AMERICAblog NewsA straight-shooting look at US Politics, with a focus on the Obama administration, the religious right, and civil rights, from DC-based political strategist and writer John Aravosis.


XML feed

Last update

7 years 20 weeks ago

February 27, 2011

Frank Rich does what he's doing a lot of lately; he weaves two columns into one. Both virtual columns are worth reading, but they need to be teased apart.

In the first "column" (the first strand of his interwoven two), Rich considers whether the Teabags in Congress will shut the government down like their Contract-on-America counterparts did in 1995. He concludes that while 1995 was a GOP disaster, they think this time will be different: Rather hilariously, the Republicans’ political gurus still believe that Gingrich’s ruse can work. In a manifesto titled “How the G.O.P. Can Win the Budget Battle” published in The Wall Street Journal last week, Fred Barnes of Fox News put it this way: “Bragging about painful but necessary cuts to Medicare scares people. Stressing the goal of saving Medicare won’t.” But the G.O.P. is trotting out one new political strategy this time. Current House leaders, mindful that their ’95 counterparts’ bravado backfired, constantly reiterate that they are “not looking for a government shutdown,” as Paul Ryan puts it. They seem to believe that if they repeat this locution often enough it will inoculate them from blame should a shutdown happen anyway — when, presumably, they are not looking. Rich offers other evidence of the coming disaster, including the fact that "much of the Beltway press has bought the line that comparisons between then and now are superficial." Sounds like they're encouraging the Congressional Teabags to go for it.

Rich, of course, thinks this will be another disaster, mainly because of the state of the economy. Killing support from government just when most people — including our eagerly-duped teabag cousins — most need it, almost guarantees that dreaded W-shaped recovery. Get ready. Seriously; get ready.

But it's Rich's second strand I want to focus on, since it echoes a theme we touched on earlier, when considering the Koch Brothers Coup in Wisconsin. Rich documents the unspoken obvious — that Washington is Wisconsin on steroids. The Republican budget proposal is a cesspool of sucking to the super-rich, Kochs included (my emphasis below): In this bigger picture, the Wisconsin governor’s fawning 20-minute phone conversation with a prankster impersonating the oil billionaire David Koch last week, while entertaining, is merely a footnote. ... Look to Washington for the bigger story. As The Los Angeles Times recently reported, Koch Industries and its employees form the largest bloc of oil and gas industry donors to members of the new House Energy and Commerce Committee, topping even Exxon Mobil. And what do they get for that largess? As a down payment, the House budget bill not only reduces financing for the Environmental Protection Agency but also prohibits its regulation of greenhouse gases.

Here again, the dollars that will be saved are minute in terms of the federal deficit, but the payoff to Koch interests from a weakened E.P.A. is priceless. The same dynamic is at play in the House’s reduced spending for the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (charged with regulation of the esoteric Wall Street derivatives that greased the financial crisis). The reduction in the deficit will be minimal, but the bottom lines for the Kochs and their peers, especially on Wall Street, will swell.

These special interests will stay in the closet next week when the Tea Partiers in the House argue (as the Gingrich cohort once did) that their only agenda is old-fashioned fiscal prudence. The Koch Brothers Coup — has a nice ring to it. Coming to a sad dying superpower near you.

My take: I'm saddened to bring the blindingly obvious to the unseeing (present company excepted, of course). It's literally the least I can do, which leads me to this.

Isn't it also obvious that, as the Billionaires Coup gets closer and closer to victory, their hubris brings them closer and closer to killing the cow they're milking?

I don't think that answer is in question. They really are flirting with killing the country. (Well, we're probably well past "flirting"; the roofie's been administered, teabag-style.) Frank Rich's column makes exactly this point, if obliquely.

So which is it? Have the super-rich decided they don't need America any more? Or are they just so in love with Supply Side Jesus that they don't know they're burning the house down with them inside?

In other words, when this country becomes a faltering second-world economy with a useful first-world military, have the super-rich prepared their financial escape? Do the rich really need the rest of us?

In my view, this is the right question, the only one without an obvious answer. But stay tuned; people have started looking at this in earnest, as have I.


Categories: Politics
Even worse, either could be punishable by death in the proposed bill. The GOP Rep. who has proposed the bill has been in the news earlier with his proposed Uterus Police. MotherJones:It's only February, but this year has been a tough one for women's health and reproductive rights. There's a new bill on the block that may have reached the apex (I hope) of woman-hating craziness. Georgia State Rep. Bobby Franklin—who last year proposed making rape and domestic violence "victims" into "accusers"—has introduced a 10-page bill that would criminalize miscarriages and make abortion in Georgia completely illegal. Both miscarriages and abortions would be potentially punishable by death: any "prenatal murder" in the words of the bill, including "human involvement" in a miscarriage, would be a felony and carry a penalty of life in prison or death. Basically, it's everything an "pro-life" activist could want aside from making all women who've had abortions wear big red "A"s on their chests.

Categories: Politics
They are also referring the case to The Hague for review. If Gadaffi survives the uprising, he is stands a good chance of living out his days in prison if the reports are as accurate as most believe. U.N. Security Council Saturday unanimously imposed travel bans and asset freezes on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, members of his family and inner circle amid continuing attacks on anti-government protesters.

The council imposed an asset freeze on Gadhafi, his four sons and one daughter and a travel ban on the whole family along with 10 other close associates. The council also backed an arms embargo.

The resolution adopted by the 15-nation body also called for the immediate referral of the deadly crackdown on demonstrators in Libya to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for investigation and possible prosecution of anyone responsible for killing civilians.

Categories: Politics

This guy is amazing with his bike. I wonder how many times he's broke a bone or two while practicing?

Categories: Politics
Unlike Greece, where voters have supported the government during the crisis, Irish voters sent the government who signed the bailout deal packing. It was one of the worst defeats ever for the conservative Fianna Fáil party. The new government is likely to be a coalition from the center-right Fine Gael and Labour. The Guardian:In an election dominated by fear and anger over the financial implosion that led to an €80bn bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, Ireland's once most successful political party Fianna Fáil suffered a historic and devastating defeat, with its support estimated at only 15%. Just months after agreeing to the bank bailout it was on course to be beaten into fourth place by a slew of independent candidates – its worst performance since Eamon De Valera founded it in the 1920s.

The disaster engulfing the party, until last month led by the outgoing Taoiseach Brian Cowen, is far greater than the Tories sustained in the 1997 Blair landslide and marks a sea change in Irish politics. For seven decades Fianna Fáil has been the dominant force in Irish political life and had enjoyed 14 years of unbroken rule until this humiliating general election result.

Meanwhile, support for Sinn Féin was projected to have reached a record 10% in an RTE exit poll, with Gerry Adams, the party president, on course to be elected in the border constituency of Louth.

Categories: Politics

February 26, 2011

Per Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef, about Palin criticizing Michelle Obama for urging the country to eat well.

Categories: Politics
From the Wisconsin State Journal:
For a second straight Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters have filled the streets around the state Capitol in what organizers hope will be the largest day yet in the continuing struggle to stop Gov. Scott Walker's plan to essentially end collective bargaining rights for most public employees.
Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain said the number of protesters around the Capitol is on the scale of last Saturday's peak crowd of an estimated 68,000 and could swell even more for a 3 p.m. rally.
"We've had no problems," DeSpain said, adding that officers are again committed to keeping the Square "safe for democracy."And here's a new video about Wisconsin from Andy Cobb and the folks at Second City:

Categories: Politics
Al Jazeera:The Egyptian army has used force to disperse activists gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak loyalists from the interim cabinet.

Egyptian soldiers fired in the air and used batons in the early hours of Saturday to disperse the crowd, the Reuters news agency reported.

Demonstrators had also gathered in front of the parliament building in Cairo, where police beat protesters and used tasers to suppress the crowds, an Al Jazeera producer in the capital reported.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the ruling military council, later apologised for the military's response and said the situation "wasn't intentional".

Categories: Politics
Ian Murphy's prank call to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker continues to reverberate. A new ad, featuring Walker's words to the guy he thought was billionaire David Koch, is on the air in Wisconsin.

I saw the ad at the Plum Line where Greg Sargent explained:
The ad, at bottom, is designed to paint Walker as an irredeemably ideological, insulated and even tyrannical figure who has gone rogue and can no longer even hear outside voices suggesting reasonable compromise.Sounds about right.

Categories: Politics
The end of the Qaddafi regime is near, but it's ending in a vicious and horrific way. He and his loyalists continue to kill their fellow Libyans -- and part of their policy is to shoot from ambulances:An increasingly gruesome picture began to emerge Saturday of the violent tactics used by the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to quell protesters in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, with several witnesses confirming that forces loyal to the government had been shooting people from ambulances and using antiaircraft guns against crowds.

Witnesses to the violence in Tripoli, where a tense standoff held on Saturday, also said that the government had removed dead bodies as well as the wounded from hospitals in an effort to disguise the mounting death toll in the uprising against Col. Qaddafi sweeping Libya.

Col. Qaddafi’s forces had put down demonstrators, who had taken to the streets after Friday Prayers to mount their first major challenge to the government’s crackdown, with snipers from rooftops, buckshot, and tear gas, witnesses said. There were unconfirmed reports that an armed rebel force was approaching the city on Saturday.Qaddafi's days are numbered. Now, it's a question of how many people will die to end the dictatorship.

Categories: Politics
Good luck rebounding if there's no middle class. This isn't a new problem but Washington keeps pretending as though it isn't even a problem. The decades long decline is ignored by both parties in favor of making life easier and more comfortable for the financial elite. NY Times:America’s private payrolls shrank from January 2008 through February 2010, losing 8.84 million jobs on net. They have been growing every month since that nadir, adding 1.26 million jobs on net. (Public payrolls are another story — they’ve been falling over the last year.)

All this means, of course, that the private sector job market still has a long way to go before it returns to its previous peak. Worse, those jobs that have been created in the last year typically pay less than the jobs they’re replaced.

According to NELP:

* Lower-wage industries (those paying $9.03 -$12.91 per hour) accounted for just 23 percent of job losses, but fully 49 percent of recent growth.
* Midwage industries ($12.92 -$19.04 per hour) accounted for 36 percent of job losses, and 37 percent of recent growth.
* Higher-wage industries ($19.05 -$31.40 per hour) accounted for 40 percent of job loss, but only 14 percent of recent growth.

Categories: Politics

So much good music from that concert back in '71.

While it's a rainy day over here, the gardens are progressing. I noticed the first daffodils of the season open on Tuesday and many more yesterday. Still not full bloom, but it's looking nice. The hotel across the street has four massive camellia bushes in bloom but we don't get the same amount of sunshine each day on ours. We're still waiting.

Categories: Politics
It's time the rest of the world gets behind this both in the UN and directly between the country and Gaddafi loyalists. The Guardian:Britain's direct warnings to Libyan officials coincided with a joint British and French draft UN security council resolution the Libyan leadership to face war crimes prosecutions at the international criminal court for attacks on protesters. The resolution also called for travel bans and asset freezes for Libya's leaders.

Gaddafi showed no sign of heeding the warnings. Reports said that gunmen in cars in the capital, Tripoli, opened fire on protesters as they emerged from Friday prayers.

Nearby, in Green Square, the Libyan leader made another defiant televised appearance, promising to arm his supporters. "Retaliate against them, retaliate against them," he told a crowd of loyalists from the ramparts of a crusader fort overlooking the square. "Dance, sing and prepare. Prepare to defend Libya, to defend the oil, dignity and independence."

Categories: Politics

February 25, 2011

Just as it did in the UK. Wait until the full impact of the budget chopping at the local, state and national level kicks in. The GOP is poised to crush any hope of recovery. The Social Security tax cut may have some impact but to expect anything like that to make up for stimulus money is unrealistic.
The Commerce Department reported Friday that economic growth increased at an annual rate of 2.8 percent in the final quarter of last year. That was down from the initial estimate of 3.2 percent.

State and local governments, wrestling with budget shortfalls, cut spending at a 2.4 percent pace. That was much deeper than the 0.9 percent annualized cut first estimated and was the most since the start of 2010.

Consumers spent a little less than first thought. Their spending rose at a rate of 4.1 percent, slightly smaller than the initial estimate of 4.4 percent. Still, it was the best showing since 2006. And it suggests Americans will play a larger role this year in helping the economy grow, especially with more money from a Social Security tax cut.

Categories: Politics
The US military brass has been living in Banana Republic land for years now. Can anyone name another first world country where the military leadership is so present, so powerful and so casual with the law? It doesn't happen to the degree that it does in the US yet everyone thinks this is normal. As long as there are no repercussions for such un-American and probably illegal behavior, it's not realistic to think it will stop any time soon. The war machine is so similar to Wall Street, who can get away with bad behavior thanks to deep pockets and expensive political campaigns. Rolling Stone:
The list of targeted visitors was long, according to interviews with members of the IO team and internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone. Those singled out in the campaign included senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin; Rep. Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee; Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts.

The incident offers an indication of just how desperate the U.S. command in Afghanistan is to spin American civilian leaders into supporting an increasingly unpopular war. According to the Defense Department’s own definition, psy-ops – the use of propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors – are supposed to be used exclusively on "hostile foreign groups." Federal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans, and each defense authorization bill comes with a "propaganda rider" that also prohibits such manipulation. "Everyone in the psy-ops, intel, and IO community knows you’re not supposed to target Americans," says a veteran member of another psy-ops team who has run operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It’s what you learn on day one."What is also interesting and of note here is that the old guard media is so lacking on issues like this as well as the banking crisis. The NY Times is still better than the Washington Post, but that's not saying much. The old guard media has been much more concerned with maintaining their access rather than delivering quality journalism. When they wonder why their readers are disappearing and they are losing money, they might give that some thought.

Categories: Politics
Yesterday, the Maryland State Senate passed the same-sex marriage bill. Today, the House of Delegates held its first hearing. A vote in the full house could happen within weeks. It's starting to get really ugly in Annapolis.

Delegate Don Dwyer, Jr. wants to be the face of homophobia in the General Assembly. Seriously, he's literally said he wants to be "the face of the opposition" to marriage equality. And, he's making great strides in that direction by sending out links and materials from Mass Resistance, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

I've posted the email sent by Dwyer to his colleagues in the House of Delegates at AMERICAblog Gay. The other side gets really nasty when they're losing. Now, they're resorting to lies and distortions from a hate group. It's all they've got.

Categories: Politics