue faced by the court was the same on the federal level as it was on the state level; if the public, through its government, must ultimately bear the cost of caring for the uninsured—as would be so in any society possessed of even a modicum of shared social responsibility—then it can vote to levy taxes to finance that effort.

Why did Massachusetts under Romneycare have a right to tax to ...

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
“The ruling hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in approving the plan.”

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld virtually all of President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul, including the hotly debated core requirement that nearly every American have health insurance.

The 5-4 decision meant the huge overhaul, still taking effect, could proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years, affecting the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care.

The ruling hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in approving the plan. However, Republicans quickly indicated they will try to use the decision to rally their supporters against what they call "Obamacare," arguing that the ruling characterized the penalty against people who refuse to get insurance as a tax.

Breaking with the court's other conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts announced the judgment that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Roberts explained at length the court's view of the mandate as a valid exercise of Congress' authority to "lay and collect taxes." The administration estimates that roughly 4 million people will pay the penalty rather than buy insurance.

Even though Congress called it a penalty, not a tax, Roberts said, "The payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation."

Roberts also made plain the court's rejection of the administration's claim that Congress had the power under the Constitution's commerce clause to put the mandate in place. The power to regulate interstate commerce power, he said, "does not authorize the mandate. "

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney renewed his criticism of the overhaul, calling it "bad law" and promising to work to repeal it if elected in November.

Stocks of hospital companies rose sharply, and insurance companies ...

Published: Wednesday 27 June 2012
Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
Published: Sunday 24 June 2012
Published: Friday 22 June 2012
As recent events have demonstrated, Obama’s energy policies globally bear an eerie likeness to Cheney’s, especially in the way he has engaged in the geopolitics of oil as part of an American global struggle for future dominance among the major powers.

 

As details of his administration’s global war against terrorists, insurgents, and hostile warlords have become more widely known -- a war that involves a mélange of drone attacks, covert operations, and presidentially selected assassinations -- President Obama has been compared to President George W. Bush in his appetite for military action.  “As shown through his stepped-up drone campaign,” Aaron David Miller, an advisor to six secretaries of state, wrote at Foreign Policy, “Barack Obama has become George W. Bush on steroids.”

When it comes to international energy politics, however, it is not Bush but his vice president, Dick Cheney, who has been providing the role model for the president.  As recent events have demonstrated, Obama’s energy policies globally bear an eerie likeness to Cheney’s, especially in the way he has engaged in the geopolitics of oil as part of an American global struggle for future dominance among the major powers.

More than any of the other top officials of the Bush administration -- many with oil-company backgrounds -- Cheney focused on the role of energy in global power politics.  From 1995 to 2000, he served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Halliburton, a major supplier of services to the oil industry.  Soon after taking office as vice president he was asked by Bush to devise a new national energy strategy that has largely governed U.S. ...

Published: Friday 22 June 2012
The Virginia-based 501c(4) with a network of 34 state affiliates is known for drawing support from the conservative billionaire Koch brothers and for “incubating” the tea party movement.

 

Type of organization: 501(c)(4)

Supports: Conservative candidates

Opposes: Barack Obama, Democrats

Founded: 2004

Location: Arlington, VA.

Websitehttp://americansforprosperity.org/

Social media:

On Twitter:

June 11: “Proud to help! RT @FelineBengal @AFPhq Congrats on the great job you did in Wisconsin. Your hard work paid off. Thanks from all of us.”

June 11 “Looking forward to hearing from @SarahPalinUSA this week at @afphqRightOnline conference #RO12

On Facebook

Finances (calendar year 2010):

Total revenue: $22 million

Total expenses: $24 million

Net assets: $43,000

990

Published: Friday 22 June 2012
“More than three-fourths of Americans want their political leaders to undertake a new effort, rather than leave the health care system alone if the court rules against the law, according to the poll.”

 

The nutty thing about the health care debate that will play a prominent role in the next election is that most Americans want pretty much the same outcome: to control costs without sacrificing quality. And that’s not what either major-party candidate is offering. Few think that Obamacare, a Romneycare descendant that contains the same kind of individual mandate the then-governor of Massachusetts signed into law, will get us to that desired goal. Nor would Mitt Romney, who has been reborn as a celebrant of the old, pre-Obama system with a few nips and tucks.

As the nation awaits a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Obama health care approach, a new Associated Press-GfK poll suggests that the vast majority of Americans want Congress to come up with a better plan. They know that the current system is unsustainable. Only a third of those polled favored the law President Barack Obama signed, but according to the AP, “... Whatever people think of the law, they don’t want a Supreme Court ruling against it to be the last word on health care reform.” The article continued, “More than three-fourths of Americans want their political leaders to undertake a new effort, rather than leave the health care system alone if the court rules against the law, according to the poll.”

That sentiment underscores the opportunity missed by Obama, who limited his ambition to what Big Pharma and the insurance giants would accept as “reform” in a system that they had so successfully exploited. Obamacare is a faux reform born of opportunism, as was Romney’s original version: Play ball with those who have profited most from the run-up of medical costs and expect them to make it more affordable.

Two dynamics doomed the experiment. First, the new Democratic president wanted to launch a bold progressive program, but rather than channel the spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to address the ...

Published: Friday 22 June 2012
We’re not going to make any headway on the issue of what to do with our border policy until we change the narrative that all undocumented visitors work digging ditches and undercutting the American worker.

This week president Obama made some drastic changes to the way we, as a nation, treat young immigrants. The new rules are by no means an easy way for illegal immigrants to gain permanent residency. There are quite a few restrictions based upon age, academic status, and other factors. I’m not writing this article to debate the finer points of the president’s new policy, I’m writing this article because of all the illegal immigrants I know who’ve contributed in a positive way to this country. I’m not ashamed to say I personally know and like several undocumented migrants and not a single one is poor, uneducated, or a criminal.

 

We’re not going to make any headway on the issue of what to do with our border policy until we change the narrative that all undocumented visitors work digging ditches and undercutting the American worker. I knew two men who came from Europe. They own a thriving restaurant, which employs nearly twenty Americans in a small town economy and they give back to local schools and civic organizations. They’ve been here illegally for over five years and even missed seeing their father on his deathbed because if they left the country they wouldn’t be allowed to return for a number of years. Their business would’ve fallen apart and left a gaping hole in their town’s economy. Americans would go jobless in hard times because of our immigration policies.

 

Another friend of mine was raised here in the states, but isn’t a citizen. Her parents split when she was out of high school and she decided to stay here instead of returning to one of two foreign countries she’s never known. Instead of being able to go to college and get a good job that allows her to contribute to this, the only country she’s experienced in 20 years, she has to take under the table waitressing positions to make ends meet. She lives scared of being deported, and ...

Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“In a Rose Garden speech, Obama said that he and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano were working to mend our nation’s immigration policy, to make it more fair, more efficient and more just—specifically for certain young people sometimes called ‘Dreamers.’”

Undocumented immigrants in the United States number around 12 million people, a group larger than the populations of most countries on the planet. Among those are as many as 800,000 young people who are now most likely eligible for limited legal status, thanks to executive action taken last week by President Barack Obama. In a Rose Garden speech, Obama said that he and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano were working “to mend our nation’s immigration policy, to make it more fair, more efficient and more just—specifically for certain young people sometimes called ‘Dreamers.’” Behind the speech was a movement for social change, built by millions, each with their own story.

The “Dreamers” are those who are here without legal documentation, often derogatively referred to as “illegals,” but who came to this country as children, in some cases as infants. As he said in his speech: “These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they’re friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.” For 10 years, people have pushed for an act of Congress to give these young people legal status, through a bill called the DREAM Act, short for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.

People in the movement don’t consider themselves “alien.” They call themselves “undocumented Americans.” One of those who stands to directly benefit from White House’s decision is ...

Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
Published: Wednesday 20 June 2012
This is the first presidential election to be run under the rigged rules invented by the Court’s five-man corporatist majority, and we can see the effects of this ruling.

Leave it to Bill Moyers, one of America's most useful citizens, to sum up our country's present political plight in a succinct metaphor: "Our elections have replaced horse racing as the sport of kings. These kings are multibillionaire corporate moguls who by divine right — not of God, but (of the Supreme Court's) Citizens United decision — are now buying politicians like so much pricey horseflesh."

Pricey, indeed. In its disgraceful, democracy-crushing judicial edict of January 2010, the Court took the big advantage that America's corporate elite already had in politics — and super-sized it. This is the first presidential election to be run under the rigged rules invented by the Court's five-man corporatist majority, and we can see the effects of this ruling.

For instance, we saw in this year's Republican nominating contests that a new, supremely authorized critter not only arose, but instantly became the dominant force in the game, allowing a handful of extremely wealthy players to shove their selfish agenda ahead of all other interests in the election process: super PACs!

These are secretive money funnels that various political partisans have set up to take advantage of the court's implausible finding that the Constitution allows corporations and super-rich individuals to put unlimited sums of money into "independent" campaigns to elect or defeat whomever they choose. (I should note that the justices' ruling was a model of fairness in that it also allows poor people to put unlimited amounts of their money into super PACs.)

These new entities amassed and spent vastly more than the campaigns of the actual candidates. Nearly all of this super PAC cash was used to flood the airwaves with biblical levels of nauseatingly negative attack ads, further debasing our nation's democratic process. Thanks for that, Supremes.

The Court's surreal ...

Published: Tuesday 19 June 2012
Published: Tuesday 19 June 2012
Published: Tuesday 19 June 2012
“Since their creation in 2010, the Center for Public Integrity and Center for Responsive Politics found that about 15 percent of super PAC spending has been done by groups that have reported receiving contributions from a 501(c)(4) or a 501(c)(6).”

 

While super PACs were cast as the big, bad wolves during the last election, the groups were outspent by “social welfare” organizations by a 3-2 margin, a trend that may continue amid reports that major donors are giving tens of millions of dollars to the secretive nonprofit groups.

A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that more than 100 nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code spent roughly $95 million on political expenditures in the 2010 election compared with $65 million by super PACs.

Nearly 90 percent of the spending by these nonprofits — more than $84 million — came from groups that never publicly disclosed their funders, the joint analysis of Federal Election Commission data found. Another $8 million came from groups that only partially revealed their donors.

Unlike the nonprofits, super PACs are required to release the names of their contributors.

In terms of party allegiance, ...

Published: Sunday 17 June 2012
Last week, President Obama was widely criticized for saying the private sector is “doing fine,” while Mitt Romney attacked public sector unions by calling for fewer teachers, firefighters and police officers.


As the presidential race heats up, the focus is increasingly on the nation's slow economic recovery. Last week, President Obama was widely criticized for saying the private sector is "doing fine," while Mitt Romney attacked public sector unions by calling for fewer teachers, firefighters and police officers. We talk to Ralph Nader about the 2012 election and the lessons of last week's victory by Scott Walker, governor of what Nader dubbed "WisKOCHsin." Nader also looks ahead at the Supreme Court's upcoming rules on healthcare and Arizona's anti-immigrant law.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, ran for president three times. Ralph, I want to turn to the two recent comments made by President Obama and Mitt Romney that have become, well, the most famous comments so far of the campaign, and it’s around the economy. Speaking in Iowa Friday, Romney invoked the recent election in Wisconsin to criticize Obama for pushing a measure to help states regain public sector jobs.

Published: Saturday 16 June 2012
“In the education arena, it’s long past time for Democrats to go bold in their opposition to Republicans, to call them out as active agents in the dismantling of public schools, and to call for a renewed commitment to the best education that can be provided equally to children and young people everywhere.”

 


A funny thing happened on the way to the news cycle the past two weeks when the issue of education -- specifically, public schoolteachers and student loan relief -- maintained a presence on the political stage.

Because the conclusion among the Very Serious People is that the upcoming election is all about the economy, it was expected that the subject of education would quickly get the hook after last month's candidate sparring on the topic.

Yet after nearly a month in the limelight, we still see issues related to education hanging around stage left.

Education Just Won't Leave The Stage

For instance, just last week, all-but-certain Republican contender Mitt Romney bashed for "hiring more teachers." His comment was quickly affirmed and doubled-down this week when Romney surrogate, former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, declared that there are places where we "need fewer teachers." Sununu apparently must be referring to a country other than America because where we live student population is at an all time high and will continue to grow in the near future.

Romney's pronouncement about desiring fewer schoolteachers was repeatedly rebuked by the Obama campaign on YouTube and Twitter, with Obama surrogate David Axelrod on 

Published: Saturday 16 June 2012
President Obama’s “red line” on Iran -- the point at which his administration would consider taking military action against the country -- has been the reactionary regime’s actual procurement of nuclear weapons.

 

In another resolution apparently designed to prepare for war against Iran, the U.S. House of Representatives, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan 401-11 vote, has passed a resolution (HR 568) urging the president to oppose any policy toward Iran "that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat."

With its earlier decision to pass a bill that effectively sought to ban any negotiations between the United States and Iran, a huge bipartisan majority of Congress has essentially told the president that nothing short of war or the threat of war is an acceptable policy. Indeed, the rush to pass this bill appears to have been designed to undermine the ongoing international negotiations on Iran's nuclear program. According to Iranian-American analyst Jamal Abdi, a prominent critic of both the Iranian regime and U.S. policy, the motivation for the resolution may be to "poison those talks by signaling to Iran that the President is weak, domestically isolated, and unable to deliver at the negotiating table because a hawkish Congress will overrule him."

President Obama's "red line" on Iran -- the point at which his administration would consider taking military action against the country -- has been the reactionary regime's actual procurement of nuclear weapons. The language of this resolution, however, significantly lowers the bar by declaring it unacceptable for Iran simply to have "nuclear weapons capability" -- not necessarily any actual weapons or an active nuclear weapons program. Some members ...

Published: Friday 15 June 2012
Low-wage workers now make far less than they did four decades ago. Last week Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. introduced The Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2012.

In 2008, Barack Obama pledged to raise the minimum wage every year once elected, but the hourly rate of $7.25 hasn't increased since 2007. Low-wage workers now make far less than they did four decades ago. Last week Illinois Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. introduced The Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2012. It draws its name from the idea that the federal minimum wage would be $10.55 an hour now if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years. While the bill has about 20 co-sponsors so far President Obama has yet to endorse it. We speak to longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Published: Friday 15 June 2012
“Farther to the west, US economic performance is weakening, with first-quarter growth a miserly 1.9% – well below potential.”

 

Dark, lowering financial and economic clouds are, it seems, rolling in from every direction: the Eurozone, the United States, China, and elsewhere. Indeed, the global economy in 2013 could be a very difficult environment in which to find shelter.

For starters, the Eurozone crisis is worsening, as the euro remains too strong, front-loaded fiscal austerity deepens recession in many member countries, and a credit crunch in the periphery and high oil prices undermine prospects of recovery. The Eurozone banking system is becoming balkanized, as cross-border and interbank credit lines are cut off, and capital flight could turn into a full run on periphery banks if, as is likely, Greece stages a disorderly euro exit in the next few months.

Moreover, fiscal and sovereign-debt strains are becoming worse as interest-rate spreads for Spain and Italy have returned to their unsustainable peak levels. Indeed, the Eurozone may require not just an international bailout of banks (as recently in Spain), but also a full sovereign bailout at a time when Eurozone and international firewalls are insufficient to the task of backstopping both Spain and Italy. As a result, disorderly breakup of the Eurozone remains possible.

Farther to the west, US economic performance is weakening, with first-quarter growth a miserly 1.9% – well below potential. And job creation faltered in April and May, so the US may reach stall speed by year end. Worse, the risk of a double-dip recession next year is rising: even if what looks like a looming US fiscal cliff turns out to be only a smaller source of drag, the likely increase in some taxes and reduction of some transfer payments will reduce growth in disposable income and consumption.

Moreover, political gridlock over fiscal adjustment is likely to persist, regardless of whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins November’s ...

Published: Thursday 14 June 2012
Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012
“A what if scenario if the problems in Europe go from bad to worse.”

Consider the following scenario. After a victory by the left-wing Syriza party, Greece’s new government announces that it wants to renegotiate the terms of its agreement with the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. German Chancellor Angela Merkel sticks to her guns and says that Greece must abide by the existing conditions.

Fearing that a financial collapse is imminent, Greek depositors rush for the exit. This time, the European Central Bank refuses to come to the rescue and Greek banks are starved of cash. The Greek government institutes capital controls and is ultimately forced to issue drachmas in order to supply domestic liquidity.

With Greece out of the eurozone, all eyes turn to Spain. Germany and others are at first adamant that they will do whatever it takes to prevent a similar bank run there. The Spanish government announces additional fiscal cuts and structural reforms. Bolstered by funds from the European Stability Mechanism, Spain remains financially afloat for several months.

"Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Dani Rodrikclick here."

But the Spanish economy continues to deteriorate and unemployment heads towards 30%.  Violent protests against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s austerity measures lead him to call for a referendum. His government fails to get the necessary support from voters and resigns, throwing the country into full-blown political chaos. Merkel cuts off further support for Spain, saying that hard-working ...

Published: Tuesday 12 June 2012
Six weeks of talks between Pakistan and the United States have been halted, a Defence Department official stated on Monday.

“A decision was reached that it was time to bring the (negotiations) team home,” Pentagon spokesperson George Little said, noting that the move was based on a U.S. decision. 

Little suggested that the negotiators were simply in need of a rest, and added that they “are prepared to return to Islamabad at any moment to continue discussions in person”. 

The news comes just days after the U.S. assistant secretary of defence, Peter Lavoy, arrived in Islamabad in an attempt to shore up the flagging talks process, aimed at re-opening critical supply routes for international military forces in Afghanistan. According to reports, the head of the Pakistan Army, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, refused to meet Lavoy. 

The supply routes have been closed since November, when a U.S. missile killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at Salala, along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border. 

Since that time, the Islamabad government, backed by a unanimous Parliament resolution, has called for an unconditional apology for the attack as well as a cessation of U.S.-controlled drone strikes within Pakistani territory. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed regret for the soldiers' deaths, the United States has refused apologise. 

Prior to November, some 5,000 NATO trucks used the Pakistan route every month. ...

Published: Friday 8 June 2012
While the northern Alberta-to-Cushing segment has been punted until after election season by President Barack Obama’s U.S. State Department, the Cushing-Port Arthur segment has been rammed through in a secrective manner by various Obama regulatory agencies.

 

TransCanada was once in the limelight and targeted for its Keystone XL pipeline project. Now, with few eyes watching, it is pushing along two key pipeline projects that would bring two respective forms of what energy geopolitics scholar Michael Klare calls “extreme energy” to lucrative export markets.

Pipeline one: The southern segment of the originally proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, popularly referred to as the Cushing Extension, but officially referred to as either the Gulf Coast Project or the Cushing. This pipeline will carry tar sands crude, or “dilbit,” extracted from Alberta, Canada’s Athabasca oil sands project southward first to Cushing, Okla., and then to Port Arthur, Texas, where it will be shipped.

While the northern Alberta-to-Cushing segment has been punted until after election season by President Barack Obama’s U.S. State Department, the Cushing-Port Arthur segment has been rammed through in a 

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
A think tank close to the administration of President Obama suggests attacking Tehran to prevent nuclear development would be counter-productive.

While a nuclear-armed Iran would pose significant new challenges to the United States and Israel, a military attack by either country to prevent Tehran from developing a weapon could well prove counter-productive, according to a major new report released here Wednesday by a think tank close to the administration of President Barack Obama.

And while preventive military action should remain on the table, it should only be considered if Iran “has made a clear move toward weaponization”, and there is a “reasonable expectation” that such a strike would set back Iran's programme “significantly”, among other conditions, according to the 55-page report by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). 

The report, “Risk and Rivalry: Iran, Israel and the Bomb,” also argues that both the U.S. and Israel should avoid taking any steps that limit prospects for a negotiated agreement designed to dissuade Tehran from “weaponising” its nuclear programme. 

In particular, they should not insist - as Israel and its backers in the U.S. Congress are doing - that Tehran end all uranium enrichment on its own territory as a condition of any negotiated settlement since such a stance “would most likely result in no deal at all”, according to ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
One has to ask: how did Scott Walker win so easily and what happens now?

 

There was an expression among activists that went “One year longer, one year stronger” a year after the beginning of the “Wisconsin Uprising” here in Madison, WI. The reality is that one year+ longer, the left as an organizing force is “one year weaker.”

The truth? People, as a mass movement in the United States, are attracted to right-wing populism, embodied by the likes of Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who recently won the recall election by an astounding 7-percent landslide.

Sure, there are refrains, such as “this was an auction, not an election,” and that “money won this election.” But people still voted and have agency. And Walker won by a long-shot.

Many important questions arise for those who consider themselves, ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
“Wisconsin is a sterling example of what elections will be: the power of mobilized right-wing and corporate money against the power of mobilized people.”

 

That Gov. Scott Walker survived the recall in Wisconsin is a tragic setback for the stunning citizen’s movement that challenged his extremist agenda in Wisconsin.
Its implications are likely to be exaggerated by the right, and underplayed by progressives. Here are some thoughts on its meaning.

1. Extremism will be challenged

Scott Walker is now a conservative hero. The right’s mighty Wurlitzer will argue that Republican Governors and legislators will be emboldened because he survived. The attack on public sector workers and basic worker rights, the sweeping cuts in education combined with top end tax cuts, the efforts to restrict voting rights, they will boast, will now spread even more rapidly across the country.

Really? Walker barely survived the backlash his policies caused. He lost effective control of the Senate even before last night’s recall returns are known. He had to go through a brutal recall, and watch his popularity plummet.

I suspect that most governors with a clue will see this as a calamity that they want to avoid. They’ll be looking to find ways to compromise, to avoid this brutal backlash. No question that the Tea Party and big money right will be lusting for more blood. But I suspect that Walker’s travails -- and those of John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Scott in Florida – will sober Republicans up a bit.

2. This is only Round One

That said, progressives should not dismiss the recall as idiosyncratic, dismissing its import since exit polls showed President Obama would win the state against Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and many voters voted for Walker because they objected to the recall itself, not because they endorsed his policies.

Conservative columnist Russ Douthat suggests that Wisconsin represents the new era of American ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
“The debt is growing because of obligations entered into long ago, many under George W. Bush – including two giant tax cuts that went mostly to the very wealthy that were supposed to be temporary and which are still going, courtesy of Republican blackmail over raising the debt limit.”

 

JP Morgan Chase,  Goldman Sachs, BP, Chevron, WalMart, and billionaires Charles and David Koch are launching a multi-million dollar TV ad buy Tuesday blasting President Obama over the national debt.

Actually, I don’t know who’s behind this ad because there’s no way to know. And that’s a big problem.

The front group for the ad is Crossroads GPS, the sister organization to the super PAC American Crossroads run by Republican political operative Karl Rove.

Because Crossroads GPS is a tax-exempt nonprofit group, it can spend unlimited money on politics — and it doesn’t have to reveal where it gets the dough.

By law, all it has to do is spent most of the money on policy “issues,” which is a fig leaf for partisan politics.

Here’s what counts as an issue ad, as opposed to a partisan one. The narrator in the ad Crossroads GPS is launching solemnly intones: “In 2008, Barack Obama said, ‘We can’t mortgage our children’s future on a mountain of debt.’ Now he’s adding $4 billion in debt every day, borrowing from China for his spending. Every second, growing our debt faster than our economy,” he continues. “Tell Obama, stop the spending.”

This is a bald face lie, by the way.

Obama isn’t adding to the debt every day. The debt is growing because of obligations entered into long ago, many under George W. Bush – including two giant tax cuts that went mostly to the very wealthy that were supposed to be temporary and which are still going, courtesy of Republican blackmail over raising the debt limit.

In realty, government spending as a portion of GDP keeps dropping.

As I said, I don’t know who’s financing this big lie but there’s good reason to think it’s some combination of Wall Street, big corporations, and the billionaire Koch brothers.

According ...

Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012
“There still is time to act. There still are mass movements to join.”


 

 

 

I gave a talk last week at Canada’s Wilfrid Laurier University to the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Many in the audience had pinned small red squares of felt to their clothing. The carre rouge, or red square, has become the Canadian symbol of revolt. It comes from the French phrase carrement dans le rouge, or “squarely in the red,” referring to those crushed by debt.

The streets of Montreal are clogged nightly with as many as 100,000 protesters banging pots and pans and demanding that the old systems of power be replaced. The mass student strike in Quebec, the longest and largest student protest in Canadian history, began over the announcement of tuition hikes and has metamorphosed into what must swiftly build in the United States—a broad popular uprising. The debt obligation of Canadian university students, even with Quebec’s proposed 82 percent tuition hike over several years, is dwarfed by the huge university fees and the $1 trillion of debt faced by U.S. college students. The Canadian students have gathered widespread support because they linked their tuition protests to Quebec’s call for higher fees for health care, the firing of public sector employees, the closure of factories, the corporate exploitation of natural resources, new restrictions on union organizing, and an announced increase in the retirement age. Crowds in Montreal, now counting 110 days of protests, chant “On ne lâche pas”—“We’re not backing down.”

The Quebec government, which like the United ...

Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012
“One way or the other, the outlook for Joe Blow, Barack Obama, and Uncle Sam is all gloom and doom.”

Recent news headlines are a clear intimation that the gods are not on our side.  “Our” in this case can be read as the U.S., the West, or the Planet we call Earth – all apply.  Here’s a sampling:

“Dismal Job Market Pushes Dow into 275-Point Plunge”
 (DailyFinance)

“Obama Ordered Cyber Attacks on Iran”
 (New York Times)

“American Nuns Fight Back Against Vatican Crackdown”
READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 3 June 2012
Published: Friday 1 June 2012
Published: Friday 1 June 2012
“When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises—but his family is with him—it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.”

So now we have Rambo Obama, a steely warrior who, according to a lengthy leaked insider account in The New York Times, hurls death-dealing drones at anyone who threatens the good old USA. Including children. Those children are presumed guilty by virtue of proximity, and the Times plays along, not even modifying a targeted terrorist with the word “alleged,” as once had been the paper’s convention: “When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises—but his family is with him—it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.”

Obama as the cool triggerman is an image useful to White House operatives as they buff the president’s persona for the coming election. But what it reveals is the mindset of a political cynic whose seductive words cloak the moral indifference of a methodical executioner. Forget Harry Truman, who obliterated the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or Lyndon Johnson, who carpet-bombed millions in Vietnam. The Democrats have got themselves another killer, one whose techniques are as devastatingly effective, but brilliantly refined.

The story obviously was planted in The New York Times to benefit the Obama political campaign. Otherwise, why would the president’s former chief of staff, William Daley, and three dozen current and past intelligence insiders provide the newspaper with the most sensitive details of national security decision-making?

Pfc. Bradley Manning was held for many months in solitary confinement for allegedly disclosing information of far lower security classification. The difference is that the top secrets in the news article are ones the president wants leaked in the expectation they will burnish his “tough on terrorism” credentials. This is clearly not the Obama whom many voted for in the hope that he would stick by his word, including the pledge he made on his second day in office to ...

Published: Thursday 31 May 2012
Republican spending will dwarf that of Democrats.

We always knew that the 2012 presidential election would be expensive. While President Obama’s super PAC has struggled to raise cash, a network of conservative outside groups,  including those led by Karl Rove, the Koch brothers, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is planning to spend about $1 billion on the election in November, Politico reports:

That total includes previously undisclosed plans for newly aggressive spending by the Koch brothers, who are steering funding to build sophisticated, county-by-county operations in key states. POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections – twice what they had been expected to commit.

READ FULL POST 14 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012
“When it comes to military policy, the Obama administration’s success in shutting down wars conducted in plain sight tells only half the story.”

As he campaigns for reelection, President Obama periodically reminds audiences of his success in terminating the deeply unpopular Iraq War.  With fingers crossed for luck, he vows to do the same with the equally unpopular war in Afghanistan.  If not exactly a peacemaker, our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president can (with some justification) at least claim credit for being a war-ender.

Yet when it comes to military policy, the Obama administration’s success in shutting down wars conducted in plain sight tells only half the story, and the lesser half at that.  More significant has been this president’s enthusiasm for instigating or expanding secret wars, those conducted out of sight and by commandos.

President Franklin Roosevelt may not have invented the airplane, but during World War II he transformed strategic bombing into one of the principal emblems of the reigning American way of war.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower had nothing to do with the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb.  Yet, as president, Ike’s strategy of Massive Retaliation made nukes the centerpiece of U.S. national security policy.

So, too, with Barack Obama and special operations forces.  The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) with its constituent operating forces -- Green Berets, Army Rangers, Navy SEALs, and the like -- predated his presidency by decades.  Yet it is only on Obama’s watch that these secret warriors have reached the pinnacle of the U.S. military’s prestige hierarchy.

READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012
Published: Tuesday 29 May 2012
“As the economy unravels, as hundreds of millions of Americans confront the fact that things will not get better, life for those targeted by this culture of hate will become increasingly difficult.”

 

The sentencing of Dharun Ravi for the hateful abuse that may have driven his gay roommate at Rutgers, Tyler Clementi, to commit suicide, or Barack Obama’s public acceptance of gay marriage, prevents many of us from seeing that life for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people is getting worse—much worse.

No one understands this better than the gay activist and Pastor Mel White. White, along with his husband and partner of 30 years, Gary Nixon, founded Soulforce, an organization committed to using nonviolent resistance to end religion-based oppression. White and hundreds of Soulforce volunteers protest outside mega churches that preach hatred and bigotry in the name of religion. White travels to communities where young gays, lesbians, bisexuals or transgender people have committed suicide. He holds memorial services for them in front of the church doors. He accuses the pastors of these churches of murder. His books “Stranger at the Gate: To Be Gay and Christian in America” and “Holy Terror: Lies the Christian Right Tell Us to Deny Gay Equality,” are two of the most important works that examine the innate cruelty and proto-fascism of the Christian right. White, more than perhaps any other preacher in the country, has pulled young men and women back from the brink of despair, from succumbing to the tragic fate of Tyler Clementi. And White is scared.

“What kind of environment creates a 

Published: Monday 28 May 2012
“The U.S. military budget is six times that of China, and tops the next 17 highest-spending countries combined.”

 

Are you wondering where your tax dollars are going? Then take a look at the $642.5 billion stuffed into the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House of Representatives recently approved.

House Republicans may spout plenty of concern about the nation's budget deficit, but their version of the Pentagon's budget tops the spending levels they had agreed to a few months ago by $8 billion. It's also $4 billion above the total that President Barack Obama and the Pentagon requested.

These politicians are trying to fund Cold War-era weapons that our military doesn't want and that have been dismissed as outdated and unnecessary by the top brass — leaders like Gen. James Cartwright, the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of the country's nuclear forces.

The U.S. military budget is six times that of China, and tops the next 17 highest-spending countries combined.

Military spending has played a significant role in increasing the national debt. Over the last decade, the Pentagon's budget has nearly doubled.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have also contributed to this soaring increase in defense spending and to record deficits.

The drawdown of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq should mean the Pentagon will spend less. But giant military contractors have dumped a fortune into campaign contributions and lobbying, making sure that any and all anticipated savings are going to expensive weapons systems — all paid for by you through your taxes.

The 10 biggest government contractors are all military contractors. These companies each spend millions of dollars a year on political contributions and then millions more on lobbying campaigns. After the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns, these contractors are spending even more to win over lawmakers. And ...

Published: Saturday 26 May 2012
Published: Friday 25 May 2012
“Although Romney presents his activities as a form of venture capitalist investment, giving life to new enterprises, his practice has been quite the opposite.”

 

Obviously Barack Obama was right in criticizing Mitt Romney’s stewardship of Bain Capital. How else to evaluate the business experience that Romney has made a central tenet of his campaign?

As Obama put it all too accurately: “My opponent, Governor Romney—his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He’s saying: ‘I’m a business guy. I know how to fix it.’ ”

And the fixing of the beleaguered companies acquired under Romney’s leadership at Bain Capital involved the very practices that have led to the loss of good American jobs to ensure the outrageous rewards that made Romney so wealthy.

Although Romney presents his activities as a form of venture capitalist investment, giving life to new enterprises, his practice has been quite the opposite. Ninety percent of Bain Capital’s deals by the end of his tenure involved dismembering once-thriving enterprises and selling off the parts, along with the jobs connected to them. “He made his money mainly through leveraged buyouts,” The New York Times reported five years ago in a detailed survey of Bain Capital’s practices under Romney, “mortgaging companies to take them over in the hope of reselling them at big profits in just a few years.”

Those immense profits were taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent instead of the 35 percent that income earners at that level were otherwise required to fork over. “The amounts of money are so vast that it is truly a matter of time before the taxation of private equity is front and center of the public agenda,” noted James E. Post, an expert on such matters at Boston University. He added, “Increasingly, this world of private equity looks like a world of robber barons, and Romney comes out of that ...

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., wrote to Obama on Tuesday, urging him to revisit the case of Clarence Aaron.

 

The ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee has called on President Barack Obama to order an investigation into the case of Clarence Aaron, a federal prison inmate whose quest for a presidential commutation was the subject of a ProPublica investigation.

The investigation, co-published May 13 with the Washington Post, showed that Pardon Attorney Ronald L. Rodgers, who works for the Justice Department, withheld key information from the White House in 2008 regarding Aaron’s application. Aaron was convicted in 1993, at the age of 24, for his role in an Alabama drug conspiracy –his first criminal offense – and sentenced to three life terms without parole.

Documents obtained by ProPublica show that Rodgers did not tell Bush White House officials that Aaron’s petition had won the support of the sentencing ...

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
For Mitt Romney, the president's greatest vulnerability seems to be that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton — and he is seeking to exploit that perception in his public speeches attacking the incumbent.

 

For Mitt Romney, the president's greatest vulnerability seems to be that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton — and he is seeking to exploit that perception in his public speeches attacking the incumbent. On Tuesday, the presumptive GOP nominee drew the contrast for an audience in Iowa, harking back to a famous Clinton speech in 1996.

“Almost a generation ago,” said Romney, “Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over. Even a former George McGovern campaign worker, like President Clinton, was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem. President READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
“President Obama has said that relentless deregulation and tax cuts -- ‘you’re on your own’ economics -- don’t result in a strong economy and have ‘never worked.’ Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly twisted these words and falsely claimed that Obama is attacking ‘capitalism’ and America itself.”

President Obama has said that relentless deregulation and tax cuts -- "you're on your own" economics -- don't result in a strong economy and have "never worked." Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly twisted these words and falsely claimed that Obama is attacking "capitalism" and America itself.

Obama: Theory That Deregulation And Tax Cuts Lead To Strong Economy Has "Never Worked"

Obama In December: Trickle-Down Economics "Doesn't Work. It's Never Worked." From President Obama's December 6, 2011, speech on economics in Osawatomie, Kansas:

Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt's time, there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let's respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. "The market will take care of everything," they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes -- especially for the wealthy -- our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn't trickle down, well, that's the price of liberty.

Now, it's a simple theory. And we have to admit, it's one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That's in America's DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here's the problem: It doesn't work. It has never worked. (Applause.) It didn't work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It's not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the '50s and '60s. And it didn't work when we tried it during the last decade. (Applause.) I mean, understand, it's not as if we haven't tried this theory. [WhiteHouse.gov, 

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
Lobbyists have raised $3 million for Romney’s presidential campaign.

The federal energy loan program that has created headaches for President Barack Obama has a Mitt Romney connection.

Cathy Tripodi of FaegreBD Consulting lobbies on behalf of Abound Solar, a company that was awarded a $400 million loan guarantee through the same Department of Energy program that aided Solyndra, the now-bankrupt California company that included an Obama bundler as an investor.

Tripodi is a bundler for Romney. She raised $27,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee in April, according to documents filed by his campaign with the Federal Election Commission Sunday.

After receiving a federal loan guarantee, Solyndra ultimately went bankrupt, sticking taxpayers with a $535 million bill and providing fodder for Republican attacks against the president and his green energy initiatives.

Many pundits and politicos began uttering Abound’s name in the same sentence as Solyndra this spring, after Abound announced plans to lay off 280 workers from a Colorado plant and delay the opening of a factory in Indiana. Earlier this month, the Government Reform Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives brought in Abound’s president to ...

Published: Sunday 20 May 2012
Published: Saturday 19 May 2012
“Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer downplayed the findings and pointed to numbers in the poll that seemed to favor Romney over Obama.”

Fox News is attempting to downplay and discredit its own poll, which found that if the election were held today, voters would re-elect President Obama by a 7-point margin. This is hardly the first time Fox has tried to distort poll findings to advance a certain narrative.

Fox News Poll: If Election Were Held Today, Obama Would Win Re-Election

Fox News Poll Found That Registered Voters Would Vote For Obama Over Romney If Election Were Held Today. In a Fox News poll conducted May 13-15, 46 percent of registered voters said they would vote for Obama, as opposed to 39 percent who would favor Romney: 

[Fox News,  READ FULL POST 6 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 18 May 2012
“Being one of the smartest bankers means you are among those who best know how to skirt the law or, if that cannot be done, how to successfully lobby to gut it.”

 

How did we end up with such smart scoundrels? Even after it was known that Jamie Dimon’s bank blew more than $2 billion on the same suspect derivatives trading that has bankrupted the world’s economy, Barack Obama still had praise for the intellect of his political backer and the integrity of the bank he heads: “JPMorgan is one of the best-managed banks there is,” the president told the hosts of ABC’s “The View” in an interview televised Tuesday, adding, “Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got. And they still lost $2 billion and counting.”

A lesser bank would have gone under and needed to be bailed out, Obama argued: “That’s why Wall Street reform is so important.” But even when fully implemented, Obama’s tepid reforms would not have stopped this scam and will not stop the others that are sure to follow. Being one of the smartest bankers means you are among those who best know how to skirt the law or, if that cannot be done, how to successfully lobby to gut it.

Dimon understands and performs this drill well, for he was in cahoots with his mentor, Sandy Weill, in engineering a series of mergers and acquisitions that would have violated the Glass-Steagall law, which for decades had prohibited commingling investment and commercial banking. The two business executives were able to get Congress and President Bill Clinton to reverse Glass-Steagall, a change that made legal the creation of Citigroup, the too-big-to-fail bank that eventually was saved from bankruptcy only through an immense taxpayer bailout.

The best and the brightest in this case are the bane of the nation because their genius lies in outwitting all efforts to hold them accountable. Dimon, the most recent in a parade of now-disgraced Wall Street golden boys, was nonetheless just awarded $24 million in compensation for 2011 by JPMorgan. Like his mentor Weill, who ...

Published: Wednesday 16 May 2012
Such giants as the Boeing Company, backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), not only coaxed a three-year extension for Ex-Im operations out of Congress supposedly preoccupied with reducing the federal deficit, they also got an increase in lending authority from 100 billion dollars last year to 140 billion dollars by 2014.

For leaders of the right-wing populist "Tea Party" who have bragged about their growing influence – if not domination – of the Republican Party, the past week's battle over the future of the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) has been a humbling experience.

 

It's also been a reminder of the power enjoyed by Big Business, the corporate empires with globe-straddling interests, in both major parties in Congress.

 

While bipartisanship is an increasingly rare commodity in Washington these days, the interests of U.S.-based multinational corporations is something both Democrats and Republicans can agree on.

 

Such giants as the Boeing Company, backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (USCC) and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), not only coaxed a three-year extension for Ex-Im operations out of Congress supposedly preoccupied with reducing the federal deficit, they also got an increase in lending authority from 100 billion dollars last year to 140 billion dollars by 2014.

 

"The three-year extension and healthy increase in lending level sends the right message to our foreign competitors," said John Hardy, the president of the Coalition for Employment Through Exports (CEE), one of an alphabet soup of business associations that lobbied for the extension.

 

"American companies that export have the support of their government to level the playing field and help make those sales," he added.

 

Created in the early days of Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal", Ex-Im has survived and prospered under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. This despite occasional complaints on the right side of the political ...

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2012
“In announcing what it called the ‘renewal of U.S. security cooperation with Bahrain’, the State Department stressed that none of the weapons approved for transfer could be used in the kingdom’s ongoing efforts to suppress growing unrest on the island.”

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is sending the wrong signal to the government of Bahrain in proceeding with a partial sale of new arms to Manama, according to human rights activists and some lawmakers here.

 

Their reaction followed Friday's announcement by the State Department that it had cleared a number of items for transfer out of a 53- million-dollar arms package that the administration originally announced last September but subsequently held up due to opposition from key members of Congress. 

 

In announcing what it called the "renewal of U.S. security cooperation with Bahrain", the State Department stressed that none of the weapons approved for transfer could be used in the kingdom's ongoing efforts to suppress growing unrest on the island, especially among its majority Shi'a community. 
 

Demonstrations have been taking place on an almost nightly basis in Shi'a villages in recent weeks and have increased in violence, with some youths throwing Molotov cocktails at police, and with police firing tear gas and birdshot to disperse the protests, with sometimes fatal results. 
 

"Given the continued deterioration in the human rights situation there, we think it's a bad call to be releasing arms - any sort of arms - to Bahrain at this time," Joe Stork, a veteran Middle East specialist at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS. 
 

"We're very concerned with the signal that this sends both to the Bahraini government and the Bahraini people," said Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). 
 

"And we're very disappointed that this announcement was not accompanied by an announcement of any real progress on reform issues, including the numerous recommendations made by the Bassiouni Commission that have yet to be ...

Published: Friday 11 May 2012
Published: Friday 11 May 2012
“There is only one essential point to be made about gay marriage: To acknowledge one’s own sexual being and to define the relationships that follow is a basic human right.”

 

Once again President Barack Obama has come tantalizingly close to being terrific. But his failure of courage on the gay marriage issue, in the end, undermined the point he hoped to make Wednesday. As with his prior rhetorical flashes of principle in denouncing torture, commiserating with the victims of Wall Street fraud and resolving to end unjustifiable wars, he quickly waffled and the result was a continuation of that which is fundamentally wrong.

There is only one essential point to be made about gay marriage: To acknowledge one’s own sexual being and to define the relationships that follow is a basic human right. How dare anyone intrude on a life choice that is not his to make for others? Whether the president’s family knows gay couples who are monogamous and nice to their children has no more to do with the issue than the old argument of enlightened racists in the American South that there were many fine Negroes who were not at all uppity.

Uppity as in the case of gays who were not satisfied with Obama’s prior endorsement of civil unions: “I had hesitated on gay marriages in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient.” As in knowing your place and being content with the bone you are tossed rather than demanding the full meal you’re entitled to.

There is enormous condescension in Obama’s assertion that “I’ve always been adamant that gay and lesbian Americans should be treated fairly and equally.” He had not been adamant enough to push for an amendment to the Civil Rights Act to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. Nor did