Presidential budgets are aspirations. They're not real, in the sense that no one really has to adhere to them. Obama's budget now goes to Congress, where budget committees will draw up their own versions. Even these congressional budgets are mere guidelines for appropriations and tax-writing committees. Lobbyists will be swarming. So don't expect the final sausage to look exactly like the meat the President is putting into the grinder. On the other hand, the sausage is likely to bear more than a passing resemblance. Remember: This president's approval ratings are well over 60 percent -- substantially higher than Congress's overall approval rating, and far far higher than Republicans in Congress -- and the nation is still looking to Obama to lead the way out of our troubled times. And it's a Democratic congress, with a Democratic Senate that could be (if Franken is seated) one vote short of being able to cut off a filibuster.
It's about time a presidential budget uneqivocally redistributed income from the very rich to the middle class and poor. The incomes of the top 1 percent have soared for thirty years while median wages have slowed or declined in real terms. As economists Thomas Piketty and Emanuel Saez have shown, in the 1970s the top-earning 1 percent of Americans took home 8 percent of total income; as recently as 1980 they took home 9 percent. After that, total income became more and more concentrated at the top. By 2007, the top 1 percent took home over 22 percent. Meanwhile, even as their incomes dramatically increased, the total federal tax rates paid by the top 1 percent dropped. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the top 1 percent paid a total federal tax rate of 37 percent three decades ago; now it's paying 31 percent.
Fairness is at stake but so is the economy as a whole. This Mini Depression is partly the result of a widening gap between what Americans can afford to buy and what Americans when fully employed can produce. And that gap is in no small measure due to the widening gap in incomes, since the rich don't devote nearly as large a portion of their incomes to buying things than middle and lower-income people. The rich, after all, already have most of what they want.
Archives for February, 2009
Blur are reuniting for this year's Glastonberry Festival. Who isn't reuniting this year?
And the winner is....Sean Hannity. Runners up Bill O'Reilly and Dennis Miller and Dave Schultheis.
Bill-O and Miller who used to be funny a long time ago when he had Clinton to beat up on and before he discovered his love for Bush and Fox Noise and sold his soul for whatever they're paying him now are clueless on President Obama's statements on Prop 8. Think Progress has the story on Colorado Senator Dave Schultheis and his opposition to HIV tests for pregnant women. And here's more from The Political Carnival on Sean Hannity for his over the top request for a revolution in this country.
Can anyone imagine what the right wing radio nut job circuit would have done to anyone on the left if they'd have said something this extreme one month after their buddy Bush was elected? I'm not sure what needs to happen to remedy this B.S. since I'm all for freedom of speech but this is completely over the top for anyone that a major news organization wants to pretend to be credible.
I think Hannity just might have jumped the shark on this one. I'm pretty sure Fox News won't care. They'll keep on replaying the bad episode of Happy Days until the zombies quit watching the reruns.
Gee, what do you suppose Lewis is hiding?
A major legal battle is brewing between Bank of America President Ken Lewis and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo because the CEO is refusing to hand over a list of Merrill Lynch executives who received $3.6 billion in questionable bonuses right before the banks merged late last year.
"Bank of America has made the decision they don't want to turn that information over to us and we, therefore, tonight served Bank of America with a subpoena to turn over that information," said Special Assistant to the New York Attorney General Benjamin Lawsky Thursday evening, "and we intend to get that by whatever means is necessary going forward."
Lewis met with the attorney general's office for four hours, and he claimed afterward that he fully cooperated.
But New York officials told ABC News the session with Lewis was ugly and combative. They accused Lewis and the bank of stonewalling, saying they refused to provide a list of which executives got what of the billions in bonuses.
In Bill O'Reilly's new Talking Points Memo he uses Fox News' ratings to justify his ludicrous position that America thinks they are the only fair and balanced news outlet in town and the other networks are sucking up to Obama's agenda.
My God, since Barack Obama became President, O'Reilly is only getting nuttier. The lunatic fringe will do everything they can to smear Obama because they fear his success tremendously. O'Reilly is worried about the "nanny state," a typical right-wing term, but whatever solutions Obama is implementing it's all because conservatism was such a failure. He reads off the FOX lineup and touts the diversity they have. Alan Colmes is no longer even host of a Fox show....
Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta, "the Sarah Palin Stalker," make up most of their prime time coverage. It's filled with anti-Obama, pro-Republican propaganda. Hey Bill, everybody knows it. Give up with this "Man of La Mancha" act.
He also believes Barack Obama's popularity is diminishing because people are scared over the state of the economy. In a new Gallup poll, President Obama's approval ratings just went higher.
But O'Reilly says that while Obama is popular, it's still not fanatical. What does that mean? Who would want a fanatical relationship with the president? I do remember members of the religious right believing George Bush was the Messiah. President Obama has an incredible amount of support from the American people, and for Bill O'Reilly to justify his position by claiming that Fox News' solid recent ratings means that Obama is somehow slipping in the minds of the American people is pure nonsense. Bill O'Reilly is becoming more and more ludicrous every day.
He blames himself for not being on top of the housing bubble as a journalist. Yet he always tells his audiences that he had a PDA either. As most rational people know, we can expect interest in politics to rise doing a presidential election. So it was not surprising that MSNBC and CNN trounced Fox news in the months leading up to November 4. What we have now is a typical cycle of average American families returning to the struggles of their daily life. What the ratings show is that Fox News has not lost their wingnut base. Congratulations to Rupert Murdoch, who by the way has just lost billions of dollars. But Bill O'Reilly will never tell you that.
Here's more of his drivel from his column on BillO's website: "The End of Obama-Mania". Right.
When President Obama visited Camp Lejeune this morning, you have to wonder if this story was somewhere in the back of his mind:
A federal grand jury indicted a former Camp Lejeune Marine on Wednesday on charges that he threatened the life of Barack Obama, the U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed today.
Kody Brittingham, 20, formerly a lance corporal with 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, was accused of making threats against Obama while he was president-elect, said Robin Zier, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office for the eastern district of North Carolina.
Brittingham was arrested by the Jacksonville Police Department on breaking and entering charges in mid-December 2008.
Naval investigators discovered a journal allegedly written by Brittingham in his barracks after his arrest by civilian authorities in December. The journal contained plans on how to kill the president, as well as white supremacist material, a federal law enforcement official said.
This incident is just one of many that are bubbling up across the American landscape right now. The right-wing race haters are not only motivated and out recruiting heavily, they're getting angrier by the day, especially the more Obama successfully advances his agenda. We've been writing about this for awhile now.
CNN's Rick Sanchez had on Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center yesterday to discuss this. The main point revolved around the SPLC's annual report on the State of Hate, written by David Holthouse:
From white power skinheads decrying "President Obongo" at a racist gathering in rural Missouri, to neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen hurling epithets at Latino immigrants from courthouse steps in Oklahoma, to anti-Semitic black separatists calling for death to Jews on bustling street corners in several East Coast cities, hate group activity in the U.S. was disturbing and widespread throughout 2008, as the number of hate groups operating in America continued to rise. Last year, 926 hate groups were active in the U.S., up more than 4% from 888 in 2007. That's more than a 50% increase since 2000, when there were 602 groups.
As in recent years, hate groups were animated by the national immigration debate. But two new forces also drove them in 2008: the worsening recession, and Barack Obama's successful campaign to become the nation's first black president. Officials reported that Obama had received more threats than any other presidential candidate in memory, and several white supremacists were arrested for saying they would assassinate him or allegedly plotting to do so.
At the same time, law enforcement officials reported a marked swelling of the extreme-right "sovereign citizens" movement that wreaked havoc in the 1990s with its "paper terrorism" tactics. Adherents are infamous for filing bogus property liens and orchestrating elaborate financial ripoffs.
The SPLC has an interactive map that lets you see where each of these hate groups is based and just who they are. As usual, California again leads the nation as the state with the most hate groups with 84; Florida is a distant second with 56.
Sanchez and Potok also discussed the recent case of the would-be dirty bomber in Bangor, Maine, whose plans were nipped in the bud when his angry wife shot him to death.
As always, the remarkable thing about these cases is that these would have led the broadcasts at Fox and CNN (not to mention set off weeks' worth of obsessive posts at Michelle Malkin's joint) had the suspect been Muslim, Arab, or otherwise had brown skin.
As I noted previously:
In other words, hate groups are almost certainly going to be exploiting fresh opportunities for recruitment, both ideological and actual. The stage has been set by the past decade's demographic shift, but the Bush Recession will in any event give them a big jug of gasoline for their bonfire. Obama's election will give them a figure upon whom they can focus their hate, and the immigration debate will give them an issue to recruit and organize around.
Eventually, innocent bystanders in the general public will be the ones who pay the price.
I wrote earlier (at Newshoggers) that there was still an Iraq debate to be had - namely whether the US' word, as set down in the SOFA agreement with Iraq, is worth the paper it's printed on. There's a considerable body of opinion in military and neo-whatever circles that says it isn't.
Bob Fertik emails to note that, five minutes before Obama announced his withdrawal timetable, NBC was quoting commanders as saying it wasn't binding on them. Just before Obama's said "I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011," NBC Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski told David Gregory that military commanders are making plans as if the SOFA and the orders of the Commander in Chief were irrelevant.
Miklaszewski: Secretary Gates, as early as 18 months to 2 years ago, was saying "look, everyone understands that we're going to have to start withdrawing from Iraq." But at the same time, Gates adds this caveat that he believes significant numbers of troops will remain in Iraq for years to come.
And in fact military commanders, despite this Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government that all US forces would be out by the end of 2011, are already making plans for a significant number of American troops to remain in Iraq beyond that 2011 deadline, assuming that Status of Forces Agreement agreement would be renegotiated.
And one senior military commander told us that he expects large numbers of American troops to be in Iraq for the next 15 to 20 years, David.
Gregory: 15 to 20 years, I think that takes a moment to really sink in. With a mission that is primarily what over that kind of time horizon, Mik?
Miklaszewski: Again it would evolve from a day-to-day combat mission, to more of an oversight mission. We mustn't forget the US is providing nearly 100% of all combat air support over Iraq, and the Iraqi military is not going to be ready to assume that mission within the next 18 months to 2 years, it's going to be impossible.
And there are some discussions, I know Richard Engel mentioned the area of Kirkuk up in the north recently, there are some discussions among Iraqis and I know some military commanders to establish what could end up as a permanent air base, US air base, in Kirkuk.
Which just goes to show that we should be very leary of leaving withdrawal up to those who have a natural inclination not to withdraw. Generations of "surprise" babies will tell you how well that works out. Bob Gates may say that senior commanders are all behind Obama's plan, but there's a lot of reporting says they aren't.
These people are treading a dangerous course, as Marc Lynch explains. He writes that "Iraqis will be watching carefully to see whether the United States honors its commitments" in the months leading up to an Iraqi referendum on the SOFA agreement on July 31st and that if they don't see the right answer then the referendum will be a resounding "no" - at which point the US will have only 12 months to get everyone out of Iraq or occupy the country illegally again.
The argument for a significant, early withdrawal of U.S. combat forces remains overwhelming. Indeed, a failure to deliver on the promise of early U.S. withdrawals is the most likely thing to cause a rapid deterioration in conditions in Iraq....The new administration will get only one chance to demonstrate the credibility of its commitments, and indefinitely leaving troops at current levels will only postpone rather than solve the problems.
The US must make a substantial down payment on withdrawal now, or suffer later. Not just in Iraq, although the problems there would be bad enough, but on the world stage.
Crossposted from Newshoggers
We can't allow the CIA to hold the country hostage. We just can't. Too many horrors in the last eight years to let it go, and Panetta better make it clear to his employees. I do feel for the people who were caught in the middle of the White House and their jobs, but it doesn't excuse torture:
WASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee is completing plans to begin a review of the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program, another sign that lawmakers are determined to have a public accounting of controversial Bush administration programs despite White House concerns about the impact of unearthing the past.
The review, Congressional officials said, will focus in part on whether harsh interrogation procedures authorized by President George W. Bush actually succeeded in extracting important intelligence, as Mr. Bush and his advisers have asserted. The full scope of the inquiry is still being debated on the panel, but it is expected to address broader questions of whether the steps taken by the Central Intelligence Agency to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects were properly authorized.
The Obama administration has been cool to proposals by Democrats to investigate the previous administration, fearing that any protracted inquiry could alienate some within the C.I.A. and have a chilling effect on operations at the spy agency. On Wednesday, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, said he opposed a blanket investigation into the C.I.A. program, saying agency operatives had been carrying out orders and acting with approvals from the Justice Department.
Senior Democrats on Capitol Hill have given little evidence that they will heed White House concerns.
[Victims Nicolas Corp, 23, and Racine Balbontin, 22] [Video here.]
Residents in this Miramar Beach community are taking extra precautions after their neighbor allegedly went on a shooting rampage.
It began a little before 2:00 Thursday morning at these units of the Summer Lake Townhomes.
Walton County sheriff's deputies arrived to find two people shot to death, 3 others critically injured.
Investigators say the suspect, 60-year-old Dannie Baker, left his townhouse, armed with a rifle, walked across the complex to the victims' unit, and opened fire.
After the shooting witnesses saw Baker carrying a rifle though the pool area across the street to his home on the other side of the complex.
Authorities say he locked himself inside...and waited.
After Baker was arrested, his neighbors said he'd been talking about doing this for some time:
Neighbors say Baker wasn't happy with all the activity at the house and think that was the motive for his shooting spree.
Neighbor Crystal Lynn says "he did come up to me one time and asked me if I was ready for the revolution to begin and if I had any immigrants in my house to get them out."
The victims were foreign nationals who appear to have been working in the U.S. legally.
Investigators say, at the time of the shooting, there were at least 14 other people in the one unit with the victims...all of Hispanic descent.
An update identifies the victims:
A reporter out of Chile contacted News Channel Seven’s Alex Denis to confirm the identities of the people who were shot and those who were killed in a shooting rampage that happened early Thursday morning in South Walton County.
The reporter confirmed that Francisco Cofre is in serious condition; Sebastian Arizaga is in stable condition and David Bilbao is in good condition at Sacred Heart Hospital. The two killed, were 23-year-old Nicolas Corp and 22-year-old Racine Balbontin. Photos are courtesy of La Tercera.
The reporter confirmed the students were on a work-study program out of Chile.
This rampage has more than a passing resemblance to last summer's rampage in Knoxville, though in this case the targets of the shooter's rage appear to be immigrants specifically rather than liberals generically.
Naked self-promotion notwithstanding ... You may want to pre-order my upcoming book, The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right. It's looking more and more relevant all the time.
I don't know why conservatives should be upset that Bobby Jindal's Katrina story told on national television should turn out to have been fake:
Jindal had described being in the office of Sheriff Harry Lee "during Katrina," and hearing him yelling into the phone at a government bureaucrat who was refusing to let him send volunteer boats out to rescue stranded storm victims, because they didn't have the necessary permits. Jindal said he told Lee, "that's ridiculous," prompting Lee to tell the bureaucrat that the rescue effort would go ahead and he or she could arrest both Lee and Jindal.
But now, a Jindal spokeswoman has admitted to Politico that in reality, Jindal overheard Lee talking about the episode to someone else by phone "days later." The spokeswoman said she thought Lee, who died in 2007, was being interviewed about the incident at the time.
Ben Smith at Politico had the "clarification":
A spokeswoman for Bobby Jindal says the Louisiana governor didn't imply that an anecdote about battling bureaucrats during Katrina directly involved the governor or took place during the heat of a fight to release rescue boats.
The spokeswoman, Melissa Sellers, said the story Jindal told in his response to Obama actually took place some days later in Lee's office -- though still in Katrina's chaotic aftermath -- as Lee was "recounting" his frustrations with the bureaucracy to someone else on the telephone.
But really, conservatives can't be too displeased. After all, Jindal was just proving his right-wing street cred. Making stuff up? Man, that's the mark of a truly brazen wingnut -- one worthy of the Rovean Brotherhood.