Monday, January 25, 2010

Obama Will Cut Money To People, More For Corporations, Pentagon

President Obama will call for a three-year freeze in spending on many domestic programs..The freeze would cover the agencies and programs for which Congress allocates specific budgets each year, from air traffic control and farm subsidies to education, nutrition and national parks...But it would exempt the budgets for the Pentagon..The payoff in budget savings would be small relative to the deficit.

Because Mr. Obama plans to exempt military spending while leaving many popular domestic programs vulnerable, his move is certain to further anger liberals in his party. Senior Democrats in Congress are already upset by the possible collapse of health care legislation and the troop buildup in Afghanistan, among other things.

Administration officials also are working with Congress on roughly $150 billion in additional stimulus spending and tax cuts to spur job creation....One administration official said that limiting the much smaller discretionary domestic budget would have larger symbolic value....Only when the public believes such perceived waste is being wrung out will they be willing to consider reductions in popular entitlement programs [such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security], the official said.

more, if you can stand it

Your Vote Is Now Worth A Thimble Of Warm Spit

A ruling by the Supreme Court regarding spending on advertising is based on the idea that corporations are human beings. On Thursday, the court voted 5-4 that corporations can throw as much money as they want to back or oppose candidates in elections. The decision is based on the concept that corporations have the right to freedom of speech.

When the men who put this country together back in the 1700s decided that freedom of speech should be guaranteed, I'm pretty darned sure they were thinking that the people doing the speaking would be people. You know, living, breathing human beings who do things like, you know, help a kid do his math homework.

Has a corporation ever helped a high school kid do her geometry?...Has a corporation ever put on a 100-pound backpack and gotten off a helicopter in 120-degree heat in Afghanistan with bullets flying all around? Has a corporation ever died for its country?...A corporation has never fallen in love. A corporation has never sent a girlfriend a basket of flowers on Valentine's Day. A corporation has never helped an old lady cross the street. A corporation can't join the Boy Scouts...Has a corporation ever had a heartbeat? Has a corporation ever had a pulse?

more John Kelso

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Obama's Bankers: Do As We Say, Not As We Do

Some homeowners may keep paying because they think it’s immoral to default. This view has been reinforced by government officials like former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who while in office said that anyone who walked away from a mortgage would be “simply a speculator — and one who is not honoring his obligation.” (The irony of a former investment banker denouncing speculation seems to have been lost on him.)

But does this really come down to a question of morality?

A provocative paper by Brent White, a law professor at the University of Arizona, makes the case that borrowers are actually suffering from a “norm asymmetry.” In other words, they think they are obligated to repay their loans even if it is not in their financial interest to do so, while their lenders are free to do whatever maximizes profits. It’s as if borrowers are playing in a poker game in which they are the only ones who think bluffing is unethical.

That norm might have been appropriate when the lender was the local banker. More commonly these days, however, the loan was initiated by an aggressive mortgage broker who maximized his fees at the expense of the borrower’s costs, while the debt was packaged and sold to investors who bought mortgage-backed securities in the hope of earning high returns, using models that predicted possible default rates....

Banks are unlikely to endorse [a moral approch] if they think people will keep paying off their mortgages.

--more from NYT story

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friends, Death, and PC Think

My best friend here in Thailand happens to be a conservative. Not an irrational barbarian, but a man who is so distrustful of big government, he's willing to cut the corporations some slack. We have yet to discuss how the Bush Supreme Court turned our election process over to corporations the other day. According to the Supremes, corporations are people but its workers are not: corporations have a perfect right to contractually limit the civil liberties of its workers, and can even get paid by insurance companies when their workers die. Naturally, my friend is anti-PC. Then, again, so am I when it goes "too far." But how much is too far?

Do you agree that killing people is not good? If so, why do we show people killing people in movies? How about if the killer is a "bad guy"? If killing is bad, only bad guys kill, right? How about if the bad guy is on "our side"? Then it' ok, right? In our present Obamanation, can we all agree that it is ok to kill a "bad guy" if he is on the "other side"? No?

"The logic of the Smoke-Free Movies campaign, which seeks an R rating for almost all instances of on-screen puffing, is straightforward enough," writes the NYT. If the Motion Picture Association of America’s ratings board advises parents about sex, violence, language and drug use, why should it not also shield children from exposure to a lethal (if legal) product that hooks, sickens and kills hundreds of thousands of people a year? Since 2007 the M.P.A.A. has considered smoking when it makes its judgments, and one studio, Disney, has since then made all its family films smoke free....Smoke-Free Movies has claimed that the R for tobacco is not only right but also inevitable, and such questions, and the quarrels that follow from them, are also inevitable. As are further attempts to expand the purview of the M.P.A.A., to include other products and behaviors. What about guns? What about trans fats? What about beer and Styrofoam and high-fructose corn syrup?" What about killing people?

Our government has legally killed millions of people in one way or the other during the past decade. If we don't want to show smoking on screen, even by the "bad guys," isn't it logical not to show killing on screen as well? During the Bush years pics of returning dead soldiers' coffins were deleted from the wiew of U.S. citizens. Was that PC? How about the torture pics that Obama has banned? Will our government prevent us from seeing another pic of a burning child screaming down an Asian road in the name of PC? Like Katrina it was a defining moment, wasn't it?

--Jerry Politex

Friday, January 22, 2010

Fascist U.S.A.: Supremes Decide Corporations Will Control Elections

With a single, disastrous 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court has thrust politics back to the robber-baron era of the 19th century. Disingenuously waving the flag of the First Amendment, the court’s conservative majority has paved the way for corporations to use their vast treasuries to overwhelm elections and intimidate elected officials into doing their bidding....

As a result of Thursday’s ruling, corporations have been unleashed from the longstanding ban against their spending directly on political campaigns and will be free to spend as much money as they want to elect and defeat candidates. If a member of Congress tries to stand up to a wealthy special interest, its lobbyists can credibly threaten: We’ll spend whatever it takes to defeat you....

Congress must act immediately to limit the damage of this radical decision, which strikes at the heart of democracy.

more NYT Ed

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bush Katrina/Haiti Statement "Tragically Bungled"

Joined by former President Bill Clinton during a series of interviews on the Sunday shows, Bush [43] touted the need to get relief to the Haitian people, in both a streamlined and responsible way. Asked by host David Gregory if he drew any lessons from the recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina (widely regarded as tragically bungled), Bush replied:

"First of all, it takes time to get the supplies in place. That shouldn't deter them. In other words, there's an expectation-- amongst people that things are going to happen quickly. And sometimes it's hard to make things happen quickly. Secondly, there is a great reservoir of good will that wants to help. And that's why he asked us to help, and we're glad to do it."


Obama Health Care Disaster Killing Dem Majority, Alienating Public

How could the health care issue have turned from a reform that was going to make Barack Obama ten feet tall into a poison pill for Democratic senators? Whether or not Martha Coakley squeaks through in Massachusetts on Tuesday, the health bill has already done incalculable political damage and will likely do more. Polls show that the public now opposes it by margins averaging ten to fifteen points, and widening. It is hard to know which will be the worse political defeat -- losing the bill and looking weak, or passing it and leaving it as a piñata for Republicans to attack between now and November. Either way, the Massachusetts surprise should be a wake-up call of the most fundamental kind. Obama needs to stop playing inside games with bankers and insurance lobbyists, and start being a fighter for regular Americans.

more from Robert Kutcher

Obama Info Head Advocates " Illegal" Bush-Like Propaganda Center

Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama's closest confidants. Often mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Sunstein is currently Obama's head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs where, among other things, he is responsible for "overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs...".

The Bush Pentagon employed teams of former Generals to pose as "independent analysts" in the media while secretly coordinating their talking points and messaging about wars and detention policies with the Pentagon. Bush officials secretly paid supposedly "independent" voices, such as Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher, to advocate pro-Bush policies while failing to disclose their contracts. In Iraq, the Bush Pentagon hired a company, Lincoln Park, which paid newspapers to plant pro-U.S. articles while pretending it came from Iraqi citizens. In response to all of this, Democrats typically accused the Bush administration of engaging in government-sponsored propaganda -- and when it was done domestically, suggested this was illegal propaganda. Indeed, there is a very strong case to make that what Sunstein is advocating is itself illegal under long-standing statutes prohibiting government "propaganda" within the U.S., aimed at American citizens....

Covert government propaganda is exactly what Sunstein craves. His mentality is indistinguishable from the Bush mindset that led to these abuses, and he hardly tries to claim otherwise. Indeed, he favorably cites both the covert Lincoln Park program as well as Paul Bremer's closing of Iraqi newspapers which published stories the U.S. Government disliked, and justifies them as arguably necessary to combat "false conspiracy theories" in Iraq -- the same goal Sunstein has for the U.S.

more from Glenn Greenwald

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Anti-Gay Obama Forgets His Parents' Plight

As the sun set on the Bay Bridge behind him and the curtain dropped on the first week of the dramatic trial to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, [ex-Bush conservative Ted] Olson reviewed the case: “We’re going to explain why allowing same-sex couples to have that same right that the rest of us have is not going to hurt heterosexual marriages. It has no point at all except some people don’t want to recognize gays and lesbians as normal, as human beings.”

While Charles Cooper, the lawyer on the anti-gay-marriage side, cited President Obama’s declaration that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, Olson noted that Obama’s parents could not have married in Virginia before he was born.

I asked the lawyers if they were disappointed that the president who had once raised such hope in the gay community now seemed behind the curve.

“Damned right,” Boies snapped. “I hope my Democratic president will catch up to my conservative Republican co-counsel.”

Olson added: “I’m not talking about Obama, but that’s what’s so bad about politicians. They say, ‘I must hasten to follow them, for I am their leader.’”

Obama sees himself as such a huge change that he can be cautious about other societal changes. But what he doesn’t realize is that legalizing gay marriage is like electing a black president. Before you do it, it seems inconceivable. Once it’s done, you can’t remember what all the fuss was about.

more Maureen Dowd

Shameful U.S. History In Haiti

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ousted by coups that received backing from the US, said he was ready to return to Haiti from South Africa in a jet filled with emergency supplies...

...Against [a] backdrop of violence, an economy in which three-quarters of Haitians lived on less than two dollars a day, and a country where hope had vanished...Mr Aristide emerged in the Port-au-Prince slum of La Saline. Preaching a mix of political empowerment and liberation theology from his pulpit in Saint John Bosco's church, he gradually built up so much popular support that his opponents felt threatened enough to firebomb his chapel during mass, with the loss of 12 lives....

Aristide was elected with a landslide in a 1990 election, but his tenure did not last long. His opponents, covertly supported by the CIA, carried out a coup the following year. The exiled leader would be reinstalled by the Clinton administration and then re-elected for a second term in 2000.

He remained highly popular among the Creole-speaking poor, but his policies calling for higher wages and resisting demands to liberalise the economy continued to anger Haiti's elite as well as powerful elements in Washington.

Loans worth $500m were blocked, and when his enemies turned on him a second time no-one was prepared to help. Indeed, there is evidence the Bush administration prevented additional private security guards, contracted to Aristide's government, from reaching Haiti. When René Préval, Haiti's current president, was elected in 2006, he said there was nothing preventing Aristide from returning to Haiti, though it is likely that a tacit understanding between the US and Aristide's opponents in Port-au-Prince has kept him in South Africa....
--from Andrew Buncombe

GOP Victory In Mass Senate Race May Save Obamacare

Yes, you read it right, a GOP victory in the Mass race for Kennedy's Senate seat may save Obamacare. From Obama and the Dems. Now that the health care reform that the nation wanted is safely dead, killed by Obama, the Dems, and the GOP, the health care industry is resting easy, awaiting the additional riches it will receive because everyone will have to have an insurance policy, but the industry's over-the-top greed will not be hindered by rules without loopholes and hints of competition.

Now that the real battle to reform health care for the people has failed, Obama and the Dems are doing what they should have done to make true health care reform a reality. Obama "has taken full control" over the house-senate negotiations, reports the NYT, serving as head negotiator "during a 72-hour marathon of talks." As for the Dems, the GOP is livid that they have been cut out of these negotiations. Please recall that during the actual creation of the health care bills, Obama refused to get personally involved and the Dems refused to play hardball. In other words, what Obama and the Dems wanted is what we have gotten.

What this means is that in order to get true health care reform, we can only hope that "Obmacare" will be defeated. This could be done if a Republican wins the Senate seat in Mass, and that Republican is willing to vote against the house-senate compromise bill, along with the other 40 GOP Senators who are against it. Personally, we don't think this will happen, because Republicans really want "Obamacare" to pass because it's so beneficial to the health care industry. It has always been the GOP's intention to gut the reform bill as much as possible, and then point to its obvious inadequacies while running against the Dems in 2010. --Politex

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

U.S. a Democracy in Name Only

There are 100 members of the Senate. But...because of the filibuster rule, it takes only 41 to stop any bill from passing.

U.S. population: 307,006,550.

Population for the 20 least-populated states: 31,434,822.

That means that in the Senate, all it takes to stop legislation is one guy plus 40 senators representing 10.2 percent of the country.

People, think about what we went through to elect a new president — a year and a half of campaigning, three dozen debates, $1.6 billion in donations. Then the voters sent a clear, unmistakable message. Which can be totally ignored because of a parliamentary rule (*) that allows the representatives of slightly more than 10 percent of the population to call the shots.

Why isn’t 90 percent of the country marching on the Capitol with teapots and funny hats, waving signs about the filibuster?

(*) That can be removed by a simple majority vote at the start of any Senate session. --Politex

from Gail Collins

Monday, January 11, 2010

Line in the Sand: Our Two Health Care Demands

While we have listed 20 reasons we cannot support Obamacare as it presently stands, prior to what it will face in the going-through-the-motions Senate/House conference committee guided by Obama behind the scenes, this is a good a time as any to list the two items the final Obamacare bill will need to contain to get our vote, along with a rationale for those two items.

First, a universal public option, like Medicare, for those without insurance and for those who would want to switch from their private plans, OR no mandatory insurance for those without a plan. We have been told that mandatory insurance is needed to cover the elimination of risk pools, such as preconditions, but it is clear that without a universal public option and with Obamacare protecting health care loopholes and profit level status quos, what is being proposed is that all Americans be forced to further support the vampire greed system of corporate health care. Obama's "reform" was supposed to eliminate this, but does not.

Secondly, a universal medicare plan for all American citizens abroad. This is fair, just, and doable. The simpliest method would be to set up medicare hospitals at all U.S. embassies, and cover transportation and housing costs for those who do not live in the embassay cities. This is what U.S. citizens must presently do to receive quality health car without any U.S. governmental assistance. If this smacks of providing an additional health care benefit to a limited group of American citizens, you should work hard to defeat Obamacare, because the bill is and will be filled with such provisions created by congressmen on both sides of the aisle and tend to benefit much smaller and far more wealthy groups than those abroad.
--Jerry Politex

Obama's Private Gunmen Not Held Accountable

In throwing out charges against Blackwater agents who killed 17 Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in September 2007, Judge Urbina highlighted the government’s inability to hold mercenaries accountable for crimes they commit....During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton competed over who would take the toughest line against mercenaries. It is clear that the only way for President Obama to make good on the rhetoric is to get rid of the thousands of private gunmen still deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere....

Reliance on contractors allows the government to work under the radar of public scrutiny. And freewheeling contractors can be at cross purposes with the armed forces. Blackwater’s undersupervised guards undermined the effort to win Iraqi support. But most fundamental is that the government cannot — or will not — keep a legal handle on its freelance gunmen. A nation of laws cannot go to war like that.
from NYT Ed

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wall Street's Financial Weapons of Mass Destruction

Most of us are still ignorant about what Warren Buffett called the “financial weapons of mass destruction” that wrecked our economy. Fluent as we are in Al Qaeda and body scanners, when it comes to synthetic C.D.O.’s and credit-default swaps, not so much. What we don’t know will hurt us, and quite possibly on a more devastating scale than any Qaeda attack. Americans must be told the full story of how Wall Street gamed and inflated the housing bubble, made out like bandits, and then left millions of households in ruin. Without that reckoning, there will be no public clamor for serious reform of a financial system that was as cunningly breached as airline security at the Amsterdam airport. And without reform, another massive attack on our economic security is guaranteed. Now that it can count on government bailouts, Wall Street has more incentive than ever to pump up its risks — secure that it can keep the bonanzas while we get stuck with the losses.
more from Frank Rich

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Real Top Ten Stories of the Past Decade

10.Obama and the meaninglessness of elections: This is the most embittering revelation of all. Despite the greatest electoral majority since Johnson crushed Goldwater in '64, Barrack Obama has betrayed everything he ran on. In every case where he had the opportunity to confront power — in financial bailouts, financial regulation, health care, wars and military spending, utilities and global warming, national surveillance — Obama has sided with the rich and powerful against the interests of the American people. He has probably engendered more cynicism, more disaffection with government than any president since Richard Nixon. It will deal a staggering blow to the hopes of mobilizing masses of people again for a real takeback of government. And he's not even one year into it.
more from Robert Freeman

Friday, January 1, 2010

Our Obama Strategy Seconded

The core of Obama is a man who is a cautious politician. That is what he is at his center. He can’t help himself. Asking him to be something else is asking a rock to be a little less hard. He is what he is...Right now, Obama perceives the center of the country to be somewhere between Dick Cheney and Harry Reid. Do you know where that leaves him? Joe Lieberman. That’s why we’re in the sorry shape we’re in now...If we are to have any hope that Obama will move further left (and much closer to the true center of the country), we have to attack Obama relentlessly from the left. Right now he is a giant that is unmoved by anything in his left flank, he keeps looking to his right and ducking and worrying and moving to accommodate them. They are so loud and so visible. It’s hard to miss them. We have to make him look left. We have to shake him off his foundation.

You inflict political pain by voting things down. So far progressives have been completely unwilling to do this. They got rolled on healthcare because they had no intention of putting their foot down – and everyone knew it. The next time Obama pushes a corporate agenda...deny him.... And make a big stink out of it. Draw everyone’s attention to how far right Obama is and how out of whack he is with the American people. If that scares you and you start to worry about damaging a Democratic president, you’re never going to win at this game. You’re never going to get the policies you want. They don’t listen to reason, they listen to power.
more from Cenk Uygur