Tag Archive: TMC Politcs

Apr 23 2014

What the Wealthy Don’t Want You to Know

In an article for Huffington Post, economist Dean Baker explains the basic point of Thomas Piketty’s best selling book, “Capital for the 21st Century,” which has the economic world buzzing.

Piketty’s basic point on this issue is almost too simple for economists to understand: If the rate of return on wealth (r) is greater than the rate of growth (g), then wealth is likely to become ever more concentrated.

To stem the growth of the wealth gap, Piketty suggests a “Global Wealth Tax” which in today’s global political climate isn’t likely to happen. So what can be done? Baker offers some solutions:

A new I.M.F. analysis found the value of the implicit government insurance provided to too big to fail banks was $50 billion a year in the United States and $300 billion a year in the euro zone. The euro zone figure is more than 20 percent of after-tax corporate profits in the area. Much of this subsidy ends up as corporate profits or income to top banking executives.

In addition to this subsidy we also have the fact that finance is hugely under-taxed, a view shared by the I.M.F. It recommends a modest value-added tax of 0.2 percent of GDP (at $35 billion a year). We could also do a more robust financial transactions tax like Japan had in place in its boom years which raised more than 1.0 percent of GDP ($170 billion a year).

In this vein, serious progressives should be trying to stop plans to privatize Fannie and Freddie and replace them with a government subsidized private system. Undoubtedly we will see many Washington types praising Piketty as they watch Congress pass this giant new handout to the one percent.

The pharmaceutical industry also benefits from enormous rents through government granted patent monopolies. We spend more than $380 billion (2.2 percent of GDP) a year on drugs. We would spend 10 to 20 percent of this amount in a free market. We would not only have cheaper drugs, but likely better medicine if we funded research upfront instead of through patent monopolies since it would eliminate incentives to lie about research findings and conceal them from other researchers.

There are also substantial rents resulting from monopoly power in major sectors like telecommunications and air travel. We also give away public resources in areas like broadcast frequencies and airport landing slots. And we don’t charge the fossil fuel industry for destroying the environment. A carbon tax that roughly compensated for the damages could raise between $80 to $170 billion a year (0.5 to 1.0 percent of GDP). [..]

In addition to the rent reducing measures listed above, there are redistributionist measures that we should support, such as higher minimum wages, mandated sick days and family leave, and more balanced labor laws that again allow workers the right to organize. Such measures should help to raise wages at the expense of a lower rate of return to wealth.

In an interview with Bill Moyers, Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, talks about Piketty’s “magnificent” new book and what the 1% don’t want us to know.

Apr 16 2014

Live Stream: Debate ” Capital in the Twenty-First Century”

Thomas Piketty: Is Inequality Inevitable?

   On Wednesday, April 16 at 6 p.m. Eastern time, Thomas Piketty will join economists Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz and Steven Durlauf in New York to talk about his new landmark book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

   In a review, Krugman, who will appear on Moyers & Company this week, calls the book “magnificent” in part because it will “change both the way we think about society and the way we do economics,” adding that the French economist’s influence “runs deep.”

   “The big idea of Capital in the Twenty-First Century is that we haven’t just gone back to nineteenth-century levels of income inequality, we’re also on a path back to ‘patrimonial capitalism,’ in which the commanding heights of the economy are controlled not by talented individuals but by family dynasties.”

What digby said:

This is the book everyone’s talking about. It’s said to be a towering work of scholarship and a tremendous breakthrough in the way we understand how the economy works.

Watch live streaming video from cunytv2 at livestream.com

Feb 24 2014

Deep State, the Secret Government Exposed

Former GOP congressional staff member with the powerful House and Senate Budget Committees and author of “The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted,” Mike Lofgren was a guest on “Moyers and Company” and discussed with host, Bill Moyers, how elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests.

The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight



Transcript can ge read here

Mr. Lofgren also wrote this essay in conjunction with the show: Anatomy of the Deep State

There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.

During the last five years, the news media has been flooded with pundits decrying the broken politics of Washington. The conventional wisdom has it that partisan gridlock and dysfunction have become the new normal. That is certainly the case, and I have been among the harshest critics of this development. But it is also imperative to acknowledge the limits of this critique as it applies to the American governmental system. On one level, the critique is self-evident: In the domain that the public can see, Congress is hopelessly deadlocked in the worst manner since the 1850s, the violently rancorous decade preceding the Civil War.

As I wrote in The Party is Over, the present objective of congressional Republicans is to render the executive branch powerless, at least until a Republican president is elected (a goal that voter suppression laws in GOP-controlled states are clearly intended to accomplish). President Obama cannot enact his domestic policies and budgets: Because of incessant GOP filibustering, not only could he not fill the large number of vacancies in the federal judiciary, he could not even get his most innocuous presidential appointees into office. Democrats controlling the Senate have responded by weakening the filibuster of nominations, but Republicans are sure to react with other parliamentary delaying tactics. This strategy amounts to congressional nullification of executive branch powers by a party that controls a majority in only one house of Congress.

Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented – at least since the McCarthy era – witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory. Despite the habitual cant of congressional Republicans about executive overreach by Obama, the would-be dictator, we have until recently heard very little from them about these actions – with the minor exception of comments from gadfly Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Democrats, save a few mavericks such as Ron Wyden of Oregon, are not unduly troubled, either – even to the extent of permitting seemingly perjured congressional testimony under oath by executive branch officials on the subject of illegal surveillance.

These are not isolated instances of a contradiction; they have been so pervasive that they tend to be disregarded as background noise. During the time in 2011 when political warfare over the debt ceiling was beginning to paralyze the business of governance in Washington, the United States government somehow summoned the resources to overthrow Muammar Ghaddafi’s regime in Libya, and, when the instability created by that coup spilled over into Mali, provide overt and covert assistance to French intervention there. At a time when there was heated debate about continuing meat inspections and civilian air traffic control because of the budget crisis, our government was somehow able to commit $115 million to keeping a civil war going in Syria and to pay at least ¬£100m to the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters to buy influence over and access to that country’s intelligence. Since 2007, two bridges carrying interstate highways have collapsed due to inadequate maintenance of infrastructure, one killing 13 people. During that same period of time, the government spent $1.7 billion constructing a building in Utah that is the size of 17 football fields. This mammoth structure is intended to allow the National Security Agency to store a yottabyte of information, the largest numerical designator computer scientists have coined. A yottabyte is equal to 500 quintillion pages of text. They need that much storage to archive every single trace of your electronic life.

Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose. My analysis of this phenomenon is not an expos√© of a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day. Nor can this other government be accurately termed an “establishment.” All complex societies have an establishment, a social network committed to its own enrichment and perpetuation. In terms of its scope, financial resources and sheer global reach, the American hybrid state, the Deep State, is in a class by itself. That said, it is neither omniscient nor invincible. The institution is not so much sinister (although it has highly sinister aspects) as it is relentlessly well entrenched. Far from being invincible, its failures, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, are routine enough that it is only the Deep State’s protectiveness towards its higher-ranking personnel that allows them to escape the consequences of their frequent ineptitude.

The entire article is a must read.

Jul 19 2013

Grayson’s Amendment

If you can’t get congress to abide by the Constitution and its amendments, then resort to a tactic they might fall for, amend the egregious law with the appropriate amendment:

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Alan Grayson (FL-09) submitted an amendment today to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would prohibit the Department of Defense from collecting information on U.S. citizens without probable cause of a terrorism or criminal offense. Grayson’s amendment is a response to recent reports that the National Security Agency (NSA), which falls under the Defense Department, has been secretly collecting the telephone records and the private internet communications of U.S. citizens.

Grayson called these reports “disturbing.” “Without probable cause, there’s no excuse for the NSA to be compiling this type of data on American citizens who have done nothing wrong-particularly without their knowledge,” he said. “This amendment prevents the Defense Department from collecting ANY information about U.S. citizens within the country-no telephone records, no internet records, no physical locations-unless there is probable cause of a terrorism or criminal offense.

Grayson's Amendment to the NDAA photo Graysonamend_zps0e008d5d.png

Click on image to enlarge

What digby said:

Hmm. I could swear I’ve heard that somewhere before. Oh wait:

   

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized

I can’t wait to see how many members of Congress vote against the 4th Amendment.

This should not be necessary.

Jul 18 2013

Pravda on the Potomac

One of the many provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 that was signed by Pres. Barack Obama late in the night of December 30, 2012, was the repeal of the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. The original act outlined the State Department’s dissemination of information outside the boarders of the United States:

authorizes the U.S. State Department to communicate to audiences outside of the borders of the United States through broadcasting, face-to-face contacts, exchanges (including educational, cultural, and technical), online activities, the publishing of books, magazines, and other media of communication and engagement.

The legislation included three key provision the first, and most important was a prohibition on domestic dissemination of materials intended for foreign audiences by the State Department.

Section 501(a) of the Act (care of the Voice of America website) provides that

   “information produced by VOA for audiences outside the United States shall not be disseminated within the United States … but, on request, shall be available in the English language at VOA, at all reasonable times following its release as information abroad, for examination only by representatives of United States press associations, newspapers, magazines, radio systems, and stations, and by research students and scholars, and, on request, shall be made available for examination only to Members of Congress.”

“This means that VOA is forbidden to broadcast within the United States.” In reality, of course, any American with a shortwave receiver or an Internet connection can listen to VOA. That’s incidental, however. VOA cannot direct or intend its programs to be “for” Americans. This distinction is often lost on experts who see the letter of the law but with no real understanding of the media. George W. Bush-era State Department official James K. Glassman has called for directing VOA at American audiences.

The 2013 NDAA ended that restriction on July 2:

(T)he Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) was given permission to let US households tune-in to hear the type of programming that has previously only been allowed in outside nations.

The BBG is the independent government agency that broadcasts Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other networks created “to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy” – and a new law now allows the agency to provide members of the American public with program materials originally meant to be disseminated abroad.

Back in 1972, Arkansas Senator J. William Fulbright equated those government stories with propaganda when he said they “should be given the opportunity to take their rightful place in the graveyard of Cold War relics.” A couple of current lawmakers were singing a different tune when they proposed the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 last year, though, which became official just two weeks ago.

Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) and Adam Smith (D-WA), who introduced the changes to the Smith Mundt last year argued

“Effective strategic communication and public diplomacy should be front-and-center as we work to roll back al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among disaffected opulations,” [..]

An essential part of our efforts must be a coordinated, comprehensive, adequately resourced plan to counter their radical messages and undermine their recruitment abilities. To do this, Smith-Mundt must be updated to bolster our strategic communications and public diplomacy capacity on all fronts and mediums – especially online.

According to Tim Cushing at Techdirt, there is the good news and bad news of the government’s ability to aim its pre-approved news at US citizens. The “good new”:

BBG spokesperson Lynne Weil says these efforts aren’t simply pro-government hype machines.  [..]

As Weil points out, this will bring a new level of transparency to the BBG as communicating to Americans is no longer prohibited. If nothing else, transcripts of BBG programming will be easier for Americans to get ahold of. A court ruled in 1998 that the limitations of the Smith-Mundt Act exempted the Voice of America from releasing transcripts in response to FOIA requests.

Another possible plus is the fact that the BBG will provide a free, “local” news source for immigrant populations. [..]

However, there is the “bad news”:

(T)he thought of a state-run news agency being allowed to direct its efforts at Americans is still uncomfortable. Despite claims of independence, it’s hard to believe the source is 100% trustworthy when its stated purpose is to run flack for the State Department in foreign nations. (Of course, the mainstream media outlets haven’t shown much reluctance to regurgitate talking points, which almost makes the BBG’s efforts seem redundant.)

While the BBG may provide a less-biased source of news for many foreigners (or at least provide a different bias), the purpose of its broadcasts to its new American audience is less clear. The fact that the State Department is behind the effort doesn’t do much to allay fears that the BBG will become a tool of domestic propaganda. The State Department’s reaction to the leak of diplomatic correspondence by Wikileaks was to block its employees’ access to the site (or any site containing the word “Wikileaks”) and demand the digital documents be “returned.” How will a state-run press react to developments like these? Will it be forced to play by the department’s rules, no matter how illogical, or will it be able to deal with them in a more forthright manner?

In a time where the administration seems to be forced to play defense with increasing frequency, it’s hard to believe it won’t be willing to exploit this addition to its PR arsenal.

In a May 18, 2012 BuzzFeded article, the late Michael Hastings warned that this revision would open the door to Pentagon propaganda:

The evaporation of Smith-Mundt and other provisions to safeguard U.S. citizens against government propaganda campaigns is part of a larger trend within the diplomatic and military establishment.

In December, the Pentagon used software to monitor the Twitter debate over Bradley Manning’s pre-trial hearing; another program being developed by the Pentagon would design software to create “sock puppets” on social media outlets; and, last year, General William Caldwell, deployed an information operations team under his command that had been trained in psychological operations to influence visiting American politicians to Kabul.

A U.S. Army whistleblower, Lieutenant Col. Daniel Davis, noted recently in his scathing 84-page unclassified report on Afghanistan that there remains a strong desire within the defense establishment “to enable Public Affairs officers to influence American public opinion when they deem it necessary to “protect a key friendly center of gravity, to wit US national will,” he wrote, quoting a well-regarded general.

Not only is the government creating an state approved press, it will now have its own news agencies within the US to disseminate its own sanctioned news stories, a true Pravda on the Potomac.

Jul 13 2013

Napolitano Stepping Down From Homeland Security

The Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano is steeping downin September to take up the position of president of the University of California system:

Janet Napolitano, the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and former governor of Arizona, is being named as the next president of the University of California system, in an unusual choice that brings a national-level politician to a position usually held by an academic, The Times has learned. Her appointment also means the 10-campus system will be headed by a woman for the first time in its 145-year history.

Napolitano’s nomination by a committee of UC regents came after a secretive process that insiders said focused on her early as a high-profile, although untraditional, candidate who has led large public agencies and shown a strong interest in improving education.

UC officials believe that her Cabinet experiences — which include helping to lead responses to hurricanes and tornadoes and overseeing some anti-terrorism measures — will help UC administer its federal energy and nuclear weapons labs and aid its federally funded research in medicine and other areas.

Her position in the Obama administration may be difficult to fill according to some insiders but this hasn’t stopped Sen. Charles Schumer who jumped at the opportunity to throw out New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly’s name:

“The Department of Homeland Security is one of the most important agencies in the federal government,” Schumer said in a statement Friday. “It’s leader needs to be someone who knows law enforcement, understands anti-terrorism efforts, and is a top-notch administrator, and at the NYPD, Ray Kelly has proven that he excels in all three.” [..]

Schumer noted that Kelly’s experience as former head of Customs and Border Patrol gives him “top-level federal management experience.”

“There is no doubt Ray Kelly would be a great DHS Secretary, and I have urged the White House to very seriously consider his candidacy, “Schumer’s statment continues. “While it would be New York’s loss, Commissioner Kelly’s appointment as the head of DHS would be a great boon for the entire country. Janet Napolitano has done an outstanding job, and if I had to give her a grade on her tenure, it would be ‘A+’. We need someone just as good who can fill her shoes.”

Former House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-L.I.) also touted Kelly for the job Friday.

Just the fact that Peter King put his stamp of approval on Kelly should be reason enough to reject him but there are some very serious problem’s with Kelly that have arisen during his tenure as NYPD Commissioner. Marcy Wheeler thinks that maybe Schumer must want all American Brown youth stopped and frisked

Not only is this a batshit crazy idea because of all the authoritarian things Ray Kelly has done in NYC, from harassing hundreds of thousands of African American and Latino youths to spying on Muslims.

But note how Schumer doesn’t mention the other, equally important part of Homeland Security: keeping the country safe from things like Chinese hackers and natural disasters.

How’d Kelly do at organizing a response to Hurricane Sandy? Maybe we should ask Occupy Sandy about that?

Charles Pierce at Esquire Politics Blog noted that he doesn’t see “how anyone gets confirmed without being barbecued on the White House lawn.” But if Kelly gets the nod, he’ll bring the charcoal. I’m with you, Charlie, I’ll bring the lighter fluid and matches.

The last person we need in charge of DHS is a racist, authoritarian who agrees with the FBI that peaceful protest is a “terrorist threat.” The best thing that could happen, DHS gets abolished and we end the “War on the Constitution”.

May 21 2013

Obama’s Never Ending War

The Authorization to Use Military Force is a joint resolution passed by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001, authorizing the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001. During a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Pentagon officials testified that the authorization would be needed for another 10 to 20 years and could be used anywhere from “Boston to FATA (Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas).” According to the interpretation of these officials this could be done under the current AUMF without any further authorization from Congress. Those claims elicited disbelief, even from war hawk Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who said, “For you to come here and say we don’t need to change it or revise or update it, I think is, well, disturbing.”

Indeed, but disturbing is an understatement, but none of the Senators suggested that the powers under the AUMF be dialed back.

Testifying before the committee on May 16 were Assistant Defense Secretary Michael Sheehan; Robert Taylor, the acting general counsel for the Department of Defense; Brig. Gen. Richard Gross, Legal Counsel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. Michael Nagata, Deputy Director for Special Operations/Counterterrorism, J-37, Joint Staff

This excerpt of the hearing from Democracy Now includes Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Robert Taylor, acting general counsel, Department of Defense; Michael Sheehan, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, Department of Defense; and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine).



Transcript is here

From Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian on Pres. Obama’s permanent war on terror:

That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the “war on terror” will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of “endless war”. Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war – justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism – that is the single greatest cause of that threat. [..]

The genius of America’s endless war machine is that, learning from the unplesantness of the Vietnam war protests, it has rendered the costs of war largely invisible. That is accomplished by heaping all of the fighting burden on a tiny and mostly economically marginalized faction of the population, by using sterile, mechanized instruments to deliver the violence, and by suppressing any real discussion in establishment media circles of America’s innocent victims and the worldwide anti-American rage that generates.

Though rarely visible, the costs are nonetheless gargantuan. Just in financial terms, as Americans are told they must sacrifice Social Security and Medicare benefits and place their children in a crumbling educational system, the Pentagon remains the world’s largest employer and continues to militarily outspend the rest of the world by a significant margin. The mythology of the Reagan presidency is that he induced the collapse of the Soviet Union by luring it into unsustainable military spending and wars: should there come a point when we think about applying that lesson to ourselves?

Then there are the threats to Americans’ security. Having their government spend decades proudly touting itself as “A Nation at War” and bringing horrific violence to the world is certain to prompt more and more people to want to attack Americans, as the US government itself claims took place just recently in Boston (and as clearly took place multiple other times over the last several years). [..]

The Obama administration already claims the power to wage endless and boundless war, in virtually total secrecy, and without a single meaningful check or constraint. No institution with any power disputes this. To the contrary, the only ones which exert real influence – Congress, the courts, the establishment media, the plutocratic class – clearly favor its continuation and only think about how further to enable it. That will continue unless and until Americans begin to realize just what a mammoth price they’re paying for this ongoing splurge of war spending and endless aggression.

Harvard Law professor and former Bush DOJ official Jack Goldsmith, who also testified, wrote this at the end of his brief summery of the hearing:

My general impression of the hearing was that (1) DOD officials were very uncomfortable talking about how they interpret the AUMF and what groups are covered by it, (2) those officials interpret the AUMF very broadly, and (3) several members of the Committee were surprised by the breadth of DOD’s interpretation of the AUMF.  I came away thinking that Congress cannot address the problem of extra-AUMF threats until it gets a handle on how the AUMF is being interpreted and deployed.  I also came away thinking more than ever that Congress needs to re-engage in a serious way about the nature and scope of the conflict against al Qaeda and affiliates.  Amazingly, there is a very large question even in the Armed Services Committee about who the United States is at war against and where, and how those determinations are made.

The solutions are for Congress to repeal the AUMF or for the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional. Don’t hold your breath for either of those things happening.

Apr 09 2013

Congressional Game of Chicken: Mitch and Harry, a Love Story

It would seem by now that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) realized that the filibuster “gentleman’s agreement” with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is as much of a farce as “bipartisanship.” Since Last January’s deal, the Republicans have filibuster two cabinet nominees, unprecedented in the past, blocked numerous judges and other nominees. Now a group led by Sen. Rand Paul, Mitch’s compatriot from the Blue Grass State, have threatened to filibuster a bill that hasn’t even been written.

Once again, Harry has tossed out another idle threat to fix the filibuster, this tilw by invoking the dreaded “nuclear option.” In an interview with Nevada Public Radio, Harry said that “he has not ruled out altering Senate rules to speed up Senate judicial nominations.”

“All within the sound of my voice, including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary,” Reid says. [..]

“I’m a very patient man. Last Congress and this Congress, we had the opportunity to make some big changes. We made changes, but the time will tell whether they’re big enough. I’m going to wait and build a case,” Reid says. “If the Republicans in the Senate don’t start approving some judges and don’t start helping get some of these nominations done, then we’re going to have to take more action.”

E.J. Dionne makes some very salient points in his Washington Post op-ed, where he asks is this the end of majority rule? He points out three facts first that universal background checks are overwhelming supported by Americans; second, “the Morning Joe/Marist poll last week showing 64 percent of Americans saying that job creation should be the top priority for elected officials.” Third, “only 33 percent said their focus should be on reducing the deficit.” Yet, congress has completely ignored these facts allowing the NRA and the minority deficit hawks of the far right to control what is debated in the House.

Dionne goes on to say:

In a well-functioning democracy, the vast majority of politicians – conservative, moderate and liberal – would dismiss such views as just plain kooky. But here is the problem: A substantial portion of the Republican Party’s core electorate is now influenced both by hatred of Obama and by the views of the ultra-right. Strange conspiracy theories are admitted to the mainstream conversation through the GOP’s back door – and amplified by another fight for market share among talk radio hosts and Fox News commentators.

That’s because the Republican Party is no longer a broad and diverse alliance but a creature of the right.[..]

And our Constitution combines with the way we draw congressional districts to over-represent conservatives in both houses. The 100-member Senate is based on two senators per state regardless of size. This gives rural states far more power than population-based representation would. The filibuster makes matters worse. It’s theoretically possible for 41 senators representing less than 11 percent of the population to block pretty much anything.

The American people deserve better than this. There should be at least on functioning segment of the government that represents the people, that needs to be the Senate.

Harry, drop the bomb. Go for the nuclear option. Let Mitch squeal how his party has been wronged and how the Democrats will pay. Take the soap box away from the likes of radical loons like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. Then pass approve some judges and nominees, pass bills the right wingers will hate but Americans will love. Tell President Obama that there will be no Social Security or Medicare cuts in the budget passed by the Senate. Tell the president that there will be a stimulus package to create jobs, an end to subsidies for oil companies and banks, as well as, tax reform and revenue increases.

Stand up to the right wing so-called Democrats, like Max Baucus, Harry. End your destructive “love affair” with Mitch. End filibuster.

I have a dream. Harry Reid could make it a reality.

Feb 05 2013

More GOP Obstruction, Extortion and Hostage Taking

With changing how the Senate functions now done, the obstruction, extortion and hostage taking by the GOP continues. The latest target is the appointment of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unless the agency is weakened. n a letter to President Obama dated FEbruary 1, 43 Republican Senators have threaten to filibuster Mr. Cordray’s permanent appointment:

“The CFPB as created by the deeply flawed Dodd-Frank Act is one of the least accountable in Washington,” said McConnell. “Today’s letter reaffirms a commitment by 43 Senators to fix the poorly thought structure of this agency that has unprecedented reach and control over individual consumer decisions – but an unprecedented lack of oversight and accountability.” [..]

In particular, Republicans want to see the top of the bureau changed so it is run by a bipartisan, five-member commission, as opposed to a lone director.

They also want to see the bureau’s funding fall under the control of congressional appropriators – it currently is funded via a revenue stream directly from the Federal Reserve, and its funding levels cannot be altered by Congress. Republicans also want to give other regulators greater power to veto CFPB rules that could pose a threat to the safety and soundness of financial institutions.

There would have been 44 but Sen.Bob Corker (R-TN) is instead looking at legislative ways to boost the bureau’s accountability and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is demanding that Mr. Cordray voluntarily weaken his own agency.

Mr. Cordray’s recess appointment may also be in jeopardy with the recent ruling by federal appeals court ruled that three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional.

In other words the GOP wants to hamstring any regulations of the banks and Wall Street and will hold up Cordray’s appointment until they get their way.

At The Maddow Blog, Steve Benen calls this extortion politics by the minority to nullify the will of the people and it should not be allowed to stand:

It’s not exactly news that Senate filibuster rules have been abused to the point of breaking the institution. Though the Senate operated by majority rule for about two centuries, there are now, as a practical matter, mandatory supermajorities for just about everything.

That said, some filibusters matter far more than others, and some may even rise to the level of a constitutional crisis.[..]

What we’re talking about here is a shrinking Senate minority pursuing a nullification strategy — they want to nullify federal law by abusing procedural tactics in a way that’s literally never been done in the United States. [..]

This is crazy. The Republican message, in a nutshell, is this: “Weaken consumer protections or we’ll use filibusters to block the executive branch from enforcing existing federal law.” Our system of government simply can’t work this way. [..]

And since the White House has effectively run out of legal options, that leaves one of three possibilities: (1) a minority of the Senate, for the first time in American history, nullifies federal law by abusing filibusters; (2) a majority of the Senate reforms filibuster rules through the so-called “nuclear option”; or (3) public pressure forces the Senate minority to back down.

Something’s gotta give.

How’s that filibuster agreement working out for you, Harry?

Nov 05 2012

Correcting America’s Democracy

We have other choices this Election Day. This is Chris Hedges’ choice and his rational explanation why he is not voting for either Obama or Romney.

Why I’m Voting Green

by Chris Hedges

The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, although I could as easily vote for Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. I will step outside the system. Voting for the “lesser evil”-or failing to vote at all-is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.

All the major correctives to American democracy have come through movements and third parties that have operated outside the mainstream. Few achieved formal positions of power. These movements built enough momentum and popular support, always in the face of fierce opposition, to force the power elite to respond to their concerns. Such developments, along with the courage to defy the political charade in the voting booth, offer the only hope of saving us from Wall Street predators, the assault on the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, the rise of the security and surveillance state and the dramatic erosion of our civil liberties. [..]

The flimsy excuses used by liberals and progressives to support Obama, including the argument that we can’t let Romney appoint the next Supreme Court justices, ignore the imperative of building a movement as fast and as radical as possible as a counterweight to corporate power. The Supreme Court, no matter what its composition, will not save us from financial implosion and climate collapse. And Obama, whatever his proclivity on social issues, has provided ample evidence that he will not alter his servitude to the corporate state. For example, he has refused to provide assurance that he will not make cuts in basic social infrastructures. He has proposed raising the eligibility age for Medicare, a move that would leave millions without adequate health care in retirement. He has said he will reduce the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security, thrusting vast numbers of seniors into poverty. Progressives’ call to vote for independents in “safe” states where it is certain the Democrats will win will do nothing to mitigate fossil fuel’s ravaging of the ecosystem, regulate and prosecute Wall Street or return to us our civil liberties.

“There is no state out there where either Obama or Romney offers a way out of here alive,” Stein said. “It’s up to us to create truly safe states, a safe nation, and a safe planet. Neither Obama nor Romney has a single exit strategy from the deadly crises we face.”

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