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Archive for August 24th, 2010

Mitch McConnell’s Con: Cut Social Security to Enable Tax Cuts to the Rich

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:49 am by HL

Mitch McConnell’s Con: Cut Social Security to Enable Tax Cuts to the Rich
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell catches the dishonest bait and switch that Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell tried to pawn off on Sunday’s Meet the Press. * On MTP, McConnell repeatedly dodged and weaved to avoid answering a simple question from host David Gregory, which boils down to this: if you Republicans are so hysterical about the […]

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell catches the dishonest bait and switch that Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell tried to pawn off on Sunday’s Meet the Press. *

On MTP, McConnell repeatedly dodged and weaved to avoid answering a simple question from host David Gregory, which boils down to this: if you Republicans are so hysterical about the size of US budget deficits and cumulative debt, how do you avoid increasing them by a cumulative $3.2 trillion if you extend all of the Bush era tax cuts?

McConnell’s evasion was to argue the question shouldn’t even be asked because (1) we don’t have to offset costs from already “existing” programs and (2) you should never raise taxes in a recession.

Lawrence debunked the first dodge: the Republican tax cut legislation expires this year, as Republicans planned, precisely to avoid facing the deficit issue. Extending the cuts requires new legislation, so the question is relevant if you contend new costs must be offset to avoid adding to the deficit.

On the second part of the evasion, Lawrence notes McConnell, John Boehner and other Republicans have already signaled that Social Security and Medicare should be on the block to satisfy the deficit reduction hysteria they and foolish Democrats have fostered.

But the full response to this second McConnell evasion comes in the followup interview with David Cay Johnston. You can’t view the tax cut extension issue in isolation. Reducing government revenues while pushing deficit hysteria are not inconsistent in the Republican framework.

No, it’s the core of the Republican governing philosophy to strangle government revenues, so as to starve public interest government that serves the middle class. Drown a minimalist government in a bathtub — but this time, it’s not welfare recipients who take the bath but seniors.

The leaves only McConnell’s argument about not raising taxes during a recession, to which Lawrence and too many Democrats only weakly respond. Putting aside the irony that McConnell is making an essentially Keynsian argument for stimulus — tax cuts will help boost aggregate demand and spending — he’s wrong on that too.

As most macro economists have noted before, if you’re worried about the effect of taxes on aggregate demand during a recession, it matters where the money goes. Who gets the tax cut? And what would they do with it?

Giving nearly $700 billion over ten years to the richest people in America is probably the worst form of economic stimulus; less will be spent to boost the economy, and more will be gambled on Wall Street. It’s just another form of Wall Street bailout, but without even the presumed justification of saving the financial sector.

Reallocating that $700 billion, and especially the next two years’ worth of $70 billion or so, to those much more likely to spend it, would provide 5 times or more economic stimulus. So a policy concerned about the recession would redirect money from the rich to the poor. For example, Jamie Galbraith and friends have suggested, we should augment Social Security payments until we’re closer to full employment.

McConnell and Republicans are thus advocating economic policies that are up-side-down, that would hurt the economy. Instead of protecting the economy in a downturn, their policies would make the economy worse, because the tax cut “stimulus” would be extracted by cutting payments to seniors who spend proportionally more and given to rich people who spend proportionally less. (That’s part of what David Johnston means when he says McConnell’s ideas would hurt small businesses.) And stealing from seniors to make the rich richer would exacerbate income disparity in the US, which has been getting worse for decades.

So the choice is clear: If you don’t want to worsen the economy, worsen income disparity, make the rich richer and seniors poorer, then for heaven’s sake, don’t vote Republican. And if any Democrat proposes the same Republican agenda, don’t vote for them either.

_________
* The MTP clip O’Donnell used edits out much of McConnell’s non-response. See the rest here. The missing parts are mostly ad hominen attacks on Obama and stonewalling that doesn’t respond to David Gregory’s repeated question.



China’s Great Wall of Traffic Back to Normal After 9 Days

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:48 am by HL

China’s Great Wall of Traffic Back to Normal After 9 Days
Here in Los Angeles, we know gridlock and frankly we’re not impressed by what most people call “traffic,” but the Chinese are taking things to an extreme. China says a nine-day, 60-mile-long traffic jam is finally breaking up. During the fiasco, there were complaints that locals set up roadside shops and overcharged for refreshments. To think the U.S. once felt obliged to defend capitalism from these people. BBC: Vehicles, mostly lorries bound for Beijing, are in a queue for about 100km (62 miles) because of heavy traffic, road works and breakdowns. The drivers have complained that locals were over-charging them for food and drink while they were stuck. The situation has now “basically returned to normal,” state television said on Monday. Read more

Here in Los Angeles, we know gridlock and frankly we’re not impressed by what most people call “traffic,” but the Chinese are taking things to an extreme. China says a nine-day, 60-mile-long traffic jam is finally breaking up.

During the fiasco, there were complaints that locals set up roadside shops and overcharged for refreshments. To think the U.S. once felt obliged to defend capitalism from these people.

BBC:

Vehicles, mostly lorries bound for Beijing, are in a queue for about 100km (62 miles) because of heavy traffic, road works and breakdowns.

The drivers have complained that locals were over-charging them for food and drink while they were stuck.

The situation has now “basically returned to normal,” state television said on Monday.

Read more

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Richard Walden: The Clintons Take Over Global Disaster Relief

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:47 am by HL

Richard Walden: The Clintons Take Over Global Disaster Relief
There is a negative “Clinton effect” on the financial health of nonprofit relief agencies here and abroad who have to compete with them for a diminishing pool of available private funds.

Chris Weigant: To Lefties: How Does Obama Disappoint?
While the major fallout from Gibbs’ “the professional left” flap has died down a bit, a second round of examination seems to have begun — one much more introspective and much less knee-jerk than the first round.

Drilling Moratorium Stays, Feds Tell Oil Spill Commission
WASHINGTON — The top federal offshore oil drilling regulator is telling the presidential oil spill commission that the temporary halt to deepwater drilling will remain…


Geller distorts Rauf lecture to falsely paint him as a terrorist sympathizer

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:46 am by HL

Geller distorts Rauf lecture to falsely paint him as a terrorist sympathizer

Right-wing blogger Pamela Geller grossly distorted portions of a 2005 lecture by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to falsely suggest Rauf is an “extremis[t]” who “supports homicide bombers” and supports the “elimination of Israel.” The Drudge Report and Rush Limbaugh have subsequently trumpeted Geller’s report.

After Geller pushes distorted view of Rauf lecture, Drudge and Limbaugh trumpet it

Geller pushes “ATLAS EXCLUSIVE!” by taking Rauf out of context. On August 23, Geller posted a heavily edited reported that Spain’s leading expert on terrorism said the Madrid bombings “probably were instigated by al Qaeda and were not the work of autonomous cells.” But as of April 10, 2006, Agence France Presse was reporting (accessed from the Nexis database): “Investigators believe the attacks were carried out, as in the case of the July 7 2005 bombings in London, by a home-grown group sympathetic to Al-Qaeda but not part of the network.”

Geller falsely claims Rauf supports “elimination of Israel”

Geller: Rauf statement that “a one-state solution is a more coherent one” means he wants to “destroy the tiny Jewish state.” Geller writes, “Here Imam Feisal speaks of the elimination of Israel. Israel — a Jewish state no more. Feisal wants one state, not a Jewish state. I guess 57-odd Muslim countries is not enough. They must destroy the tiny Jewish state.” She then quotes from Rauf’s statement during his lecture in which he says that he supports “peace in the region” and beleves that “a one-state solution is a more coherent one than a two-state solution”:

We now have post-Zionism movements in Israel. We have a very broad spectrum of people in Israel who regard Israel as a nation state, as a secular state, as a multicultural state. The very fabric and demographic, and I would say even identity, of Israel has shifted enormously in the last 60 years since its founding. There’s always a danger. It only takes one individual to kill someone like Rabin. Rabin was assassinated by a fundamentalist, and there’s no doubt that there are those who are against Sharon. But my sense, again from what I’ve learned, is that those who are supporting the withdrawal from the territories are in the minority – I am sorry, those who support the withdrawal are in the majority. If not, I don’t think Sharon would have had the broadbase to do that.

The differences, perhaps, may lie on whether the solution lies in the two-state solution or in a one-state solution. I believe that you had someone here recently who spoke about having a one land and two people’s solution to Israel. And I personally – my own personal analysis tells me that a one-state solution is a more coherent one than a two-state solution. But anyway it goes, there is no doubt in my mind that once there is peace, and there will have to be a peace in the region, the fallout of that will be enormously positive. 

Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin: “I would prefer for the Palestinians to be citizens of this country rather than divide the land.” On July 15, Haaretz reported:

Two months ago, at a meeting with the Greek ambassador, devoted largely to discussing the financial crisis, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin referred to a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I would prefer for the Palestinians to be citizens of this country,” he said, “rather than divide the land.” This was no slip of the tongue. Rivlin’s office gave the statement to the press, thereby making him the highest-ranking political figure to have publicly raised the possibility of a single State of Israel from the Mediterranean to the Jordan.

Haaretz also provided the following statement from Rivlin, who is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party:

“There is a conflict in the Middle East between two entities, and they’re both right, each in their own way. This is our only home, and therefore all kinds of solutions can be found. One could establish a system in one state in which Judea and Samaria are jointly held. The Jews would vote for a Jewish parliament and the Palestinians for an Arab parliament, and we would create a system in which life is shared. But these are things that will take time. Anyone who thinks that there are shortcuts is talking nonsense. As long as Islamic fundamentalism thinks that Jews are forbidden to settle in the Holy Land, we have a problem. It will not be resolved by an agreement, even if we obtain a promise from all the Arab states that it will be fine.

“So if people say to me: Decide − one state or division of the Land of Israel, I say that division is the bigger danger. In an Israel with six million Jews it is much easier to sustain the vision of a Jewish and democratic state than it was in 1948. The people who now say that we must separate because otherwise the state will not be democratic or will lose its Jewish character would, for the same reasons, have said that no state should have been founded in 1948.

Former Likud defense minister Arens: “We are already a binational state.” On July 15, Haaretz reported:

“The prospects of the negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas do not look promising. President Obama undoubtedly thinks otherwise, but if Abbas speaks for anyone, it’s barely half the Palestinians. The chances of anything good coming of this are not great. Another possibility is Jordan. If Jordan were ready to absorb both more territories and more people, things would be much easier and more natural. But Jordan does not agree to this. Therefore, I say that we can look at another option: for Israel to apply its law to Judea and Samaria and grant citizenship to 1.5 million Palestinians.”

These remarks, which to many sound subversive, were not voiced by a left-wing advocate of a binational state. The speaker is from the Betar movement, a former top leader in Likud and political patron of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a former defense and foreign affairs minister – Moshe Arens. On June 2, Arens published an op-ed in Haaretz (“Is there another option?” ) in which he urged consideration of a political alternative to the existing situation and the political negotiations. He wants to break the great taboo of Israeli policy making by granting Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians in the West Bank. Arens is not put off by those who accuse him of promoting the idea of a binational Jewish-Palestinian state. “We are already a binational state,” he says, “and also a multicultural and multi-sector state. The minorities [meaning Arabs] here make up 20 percent of the population – that’s a fact and you can’t argue with facts.”

Haaretz: Israeli right wing now discussing “alternatives” to two-state solution. Haaretz further reported:

As Washington, Ramallah and Jerusalem slouch toward what seems like a well-known, self-evident solution – two states for two nations, on the basis of the 1967 borders and a small-scale territorial swap – a conceptual breakthrough is taking place in the right wing. Its ideologues are no longer content with rejecting withdrawal and evacuation of settlements, citing security arguments calculated to strike fear into the hearts of the Israeli mainstream. Their new idea addresses the shortcomings of the status quo, takes account of the isolation in which Israel finds itself and acknowledges the need to break the political deadlock.

Once the sole preserve of the political margins, the approach is now being advocated by leading figures in Likud and among the settlers – people who are not necessarily considered extremists or oddballs. About a month before Arens published his article, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud ) said, “It’s preferable for the Palestinians to become citizens of the state than for us to divide the country.” In an interview this week (see box ), Rivlin reiterates and elaborates this viewpoint. In May 2009, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely organized a conference in the Knesset titled “Alternatives to Two States.” Since then, on a couple of occasions, she has called publicly for citizenship to be granted to the Palestinians “in gradual fashion.” Now she is planning to publish a position paper on the subject. Uri Elitzur, former chairman of the Yesha Council of Settlements and Netanyahu’s bureau chief in his first term as prime minister, last year published an article in the settlers’ journal Nekuda calling for the onset of a process, at the conclusion of which the Palestinians will have “a blue ID card [like Israelis], yellow license plates [like Israelis], National Insurance and the right to vote for the Knesset.” Emily Amrousi, a former spokesperson for the Yesha Council, takes part in meetings between settlers and Palestinians and speaks explicitly of “one land in which the children of settlers and the children of Palestinians will be bused to school together.”

Geller ludicrously claims Rauf believes “911 was an inside job”

Geller declares Rauf a “conspiracy theorist” because he asked audience if they had seen Fahrenheit 911. In her blog post, Geller claims that “the Imam is conspiracy theorist – 911 was an inside job.” But in the portion of Rauf’s lecture Geller cites, Rauf simply asks his audience how many of them had seen the documentary Fahrenheit 911 and then references a portion of the film which in no way touches on whether the September 11 attacks were an “inside job.” From Geller’s post (emphasis in the original):

And the Imam is conspiracy theorist – 911 was an inside job:

How many of you have seen the documentary: Fahrenheit 911? The vast majority – at least half here. Do you remember the scene of the Iraqi woman whose house was bombed and she was just screaming, “What have they done.” Now, I don’t know, you don’t know Arabic but in Arabic it was extremely powerful. Her house was gone. Her husband, I think, was killed. What wrong did he do? I found myself weeping when I watched that scene and I imagined myself if I were a 15-year old nephew of this deceased man, what would I have felt?

Collateral damage is a nice thing to put on a paper but when the collateral damage is your own uncle or cousin, what passions do these arouse? How do you negotiate? How do you tell people whose homes have been destroyed, whose lives have been destroyed, that this does not justify your actions of terrorism. It’s hard. Yes, it is true that it does not justify the acts of bombing innocent civilians, that does not solve the problem, but after 50 years of, in many cases, oppression, of US support of authoritarian regimes that have violated human rights in the most heinous of ways, how else do people get attention?


Mark Williams’ New Line On NYC Mosque: Mayor Bloomberg Is A ‘Judenrat’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:45 am by HL

Mark Williams’ New Line On NYC Mosque: Mayor Bloomberg Is A ‘Judenrat’
Mark Williams, former Tea Party Express spokesman and current leader of the tea party support group Citizens for Constitutional Liberty is back with another blog post that’s sure to cause at least some eyebrows to raise. Williams, you’ll recall, has…


New York CityMark WilliamsUnited StatesJayson WilliamsWarfare and Conflict

Blackwater To Pay $42 Million For Violating Export Control Regulations
Xe Services, the private security company formerly known as Blackwater, has reached a settlement with the State Department which will have the company pay $42 million in fines for hundreds of violations of U.S. export control regulations.


United StatesBlackwater WorldwideAfghanistanSecurity guardNew York Times

Blago Signs Autographs, Rides Batmobile, At Chicago Comic Con
Fresh off being found guilty of lying to the FBI — after the jury couldn’t reach agreement on 23 other counts in his corruption trial — former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appeared alongside other cartoonish heros and villains Saturday at Wizard World Chicago Comic Con.



Rod BlagojevichFederal Bureau of InvestigationWizard EntertainmentCollectingAutographs


The Adventures of Cowboy GOP or Have Dumb, Will Travel

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:42 am by HL

The Adventures of Cowboy GOP or Have Dumb, Will Travel


Mass Assassinations Lie at the Heart of America’s Military Strategy in the Muslim World

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:41 am by HL

Mass Assassinations Lie at the Heart of America’s Military Strategy in the Muslim World
Greatly expanded U.S. military Special Ops teams, U.S. drone strikes and private espionage networks run by former CIA assassins create a threat to our security.

Greatly expanded U.S. military Special Ops teams, U.S. drone strikes and private espionage networks run by former CIA assassins create a threat to our security.


Obama should embrace Islam as part of his – and our – identity

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:40 am by HL

Obama should embrace Islam as part of his – and our – identity
Liberals have reacted with surprise to the recent Pew survey showing that a large and increasing number of Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim — shocked to think that Americans could be so misinformed about the president’s religion. The…


United StatesIslamBarack ObamaPresidentGovernment

Fannie and Freddie: Live Public or Die
The administration took its first step towards resolving the final status of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with a big conference at the White House last week. In keeping with its housing policy to date, it seems intent on taking…


Fannie MaeFreddie MacUnited StatesWhite HouseFannie Mae Freddie Mac

Economic emptiness in Palestine and Israel 
Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to enter direct negotiations (yet again) in Washington on September 2. The Obama administration is sure to hail this as a significant breakthrough. Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and borders will all be on the table. But…



IsraelWashingtonMiddle EastJerusalemWest Bank


ThinkFast: August 23, 2010

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:38 am by HL

ThinkFast: August 23, 2010

BUSH

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman notes in his New York Times column today that extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans would be the equivalent of writing checks “averaging $3 million each to the richest 120,000 people in the country.” Krugman also notes that making all the tax cuts permanent would “cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest business lobby, has pledged to spend a record amount of $75 million in the 2010 elections. On top of the $190 million spent on lobbying since President Obama’s election, the numbers “give the group clout as a virtual third party and a powerful voice in what laws are made and who’s elected to write them.”

Although interest rates for the U.S. Treasury, home buyers, and companies continue to decline, they are rising quickly in one area: consumer credit cards. Yesterday, new rules went into effect that restricts banks’ abilities to assess penalty charges, and the Wall Street Journal reports that the banks “responded by pushing card rates to their highest level in nine years.

Mother Jones reports that members of the taxpayer-funded U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom have joined the “vociferous opposition” to the Islamic center in lower Manhattan. Commission members, who are charged with promoting “freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,” are now advocating that a place of worship for moderate Muslims cannot be tolerated.

“Daisy Khan, one of the leading organizers behind the mosque and Islamic community center near ground zero in New York City, said Sunday that moving the project to another location is not currently on the table.” Khan also told ABC’s This Week that she believes the project will be built, despite fierce opposition driven by what she described as “beyond Islamophobia — it’s hate of Muslims.”

Almost half of the “1.3 million homeowners who enrolled in the Obama administration’s flagship mortgage-relief program have fallen out.” The data, which comes from a new report by the Treasury Department, suggests that “the $75 billion government effort is failing to slow the tide of foreclosures in the United States.”

According to Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. may keep troops in Iraq past the Obama administration’s 2011 withdrawal target date. If the Iraqi Army requests American assistance with weapons systems to defend against insurgency, “we could be there (in Iraq) beyond 2011,” Odierno said on CNN’s State of the Union yesterday.

Vice President Joe Biden will address the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Indianapolis today, and will convey a positive message about progress in Iraq. Biden will tell the crowd that ongoing Iraqi political problems related to the March 7 elections will be resolved “in the near future,” according to administration officials, but he will not predict a date for a final agreement.

And finally: Nevada Assemblyman Harry Mortenson (D) is proposing a resolution to make the “Ne-VAH-da” pronunciation of his state’s name “equally acceptable to the one with the short ‘a.’” Nevadans “have long bristled” over the pronunciation, but “Mortenson says he’s not asking Nevadans to change. He just wants the Spanish pronunciation recognized.”

ThinkProgress is hiring! Details here.


NIH cannot fund embryonic stem cell research, judge rules

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on August 24th, 2010 4:37 am by HL

NIH cannot fund embryonic stem cell research, judge rules
A federal judge on Monday blocked the Obama administration from funding human embryonic stem cell research, ruling that the support violates a federal law barring the use of taxpayer money for experiments that destroy human embryos.


Stem cellBiotechnologyEmbryonic stem cellBiologyUnited States district court

Mindless march of the media herd
When the New York Times published a story last December about plans for a Muslim prayer space near the World Trade Center site, there was little reaction.



BusinessMediaWatchdogsMarketing and AdvertisingAdvertising

Bristol Palin getting $14K for speech
Bristol Palin, the daughter of former Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, is scheduled to speak at the Louisville Marriot Downtown on behalf of Lifehouse, a home for single mothers in Louisville Kentucky. According to a report by the Louisville Courier-Journal,…


Bristol PalinEnglandBristolLevi JohnstonCandie’s Foundation

Biden tells vets US keeping Iraqi commitments
INDIANAPOLIS — Vice President Joe Biden said Monday that the United States will remain committed to helping the Iraqi people even after the last American combat troops leave the country this month.


Joe BidenIraqUnited StatesIraq WarMiddle East