Flotilla Raid

Israeli commandos attacked a flotilla of relief vessels because “Gaza flotilla activists tried to lynch us“?
What am I missing? Israel says the people on the flotilla attacked them, so they had to raid the boats and shoot them in self defense? What?
Update – OK I was being snarky. I’m reading some of the conservative blogs, and they’re saying that the people on the flotilla “ambushed” the Israeli commandos who were trying to take over the boats in international waters, tried to “lynch” them, attacked them, etc. This is beyond absurd.

Dems Kill COBRA For Older Unemployed – Health Care Reform Subsidies Next?

House Dems killed COBRA subsidies for the long-term unemployed — generally older people — last week, which means they won’t be able to get health insurance.

This group — comprising generally older workers — has pulled up the average length of time that a current worker has been unemployed to a record high of 33 weeks as of April. The percentage of unemployed people who have been looking for jobs for more than six months is at 45.9 percent, the highest in at least six decades.

Think ahead to what this means for the recently-passed health care “reform.” If you think there are “subsidies” to help people afford the insurance they are ordered to purchase from the giant insurance corporations, just remember how Democrats treated workers who can’t find jobs.

Bob Herbert Should Be A Blogger

Because he tells it like it is, not like the DC insiders think it is!
Please go read!

With all due respect to the president, who is a very smart man, how is it possible for anyone with any reasonable awareness of the nonstop carnage that has accompanied the entire history of giant corporations to believe that the oil companies, which are among the most rapacious players on the planet, somehow “had their act together” with regard to worst-case scenarios.
These are not Little Lord Fauntleroys who can be trusted to abide by some fanciful honor system. These are greedy merchant armies drilling blindly at depths a mile and more beneath the seas while at the same time doing all they can to stifle the government oversight that is necessary to protect human lives and preserve the integrity of the environment.

If he was a blogger he could receive a coveted Seeing the Forest Blog Hero Award. Maybe I’ll come up with an honorary award…

Guillotines And Green / Tea Party Thinking

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Update – Digby calls it “simple cruelty.”
Congress is a big FAIL on jobs and unemployment. The Senate is heading home instead of helping the unemployed, the House is FAILing on jobs unemployment and COBRA subsidies.
Congress says they are worried about the deficit, but the deficit was The Plan. It is right in front of your faces:
Step 1: Cut taxes to “cut the allowance” of government so that it can’t function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.
Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is “going bankrupt” so they’ll let you sell off the people’s assets and “privatize” the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will “harm the economy.”
Congress: If you are so worried about the deficit, why don’t you fix what caused the deficit instead of taking it out on unemployed people?
Anything else I write about this will quickly devolve into a post about setting up guillotines, and joining the Tea or Green Party.
Except the guillotines will probably be made in China.
If you are as mad as I am you might want to come to the America’s Future Now conference, where we are going to be talking about how progressives can get more done, June 7,8,9 in DC. Click here to see the agenda, then click here to register.

Update – In case anyone foolishly believed this was about cutting the deficit: House defies Obama, OKs F-35 engine funds. And not even a guarantee it will be made in the US!

Millions Lose Health Insurance Starting Tuesday!

The Democrats in Congress have apparently decided to let millions of unemployed people lose their health insurance, beginning next Tuesday, June 1. They lose COBRA subsidies, making insurance unaffordable, and lose COBRA as well because it reverts to an 18-month program.
According to Dems cut health subsidies to salvage jobs bill,

House leaders have proposed dropping billions in aid to states and letting health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers expire in an effort to round up votes for a bill to extend unemployment benefits.

I suspect that millions of unemployed people will also lose any interest they may have ever had in voting for Democrats, as well.

“Government Doesn’t Have The Resources To Stop It”

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
People want the President to exert leadership to turn things around.
The oil leak. Unemployment. Credit card scams. Foreclosures. Predatory corporations. Environmental destruction. Global warming. Roads and bridges crumbling. Incomes stagnant. Schools getting worse. Companies moving overseas. Problem after problem.
People want to know, “Why doesn’t the government push BP aside and take over?” The answer is, “Government doesn’t have the resources to stop it.”
People want to know why the government can’t do more to help unemployed people, help with health care, help provide good educations, help with college, maintain the infrastructure, and all the other things that government does.
The answer, these days, is always, “Government doesn’t have the resources.” And that, in a nutshell, was exactly the plan.
We, the People no longer have the resources to solve our problems. We now must depend on and defer to the corporations and the wealthy few to make the important decisions and get things done instead of being able to decide and do on our own.
This is the legacy of 30 years of conservatism. They called it “starving the beast.” Reagan called it “cutting their allowance.” President Bush, told that his policies had turned the country back to massive deficits, said this was, “Incredibly positive news” because it will create “a fiscal straitjacket for Congress.” He came into office with a $236 billion surplus. His last budget left us with a $1.4 trillion deficit. “Incredibly positive news.”
They disemboweled the regulatory agencies. They “privatized” government functions and resources, letting a well-connected few profit at the expense of the rest of us.
The Reagan deficit plan was right there for everyone to see:

    Step 1: Cut taxes to “cut the allowance” of government so that it can’t function on the side of We, the People. Intentionally force the government into greater and greater debt.
    Step 2: Use the debt as a reason to cut the things government does for We, the People. When the resulting deficits pile up scare people that the government is “going bankrupt” so they’ll let you sell off the people’s assets and “privatize” the functions of government. Of course, insist that putting taxes back where they were will “harm the economy.”
    Step 3: Blame liberals for the disastrous effects of spending cutbacks.

And here we are. Every time you hear someone say that we have to fight the deficit instead of getting things done that We, the People need done you are witnessing The Plan in action.
And now, government doesn’t have the resources to stop it.
NOTE: Part of the America’s Future Now conference in Washington D.C. from June 7-9 will be devoted to strategy on how the progressive movement can fight the deficit cutters. Speakers such as Van Jones, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, AFL CIO President Richard Trumka, Arianna Huffington will offer a build vision for how the progressive movement can rebuild America’s economy and put people back to work. Click here to attend.

Teacher Layoffs Loom Nationwide, DC Restaurants Humming

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Some say that “government can’t create jobs.” Others respond “unemployed people can’t create votes.” Meanwhile, conservatives, whose policies put so many people out of work, now say unemployed people are lazy and should not be collecting unemployment benefits.
Washington, DC is the center of a strange Information Deficit Disorder. The restaurants in DC are humming, the median income is really high, the Pentagon contracts are flowing. Seriously, pick a DC-area zip code, say 22314, and go to this site: “Dollar Amount of Defense Contracts Awarded to Contractors in this Zip Code from 2000 to 2009: $7,086,397,848.” Even better, scroll down the page and look at some of the contracts and amounts awarded. So-and-so Consulting, $54,024, 204. So-and-so Associates, $1,698,274. Even better, see how many have the same address. This is just one zip code. There are pages and pages and pages like this for DC-area zip code after zip code. Clearly it is really, really good to be part of the military industry.
So from DC’s viewpoint things are doing mighty fine. One Representative from Pennsylvania actually said the other day, “businesses back home complain that they want to start hiring but are getting few applicants because Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits.” Her district has 10% unemployment. There appear to be 14,900 people unemployed just in the city of Erie, which is in her district. Here are ALL 99 jobs advertised in the local paper.
Maybe this strange DC Information Deficit Disorder explains why hundreds of thousands of teachers are about to be laid off around the country because Congress isn’t interested in acting. Republicans, who want schools privatized, call it a “bailout.” Fox News, Teachers Seek $23b- Lifeline or Bailout?,

Education analyst Lindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation … questions the wisdom of funneling federal taxpayer funds, in any amount, to the public school system as it is presently structured. [. . .] they dont need another bailout from Washington for public education.

Sen. Harkin’s $23 Billion Teacher Bailout Stalls

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin’s $23 billion amendment to bailout 300,000 teachers who will otherwise lose their jobs has stalled. “I have no Republicans who want to vote for it,” he told Capitol News Connection. Meanwhile, in the House today, the Secretary of Education and top Democrats in the House struggle to drum up support for the same measure.

It isn’t so good to be part of the teaching profession right now. Or a parent, for that matter. In fact, these days it isn’t so good to be part of almost any profession except military or Wall Street.
I have been attaching the following paragraph to several posts about the jobs emergency:
President Obama has talked about a bold, large scale vision for a new direction for the country. But Congress and the President are getting trapped in austerity budget thinking that won’t allow them to go in the direction of stimulus and helping regular people. If there is to be no money because of an austerity budget then American competitiveness, the economy and the mood of the public can only get worse. Do the DC elites actually believe the public is going to reward this with votes?
NOTE: Part of the America’s Future Now conference in Washington D.C. from June 7-9 will be devoted to strategy on how the progressive movement can fight the deficit cutters. Speakers such as Van Jones, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, AFL CIO President Richard Trumka, Arianna Huffington will offer a build vision for how the progressive movement can rebuild America’s economy and put people back to work. Click here to attend.

CBO On Stimulus Effect

The CBO reports that the stimulus:

  • Raised the level of real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.7 percent and 4.2 percent,
  • Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.7 percentage points and 1.5 percentage points,
  • Increased the number of people employed by between 1.2 million and 2.8 million, and
  • Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 1.8 million to 4.1 million compared with what those amounts would have been otherwise (see Table 1). (Increases in FTE jobs include shifts from part-time to full-time work or overtime and are thus generally larger than increases in the number of employed workers.)
  • How Much Oil? STILL No Answer?

    Has the government stepped in and demanded measurements of how much oil is coming out of that hole in the floor of the ocean yet?
    No? We still don’t have a government?
    As I wrote in February,

    But my own gauge of a return to actual governance by rule of law is when I open my morning paper here in Silicon Valley and see that the government is going after a few companies for age discrimination. Never mind prosecuting people for torture, illegally invading a country, crony capitalism, or destroying the country. No, I’ll believe that radical change is beginning when they are willing to take on something so blatant , obvious and wrong as the firing of people when they reach 40 or so that is going on here in front of everyone’s eyes out here.

    And back in September

    I ask because I have not heard of any new enforcement of employment regulations here in Silicon Valley. For example, in the rare cases where any hiring is occurring, is the government checking to make sure that the rampant age discrimination has stopped? Are they making sure that women are paid the same for the same jobs? Are they going after companies that pollute? etc?

    Nope, still no functioning government.

    Are You Unemployed Because You Are Lazy?

    This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
    Are you still unemployed? Obviously it is because you are lazy. At least, many members of Congress think so, anyway.
    And besides, cutting the deficit — caused by tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases — is much more important than paychecks for Americans. The solution to the deficit — caused by tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases — is to cut back on things that help the American public.
    Here is Senator Gregg on CNBC (Senate salary $174,000, see benefits below**), saying that unemployment checks mean people are “encouraged not to go look for work” and “don’t want to go look for work”:

    And this in the news today, In Congress, spending measures meet bipartisan resistance,

    “It’s time to start paying for things,” said Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.), a freshman who voted for last year’s economic stimulus bill but said she is likely to oppose the next spending package, scheduled to hit the House floor Tuesday. “We’ve done some good things, but one of the best things we could do right now is get control of our fiscal house.”
    . . . Dahlkemper, facing a well-funded Republican car dealer in the blue-collar district she seized from the GOP in 2008, said businesses back home complain that they want to start hiring but are getting few applicants because Congress has repeatedly extended unemployment benefits.

    and

    “At some point we have to pivot” away from saving the economy and start reducing the deficit, said Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.).

    So remember, the deficit — caused by tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases — has to be brought down and the way to bring down the deficit — caused by tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases — is to cut back on things that help the American public, and cut back on the investments in infrastructure (the seed corn) that bring future economic growth. But not to do anything about the cause of the deficits: tax cuts for the rich and massive military spending increases.
    So if you are unemployed, just remember, in Washington the people who put $13.89 trillion at risk to bail out the big Wall Street firms, $4.71 trillion disbursed with $2.01 trillion still outstanding, think this is because you are lazy.

    **Senate benefits:

    Along with earning salaries, senators receive retirement and health benefits that are identical to other federal employees, and are fully vested after five years of service. Senators are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). As it is for federal employees, congressional retirement is funded through taxes and the participants’ contributions. Under FERS, senators contribute 1.3% of their salary into the FERS retirement plan and pay 6.2% of their salary in Social Security taxes. The amount of a senator’s pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest 3 years of their salary. The starting amount of a senator’s retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of their final salary. In 2006, the average annual pension for retired senators and representatives under CSRS was $60,972, while those who retired under FERS, or in combination with CSRS, was $35,952.

    NOTE: Part of the America’s Future Now conference in Washington D.C. from June 7-9 will be devoted to strategy on how the progressive movement can fight the deficit cutters. Speakers such as Van Jones, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, AFL CIO President Richard Trumka, Arianna Huffington will offer a build vision for how the progressive movement can rebuild America’s economy and put people back to work. Click here to attend.

    Video Interview: Scott Paul Of AAM On China Dialogue

    Today I was able to conduct a short webcam interview with Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. The occasion is this week’s Us-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue taking place in Beijing. This dialog is a series of meetings between top-level officials of both governments on a number of issues. Secretaries Geithner and Clinton are leading the US delegtation. The trade imbalance between the US and China is one of the top issues being discussed.
    Scott has posted a video at the AAM manufacturethis blog, titled THE 15 NUMBERS YOU NEED TO KNOW, which discusses AAM’s 15 Numbers You Need to Know before the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing next week. (Example: 2.4 million: Number of U.S. jobs lost or displaced due to U.S.-China trade imbalance, 2001-2008.)
    Here is our interview with Scott Paul:


    Scott will be speaking on Making It In America at the America’s Future NOW! Conference in Washington, DC, June 7-9. Click here to register for the conference.

    “Statism” and the Ayn Rand Cult

    m4s0n501

    Count how many times the word “statist” appears in this weird op-ed in the Washington Post: America’s new culture war: Free enterprise vs. government control.
    Statism” has become a cult-word, used most frequently by people who are in the Ayn Rand cult. “Collectivist” is another. The Rand cult has been around quite a while now. Alan Greenspan actually lived with the Rand cult for a while. Randians are more and more becoming the core of the conservative movement, as this op-ed reflects. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, members of Congress and others are more and more frequently using strange-sounding Randian cult-words like these.
    I don’t know if the author of the op-ed is a Randian, but he uses the word “statist” over and over and places free enterprise and government as an either-or. He thinks regulation of business is wrong. (Aside — He writes that “government housing policy,” not Wall Street, caused the economic crisis. (??) He’s the head of the American Enterprise Institute.)
    So now I am thinking about the Rand cult… Randians believe government is inherently bad — evil actually — and that helping others is wrong and immoral. “Collectivism” means democracy and this is also bad. They say it is the group imposing its will on individuals. From the Ayn Rand Lexicon,

    “Democratic” in its original meaning [refers to] unlimited majority rule . . . a social system in which one’s work, one’s property, one’s mind, and one’s life are at the mercy of any gang that may muster the vote of a majority at any moment for any purpose.
    [. . .] Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom . . .

    As for government,

    The only proper functions of a government are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others, to settle disputes by rational rules, according to objective law.

    I don’t understand how it is consistent for them to claim that protecting from criminals is legitimate. Doesn’t society define what a criminal is?
    Oh, and by the way, for any Christians who think they are conservatives, here is where they stand on religion:

    Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. … They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very—how should I say it?—dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.
    [. . .] Christ … according to the Christian mythology, he died on the cross not for his own sins but for the sins of the nonideal people. In other words, a man of perfect virtue was sacrificed for men who are vicious and who are expected or supposed to accept that sacrifice. If I were a Christian, nothing could make me more indignant than that: the notion of sacrificing the ideal to the nonideal, or virtue to vice. And it is in the name of that symbol that men are asked to sacrifice themselves for their inferiors. That is precisely how the symbolism is used.

    And here you also find the roots of Glenn Beck’s warning to run from any church that asks you to help others,

    It’s either-or. If capitalism’s befuddled, guilt-ridden apologists do not know it, two fully consistent representatives of altruism do know it: Catholicism and communism.
    Their rapprochement, therefore, is not astonishing. Their differences pertain only to the supernatural, but here, in reality, on earth, they have three cardinal elements in common: the same morality, altruism—the same goal, global rule by force—the same enemy, man’s mind.
    There is a precedent for their strategy. In the German election of 1933, the communists supported the Nazis, on the premise that they could fight each other for power later, but must first destroy their common enemy, capitalism. Today, Catholicism and communism may well cooperate, on the premise that they will fight each other for power later, but must first destroy their common enemy, the individual, by forcing mankind to unite to form one neck ready for one leash.

    Go see what they think of charity, altruism, the environment, morality, society
    If you are starting to feel that you have entered into the mind of the sociopath, there is a reason you feel that way. As she was developing her philosophy she was enthralled by a serial killer named William Edward Hickman. Ayn Rand wrote that the serial killer was an “ideal man,” a superior form of human because he didn’t let society impose their morals on him. He didn’t worry about what others thought and just did as he pleased.
    “Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should,” Rand wrote. Hickman had “no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel ‘other people.'”
    She saw these as positive traits and the philosophy she developed certainly reflects this view. And this is the foundation of the modern conservative thinking.