01/24/2013 archive

Congressional Game of Chicken: Filibuster,” the Dead Hand of the Past”

Reports are coming that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have reach a deal on watered down reform of filibuster.

Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of the demands. [..]

The deal will address the filibuster on the motion to proceed by changing the amount of debate time that would follow a cloture vote from 30 hours to four, speeding up Senate business and allowing more legislation to reach the floor. But the deal still requires Democrats to muscle 60 votes to invoke cloture on that motion, despite Reid’s earlier suggestion that he would bar a filibuster on that motion entirely.

An alternate route to get past the motion to proceed will be implemented as a change to the rules, and a filibuster on the motion would be barred if the majority can find eight members of the minority, including the minority leader, to sign a petition. But Democrats already have 55 members in their caucus, five short of the 60 needed to end a filibuster, so it’s unclear what the purpose of getting three additional Republicans would be.

Under the agreement, the minority party will be able to offer two amendments on each bill, a major concession to Republicans. This change is made only as a standing order, not a rules change, and expires at the end of the term.

The new rules will also make it easier for the majority to appoint conferees once a bill has passed, but leaves in place the minority’s ability to filibuster that motion once — meaning that even after the Senate and House have passed a bill, the minority can still mount a filibuster one more time.

Huffington Post has obtained copies of the language of the deal. It can be read  here (pdf) and here (pdf).

On “The Ed Show,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined Ed Schultz to to share his thoughts on Reid’s plan and whether or not he’ll support it.

This is a incredibly disappointing deal but not unexpected coming from Sen. Reid. As Jon Walker at FDL Action noted, this is a concession of power to the minority Republicans:

If Senate Democrats actually vote for this worthless package instead of actual reform they will be effectively choosing to cede their power to the Republican Party. Democrats have won a majority in the Senate and can fully control it as the Constitution intended. Voting for this package is voting to give the Republican minority a veto they did not earn at the ballot box.

This is another one of Harry’s wimpy hand shakes. Mitch McConnell has once again won against the odds. Thanks, Harry, for nothing, again.

Meanwhile in Davos

Transcript available here

At Davos, Is the Party Over?


January 22, 2013, 9:52 pm

In previous years, the Friday night of the World Economic Forum was always filled with big dinners and blowout parties.

Certain bashes were among the most coveted. Google held a standing-room only party at Steigenberger Belvedere Hotel, complete with bands flown in from New York and beyond. Across the street, Accel Partners, the venture capital firm behind Facebook, held a wine tasting at the Kirchner Museum, often flying in cases of vintage wine from California. And Nike held a huge dinner with the slogan, “No Speeches. No Powerpoint. And no ties.”

This Friday, however, the operative slogan could be “No dinner. No parties.”

Have those companies given up on Davos for good? Is there something bigger here at play than just parties? Those are some of the questions being asked, however, answers have been forthcoming – at least not yet.

Oxfam says world’s rich could end poverty

Al Jazeera

20 Jan 2013 07:49

The world’s 100 richest people earned enough money last year to end world extreme poverty four times over, according to a new report released by international rights group and charity Oxfam.

The $240 billion net income of the world’s 100 richest billionaires would have ended poverty four times over, according to the London-based group’s report released on Saturday.

(Jeremy) Hobbs (executive director at Oxfam) said that “a global new deal” is required, encompassing a wide array of issues, from tax havens to employment laws, in order to address income inequality.

Closing tax havens, the group said, could yield an additional $189bn in additional tax revenues. According to Oxfam’s figures, as much as $32 trillion is currently stored in tax havens.

In a statement, Oxfam warned that “extreme wealth and income is not only unethical it is also economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive.”

Can we fight poverty by ending extreme wealth?

by Olga Khazan, Washington Post

January 20, 2013 at 8:00 am

In a sign that the “Occupy” and “99 percent” movements that swept the United States in recent years have taken on increased global relevance, Oxfam International this week called (.pdf) for “a new global goal to end extreme wealth by 2025,” as a way to stem income inequality and continue the fight against poverty.

Oxfam does have a point. The movement against income inequality has been gaining momentum as the world’s rich have continued to amass larger shares of their countries’ fortunes. In the United States, according to the group, the share of national income going to the top 1 percent of the population has increased to 20 percent, from 10 percent in 1980.

The World Economic Forum (Davos) also recently rated “severe income disparity” as one of its top global risks for 2013.

Oxfam’s idea is basically the opposite of the trickle-down theory: Rather than creating jobs and lifting others out of poverty, the group says, super-rich minorities cause social unrest and depress demand for goods and services, limiting growth and innovation as a result. It’s an argument that’s also been echoed recently by several vocal billionaires.

The group also suggested some measures that have been at the center of some of the fiercest policy battles in the United States and elsewhere:

“Limits to bonuses, or to how much people can earn as a multiple of the earnings of the lowest paid, limits to interest rates, limits to capital accumulation are all only recently-abandoned policy instruments that can be revived. Progressive taxation that redistributes wealth from the rich to the poor is essential,” Oxfam continued.

Those tactics sound good, but they’d require something else that unfortunately the most unequal countries also lack: governments willing to risk angering their wealthiest citizens in order to improve life for the poorest.

I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Gail Collins: Arms and the Women

Women in the military are going to get to serve in combat. They killed the Equal Rights Amendment to keep this from happening, but, yet, here we are. And about time. [..]

Women now make up almost 15 percent of the American military and their willingness to serve made the switch to an all-volunteer Army possible. They’ve taken their posts with such seamless calm that the country barely noticed. The specter that opponents of the E.R.A. deemed unthinkable – our sisters and daughters dying under fire in foreign lands – has happened over and over and over. More than 130 women have died and more than 800 have been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House of Representatives includes a female double-amputee in the person of the newly elected Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a former military pilot who lost both her legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq.

We’ve come a long, sometimes tragic, heroic way.

Josh Barro: Did Republicans Create a Budget Monster?

After much bluster about the debt limit, Republicans are offering an extension until May at a small price: Both houses must pass a budget resolution, which the Democratic-controlled Senate has not done for several years. Republicans are excited to force Senate Democrats on the record with a budget plan that will surely show years of red ink to come. But before they celebrate, they should think for a second about how politically ugly this year’s House budget is sure to be. [..]

Republicans think forcing Democrats to pass a budget that is laden with spending and deficits will be to their political advantage. But the reason large deficits persist is that the things you can do to shrink deficits tend to be even less popular than deficits themselves — especially if you insist on a deficit-reducing plan that also cuts taxes on the wealthy.

So, if you want to see the most politically explosive budget that passes a house of Congress this April, don’t look to the Senate. Look to the House.

Richard (RJ) Eskow: David Brooks Is Shocked When Tribes Let Sick People Die. He Also Wants to Cut Medicare.

In his review of Jared Diamond’s new book, David Brooks is appropriately horrified by the stories of tribal women who were left to die rather than be cared for by their communities. He’s so horrified, in fact, that he seems to reject Diamond’s core thesis that these tribespeople have something to teach us about ourselves. [..]

When he was done writing that review Brooks went back to one of his primary preoccupations, which is pushing for Medicare cuts. [..]

In column after column, Brooks has insisted that our national spending on Medicare is unsustainable. He defended the Romney/Ryan voucher plan, which would place arbitrary limits on how much would be spent to provide health care for our elderly (but not on how much profit could be made from their treatment). He also misrepresented the plan to make its case, which wasn’t very civil of him.

Dean Baker: Four More Years of ‘It Could Have Been Worse’

There have been two momentous events in the last week. Of course President Obama’s swearing in for a second term is a big deal, even if somewhat less historic than his inauguration back in 2009. The other big event was the release of the Federal Reserve Board’s transcripts from the 2007 meetings of the Fed’s Open Market Committee (FOMC). [..]

Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke (he was governor during most of the run-up), and the rest also seemed oblivious to the extent to which the housing market was driving the economy. There was little appreciation of the fact that an unsustainable building boom and surge in consumption driven by ephemeral housing wealth were the major factors driving the economy in the years 2002-2007.

The 2007 transcripts show that this crew was still oblivious even as the economy was beginning to collapse all around them. This is the captain and crew of the Titanic planning their stay in New York after the ship had already hit the iceberg.

John Nichols: GOP Version2013: Battling Not Just Democrats but Democracy

On a day when most Americans were focused on the stirring second inaugural address of President Barack Obama – and on the broader majesty of the transference of an election result into a governing mandate – Republican state senators in Virginia hatched an elaborate scheme to rig the electoral system against democracy.

Prevented by an even 20-20 divide in the chamber from gerrymandering Senate districts to favor one party or the other, the Republicans knew that their only opening to draw lines that favored their candidates in this fall’s off-year elections would be if at least one Democrat were missing. Inauguration Day gave them an opening, as an African-American senator, a veteran of the civil rights movement, was in Washington to recognize the beginning of the new term of the nation’s first African-American president. [..]

After doing the dirty deed, the Republican senators adjourned their Rev. Martin Luther King Day session not in honor of the civil rights icon but “in memory of General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson.”

Welcome to GOP Version2013.

E.J. Dionne, Jr.: Reagan Is Obama’s Touchstone

To understand how Barack Obama sees himself and his presidency, don’t look to Franklin Roosevelt or Abraham Lincoln. Obama’s role model is Ronald Reagan-and that is just what Obama told us before he was first elected.

Like Reagan, Obama hopes to usher in a long-term electoral realignment-in Obama’s case toward the moderate left, thereby reversing the 40th president’s political legacy. The Reagan metaphor helps explain the tone of Obama’s inaugural address, built not on a contrived call to an impossible bipartisanship but on a philosophical argument for a progressive vision of the country rooted in our history. Reagan used his first inaugural to make an unabashed case for conservatism. Conservatives who loved that Reagan speech are now criticizing Obama for emulating their hero and his bold defense of first principles.

On This Day In History January 24

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.

January 24 is the 24th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 341 days remaining until the end of the year (342 in leap years).

On this day in 1848, A millwright named James Marshall discovers gold along the banks of Sutter’s Creek in California, forever changing the course of history in the American West.

The California Gold Rush began at Sutter’s Mill, near Coloma. On January 24, 1848 James W. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River. Marshall brought what he found to John Sutter, and the two privately tested the metal. After the tests showed that it was gold, Sutter expressed dismay: he wanted to keep the news quiet because he feared what would happen to his plans for an agricultural empire if there were a mass search for gold. However, rumors soon started to spread and were confirmed in March 1848 by San Francisco newspaper publisher and merchant Samuel Brannan. The most famous quote of the California Gold Rush was by Brannan; after he had hurriedly set up a store to sell gold prospecting supplies, Brannan strode through the streets of San Francisco, holding aloft a vial of gold, shouting “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” With the news of gold, local residents in California were among the first to head for the goldfields.

At the time gold was discovered, California was part of the Mexican territory of Alta California, which was ceded to the U.S. after the end of the Mexican-American War with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848.

On August 19, 1848, the New York Herald was the first major newspaper on the East Coast to report the discovery of gold. On December 5, 1848, President James Polk confirmed the discovery of gold in an address to Congress. Soon, waves of immigrants from around the world, later called the “forty-niners”, invaded the Gold Country of California or “Mother Lode”. As Sutter had feared, he was ruined; his workers left in search of gold, and squatters took over his land and stole his crops and cattle.

San Francisco had been a tiny settlement before the rush began. When residents learned about the discovery, it at first became a ghost town of abandoned ships and businesses whose owners joined the Gold Rush, but then boomed as merchants and new people arrived. The population of San Francisco exploded from perhaps 1,00 in 1848 to 25,000 full-time residents by 1850. The sudden massive influx into a remote area overwhelmed the infrastructure. Miners lived in tents, wood shanties, or deck cabins removed from abandoned ships.[13] Wherever gold was discovered, hundreds of miners would collaborate to put up a camp and stake their claims. With names like Rough and Ready and Hangtown, each camp often had its own saloon and gambling house.