Archive for category Democracy

Nick Hanauer: Another Thing Obama Can Do Without Congress

Nick Hanauer

Seattle-based venture capitalist Nick Hanauer offers a smart policy proposal that President Obama could implement with a stroke of the pen. The President could raise wages and create jobs by directing the Department of Labor to expand the number of workers who can receive overtime pay. Sign the petition.

More from Democracy for America:

President Obama: Expand overtime pay!

We urge you to instruct the Department of Labor to significantly expand the number of workers eligible for federal overtime pay. By raising the salary threshold to $69,000, we would finally achieve the same eligibility for overtime pay that we had in 1975.

We also urge you to revise the rules in order to reduce the number of exemptions from overtime pay. Teachers, federal employees, doctors, computer professionals (anyone who uses a computer), and many more professional workers have been working overtime and increasing their productivity but aren’t seeing the benefits of their labor. They should also be eligible for overtime pay.

Revise the rules to expand overtime pay without delay.

Read the rest of this entry »

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How Fast Will YOU Be Able To Innovate?

Get Ready To Wait

Get Ready To Wait

No matter what political stripe you are, you are excited about Obama’s fierce defense of Net Neutrality lately. The problem is that he is standing up for something he can’t personally affect. It’s the FCC that will make that decision and the big downer is that the man Obama appointed to head the FCC , (Tom Wheeler), used to be a cable lobbyist.

Perfect. :(

Anyway, the best debate you’ll probably hear about the issue was on the Diane Rhem show from November 12th, since I don’t think there’s any way a public hearing will take place. The last time the FCC did that, it was an embarrassing spectacle for the commission as they faced an auditorium of very angry citizens back in the Bush days.

Diane likes to have a fair discussion, but I thought I could tell what side she was on. It’s not hard to be on the side of “Net Neutrality” because 4 million Americans have sent letters to the FCC about the issue, and I can guarantee you that a tiny fraction of the letters were for letting internet providers discriminate about the speed of the websites we choose.

It was a sensible discussion except for one panel member who was obviously there to bolster a corporate controlled internet. he’s Rob Atkinson, the president of something called, “The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation”. I get weary when ever I see the word innovation these days, because it usually means something like ‘get out of the way little man; we’ll decide what’s best’.

Atkinson doesn’t waste much time using the fear of government meme so popular with liars these days.

ROB ATKINSON:

All the major carriers, Verizon, Comcast, all the rest of them have committed never to block legal content, never to degrade legal content.It’s a red herring that the other side is doing because what they want is they want a regulated utility model and ultimately they want a government-owned model. That’s their game.

MARVIN AMMORI, (attorney in private practice, affiliate scholar, Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet & Society):

… When you look at the people who have lined up against net neutrality, it’s just the big cable and phone companies and the organizations like Rob’s that got funding from them. That’s it.

I’ve never heard Diane Rhem prod all other panel members to give their opinion on whether another guest was lying before, but I was delighted to hear this part of the show:

ROB ATKINSON:

In the famous case that Marvin’s talking about with what’s called the Comcast BitTorrent Case, Comcast did not block anything

DIANE REHM:

Marvin.

MARVIN AMMORI:

So I think Rob is just trying to throw some fud out there. The FCC found that Comcast was blocking. We proved it.

ROB ATKINSON:

No, they did not.

MARVIN AMMORI:

They did. It’s in the order. I litigated that decision. I argued that decision. I wrote the complaint in that case. And the CE…

DIANE REHM:

Did they or did they not?

GIGI SOHN, (special counsel for external affairs, Federal Communications Commission):

Yes, they did.

ROB ATKINSON:

They were slowing up…

MARVIN AMMORI:

The CEO of BitTorrent is a friend of mine and we collaborated the entire time during that case, both CEOs then and now.

DIANE REHM:

Cecilia, did they or did they…

CECILIA KANG, (reporter, The Washington Post):

They did, they did.

Oops!

I also thought it was funny that Atkinson was trying to make the case that most people really don’t care that much about high speeds after a question from a caller:

ROB ATKINSON:

What is true is very, very few consumers will pay even 5 or $10 more a month for the next tier up. So there — I can get 100 megabits to my house where I live in Washington, D.C. I don’t get it because I don’t want to pay the extra. Most consumers are like that. They just won’t pay a few dollars more for high speeds.

CECILIA KANG:

…So the idea that people don’t want to upgrade, I mean, I would love, if I could afford, to get the fastest no matter what. Nobody would say no to that if possible.

Amen and amen Cecilia!

It’s an interesting debate and, as usual, the transcripts and audio can be found at Rehms site.

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Election Turnout Sucked

Mid-terms have lower turnout than Presidential year elections. Nevertheless, turnout for 2014 was the lowest it’s been in decades – approximately 37% of eligible voters actually voted. By the time all the absentee ballots arrive, that figure may rise to 38%. The last time participation was this low was in 1942 (when people, it can be argued, had other things on their minds).

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Jonathan Chait Predicts Permanent Gridlock

Do nothing Congress

There is no shortage of gloom and doom today in the wake of the Democratic Party’s epic electoral fail. Jonathan Chait’s analysis is that the Dems may be locked out of the majority in Congress for the foreseeable future, although they might be able to keep control of the White House.

Mitch McConnell did not become the majority leader by cooperating. His single strategic insight is that voters do not blame Congress for gridlock, they blame the president, and therefore reward the opposition. Eternally optimistic seekers of bipartisanship have clung to the hope that owning all of Congress, not merely half, will force Republicans to “show they can govern.” This hopeful bit of conventional wisdom rests on the premise that voters are even aware that the GOP is the party controlling Congress. In fact, only about 40 percent of the public even knows which party controls which chamber of Congress, which makes the notion that the Republicans would face a backlash for a lack of success fantastical.

McConnell’s next play is perfectly clear. His interest lies in creating two more years of ugliness and gridlock. He does not want spectacular, high-profile failures that command public attention — no shutdowns, no impeachment. Instead, he wants tedious, enervating stalemate. McConnell needs to drain away any possibility of hope and excitement from government, so that the disengaged Democratic voters remain disengaged in 2016.

OTOH Majority Leader McConnell may not get what he wants, because Other Majority Leader Rafael “Ted” Cruz has different ideas.

UPDATES:
Right-Wing Media Outraged After Obama Declares Intent To Cooperate With GOP
“Stop Barack Obama”: Right-Wing Media Demand No Compromise

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Rep. Chaffetz: ‘Why not have the surgeon general head this up?’

While making another lame attempt to politicize Ebola, Utah’s own Rep. Jason Chaffetz accidentally brought up a serious issue. Acceding to Tea-GOP demands for an “Ebola czar” to address a nonexistent national crisis, President Obama appointed Ron Klain, a former chief-of-staff to Vice President Joe Biden. Did that make the right-wing happy? Not a chance.

Via Think Progress (emphasis added):

On Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) appeared on Fox News to complain that Klain had not yet agreed to testify before Congress, firing another criticism at the White House. “Why not have the surgeon general head this up?” Chaffetz said, adding, “at least you have someone who has a medical background who has been confirmed by the United States Senate, that’s where we should be actually I think going.”

But Obama can’t appoint the Surgeon General to lead the Ebola response because his nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, is being opposed by the National Rifle Association and Republican senators (as well as a few Democrats) for supporting the expansion of background checks during gun purchases. In February, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) officially placed a hold on the nomination.

Chaffetz seemed unaware of this wrinkle during his Fox interview, and his office would not return repeated requests for comment…

We don’t have a Surgeon General because Dr. Murthy’s nomination has been blocked for the past year by Rep. Chaffetz’s party.

UPDATES:
FLASHBACK: When Conservative Media Didn’t Care Bush’s Bird Flu Czar Had No Medical Experience
Fox News Quietly Corrects Congressman’s Mistake On Ebola Response

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Insane Right-Wing Ebola Conspiracy Theories

Media Matters offers a four and a half minute compilation of how right-wing media have been trying to spread unfounded hysteria and conspiracy theories about Ebola. Apparently it’s just part of the GOTV operation to make sure all the wingers show up at the polls on November 4. It’s hyper-partisan politics as usual, and the good of our nation and the world is not even a consideration.

Mario Machado on HuffPo:

Sure, FOX news gets away with blatant racism and nobody bats an eye because it’s just part of their act, but they are not alone in their uncompassionate reporting on the thousands of people currently suffering from Ebola.

…We speculate endlessly over the fictionalized and sensationalized prospects of an epidemic that will never become a legitimate threat within the US, but no one finds the time to even mention the horror that must face the individuals, the families, the health care workers and the citizens of an impoverished country who are slowly watching this unspeakably devastating disease spread within their midst. For the moment, we are too busy asking ourselves, “What does this Ebola outbreak mean for me and my life?” instead of the questions we should be asking, such as “How can we as a global community best act to stop this terrible disease everywhere?”

So whether anchors are talking about travel bans for everyone and anyone coming from West Africa, or discussing the domestic “Ebola epidemic” in regards to the few cases we’ve had in the U.S., it is important to realize that it is all just well-disguised racism and Western exceptionalism being paraded around under the banner of “national security.”…

More info:
The Ebola Truthers Have Arrived and Their Conspiracy Theories Are Completely Insane
POLITICO poll: Democrats in danger over Ebola
Poll: Majority Of Americans Worried About U.S. Ebola Outbreak
Gallup: One-Fifth of Americans Worry About Getting Ebola (Those would be the regular Faux News Channel viewers)

UPDATE:
Politicians Who Say ‘I’m Not A Scientist’ On Climate Offer Their Advice On Ebola There is a method to the madness: Tea-GOPers always reject science when it runs counter to their political interests of the moment.

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Tea-GOP Ready to Seize the Senate

Mitch McConnell

FiveThirtyEight’s Senate Forecast gives the Tea-GOP a 60.8 percent chance of winning a majority of Senate seats. HuffPo’s poll-tracking model says there is a 68 percent chance. Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium is the outlier, predicting the Dems have a 65 percent chance to save their Senate majority.

The Economist explained the situation last month:

More vulnerable Democrats are up for re-election this year than vulnerable Republicans. The GOP needs to take away six seats from the Democrats, and is already nearly assured of winning three; of the six or seven competitive races (depending on who’s counting), Republicans must win just three to gain a majority. Add in Barack Obama’s low approval ratings and the fact that the out-of-power party generally does better in midterm elections, and you have a nice bloodless political-science description of the Republican advantage.

Yet the technical factors don’t quite explain why Democrats feel so listless this autumn…

…In the face of the far right’s effective veto over the congressional GOP, Democrats have given up on passing any significant legislation either until they regain control of the House, an impossibly remote prospect, or until the Tea Party somehow withers away, which shows no signs of happening. The Democrats’ acceptance of their inability to accomplish anything significant has left them unable to campaign on big themes. The party feels exhausted, still convinced of the need for immigration reform, climate change legislation and expanded benefits for the middle class, but unable to imagine a political pathway to get there. If the Democrats lose the Senate this fall, it may be technically due to an unlucky roster of elections and the traditional midterm setback for the party in power. But it will also be a verdict on the party’s inability to conjure a sense of élan or vision in the face of the political paralysis tea-party Republicans have induced.

When the party that’s nominally in power looks so powerless, that’s a problem. The Dems ought to have thought about that in 2009, when they had a brief window of opportunity to reverse the Bush administration’s malfeasance. Now they can’t promise anything much, and seemingly can’t even deliver on small commitments (e.g. President Obama’s vow to make unspecified immigration reforms via executive order by “the end of summer.”)

Meanwhile, the Tea-GOP never misses an opportunity to blame Obama for all bad news – whether it’s ISIS, Ebola, or leaving the front door of the White House unlocked. Right-wingers can’t offer viable policy proposals anymore, so they resort to fear mongering and unrealistic demands to seal the U.S. borders. You can be sure the Tea-GOP voters will take their fears to the polls on November 4.

Stephanie Cutter has suggested that the Dems might actually gain in the long run if the Tea-GOP takes over the Senate and goes ahead with Mitch McConnell’s program of serial government shutdowns.

Sadly, the lesson I want the Washington Dems to learn probably won’t get learned. They are always promising to do something for average Americans after the next election. Bill Clinton says now is not the time for a protest vote, but I would say a protest vote is needed now and in every election until they get the message.

UPDATES:
Democratic Fundraising Gets Shriller And Shriller As Party Abandons Candidates
The GOP’s Dangerous Demagoguery on Ebola

The reality, as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins recently stated, is that an Ebola vaccine would likely have already been developed if not for the past decade’s worth of largely GOP-imposed budget cuts.

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Raise Your Silent Voice By A Notch

As a young child, I remember taking my first look at a telephone book. Close to the first listing there was a number you could call to get information. As a twelve year old, I was stunned that such a thing existed and imediatedly called to ask a scientific question I had. I can’t remember what the question I had was, but the answer was very dissapointing. “I’m sorry, (polite laughter), but I can only find a phone number for you”.

That was 1964. Somehow, Al Gore and Google happened in America.

You had to sift through piles of crap, designed to throw you off, but my original dream of being able to have questions answered had actually happened, just decades later.

And now, I refer you to a plea from Howard Dean. Please, just send your feelings about this to the FCC.

Try to protect your freedom to speak here.

UPDATE: The FCC’s site crashed because there were so many comments coming in opposing the former public advocate’s terrible proposal, that they were forced to extend the comment deadline until Friday. Please tell them how much they suck nowadays – in a nice way, if you can.

Here’s the best argument I’ve seen for “net neutrality”!

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House GOP Could Force Government Shutdown Over EPA Carbon Rule

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed coal regulations have angered Tea-GOP right-wingers who deny climate science.

Via The New Republic:

A standoff with Senate Democrats and the president over funding for the EPA and Interior Department could set the stage for a budget showdown, risking a partial government shutdown. Here we go again.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) said the House Appropriations Committee may include a rider to the bill that’s necessary to keep the Department of Interior and EPA open after the fiscal year’s end in September.

…A partial shutdown to the Interior and EPA might seem like it would cause less damage to the GOP than the full-scale shutdown of 2013. But remember that includes national parks, which was one of the most visible and unpopular consequences from last year’s shutdown. And the EPA is charged with a lot besides fighting climate change, like protecting our drinking water and overseeing cleanup of toxic waste sites.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has warned the Tea-GOP not to shut down the government over climate change. But really, if they do it right before the midterm elections it might do more good than harm.

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‘Bidder 70′ On Netflix

Bidder 70Tonight I watched the terrific documentary “Bidder 70″ (2012) by Beth & George Gage, that tells the story of what happened after Tim DeChristopher disrupted an illegal BLM oil & gas lease auction in the last days of the Bush administration, December 19, 2008. It’s on Netflix now!

The message of the film is that in corporate-controlled America, the only power we have as individuals is the power of not backing down and not going away. DeChristopher provided everyone with a perfect example of how we can do that. That’s why the PTB had to send him to federal prison. Not the Wall Street fraudsters who crashed the economy. Not the greedy oil companies who polluted the Gulf of Mexico. Not the right-wing protesters who defy the BLM by riding ATVs in the wilderness. Not the millionaire ranchers who refuse to pay their grazing fees on public land. Anybody who’s onboard with the corporatist agenda has nothing to fear.

Judge Dee Benson actually admitted that he sentenced Tim DeChristopher to two years imprisonment not for anything he did (“bid-walking” in a BLM lease auction is so common they have a name for it, and it has never been prosecuted before) — it was for what he said. The First Amendment does not protect you if you go against Corporate America.

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the UN, NATO, and the trip-wire

I’m so sorry to write this missive as a lead article (for 15 minutes) but I don’t remember how to find the comments and respond to them. The lonely little side-bar response to my article I’ve not seen, except for half a sentence. It seemed to be saying that the old days are gone now, and so we need NATO and the JN. I agree. With NATO, it is the trip-wire provision that we go to war, automatically if any NATO nation is attacked, regardless of who the attacker is. This takes not only the United States Congress, but the president, as Commander in Chief, from the decision to go to war. I support both the UN and, if handled correctly, NATO. But President J. Reuben Clark and I oppose the automatic going to war. Just like the fools, the ancient general staffs of all sides in WW I. No one wanted that war. There was no Adolph Hitler in that war that destroyed the entire 20th century. Better to have shot the general staffs, who came to deserve exactly that. What President Clark called for, and I, are what the United States has always done, before NATO. That is, to have treaties of peace and friendship with our allies and then, should hostilities commence, such treaties would call for all parties to go to war, or not, as their constitutions provide. In this way, we don’t declare war against a nation, and surely all the people, have not yet been born. How, pray tell, do we justify going to war against, and for, people not, or no longer, live on earth. With a few caveats, ditto for the UN. No provision of law allows the UN to overreach Congress in the decision for war or peace. For anyone interested, read my book with the late Francis Wormuth, To Cain the Dog of War. It is by odds the best book ever written on the way we go to war. Every single war we’ve ever fought, including our wars against the Indian tribes, is there analyzed. Francis did not live to see this book in print. I worked two years after his death to finish it. And I updated it 4 or 5 times, alone. I still put my dear friend’s name first, because I am honored to be linked, now, forever. Something like Mormon marriage through time and eternity. ed firmage xoxo

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The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox

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