Mar 27 2013
Have you heard about Dick Durbin’s proposal for a new Social Security reform commission? It sounds remarkably like the failed Simpson-Bowles Catfood Commission, complete with special rules that allow its recommendations, if approved by the commission, to take the express route to the floor of Congress for a vote with no amendments and limited debate.
The number two Democrat in the Senate championing this bipartisan bill was asked if this new commission would be like the Greenspan commission of the 1980’s and he said that he prefers to refer to it as similar to Simpson-Bowles. One of the most interesting things about it is that this time, the commission won’t be dissolved after it finishes its work. It comes back to life every ten years.
So while we are very happy that the Senate rejected Chained CPI in the budget that they passed last week, the reason why it was rejected is most likely because a separate commission for “reforming” Social Security is on the way, and there are other reasons to use caution while considering the weight and effect of the Sanders amendment.
In a recent article, Dean Baker wonders why the media elites did not find the Sanders amendment to be newsworthy. I agree with his points about the national media corruption on the subject, and that they have been pushing their favorable opinion on cuts, and how the facts and arguments against the cuts have been curiously absent in their reporting and their programs.
This is why the vote on the Sanders amendment should have been newsworthy. Here was an opportunity for all the senators who have explicitly or implicitly supported the adoption of the chained CPI to step up and say why the switch to the chained CPI was a good and necessary measure. However, not one senator was prepared to stand up and argue the case. Not one member of the senate wanted to go on record in support of this cut to Social Security.
With all the Republicans who pronounce endlessly on the need to cut entitlement spending, there was not a single Republican senator who was prepared to say that switching the Social Security COLA to a chained CPI was a good idea. And even though President Obama has repeatedly stated as clearly as he could that he supported the switch to a chain CPI, there was not one Democratic senator who was prepared to stand up and speak in solidarity with the president.
But let’s not get complacent. There is nothing that the media elite and the proponents of Social Security cuts would like more than for us to let our guard down and say “phew, now we can relax because the Senate said they oppose chained CPI cuts to Social Security.” In fact, it would not surprise me at all if the reason that this amendment was allowed to the Senate floor by the Democratic leadership was that it might calm down the grassroots left and organizations like AARP and give us a false sense of security, resulting in less organizing, less protesting, while they form a new commission prepare the way for the cuts that they are clearly determined to impose.
The people in power who want to cut Social Security have been working at this for decades, with renewed fervor in recent years, some of them spending millions for astroturf groups, propaganda campaigns, and influence over elected officials. One non-binding amendment in the Senate is no hurdle for them and if anything, I believe they will try to use it to their advantage.
Some other cautions about the Sanders amendment:
1) The amendment was framed as opposition to using chained CPI for veterans benefits.
2) The amendment is non-binding.
3) While Sen. Sanders tried to get a roll call vote, he was persuaded by Sen. Murray to accept a voice vote, so none of the Senators, except the sponsors of the amendment, are on the record. The sponsors are: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Four senators.
4) Sen. Burr of North Carolina is on the record as saying he “supported protecting veterans, but supported using chained CPI elsewhere”.
Mar 12 2013
Within one week Republicans are going to grab the national spotlight on two huge issues that should be the realm of the party who stands up for the little guy. That party used to be the Democratic party. How can they let this happen?
On Friday, at the CPAC convention, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher is going to call for breaking up the big banks in the wake of a failed Dodd-Frank bill.
This is mind blowing. First a Republican, Rand Paul, filibusters to get answers about the targeted killing program and now at CPAC, a speech calling for breaking up the TBTF banks. Where are the Democrats?? The last thing we heard from the party was that the executives can’t be held criminally liable, via Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer.
In advance of his speech on Friday to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher writes with Harvey Rosenblum about the failure of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law to adequately address financial institutions that are “too big to fail.”
“Third, we recommend that the largest financial holding companies be restructured so that every one of their corporate entities is subject to a speedy bankruptcy process, and in the case of banking entities themselves, that they be of a size that is ‘too small to save.'”
Mar 07 2013
How much has President Obama told us about his ability to kill Americans at home?
The question is pretty simple. The answer might not be that simple but it is an answer that is deserved by the American people, no matter how laborious it is to explain that answer clearly.
How much has President Obama himself told Americans about his claimed ability to target, detain and assassinate us? For years, we were given no answers that I know of.
We, the public, have gotten access to a white paper (PDF), not the actual legal memos, and that was leaked by a journalist, Michael Isikoff.
Some senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee (SSCI) have now received several legal memos after they threatened to filibuster some of his nominees. There are, we believe, eleven in total. The president released two more memos for the SSCI to review. They are not allowed to show them to their staff or make any record of them. The review period is temporary. The public has not been given any access to them, even though, as we now know, the president, through his attorney general, told us that the president does assume the power to kill us, even at home. But he still dodged the direct question that has been asked of him by both citizens (in a Google+ hangout session), by a formal letter from Senator Rand Paul, and by many others. Holder gave some information, but left the question still very much up in the air.
Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer at The Atlantic, says that Holder’s recent response is “non-responsive, evasive, and deliberately manipulative”. I agree. Significant pressure needs to be applied by all concerned Americans until we understand clearly what power this president has assumed, what kinds of things might get us killed, or what circumstances might put us in close proximity to someone else they might target for assassination. Many innocent civilians have been killed overseas by this president because they were somehow associated, intentionally or not intentionally, with the target of a drone or cruise missile strike.
Mar 04 2013
This video/infographic was published on YouTube last November. I hadn’t seen it before today. I think it’s incredibly well done and a must watch. I recommend maximizing the size (the bracket/square in the bottom right corner of the video) to get the full effect. At the end of the video, the creator, politizane, states that the work is being placed in the public domain.
Wealth Inequality in America
Published on Nov 20, 2012
Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.
Feb 21 2013
Harris Interactive’s annual “Reputation Quotient” survey for 2013 finds that the five biggest “too big to fail” (TBTF) U.S. banks have some of the lowest reputations in the country according to their survey of the general public. All five of them are ranked in the lowest eight slots among the sixty most visible companies measured.
The maximum “reputation quotient” is 100. Any quotient lower than 64 is considered to be “poor” and anything below 50 is considered “critical”. All of the big five TBTF banks scored lower than 64 and Goldman Sachs is below 50, so its reputation is in “critical” condition.
Bank of America and JP Morgan have seen some improvement in their score this year, but their reputation still falls into the “poor” range.
Harris Interactive also ranks industry reputations. The banking and financial services industries rank above only two other industries: government and tobacco. Banking and financial services have improved over last year, however, by seven and eight percentage points, respectively. Technology, travel and retail are the top three.
This poll has been published for fourteen consecutive years. This year, more than fourteen thousand interviews were conducted for data collection.
Bank Size (1 is the largest)
Harris Reputation Index
FFIEC – Top 50 holding companies (HCs) as of 12/31/201
relbanks.com – The Largest US Banks
The Harris Poll 2013 RQ® Summary Report – A Survey of the U.S. General Public Using the Reputation Quotient® (This file is a PDF)
Feb 20 2013
Who cares about the temper tantrums being thrown by the pampered media because they didn’t get to meet Tiger Woods? The real story is that while 50,000 people were at the White House asking the president to address climate change by cracking down on the fossil fuel industry, he was spending the weekend with a guy who is the epitome of Big Oil and much much more.
No wonder he was keeping the destination secret before this trip. Intended or not, it was a big F U to the people who had planned for months to travel to Washington to protest the critical cause of climate change. Worse, there has been no response whatsoever to the tens of thousands of protesters who came to his house on Sunday, nor to the many many more who were at coordinating marches in cities across the country and untold numbers of people who were there with them in spirit.
Well maybe there was another reason why the identity of Obama’s host was kept secret in the weeks leading up to the trip. The Tiger Woods golf date captured a lot of media attention, but the real story, in my opinion, is Jim Crane, the man who owned the Floridian country club and resort, who hosted the president for the long weekend, and who has a long, sordid history.
Feb 07 2013
There are a lot of questions for John Brennan’s confirmation hearing today and only a few hours scheduled to ask them.
Many questions have been published by various news organizations and blogs. I very much want answers to their questions but I have one big, obvious question as well. This is my question:
What has changed since 2008-9 when John Brennan was considered to be too toxic to be confirmed as Director of the CIA? What is so different now that he is expected to be easily confirmed and that only a few hours are needed to question him?
In my opinion, he is even less confirmable in 2013 than he was in 2009. So what has changed? I’ll explain more about why I think he is even less suited for the job today, but first, let’s explore some of the questions posed by the media.
Aug 25 2012
For the first time (that we know of) drones will be used for a political convention for “intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to government agencies”. “Wraiths” will also be used, ground-based robots that can be armed with lethal or non-lethal weapons. The manufacturer of these vehicles has crosshairs and a skeleton as their logo.
A bulletin was issued jointly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on August 21st, warning law enforcement agencies about anarchist extremists and the report uses words and imagery that are usually reserved for terrorist insurgents. They invited the media to learn about their operations control center at an “undisclosed location” and today the fearmongering and demonization of “anarchist extremists” is blazing across the airwaves along with news about the drones that will be used.
CNN did a video report that is particularly egregious as it quotes from the report saying that the extremist anarchist protesters might use IEDs, and they explain that IEDs are the things used by terrorist insurgents in Afghanistan. They generously supply video clips of an explosion in Afghanistan and another one that is a military vehicle being blown up, with the shoulder of a soldier in camo coming into the view of the camera at the end. While the report explains that not all protesters are expected to be violent, CNN adds some video footage of Occupy Wall Street protesters chanting “this is what democracy looks like” and just in case you didn’t make the connection, they throw in some people in Guy Fawkes masks from some supposed Anonymous videos about the convention. The words and imagery used by the media and the government are meant to cause conflation of Occupy Wall Street protesters and terrorists, in my opinion, and to preemptively justify the excessive use of force during the upcoming conventions and extreme use of militaristic equipment.
The report also mentions that law enforcement should look out for anarchists who might be doing weapons training or buying explosives and they mention that they have used the internet for research and organization in the past. In the CNN video though, they say that the feds told them they are not watching any particular anarchists. No. And then after all of that fearmongering and set up, they say that no specific threats have been made.
It’s funny that the FBI/DHS waited until six days before the RNC convention to issue this warning, isn’t it? This report was made for the media, in my opinion.
May 09 2012
Bank Of America Protests Begin At Shareholder Meeting
Activists from Occupy Wall Street, the environmental movement and labor unions, along with victims of home foreclosures, have begun massive demonstrations at Bank of America’s shareholder meeting in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday morning.
[ … ]
Inside the Bank of America meeting, disgruntled shareholders [ … ] will force votes on proposals [ … ]
Outside the meeting, protesters promise a boisterous slate of events to draw attention to Bank of America’s relationship with the federal government, the coal industry and its long record of foreclosure abuse. Occupy Atlanta’s Tim Franzen said there are three marches planned, each with its own theme: the bank’s environmental record, the housing crisis and corporate accountability issues. The marches will converge into one big protest.