Senate rules can be changed, and several senators presently are working hard to modify them to overcome the vice-grip of the filibuster. On the first day of the new 112th Congress, January 5th, 2011, a senator may propose to change the filibuster rule. The vice president of the United States, the presiding officer of the U.S. Senate, may determine that Senate rules may be changed by a simple majority vote of the Senate. Appeal of any ruling by the presiding officer may be subject to a simple majority vote.Howie P.S.: In spite of the truth of these words, I wonder what audience Jim had in mind for this? I can't imagine it was the Members of the Senate.
If the Senate filibuster rules are not changed so that elections again matter and the majority can govern, then our country will be paralyzed by the unrelenting parliamentary manipulation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his compliant colleagues. Enough is enough. It is time to change the rules to allow the Senate to function as the great deliberative, and decisive, body it can be. MORE...
Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
In politics, nothing matters more than the unemployment rate. You could even argue that nothing else matters.
Today in the New York Times, David Leonhardt looks at how long it will take the nation to return to a healthy labor market -- full employment, as they say. This gets harder as we go, because in addition to having lost 8 million jobs in the recession, we keep adding people to the labor market as our population grows.
On his chart, normal happens when any of the red lines hits the black line. The gist: Even if we suddenly started adding jobs an unimaginable rate, we're looking at 2014. Which you'll note is after the 2012 elections.
Alex Pareene (War Room-Salon):
A secret U.N. plot revealed: First, they'll take Manhattan---Congratulations, 2010, for fitting in one more completely insane made-up right-wing scandal: Barack Obama is going to give Manhattan back to the Indians! Also the U.N. will help, because grrrr, the U.N.!
Earlier this month, Obama said the U.S. would support the U.N.'s "Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People," a non-legally binding promise to finally treat indigenous peoples with some small amount of decency after hundreds of years of the government murdering them and expelling them from their homes and forcibly relocating them to barren desert ghettos and now just letting them live in conditions of appalling, abject poverty. Bush refused to sign on to this, because, I dunno, it was from the U.N., and it might lead to frivolous lawsuits, or something? It's a non-binding Declaration that basically says "we will be nice to indigenous people," there's no good reason not to support it. MORE...
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Matt,Howie P.S.: Ya gotta scroll way down to find my little gem.
Have you responded to Janeane's request to have your hand in marriage?
I actually had sort of a crush on Janeane after The Truth About Cats and Dogs and quietly disliked Ben Chaplin for years afterward. How could she like a guy with that voice? I am, of course, happily married now. MORE...
Green Piece Alternative Medicine and Education (GAME) Collective may be Federal Way's first storefront medical marijuana dispensary.---In a strip mall off South 333rd Street and Pacific Highway South, most storefronts bear Korean names except for one newbie. A sign on the plain glass door gives a phone number, hours of operation and a list of medicated edibles like cookies. Qualified clients can buy medical-grade cannabis inside the studio-like room, where mirrors line one wall, legal documents hang on another wall, a TV hums in the ceiling corner and lounge chairs sit on the floor. On a desk is a pipe shaped like a Seahawks helmet, with a short length of hose and a handwritten note granting permission to try it.
Brionne Corbray opened the third branch of his collective Oct. 1 in Federal Way. The collective, with two branches in Seattle, advertises openly online and in alternative publications.
In mid-December, the Washington State Department of Revenue announced plans to collect a sales tax from marijuana dispensaries. Corbray welcomes a sales tax because he can make more money. In fact, he would rather be a retail outlet store than a non-profit, he said.
"It's the new gold rush," said Corbray, 46, of Seattle. "We should be paying taxes. That means they're acknowledging we're legal businesses." MORE...
Monday, December 27, 2010
If you get high and then get behind the wheel, cops in Washington may soon be able to prove it in court. State Representative Roger Goodman is proposing a bill in the 2011 legislative session that would set a THC limit via blood draw for impaired drivers.
If Goodman's bill passes and you get into an accident where someone is hurt, you will be required to have your blood drawn and screened for marijuana within two hours of the crash.
“There is research that shows what level in the blood active marijuana will cause you to be impaired. It is around eight nanograms per milliliter of blood. THC stays in the blood a long time so it's not fair to punish them for when they're not impaired, so we’re looking for that scientifically proven threshold,” says Goodman. MORE...
The whistle-blowing Web site WikiLeaks has not been convicted of a crime. The Justice Department has not even pressed charges over its disclosure of confidential State Department communications. Nonetheless, the financial industry is trying to shut it down.
Our concern is not specifically about payments to WikiLeaks. This isn’t the first time a bank shunned a business on similar risk-management grounds. Banks in Colorado, for instance, have refused to open bank accounts for legal dispensaries of medical marijuana.
Still, there are troubling questions. The decisions to bar the organization came after its founder, Julian Assange, said that next year it will release data revealing corruption in the financial industry. In 2009, Mr. Assange said that WikiLeaks had the hard drive of a Bank of America executive.
What would happen if a clutch of big banks decided that a particularly irksome blogger or other organization was “too risky”? What if they decided — one by one — to shut down financial access to a newspaper that was about to reveal irksome truths about their operations? This decision should not be left solely up to business-as-usual among the banks. MORE...
Sunday, December 26, 2010
le Show, KCRW, (audio):
A weekly, hour-long romp through the worlds of media, politics, sports and show business, leavened with an eclectic mix of mysterious music, hosted by Harry Shearer.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Triangulation just isn't Obama's style, and his scolding of liberals seems to be rooted in genuine frustration with them for disagreeing with him about what's politically possible, given today's realities. To whatever degree Obama is using his disagreement with the left for positioning purposes, it's more about temperament than ideology: His role is that of the voice of sanity trying to talk sense into uncompromising partisans on both sides. This just isn't Clintonian triangulation in any sense. MORE...
Howie P.S.: I hung out with Arlo briefly on a few occasions back "in the day." He's still married to the same woman (she posted the video) and he is still a cool, quirky dude. More about Arlo here.
Friday, December 24, 2010
The Young Turks, video (08:47):
Cenk Uygur (host of The Young Turks) explains how Jon Stewart of The Daily Show changed Fox News coverage of a bill to help 9/11 first responders.
Howie P.S.: As you know if read my Facebook Profile, I am a confirmed Jew/Rasta/Druid/Buddhist so I am deferring to others for expert opinion on this.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
So, even as Obama ticks off his legislative accomplishments – from helping women get a fair wage in his administration’s early days to his Wednesday signing of a law repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rules for gays in the U.S. military – the President is not likely to gain much traction with his liberal “base” because he has failed to be what many of them hoped he would be: a battler.
While that estrangement will be difficult for Obama to overcome – especially given this month's compromise with right-wing Republicans over extending Bush’s tax cuts for the rich – the other question in this troubled marriage between Obama and his angry “base” is whether Obama is entirely at fault.
Or does the Left deserve a share of the blame for its own failures, especially how it sat back over the past few decades as the Right moved ahead in media, think tanks and other elements of an ideological infrastructure? Should the Left be more self-critical about its tendency in recent years to be more a sideline critic than an on-the-field participant? MORE...
With public approval of Congress hovering at 13 percent in the Gallup Poll, it is not easy to find anyone to sing praises of the 111th Congress. So, I'll do it myself. MORE...
The lack of balance in the media and Village discussions when it comes to Social Security is a common topic among us DFH bloggers, but we're not the only ones who've noticed it. So has Columbia Journalism Review.Howie P.S.: Just a little OT, from Greg Sargent:
The traditional media has been incredibly lazy on this story, which isn't a tremendous surprise--they're lazy on just about every story. But in this case, it's not just the media. Far too many of our Democratic leaders, including President Obama find it easier to spout conventional wisdom than the refute it with the facts. Back in the old days, politicians used to get heat for governing according to the polls. On the issue of the Social Security, they appear to be governing according to the Village. On this one, they should be listening to the people. MORE...
Obama's place in history (so far): Harold Meyerson says Obama clearly bested Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter when it comes to the grand progressive project of moving the country towards social and economic equity. But he now has to prove he can match FDR and Lyndon Johnson in persuading the public he is providing for their economic security.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
RestrepoTheMovie, with video (01:31):
"Restrepo" is a feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers to Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, Restrepo, named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the US military. This is an entirely experiential film: our cameras never leave the valley, we dont interview generals or diplomats. Our only goal is to make you feel as though you have just done a 90-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you.
Signalxfmdublin, video (02:03):
We at xfm Dublin, Ireland, WANT this man to return home and run the country :-) Even if this man was in a fucking coma, he could do a better job than Fianna Fail and their wanker banker and developer mates. It will be a cold day in Hell, when another Banker / Builder / Property Developer / Speculator or 'Fianna Failure Lizard' wipes the eye of the Irish People. They should stick to shovelling shit ! That is what they are used to, that's what they are good at.Howie P.S.: This gentleman expresses my sentiments exactly. I apologize to my daughter for the financial hole we have left her to fill. Helping her pay for an overpriced higher education and some gifts this week ain't enough. Happy Holidaze everybody!
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Nichols: "Arlen Specter's Deliciously Bitter Farewell to Fellow Senators: You're a Bunch of Cannibals!"
No one expected Arlen Specter, the grouchiest member of the Senate, to leave the chamber quietly -- or, for that matter, gracefully.
But who would have thought that the Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat would exit the Senate calling his colleagues a bunch of “cannibals”
Referring not just to the intense partisanship that has come to characterize the chamber in recent years but also to the internal ideological wrangling that forced him from the Republican Party in 2009 – only to be defeated in a Democratic primary in 2010 – the senior senator used his valedictory address Tuesday to declare: "Eating or defeating your own is a form of sophisticated cannibalism."
Dismissing specific colleagues, particularly South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, the Tea Party Republican who has sought to impose ideological purity tests on the GOP, as destructive players, Specter growled in a 2,600-word valedictory speech that: "Collegiality can obviously not be maintained when negotiating with someone out to defeat you, especially in your own party. In some quarters, compromising has become a dirty word… Politics is no longer the art of the possible when senators are intransigent in their positions." MORE...
Howie P.S.: The wearer of the tee-shirt was "escorted" out of the Costco warehouse in Anchorage. Occasionally I crave some comic relief.
In the wake of President Barack Obama's deal to extend the Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, pundits have focused on how Obama has alienated the left. But the issue isn't the left -- it's the list.
Obama entered the White House with more than a landslide victory over Sen. John McCain. He brought with him a vast network of supporters, instantly reachable through an unprecedented e-mail list of 13 million people. These supporters were not just left-wing activists but a broad coalition that included the young, African-Americans, independents and even Republicans -- and they were ready to be mobilized.
I worked as Obama's chief blogger during his presidential campaign, and my primary focus was telling the stories of these supporters, many of whom had never been engaged in politics or were reengaging after years of disillusionment. There was a common thread in my conversations with the hundreds of people who gave time, sweat and small donations -- that amounted to $500 million -- to Obama's campaign.
They were inspired by Obama's promise to upend Washington by governing from the bottom up. ``The change we need doesn't come from Washington,'' Obama told them. ``It comes to Washington.''
Yet at seemingly every turn, Obama has chosen to play an inside game. Instead of actively engaging supporters in major legislative battles, Obama has told them to sit tight as he makes compromises behind closed doors. MORE...
Monday, December 20, 2010
This weekend saw critical votes on Don't Ask Don't Tell and the DREAM Act--one victory and one defeat for progressives. Kai Wright of ColorLines notes that it was grassroots organizing and militant activism that brought both these bills to the point of passage. "In the end it's the outside that moves people. Literally outside the White House, chained to the fence, or DREAM act students hunger striking," he notes.
Kai joins Laura in studio to talk about what can be learned from the movement around the DREAM Act and Don't Ask Don't Tell, moving beyond "inside/outside" strategy, and why the military is traditionally a first step toward wider equality and rights for all Americans.
"I think a comic's job is always to question authority and question the status quo," says Kelly Carlin, daughter of famous political comedian George Carlin. Now, with more Americans trusting Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to provide not only information, but even political rallies, it seems that political comedy is more relevant than ever.
Kelly joins GRITtv contributor John Fugelsang and comic Lee Camp for a discussion on the place of political comedy--when your guy is in the White House, when the subject is popular and when it's not, parody and satire and the difference between, and much, much more.
Finally, militant action moved Don't Ask Don't Tell, and now it's time to come out against war--and for Bradley Manning.
In a stunningly one-sided story last night, 60 Minutes gave GOP Gov. Chris Christie the floor to push his war against public employees and the GOP narrative that has taken hold of the country--the debt crisis in the states isn't a revenue problem, it's a spending problem. Media Matters has an excellent summation of the segment.
It's a Grover Norquist wet dream, with 60 Minutes—which occupies the pinnacle of the "liberal media"— unquestioningly accepting the "spending problem" narrative. That's the narrative that won the day with passage of the tax cut deal. Which, in turn, is probably going to make the crisis in the states much worse. MORE...
Although both chambers of Congress have now passed a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) and the President is expected to sign the legislation into law this week, LGBT advocacy organizations are warning gay and lesbian soldiers not to reveal their sexuality or re-enlist in the military quite yet.
"While the immediate impact of this bill may inspire folks from across the nation, it is important to note that full implementation has yet to take place, and that it is not yet safe for service members to disclose their sexual orientation," wrote the Human Rights Campaign on its blog Saturday afternoon. MORE...
In the wake of President Obama's tax-cut deal with Republicans, the White House is moving quickly to mend its strained relationship with the Democratic base, reassuring liberal groups, black leaders and labor union officials who opposed the tax compromise that Obama has not abandoned them.
On Friday morning, hours before the president signed into law the $858 billion package extending George W. Bush-era tax cuts as well as jobless benefits, White House aides e-mailed leaders of the black community to hail the compromise as a "major victory for African Americans."
Friday afternoon, Obama hosted a group of union presidents in the Roosevelt Room for what participants described as a cordial meeting in which the two sides agreed to look beyond their differences.
One participant in the 90-minute session said the group asked Obama to help establish a "formalized structure" of communication between the White House staff and the labor movement. The tax deal came up only briefly when Obama explained the benefits of the deal to workers.
Another liberal movement leader, Daily Kos blog founder Markos Moulitsas, said he "long ago" cut off contact with the White House. "It's clear that they want to double down on their capitulation strategy," he said in an e-mail. MORE...
VP defends deals on 'Meet the Press'---Vice President Joe Biden affirmed his expanded role as the president's key liaison to Congress and defended recent tax compromises he helped negotiate with Republicans during a wide-ranging interview aired on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.He and President Barack Obama still disagree with the Bush tax cuts for the top income brackets, but they had to "save people that are drowning," he said. Without the compromise, taxes on all incomes would have risen.Howie P.S.: They may have 'hit the mat' in the Beltway, but they didn't take the show on the road. More on Biden: "Joe Biden's absurd Afghanistan promise."
"We did go to the mat," he said about raising taxes for people making more than $250,000. "We got to the end, and we couldn't get it done, and we had to make a decision. ... Life is a matter of tough choices." MORE...
Sunday, December 19, 2010
The notion that civility and nominal bipartisanship would accomplish any of the heavy lifting required to rebuild America is childish magical thinking, and, worse, a mindless distraction from the real work before the nation. Sure, it would be swell if rhetorical peace broke out in Washington — or on cable news networks — but given that American politics have been rancorous since Boston’s original Tea Party, wishing will not make it so. Bipartisanship is equally extinct — as made all too evident this month by the pathetic fate of the much-hyped Simpson-Bowles deficit commission. MORE...
When a president tells Congressional members of his own party that his presidency depends on a bill's passage, said president is holding back nothing. He is laying himself bare. That President Obama reportedly did so for the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the first-ever reduction in Social Security funding, and but a year's worth of unemployment benefits, reveals his political desperation. It also puts the lie to the claim often made by some of the president's most ardent defenders that he is at the mercy of a broken Congress, that a president can't or shouldn't interpose in the process of legislating. A president can and should, and every president has. And this president does. As he just did. Now, for this bill.
His more ardent defenders cannot credibly claim that it isn't his job to push legislation. He didn't fight for a public option, but he did fight for the final health insurance bill. He didn't fight for the stimulus we needed, but he is fighting for a bill that could spell the political doom of both him and his party. MORE...
In the beginning of 2010 the Playing For Change crew began work on a new Song Around the World, John Lennon's "Imagine." It has been an amazing year of production, taking the crew from the favelas of Brazil to the shrines of southern India, from villages in Nepal to the glittering urban landscape of Tokyo and New York, and beyond. MORE...H/t to Paul Fischburg.
What the progressives forget is that black intellectuals have been called “paranoid,” “bitter,” “rowdy,” “angry,” “bullies,” and accused of tirades and diatribes for more than 100 years. Very few of them would have been given a grade above D from most of my teachers.
When these progressives refer to themselves as Mr. Obama’s base, all they see is themselves. They ignore polls showing steadfast support for the president among blacks and Latinos. And now they are whispering about a primary challenge against the president. Brilliant! The kind of suicidal gesture that destroyed Jimmy Carter — and a way to lose the black vote forever.
Unlike white progressives, blacks and Latinos are not used to getting it all. They know how it feels to be unemployed and unable to buy your children Christmas presents. They know when not to shout. The president, the coolest man in the room, who worked among the unemployed in Chicago, knows too. MORE...
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The final debates before holding cloture votes on the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and the DREAM Act are happening in the Senate right now. Both bills will require 60 votes to end debate and move on to final passage.Howie P.S.: Alex Pareene (Salon-The War Room) argues "It's still OK to hate Joe Lieberman":
And while the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" is widely expected to get the needed 60 votes, sadly it appears that the DREAM Act will not.
The first cloture vote will be on the DREAM Act, and is scheduled for approximately 10:30 (EST).
You can watch the action on CSPAN here.
Sure, he's fighting to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." He's also still a sanctimonious troll.
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Friday, December 17, 2010
The tax deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is just the first part of a multistage drama that is likely to further divide and weaken Democrats.
The second part, now being teed up by the White House and key Senate Democrats, is a scheme for the president to embrace much of the Bowles-Simpson plan — including cuts in Social Security. This is to be unveiled, according to well-placed sources, in the president’s State of the Union address.
The idea is to pre-empt an even more draconian set of budget cuts likely to be proposed by the incoming House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), as a condition of extending the debt ceiling. This is expected to hit in April. MORE...
Michael Oxman (SaveSeattlesTrees), with (02:46):video
Consider sending 10 emails as your Christmas present to yourself. 1 email to each of the 9 city councilmembers, and 1 to the Mayor could be what it takes to get them to think that the long term health of our urban forest will be how their terms of service will be remembered by future generations. It might take some of the sting out of knowing that they definitely will be remembered for allowing the Ingraham High School forest to be logged on their watch.Here’s a reminder of the ‘plan’ to convince the Seattle City Council to implement a comprehensive tree policy.We need to issue a draft tree ordinance to counter the regressive DPD proposal that is currently on the table.
View this PREPOSTEROUS 2:46 second video taken at the rollout of the proposal on July 14th, 2010. We were completely blindsided when the city proposed to eliminate all city tree ordinances.The authority of different departments needs to be combined. The UF IDT Urban Forestry Interdisciplinary Task Force needs to be given tree czar power. Can it be shown that the new mayor is willing to buck the power of the department directors? Maybe we need to begin campaigning for the next election with our ‘environmental voter scorecard’?
It is easier to make deals with a few people in secret, instead of holding transparent negotiations in public, and it is easier to work within Washington's narrow, antiquated rules than mobilizing a massive, unpredictable movement to fundamentally reform a broken system. Those are the temptations for the White House. Yet even as the midterms fade into the rearview mirror, it often seems like Obama's aides are in denial about the political costs of these strategies. The arguments of former loyalists like Graham-Felsen and Ganz are striking because they not only appeal to the idealism or "promises" of the Obama campaign, they also press blunt warnings about the President's political survival. Does it get through to the White House? One suspects that if the warnings were heeded in private, they would probably not be going public.irmaly's diary on Kos:
Sam Graham-Felsen says he was President Obama's 2008 "Chief Blogger"in an opinion piece just published in the Washington Post. He complains that while Obama is being accused of alienating the left, what he has really lost is "the list."
Graham-Felsen says over $500 million came to Obama from his thousands of small dollar donations, but that these people have been forgotten.
They were inspired by Obama's promise to upend Washington by governing from the bottom up. "The change we need doesn't come from Washington," Obama told them. "It comes to Washington."
Yet at seemingly every turn, Obama has chosen to play an inside game. Instead of actively engaging supporters in major legislative battles, Obama has told them to sit tight as he makes compromises behind closed doors.
- irmaly's diary :: ::
Simon Tisdall (GuardianUK):
Obama would rather not talk about it unless he cannot avoid it.
This reluctance is political and intellectual. Veteran foreign policy analyst Leslie Gelb, writing in the Daily Beast, said Obama can no longer persuasively answer the basic question: why are 100,000 American troops in Afghanistan, at an annual cost of $113bn?
"Afghanistan is no longer a vital interest of the United States but continuing the war there tears at our own nation's very vitals," Gelb said, arguing that international terrorism now has many bases, including Stockholm and London, and is no longer centred in the Hindu Kush (if it ever was). He added:"With America drowning under a $1.5tn deficit for next year and an almost $15tn overall debt, we are verging on banana republic-hood... Of course I feel for the Afghans; but I feel far, far more for Americans." MORE...
Thursday, December 16, 2010
I was in Washington last week and visited Bernie in his office, mainly to talk about the incredible results of the Federal Reserve audit, about which I’ll be writing more in the upcoming weeks and after the New Year. The audit of the Fed was undertaken because Bernie and a few other members of congress fought very hard during the Dodd-Frank regulatory reform debate to force open Ben Bernanke’s books, and as a result we now know the staggering details of the secret bailout era. We know that Citigroup received $1.6 trillion in loans, and Morgan Stanley $2 trillion, and Goldman Sachs – the same Goldman Sachs that bragged about how quickly it paid back its $10 billion TARP bailout – over $600 billion. We know that hedge fund billionaires who moved their corporate addresses to the Cayman Islands to avoid U.S. taxes were rewarded by their buddies in government with huge Fed loans; we know that the U.S. government likewise has been extending massive loans to a variety of Japanese car companies at a time when many American auto workers in Detroit have seen their wages cut in half, to $14 an hour. There’s that and there’s more on the outrage front, and we know it all because Sanders kicked and screamed and stamped his feet about Fed secrecy until just enough other members of the Senate decided to go along with him.Howie P.S.; A friend asked if I was "bitter and disappointed." Disappointed, yes---bitter, no.
I can live with the president fighting for something and failing; what I can’t stand is a politician who changes his mind for the sake of expediency and then pretends that was what he believed all along. You just can’t imagine someone like Sanders doing something like that; his MO instead would be to take his best shot for what he actually believes and let the chips fall where they may, budging a little maybe to get a worthwhile deal done but never turning his entire face inside out just to get through the day. This idea that you can’t be an honest man and a Washington politician is a myth, a crock made up by sellouts and careerist hacks who don’t stand for anything and are impatient with people who do. It’s possible to do this job with honor and dignity. It’s just that most of our politicians – our president included, apparently – would rather not bother. MORE...
The senators voting against:
For whatever reason, Boehner’s life story never gave him a broader governing vision for the folks he knew in his hometown of Reading, Ohio. When he turns on the waterworks while talking about them, it raises two questions:Howie P.S.: Once again my hometown pride for Seattle is bolstered by this gentleman who lives here.
Is Boehner crying because he escaped that fate? Or because of the person he has become — a politician whose votes show he couldn’t care less for the people he left behind? MORE...
I don't like the bill, but I could tell you that it was going to pass. As I said after the deal was announced, the most progressives could hope to do is to tinker with the Estate Tax a bit. I encourage the House to go ahead and do that and force the Senate to deal with them in Conference. But I doubt they will for the simple reason that they don't have enough time to do that without it costing them something more important, like a vote on the New START Treaty or the repeal of DADT or something else. One thing I keep saying that seems to gain little currency is that the Party of No Strategy deserves a lot of credit for watering down our agenda, demoralizing our base, forcing us into painful tradeoffs that pit our supporters against each other, firing up the Republican base, and doing real damage to the Obama administration and the Democratic Party. The strategy has worked marvelously well in all these aims and also in avoiding blame from the media or even from us. We prefer to blame our leaders and ourselves and the intelligence of the people and the media and campaign finance laws and so on. But we are very reluctant to give any credit to the opposition for manipulating us and frustrating us and making us divided and demoralized. MORE...Howie P.S.: I do think Booman lets Our President off a little easy for his political judgment as well as his fumbles and errors. For example see Robert Reich's "The New Era of Cooperation Between the White House and Big Business." If ever there was a more understated condemnation of Our President's policies, I haven't seen it.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
NPR, with audio (16:54):
The tax deal would extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years and unemployment benefits for 13 months. Many Democrats, including Howard Dean, say this deal is not the answer. Dean and Ari Berman, a contributing writer for The Nation talk about when presidents should — and should not — compromise.
Most of those polled - 68 percent - say the WikiLeaks' exposure of government documents about the State Department and U.S. diplomacy harms the public interest. Nearly as many - 59 percent - say the U.S. government should arrest Assange and charge him with a crime for releasing the diplomatic cables.
Why wouldn't they think this since virtually everyone on TV, including journalists, is acting as if telling the truth about the US Government, even when it's done in league with reputable newspapers, is going to kill us all in our beds? It's not as if they are being told the truth --- even about that.
And frankly, it's clear that under the stress of rapid social change and economic insecurity, America is morphing itself quite comfortably into a police state, yearning to believe that it is under the most serious threats mankind has ever known (well, except for the real ones like climate change, which they increasingly believe is a hoax)in order to justify putting themselves into the hands of people who say they are protecting them. Like those lab rats who repeatedly shock themselves for rewards, they are so overstimulated that they are excitedly eating up the fearmongering and demagoguery, just so they can watch the authorities use their power to make it stop. MORE...
Ari Melber, with video (06:48):
The other day, Wall Street was captivated by talking bears.
There were two of them, blue and tan, ripping into the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. “Printing money is the last refuge of failed economic empires and banana republics,” declared the tan bear, who accused Fed officials of using jargon like “quantitative easing” to hide their true plans from the public. In computerized voices, the bears held forth in an ironic, rapid-fire Socratic dialogue, taking the Fed to task for everything from deflation strategy to its close relationships with investment banks. The odd six-minute cartoon was an instant hit on YouTube, racking up over two million views in its first week, and now topping 3.5 million overall. MORE...
There is no question, in a political system warped and broken by corporate money and lobbyists, that a president intent on achieving "victories for the American people," as he described them, would require a sense of pragmatism, and a willingness to accept the compromises that, at times, will flow from it.
But too often, this president is so singularly focused on seeking common ground that he fails to define his - and our - principles. The tax cut deal is just the most recent example. Obama began those negotiations telegraphing his endgame, with eyes set unwaveringly on resolution. He chose not to passionately articulate his values, or to define the GOP's, and in the aftermath of the battle, he refused to explain where it's all meant to lead us.
This, he might conclude, is a minor complaint from a dismissible left. But the truth is, without a president who is able - and willing to - lay out a clear, strong and principled argument, without a president who will stand up for the ideals he ran on, even as he seeks resolution, the progressive worldview becomes muted, and the conservative worldview validated.
These next two years present a daunting challenge. Once the new Congress is sworn in, any legislative movement forward on the progressive agenda (if any is possible) will require some form of compromise with an increasingly loathsome opposition. This is not a reality lost on any of us. But if reaching those compromises means a continued berating of the left, a continued lack of outrage toward the right and a continued willingness to strike deals without defining principles, then in the end, the president may well find himself with a modest list of achievements, a deeply demoralized base and a party that seemingly stands for nothing. MORE...
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Though Franken had harsh words for the president who created the tax cut deal, he was among the 79 Senators to vote for cloture on the plan, helping it move forward to almost assured passage in the Senate today. Franken's reasons for supporting the compromise are similar to the ones Obama has when selling the plan: without the deal, unemployed families would lose their government support, something Franken calls unacceptable. MORE...
GRITtv: "Richard Kim & Betsy Reed: Compromise or Fight?" with video (12:57):
"I think deal is totally rotten, I think it's the best rotten deal the Democrats could've gotten," says Richard Kim of The Nation of Obama's tax cut compromise. His colleague Betsy Reed, though, notes that by compromising now, heading into an even more conservative Congress, Democrats are setting themselves up for far worse deals in the future--"Where are we going to draw the line ultimately?" Betsy and Richard join us in studio to discuss the tax cut compromise, the health care bill, Bernie Sanders' eight-and-a-half-hour speech before the Senate, and strategies for progressive organizing under a Republican House and narrow Democratic majority in the Senate.
Jeremy Scahill: "....vast number of innocent Afghan civilians that are being killed on a regular basis"
Jeremy Scahill of The Nation just returned from an unembedded trip to Afghanistan and here was part of his prepared testimony before Congress:There’s no question that our overall military strategy (along with our counter-narcotics strategy) is leading to a larger and stronger Taliban. MORE...
Despite the perception that we know what is happening in Afghanistan, what is rarely discussed in any depth in Congress or the media is the vast number of innocent Afghan civilians that are being killed on a regular basis in US night raids and the heavy bombing that has been reinstated by General David Petraeus. I saw the impact of these civilian deaths first-hand and I can say that in some cases our own actions are helping to increase the strength and expand the size of the Taliban and the broader insurgency in Afghanistan.
Bernie is a progressive hero. He has spent his entire life fighting for the poor and the middle class, just as he is now in this tax cut fight.
Make no mistake about it; this tax cut deal that President Obama struck with Republicans may be good short-term politics, but it's not the best course for the country. It’s not fiscally responsible in addressing the deficit, the biggest long-term threat to America. There is no shared pain in this agreement. Instead, this is the easy way out for everybody.
Bernie Sanders didn't back down against long odds -- he had the backbone to stand up and fight for what’s right. Washington needs more bold leadership like Bernie's. Let's make sure that every Democrat in Washington gets the message: when you stand up and fight, we’ll have your back.
Support a progressive hero -- Please contribute $5 right now.
The big mistake we made in 2007 and 2008 was to have a candidate before we had a movement and platform to which we could hold the candidate. Repeating the errors of the previous decades, many of us fell into the "identity politics" trap -- we wanted Obama or Clinton not because they articulated a clear and detailed progressive agenda, but because of their race or gender.Howie P.S.: I'll be amazed if this happens, but it would be the right way to proceed. That way, whether or not the effort ultimately results in another candidate, a constituency for our "progressive" positions would be developed.
We soon found out what a huge mistake that was. So if we are going to develop a challenge to Obama in 2012, we must start with a platform and worldview, not with the choice of another "dream candidate." Yet that platform and worldview has to avoid the clichés of the past and speak in a language that touches people's hearts and yearnings even as it is progressive and populist. MORE...
The Rude Pundit:
The unemployment benefits extension will pass, as it should. We will put off any hard decisions on our future again for two years. And then, don't worry, we'll put them off again. Because that's who we are. That's our learned behavior. We are Americans and we've forgotten how to sacrifice anything because no one for a generation has asked us to. We're like Nicholas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas: we've decided to drink ourselves to death while being cared for by whores. MORE...
Monday, December 13, 2010
Polling has begun to emerge on the proposed tax cut deal, and the consensus is that the overall deal is pretty popular. Surveys from both Pew and ABC News / Washington Post support this conclusion. Pew shows support at 65% in favor and 20% opposed. ABC / WaPo has support at 69%-29%.
As always, there is more to learn from any given poll than just the topline results. Here are three important details:
- Whenever survey responses are dominated by people who “somewhat” support / oppose or “somewhat” approve / disapprove of something, it is a clear sign that the universe sampled by the poll does not have strong opinions about the poll topic. And so it is the case with the tax cut deal as well.
According to the ABC / WaPo poll, only 20% of the country “strongly” supports the deal, and only 12% strongly opposes it. More than two-thirds of the country does not feel strongly about it either way. Even though news of the deal dominated political headlines for the past week, the country has not reacted strongly to it.
- While the deal is popular overall, different elements of the deal vary widely in terms of popularity. In particular it is worth noting that the cut to the Social Security payroll tax is actually quite unpopular.
The payroll tax is the only individual element of the deal that is opposed by a majority of the country. Further, 39% of the country is “strongly” opposed to the deal, equal to the number who “strongly” and “somewhat” support it combined. This aspect of the deal is a minefield for Democrats, in terms of both policy and politics.
GRITtv: Richard Kim: Moving to the Outside:
Richard Kim from The Nation discusses progressive organizing under a conservative Congress and an administration not willing to fight. Watch the full interview at http://grittv.org! Distributed by Tubemogul.
NO LABELS with live streaming video:
No Labels launches today, Monday, December 13th. Be a part of this historic moment and participate. Watch the No Labels Launch streamed live.H/t to Pam Eakes, who is there.
Statements from the online audience will be read throughout the launch. Submit your statements now by clicking here.
Click here to view the agenda for the launch event.Together, we can encourage our leaders to put the labels aside and do what's best for America.
If you think the Democratic base is mad at Obama now for making a craven deal with Republicans that continues tax breaks for the richest Americans and adds new ones for their heirs through a big cut in the estate tax, just wait a few weeks until Obama caves on Social Security.
How will this occur? The deficit commission appointed by the President has called for an increase in the retirement age, as well as other cuts in benefits over time. And the deal that Obama made with the Republicans just gave deficit hawks new ammunition by increasing the projected deficit by nearly $900 billion over a decade. Social Security will be in the cross-hairs.
The deficit commission has tried to camouflage these cuts by emphasizing that Social Security benefits for the very poor would not be reduced, and might even be increased. But in the commission's proposal, the cuts would affect middle-class retirees. Larry Summers, who is stepping down as Obama's economic chief, has refused to rule out cuts.
Social Security has also been softened up by the element of the tax deal that temporarily cuts payroll taxes. Supposedly, the trust funds will be made whole by a transfer from general government funds. But this increases the deficit. MORE...
FiredoglakeTV, video (03:06).
Jane Hamsher says "Obama Primary Challenge Unlikely Though Tax Cut Deal Angered Left."Howard Dean:
"I don't think he's going to face an opponent in the Democratic primary," Dean said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I think that would be a bad thing for the country and I think that would be a bad thing for the Democratic Party." MORE...Greg Sargent:
Democrats acknowledge the inevitable: The tax deal will pass. House Dems will be forced to swallow one last compromise before heading into the minority.
Could Dems end the year with some -- gasp -- victories? Andrew Sullivan posits that if Dems pass the tax deal containing a second stimulus and go on to repeal don't ask don't tell, Dems could close out with "a year-end triumph for the president and this party." MORE...
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and former Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.) are both raising doubts about an aspect of President Barack Obama's tax-cut deal that has not received much criticism: a one-year, two-percentage point cut in employees' share of the Social Security payroll tax. By contrast, a group which usually mounts staunch opposition to changes in the Social Security funding mechanism, AARP, has said it is not troubled by the proposed payroll tax holiday.
"That’s another thing that I really disagree with the president on...this two percent cut in the payroll tax that goes to the Social Security trust fund. The last thing that we need to do is invade the Social Security trust fund to provide for things right now for people’s living," Harkin said in little-noted comments Wednesday on C'-SPAN's "Washington Journal." "They’re going to make up that by it taking out of the general fund, in other words: debt. They’re going to put debt on our kids head to pay for that. That bothers me. That bothers me a great deal."
Dean, who doesn't get a vote on the package, took a similar tack on CBS's "Face The Nation" Sunday. "The 2 percent payroll tax sounds great, but in fact they take it out of the Social Security trust fund. Now, here we are complaining about the Social Security trust fund going broke and we take $120...billion of revenue out and use it for a payroll tax mitigation," Dean said.
"This is a short-term Washington fix. It does nothing about the biggest long-term threat to America, which is the deficit. I don't hear Republicans or Democrats talking about the deficit. There is no pain in this agreement. This is the easy way out for everybody," the ex-governor and former Democratic National Committee chairman said. MORE...
For two years, the president has steadily built the case that despite his efforts at bipartisanship, Republicans have consistently operated in bad faith. The president need not call any more witnesses, offer any more evidence; Americans know Republicans will not cooperate. It is time, at last, for the president to stop building his case and deliver his closing argument.
Instead, the president delivered yet more concessions to a party devoted to his failure. He had no choice, he said, because Republicans are "unwilling to budge." They have been unwilling to budge since Obama took office. They have promised further unwillingness in the next session of Congress.
For Republicans, the president said, tax cuts for the rich is "the single most important thing that they have to fight for as a party." That isn't true, though, and the president knows it. The whole country knows it. Their number one priority, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said, is to make Obama a one-term president. (Apparently, further restricting women's reproductive rights runs a close second, though.)
What if, instead of conceding to the demands of the hostage-takers, the president had taken a different tactic? What if he had instead turned to the American people before he had cut a deal to save the hostages?
"The Republicans are taking you hostage," the president could have said to the American people. "They have put the livelihood of millions, and our chances of economic recovery, at risk, all so they can give tax cuts to the rich. But I will not let them do it. This is my line in the sand, and I will not surrender to the demands of hostage takers." MORE...
UPDATE: CBS News-Face the Nation, video (09:10)--Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and former Governor Howard Dean gave Bob Schieffer their stance on President Obama's tax deal.
CNN, video (03:31)
Howie P.S.: brooklynbadboy on Kos:
Plain and simple: technique over substance. The president isn't in favor of discrimination against LGBT members of the military. He just wont disturb the chain of command or legal machinery over it. He favored the public option, but he wont get tied up into a filibuster over it. He wanted a bigger stimulus too, but wasn't about to engage in a political fight for it. On issue after issue, the president more often agrees with Democrats than not. The only difference is that he isn't willing to have a big fight over any of it. When it comes to the actual doing of the things he is for, he becomes an impartial observer mediating negotiations. Otherwise, he believes he won't get things done. It doesn't so much matter what those things are, so long as they are happening. MORE...Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.on "Fox News Sunday":
....despite "some Democrats who will refuse to go along" with anything, the House "will have an opportunity to work its will."
"We're not going to hold this thing up at the end of the day," Van Hollen added, noting that it's "very reasonable for us to ask the wealthiest estates to pay their fair share."
He said he wants to put the question to the test, but repeated that Democrats would not block the whole package over the estate tax.
"The main sticking point ... is this particular issue with the estate tax," said Van Hollen, who equated the new rate to giving $25 billion to 6,600 families. MORE...
Departing Sen. Eric Oemig, D-Kirkland, voted against the reductions, arguing lawmakers should look to eliminate certain tax loopholes and giveaways to raise more money. Oemig lost to a Republican in the November election.
"Today, what this bill does, it's going to cut welfare for kids, for families," he said during the debate. "It's going to cut school funding. And it's not asking anyone else to sacrifice. That's just not right."
"This is probably the easiest of all the decisions we're going to have to make as we move into January," said Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Zarelli voted for the cuts.
That's what has health-care, social-service and education advocates worried.
"There's a real fear out there that this is just the tip of the iceberg," said Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for a coalition of health-care and social-service advocates.
"The Legislature needs to take a balanced approach to this unprecedented situation," he said. "What I'm suggesting is that they also take a look at reforming tax exemptions and closing some of these worst tax exemptions." MORE...
SNL on Obama: "Republican leaders decided to hold us hostage, for about three days--- bound, gagged and blindfolded. " (with video)
NBC-SNL, video (03:31).
Howie P.S.: Eric Zorn (Chicago Tribune, op-ed) explains "Why the left is right to be cross with Obama":
But where I, for one, grew disillusioned was when the White House didn't respond vigorously at the right's demonization of ObamaCare after it passed, even though nearly all of the new law's provisions separately polled well. This torpid failure of message and purpose contributed to the pasting that Democrats took in November.Paul Krugman is troubled by "Orwellian Centrism":
On the issue of extending the Bush-era tax cuts, poll after poll showed strong support for Obama's idea of not extending them on income above $250,000 a year for couples. High-earners have had a comparatively good decade and they can afford the extra nick to help the nation bring down the deficit.
What a great political issue! Pass an extension of tax relief for roughly 98 percent of earners, then stand back and watch the citizenry attack Republicans with metaphorical torches and pitchforks when they filibuster all tax relief until their rich pals get in on it too. MORE...
The debate over the public option wasn’t what slowed the legislation. What did it was the many months Obama waited while Max Baucus tried to get bipartisan support, only to see the Republicans keep moving the goalposts; only when the White House finally concluded that Republican “moderates” weren’t negotiating in good faith did the thing finally get moving.
So look at how the Village constructs its mythology. The real story, of pretend moderates stalling action by pretending to be persuadable, has been rewritten as a story of how those DF hippies got in the way, until the centrists saved the day.
The worst of it is that I suspect Obama’s memory has gone down the same hole. MORE...