Daily Archive: 07/27/2011

Jul 27 2011

The Wealth Gap

The Pew Research Center published its report on the widening wealth gap between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics. It’s not a very good picture.

    The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of black households and 18 times that of Hispanic households, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available government data from 2009.

    These lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago and roughly twice the size of the ratios that had prevailed between these three groups for the two decades prior to the Great Recession that ended in 2009.

    The Pew Research analysis finds that, in percentage terms, the bursting of the housing market bubble in 2006 and the recession that followed from late 2007 to mid-2009 took a far greater toll on the wealth of minorities than whites. From 2005 to 2009, inflation-adjusted median wealth fell by 66% among Hispanic households and 53% among black households, compared with just 16% among white households.

    The collapse of the housing market and home values were the main cause hitting Hispanics worse that any other demographic for two main reasons, where their money was invested and geographics:

    Nearly two-thirds of Hispanics’ median net worth in 2005 came from home equity, according to the report, and when the housing market collapsed, so did their wealth. Median home equity for Hispanics fell by 51 percent in the period of the survey. The drop was compounded by the fact that Hispanics tended to live in the places that were hit hardest in the recession, like Florida and California, the report said.

    Dr. Thomas Shapiro, the Pokross professor of law and social policy at Brandeis University on The Rachel Maddow Show, discussed with guest host Melissa Harris-Perry the racial legacy of the wealth gap.

    Meteor Blades at Daily Kos pointed this out in his article

    While the recession worsened the wealth gap, the trend has been headed in that direction for a long time. A study conducted in 2007 by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy found that middle-income whites had less wealth than high-income African Americans in 1984, but by 2007 they had accumulated four times as much wealth. Tom Shapiro noted that this period coincided with lower tax rates for more affluent Americans. That has been one of the main contributors to the wealth and income inequality that now plagues the United States in a ratio that is-or should be-more akin to banana republics than mature industrialized nations.

    Currently 1 percent of the population owns 40 percent of the wealth and 25 percent owns 87 percent. During the so-called “recovery” from the recession, which officially ended 25 months ago, 88 percent of the rise in income has been captured by corporate profits, while only 1 percent has gone to wage-and-salary earners. That kind of income disparity adds to the gap in a country where wealth is already distributed more unequally than anywhere else in the developed world.

    Given the attitude toward cutting taxes on “job creators” now prevalent in Washington, there’s every reason to believe this situation will worsen.

    (emphasis mine)

    We are now just waiting for the ground at the bottom of the cliff we have already driven off.

    Jul 27 2011

    Punting the Pundits

    “Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

    Wednesday is Ladies’ day. Scroll down for the Gentlemen.

    Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

    Katrina vanden Heuvel: The GOP’s state-by-state crusade to disenfranchise voters

    With only a week left before the United States of America could default on its debt, it’s easy to look at the federal government and wonder how we ever made it this far. Who would have guessed that a committed gang of extremists could bring down the economy? And yet, that’s where we find ourselves today, cornered by a manufactured crisis and running out of time. As Larry Sabato rightly tweeted over the weekend, “For anybody who teaches the American system and believes in it, this has been an extremely discouraging week.”

    Unfortunately, the assault on our democracy is not confined to Congress or the standoff over the debt ceiling. It is also seeping into the states, where voting rights – the fundamental underpinning of any democracy – are being curbed and crippled.

    In states across the country, Republican legislatures are pushing through laws that make it more difficult for Americans to vote. The most popular include new laws requiring voters to bring official identification to the polls. Estimates suggest that more than 1 in 10 Americans lack an eligible form of ID, and thus would be turned away at their polling location. Most are minorities and young people, the most loyal constituencies of the Democratic Party.

    Amy Goodman: War Is a Racket

    “War is a racket,” wrote retired U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, in 1935. That statement, which is also the title of his short book on war profiteering, rings true today. One courageous civil servant just won a battle to hold war profiteers accountable. Her name is Bunnatine “Bunny” Greenhouse. She blew the whistle when her employer, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, gave a no-bid $7 billion contract to the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) as the invasion of Iraq was about to commence. She was doing her job, trying to ensure a competitive bidding process would save the U.S. government money. For that, she was forced out of her senior position, demoted and harassed.

    Just this week, after waging a legal battle for more than half a decade, Bunny Greenhouse won. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers settled with Greenhouse for $970,000, representing full restitution for lost wages, compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.

    Her “offense” was to challenge a no-bid, $7 billion+ contract to KBR. It was weeks before the expected invasion of Iraq, in 2003, and Bush military planners predicted Saddam Hussein would blow up Iraqi oilfields, as happened with the U.S. invasion in 1991. The project, dubbed “Restore Iraqi Oil,” or RIO, was created so that oilfield fires would be extinguished. KBR was owned then by Halliburton, whose CEO until 2000 was none other than then-Vice President Dick Cheney. KBR was the only company invited to bid.

    Maureen Dowd: Not O.K. at the O.K. Corral

    For half a century, our trust in government has been falling off a cliff. Some presidential elections have been more about voting against somebody rather than for somebody. There were upticks in faith when Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton delivered prosperity.

    But now trust levels are drooping even lower. The public has less faith in Congress than Wall Street, and that’s saying something. Most Americans either feel that government is broken or that the fix is in, so that special interests and a handful of people at the top are the only ones benefiting.

    The last century was the American century. But this one will not be, thanks to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, who used their boots and spurs to ride roughshod over the globe and American economy. They spent eight years and trillions of dollars either barging into stuff they should have left alone or leaving alone stuff they should have intervened on.

    Annie Lowrey: The Markets Yawn

    Why isn’t Wall Street panicking about the default crisis yet?

    Predicting where the market is heading is a daft exercise. But its nonchalance suggests that investors are no more worried about the possibility of a U.S. default today than they were on Friday. The consensus seems to be that the debt-ceiling crisis is an obnoxious piece of political theater that will end as close to the default deadline as possible, and that it is not an actual financial crisis that needs handling now.

    Indeed, the current “crisis” is a manufactured one. Of course the United States needs to get its fiscal house in order. Of course the debt has ballooned to threatening levels. But the problem remains long-term and mostly about ensuring job growth and bending down the health care cost curve. Still, it is not clear what the scale of the catastrophe could be should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling. Some investment banks speculate that the market reaction might not be as bad as people think, with government going into a very short-lived shutdown, voter anger forcing Congress to get its act together, and the market rolling its eyes even if it dumps some bonds.

    Anne Applebaum: Anders Behring Breivik and the Crisis of Legitimacy

    What the Norwegian murderer and American “birthers” have in common.

    In the past 48 hours, Anders Behring Breivik has been described as a racist, a white supremacist, and an anti-Islamic fanatic. News reports of his arrest are now accompanied by analyses of Europe’s failure to absorb its immigrant population, by commentary on the rise of far-right political parties, by discussions of the threats posed to Muslims living in Europe. Having mistakenly assumed that the story of terror in Oslo belonged to the narrative of the war on terrorism, we are now placing it firmly within the equally familiar narrative of white racism and anti-Islamic fanaticism.

    Aren’t we missing the point once again? Breivik was not, in fact, a killer of immigrants or Muslims. He was a killer of Norwegians. The particular set of obsessions that led him to madness and then to mass murder were not merely racist. They also sprang from an insane conviction that his own government was illegitimate.

    New York Times Editorial: A Denial of Reality

    How can so many Republican lawmakers justify pushing their country toward catastrophic default just to score ideological points? The answer can be found in their statements and writings: They are constructing an alternative reality far different from that of most Americans.

    A large number of Republican lawmakers, for example, simply don’t accept that the United States is going to be in default as of Tuesday. (Wall Street banks say the nation will run out of money within a few days of that date.)

    The Treasury Department, which keeps the government bankbook, set the Aug. 2 deadline, but they say it cannot be trusted because it is an arm of the Obama administration. Representative Joe Walsh, a freshman from Illinois, recorded an instantly notorious video in which he accused President Obama of “lying” about the dangers of default. “There’s plenty of money to pay off our debt and cover all of our Social Security obligations,” he said, without saying where all these billions might be hidden.

    Eugene Robinson: Thinking the unthinkable

    Just for a moment, let’s think the unthinkable: What if we get to August 2 and there’s still no deal to raise the debt ceiling? How big a disaster would that be?

    Somewhere between massive and apocalyptic, if an actual default were to ensue. That’s why I’ve never understood, throughout this whole endless tragicomic melodrama, how President Obama could possibly let that happen. It seems to me that definitive action – unilateral, if necessary – to prevent the nation from suffering obvious, imminent, grievous harm is one of the duties any president must perform. Perhaps the most important duty.

    Neither Obama nor anyone else in the White House wants to talk about possible doomsday scenarios, except to warn that Social Security checks might not go out on time. This is understandable. There’s no incentive for Republicans to give an inch – which would anger the Tea Party base – if they believe Obama, in the end, will ensure they never have to face the consequences of their intransigence. In any event, there will probably be some kind of deal. Won’t there?

    E. J. Dionne: Democrats winning on the debt ceiling, losing on jobs

    The Post’s able blogger Greg Sargent has been pushing the idea of a “Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop.” The idea is that the Washington conversation makes everybody in the nation’s capital believe more fiercely by the day that the deficit is the most important problem facing the country, when out in the real world, Americans are worried primarily about jobs and growth.

    There’s a new poll out that lends further support to this view. The latest Pew Research Center poll released on Tuesday – the survey was carried out between July 20 and July 24 – asked respondents which economic issue worried them most. The results: 39 percent said the job situation, 29 percent said the deficit, 15 percent said rising prices and 11 percent said problems in the financial and housing markets. Pew’s report noted that even among Republicans, 34 percent cited jobs while 37 percent cited the deficit.

    Dana Milbank: In debt debate, life imitates sport

    It’s fourth and long in America’s fight to avoid default, but our leaders still can’t agree on the field conditions.

    “The White House moved the goal post,” House Speaker John Boehner protested Friday night.

    “There was no change at the goal post,” White House chief of staff Bill Daley responded, via “Meet the Press” Sunday morning.

    Yet Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate, is on record saying the uprights were indeed moved – by the Republicans. “It is like trying to kick a field goal and the goalposts keep moving,” he said earlier in the budget fights.

    It’s time to throw a flag and penalize both sides for unnecessary sportsmanship: specifically, turning the debt-limit impasse into an extended athletics metaphor.

    Jul 27 2011

    Eco-Activist Bidder #70 Gets 2 Years In Jail

    US eco-activist jailed for two years

    Campaigners denounce sentence of ‘hero’ Tim DeChristopher for disrupting oil and gas industry auction as excessive

    Tim DeChristopher was immediately ordered into custody, and fined $10,000. He had been facing a potential sentence of up to 10 years and a $750,000 fine.

    snip

    As Bidder No 70, DeChristopher disrupted what was seen as a last giveaway to the oil and gas industry by the Bush administration by bidding $1.8m (£1.1m) he did not have for the right to drill in remote areas of Utah. He was convicted of defrauding the government last March.

    In a phone conversation with The Guardian, a day ahead of sentencing, he said he was expecting jail time: “I do think I will serve some time in prison. That is what I think will be the next chapter in my life.”

    DeChristopher’s lawyers had argued that his actions in December 2008 were a one-off, and that the judge should show leniency. They argued DeChristopher had not intended to cause harm.

    However, Judge Dee Benson said DeChristopher’s political beliefs did not excuse his actions.

    Is this justice? Chris in Paris at AMERICAblog thinks this sentence raises questions about the fairness of criminal justice system considering the slap on the wrist the Wall St., Haliburton, and the oil and gas industries have received. DeChristopher, in an opinion article at Common Dreams, asks not for mercy but that we stand with him to protect the environment and our right to challenge the government through non-violent protest.

    I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me.  If you side with Mr Huber (the prosecuting US Attorney) and believe that your role is to discourage citizens from holding their government accountable, then you should follow his recommendations and lock me away.  I certainly don’t want that.  I have no desire to go to prison, and any assertion that I want to be even a temporary martyr is false.  I want you to join me in standing up for the right and responsibility of citizens to challenge their government.  I want you to join me in valuing this country’s rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience.  If you share those values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the power to redirect them.  You can sentence me to a wide range of community service efforts that would point my commitment to a healthy and just world down a different path.  You can have me work with troubled teens, as I spent most of my career doing.  You can have me help disadvantaged communities or even just pull weeds for the BLM.  You can steer that commitment if you agree with it, but you can’t kill it.  This is not going away.   At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like.  In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like.  With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.  The choice you are making today is what side are you on.

    Jul 27 2011

    On This Day In History July 27

    This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

    Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

    July 27 is the 208th day of the year (209th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 157 days remaining until the end of the year.

    On this day in 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommended that president Richard Nixon be impeached and removed from office. It was the first such impeachment recommendation in more than a century. The vote was 27 to 11, with 6 of the committee’s 17 Republicans joining all 21 Democrats in voting to send the article to the House. Nixon resigned before he was impeached by the full House.

    The House Judiciary Committee recommends that America’s 37th president, Richard M. Nixon, be impeached and removed from office. The impeachment proceedings resulted from a series of political scandals involving the Nixon administration that came to be collectively known as Watergate.

    snip

    In May 1974, the House Judiciary Committee began formal impeachment hearings against Nixon. On July 27 of that year, the first article of impeachment against the president was passed. Two more articles, for abuse of power and contempt of Congress, were approved on July 29 and 30. On August 5, Nixon complied with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring that he provide transcripts of the missing tapes, and the new evidence clearly implicated him in a cover up of the Watergate break-in. On August 8, Nixon announced his resignation, becoming the first president in U.S. history to voluntarily leave office. After departing the White House on August 9, Nixon was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford, who, in a controversial move, pardoned Nixon on September 8, 1974, making it impossible for the former president to be prosecuted for any crimes he might have committed while in office. Only two other presidents in U.S. history have been impeached: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998.

    Jul 27 2011

    Countdown with Keith Olbermann

    If you do not get Current TV you can watch Keith here:

    Watch live video from CURRENT TV LIVE Countdown Olbermann on www.justin.tv

    Jul 27 2011

    Evening Edition

    Somewhat delayed as the Thunderstorm ate my homework (better than my dog, isn’t it?).

    Here’s a kitten on a blanket-

    Evening Edition is an Open Thread

    From Yahoo News Top Stories

    1 Florists run empty in Oslo as rose becomes grief symbol

    By Katell Prigent, AFP

    6 hrs ago

    Business has never been so good, but the bumper takings are of little comfort to Norway’s flower sellers as they struggle to keep pace with the demand from a nation in mourning.

    A day after a silent “rose march”, which saw more than 100,000 people gather in central Oslo, a rose in their hands, the city’s streets, lamp posts and traffic lights were bedecked with flowers on Tuesday.

    A mass of flowers and candles laid in front of the city’s cathedral formed a carpet that stretches onto the road, blocking traffic.