Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ohio Gov. Kasich: "I Don't Read Newspapers In Ohio"

In September 2008, Sarah Palin, interviewed by Katie Couric, couldn’t name one newspaper or magazine that she reads. Following his recent disastrous response to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel regarding Obama's Libya policy, Herman Cain said, "We need a leader, not a reader." The latest Republican to flaunt his anti-reading credentials and willful ignorance is Governor John Kasich of Ohio. Watch:

Kasich: First of all, you should know: I don't read newspapers in the state of Ohio. Very rarely do I read a newspaper, because...reading newspapers does not give you an uplifting experience... Time to time, people will send me articles and things I need to know about. But I have found that my life's a lot better if I don't get aggravated by what I read in the newspaper.

I suppose Kasich does not want get aggravated by an article in an Ohio newspaper focusing on the defeat of his union-busting bill and his poor approval ratings. A little knowledge, particularly about the state he governs, would not be "uplifting."

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In Reversal, Gov. Brownback Apologizes To Tweeting Teen

I wrote earlier in the week about Emma Sullivan (left), the Kansas high school senior who was told by her principal to apologize to Governor Sam Brownback (R) for writing a tweet disparaging the latter as he spoke at a Youth in Government program. Sullivan was angry about the governor's revoking arts funding in her school and state. Brownback's staff evidently considered tracking social media for objectionable messages a worthy use of its time. Sherriene Jones-Sontag, Brownback spokeswoman, said that the tweet was forwarded to the school “so that they were aware what their students were saying in regards to the governor’s appearance."

Snooping on Sullivan's tweets, relaying them to the school, demanding that the student apologize–these actions by the Brownback administration and the school were an outrageous violation of Sullivan's First Amendment rights. It was heartening to see that Sullivan refused to apologize "because it wouldn't be sincere." It was also heartening to see that Brownback was the one who apologized, stating, “My staff over-reacted to this tweet, and for that I apologize. Freedom of speech is among our most treasured freedoms." One question about this apology: "My staff"? Where does the buck stop, governor?

The governor also has to regret the media firestorm he and his staff created. They, after all, acted as publicity agents for Sullivan. Initially, the teen had 60 followers on Twitter. As of this writing, she has over 15,000.

Monday, November 28, 2011

DNC Ads Highlight Mitt Vs. Mitt

Mitt Romney describes himself as a man of “steadiness and constancy.” Perhaps that’s true in an alternate universe, but it isn’t so here. Romney, whose only principle is to get elected, has cynically changed his mind on every major issue. Two new Democratic National Committee ads highlight his flip-flops, letting Romney do the talking. Eventually he disagrees with whatever he’s said earlier–sometimes at a dizzying pace. The first ad, “Mitt vs. Mitt,” tells “the story of two men trapped in one body” and focuses on his contradictions regarding choice and health reform. It quotes the argument Romney used against Rick Perry's accusation that he hired illegal immigrants: “I’m running for office, for Pete’s sake.” The words of a man of principle? Watch:

In the second, longer ad, “Mr. Steadiness and Constancy” shifts on just a few issues: stimulus, abortion, Reagan's legacy, health care, immigration, global warming, unions, taxes, gun control, TARP and the auto industry bailout. Watch:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Grover Norquist: Anti-Tax Pledge For The People, Not Him

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, has convinced most Republicans to sign his pledge never to raise taxes. This is a profoundly irresponsible act, as it abrogates lawmakers' duties to meet the country's needs during unforeseen circumstances. One of the worst results of Norquist's dictum is the continuance of the Bush tax cuts, which amounts to an $800 billion gift to the richest 1.6 percent. This wastefulness aids Norquist in his goal of reducing government "to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Maintaining tax cuts for the wealthy leaves precious little for education, health, energy and jobs for the 99 percent. Despite the fact that most Americans want the tax cuts for the wealthy to expire, Norquist insists that the pledge expresses the will of the people, not him. Watch:

Norquist: All of the Republican presidential candidates, with the exception of Utah Jon Huntsman, have committed, in writing, to the American people, not to me, to the American people, that they won't raise taxes. What they say is, "I'm going to go to Washington. You know what I'm not going to do? I'm not going to raise your taxes. I'm going to fix the mess." It's the Democrats whose position is that the only problem in Washington, D.C., is the peasants aren't sending enough cash in for the king to spend.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Elizabeth Warren On Health Insurance: Only Multimillionaires Are Safe

In this bonus interview from Michael Moore’s “Sicko” (watch the entire documentary here), Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democratic senatorial candidate, emphasizes the point that middle class families with health insurance can still be financially ruined in case of serious illness. Such risks were not eliminated by President Obama's healthcare bill, a limited reform of private health insurance that was nonetheless too "radical" for the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats. In addition, the reform may be at risk pending the Supreme Court's decision on the individual mandate. Listen to Warren:

Warren: The system is so misdesigned in terms of how big the bills can be and how narrow the protection from health insurance is… There’s a huge amount of financial misery that we have imposed on middle-class American families. And that financial misery stems from the fact that they get sick, and they are are now at risk for losing it all. …We left in place a system where, literally, billions of dollars are drained out to pay for the administrative costs of a health-insurance system, to pay CEO fancy salaries. We take healthcare dollars and spend them over on administration instead of taking all of the healthcare dollars and spending them on the costs of buying the actual healthcare. The message is beginning to leak out: no one is safe. Have health insurance? It'll make you a little safer. But anyone shy of the multimillionaires is just not safe.

Student Told To Apologize For Tweet Criticizing Gov. Brownback

A student's tweet criticizing Republican Governor Sam Brownback (left) of Kansas was picked up by his office and relayed to her school. The student, Emma Sullivan, was attending an event in which Brownback was the speaker. In a clear violation of her First Amendment rights, Sullivan landed in the principal's office, where she was told to write letters of apology:

During the session...Sullivan posted on her personal Twitter page:

“Just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot”

On Tuesday, Sullivan was called to her principal’s office and told that the tweet had been flagged by someone on Brownback’s staff and reported to organizers of the Youth in Government program.

The principal “laid into me about how this was unacceptable and an embarrassment,” Sullivan said. “He said I had created this huge controversy and everyone was up in arms about it … and now he had to do damage control.

...Sullivan said the principal ordered her to write letters of apology to Brownback, the school’s Youth in Government sponsor, the district’s social studies coordinator and others.

Emma Sullivan reflected upon her experience:

Bryan Fischer Warns America About Muslim Turkeys

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association presented a Thanksgiving warning that America is being invaded by Muslim turkeys "sacrificed to Allah." Apparently Butterball's having turkeys ritually slaughtered so that religious Muslims can eat them is cause for alarm. Watch:

Fischer: I want to talk a little bit about Butterball turkeys. And I want to let you know [that] every single Butterball turkey sold in the United States of America has been sacrificed to Allah... Every single turkey that Butterball sells has been ritually slaughtered according to Islamic practice and has had an Islamic prayer prayed over that bird while it is being slaughtered. (h/t: Right Wing Watch)

David Frum: "When Did The GOP Lose Touch With Reality?"

David Frum (left), conservative journalist and former speechwriter for George W. Bush, has not been afraid to challenge the direction of the Republican Party (he even criticized its de facto leader, Rush Limbaugh, which resulted in his being shunned by the right-wing media). After Frum wrote that the health care bill is the Republicans’ “Waterloo,” he was fired from the American Enterprise Institute. Frum's latest blasphemous article is in New York magazine, "When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?" Frum asks how policies that seemed reasonable to Republicans in the recent past are now anathema:

It was not so long ago that Texas governor Bush denounced attempts to cut the earned-income tax credit as “balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.” By 2011, Republican commentators were noisily complaining that the poorer half of society are “lucky duckies” because the EITC offsets their federal tax obligations—or because the recession had left them with such meager incomes that they had no tax to pay in the first place. In 2000, candidate Bush routinely invoked “churches, synagogues, and mosques.” By 2010, prominent Republicans were denouncing the construction of a mosque in lower Manhattan as an outrageous insult. In 2003, President Bush and a Republican majority in Congress enacted a new ­prescription-drug program in Medicare. By 2011, all but four Republicans in the House and five in the Senate were voting to withdraw the Medicare guarantee from everybody under age 55. Today, the Fed’s pushing down interest rates in hopes of igniting economic growth is close to treason, according to Governor Rick Perry, coyly seconded by TheWall Street Journal. In 2000, the same policy qualified Alan Greenspan as the “greatest central banker in the history of the world,” according to Perry’s mentor, Senator Phil Gramm. Today, health reform that combines regulation of private insurance, individual mandates, and subsidies for those who need them is considered unconstitutional and an open invitation to “death panels.” A dozen years ago, a very similar reform was the Senate Republican alternative to Hillarycare. Today, stimulative fiscal policy that includes tax cuts for almost every American is “socialism.” In 2001, stimulative fiscal policy that included tax cuts for rather fewer Americans was an economic­-recovery program.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill"

Legendary R&B and rock and roll pianist “Fats” Domino plays “Blueberry Hill,” the 1940 song that he made into an international hit in 1956. The song is ranked 82nd in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs" list. "Fats" was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Ray Manzarek, organist for The Doors, said that his solo in "Light My Fire" was based on Domino's "Blueberry Hill":

Fats is my left hand. My left hand is Fats Domino’s left hand; “Light My Fire” is “Blueberry Hill.” I played virtually the exact same thing except play it in a minor key in an A minor and give it a little Latin feel. Other than that, it’s exactly the same thing.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Gingrich: Children Can Clean Schools, Elderly Can Depend On Markets

In conservative circles, Newt Gingrich is known as an “idea man.” In reality, his supposed innovations amount to regressing to an era when the social safety net didn't exist. As president, Gingrich would dismantle child labor laws and Social Security, harming both young and old. He would throw janitors out of work, enabling them join the 9.1 percent unemployed, and have poor kids scrubbing floors and bathrooms. Perhaps some of the student janitors can replace their fired parents. See how well it works?

In poverty stricken K-12 districts, Mr. Gingrich said that schools should enlist students as young as 9 to14 to mop hallways and bathrooms, and pay them a wage. Currently child-labor laws and unions keep poor students from bootstrapping their way into middle class, Mr. Gingrich said.

...Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called Mr. Gingrich’s proposal “absurd.”

“Who in their right mind would lay off janitors and replace them with disadvantaged children — who should be in school, and not cleaning schools,” Ms. Weingarten said. “And who would start backtracking on laws designed to halt the exploitation of children?”

Perhaps poor children as young as 9 can also hire themselves out to scrub schools in affluent areas, populated by students who have the financial backing to devote all their energies to education. An added benefit is that both poor and affluent students will realize their proper stations in the plutocracy that Gingrich wants to perpetuate. So much for "bootstrapping"–or mopping–one's way into the disappearing middle class.

Gingrich also has plans for the elderly. Let’s dismantle Social Security and have them depend upon the fluctuations of the stock market for stability during the golden years. The financial crash at the end of the Bush years, brought about by the deregulation Gingrich favors? A mere trifle, I suppose:

Rather than raising the age to receive benefits, Mr. Gingrich argues that Social Security’s fiscal challenges can be entirely met by personal accounts. They will pay higher benefits than the current system, he says, thanks to the appreciation of stocks, bonds and the like.

But won’t benefits be subject to the ups and downs of markets? Would a worker want to give up a defined-benefit program like Social Security after seeing stocks lose nearly 40 percent of their value after the financial crisis? Mr. Gingrich argues in his 48-page position paper that a long-term investor would still come out ahead.

By the way, how a public program's "fiscal challenges can be entirely met" by withdrawing money from it into a privatization scheme eludes me. But I'm not the "idea man" that Gingrich is.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Robert Reich: “We Need To Occupy Our Democracy”

Robert Reich, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley and secretary of labor under Clinton, addresses the brutal response across the country to those speaking out against officially sanctioned corruption. Reich touches upon the Supreme Court’s lifting of all corporate campaign spending limits and the absurd concept of “corporate personhood.” While those who protest are treated as nuisances, it is “the tsunami of big money into politics” that "[makes] it almost impossible for the voices of average Americans to be heard...” Unlike Wall Street and big corporations, we don’t have the money to decisively influence elections and buy off politicians. Reich concludes, “All we have is our ability to peacefully assemble... …our democracy is increasingly being taken over by big money, and that’s wrong. Demonstrating to take it back is the essence of free speech in a democratic society. We need to occupy our democracy.” Watch:

Study: Fox Viewers Less Informed Than Those Who Watch No News

A poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickinson University confirms a University of Maryland study, among others, that found that Fox News viewers are particularly misinformed. The results of this new poll, however, go further than concluding that those who are watch alternatives to Fox are better informed. The Fairleigh Dickinson poll, which asked New Jersey residents about Middle East uprisings, found that those who don't watch the news at all are better informed than Fox viewers. Fox is actually worse than nothing, in that it leaves its viewers knowing less. From the university's press release:

...people who watch Fox News, the most popular of the 24-hour cable news networks, are 18-points less likely to know that Egyptians overthrew their government than those who watch no news at all (after controlling for other news sources, partisanship, education and other demographic factors). Fox News watchers are also 6-points less likely to know that Syrians have not yet overthrown their government than those who watch no news.

"Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News," said Dan Cassino, a professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson and an analyst for the PublicMindPoll. "Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fox’s O’Reilly, Kelly On Pepper Spray: “A Food Product”

Leave it to Fox to immediately downplay the appalling use of pepper spray by UC Davis police on students conducting a peaceful sit-in. Bill O’Reilly asks Megyn Kelly, “that just burns your eyes, right?” Kelly replies that pepper spray is “a derivative of actual pepper–it’s a food product, essentially.” The two discuss whether the spray was diluted. (Mother Jones notes that "pepper spray is 1,000 times 'hotter' than a jalapeño pepper.") Though Kelly concedes that the spray was “abrasive and intrusive” and the tape “looks bad,” she states that “from a legal standpoint, I don’t know that the cops did anything wrong… The cops are allowed to use reasonable force to effect compliance with an arrest.” O’Reilly argues, “They just wanted them to get out of there… They didn’t want to lay hands on them… We don’t have the right to Monday morning quarterback the police–especially at a place like UC Davis, which is a fairly liberal campus.” A liberal campus? Then spray away, right? Watch:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Occupy Portland Protester Pepper Sprayed In The Face

In a photo that is becoming an iconic image of the Occupy movement, Elizabeth Nichols is shown being pepper sprayed in the face by Portland, Ore., police. The photo was taken as protesters marched in downtown Portland last Thursday in support of the movement. A number of people were arrested. Nichols recounted the incident:

Nichols said a policewoman jabbed her in the ribs with a baton and pressed it against her throat. That made her angry.

She yelled at the officer, saying she was being mistreated. That's when another officer shot her with pepper spray. A photo by The Oregonian's Randy L. Rasmussen, which flashed across social media websites, shows Nichols was sprayed from a few feet away.

"It felt like my face, ears and hands were on fire," she said.

She dropped to the ground, and police yanked her into their ranks.

"She was dragged away by her hair and disappeared into the black of their uniforms," Seeton said.

An officer later doused her burning face with water and she was booked into Multnomah County jail, where officers showed her Rasmussen's photo.

Next time you get pepper sprayed, keep your mouth shut, she said they told her.

Her hands still burned after they released her about 2 a.m.

Nichols also described her experience in a video:

Police Pepper Spray UC Davis Students At Peaceful Sit-In

This past Friday, Occupy activist students at the University of California, Davis, peacefully staging a sit-in were doused with pepper spray by UC Davis police in riot gear. The students were trying to protect their 25-tent encampment as the police attempted to clear it. Ten students were arrested and eleven were treated after being sprayed, including two who went to a hospital. The incident recalls the pepper spraying of women who posed no threat in New York. Afterwards, NYPD spokesman Paul J. Browne said, “individuals confronted officers.” This time, UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza told reporters, “The students had encircled the police officers.” Judge for yourself whether the students threatened the police or if, once again, we have an outrageous, unprovoked abuse of power:

Consultant Gingrich Promoted Freddie Mac, End-Of-Life Care

Recent scrutiny of Newt Gingrich's consultancy business has revealed a contradiction between his activities serving his clients and his professed political positions. Remember when Gingrich said that Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) should be jailed for his association with “a lobbyist who was close to Freddie Mac”? By that criteria, Gingrich ought to turn himself in for the money he collected from the government-sponsored mortgage company. Gingrich defended himself by saying he worked for Freddie Mac as an "historian":

For roughly six years, Newt Gingrich worked closely with high-level officials at the government-sponsored mortgage company Freddie Mac. As a highly paid consultant, he coached them on how to win over the conservatives who consider their company an anathema, spoke to their political action committee and offered general advice as they worked to stave off various threats to Freddie Mac’s survival, several people familiar with his role there said on Wednesday.

...Mr. Gingrich has in recent months been harshly critical of those who have worked with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae...

Gingrich’s hypocrisy also extended to his health care clients. As a consultant, he promoted one client's efforts toward end-of-life care. When conservatives raised the absurd cry against so-called “death panels,” Gingrich joined the chorus:

Writing on the Web site of The Washington Post, Mr. Gingrich praised Gundersen Lutheran Health System of LaCrosse, Wis., for its successful efforts to persuade most patients to have “advance directives,” saying that if Medicare had followed Gundersen’s lead on end-of-life care and other practices, it would “save more than $33 billion a year.”

...shortly after Mr. Gingrich wrote his article praising Gundersen, he joined the conservative critics of the provision. “You are asking us to trust turning power over to the government,” Mr. Gingrich told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News that August “when there are clearly people in America who believe in establishing euthanasia, including selective standards.”

Study: As Income Inequality Grows, Middle Class Areas Shrink

The Congressional Budget Office recently released a study documenting rising income inequality. Among other findings, income grew by 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households, tremendously outdistancing other income groups. A new study conducted by Stanford University and released by the Russell Sage Foundation and Brown University dramatically illustrates this trend in terms of the shrinking of middle class areas. Besides increased population in either low-income or affluent areas, there are further ramifications: as the wealthy retreat into their enclaves, they grow more removed from, and less supportive of, the needs of the general public. In addition, the gap between rich and poor students in terms of school quality, test scores and college completion is growing:

...In 2007, the last year captured by the data, 44 percent of families lived in neighborhoods the study defined as middle-income, down from 65 percent of families in 1970. At the same time, a third of American families lived in areas of either affluence or poverty, up from just 15 percent of families in 1970.

...Sean F. Reardon, an author of the study and a sociologist at Stanford, argued that the shifts had far-reaching implications for the next generation. Children in mostly poor neighborhoods tend to have less access to high-quality schools, child care and preschool, as well as to support networks or educated and economically stable neighbors who might serve as role models.

The isolation of the prosperous, he said, means less interaction with people from other income groups and a greater risk to their support for policies and investments that benefit the broader public — like schools, parks and public transportation systems. About 14 percent of families lived in affluent neighborhoods in 2007, up from 7 percent in 1970, the study found.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

OWS "Bat Signal" Projections Appear On Verizon Building

This past Thursday, as Occupy Wall Street protesters marched in New York City, “bat-signal” projections appeared on the Verizon Building, shown above. Words in light included the following:


Boing Boing interviewed Mark Read, organizer of the project, who said, "I'm feeling so much gratitude to everyone, for putting their bodies on the line every day, for this movement. It's a global uprising we're part of. We have to win."

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Collins And Seeger Perform “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

To celebrate the publication of Judy Collins’ new memoir, “Sweet Judy Blue Eyes,” let’s listen to a performance that took place during the height of the folk music revival in 1963. In this rendition of “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” Judy is joined by Pete Seeger, who recently lent his voice to Occupy Wall Street.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Romney Joins The Pro-Torture Candidates

During last Saturday’s Republican candidates’ debate, Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann denied that waterboarding is torture and said that they would approve its use, eliciting applause from the audience. Only two candidates, Rep. Ron Paul and former Gov. John Huntsman, said that they would oppose it.

It is clearly disturbing that the majority of Republican candidates either explicitly stated that they would back waterboarding or remained silent. Waterboarding is torture, and as such, it undermines our moral standards and reputation, is unreliable as a method of interrogation and endangers our own troops. The candidate most likely to be the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, had no comments on waterboarding during the debate–and then hid behind a spokeswoman to join Cain and Bachmann in endorsing "enhanced interrogation techniques." Romney, whose core principle is to get elected, clearly showed that he is not fit to be commander-in-chief. The New York Times took Romney to task on the issue in an editorial, “The Torture Candidates”:

...On Saturday night, Mr. Romney said nothing about waterboarding. If you thought that was because he might be against it, you’d be wrong. It was just pure cowardice.

On Monday, a campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, said he, too, did not believe waterboarding is torture and that he would not specify the “enhanced interrogation techniques” he would use against terrorists. That means he will not rule out using it. It also means he either does not know or does not care that waterboarding is banned by the United States Army Field Manual, and it means he chooses to ignore the testimony of top military officers like Gen. David Petraeus (who now runs the C.I.A.) that such forms of torture are not only useless for gathering reliable intelligence but are detrimental to the security of American forces and the nation’s reputation.

...[Romney's] refusal to renounce waterboarding is disturbing. There are few issues that more clearly define a candidate’s national security policy in the 21st century than a position on torture. A few candidates will fight terrorism using the rule of law, honoring the nation’s moral standards to encourage other countries to do the same. Others will defend the United States by promising to extract information from captives using pain and simulating death, degrading the nation’s reputation. That group now includes Mr. Cain, Mrs. Bachmann and Mr. Romney.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

NYPD Occupy Park; Demands Unclear

Strange events indeed are afoot in New York. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who fancies himself a strong supporter of First Amendment rights, ordered the forceful eviction of peaceful protesters from Liberty Square (Zuccotti Park). Among those arrested under the aegis of this defender of free speech are journalists. Odder still, the park is now being occupied by the NYPD, who have not issued any demands. OWS reports:

The NYPD have been occupying Liberty Square since 1:00am Tuesday morning, with the brand new occupation now set to enter its second day in just a few short hours. But will anyone listen to them when their message is so incoherent?

"What are their demands?" asked social historian Patrick Bruner. "They have not articulated any platform. How do they expect to be taken seriously?"

Critics of the new occupation allege that meddling billionaire Michael Bloomberg is behind the movement. Others question the new occupiers' militant posture, concerned about the potential effects on the neighborhood.

"I suppose they have a right to express themselves," said local resident Han Shan. "But I'd prefer it if instead they occupied the space with the power of their arguments."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Willams Refutes Kristol’s Attacks On OWS

Speaking on Fox News Sunday about Occupy Wall Street–and continuing the network's attacks on the movement–William Kristol refers to it as “anti-democratic,” "anti-American," “not law abiding” and “Marxist,” revealing a fundamental misunderstanding of the nation's history of civil disobedience and protest. Kristol also feigns a concern for liberals, warning them that OWS will “deeply damage liberalism.” With a deeper sense of historical perspective, Juan Williams states that "Occupy Wall Street is in the proud tradition of American protest and Americans taking to the streets to say something is wrong with our political structure and, in this case, also our economic structure.” Williams also correctly points out that, for all of Kristol's warnings, “Occupy Wall Street is more popular than the Tea Party, according to all the polls.” Watch:

Jeffrey D. Sachs: OWS Heralds A New Progressive Era

Jeffrey D. Sachs (left), director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, writes that Occupy Wall Street signals the end of the 30-year Reagan era, which has culminated with “soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest.” This period has been similar to other ages of inequality, including the Gilded Age at the close of the 19th century and the Roaring Twenties. Sachs contends that we are now moving into a progressive period, resembling the eras of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, as well as F.D.R.’s New Deal. From “The New Progressive Movement”:

The young people in Zuccotti Park and more than 1,000 cities have started America on a path to renewal. The movement, still in its first days, will have to expand in several strategic ways. Activists are needed among shareholders, consumers and students to hold corporations and politicians to account. Shareholders, for example, should pressure companies to get out of politics. Consumers should take their money and purchasing power away from companies that confuse business and political power. The whole range of other actions — shareholder and consumer activism, policy formulation, and running of candidates — will not happen in the park.

The new movement also needs to build a public policy platform. The American people have it absolutely right on the three main points of a new agenda. To put it simply: tax the rich, end the wars and restore honest and effective government for all.

Finally, the new progressive era will need a fresh and gutsy generation of candidates to seek election victories not through wealthy campaign financiers but through free social media. A new generation of politicians will prove that they can win on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and blog sites, rather than with corporate-financed TV ads. By lowering the cost of political campaigning, the free social media can liberate Washington from the current state of endemic corruption. And the candidates that turn down large campaign checks, political action committees, Super PACs and bundlers will be well positioned to call out their opponents who are on the corporate take.

Those who think that the cold weather will end the protests should think again. A new generation of leaders is just getting started. The new progressive age has begun.

TP: Is Herman Cain Ready To Be Commander-In-Chief?

Herman Cain, still one of the front runners among Republican presidential candidates, has a shaky grasp of foreign affairs, as demonstrated by a Think Progress video. Among the clips, Cain admits that he’s unfamiliar with the term “neo-conservative” and doesn’t know the name of the president of “U-beki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan.” Many among the Republican base apparently aren't bothered by his contradictory and ill-informed statements. But then again, they weren’t upset by Sarah Palin’s "expertise" either. Watch:

Republican Audience Applauds Waterboarding

I ask yet again: Does something ugly have to happen at every Republican debate? We've had the cheering of 234 executions under Perry; the assent to the notion that an uninsured individual should be left to die; the booing of a gay soldier serving in Iraq; the cheers for blaming the unemployed for their joblessness. Add to this list the recent applause for waterboarding. Herman Cain, after stating that he's against torture, tortuously asserted that waterboarding is merely an "enhanced interrogation technique." Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) after affirming that she'd use waterboarding, stated that President Obama is "losing the war on terror," demonstrating her ignorance of major world events. While supporters of Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman approved their candidates' opposition to torture, there were all too many cheers in the GOP audience for waterboarding. Watch:

Cenk Uygur: Slashed Investment Income Taxes Widened Income Inequality

Following a report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office documenting rising income inequality, Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks analyzes how the top one percent more than doubled their income by manipulating the tax code. Uygur cites the slashing of taxes on investment income, i.e., capital gains and dividends. The top one percent, some of whom we're familiar with, also invested in politicians who furthered such policies. Watch:

Rachel Maddow: Top 1% Thrives Due To Economic Policies Since Reagan

Rachel Maddow outlines how, since Reagan, the top one percent has pulled away from the rest of us. Did they work so much harder? No. It was due to economic policies that benefit the wealthiest. According to the Congressional Budget Office, “The equalizing effect of federal taxes was smaller” in 2007 than in 1979, as “the composition of federal revenues shifted away from progressive income taxes to less-progressive payroll taxes”–a trend to which the majority of the nation objects. Of course, Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan (WI) state that those who object are engaging in “class warfare”–to which Maddow responds, “It is true that Americans are divided on the basis of class. The class division is between the top one percent and everybody else. But saying that, describing that, naming that truth…is not what has created the division; this division is real…and it is a shocking affront to the American dream.” Watch:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

GOP Candidates Assign False Blame On Subprime Loans

Besides the myth of “regulatory uncertainty” constraining businesses from “job creation,” the Republicans in their recent debate peddled another falsehood: the government compelled the mortgage industry to make subprime loans. In fact, the industry readily offered them. The subprime crisis actually reinforces the need for government regulation, which the Republicans consistently oppose. A report by the International Monetary Fund states, "...the lightly regulated non-bank mortgage originators contributed disproportionately to the recent boom-bust housing cycle." Following the debate, Binyamin Appelbaum provided the following fact check:

There is a basic problem with the argument, made by several candidates, that the government forced mortgage lenders to make bad loans: most subprime loans were made by companies that were not subject to any kind of federal regulation.

Furthermore, there was no need for force. Financial companies jumped into the market. The major investment banks lined up to purchase subprime lenders, the major retail banks created subprime-lending divisions and a generation of upstart subprime lenders like Ameriquest and Countrywide were briefly celebrated as rising stars of American business.

No executive of a major mortgage company said at the time that the government was forcing him to make subprime loans. The executives said they did it because they thought they’d make money. And even now, after the crash, with all the temptation to point figures, it is awfully hard to find a mortgage executive who echoes the argument of the Republican candidates.

Studies of the financial crisis do assign a significant measure of responsibility to the government, but mostly for its failure to regulate these lenders.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage finance companies, did provide financing for large numbers of subprime loans, mostly by purchasing mortgage securities for their investment portfolios. But the historical record shows that they came late, diving into subprime lending because private companies were stealing their business and profits. As such, most experts have concluded that Fannie and Freddie helped expand the bubble but did not create it.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Ray Davies’ “Waterloo Sunset”

“Waterloo Sunset" is listed 42nd in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs list and called “the most beautiful song in the English language” by rock critic Robert Christgau and “divine” and a "masterpiece" by Pete Townshend of The Who. Composed by Ray Davies when he was with The Kinks (original version here), the lyrics depict a solitary homebody who is “in paradise” watching two lovers meet every Friday night at London Waterloo Station, near the Thames, and crossing the bridge as the sun sets. Above, Davies performed the song with the Crouch End Festival Chorus at the Glastonbury Festival, June 2010.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Republicans Mislead With “Regulatory Uncertainty” Theme

One prevalent Republican economic theme is that “regulatory uncertainty” is constraining businesses from investing and “creating jobs.” Just as tax cuts for the wealthy have not created jobs, regulations are also not a serious factor in job creation. Indeed, the very notion of “creating jobs” is dubious. Businesses don’t “create” jobs; they fill jobs in response to consumer demand for products–a demand that is currently not there. Catherine Rampell corrects the GOP presidential candidates on this misleading issue following yesterday’s debate:

Herman Cain suggested that the chief problem holding back companies was regulatory uncertainty. Other candidates, including Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, have made similar claims about regulatory burdens.

But if you look at surveys of small businesses conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business, a plurality of companies consistently say that the “single biggest problem” they face is low sales, not red tape or taxes.

The Labor Department’s data on mass layoffs echo this finding. For the last three quarters, “governmental regulations/intervention” have accounted for fewer than 1 percent of layoffs.

As for hiring, one reason to believe that lack of consumer demand, rather than regulations, is discouraging employers is that businesses are not even fully using their existing staff and equipment. If regulatory requirements were so burdensome but the demand was there, you’d think that companies would at least step up their use of what they already had on hand.

Image: Pat Bagley

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gov. Kasich’s Union Busting Bill Repealed In Ohio

Congratulations to the people of Ohio following the repeal of Republican Gov. John Kasich’s union-busting bill. Like Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), Kasich was determined to strip unions of their rights to collectively bargain and strike. Ohioans handed him an overwhelming defeat and asserted the right of organized labor to stand up for its interests:

A year after Republicans swept legislatures across the country, voters in Ohio delivered their verdict on a centerpiece of the conservative legislative agenda, striking down a law that restricted public workers’ rights to bargain collectively.

The landslide vote to repeal the bill — 62 percent to 38 percent, according to preliminary results from Ohio’s secretary of state — was a slap to Ohio’s governor, John R. Kasich, a prominent Republican who had championed the law as a tool for cities to cut costs. The bill passed in March on a wave of enthusiasm among Republicans fresh from victories at the polls. A similar bill also passed in Wisconsin.

The vote gave a new lease on life to public sector labor unions in Ohio, which had been under tremendous pressure to get the bill repealed. Failure would have brought not only the loss of most of their bargaining rights, including the right to strike, but would also have called into question what had long been their central strength — their ability to organize and deliver votes.

...“Attacking education and other public employees is not at all what the public wants to see,” said Karen M. White, political director of the National Education Association, the nation’s largest public sector union. “It should resonate with politicians that they’ve gone too far.”

...“What we were actually fighting for was our livelihood,” said Monty Blanton, a retired state employee and union worker who said he spent 14 hours a day knocking in doors in southeast Ohio in the last month. “We’ve been to places you had to get to with a four-wheel drive.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Video: The Story of Citizens United v. FEC

The following video provides an excellent lesson on the main reasons for the corruption of our democracy: the concept of "corporate personhood,” in which corporations are given the rights of individuals, and the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision (2010), which rejected any corporate campaign spending limit. The latter decision, of course, is related to the fact that our elections are not publicly financed. These factors produced a system in which politicians are bought by corporations and the wealthy to do their bidding, regardless of the interests of the majority. The injustices and growing income inequality that result from such a system also gave rise to Occupy Wall Street. Watch:

(h/t: The Story of Stuff)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Danny Glover At Occupy Oakland: “We’re Talking About Taking Back Our Humanity”

Actor Danny Glover presented a powerful speech at Occupy Oakland. He spoke about the weakening of the labor movement, the many unemployed, the corporate corruption of our democracy, the despoiling of the environment–and the need to transform the nation into one that values the people and the planet. Watch:

Family Research Council Praises Rep. Walsh, Deadbeat Dad, As “Pro-Family”

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), Tea Party favorite, had the chutzpah to lecture President Obama on fiscal responsibility, stating that he doesn't want to “place one more dollar on the backs of my kids and grandkids”–all the while owing $100,000+ in child support. After Walsh skipped a court hearing, a judge demanded that this champion of family values explain his debt. Proving that the religious right has a sense of irony, the Family Research Council recognized deadbeat dad Walsh as a “True Blue” member of Congress for “unwavering support of the family":

“We thank Cong. Walsh who has voted consistently to defend faith, family and freedom,” said FRCA President Tony Perkins. “Cong. Walsh and other ‘True Blue Members’ have voted to repeal Obamacare, de-fund Planned Parenthood, end government funding for abortion within the health care law, uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, and continue support for school choice. I applaud their commitment to uphold the institutions of marriage and family.”

“I am proud and honored to be recognized by the Family Research Council as the only member from Illinois with a 100 percent pro-family voting record,” Walsh said in a news release. “Defending American values have always been one of my top priorities, and this reward reaffirms my dedication to that fight.”

Think Progress cites a further ramification of Walsh's so-called "pro-family" policies:

Additionally, it’s worth noting that Walsh’s failure to pay child support isn’t even his only failure to look out for the basic needs of his own family. As Marie Diamond noted for ThinkProgress a few months ago, “Walsh also rejected the congressional health insurance plan for his family on principle, much to the chagrin of his current wife, Helene, who had a preexisting condition and needed surgery while the couple was uninsured.”

"Seminar": Literary Aspirations And Humiliations

In Theresa Rebeck's "Seminar," in previews at the Golden Theatre, Leonard (Alan Rickman) is teaching a weekly writing seminar to four aspiring young novelists. His assessments of the work of Douglas (Jerry O'Connell), Martin (Hamish Linklater), Kate (Lily Rabe) and Izzy (Hetienne Park) are caustic and even unforgivably dismissive, as when he rejects a story by Kate based on the half of a sentence before the semi-colon. The young writers are driven by one-upmanship, expressed in shifting alliances, including sexual liaisons. Up to this point, we seem to have a barbed comedy focusing on literary pretensions. As the play continues, however, the characters wrenchingly reveal themselves, especially Leonard. Accusations of plagiarism decades ago short-circuted a promising literary career. Whether he can renew his sense of purpose, even through guiding his students, is at the heart of this incisive, witty and powerful play.

SEMINAR by Theresa Rebeck; directed by Sam Gold. At the Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St., NYC, (212) 239-6200. Previews from Oct. 27; Opening night, Nov. 20

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Elizabeth Warren On Tea Party Heckler: "Someone Is Pre-Packaging That Poison"

Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democratic senatorial candidate, was heckled by a Tea Party supporter who said he’d been unemployed since February 2010 and objected to her standing by Occupy Wall Street. Warren, after stopping the audience from shouting him down, said, “I’m very sorry that you’ve been out of work. I’m also very sorry that the recent jobs bill that would’ve brought 22,000 jobs to Massachusetts did not pass in the Senate.” She said that she’s been protesting what’s been going on in Wall Street for a while, but that the movement had its own agenda. The heckler responded, "Well, if you're the intellectual creator of that so-called party, you're a socialist whore. I don't want anything to do with you." He added that Warren's "boss," presumably President Obama, was "foreign-born.” Warren took the exchange as a “reminder that we have a lot of work to do.” Watch:

Warren later said she felt sorry for the heckler and angry about the right-wing propaganda that influenced him:

After the event, Warren reflected on the man's outburst, which she said was her first such encounter. "I actually felt sorry for the guy. I really genuinely did. He's been out of work now for a year and a half. And bless his heart, I mean, he thought somehow it would help to come here and yell names," she told HuffPost.

The assault stuck with Warren, and she continued to think about it throughout the night. Hours later, she said she wasn't upset with the man himself, but rather with those who attempt to channel his anger in a malevolent direction. "I was thinking more about the heckler. I'm not angry with him, but he didn't come up with the idea that his biggest problem was Occupy Wall Street. There's someone else pre-packaging that poison -- and that's who makes me angry," she said.

Regarding the "pre-packaged poison," Media Matters has provided comprehensive coverage on the campaign by the right wing media, especially Fox News, to mock, smear, and vilify the Occupy Wall Street protesters.

Cain: "I'm The Koch Brothers' Brother From Another Mother!"

Herman Cain’s ties to David and Charles Koch, billionaire oil magnates who are major supporters of right-wing causes that include the Tea Party, were made explicit in a New York Times article on Thursday. Cain and his top aide, Mark Block, were involved in the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. Is Cain an “outsider” candidate–or a Koch-financed corporate shill? Cain’s involvement with the advocacy group, co-founded and financed by David Koch, adds credence to the latter view:

…Mr. Block and Mr. Cain’s meeting of the minds was forged over small-government principles that both were paid to promote on behalf of Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group that has roots in the libertarian movement and the Tea Party.

Mr. Block led the group’s state chapter in Wisconsin. Mr. Cain was hired in 2005 to lead its “Prosperity Expansion Project” to seed more state groups, using his gift for public speaking to advance goals like lowering taxes, slashing government regulations and curtailing unions.

…Because the Cain campaign’s core staff members are veterans of Americans for Prosperity — Mr. Block, his deputy manager, the senior economic adviser — some critics on the left suggest that despite Mr. Cain’s image as an outsider, his candidacy is in effect a mouthpiece for the corporate interests of the Koch brothers.

… Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now, a liberal advocacy group, mordantly credited Americans for Prosperity with “derailing a discussion about how we had to move to more clean energy, which is where the Koch brothers’ interests come in.”

He called Mr. Cain a “hand-picked corporate spokes-candidate.”

Cain has no problem being identified with the Koch brothers and their continued support. Speaking at an Americans for Prosperity event this week, Cain said, "I am the Koch brothers' brother from another mother!" Watch:

McConnell Declines Meeting Jobless Occupying His Office

Unemployed residents of Washington, DC, shown above, occupied Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) office this week in an attempt to talk to him about jobs. Specifically, they wanted him to support President Obama’s Rebuild America Act. The group was organized by OurDC, which advocates for the area's unemployed. McConnell’s staff did not schedule an appointment for the group to meet the senator, who, like every other Republican in the Senate, voted down allocating $50 billion for infrastructure investment that would have created jobs. McConnell and his colleagues objected on Thursday to the bill's being funded by a 0.7% surtax on household incomes above $1 million. One occupier commented:

"Hopefully we can all get together with the senator today before time is up," said Ted Black, a 58-year-old resident of Southeast D.C. Black said he is a Vietnam-era veteran and that he lost his job as a radiologist tech three months ago. He supports President Obama's jobs package, he said, including the blocked infrastructure bill.

"I'm here supporting the cause for veterans and also for teachers and children and schools and residents who are unemployed or underemployed or homeless," Black said.

Facing arrest, the occupiers decided to leave on Thursday. "When you're looking for a job and unemployed, the last thing you need is an arrest," [James] Adams, [communications director of OurDC], said.

Saturday Night At The Liberal Curmudgeon: Pat Metheny Trio Performs “Lonely Woman”

Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny plays a soulful rendition of “Lonely Woman,” a Horace Silver composition, at the Lugano Jazz Festival, Switzerland, 2004. Metheny is joined by Christian McBride, bass, and Antonio Sanchez, drums.

Friday, November 4, 2011

GOP Blocks Jobs Bill, Upholds "In God We Trust" Motto

Despite their self-proclaimed interest in creating jobs, Senate Republicans–joined, of course, by Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT)–blocked another part of President Obama’s jobs bill, one that would have increased employment and repaired the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Their motivations? First, they are loath to hand the president a victory, even if–or especially if–it helps the economy. The GOP are also unanimously opposed to raising taxes on the wealthy to create jobs:

Thursday's proposal would have allocated $50 billion for highway, rail and airport modernization projects as well as $10 billion for an infrastructure bank that could leverage private investment for additional projects. It would have been paid for by a 0.7% surtax on household incomes above $1 million.

In the House, however, Republicans took action on an urgent matter. No, it wasn't jobs. It was making sure that "In God We Trust" is affirmed as America's motto. Was the motto under threat? Of course not. Regardless, the motto–not jobs–required immediate action:

Citing a crisis of national identity and mass confusion among Americans about their nation’s motto, the House on Tuesday voted on a resolution “reaffirming ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States.”

The designed to clear up any confusion over the motto’s official status and to encourage schools and other public institutions to display it, said Representative J. Randy Forbes, Republican of Virginia and the measure’s sponsor.

...Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, said earlier this year that he would try to prevent votes on measures that were not “substantive and meaningful.” The House did not vote, for example, on an independent resolution, passed in the Senate this year, to honor the troops who carried out the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. His office did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

...“Why are my Republican friends returning to an irrelevant agenda?” [Rep. Jerrold] Nadler (D-NY) said. “The national motto is not in danger. No one here is suggesting we get rid of it. It appears on our money, it appears in this chamber above your head, it appears in the Capitol Visitors’ Center, all over the place.”

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rick Perry’s Cornerstone Speech: “It Was Different”

Following some miserable performances, Rick Perry said that he may skip some of the remaining Republican debates. After a recent bizarre address at the Cornerstone Action Dinner in Manchester, NH, perhaps he should stop giving speeches as well. Granted, the video below highlights the strangest moments…but there were an awful lot of strange moments. Following the speech, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas (R) said, “It was different.” Perry spokesman Mark Miner explained, “The governor is passionate about the issues he cares about.” I wondered if Perry were on something. The speech has made him a YouTube star, with over 687,000 views as of this writing. See what you think:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Herman Cain Shifts Explanation Of Sexual Harassment Charges

Politico reports that two women in the employ of Herman Cain reported sexual harassment on his part and received financial payouts. At first Cain evaded questions:

During Herman Cain’s tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, at least two female employees complained to colleagues and senior association officials about inappropriate behavior by Cain, ultimately leaving their jobs at the trade group, multiple sources confirm to POLITICO.

The women complained of sexually suggestive behavior by Cain that made them angry and uncomfortable, the sources said, and they signed agreements with the restaurant group that gave them financial payouts to leave the association. The agreements also included language that bars the women from talking about their departures.

In a series of comments over the past 10 days, Cain and his campaign repeatedly declined to respond directly about whether he ever faced allegations of sexual harassment at the restaurant association. They have also declined to address questions about specific reporting confirming that there were financial settlements in two cases in which women leveled complaints.

Cain's explanations then started to shift:

The Daily Beast: Cain spent Monday morning denying he was ever accused of sexual harassment against two women in the 1990s. Then he acknowledged the allegations but said they were 'false' and 'baseless,' while saying he knew 'nothing' of a cash settlement. Now he acknowledged that he knew about a settlement that was offered to one of the women.

New York Times: Cain's shifting explanations and the gaps in the story made it hard to determine the impact of the revelations on his long-term prospects in states like Iowa, whose crucial caucuses are just two months away.

Politico put together a video showing Cain's changing narrative:

What If The U.S. Were Divided By Income?

A report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office confirms the growing concentration of income at the top:

The total income of the top 1.1 million households [from 2003 to 2005] was $1.8 trillion, or 18.1 percent of the total income of all Americans, up from 14.3 percent of all income in 2003. The total 2005 income of the three million individual Americans at the top was roughly equal to that of the bottom 166 million Americans, analysis of the report showed.

The full impact of such staggering statistics is brought home by Occupy America, which produced the following image with explanation:

What would the United States look like if it were divided according to wealth? The Congressional Budget Office confirms that the top one percent has tripled its income since 1979, while the upper middle class has increased its wealth much more modestly, and the rest of the country has seen only a small gain.

Yes, that's the majority of us there in that little strip along the bottom of the map. And remember, there are a whole lot more of us in that little strip than there are in the top portions.