Archive for category National Politics

War of Aggression Cancelled?

Cartoon bomb

If all goes well, the U.S. military won’t have to invade Iran on behalf of Israel after all. I recall there were times during the Bush administration when I thought we were just days away from another illegal war of aggression – a really big one against a country of 77 million people.

Some important points:

Really, this whole brouhaha isn’t about nuclear weapons at all. It’s about regime change. Or you could also say, it’s about punishing ordinary Iranians because their government doesn’t like Israel.

More info:
Iran Nuclear Deal: World Powers Reach Historic Agreement to Lift Sanctions
Confused About The Iran Deal? This Cartoon Bomb Will Help
“Treason”: Right-Wing Media Lament Historic Deal To Curb Iran’s Nuclear Program
Lindsay Graham: Iran Deal ‘Akin To Declaring War On Israel’

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John Ellis (‘Jeb’) Bush: Blame the Victims For Bad Economy

What’s wrong with the American economy? If you ask presidential candidate John Ellis (“Jeb”) Bush, it has nothing to do with the Great Recession of 2008 during the most recent Bush administration — which put 8.7 million of us out of work. Nothing to do with Tea-GOP economic sabotage during the long, slow recovery that replaced many middle-class jobs with low-wage and part-time employment.

Our friend “Jeb! 2016″ says all that’s needed to fix the economy is for more people to work longer hours. Apparently he is not aware that productivity and worker compensation have been decoupled for about 40 years now. Working harder gets us nowhere, and makes CEOs and the 1 Percent richer.

The relationship between American workers’ industriousness and their economic security has eroded so severely in recent decades that the two concepts aren’t even on speaking terms these days.

Workers were a staggering 25 percent more productive in 2012 than they were in 2000. But over the same period that bosses started getting a full quarter more work out of their employees, the median wage grew exactly zero percent. Even those with college degrees saw their pay stagnate over the past decade. Over the five-year stretch encompassing the Great Recession and the first few years of the slow recovery Bush is criticizing, workers gave their bosses an 8 percent jump in productivity – and got back an outright decline in earnings.

Tea-GOP prescriptions like “work harder for less pay” don’t deserve to win any votes. Americans who work for a living are not at fault. We’re the victims of a financialized, de-unionized, 1 Percent economy that’s reaching Gilded Age levels of wealth inequality.

UPDATE:
Newsweek: Does Jeb Bush understand economics?

Bush’s full statement was: “My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4% growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families.”

This word salad mixes together different economic terms as if they mean the same thing and reaches for statistics that are, quite simply, ridiculous. Perhaps Bush was just sloppy in his language, but whatever aide is prepping him on economics needs to do a better job–maybe by working longer hours.

…When it comes to productivity, American workers have been doing a great job. Productivity, which is the economic output per worker, has grown relentlessly since 1947 in almost a straight upward line. Implying that Americans aren’t being productive enough is about the same as saying McDonald’s doesn’t sell enough hamburgers. How much is enough to Bush? If record productivity–with a cumulative growth of almost 300% since 1947–doesn’t cut it, what does?

There is no context where “we have to be more productive” means anything other than “push yourselves past record levels, workers!” That is, unless Bush doesn’t know what the word means.

But with this full statement, he has also demonstrated that he has no idea of the real problem facing American workers. No doubt, he is blaming them for their stagnant wages–all that’s needed is more hours of work, and wages will improve significantly.

As history proves, that’s hokum. America went through nearly a century where the profits generated by growth in worker productivity was shared–the more they produced, the more money everyone made. What Bush and far too many Republicans refuse to acknowledge is that wages and productivity became uncoupled around 1973: Productivity goes up, corporate profits go up, the rich get wealthier, but the financial benefits don’t trickle down to workers.

…American history’s most productive workers are not responsible for the fact that they aren’t paid enough. Do Bush and his GOP cohorts really believe that the wealthy are sitting in their offices, twiddling their thumbs, waiting for workers to demand more money that will then be handed over gladly? Wages are growing at their lowest level since World War II. In fact, income inequality is worse today than it was in 1774, even when slavery is included in the numbers, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

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July 4th Scorecard

According to our government and the media, everyone is supposed to be terrified of ISIS this weekend. So let’s keep score of recent attacks here in the American “homeland.” I’ll update as necessary through Sunday.

SHARKS vs. Americans
Killed = 0
Wounded = 10 (Florida, North & South Carolina)

ALLIGATORS vs. Americans
Killed = 1 (Texas)
Wounded = 2 (Texas)

DOGS vs. Americans
Killed = 2 (Texas and Oklahoma)
Wounded = 1 (Alaska)

FIREWORKS vs. Americans
Killed = 1 (Maine)
Wounded = 9 (Colorado)

LIGHTNING vs. Americans
Killed = 1 (Arizona)
Wounded = 6 (3 in Colorado and 3 in Minnesota)

ARMED TODDLERS vs. Americans
Killed = 2 (1 in Louisiana, 1 in Michigan)
Wounded = 0

ISIS vs. Americans
Killed = 0
Wounded = 0

More info:
Video Captures Fireworks Bombarding Terrified Crowd In Avon, Colorado

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The Supreme Court Is On A Big Roll For The People!

It's just not right!

It’s just not right!

Thank goodness Obama got elected and was able to get two honest jurors on the supreme court. Everybody is stunned to see decision after decision coming down on the side of ordinary Americans for a change. Scalia is just beside himself and even mentioned “hippies” in his dissenting court opinion about gay marriage. Bizarre.

First came the ruling against segregation in housing. Then “Obamacare” was saved in a decisive vote. I can only remember one other such vote in over a decade, since we started to see all these 5 to 4 politically motivated votes coming out of the court. Then the stunning “marriage equality” decision.

Today we hear about a ruling which actually allows citizens to be included in redistricting discussions. This is really big! I hope something can be done in time for the next presidential vote, but I doubt it.

This should be a clarion call for people to get out and overwhelm the voting system by – you know – voting, so we can prevent a Republican president from stacking the court with partisan hacks again. If McCain and Romney had taken over the white house, none of these rulings would have been possible.

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Utah Politicians Are Spending Millions On Public Land Grab Scheme – At Your Expense

Land Beyond the Law

Writing in the Salt Lake City Weekly, Eric Ethington reveals that frustrated Utah politicians are trying to deal with widespread public opposition to their land grab plans by hiring two right-wing consulting firms, Strata Policy and Davillier Law Group. Strata is best known for its opposition to renewable energy.

The job of these firms is apparently to get more support for state government’s illegal scheme to steal 30 million acres of our public lands. On June 16, Utah lawmakers committed up to $2 million in taxpayer dollars for the two firms to launch PR campaigns aimed at convincing a majority of Utahns that it’s somehow a good idea to ditch the whole concept of public lands. It’s all part of the Koch brothers agenda, but why should the Kochs pay for their own propaganda when they can get their hands on OUR money?

The consequences of a state takeover of public lands and national forests in Utah have been spelled out already. In general, such a land grab would require either a steep Utah tax hike or a massive increase in fossil fuel extraction to cover the cost of land management (hundreds of millions of dollars annually).

One way to answer this Tea-GOP attack on public lands: President Obama could be persuaded to declare one or more national monuments in Utah before he leaves office. Potential national monument proclamations could include Greater Canyonlands, the San Rafael Swell, Cedar Mesa or Desolation Canyon along the Green River. The new monuments would be incorporated into BLM’s National Landscape Conservation System and managed to protect natural and cultural values. The Obama administration has already demonstrated a willingness to move ahead with monument proclamations.

UPDATE:
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune is lobbying for a Greater Canyonlands National Monument proclamation.

6 Comments

Big News From Ben & Jerry’s

I Dough I Dough ice cream
Where is Glenden these days? Anyway, Ben & Jerry’s celebrated today’s history-making Supreme Court decision on marriage equality with ‘I Dough, I Dough’ ice cream.

The Court majority held that the Constitution requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when a marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state.

We’re reminded today that freedom isn’t free. Basic constitutional rights are hard-won after years of struggle. Plus, the Tea-GOP made a big mistake in 2004 by putting same-sex marriage bans on state ballots (it was a GOTV strategy by Karl Rove to boost George W. Bush’s re-election chances).

Utah was one of 11 states that enacted a redundant constitutional amendment (same-sex marriage was already illegal in Utah), thus running afoul of the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Battles are often won by taking full advantage of an enemy blunder.

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Back To Iraq

Peter Van Buren (Reuters), with emphasis added:

In 2011, making good on a campaign promise that helped land him in the White House, President Barack Obama closed out America’s eight-year war in Iraq. Disengaged, redeployed, packed up, departed.

Then America went back. In August 2014, Obama turned an emotional appeal to save the Yazidi people from Islamic State into a bombing campaign. A massive tap was turned and arms flowed into the region. The number of American soldiers in Iraq zoomed up to 3,100, quietly joined by some 6,300 civilian contractors. The reputed mission was training – or whipping the Iraqi Army into shape.

After another inglorious retreat of the Iraqi Army, this time in Ramadi, the Obama administration last week announced a change: America will send 450 more troops to establish a new base at al Taqaddum, Anbar Province.

It is clear the United States no longer believes the Iraqi Army exists. What is left of it is largely a politically correct distribution tool for American weapons, and a fiction for the media. America will instead work directly with three sectarian militias in their separate de facto states (current bases in America’s Iraqi archipelago include one in Sunni Anbar, another in Kurdish territory and three in Shi’ite-controlled areas). The hope is that the militias will divert their attention from one another long enough to focus on Islamic State. It is, of course, impossible; everyone in Iraq — except the Americans — knows Islamic State is a symptom of a broader civil war, not a stand-alone threat to anyone’s homeland.

…In Vietnam, Americans were caught between two sides of a civil war. Iraq has at least three but, once again, America sits in the center, used by all, trusted by none.

A year after ISIS captured Mosul, it seems there is no going back for the internally displaced people who fled the city. At this point there is no force that can re-take Iraq’s third-largest city.

More info:
More US troops to Iraq: How it will work
We’re now going to send “advisers” into combat. What could possibly go wrong?

UPDATES:
It may be that the U.S. will opt for a strategy of containment versus ISIS, because if the Iraqi Army doesn’t exist then arguably neither does “Iraq” as a unified sovereign country – now or in the future. Maybe that’s the right strategy (Joe Biden suggested something like this in 2006), but it is weird that such a big decisions can be made without any serious public discussion.

Andrew Bacevich:

ISIS would not exist were it not for the folly of the United States in invading — and breaking — Iraq in the first place; we created the vacuum that ISIS is now attempting to fill.

…For more than a decade and at very considerable expense, the United States has been attempting to create an Iraqi government that governs and an Iraqi army that fights; the results of those efforts speak for themselves: they have failed abysmally.

3 Comments

‘We have to give America something worth voting for’

Hillary speech

Today Hillary Clinton delivered her “official launch speech” at a campaign kick off rally in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City.

The 40-minute speech was loaded with dozens of campaign commitments for progressives and middle-class Americans. Some were meaningless, such as a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court on Citizens United. Other promises were more practical, such as a long-overdue federal law to guarantee paid sick leave. Hillary criticized Wall Street again and again, and even promised to re-engineer the financial sector so that it contributes more to the “real” economy of Main Street.

The bottom line: Hillary declared, “We… have to give America something worth voting for” in 2016.

But… she never mentioned the TPP or fast-track. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio did not attend the rally because he is still waiting for Hillary to speak out on this issue.

More Info:
Hillary Clinton campaign rally speech transcript

UPDATE:
Hillary has now appeared to side with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on the TPP so-called “trade” deal:

At a rally in Iowa, Clinton said that if the president can’t come to terms with Pelosi, there should be no deal. “Here’s what I think should happen now,” Clinton said. “The president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with Nancy Pelosi, who have expressed their concerns about the impact that a weak agreement would have on our workers, to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible and if we don’t get it, there should be no deal.”

So Hillary is sort of against the TPP, but also in favor of it if it can be made more worker-friendly?

41 Comments

Faux News: Paying people for the hours that they actually work ‘undercuts work ethic’

Dilbert unpaid overtime

Via Media Matters:

Throughout the day on June 10, Fox News and Fox Business personalities derided an expected proposal from the Labor Department that would expand guaranteed overtime pay to millions of American workers who currently work uncompensated hours.

…Under current federal guidelines, salaried employees are only guaranteed overtime pay if they earn up to $23,660 per year. Raising the threshold to $52,000 would expand overtime protections to at least 6.1 million additional American workers, and bring the policy roughly in line with federal standards last witnessed in 1975, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

On the Faux News Channel, commentators worry that paying people for the hours that they actually work “undercuts work ethic.” Seriously?

53 Comments

The Myth of the Global Warming ‘Pause’

global warming graph
(Credit: NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information)

Turns out that Faux News Channel was wrong about climate change. There wasn’t any ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in global warming. Surprised? Also wrong– presidential candidate Rafael (“Ted”) Cruz, who said this just over three months ago:

“The last 15 years, there has been no recorded warming. Contrary to all the theories that – that they are expounding, there should have been warming over the last 15 years. It hasn’t happened.”

It turns out that using the global mean surface temperature as the primary yardstick for climate change masked the actual trend. Also temperature fluctuations due to natural variation led to some speculation about “missing heat” that actually wasn’t missing at all, it was in the oceans.

Maybe NOW we can cancel all the “debates” about whether climate change is happening, and start talking about how to adapt to it. Prevention is no longer an option, but possibly we can mitigate warming or limit the duration.

More info:

Federal scientists say there never was any global warming “pause”

33 Comments

Tea-GOP Versus Social Security and Medicare

Social Security

As R.J. Eskow points out on HuffPo, the Tea-GOP is dedicated to tearing down Social Security and Medicare on behalf of the 1 Percent. Seemingly obvious ideas such as eliminating the cap on payroll taxes are viewed as a threat by some wealthy people, so they’re not on the policy agenda.

Few political advisors would suggest running on a platform of open hostility toward the elderly. Most families include an older person, after all, and everyone who lives long enough will become older themselves someday.

Seniors vote in greater numbers, too.

That may be why the GOP isn’t openly presenting itself as the “anti-elderly party.” But how else are we to interpret its deeds and actions? Its leading presidential candidates are pushing cuts to Social Security, while its congressional budgets would end Medicare as we know it.

Most older Americans would lose out under these proposals. But billionaires would make out very well indeed.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker became the latest Republican to jump on the anti-Social Security bandwagon this week, and he did so in a somewhat tactless way — by suggesting that benefits cuts should be applied to anybody born later than… Scott Walker.

“We’ll talk about reform,” Walker said, “but only for those — I was born on November 2, 1967 — for anybody older than me, we’re not touching social security.”

(“Reform,” in case you haven’t noticed, is a euphemism some people are fond of using when discussing Social Security or Medicare. It means “cuts.”)

…Then there’s Medicare. The Republican House has repeatedly approved budgets which would cut Medicare’s budget and replace it with a voucher system for purchasing private insurance. That would impose severe financial hardship on the average enrollee.

These attacks on Social Security and Medicare come at a time when Americans are facing a retirement crisis. A new report from the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), conducted at the request of Sen. Bernie Sanders, found that “about half of households age 55 and older have no retirement savings,” and that “many older households without retirement savings have few other resources, such as a defined benefit (DB) plan or non-retirement savings, to draw on in retirement.”

94 Comments

Ken Ivory Accused of Fraud in Public Land Grab Scheme

Via Think Progress

The Campaign for Accountability (CfA) is requesting that the attorneys general of Utah, Arizona and Montana investigate Utah state Rep. Ken Ivory (R) for “solicit[ing] funds from local officials, falsely claiming the federal government can be forced to transfer public lands to the states.”

The complaints cite Ivory’s use of his role as president and founder of the American Lands Council (ALC), a Utah-based organization, to “enrich” his personal wealth and make “false or fraudulent representations to obtain money.”

Utah remains the only Western state to have enacted a law to steal our public lands, which would be utterly unconstitutional. Utah’s HB 148, signed into law by Gov. Gary Herbert in 2012, violates the U.S. Constitution, the Utah Constitution, and the Utah Enabling Act.

Anne Weismann, executive director of the CfA:

“Ken Ivory has relied on his position and authority as a Utah state legislator to persuade unsuspecting local officials that if they contribute taxpayer dollars to his charity, they can help their states acquire federal land and increase revenues… He might as well be trying to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Ken Ivory and his wife pocket most of the money contributed to the ALC.

According to the AP, representatives for the Utah and Montana attorneys general offices are reviewing the fraud accusations.

More info:
SLT: Environmentalists claim Ken Ivory is scamming local officials

UPDATE:
Rep. Ivory says he’s being bullied by the Campaign for Accountability.

“These types of organizations have just destroyed Western public lands through this kind of litigation and bullying tactics,” he said. “They’re so afraid of the success that the transfer of public lands movement is having that they’re stooping to these kinds of bullying tactics because they can’t tolerate basic political debate.”

49 Comments

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