Monthly Archive: July 2013

Jul 31 2013

The Slow Death of Democracy

“Well, Doctor, what have we got-a Republic or a Monarchy?”

 “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

~Benjamin Franklin~ 1787

While Bradley Manning awaits sentencing that could bring up to 136 years in prison, the perpetrators of the war crimes that he exposed and those who authorized those crimes remain free, some still have been appointed to high positions in the government. War crimes apologists hail Manning’s conviction but are silent about prosecution of the likes of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Alberto Gonzalez, John Brennan, James Comey, and hundreds of others.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange spoke with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on this morning’s Democracy Now!



Transcript can be read here

“Bradley Manning is now a martyr,” Assange says. “He didn’t choose to be a martyr. I don’t think it’s a proper way for activists to behave to choose to be martyrs, but these young men – allegedly in the case of Bradley Manning and clearly in the case of Edward Snowden – have risked their freedom, risked their lives, for all of us. That makes them heroes.” According to numerous press reports, the conviction of Manning makes it increasingly likely that the U.S. will prosecute Assange as a co-conspirator. During the trial, military prosecutors portrayed Assange as an “information anarchist” who encouraged Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents.

Statement by Julian Assange on Verdict in Bradley Manning Court-Martial

30 July 2013, 19:30 UTC

Today Bradley Manning, a whistleblower, was convicted by a military court at Fort Meade of 19 offences for supplying the press with information, including five counts of ‘espionage’. He now faces a maximum sentence of 136 years.

The ‘aiding the enemy’ charge has fallen away. It was only included, it seems, to make calling journalism ‘espionage’ seem reasonable. It is not.

Bradley Manning’s alleged disclosures have exposed war crimes, sparked revolutions, and induced democratic reform. He is the quintessential whistleblower.

This is the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower. It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism. It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ‘espionage’.

President Obama has initiated more espionage proceedings against whistleblowers and publishers than all previous presidents combined.

In 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama ran on a platform that praised whistleblowing as an act of courage and patriotism. That platform has been comprehensively betrayed. His campaign document described whistleblowers as watchdogs when government abuses its authority. It was removed from the internet last week.

Throughout the proceedings there has been a conspicuous absence: the absence of any victim. The prosecution did not present evidence that – or even claim that – a single person came to harm as a result of Bradley Manning’s disclosures. The government never claimed Mr. Manning was working for a foreign power.

The only ‘victim’ was the US government’s wounded pride, but the abuse of this fine young man was never the way to restore it. Rather, the abuse of Bradley Manning has left the world with a sense of disgust at how low the Obama administration has fallen. It is not a sign of strength, but of weakness.

The judge has allowed the prosecution to substantially alter the charges after both the defense and the prosecution had rested their cases, permitted the prosecution 141 witnesses and extensive secret testimony. The government kept Bradley Manning in a cage, stripped him naked and isolated him in order to crack him, an act formally condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for torture. This was never a fair trial.

The Obama administration has been chipping away democratic freedoms in the United States. With today’s verdict, Obama has hacked off much more. The administration is intent on deterring and silencing whistleblowers, intent on weakening freedom of the press.

The US first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”. What part of ‘no’ does Barack Obama fail to comprehend?

Manning Verdict: Slow Death for Democracy

by David Gespass, Common Dreams

Hypocrisy and criminality are rife in the United States government and, in its eyes, the worst criminals are those who expose such evils. Among the many documents Manning released, for example, was the notorious “collateral murder” video, showing U.S. pilots killing a Reuters journalist, his driver and several others. Some have argued that, although unfortunate, the killing was justified in the heat of battle but the U.S. denied any knowledge of how the reporter, Namir Noor-Eldeen, died until the video was released. Reuters had simply asked how such events could be avoided in the future and was stonewalled. It is only thanks to Manning that the world knows exactly what happened.

There are two ways in which any government can seek to control security leaks. The first is by honesty and transparency, by allowing the public to know enough to make democratic decisions about how far is too far. That is the path that the United States, and this president, claims to follow. The second is by threatening draconian consequences to anyone who exposes questionable policies and practices to the light of day. That is the path the United States, and this administration, has chosen with the prosecution of Bradley Manning and others. No amount of sophistry can hide that truth, try as the administration might. The result, for Bradley Manning, is many years in prison. The result for democracy is a slow death.

The highest obligation we, as citizens, have is to protect the Constitution and the laws of this country. This is what two young men, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, have courageously done. They don’t deserve prosecution. They deserve medals and praise.

Jul 31 2013

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.

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

Wednesday is Ladies’ Day.

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Ana Marie Cox: Obama pitches ‘grand bargain’ to a middle class that no longer exists

Americans like to think of themselves as middle class, but the reality is 79% will have to rely on aid at some point

On Monday, the Associated Press cited a survey showing that 79% of Americans will experience “economic insecurity” by the time they turn 60. At some point, pandering to the middle class will begin to feel like pandering to those who already have it easy. If Obama wants to truly energize voters, and to use their energy to sway recalcitrant Republicans, he needs to do more than make promises to those in the middle class, he needs to make them understand that the middle class as a category is threatened.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The GOP Misunderstands the ‘War on Women’

You can’t say Republicans lack for chutzpah. The cynical right-wing message-men have come up with a new insult to our intelligence-and to millions of US women. As Buzzfeed reported Friday, Republicans are now spinning a series of scandals to try to prove the Democrats are the party with the real “War on Women.” That’s just silly, and they know it.

Needless to say, some current and former Democratic pols haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory recently. San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s refusal to resign, despite an apparent pattern of repeated abuse, is particularly outrageous. But sexual indiscretion and sexual harassment (two types of scandal that shouldn’t be conflated) know no partisan affiliation. Remember Herman Cain, onetime GOP presidential frontrunner and accused serial sexual harasser? National Journal reported at the time that “scores of interviews with Iowa Republicans over the weekend turned up scant outrage” over the allegations. Some high-profile Republicans even questioned the concept of sexual harassment itself, with Representative Steve King calling it “a terrible concept,” and Senator Rand Paul warning that some now “hesitate to tell a joke to a woman in the workplace…” The horrors!

Rachel Alexander: The future of the GOP: Rand Paul or Chris Christie?

Christie can criticize Paul all he wants, but Republicans would much rather see a true conservative like Paul in the White House

New Jersey Republican Mayor Chris Christie took a harsh swipe at Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky last week, declaring Paul’s criticism of the National Security Administration as “dangerous”. [..]

Attacking the libertarians in the GOP as Christie has done will not help the Republican party or Christie’s election chances. The Reagan revolution came about because Reagan was able, with the help of the late William F Buckley Jr and his National Review magazine, to bring together a coalition of libertarians, religious conservatives and fiscal conservatives. Paul, who is outspoken about his Christian faith, is one of a few Republicans who could rebuild that coalition.

Jessica Valenti: The GOP’s Twenty-Week Mistake

According to The New York Times, GOP leaders-all men-are strategizing on how to push through a Senate bill that would ban abortions after twenty weeks. Senator Marco Rubio is quoted as saying, “Irrespective of how people may feel about the issue, we’re talking about five months into a pregnancy. People certainly feel there should be significant restrictions on that.” [..]

The Republican leadership may see polls on what Americans think of later abortion and think they have a winning issue here. But they’d be wrong. The GOP is so out-of-touch with what pregnancy actually looks like-how complex and nuanced women’s lives really are-that they don’t see the stories behind the numbers. They’re going to make the same miscalculation they did last year by underestimating women and the way their experiences shape their vote. Our reproductive stories are not black and white, and they’re certainly not something that can be mandated or restricted by policy. Not at two weeks, not at twenty weeks, not ever.

Salamishah Tillet : Sexual Harassment Is Not a Disease, But It Surely Is an Epidemic

The storyline has become all too familiar: a well-known politician is accused of sexual harassment by several women; he first plays defense (a public denial), then goes on the offensive (a public apology), and finally, admits to past behavior and pledges to get “help.” [..]

It would be nice to believe that Filner, after his two weeks of therapy, would come back to work and lead the charge to end sexual harassment-in the schools, the streets and the City Hall of San Diego. But he probably won’t. And this is not just because 60 percent of San Diegans surveyed over the weekend believe he should be recalled if he does not resign. He seems to be unaware that to sexually harass women is far more dangerous than a pathology or breach of public trust. It is part of the larger epidemic of violence against women that preserves our system and social practice of male dominance and gender inequity.

And let’s be clear, that’s something that can be controlled and cured.

Michelle Chen: ‘Bargain’ on Immigration Would Feed Prison Profits

The private prison industry stands to gain millions from the Senate’s reform plan.

The supposed grand bargain of the immigration reform bill is shaping up to be a lucrative deal for prisons. As a compromise between “border security” and “amnesty,” the comprehensive reform plan emerging in Congress ties the “legalization” of millions of migrants to the prospective criminalization of millions more.

The Senate’s reform bill, now being debated in the House, would boost immigration enforcement by beefing up border patrols, militarized barriers, border surveillance, immigration prosecutions and privately run detention facilities. According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, the original bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee “would increase the prison population by about 14,000 inmates annually by 2018.” (The number of “immigration offenders” in federal prison has risen over the past decade to about 22,100 in 2011.) Just before passage, the bill was saddled with the draconian “Hoeven-Corker border security amendment,” which contains harsher, more costly enforcement provisions, including a doubling of border agents to roughly 40,000.

Jul 31 2013

D.C. Time Warp

Ted Kaufman is a former Democratic Senator from Delaware.

Why DOJ Deemed Bank Execs Too Big To Jail

Ted Kaufman, Forbes

7/29/2013 @ 9:30AM

I guess you have to be something of a masochist to quote yourself being so wrong. In my defense, who could have imagined that:

a) The six largest banks would pay $62.2 billion in fines to settle lawsuits in the past three years, led by Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase. (SNL Financial estimate)

b) It will take $24.7 billion to settle pending suits, most of them involving the mortgage junk sold to investors. (Compass Point estimate)

c) Despite the fact that a+b=$86.9 billion, not one bank has ever had to admit to any wrongdoing.

d) Not one dollar of the $86.9 billion has been paid by any bank executive. Shareholders took all the hits.



Why? Why has no one been held responsible? There are many reasons, including the complexity of the cases and the lack of criminal referrals from the regulatory agencies. But perhaps the key reason is that those most responsible for indicting and prosecuting Wall Street executives seem to believe that, just as there are banks that are too big to fail, there are people who are too big to jail.

In a speech he gave last fall, the retiring head of the Criminal Division in the Department of Justice, Lanny Breuer, explained that position: “To be clear, the decision of whether to indict a corporation, defer prosecution, or decline altogether is not one that I, or anyone in the Criminal Division, take lightly. We are frequently on the receiving end of presentations from defense counsel, CEOs and economists who argue that the collateral consequences of an indictment would be devastating for their client. In my conference room, over the years, I have heard sober predictions that a company or bank might fail if we indict, that innocent employees could lose their jobs, that entire industries may be affected, and even that global markets will feel the effects.

“Sometimes-though, let me stress, not always-these presentations are compelling. In reaching every charging decision, we must take into account the effect of an indictment on innocent employees and shareholders, just as we must take into account the nature of the crimes committed and the pervasiveness of the misconduct. I personally feel that it’s my duty to consider whether individual employees with no responsibility for, or knowledge of, misconduct committed by others in the same company are going to lose their livelihood if we indict the corporation. In large multi-national companies, the jobs of tens of thousands of employees can be at stake. And, in some cases, the health of an industry or the markets is a real factor. Those are the kinds of considerations in white collar crime cases that literally keep me up at night, and which must play a role in responsible enforcement.”

From my point of view, this is certainly a novel approach to prosecutorial decision-making. It is doubly puzzling because, back in 2009 and again in 2010, I chaired two Judiciary Committee Hearings on the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act. In extensive testimony in those hearings, and in meetings in my Senate office, Mr. Breuer never said anything like it.



Nothing I have seen in the past four years leads me to believe that Wall Street as a whole learned much from the events of 2008-2009. The government’s bailouts that helped the big banks survive have been pretty much forgotten. The multimillion-dollar bonuses are back with a vengeance, and with them incentives to cut corners and, for some, to circumvent the law.

I only wish that Justice Department action matched Attorney General Holder’s words when he said, introducing his task force, “The mission is not just to hold accountable those who helped bring about the last financial meltdown, but to prevent another meltdown from happening.”

Duh.

Jul 31 2013

On This Day In History July 31

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.

Click on images to enlarge

July 31 is the 212th day of the year (213th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 153 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1948, the Broadway musical “Brigadoon” closed after 581 performances. It originally opened on March 13, 1947 at the Ziegfeld Theater. It was directed by Robert Lewis and choreographed by Agnes de Mille. Ms. De Mille won the Tony Award for Best Choreography. The show was had several revival and the movie starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse premiered in 1954.

Brigadoon is a musical with a book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. Songs from the musical, such as “Almost Like Being in Love” have become standards.

It tells the story of a mysterious Scottish village that appears for only one day every hundred years, though to the villagers, the passing of each century seems no longer than one night. The enchantment is viewed by them as a blessing rather than a curse, for it saved the village from destruction. According to their covenant with God, no one from Brigadoon may ever leave, or the enchantment will be broken and the site and all its inhabitants will disappear into the mist forever. Two American tourists, lost in the Scottish Highlands, stumble upon the village just as a wedding is about to be celebrated, and their arrival has serious implications for the village’s inhabitants.

Jul 31 2013

Chronic Tonic- Not This Week, I’ve Got A Headache

Originally published at VOTS

Yeah, you read that right. I’ve been battling this migraine for a week. It seems like it might be dying down, only to come roaring back at me in all it’s spiky glory. I’ve been sleeping crappy, not eating well, I’m nauseous, not really fit company for anybody, and I don’t mind telling you, it’s beginning to piss me off.

I hate this less when it happens in bad weather. Now is the time when I want to be playing with my kids. I have summer projects planned, like the great gel glue t-shirt project. My Dad just picked up the glue, but it sits on the table, mocking me. No happy squeals of laughter in the backyard for me just now. The only good thing about it is that I never tell the boys any of my plans in advance, it’s always a surprise, that way they are never sitting around disappointed. But, damn it, I am.

I just barely made it through poker on Saturday night. I just got a regular game going I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a headache stop me. The nice thing about playing with family is that they know the situation and we deal with it. So, it was a low key night, and everybody was drinking but me. A lot of times after the game is over we’ll sit around and socialize for a while, but as I was ailing, we called it a night. Now, like I said, the majority of the table was lit up like the fourth of July, who do you think met Blargle the great white porcelain god? Hello!

I’m used to being in pain on some level, but when it wants to stay at a seven out of ten or higher for days on end, it makes me crabby. Before I decided to get out of bed and try to have a life, none of this would matter, it would just be the slightly dimmer week in a dim life. Now that I actually have a life, with kids and a husband and activities and such, it’s really quite irritating, to say the least. Especially in summertime.

I am in bed too much and it feels like summer is flying by. Maybe I’m dwelling on it a little, I always feel a little guilty when pain keeps me down too long. It’s just that summer always seems to go by so fast anyway, I don’t like missing a minute of it, let alone a whole week.

Jul 30 2013

Manning Acquitted of Aiding the Enemy But . . .

Pfc. Bradley Manning was acquitted of the most serious charges of aiding the enemy , which carried the death sentence but was found guilty of multiple counts of violating the Espionage act of 1917. Manning faces up to 132 years in prison for, as emptywheel‘s Marcy Wheeler notes, “alerting you to what your government does in your name:

Today, (Colonel Denise) Lind found Manning guilty of 20 charges for that effort to inform the American people of the policies pursued in their name. But, in a hugely significant development, she also ruled that he was not guilty of the charge of aiding the enemy. The verdict was revealed with silence and a delay, as the Army imposed new reporting rules on the press, citing earlier “shenanigans.”

That Lind found Manning guilty of 20 charges is not a surprise. Manning himself had pled guilty to 10 lesser offenses the day he read his statement, pleading to “unauthorized possession” and “willful communication” of most, but not all of the items he was accused of leaking. On several of the charges – notably, Manning’s leak of a video of Americans shooting a Reuters journalist – Lind accepted Manning’s lesser pleas.

Moreover, Lind had refused to throw out charges – including the aiding the enemy charge – that Manning’s defense argued the government had not substantiated. Lind had also changed the wording of three charges against Manning after the end of the trial, adjusting them to the evidence the government had actually submitted at trial. [..]

But the big news – and very good news – is that Manning is innocent of the aiding the enemy charge. That ruling averted a potentially catastrophic effect on freedom of speech in this country.

This was a kangaroo court from start to finish with no court stenographers allowed, harassment of the press in and out of the courtroom and the judge changing the rules as the trial progressed, even changing the charges after closing arguments

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who represents Wikileaks and Julian Assange in the U.S, released this statement upon hearing the verdict:

   While the “aiding the enemy” charges (on which Manning was rightly acquitted) received the most attention from the mainstream media, the Espionage Act itself is a discredited relic of the WWI era, created as a tool to suppress political dissent and antiwar activism, and it is outrageous that the government chose to invoke it in the first place against Manning. Government employees who blow the whistle on war crimes, other abuses and government incompetence should be protected under the First Amendment.

   We now live in a country where someone who exposes war crimes can be sentenced to life even if not found guilty of aiding the enemy, while those responsible for the war crimes remain free. If the government equates being a whistleblower with espionage or aiding the enemy, what is the future of journalism in this country? What is the future of the First Amendment?

   Manning’s treatment, prosecution, and sentencing have one purpose: to silence potential whistleblowers and the media as well. One of the main targets has been our clients, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, for publishing the leaks. Given the U.S. government’s treatment of Manning, Assange should be granted asylum in his home country of Australia and given the protections all journalists and publishers deserve.

   We stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and call for the government to take heed and end its assault on the First Amendment.

Meanwhile, yesterday, the Senate confirmed torture advocate and war criminal James Comey as Director of the FBI by a vote of 93 to 1. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was the only no vote. Oregon’s Democratic Senators Merkley and Wyden voted present; Senators Chiesa (R-NJ); Heitkamp (D-ND); Murkowski (R-AK); and Rubio (R-FL) did not vote.

Jul 30 2013

Another Bad Bargain

Radicals

Jay Ackroyd, Eschaton

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Village and the Democratic leadership really is embarked on a radical restructuring campaign, to gut the social insurance programs, lower wage rates and establish long-term partnerships between powerful private interests and powerful public sector agencies.

Doing this is really unpopular, and so can’t be brought directly to a vote–hence the Gangs, and the Commissions, the classified trade talks, and the terrifying debt crises and, sadly, the 60 vote Senate. None of this has worked so far.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t keep trying.

Zombie rising

by digby, Hullabaloo

Monday, July 29, 2013

Apparently, no matter how low the deficit goes or how much the president publicly repudiates the deficit framework,  the White House is still offering what it offered back when the deficit was widely considered the greatest threat the world has ever known:



The president admitted in his NY Times interview that the deficit “framework” has been “damaging” and perhaps he finally believes that. But that means he must really believe that the elderly are living high on the hog on their Social Security and need to be forced to shop a little more smartly. How else to explain why they continue to offer this deal?



The Villagers are far from willing to give up their favorite stale tropes. They never are. Remember, there was a time not long ago when the deficit was gone and we had a projected surplus. They still fretted about the old people stealing the food out of baby’s mouths.



(T)he wealthy celebrities and aristocrats of the Village will never stop fear mongering that these programs are going to swallow up everything.  If the president is on the same page then he could very well have been saying in his interview that “austerity” is damaging while still believing we need to destroy these programs in order to save them. This belief is not a policy in Washington DC — it’s a religion.

Anti-Tax Republicans Once Again May Save Social Security

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Tuesday July 30, 2013 7:02 am

Despite a half dozen failed tries to get a grand bargain, President Obama is still working hard at a new attempt. Fortunately, this latest effort seems likely to fail for the same reason as all the others.



If insanity is trying to do the same thing over expecting different results, than the administration is clinically ill.

Given that there is a fundamental and unbridgeable disagreement on this issue the administration should have moved on to basically anything else, but it has become Obama’s white whale. It is the dangerous obsession which has repeatedly brought needless destruction.

The article goes on to remind everyone that Obama is both open and even eager to cut Social Security benefits as part of a deal. The only thing that has repeatedly saved the program is Republicans refusal to increase taxes.

Is a grand bargain out of reach?

By MANU RAJU and JOHN BRESNAHAN, Politico

7/29/13 7:33 PM EDT

Republicans and the White House both agree on proposals to cut Social Security known as chained CPI, referring to reduced payments to beneficiaries because of how annual cost-of-living adjustments are calculated. And the two sides seem to be on the same page regarding reducing benefits that wealthy seniors now receive from entitlement programs, a proposal known as means testing.

But the White House wants new taxes in exchange for those entitlement cuts, something at which the GOP continues to balk. And Republicans have pushed for the two sides to agree on going beyond the typical 10-year budget projections and instead examine how much the budget picture will worsen over the next 30 years. But the White House is resisting a 30-year budget projection, believing the numbers are unrealistic.



Even if the group reaches a deal with the White House, it’s hardly clear new taxes could win over any additional Republicans – in the House and Senate. And a White House offer on entitlements would turn off scores of Democrats who have vowed to protect the social safety net programs.

Without a grand bargain, to cut deficits by about $4 trillion over the next decade, Congress and the White House may instead simply try to find a way to prevent the government from shutting down in October. But the House GOP and the Senate Democrats remain tens of billions of dollars apart. And as Republicans are demanding fresh spending cuts in order to increase the debt ceiling, the White House and Senate Democrats say they will only pass a debt ceiling increase with no strings attached.

Obama proposal would cut corporate taxes, boost spending

By Jonathan Easley and Justin Sink, The Hill

07/30/13 02:19 PM ET

Obama’s plan would cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, with a preferred rate of 25 percent for manufacturers. It would also allow small businesses to write off $1 million in investments.

Obama also wants Congress to sign off on new infrastructure spending, aid to community colleges, and investment in manufacturing hubs. The White House did not say how much Obama wants to spend.

To pay for the infrastructure investments and other spending, Obama proposed that companies be able to repatriate foreign earnings back to the U.S. subject to a one-time “transition fee.”

Obama Offers to Cut Corporate Tax Rate as Part of Jobs Deal

By MARK LANDLER and JACKIE CALMES, The New York Times

Published: July 30, 2013

The terms of Mr. Obama’s tax plan are those that Timothy F. Geithner, his former Treasury secretary, first proposed in early 2012, as the presidential campaign was getting under way: the corporate tax rate would be reduced to 28 percent, from 35 percent, with a lower rate of 25 percent for manufacturers.



For two years, Republicans have rejected the bulk of Mr. Obama’s initiatives to create jobs by investing in public-works projects, higher education, advanced manufacturing and scientific research. A big reason was that he previously has paired those ideas – to offset the spending and avoid adding to annual budget deficits – with proposals to repeal or reduce tax breaks for wealthy individuals and corporations, especially oil companies, that Republicans reject.

Obama Proposes ‘Grand Bargain’ for Jobs

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: July 30, 2013 at 11:52 AM ET

The president has previously insisted such business tax reform be coupled with an individual tax overhaul. His new offer drops that demand and calls only for lowering the corporate rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, with an even lower effective tax rate of 25 percent for manufacturers.

Obama wants those rate changes to be coupled with significant spending on some sort of job creation program, such as manufacturing, infrastructure or community colleges.

Congressional Republicans have also long insisted on tying corporate and individual tax reform so that small business owners who use the individual tax code would be offered cuts along with large corporations. But they oppose using the revenue generated from changes in the corporate tax structure for government spending programs.



Senior administration officials described the corporate tax proposal as the first new economic idea Obama plans to offer in the coming months, with budget deadlines looming in the fall. Administration officials wouldn’t put a price tag on the proposal or say how much would be a “significant” investment in jobs since the dollar figures would be part of negotiations with Congress. But in an example from this year’s State of the Union address, Obama proposed $50 billion to put Americans to work repairing roads and bridges and other construction jobs.

Obama Urges Business Tax Rewrite to Help Spur New Jobs

By Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

Jul 30, 2013 2:15 PM ET

Under the proposal, Obama would seek a business tax change that produces a one-time revenue gain, and that would be earmarked for the repair of roads and bridges or other public works, innovation centers for manufacturing and community college training to close skill gaps.



“It represents an unmistakable signal that the president has backed away from his campaign-era promise to corporate America that tax reform would be revenue-neutral to them,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

The jobs-related programs would be funded by a one-time transition fee associated with the $2 trillion in foreign earnings that are currently held overseas, said an administration official who asked not to be identified to discuss details before the speech.

The officials declined to specify how much money would be generated and didn’t detail how it would be structured.



Obama, in February 2012, proposed reducing the top corporate rate for most companies to 28 percent from 35 percent. The plan would eliminate tax breaks and change core tax-code features such as interest deductibility. He’s also proposed lowering the rate for manufacturers to 25 percent and expanding and making permanent the research-and-development tax credit.



The idea of taxing approximately $2 trillion in accumulated overseas earnings as a transition to a new system resembles a proposal from Representative Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Spending the proceeds on jobs programs, though, may run counter to the Michigan Republican’s goal of a revenue-neutral approach.

Camp’s 2011 draft would require companies to pay 5.25 percent on all offshore funds, regardless of whether they are brought home. He plans to include that in legislation he wants to move through his committee this year.

Under the current tax system, U.S.-based companies must pay the U.S. rate of 35 percent on all the income they earn around the world. They get tax credits for payments to foreign governments and don’t owe the U.S. unless they bring the profits home. Companies such as Caterpillar Inc. and United Technologies Corp. have called for the U.S. to switch to a so-called territorial system that wouldn’t tax most future offshore earnings.



Even as the economy continues to expand and add jobs four years into the nation’s recovery from its worst recession since the Great Depression, Americans at the middle of economic ladder haven’t regained lost prosperity.

The economy grew at a 1.8 percent rate during the first three months of the year, more slowly than its 2.5 percent average pace during the last two decades. The unemployment rate, at 7.6 percent in June, remains above its 6 percent average over the past 20 years.

While the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index is up more than 18 percent this year and has almost doubled since Obama took office in 2009, the median household income of $51,500 in May is 5 percent lower than in June 2009, the official end of the recession, according to estimates by Sentier Research.

President Obama’s ‘grand bargain’ for the middle-class

By Jamelle Bouie, Washington Post

Published: July 30 at 11:04 am

The details of the proposal are straightforward: For Republicans, he offers a cut to corporate income taxes, from 35 percent to 28 percent, along with fewer loopholes and a preferred rate for manufacturers. And to gain Democratic support, he includes a series of projects meant to “invest” in the middle-class and boost the economy.

While it’s hard to say how much ordinary Americans would gain from the proposal if it were to become law, what is apparent is the extent to which this “grand bargain” is a boon for business, which wants tax cuts and new investments in infrastructure (which makes it easier to conduct business). Indeed, if Amazon is any indication, the kinds of jobs that might come out of this “better bargain for the middle class” aren’t great.

Jul 30 2013

Around the Blogosphere

 photo Winter_solstice.gifThe main purpose our blogging is to communicate our ideas, opinions, and stories both fact and fiction. The best part about the the blogs is information that we might not find in our local news, even if we read it online. Sharing that information is important, especially if it educates, sparks conversation and new ideas. We have all found places that are our favorites that we read everyday, not everyone’s are the same. The Internet is a vast place. Unlike Punting the Pundits which focuses on opinion pieces mostly from the mainstream media and the larger news web sites, “Around the Blogosphere” will focus more on the medium to smaller blogs and articles written by some of the anonymous and not so anonymous writers and links to some of the smaller pieces that don’t make it to “Pundits” by Krugman, Baker, etc.

We encourage you to share your finds with us. It is important that we all stay as well informed as we can.

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This is an Open Thread.

The mid-Summer Doldrums are here, sometimes called the “Lazey, Hazey Days of Summer” and there isn’t much happening. The news media is focused on Mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, who continues to embarrass himself with his lack of self-control. No one loves Larry Summers, even the White House has backed off nominating him for the Federal Reserve chair.

Joining other cities, Philadelphia is suing the world’s biggest banks over LIBOR, the interest rate fixing scheme that possibly cost municipalities  billions of dollars:

he parent banks named in the Philadelphia complaint are Bank of America Corp, Barclays Bank Plc, Citigroup Inc, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Royal Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS AG. [..]

The U.S. municipalities claim that they lost money when they received lower interest rate payments than they should have, or had to pay artificially inflated rates because of the alleged manipulation.

Philadelphia also said local governments were forced to pay “sometimes devastating” penalties to terminate investment agreements.

Russian President Vladimir Putin went fishing and something smells fishy about his tale.

Video footage released by the Kremlin last week showed Putin dressed in camouflage fatigues and sunglasses, fishing, driving a motorboat and petting reindeer in a remote region of Siberia with his prime minister and defense minister.

But the images of the 60-year-old president hauling in a pike which the Kremlin said weighed 21 kg (46 pounds) proved too much for some Russians to swallow.

Within hours, online satirists were questioning whether the incident was staged and whether the pike was really as big as the Kremlin said.

An EU diplomat met with ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and it is rumored that the military backed government is attempting to restore secret police units of the Mubarik regime.

Egypt’s state security investigations service, Mabahith Amn ad-Dawla, a wing of the police force under President Mubarak, and a symbol of police oppression, was supposedly closed in March 2011 – along with several units within it that investigated Islamist groups and opposition activists. The new national security service (NSS) was established in its place.

But following Saturday’s massacre of at least 83 Islamists, interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced the reinstatement of the units, and referred to the NSS by its old name. He added that experienced police officers sidelined in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution would be brought back into the fold.

Police brutality also went unchecked under Morsi, who regularly failed to condemn police abuses committed during his presidency. But Ibrahim’s move suggests he is using the ousting of Morsi – and a corresponding upsurge in support for Egypt’s police – as a smokescreen for the re-introduction of pre-2011 practices.

In his latest offer of a “grand bargain” with the recalcitrant Republicans, Jon Walker reports that President Obama is resorting to negotiating tactics used by his predecessor, George W. Bush to cut a deal. Also, even with Social Security still on the table, Obama is still unable to come to budget agreement.

The fighting in Syria continues, over half of Mexico lives in poverty and after his Brazilian tour, Pope Francis went home.

At this writing, we are waiting for the verdict in the Bradley Manning trial, barring any miracle of common sense and jurisprudence, we can all surmise what the verdict will be on all counts.

I’m going to the beach and contemplate those “Lazey, Hazey Days of Summer.”

Jul 30 2013

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.

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

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New York Times Editorial Board: An Escalating Fight Over Military Justice

Despite powerful evidence that the military’s approach to sexual l assault needs an overhaul, the resistance to change among military brass and their enablers on Capitol Hill remains fierce.

In June, Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, won committee approval for a 2014 defense authorization bill that includes a few helpful reforms but omits the boldest fix offered so far: a bipartisan measure offered by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, that would give independent military prosecutors, rather than commanders, the power to decide which sexual assault crimes to try. This would correct a major flaw in the military justice system that deters victims from reporting attacks and results in an abysmally low prosecution rate.

Eugene Robinson: We Should Thank Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden’s renegade decision to reveal the jaw-dropping scope of the National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance is being vindicated-even as Snowden himself is being vilified.

Intelligence officials in the Obama administration and their allies on Capitol Hill paint the fugitive analyst as nothing but a traitor who wants to harm the United States. Many of those same officials grudgingly acknowledge, however, that public debate about the NSA’s domestic snooping is now unavoidable.

Dean Baker: Cruel Arithmetic and President Obama’s Big Speech

Last week President Obama gave a speech at Knox College in Illinois in which he announced plans to return his focus to the economy. The agenda he outlined centered on policies to rebuild the middle class leading to growth from the middle out as he put it.

The basic idea sounds good. There are few who would take issue with the focus of his policies: improving the nation’s infrastructure, better school-to-work transitions, high quality pre-school for everyone. These ideas all score very high in opinion polls and focus groups, although there might be serious differences on what they mean concretely.

But even if we can agree on the best way to rebuild our infrastructure, better our schools, and guarantee high quality pre-school education, we will still face serious economic problems well into the future for the simple reason that the economy lacks demand. Generating demand has to be issue one, two, and three on the economic agenda right now, and unfortunately President Obama’s speech came up seriously short on it.

Congressmen Adam Schiff and Todd Rokita: Republicans and Democrats agree: Fisa oversight of NSA spying doesn’t work

‘Secret law’ is anathema to our democratic traditions and the rule of law. We have introduced legislation to change this

The recent leaks of NSA programs to the Guardian and Washington Post have awakened a strong desire among many Americans to know more about how the intelligence community conducts its business.

Americans expect their government to do the utmost to protect our country, but that cannot mean trading our Fourth Amendment right to privacy for the promise of security. Most Americans understand the need to “connect the dots” to avoid another 9/11, as long as the intelligence community has a legitimate need for the information it seeks and is no more intrusive than absolutely necessary.

Oversight is essential, and to the maximum degree possible, so is transparency.

Joe Conason: Measuring GOP Extremism: What Carville and Greenberg’s Latest Polling Reveals

It is becoming increasingly plain that the most formidable obstacle to national progress and global security is the Republican Party — and specifically the extremist factions that currently dominate the GOP.

Now Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and political strategist James Carville have announced what they plan to do about that pressing problem: namely, “The Republican Party Project,” which will provide extensive survey research devoted to “exposing, monitoring, and confronting” the Republicans while helping Democrats and progressives to regain the political offensive.

To begin advancing these ambitious goals, Carville and Greenberg released the first in a series of polls on Wednesday that showcased several of their target’s most divisive and dysfunctional features —  and revealed some surprising weaknesses that could eventually prove disabling if not fatal.

David Zirin: On Vultures and Red Wings: Billionaire Gets New Sports Arena in Bankrupt Detroit

The headline juxtaposition boggles the mind. You have, on one day, “Detroit Files Largest Municipal Bankruptcy in History.” Then on the next, you have “Detroit Plans to Pay For New Red Wings Hockey Arena Despite Bankruptcy.”

Yes, the very week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder granted a state-appointed emergency manager’s request to declare the Motor City bankrupt, the Tea Party governor gave a big thumbs-up to a plan for a new $650 million Detroit Red Wings hockey arena. Almost half of that $650 million will be paid with public funds.

This is actually happening. City services are being cut to the bone. Fighting fires, emergency medical care and trash collection are now precarious operations. Retired municipal workers will have their $19,000 in annual pensions dramatically slashed. Even the artwork in the city art museum will be sold off piece by piece. This will include a mural by the great radical artist Diego Rivera that’s a celebration of what the auto industry would look like in a socialist future. As Stephen Colbert said, the leading bidder will be “the museum of irony.”

Jul 30 2013

On This Day In History July 30

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.

Click on images to enlarge

July 30 is the 211th day of the year (212th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 154 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare, a health insurance program for elderly Americans, into law. At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare’s first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.

The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966. In 1972, eligibility for the program was extended to Americans under 65 with certain disabilities and people of all ages with permanent kidney disease requiring dialysis or transplant. In December 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), which added outpatient prescription drug benefits to Medicare.

Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that offers health coverage to certain low-income people, was also signed into law by President Johnson on July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act.

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