12/09/2010 archive

All Out Congressional War?

It looks like all out war has just been declared on Capitol Hill and not by the Republicans, although they continue to lob their missiles at anything Democratic. Are the House Democrats, at last, taking a stand against Reagan/Bush/Obamanomics?

First up, 54 House Democrats have sent a letter telling President Obama that they cannot accept his capitulation compromise bill with the hostage takers Republicans in its current form.

House Democrats Voice Opposition to Tax Cut Deal

In a closed door caucus meeting on Thursday morning, House Democrats voted to reject the tax cut deal between the White House and Congressional Republicans “as currently written.”

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in a statement after the vote said changes would need to be made to the bill before she allows it to come to the floor for a vote.

“In the caucus today, House Democrats supported a resolution to reject the Senate Republican tax provisions as currently written,” Ms. Pelosi said. “We will continue discussions with the President and our Democratic and Republican colleagues in the days ahead to improve the proposal before it comes to the House floor for a vote.”. . . . . .

“House Democrats share the president’s commitment to providing the middle class with a tax cut to grow the economy and create jobs,” Ms. Pelosi said. “The House passed a bill last week to provide tax cuts for all Americans but not a bonus tax cut to millionaires and billionaires. The extra tax cut for the top 3 percent does not create jobs and increases the deficit. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans blocked the bill from being approved by the Senate.”

Ms. Pelosi added, “Democratic priorities remain clear: to provide a tax cut for working families, to create jobs and economic growth, to assist millions of our fellow Americans who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and to do this in a fiscally sound way.”

The President continues to tout that this bill will create “millions of jobs”. Really? When in the last 10 years have these tax cuts created one job? This is just more trickle down, voodoo economics. Obamanomics.

The economy will move “backward” if lawmakers don’t approve a deal to extend tax cuts for the rich in exchange for more unemployment benefits, President Obama said Thursday.

“Every economist that I’ve talked to or that I’ve read over the last couple of days agrees that this agreement will boost economic growth over the next couple of years and has the potential to create millions of jobs,” Obama said at a meeting with his Export Council.

Families will welcome tax cuts in their paychecks in January with the deal, Obama said, warning that “if this framework fails, the reverse is true.” He added, “Americans would see it in smaller paychecks that would have the effect of fewer jobs.”.

The vote on the Dream Act and the Defense Authorization Act which contains the repeal of DADT have also been postponed by Majority Leader Reid.

With time running out on the lame-duck session of Congress, the Senate Wednesday postponed a vote on the controversial immigration bill known as the DREAM Act and didn’t take up the Defense Authorization bill, which includes an amendment aimed at repealing “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also announced postponement of plans to consider a measure to provide health care compensation to 9/11 first responders. The DREAM Act and 9-11 measure will be taken up Thursday.

“We sometimes run into roadblocks in the Senate,” Reid said, as he explained that a scheduling conflict with the House delayed the DREAM act vote. The House passed the DREAM Act late Wednesday by a vote of 216 to 198.

This morning the Republicans blocked the 9/11 Health Bill as well as Workers’ Rights, Social Security cost of living and Mine Safety Bills.

If the President thinks for one minute that giving the Republicans while they hold the majority of the country hostage, he’s either a fool or a liar. I believe he’s the latter and a bad one at that.

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”.

Robert Reich: Why the Obama Tax Deal Confirms the Republican Worldview

Apart from its extraordinary cost and regressive tilt, the tax deal negotiated between the president and the Republicans has another fatal flaw.

It confirms the Republican worldview.

Americans want to know what happened to the economy and how to fix it. At least Republicans have a story — the same one they’ve been flogging for thirty years. The bad economy is big government’s fault and the solution is to shrink government.

Here’s the real story. For three decades, an increasing share of the benefits of economic growth have gone to the top 1 percent. Thirty years ago, the top got 9 percent of total income. Now they take in almost a quarter. Meanwhile, the earnings of the typical worker have barely budged.

David Sirota: Watch the Outfielders In Baseball, Watch the Corporate Lobbyists On Taxes

When I went to Phillies games as a kid, my dad would always remind me that if you want to know what’s going on in the game, its more important to watch the fielders than to watch the ball after the ball is hit. Watching the fielders like Von Hayes and Lenny Dykstra and how they reacted told you if the ball hit by Tim Raines or Ron Gant was going to be a foul, an out, a base hit or a homer.

It’s sorta the same thing in politics – if you want to know what a bill really does, it’s more important to watch corporate lobbyists’ reaction than to listen to the politicians pushing the bill. That’s because whereas politicians have a vested interest in making themselves look good for purposes of reelection and party advancement, lobbyists jealously represent Big Money, without regard for partisanship or electoral maneuvering.

Michael Winship: The Heartbreak of Premature Capitulation

There’s this old joke about the French Revolution. A group of prisoners is lined up before the guillotine. One by one, their heads are lopped off. Then, the next man is put in place. The lever is pulled, but the blade stops just inches above his neck. This must be a sign of divine intervention, the judge in charge declares, and the man is freed.  

The same thing happens to the next prisoner, and the next and the next. Finally, as the very last man is prepared for execution, he looks up at the mechanism and exclaims, “Wait! I think I see your problem!”  

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you President Barack Obama, providing needless aid and comfort to those who would do him wrong, handing over his own head without a fight, afflicted with a curious syndrome we men of science have decided to call Premature Capitulation.

“Let historians not record”

November 3, 1969

I believe that one of the reasons for the deep division about Vietnam is that many Americans have lost confidence in what their Government has told them about our policy. The American people cannot and should not be asked to support a policy which involves the overriding issues of war and peace unless they know the truth about that policy.

Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism.

And so tonight-to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans-I ask for your support.

So what does the “silent majority” want today?

The New Silent Majority

Richard (RJ) Eskow, The Huffington Post

December 9, 2010 03:50 AM

Only 4% of people polled by CBS News after November’s election thought that Congress should focus on deficits, and only 2% thought Washington should make taxes its highest priority. … Politicians and the media obsessed over them and ignored the topic that 56% of the public considered its highest priority: jobs and the economy.

Now it’s on everybody’s lips – conveniently enough, just as it could be applied to extending tax cuts for the wealthy. That part of yesterday’s deal was opposed by 64% of the American public.

Is it any surprise that over 70% of those polled by CBS were either “dissatisfied” or “angry” with the way Washington works?

When asked how we should cut the deficit, the public would rather raise taxes on the wealthy than cut Social Security – by more than two to one.

That includes 71% of independents, 77% of Republicans–and 76% of Tea Party supporters. That’s the populist face of the New Silent Majority.

What else does the “new silent majority” stand for, besides jobs, protecting Social Security, and taxes for the rich?

  • 72% want the government to crack down on Wall Street more than it has.
  • 81% want the government to do more to reduce poverty.
  • Eight out of ten oppose cutting Medicare.

Despite the widespread support for these views by members of both parties (bipartisanship at last!), the political and media landscapes are dominated by journalists and politicians who keep telling us these positions are “extremist” and politically unrealistic.

Historians will marvel someday at our current president’s iron-willed refusal to fight for policies that are both widely popular and broadly considered by experts to be the best solutions: stimulus spending to achieve jobs and growth, more regulation to reign in reckless and greedy banking, and ironclad protections for core social benefit plans. They’ll wonder why deficits were given higher priority than the bleeding wounds of a jobless economy, while the deficit-busting costs of military spending and an overly privatized health care system were considered off-limits.

And yet President Obama doesn’t just fail to fight for the New Silent Majority and its positions. He gets visibly angry when he’s asked about about it. The president known for keeping his cool loses it whenever the subject comes up. Why?

Part of the answer may lie in this line in an article by Matt Bai (this leads to a bad link, the one Eskow intended is here): “Privately, Mr. Obama has described himself, at times, as essentially a Blue Dog Democrat.”

Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, his administration, and Democrats, ‘The New Silent Majority’ doesn’t like ‘Blue Dog’ policies, only the Versailles Village Idiots do.

As was amply proven in November when 50% of the ‘Blue Dogs’ lost their jobs.

And as will be proven again in 2012.

What Tax Cuts Do

The Obama tax deal with Republicans is insane

Tony Wikrent, Real Economics

Wednesday, December 8, 2010, 8:54 PM

If you look under the hood of the industrial economy, you easily see why there is this counter-intuitive relationship between tax rates and economic growth . With high taxes, the only way to retain the bulk of the wealth created by a business is by reinvesting it in the business — in plants, equipment, staff, research and development, new products and all the rest. But if tax rates are low, then there is more incentive to pull the wealth out, by declaring it as profits that are taxed at what turns out to be too low a rate. In other words, low taxes create an incentive for profit taking.

If tax rates are high enough to discourage profit taking – forcing wealth created by a business to be recycled back into the business – then businesses are pushed toward longer-term planning, as they invest in new plant and equipment that will be used for many years. And you do not get the absurd situation you have now, where companies are posting record breaking profits, but are not buying new equipment, nor hiring new employees.

Low tax rates encourage taking wealth out of industrial companies; the wealth taken out must then be “put to work.” That means more money chasing “investment” opportunities, leading to price increases in financial capital or real estate or some other asset. In other words, an asset bubble. The rise in prices of an asset bubble has nothing to do with the creation of real wealth. It all looks like prosperity – until the asset bubble bursts. That’s where we are now.

Is it that simple?  Yes, yes it is.  It’s just that simple.

I encourage you to read the whole thing which also includes 3 great historical failures of low tax policies and a prescription for a modest financial transactions tax to further encourage investment in capital (as opposed to financial) assets.

(h/t Corrente)

On This Day in History: December 9

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.

December 9 is the 343rd day of the year (344th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 22 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1861, The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War is established by the U.S. Congress.

The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was a United States Congressional investigating committee created to handle issues surrounding the American Civil War. It was established on December 9, 1861, following the embarrassing Union defeat at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, at the instigation of Senator Zachariah T. Chandler of Michigan, and continued until May 1865. Its purpose was to investigate such matters as illicit trade with the Confederate states, medical treatment of wounded soldiers, military contracts, and the causes of Union battle losses. The Committee was also involved in supporting the war effort through various means, including endorsing emancipation, the use of black soldiers, and the appointment of generals who were known to be aggressive fighters. It was chaired throughout by Senator Benjamin Wade of Ohio, and became identified with the Radical Republicans who wanted more aggressive war policies than those of Abraham Lincoln.


Union officers often found themselves in an uncomfortable position before the Committee. Since this was a civil war, pitting neighbor against neighbor (and sometimes brother against brother), the loyalty of a soldier to the Union was simple to question. And since Union forces had very poor luck against their Confederate counterparts early in the war, particularly in the Eastern Theater battles that held the attention of the newspapers and Washington politicians, it was easy to accuse an officer of being a traitor after he lost a battle or was slow to engage or pursue the enemy. This politically charged atmosphere was very difficult and distracting for career military officers. Officers who were not known Republicans felt the most pressure before the Committee.

During the committee’s existence, it held 272 meetings and received testimony in Washington and at other locations, often from military officers. Though the committee met and held hearings in secrecy, the testimony and related exhibits were published at irregular intervals in the numerous committee reports of its investigations. The records include the original manuscripts of certain postwar reports that the committee received from general officers. There are also transcripts of testimony and accounting records regarding the military administration of Alexandria, Virginia.

One of the most colorful series of committee hearings followed the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, where Union Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles, a former congressman, accused Maj. Gen. George G. Meade of mismanaging the battle, planning to retreat from Gettysburg prior to his victory there, and failing to pursue and defeat Robert E. Lee‘s army as it retreated. This was mostly a self-serving effort on Sickles’s part because he was trying to deflect criticism from his own disastrous role in the battle. Bill Hyde notes that the committee’s report on Gettysburg was edited by Wade in ways that were unfavorable to Meade, even when that required distorting the evidence. The report was “a powerful propaganda weapon” (p. 381), but the committee’s power had waned by the time the final testimony was taken of William T. Sherman on May 22, 1865.

The war it was investigating completed, the committee ceased to exist after this last testimony, and the final reports were published shortly thereafter. The later Joint Committee on Reconstruction represented a similar attempt to check executive power by the Radical Republicans.

Morning Shinbun Thursday December 9

Thursday’s Headlines:

WikiLeaks vs The Machine


US Energy Secretary Plays Climate Activist

US targets groups with ties to website


WikiLeaks cables: Shell’s grip on Nigerian state revealed

‘Ultra’ football fans protest over shooting

Middle East

US says efforts to revive Middle East talks have failed

Iran is still talking, if nothing else


China crackdown on dissent ahead of Nobel ceremony

Varanasi blast breaks terror lull


Southern Sudan accuses North of fresh attacks

Rwandan archive on 1994 genocide opens tomorrow

Latin America

Adrift on Robinson Crusoe Island, the forgotten few

As jurors go online, U.S. trials go off track

Facebook, Twitter and smart phones cause mistrials, appeals and overturned verdicts


ATLANTA – The explosion of blogging, tweeting and other online diversions has reached into U.S. jury boxes, raising serious questions about juror impartiality and the ability of judges to control courtrooms.

A Reuters Legal analysis found that jurors’ forays on the Internet have resulted in dozens of mistrials, appeals and overturned verdicts in the last two years.

For decades, courts have instructed jurors not to seek information about cases outside of evidence introduced at trial, and jurors are routinely warned not to communicate about a case with anyone before a verdict is reached. But jurors these days can, with a few clicks, look up definitions of legal terms on Wikipedia, view crime scenes via Google Earth, or update their blogs and Facebook pages with snide remarks about the proceedings.

Prime Time

Some premiers.  Great Performances’ Peter and the Wolf is not one of them.

Yes, this is Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, California. It’s about 5 0’clock in the morning. That’s the homicide squad, complete with detectives and newspaper men.  

The poor dope – he always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool.

You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.

I *am* big. It’s the *pictures* that got small.


Now you listen to me, I’m an advertising man, not a red herring. I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself “slightly” killed.

Dave hosts Barbara Walters, Jayma Mays, and Alison Balsom (trumpeter).  Jon has Michelle Williams, Stephen Steve Martin (might be fun).  Conan hosts Ray Romano, Arianna Huffington, and The LXD.

BoondocksThe Red Ball (too funny, a must see)

Well, this is where you came in, back at that pool again, the one I always wanted. It’s dawn now and they must have photographed me a thousand times. Then they got a couple of pruning hooks from the garden and fished me out… ever so gently. Funny, how gentle people get with you once you’re dead.

And I promise you I’ll never desert you again because after ‘Salome’ we’ll make another picture and another picture. You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!… All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.

Evening Edition

Evening Edition is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Top Stories

1 Four dead as Haiti vote protests turn ugly

by Clarens Renois, AFP

31 mins ago

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) – Thousands of protesters rampaged in Haitian towns Wednesday, torching buildings in armed clashes that left four dead, after election results triggered bitter accusations of vote-rigging, witnesses said.

Supporters of popular singer Michel Martelly took to the streets after Tuesday night’s results showed he had been narrowly beaten into third place in the race for the presidency of the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Instead, President Rene Preval’s handpicked protege Jude Celestin defied all predictions to snap up second place and a coveted slot in January’s run-off in which he will battle a former first lady for the nation’s top job.