The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report is sure to provide a powerful reinforcement to the growing lack of faith in elites and especially the financial industry. Because they will outline, in painstaking detail, how the financial meltdown of 2008[...]
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MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR FOR TRUTHOUT
President Obama's "Sputnik moment" State of the Union Speech had something for everyone - and therein lies the problem.
He boasted about the stock market going up and record corporate profits, but companies are still shipping jobs overseas and sitting on their profits or sending them as dividends to shareholders. There is a disconnect between Wall Street's greed and the creation of jobs that Obama doesn't appear to fundamentally understand.
In fact, he called for national unity in the creation of jobs in the same speech in which he touted free-trade agreements, which has been a key catalyst for companies closing factories in the US and finding cheaper labor overseas.
Obama also called for a freeze on discretionary spending at the same time he was cheerleading for investment in rebuilding our nation's infrastructure.
He gave into the deficit hawks, but bragged about the longest war in our history in Afghanistan, which is eating up hundreds of billions of dollars in spending.
He did vaguely support Medicare and Social Security, but blamed rising health care costs for Medicare's "problems," including giving his support to the bogus GOP claim that capping malpractice suits will have a significant impact on medical charges.
He called for eliminating subsidies for oil companies, but was not specific about how the government would help advance a potential job and long-term cost savings windfall in the form of renewable energy and alternative mass transportation, which he appears to support mostly in the abstract. (Although, there was some funding for these ideas in the stimulus package.) And the president includes nuclear energy and "clean coal" in his concept of alternative energy sources.
Basically, ever the mediator, Obama promised something for everybody, when - in doing so - there are fundamental contradictions in implementing all those expectations.
Obama did what he does best: avoid conflict by trying to ignore it.
But, in the end, that's like throwing spaghetti on the wall.
In the wake of the Tucson shooting, as Americans debate the best way to prevent another such tragedy, Arizona State Senator Linda Gray has weighed in with her own special brand of crazy:
Training of people to respect human life. It is ironic that today today is the day 38 years ago that the Supreme Court said we do not have to respect the life of an unborn and we have gone through now more then a generation of people, a large number of people who believe that it is fine to take an infant prior to it being born and to kill it. What type of respect is that for human life? So now we have this generation of people who have that idea and it continues on, that why respect life if we can kill an infant who can’t defend themselves. It goes back to the value in the creation of life and the respect for that life and if your not trained and have that type of character in realizing that all human life deserves respect this is what our country has come to.
Got that? Jared Loughner attempted to assassinate Rep. Gabby Giffords because abortion is legal. Let that one sink in for a minute.
Like all forced birthers, Senator Gray is confused about how to show respect for life. Because the very laws that self-proclaimed proponents of life endorse actually have nothing to do with respecting life. Denying women access to reproductive health care doesn't save lives; it takes lives. These are the laws that drive desperate women to seek dangerous alternatives, like this clinic in Philadelphia, putting their own lives at risk because legislators like Senator Gray have made it damn near impossible for women to obtain safe, legal abortions in most of the country.
Protestations about valuing life would be a lot more believable if they came from people who didn't support policies that so devalue life. In Senator Gray's state, for example, people are dying because the governor and the Republican-led legislature slashed coverage for transplants from the state budget. So a fetus is sacred and must be protected at all costs, but a man who needs a bone-marrow transplant is on his own because it's just too expensive to keep him alive.
If Senator Gray is so concerned about teaching today's youth to value life, she might want to spend a little bit less time obsessing about fetuses and a little more time figuring out how to keep her fellow Arizonans from dying because her party doesn't want to spend the money to keep them alive. That would be a good start.
Reports are coming fast and furious from the streets of Egypt where thousands protested yesterday and again today.[...]
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South Carolina Democratic Party Chairwoman Carol Fowler said today the S.C. Republicans "just aren't smart enough to solve the real problems of this state!"
Fowler made the comment in sharing a story on Facebook regarding the S.C. GOP and the Voter ID bill.
Perhaps nowhere else in the country does the idea of forcing a voter to flash a photo ID at the polls find such a comfortable foothold among Republicans than in the conservative South. Consider it part of an uninterrupted history when it comes to voting rights in the region. Long ago, it used to be that only white landowners could vote, and later only those who could read or pay a poll tax. But lately, judging by the actions of many Palmetto State lawmakers, it seems as though the lessons from all of that haunted history have been removed by some kind of political lobotomy.
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Well, we've known for some time that Kris Kobach -- one of the co-authors of Arizona's Nativist immigration law, SB1070, and a frequent guest on Fox News whenever they need a reliably right-wing talking point on various immigration issues -- is something of a crook and a liar, since he rarely appears on TV without misleading the audience and presenting one fake "fact" or another that turns out to be utterly false.
Now the Southern Poverty Law Center has revealed that -- prior to his recent election as Kansas' Secretary of State -- Kobach basically made a living by scamming various municipalities into adopting outrageously unconstitutional anti-immigration statutes, and then leaving them holding the very large, expensive, dripping and fetid-smelling bag:
The towns that passed nativist laws in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Texas and Nebraska, along with the state of Arizona, have spent millions of dollars to defend them in court, and almost every judicial decision so far has gone against them. One community, faced with skyrocketing legal costs, had to raise property taxes, and another was forced to cut personnel and special events and even outsource its library.
That was just the beginning. The four towns and one state examined in this report all saw a crisis in race relations as conflicts between Latino immigrants and mostly white natives escalated. Latinos reported being threatened, shot at, subjected to racial taunts and more. Police are having trouble getting cooperation from any in their Latino communities. Pro-immigrant activists have been threatened with notes that promise to ?shed blood? to ?take back? communities. The mayor of one town had his house vandalized after opposing a proposed law and was warned by federal agents to be careful; he ended up retiring after four terms in office. Angry protests and counter-protests, along with dangerously rising tensions, have rocked one town after another. In some communities, business districts have largely collapsed.
Behind all of this stands one man: Kris Kobach, a former Kansas City law professor who was just elected Kansas secretary of state. For the better part of the last six years, Kobach has been chief legal counsel to the Immigration Reform Law Institute, which is the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). He helped to write and defend in court the laws in Hazleton, Valley Park, Farmers Branch, Fremont and Arizona, and he is seeking to do even more.
The report is quite complete, including a timeline for each of the four municipalities Kobach has "helped".
And in an important way, he's done the same thing for Arizona, where he convinced the electorate that a scapegoating strategy and installation of a police state for Latinos was the way to solve their immigration issues. The state is already suffering badly economically, and it's been made much worse by the economic boycott that resulted from SB1070 and the mass departure of Hispanics from the state. Kobach, of course, has had plenty of help in damaging Arizona's economy, including the state's governor. Meanwhile, as the state crumbles, the Arizona Senate president thinks the real imperative is to end birthright citizenship for the children of immigrants.
Of course, now that he's been elected Secretary of State in Kansas, Kobach can just walk away and smile. Meantime, as the SPLC observes, he gets to continue doing his work scamming communities eager to walk the bigot's path.
The inestimable William Greider has been wrestling with many of the topics the rest of us have ? how to deal politically with this obviously new world. We are solidly post-Bush, and Obama has not brought forth the Change that he promised and progressives wanted. In many ways, he's dug us in deeper.
Greider's latest is "The End of New Deal Liberalism", a cover article in the January 24 issue of The Nation. Thankfully, the whole thing is available on the web without subscription.
I consider it an important piece and recommend reading it in full. It's longer than I can excerpt fairly and covers much territory that people who know my views will find familiar. Here's the opening (my emphasis throughout):
We have reached a pivotal moment in government and politics, and it feels like the last, groaning spasms of New Deal liberalism. When the party of activist government, faced with an epic crisis, will not use government's extensive powers to reverse the economic disorders and heal deepening social deterioration, then it must be the end of the line for the governing ideology inherited from Roosevelt, Truman and Johnson.No words were minced in the writing of his article. It's a cogent analysis and makes it's point with all of Greider's knowledge and skill. In addition, it's prominently placed in The Nation, in the issue on newsstands just prior to Obama's State of the Union address. (That in itself is comment-worthy; the piece could be considered a shot-across-his-bow message from The Nation to Obama.)
Political events of the past two years have delivered a more profound and devastating message: American democracy has been conclusively conquered by American capitalism. Government has been disabled or captured by the formidable powers of private enterprise and concentrated wealth. Self-governing rights that representative democracy conferred on citizens are now usurped by the overbearing demands of corporate and financial interests. Collectively, the corporate sector has its arms around both political parties, the financing of political careers, the production of the policy agendas and propaganda of influential think tanks, and control of most major media.
What the capitalist system wants is more?more wealth, more freedom to do whatever it wishes. This has always been its instinct, unless government intervened to stop it. The objective now is to destroy any remaining forms of government interference, except of course for business subsidies and protections. ... A lot of Americans seem to know this; at least they sense that the structural reality of government and politics is not on their side. ... In these terms, the administration of Barack Obama has been a crushing disappointment for those of us who hoped he would be different. It turns out Obama is a more conventional and limited politician than advertised, more right-of-center than his soaring rhetoric suggested. Most Congressional Democrats, likewise, proved weak and incoherent, unreliable defenders of their supposed values[.]
I suggest three steps for progressives to recover an influential role in politics. First, develop a guerrilla sensibility that recognizes the weakness of the left.Here he discusses the success of the Tea Party in shaping GOP politics by holding Daddy Warbuck's feet to the virtual fire. The important word here is Primaries. Need I say more?
Second, people of liberal persuasion should "go back to school" and learn the new economic realities ... a fundamental re-examination of capitalism and the relationship between the state and the private sphere. This will not be done by business-financed think tanks.The New Deal fixed an old world. It's a new world now, Greider argues. To solve its problems, we have to learn its dynamics. He sees working people as the potential "new center of a reinvigorated democracy" but notes that there's no guarantee that working and middle class reaction will be left-oriented.
Finally, left-liberals need to start listening and learning?talking up close to ordinary Americans, including people who are not obvious allies.Again, you have to be able to listen in order to teach. The real split in this country is not left-right. But it's being sold as left-right to keep the confused from seeing the game, from seeing whose hand is really in their pocket. The more we fight the right-wing followers (as opposed to their leaders), the more we confirm to the followers that we are their enemy. Very bad idea. Better to listen and talk, to and not at, tough as that sounds to do. (No one promised the best tactics would be the most fun, folks.)
Michael, thanks for asking me to do this and for kick starting what should be an interesting discussion about the origins and power of what you've termed "persecution politics" as practiced by the contemporary right in America.
Something that really stuck with me from Blowing Smoke was the tale of the "Segregation Academies" in the South. After "separate but equal" failed and integration became the national law of the land, people with strong views on the subject continued to resist. They formed private schools to provide the segregation that the government would no longer fund. They also claimed non-profit, tax-exempt status on either religious or charitable purpose grounds. In some communities this allowed for white flight from the public schools and a new segregation. Integrationists attacked the tax-exempt status of these schools. Taxpayers essentially subsidize all tax-exempt institutions, after all and taxpayer money was no longer to be used to further the cause of segregation.
While I'm sure that logic plays fine with this crowd, segregationists saw it differently.
One thing every progressive has to admit, sooner or later, is that we're kind of telling people what they can and can't do and we're often crashing headlong into deeply held beliefs. Financial reality being what it is, a lot of the Segregation Academies needed their preferred tax treatment in order to survive. Sometimes when you want something, society says "no."
This, I think, is at the root of Michael's "persecution politics." Some very influential people, mostly on the right, have decided that being told what to do is a form of assault. The derisive term "social engineering" evokes the dehumanization of the individual. Nobody cares what you want, you're just a pawn in a much larger game of Civilization. It flies in the face of the "individual as hero" stories we tell ourselves (sometimes these stories are true, but they're still stories).
In the case of the Segregation Academies, I'd like to say we're over it and that nobody on the right wants to re-litigate integration. To say that, I have to ignore Rand Paul's first gaffe on the national stage, though. Right out of the gate he questioned the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act. His was the perfect "don't tell me what to do" response. If a person wants to open a restaurant that serves only white people or only Greek people, why bother them? The answer is that we all have to live together and such businesses make it more difficult to do. But make no mistake, we are telling people what to do. We're telling them to do good things. But that doesn't mean they like it.
When we get away from the race issue, even I tend to sympathize. We're a big country and the government can be incredibly impersonal. Those who make policy can't and often don't think much about our individual circumstances, needs and desires. There are plenty of laws on the books that I find intrusive and improper. We all have our "don't tell me what to do" moments.
But conservatives have made a politics of it. When you tell me that my kid has to learn about evolution with or without my consent, I am a victim. When you go on about climate change, you're really telling me what kind of car I can drive and where I should live and how I should get to work. Don't use your regulations to tell me what kind of light bulb to buy! Why can't I own a gun, when I haven't done anything wrong?
We can't forget that there are powerful, moneyed interests willing to support these individual impulses, and this is another reason why they work. The oil company doesn't want the government to tell you what kind of car you can drive either, particularly if you choose a heavy, low-efficiency pick-up truck. The NRA would also like to know who is telling you what you can and can't have, law abiding citizen. I know some wealthy and prominent conservatives who will be quick to tell you that they want to get the IRS out of your wallet so that you can be free to keep what you earn. If you believe taxation is a form of theft, they want your voice to be heard. If the taxes you pay represent a theft, then the taxes a Connecticut hedge fund manager pays must have been stolen too.
Ultimately I think the success of this line of argument lies in our basic impulse not to want to be told what to do and how convenient that is to some very powerful business interests. While we don't tread on them, they're running right over us.
With regard to former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's bid for Mayor of Chicago, I do not know about you, but I cannot think of any instance in which a White House and President, especially one so intimately related to one side of the issue, has[...]
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With an able assist from the 700 Club, Stephen Colbert exposes the hidden dangers of radical Muslim snacks: you may be eating Halal food without even knowing it!