Just Exactly What Qualifies Mitt Romney to be POTUS?

"The purple mountain majesties" of Great Basin National Park

Via Think Progress, yesterday Mitt Romney sat for an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal. Today, the conservative newspaper endorsed Romney for the Republican nomination in advance of the Nevada caucuses tomorrow.

During the interview, Romney was asked whether, if elected, he would consider permitting the state of Nevada to buy back public lands that are currently held by the Federal government. Here’s his response:

I don’t know the reason that the federal government owns such a large share of Nevada. And when I was in Utah at the Olympics there I heard a similar refrain there. What they were concerned about was that the government would step in and say, “We’re taking this” — which by the way has extraordinary coal reserves — “and we’re not going to let you develop these coal reserves.” I mean, it drove the people nuts. Unless there’s a valid, and legitimate, and compelling governmental purpose, I don’t know why the government owns so much of this land.

So I haven’t studied it, what the purpose is of the land, so I don’t want to say, “Oh, I’m about to hand it over.” But where government ownership of land is designed to satisfy, let’s say, the most extreme environmentalists, from keeping a population from developing their coal, their gold, their other resources for the benefit of the state, I would find that to be unacceptable.

Think Progress:

Public lands in Nevada – and other western states—actually provide an enormous economic boost and sustain hundreds of thousands of jobs. Indeed, recent Interior Department statistics show that federally managed public lands in Nevada provided over $1 billion in economic impacts and supported 13,311 jobs in 2010 (and this statistic doesn’t even include the economic impacts of Forest Service lands, managed by the Department of Agriculture). Recreation, energy and minerals, and grazing and timber all play a part in the economic effects that public lands provide to Nevada. Activities like skiing at Lake Tahoe, boating at Lake Mead, and hiking at Great Basin National Park all take place on public lands.

Do you suppose Romney has even heard of Teddy Roosevelt? Or was the conservationist President insufficiently “conservative” for today’s Republican Party? Today “conservatives” don’t seem to care about conserving the beauty of nature for all Americans. It sounds like Romney is more interested in milking public lands for coal, gold, and oil than preserving their beauty so that in the future children can learn “to fall in love with America” as he was able to do? (h/t Think Progress).

A couple of days ago in, Romney sang “America the Beautiful” at a campaign appearance at a retirement community in Florida.

But what will Romney’s policies do to the beauty of our country? The folks at Think Progress made a video about it.

What else hasn’t Mitt Romney “studied” about our country? Well, he doesn’t seem to be aware that America’s social safety net is pretty weak and that his economic policies will completely shred what’s left of social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.

Romney doesn’t seem to be aware that the number of Americans living in “deep poverty” is the highest it’s been in 35 years.

More than 20 million Americans live in a household with income of less than half the federal poverty rate, the level social scientists often use as a category for the very poor, according to census data for 2010. Last year that meant an annual income below $11,057 for a family of four.

The portion of the population in that category was the highest in at least 35 years and has almost doubled since 1975, from 3.7 percent then to 6.7 percent in 2010.

Romney told CNN on Feb. 1 that “I’m not concerned about the very poor” because they have many programs to help them. He later clarified his remarks, telling reporters on his campaign plane that low-income people have an “ample safety net,” including Medicaid, housing vouchers, food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

I wonder if Romney knows that one in five American children lives in deep poverty? Frankly, I doubt it. And just think of all those fetuses who don’t get proper nutrition and health care because their pregnant mothers are poverty-stricken. Mitt probably hasn’t “studied” that yet, because he really just doesn’t care.

Now Romney is claiming he “misspoke” when he told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien–twice!–that he’s not concerned about the very poor, because they have an “ample safety net.” But O’Brien doesn’t buy it. And, as NPR points out Romney even made the same remark about the poor to the press corps on his campaign plane after the CNN interview.

So what has Romney “studied?” And if he hasn’t familiarized himself with two of the most important issues facing Americans today–the environment and poverty–why on earth does he want to be president anyway? Is it because he’s an expert on foreign policy? Well, no. Not really.

So why does this man want to be President of the United States? He’s repeatedly told us that he knows how to create jobs and manage an economy. But then, why didn’t he do that when he was governor of Massachusetts?

Numbers are important in evaluating Mitt Romney, but the focus should not be on the $250 million estimated fortune he amassed at Bain Capital, or the $374,00 in speaking fees he took in last year, or even on the roughly 15 federal percent tax rate he paid.
The most important number is 47 — Massachusetts’s rank in job creation when he was governor. This is the number that most calls into question Romney’s own current job application.

No job is comparable to the presidency, but the closest thing to it is governor of a large state — an executive position in public office, where the welfare of millions of people is the charge. Unlike a corporate executive, whose overriding goal is to make profits for investors, the president and governors have the same central goal — improving the well-being of the entire population. The first priority, usually, is the overall economy.
Indeed, Romney won office in 2002, after shouldering aside Acting Governor Jane Swift, with a pledge to use his business experience and connections to bring jobs to Massachusetts. He failed, dreadfully.

The 47 figure is one Romney cannot escape. During his four years in office, Massachusetts ranked 47th in overall job growth — only 0.9 percent compared with 5.3 percent nationally. Romney has countered that the unemployment went down appreciably — from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent during his term.

How could so few new jobs translate into a healthy-looking decline in unemployment? The answer is simple — and not so healthy: Working-age adults were packing up and moving out. Many were replaced, fortunately, by immigrants. But overall, Massachusetts was one of only two states to have no growth in its resident labor force during Romney’s term.

So what exactly qualifies Mitt Romney to be President of the U.S.? And why does he want the job? Perhaps it has something to do with the folks that are funding his campaign?

Goldman Sachs $496,430
JPMorgan Chase & Co $317,400
Morgan Stanley $277,850
Credit Suisse Group $276,250
Citigroup Inc $267,050
Bank of America $211,650
Barclays $203,650
Kirkland & Ellis $201,701
HIG Capital $188,500
PriceWaterhouseCoopers $179,300
Blackstone Group $170,550
Bain Capital $144,000
EMC Corp $127,800
Wells Fargo $126,200
UBS AG $123,900
Elliott Management $121,000
Citadel Investment Group $118,625
Bain & Co $116,050
The Villages $98,300
Sullivan & Cromwell $97,150

Or maybe the moguls who are funding his super pac “Restore Our Future,” 10 of whom gave $1 million or more?

What will become of “America the Beautiful” if Romney and his multimillion-dollar backers achieve their goals?


Blame or Shame? When It Comes to America’s Kids, Where Do We Stand?

Don’t know about you but to me the blame game has hit the hyper-drive button.  Whether it be Fundamentalists claiming that the country’s economic difficulties are God’s payback for licentious living or Herman Cain pointing to the unemployed as being responsible for their own unemployed status, the mounting accusations are deafening and ultimately unproductive.  The Right blames the Left; the Left blames the Right.  Libertarians blame anything that smacks of cooperative, interdependent governance, yearning for circa 1900, a Paradise Lost.  And the Anarchists?  They blame the world.

The one segment of the population that has virtually no voice over the current US economic tailspin are the children.  But like any vulnerable, powerless group, they are caught in the crosshairs.  

A recent headline not only caught my attention but stunned me by its implications.  One in four American children are now categorized as “food insecure.”  I initially misread this label as ‘hungry, absolutely food deprived.’ 

Not necessarily true. 

According to a report sponsored by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) food insecurity is defined as follows:

Limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (Anderson, 1990).

The IOM points out that this ‘insecurity’ can be cyclical in nature.  Mom and/or Dad have work one month with adequate hours and money to buy food for the family and the next month their hours are cut. Less hours, less money, less food. Or, as is the case for many middle-class families, the jobs they once depended on simply vanish and nutrition suffers.  Or a family is living on a meager monthly wage that runs out before the month is over; so food is available at the beginning of the month and in short supply as the month goes on. Walmart has confirmed this cyclical nature, reporting that their customers, many of whom are low-wage or government-assisted households, are running out of funds before the end of each month.  The company has spotted the pattern in their sales records—thin at the end of the month, a big spike at the start. The rising cost of food has only complicated matters.

But wait!  Haven’t we been awash in data warning about the growing problem with childhood obesity?  Michelle Obama has used her office as First Lady to address not only the problem but accompanying health concerns–diabetes, for instance, a silent killer and a condition that’s expensive to treat. How can we have food insecurity and obesity at the same time?  A paradox, for sure.

Again, not necessarily.

A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Drewnowski A, Specter SE. Poverty and obesity) indicates that meager incomes will affect a family’s behavior when it comes to food.  When faced with bills to pay—rent, utilities, expenses to get to and from work, etc.—a family head will limit funds to those needs where the cost is not fixed.  This behavior directly impacts the purchase and selection of food.  When purchases are made, low-income families will steer towards calorie-dense foods, selections high in sugar and fat but low in cost.

You gotta do what you gotta do, as my Mama once said.

Though there is contradictory data for the effects of calorie-dense food on children, particularly young children, we do have data indicating the link between food selection and obesity in low-income women.  This from the IMO:

Researchers and the public increasingly are recognizing that obesity and food insecurity co-exist in the same families, communities, and even the same individuals. For example, recent research suggests that household food insecurity may be related to increased weight in women.

The paradox is explained, at least in part: food insecurity is linked to poverty and particular food selection, which can play havoc on weight. This makes sense to any of us who have had weight problems [Peggy Sue raises her hand because of a childhood weight problem].  Genetics, metabolism, emotional factors, physical activity are certainly factors, too. But food selection plays an important role.  Nutritional experts are now seriously questioning the sort of foods we’re feeding our kids in school programs and other government-assisted nutritional outreaches.

Finally, symbolizing the growing number of American kids in poverty and those tumbling into the ‘food insecurity’ category, Sesame Street has added a new, cameo-appearing Muppet—Lily, the hungry kid.  This move has already come under attack by PBS critics, who claim that this is simply another ploy to reinforce the Nanny State, a pulling of heart strings by left-of-center activists.

But here’s what we know: 25% of American children are now categorized as ‘food insecure.’  That represents 17 million children, a number which spikes during the summer when school is in recess. Food insecurity can result in cyclical, end-of-the-month nutritional deficits and/or possible obesity because of calorie-dense food selection.  Our children, all our children, represent the future.

Who do we blame?  It’s easy, even tempting to point fingers or take self-righteous, politically-charged stands. 

But if we continue the blame game, point fingers without pushing to alleviate our rising poverty rates and the subsequent food insecurity of our children?  Then shame on us.

Additional information can be found at Feeding America:

http://feedingamerica.org/

The stats on rising poverty and food insecurity in the US are nothing short of . . . staggering.

And check out Map the Meal Gap, where you can see how your state, your region measures up in food security/insecurity statistics:

http://feedingamerica.org/hunger-in-america/hunger-studies/map-the-meal-gap.aspx

A final note: I am very happy to be joining the fine staff of Sky Dancing. Everyone has been kind, encouraging and helpful as I put my toe in the water.  This is a new venture for me, a different sort of writing than I normally do. But I’m looking forward to join the discussion and analyses from a different vantage point. And learn as I go.


The Call of the Loons

Well, I did manage to watch a little of the “tea party” debate last night. I’m one of those independents that every one should be after this season. I was more appalled at this one than the last which I didn’t think possible.  It’s amazing to me how far off a right wing cliff the party has gone.  If the rest of them were trying to make Romney look sane, they sure did a good job of it.  I’d like to cover a few of the more outrageous points made by the worst of them by point you to see stylized facts this morning.   This is from a press release from the U.S. Census Bureau.  Oh, and for any of you Republicans reading this out there, the U.S. Census Bureau is not and has not have been a member of the Communist Party. It’s a release of information on US citizens.  The most incredible part of the data is the poverty statistics. This decade is driving families into poverty.   It’s a statistically significant trend.

  • The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest since 1993 but was 7.3 percentage points lower than the poverty rate in 1959, the first year for which poverty estimates are available. Since 2007, the poverty rate has increased by 2.6 percentage points.
  • In 2010, the family poverty rate and the number of families in poverty were 11.7 percent and 9.2 million, respectively, up from 11.1 percent and 8.8 million in 2009.

You can read more about it in BostonBoomer’s post below. You should, because poverty is at  it’s the highest rate in 18 years.   This is the part that I want to blog about.  People are also losing private insurance and moving to government plans. One of the few bright notes is that the high flawed 2010 HRCA let parents keep their young adult children on their insurance until age 26 so coverage for the 18-24 year old group went up.  Every one else was not so fortunate.  They’ve been left to the wolves.

The White House sought to find a silver lining in the census figures by noting, as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blogged at healthcare.gov, that the percentage of 18-to-24-year-olds covered by health insurance increased by 2.1 percentage points from 2009 to 2010.

So, you already now what I’m going to do as my segue way back to the current crop of Republicans. I’ll give Mittens Romney a pass at the moment. Most of the people on that stage actively promote policies that create statistics like these. Texas is the worst state in the union on nearly every development statistic. It is one huge underdeveloped nation. We also get to know the heart and soul of the current crop of Republicans who have whooped and cheered at executions by Perry–many of the questionable and undoubtedly wrong–and now we get “let them die” on the plight of the uninsured. This answer from Doctor Ron Paul–who should have taken the Hippocratic Oath at one point in his life–was leave them to the churches. Let the charities sort them out!!!

A bit of a startling moment happened near the end of Monday night’s CNN debate when a hypothetical question was posed to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

What do you tell a guy who is sick, goes into a coma and doesn’t have health insurance? Who pays for his coverage? “Are you saying society should just let him die?” Wolf Blitzer asked.

“Yeah!” several members of the crowd yelled out.

Paul interjected to offer an explanation for how this was, more-or-less, the root choice of a free society. He added that communities and non-government institutions can fill the void that the public sector is currently playing.

“We never turned anybody away from the hospital,” he said of his volunteer work for churches and his career as a doctor. “We have given up on this whole concept that we might take care of ourselves, assume responsibility for ourselves … that’s the reason the cost is so high.

The question by Blitzer should’ve just used one of the statistics above. What about the number of people that basically cannot afford private insurance under any circumstance  and the many of them that don’t qualify for state medicaid plans?  Well, just in case you want a little more back ground on how committed Ron Paul is to the Let them Die wing of the Right to Life party, let me point to a 2008 event.

What a testament to the Libertarian creed, which abhors the idea of universal health care. This loyal, passionate man, who died too young, left his family a debt of $400,000 in medical bills.

Who knows whether he put off getting treatment for the pneumonia that killed him because he was uninsured.

Kent Snyder did some amazing work on the Ron Paul Campaign and is remembered as a “libertarian giant”- by Lew Rockwell, on the libertarian site, Lew Rockwell.com.

The Wall Street journal reports that Kent, more than anyone else, persuaded Ron Paul to run for president. And Kent, according the the WSJ, developed what “ultimately became a $35 million operation with 250 employees that helped deliver more than one million votes for the Texas congressman’s bid in the Republican nominating contest.”-

Ron Paul posted this message about Snyder on his website: “”Like so many in our movement, Kent sacrificed much for the cause of liberty, Kent poured every ounce of his being into our fight for freedom. He will always hold a place in my heart and in the hearts of my family.”

Sadly, the Libertarian heart apparently does not include health care. The poor guy raised tens of millions of dollars and couldn’t afford the $300-$600 a month that COBRA medical insurance would have cost.

Along with this we get Michelle Bachmann’ screed about endangering little girls with forced government vaccines that cause “mental retardation”. Rick Santorum–not to be left out–reminded every one that the HPV virus wasn’t transmitted like the measles and the mumps would be in a Texas classroom and maybe they did things differently down there.  Now, in this case I have to give a mild pass to Perry, because he did err on the side of life on this one. Have you ever seen the rape and incest statistics for minors? Would you think it was worth risking a girl’s life because of the way the disease is transmitted?  I’d like to turn this part of my post over to Doctor Daughter who has to operate on cervices showing signs of abnormality.  These are the ones that don’t get sent directly to the oncologists.  Yes, there are 20 year olds that have to undergo radical hysterectomies, Rick and Michelle!! Nice of you both to toss them aside to advance your whacky political ideals.

We are the biggest developed nation in the world that refuses to deal with our broken down health system.  The existence of third party payers in a market means the market is broken, the pricing mechanism does not work, the market will effectively provide the necessary supply, and there will be a huge dead weight loss which is the economics term for the result of a dysfunctional market.  It’s the value of loss based on what the market misallocates because of the presence of third party payers.  This is one of those instances where a government has to step in to make it a working market. If you’ve got third party payers, the market will never be a normal market and it doesn’t matter who the third party payer is.  That’s why you have to go for efficiency and a market choice that mimics what the market would look like without them.  Insurance is not like buying hamburgers, accounting services, or number 5 red grain wheat.  It exists because of moral hazard, information asymmetry, and all the bad things that happen when a market isn’t suited for pure privatization. Every other developed nation has taken the burden of providing private insurance off of private business.  Every other developed nation puts every one in the public basic plan so they don’t die in the streets or leave their families impoverished and reliant on government safety net programs the rest of their days trying to pay off the bills.   We need a simple, generic, public plan that’s provided to every one that replaces medicare, medicaid, and basic private insurance.  It should be standardized so the paper work is simple.  Prices should be negotiate on all health-related  products and services.  The plan can be administered by private insurance companies who can also provide supplemental plans or gap plans.  At the very minimum, this plan should provide major medical insurance.  It would be most efficient and cheapest with every one opted in, everything standardized, and every price negotiated.  PERIOD.  This is the situation chosen by every other developed nation in one format or another.  It’s called universal coverage and it would save the country a heckuva lot of money and angst.

To date, we have haphazard policy that has basically played into making the market more dysfunctional because it enriches the already parasitic third party payers as well as lets the producers of the end goods or services avoid price negotiations.  ObamaCare and RomneyCare are the 1993 Republican Health Plan first put out by Lincoln Chaffee that was the Republican alternative to Bill Clinton’s plan.  It later became known as DoleCare and was probably the first sign of Republicans deciding not to negotiate in good faith in order to tank a US President. The source of this plan was the American Heritage Institute.  This is basically the plan that Michelle Bachmann says she’ll never stop trying to recall.

The debate last night has really shown the degree of extremism that has infiltrated the Republican Party.  It also shows that ideology will triumph over everything.  I said it in a thread, but I’ll say it again, watching people cheer on the idea of executing living, breathing human beings and shouting let them die when discussing human beings with devastating, life threatening, costly illness was like being present in Rome when prisoners were sentenced ad bestias Through out history, public executions  have always brought out the worst in society.  This debate went way beyond let them eat cake.  It was blood lust set loose on a mad mob. The heirs of Nero were in full regalia last night.


46.2 Million Americans (1 in 6) Now Living in Poverty

Chart courtesy of CNN Money

As of 2010, 1 in 6 Americans was living in poverty, according to a report from the Census Bureau today. The poverty rate was 15.1%, the highest number of Americans living below the poverty rate since the number has been examined. From the New York Times:

An additional 2.6 million people slipped below the poverty line in 2010, census officials said, making 46.2 million people in poverty in the United States, the highest number in the 52 years the Census Bureau has been tracking it, said Trudi Renwick, chief of the Poverty Statistic Branch at the Census Bureau.

That figure represented 15.1 percent of the country.

The poverty line in 2010 was at $22,113 for a family of four.

“It was a surprising large increase in the overall poverty rate,” said Arloc Sherman, senior researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “We see record numbers and percentages of Americans in deep poverty.”

The middle class has also lost ground in terms of yearly income.

And

…real median household incomes declined by 2.3 percent in 2010 from the previous year, to $49,400. That was 7 percent less than the peak in 1999 of $53,252.

“A full year into recovery, there were no signs of it affecting the well being of a typical American family,” said Lawrence Katz, an economics professor at Harvard. “We are well below where incomes were in the late 1990s.”

According to the census figures, the median annual income for a male full-time, year-round worker in 2010 — $47,715 — was virtually unchanged from its level in 1973, when the level was $49,065, in 2010 dollars, said Sheldon H. Danziger, professor of public policy at the University of Michigan.

As we all know, the rich have gotten much much richer and are continuing to get richer still because of the Bush/Obama economic policies. From CNN Money:

For middle-class families, income fell in 2010. The median household income was $49,445, down slightly from $49,777 the year before.

Median income has changed very little over the last 30 years. Adjusted for inflation, the middle-income family only earned 11% more in 2010 than they did in 1980, while the richest 5% in America saw their incomes surge 42%.

“Over that period of time, it’s not that the American economy has necessarily performed badly,” Osterman said. “As a country we’re richer over that period, but there’s been this real shift in where the income has gone, and it’s to the top.”

Amplifying that trend, the bottom 60% of households saw their income fall last year, while households making $100,000 or more enjoyed a rise in income.

CNN has a chart that shows the poverty level in each state, so you can check to see how people are doing in your neck of the woods. In general, the South is the worst off, and Louisiana and Mississippi have the highest percentages of people living below the poverty line.

I hope someone is showing this data to President Obama, because he needs to either do something about jobs and income inequality or follow LBJ’s example and get out of the way so we can find candidate who is able to show some leadership.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! I’m having trouble finding any new news, but I’ve done my best to dig up a few interesting reads for you.

The Boston Herald has the lowdown on President Obama’s illegal immigrant uncle.

An illegal immigrant from Kenya busted for drunken driving after nearly striking a cop car in Framingham is the uncle of President Obama, the Herald has learned.

Obama Onyango told cops he wanted to “call the White House” after he was nabbed for OUI Aug. 24 after nearly plowing his SUV into a police cruiser. He was arraigned Thursday and was ordered held without bail because he was wanted on a federal immigration warrant, officials said.

Mike Rogers, a spokesman for Cleveland immigration attorney Margaret Wong, who is representing Onyango, confirmed that the 67-year-old is the president’s uncle. Wong is the same lawyer who represented the president’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, in her fight to win asylum last year.

Reached at her apartment in a South Boston public housing complex today, Zeituni Onyango said of her brother’s arrest: “Why don’t you go to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washingon, D.C. and ask your president? Not me.” She then hung up on a reporter.

OK, it’s another right wing source, but Fox News has a funny article on Obama’s announcement of his new economic adviser Alan Krueger: Seriously? Obama Uses 2 Teleprompters for 3 Minute Speech

President Obama required two heavy-duty teleprompters on Monday during a three-minute speech in which he nominated Alan Krueger to serve as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers.

“I am very pleased to appoint Alan and I look forward to working with him,” Obama said, staring at the large, flat-screen monitor to his right, then shifting his eyes to the teleprompter on his left. “I have nothing but confidence in Alan as he takes on this important role as one of the leaders of my economic team.”

Why couldn’t he just memorize that?

In more serious news, the aftermath of Hurricane Irene has been devastating in Vermont, but the networks aren’t covering it 24/7. I wonder why?

Vermont is reeling today from what is becoming the state’s worst natural disaster since the epic flood of 1927. At least three people have died in the storm, one man is missing, hundreds of roads statewide are closed, and thousands of homes and businesses suffered power outages and serious damage from flooding associated with Tropical Storm Irene.

[Update 5:40 p.m.] Three people are confirmed dead in Vermont in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, and a fourth person is missing, state officials said at a news conference in Montpelier late this afternoon.

The deaths occurred in Wilmington, Rutland and Ludlow. Another person, the son of the Rutland victim, is missing and feared dead, according to state officials.

Perhaps if the media elites lived in Vermont, we’d hear more about it. But they don’t, so it’s not real to them. This is why we can have 25 million people unemployed in this country and the media and political class completely ignore the devastation it causes.

Sarah Jaffe has an important article at Alternet on “How the Surveillance State Protects the Interests Of the Ultra-Rich.”

Jaffe discusses the refusal of the British government to recognize that poverty played a role in the recent riots in London and other cities, as well as the shutdown of cell phone service by BART during the protests of the killing of a man by BART police. She writes:

The techniques that were roundly decried by Western leaders when used by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak against his people’s peaceful revolution are suddenly embraced when it comes to unrest at home. Not only that, but techniques honed in the “war on terror” are now being turned on anti-austerity protesters, clamping down on discontent that was created in the first place by policies of the state.

[….]

As a burgeoning international protest movement takes shape, opposing austerity measures, decrying the wealth gap and rising inequality, and in some cases directly attacking the interests of oligarchs, we’re likely to see the surveillance state developed for tracking “terrorists” turned on citizen activists peacefully protesting the actions of their government. And as U.S. elections post-Citizens United will be more and more expensive, look for politicians of both parties to enforce these crackdowns.

Despite growing anger at austerity in other countries, those policies have been embraced by both parties here in the States. Groups like US Uncut have stepped into the fray, pointing out the connection between the tax dodging of banks like Bank of America and other corporations and the slashing of the social safety net for everyone else. The new protest movements are led not only by traditional left groups like labor unions, but a generation of young, wired activists using the Internet for innovative protest and revolutionary activism.

It’s a lengthy article, but well worth reading.

Joseph Heller as a young man

I’ll end with a literary piece. I’m a big fan of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, so I got a kick out of this review of books about Heller at the NYT: The Enigma of Joseph Heller.

“Oh God, this is a calamity for American literature,” Kurt Vonnegut said on learning of Joseph Heller’s death in 1999. John Updike was less alarmed: Heller “wasn’t top of the chart” as a writer, he reflected, though he was “a sweet man” and his first novel, “Catch-22” was “important.” Note the Updikean judiciousness of “important”: he didn’t say he liked the book, but it was a great cultural bellwether as novels go, and it has endured. Despite mixed reviews on publication in 1961, “Catch-22” was soon adopted by college students who recognized a kindred spirit in Yossarian, the bombardier who rebels against a materialistic bureaucracy hellbent on killing him. “Better Yossarian than Rotarian” became a popular slogan, all the more so with the timely (for the novel’s sake) military escalation in Vietnam, which became the “real” subject of “Catch-22” and partly accounts for its sales of more than 10 million copies to date. It’s hard to argue with that kind of importance.

IMHO, John Updike’s work isn’t likely to be read 100 years from now. Does anyone still read “Couples?” Please. “The Witches of Eastwick” was funny, but hardly deathless literature. Catch-22, on the other hand, might hold up 100 years from now. To me it’s the ultimate book on the insanity of war. I might just check out that Heller biography, even though the NYT reviewer wasn’t that thrilled with it.

That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?


SDB Evening News Reads for 082411: Katrina, Third Party Wonder and No Evolution or Planned Parenthood

Good evening, here are your news reads for this afternoon.

There are some real good articles below, so take the time read them all…Especially the two from Black Agenda Report. So let’s get on with the show.

I had the BAR link ready to go for this post, and then I saw the picture on this TruthDig article which discusses the BAR post and I just had to include it here:  Hurricane Katrina Pain Index 2011 – Truthdig

Flickr / kallao

Many homes trashed by Katrina in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward sit scarred and empty today.

With Hurricane Irene fixing to beat up much of the American Mid-Atlantic, now may be a good time to examine the legacy of Hurricane Katrina and U.S. “government bungling” for many of the still-stunned inhabitants of New Orleans.

Bill Quigley and Davida Finger, professors of law at Loyola University in New Orleans, have assembled a brief sociological survey of Gulf Coast residents after the storm, using figures reported in the press. The statistics reflect the condition of Katrina survivors and those who came afterward by race, gender and economic class.

So that is the background for this Black Agenda Report here:  Katrina Pain Index 2011: Race, Gender, Poverty | Black Agenda Report

by Bill Quigley and Davida Finger

There may never be a moral reckoning or a just payback for the crimes that are gathered under the heading, Katrina, but we can at least attempt to weigh and measure the abominations. For example, less than ten percent of the 3,000 families whose homes in public housing were bulldozed have “made it back to into the apartments built on the renovated sites.” The disaster also drove away proportionately more African American women and girls.

In the New Orleans metropolitan area, there are now 65,423 fewer African American women and girls than when Katrina hit.”

Six years ago, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast. The impact of Katrina and government bungling continue to inflict major pain on the people left behind. It is impossible to understand what happened and what still remains without considering race, gender, and poverty. The following offer some hints of what remains.

Click on the link to get the numbers…they are such a depressing and disappointing representation of the situation in New Orleans, a summary of statistics that give a rounded picture of what Dakinikat has written about for years. I wonder if any of BAR’s writers will be at the Rising Tide conference Kat will be attending later this week.

I have another BAR article to highlight for you today,  CBC: Impotent, Irrelevant, and Tied to the President in 2012, Even If Obama is the Black Herbert Hoover | Black Agenda Report

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Why does the Congressional Black Caucus, forty of the most senior members of the House of Representatives, pretend that touring the country with a phony, embarrassing “job fair” is a substitute for the massive jobs and poverty-reduction programs they should have fought for during the four years they held an overwhelming majority in the Congress, two of them with a black Democrat in the White House? What kind of Colt 45 bottle has the CBC and the black political class crawled into? And is there a way out?

Is Barack Obama the new Herbert Hoover? Like Hoover, Obama believes that government cannot create jobs…”

The Congressional Black Caucus is in a terrible bind. What do you do at the beginning of a new Great Depression, when congressional Republicans are the evil crackers they’ve always been and your First Black President, a Democrat, is Herbert Hoover?

I love when BAR’s new articles get published, they always push forward thoughts and ideas for us to discuss.

Obama, however, isn’t your great-grandma‘s Herbert Hoover. He’s slicker, new and improved. Hoover was, after all, a white Republican, and faced noisy, persistent and often unlawful opposition in the streets, like the hunger marches of 1930, 31 and 32, along with organized groups that reversed evictions.Thousands were beaten and jailed, some killed, tens of thousands risked arrest, and hundreds of thousands more peacefully protested Hoover’s policies in that first Great Depression. But Barack Obama’s party affiliation and black face earn him an automatic pass from the corporate sponsored black political class, who would vigorously protest the same policies pursued by a white Republican. Blacks who demand action from the First Black President on record black joblessness and child poverty can be branded ungrateful Uncle Toms. The antiwar movement, which put millions in the street to protest Bush’s wars has virtually silenced itself to free the hands of the new Herbert Hoover.

Faced with a black Herbert Hoover, what can the Congressional Black Caucus do? Their whole careers are tied into the hopelessly corrupt Democratic party, the machinery that uses rich people’s money and poor peoples’ votes to elect corporate-friendly candidates. Like the rest of the black political class, they supported Obama absolutely while silencing any who would make substantive demands on him, thus rendering themselves and their constituencies irrelevant. The CBC enabled Barack Obama to ignore mushrooming black poverty and soaring black unemployment.

All I can say is read the entire article, because I can’t do it justice just quoting tidbits.  Dixon has some stern words for the Black Caucus, including Maxine Waters.  Since we have talked about Waters a lot lately, this article is very timely, and I am curious to know what you all think about it.

Rick Perry signed the Susan B. Anthony pledge, that is not any real news, I thought he already had signed the pledge which pretty much vows that the “pledgee” will completely destroy women, girls and their human rights.  Rick Perry Vows to Defund Planned Parenthood | Mother Jones

Pledges, if you haven’t heard, are all the rage in the Republican party, so now that he’s squarely in the running for the GOP presidential nomination, Texas Governor Rick Perry has some catching up to do. On Wednesday, Perry became the sixth candidate to sign an anti-abortion pledge from the Susan B. Anthony List that commits him to a set of radical anti-abortion measures if elected president. The Dallas Morning-News has the nuts and bolts:

The pledge has four parts:
* a promise only to pick federal judges who adhere to the strict “original meaning of the Constitution,”
* to “select only pro-life appointees” for attorney general and assorted posts at the National Institutes of Health, Justice Departmentand Department of Health& Human Services.
* to defund Planned Parenthoodand any other organization that performs or funds abortions and to end all taxpayer funding of abortion, domestically or overseas and
* to sign into law the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” to ban abortion based on the premise that fetuses can feel pain.

And of course, once these fetuses are no longer “unborn” then these GOP assholes don’t give a damn about what pain the person feels…like the pain of hunger and poverty. Pain of sickness and breast cancer and cervical cancer…Pain of being forced to give birth after rape or incest. I can go on and on with the list of pain this pledge will give to women and girls who were former fetuses, but I am just preaching to the choir…

The Atlantic believes evolution will play a part in the 2012 GOP race to the nomination.  Evolution, Climate Change Could Divide the Republican Party – Ronald Brownstein – Politics – The Atlantic

The collision between Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry over climate change and the evolution of human life threatens to widen the central rift in the Republican electoral coalition even as it helps each man sharpen his image in the party’s crowded 2012 presidential field.

The confrontation represents more of a gamble for Huntsman, the former Utah governor lagging in the polls, than it does for Texas Gov. Perry, who immediately catapulted into the race’s top tier after entering it in mid-August. Although an overwhelming majority of scientists agree that carbon pollution is contributing to global climate change, and virtually all accept that an evolutionary process of natural selection explains the emergence of human life, polls show that most Republican voters second Perry’s rejection of both beliefs.

Yes, the Republican Party has become a party of religious right extremist, with an agenda to drag our society back to the days of burning witches at the stake and inquisitions which led to torture and death. Some may say that is taking the actions of the extreme GOP too far, but I don’t think so.

This of course brings the discussion forward with an article by Matthew Dowd:  How Would a Third-Party Candidate Fare in 2012? – Matthew Dowd – Politics – The Atlantic

In the dog days of summer and in the aftermath of the unusual earthquake that hit the Washington area and other parts of the East Coast, maybe it’s time to play a little parlor game related to next year’s presidential election and a major disruption that just might occur. I am talking about the increasing probability that a serious independent third-party run might just occur. And by the manner in which former Utah governor and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is conducting himself this week in high-profile criticizing of his own party, he and his campaign might also be eyeing this probability.

[…]

If Republicans nominate an extremely polarizing figure who has a difficult time getting independent votes (especially in the crucial Midwest states) or one who instills no passion at all in the conservative base, and if Obama’s approval numbers stay low, then we basically would have two unelectable candidates facing each other in the general election.

Further, in an analysis I did a few years back on the composition of a general-election electorate, it signals an opening for a more-moderate independent candidate as well. The Republican Party base–for smaller government, low taxes, and socially conservative–represents about 26 percent of all voters. The Democratic Party’s bloc–for larger government, higher taxes, and more socially progressive–represents about 23 percent of all voters. Thus, 51 percent of the electorate is a mishmash of independents, not ideological members of either political party.

Dowd then has come up with three scenarios for the possibility and outcomes of a third-party run, which does not bode well for Obama, the GOP nominee or the third-party candidate.  But my concern is that neither Obama or the 2012 GOP offering will bode well for the people…and that seems to be something that many of those in the media are forgetting.

This last link is from Jezebel, and it gives Possible Explanations For The Earthquake the east coast experienced yesterday.

A series of earthquakes around the country today and yesterday shook places that don’t usually get shook. There are a number of possible explanations for this. Here are the most plausible:

  • 1. We weren’t freaked out enough about Hurricane Irene, so the earth decided to kick it up a notch.
  • 2. The giant serpent coiled around the earth’s core is waking.
  • 3. Three months late, Harold Camping finally got his wish.
  • 4. Invisible Godzilla.
  • 5. “God is all like, ‘DSK is freaking guilty'”
  • 6. Twitter has discovered a genius marketing strategy, and has employed a team of evil seismologists to put it into action.
  • 7. Today is 8/23/11. 8 + 23 = 31, and 31/11 = 2.81818182. See? See?!?
  • 8. The tectonic plates want their own commemorative wine.
  • 9. Like, geology.
  • 10. The reported separation of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith has caused the earth to split open. The only person who can save us from this disaster, as it happens, is Will Smith. His bravery will cause his estranged wife to fall in love with him all over again, and everyone will live happily ever after, despite the destruction of every major city. Coming this fall.

Don’t forget, Irene is getting stronger:  National Hurricane Center

Those of you along the East Coast and in the Northeast, pay attention: Irene called ‘big threat’ to U.S. coast – baltimoresun.com

Well, there you go…see y’all in the comments!


Thursday Reads: Poverty and Joblessness *Are* Social and Political Issues

Guess who said this:

“There are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but are frankly sick.

“It is a complete lack of responsibility in parts of our society, people allowed to feel the world owes them something, that their rights outweigh their responsibilities and their actions do not have consequences. Well, they do have consequences.”

You’re darn right! The global elites have gone too far! The banksters have stolen trillions from ordinary taxpayers, and then demanded and received massive government bailouts. Politicians have lost any sense of responsibility toward their constituents, only listening to their corporate masters and their lobbyists. Yes there are consequences and these wealthy elites will discover there are consequences for their corrupt and immoral actions.

Oh wait. That was Prime Minister David Cameron talking about the poor and jobless young people who have been rioting in the streets of London and other British cities for the past five days. I’ll bet he has absolutely no clue how ridiculous it is that he is chastising these people for looting after he and other global elites allowed banksters to steal and loot trillions with absolutely no consequences. From Raw Story:

The U.S. Federal Reserve gave out $16.1 trillion in emergency loans to U.S. and foreign financial institutions between Dec. 1, 2007 and July 21, 2010, according to figures produced by the government’s first-ever audit of the central bank.

Last year, the gross domestic product of the entire U.S. economy was $14.5 trillion.

Of the $16.1 trillion loaned out, $3.08 trillion went to financial institutions in the U.K., Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium, the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) analysis shows.

Additionally, asset swap arrangements were opened with banks in the U.K., Canada, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Norway, Mexico, Singapore and Switzerland. Twelve of those arrangements are still ongoing, having been extended through August 2012.

Out of all borrowers, Citigroup received the most financial assistance from the Fed, at $2.5 trillion. Morgan Stanley came in second with $2.04 trillion, followed by Merill Lynch at $1.9 trillion and Bank of America at $1.3 trillion.

Lambert has been highlighting the hypocrisy of the global elites on the riots. Yesterday he linked to this article in the Guardian.

This scepticism toward the potency of democratic politicians – and therefore democratic politics itself – is oddly echoed by the looters themselves. Certainly no one outside the Iranian state media is calling them “protesters”, but even “rioters” seems the wrong word, carrying with it a hint of political purpose. For some, especially at the start in Tottenham, there was clearly a political dimension – with the police the prime focus of their anger. But many of the copycat actions across London and elsewhere have no apparent drive beyond the opportunistic desire to steal and get away with it. It’s striking that the targets have not been town halls or, say, Tory HQ – stormed by students last November – but branches of Dixons, Boots and Carphone Warehouse. If they are making a political statement, it is that politics does not matter.

Lambert notes that at least these looters didn’t steal $16 trillion from the U.S. Treasury.

And while the revulsion at the looting has been widespread and bipartisan – with plenty of liberals admitting to “coming over all Daily Mail” at the ugliness of the vandalism – that sense of the impotence of politics is widespread, too. One aspect of the phone-hacking scandal that went deep was its revelation that those we might think exert authority – police and politicians – were in fact supine before an unelected media corporation. The sheer power of News Corp contrasted with the craven behaviour of those we elect or entrust to look out for us.

But elected officials are supposed to protect all citizens–even the poor, the unemployed, and the elderly–aren’t they? Yet in the U.S. and Europe, the burden of the economic crisis is falling on those with the least ability to pay, while the wealthy continue to receive their government handouts. When people are pushed to the point that they feel they have nothing to lose, this is what happens. Why it is coming as such a surprise to the comfortable elites is the real mystery.

Let’s take a look at what some of the rioters themselves have said about the meaning of their actions. From Yahoo News:

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government, making deep cuts to public services to tackle a record budget deficit, has been quick to deny that the unrest was linked to austerity measures, calling the disorder “pure criminality.” [….]

Public anger over the widespread looting of shops appears to have strengthened the government’s argument, with stolen goods ranging from the expensive — televisions and jewelry — to the absurd — sweets and bottles of alcohol.

However, community leaders and rioters themselves said the violence was an expression of the frustration felt by the poorest inhabitants of a country that ranks among the most unequal in the developed world.

“They’ve raised rates, cut child benefit. Everyone just used it as a chance to vent,” one man who took part in unrest in the east London district of Hackney told Reuters.

Surprise, surprise. Cutting social services to pay for the bankers’ failures has real life consequences. Austerity measures create more unemployment, and people who don’t have jobs get hungry and scared. When you take everything from people who can least afford it, they get angry. What on earth do these people expect? What planet are they living on anyway? And no, I’m not condoning violence. I’m just saying that it’s going to happen when you push people too far.

Here are some quotes from two young women who participated in the British riots:

Two girls who took part in Monday night’s riots in Croydon have boasted that they were showing police and “the rich” that “we can do what we want”.

From The New York Times: London Riots Put Spotlight on Troubled, Unemployed Youths in Britain

“I came here to get my penny’s worth,” said a man who gave his name as Louis James, 19, a slightly built participant in the widening riots that have shaken London to its core. With a touch of guilt on Tuesday, Mr. James showed off what he described as a $195 designer sweater that he said he took during looting in Camden Town, a gentrified area of north London.

Politicians from both the right and the left, the police and most residents of the areas hit by violence nearly unanimously describe the most recent riots as criminal and anarchic, lacking even a hint of the anti-government, anti-austerity message that has driven many of the violent protests in other European countries.

But the riots also reflect the alienation and resentment of many young people in Britain, where one million people from the ages of 16 to 24 are officially unemployed, the most since the deep recession of the mid-1980s.

Don’t these politicians, police, and other observers understand that poverty and jobless *are* sociopolitical issues? Just because people are acting out of desperation or even opportunism doesn’t mean that their actions are not political. Just because someone is young and poor does not mean he or she isn’t aware that government and corporate corruption have caused much of their distress. Back to the NYT article:

In many ways, Mr. James’s circumstances are typical. He lives in a government-subsidized apartment in northern London and receives $125 in jobless benefits every two weeks, even though he says he has largely given up looking for work. He says he has never had a proper job and learned to read only three years ago. His mother can barely support herself and his stepbrothers and sisters. His father, who was a heroin addict, is dead.

He says he has been in and out of too many schools to count and left the educational system for good when he was 15.

“No one has ever given me a chance; I am just angry at how the whole system works,” Mr. James said. He would like to get a job at a retail store, but admits that he spends most days watching television and just trying to get by. “That is the way they want it,” he said, without specifying exactly who “they” were. “They give me just enough money so that I can eat and watch TV all day. I don’t even pay my bills anymore.”

Jonathan Portes, the director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in London, says that Mr. James’s plight reflects a broader trend here. More challenging students, Mr. Portes says, have not been receiving the attention they should as teachers, under pressure to meet educational goals, focus on children from more stable homes and those with greater abilities and social skills. Disillusioned, those who cannot keep up just drop out.

The Los Angeles Times in an opinion piece searches for the reasons for the violence and asks if it could happen here.

The Tottenham riots that blindsided Britain were sparked by the fatal police shooting of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man. Over the past few days, they’ve continued and spread, turning into what has largely become youths’ looting and destroying parts of London. But no one is exactly sure why they’re doing it. Prime Minister David Cameron called it “criminality, pure and simple.”

But why have the riots continued day after day?

The riots are neither politically or racially fueled, wrote Doug Sanders of the Globe and Mail. They’re the result of a “lost generation” of youth under 20 who have little to lose and a bleak future. Here’s an excerpt:

Whether the thousands of rioters actually did express disillusionment — some did say they were angry at police or the world, but many appeared gleeful or greedy — it is clear that most had nothing else to do with themselves, and no reason to fear or feel responsible for the consequences of their actions.

This is a chronic problem in Britain, which has a “lost generation” of young high school dropouts far larger than most other Western countries’.

It’s so simple-minded to expect that youthful rioters are going to calmly explain their behavior in a reasoned, intellectual manner or that they are not going to act euphoric once they let go of restraint and begin acting out as part of a mob. None of that means that the reasons for their behavior are not political.

It seems to me that masses of young people who have “little to lose and bleak future” is in fact a powerful political issue for any society. And when people are powerless, there are few ways for them express their anger. Violence is one way to get attention from the powerful.

Can it happen here? You bet it can. As long as the President and Congress continue enacting austerity measures and ignoring unemployment and general misery among ordinary Americans, it’s guaranteed the U.S. will see riots in the streets–as we have in the past. When it happens here, will our elites be as dumbfounded and out-of-touch with reality as those in Great Britain? Probably.

I posted this in a comment yesterday, but I’m going to put it up again here. It’s an interview of writer and broadcaster Darcus Howe by a clueless BBC “journalist.”

—————————————-

That’s my suggested reading for today. What do you recommend?

UPDATE: I found a piece in the Guardian that reflects my thinking.

Seumas Milne: These riots reflect a society run on greed and looting

It is essential for those in power in Britain that the riots now sweeping the country can have no cause beyond feral wickedness. This is nothing but “criminality, pure and simple”, David Cameron declared after cutting short his holiday in Tuscany. The London mayor and fellow former Bullingdon Club member Boris Johnson, heckled by hostile Londoners in Clapham Junction, warned that rioters must stop hearing “economic and sociological justifications” (though who was offering them he never explained) for what they were doing.

When his predecessor Ken Livingstone linked the riots to the impact of public spending cuts, it was almost as if he’d torched a building himself. The Daily Mail thundered that blaming cuts was “immoral and cynical”, echoed by a string of armchair riot control enthusiasts. There was nothing to explain, they’ve insisted, and the only response should be plastic bullets, water cannon and troops on the streets.

We’ll hear a lot more of that when parliament meets – and it’s not hard to see why. If these riots have no social or political causes, then clearly no one in authority can be held responsible….If this week’s eruption is an expression of pure criminality and has nothing to do with police harassment or youth unemployment or rampant inequality or deepening economic crisis, why is it happening now and not a decade ago? The criminal classes, as the Victorians branded those at the margins of society, are always with us, after all. And if it has no connection with Britain’s savage social divide and ghettoes of deprivation, why did it kick off in Haringey and not Henley?

…To refuse to recognise the causes of the unrest is to make it more likely to recur – and ministers themselves certainly won’t be making that mistake behind closed doors if they care about their own political futures.