Friday Reads: To Sir, with LovePosted: January 7, 2022 Filed under: January 6 Committe, Joe Biden, Senate, SOTU, The filibuster, U.S. Economy 9 Comments
Good Day Sky Dancers!
In the last few years, we’ve seen the loss of the cultural and historical icons of the twentieth century. I’m pretty convinced that we’ve seen the end of American dominance since the World Wars, so this just seals the deal. We’re losing the last of heroes of the American Century. Sidney Poitier was a fixture in the Civil Rights Movement and one of the stars of the Golden Age of Cinema and TV. He passed quietly yesterday at the age of 94.
I loved many of his movies, but my most vivid memory of him was watching ‘In the Heat of the Night’ in a small downtown theatre in Estes Park, Colorado, with my parents and sister. It was probably the first serious adult movie I’d ever seen with its themes of violence and racism. Here is an excerpt from his New York Times Obit.
In 1967 Mr. Poitier appeared in three of Hollywood’s top-grossing films, elevating him to the peak of his popularity. “In the Heat of Night” placed him opposite Rod Steiger, as an indolent, bigoted sheriff, with whom Virgil Tibbs, the Philadelphia detective played by Mr. Poitier, must work on a murder investigation in Mississippi. (In an indelible line, the detective insists on the sheriff’s respect when he declares, “They call me Mr. Tibbs!”) In “To Sir, With Love,” he was a concerned teacher in a tough London high school, and in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” a taboo-breaking film about an interracial couple, he played a doctor whose race tests the liberal principles of his prospective in-laws, played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.
Throughout his career, a heavyweight of racial significance bore down on Mr. Poitier and the characters he played. “I felt very much as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made,” he once wrote.
Mr. Poitier grew up in the Bahamas, but he was born on Feb. 20, 1927, in Miami, where his parents regularly traveled to sell their tomato crop. The youngest of nine children, he wore clothes made from flour sacks and never saw a car, looked in a mirror, or tasted ice cream until his father, Reginald, moved the family from Cat Island to Nassau in 1937 after Florida banned the import of Bahamian tomatoes.
When he was 12, Mr. Poitier quit school and became a water boy for a crew of pick-and-shovel laborers. He also began getting into mischief, and his parents, worried that he was becoming a juvenile delinquent, sent him to Miami when he was 14 to live with a married brother, Cyril.
Mr. Poitier had known nothing of segregation growing up on Cat Island, so the rules governing American Black people in the South came as a shock. “It was all over the place like barbed wire,” he later said of American racism. “And I kept running into it and lacerating myself.”
In less than a year he fled Miami for New York, arriving with $3 and change in his pocket. He took jobs washing dishes and working as a ditch digger, waterfront laborer and delivery man in the garment district. Life was grim. During a race riot in Harlem, he was shot in the leg. He saved his nickels so that on cold nights he could sleep in pay toilets.
Sir Sidney was a leading figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He holds a place in the International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame.
Born February 20, 1927, Sidney Poitier’s pioneering career has had a tremendous impact on American culture. In the early ’50s, he was the top and virtually sole African-American film star—the first black actor to become a hero to both black and white audiences. Poitier was also the first black actor to win a prestigious international film award. With his unique career, Sidney Poitier helped change many stubborn racial attitudes that had persisted in this country for centuries. He has built the bridges and opened the doors for countless artists in succeeding generations. He is an actor who stood for hope, for excellence, and who has given happiness to millions of people around the world. Paying tribute to Sidney Poitier in 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “He is a man of great depth, a man of great social concern, a man who is dedicated to human rights and freedom.”
Many things are going on in our country’s governance today. There are discussions about expanding the number of judges on the Supreme Court, reforming the filibuster, the economic boom with the accompanying price increases, and the incredible amount of information the January 6 Committee has received from a variety of former staffers to all levels of Republican Insurrectionists. Let me highlight some of them.
There are many big lies told by Trumperz and Trumpists.
Meadows lied on Fox’s Hannity about Trump’s dealings with troops to secure the capitol on January 6.:
Just one month after the attack, Meadows appeared on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures” and made this claim: “As many as 10,000 National Guard troops were told to be on the ready by the secretary of defense. That was a direct order from President Trump.”
Fact Checkers at the Washington Post fact checked reporting by a Vanity Fair reporter who was there at the time of the discussion. Fox and Meadows are caught in another big lie. It never went anywhere.
It’s always dismaying when false claims that were previously debunked turn up as accepted facts months later. Yet, increasingly, Fox News hosts and their guests appear to live in a world untethered by the truth.
As we have documented before, President Donald Trump never requested 10,000 National Guard troops to secure the Capitol that day. He threw out a number, in casual conversation, that is now regarded by his supporters as a lifeline to excuse his inaction when a mob inspired by his rhetoric invaded the Capitol.
This is an exciting read. I’ve never completely understood the filibuster other than it’s basically a relic of the old south its ongoing problems with slavery and racism.
People often overestimate the depth of the filibuster’s roots. When the Senate voted in 2013 to invoke the “nuclear option” to approve presidential nominees, then-Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) wrote in The Washington Post that sidestepping the filibuster was “the most dangerous restructuring of Senate rules since Thomas Jefferson wrote them.” More recently, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) defended the filibuster in the Charleston Gazette-Mail by saying, “Our founders were wise to see the temptation of absolute power and built in specific checks and balances to force compromise that serves to preserve our fragile democracy.”
True — but the filibuster was not one of these checks and balances. The Senate did not have any provision for a supermajority on legislation for its first 17 years. Like the House, its rules allowed a “motion for the previous question,” where a majority could move directly to vote. That provision was taken out in 1806, when Vice President Aaron Burr cleaned up what he regarded as extraneous provisions in the Senate’s cluttered rule book. For decades after the change, the status quo largely prevailed — until the 1840s, when John C. Calhoun exploited the motion’s absence to stall anti-slavery action by talking at length on the floor, joined by allies. His adversaries had no ability to stop the talk. From the 20th century on, the rules changed multiple times, always to make it easier for the majority to overcome a filibuster and move to action.
Biden will have some great information on the economy to share but will it really convince those of us that are experiences the challenges of the Covid-19 economy? Economist Noah Smith calls this the “Biden Boom”.
The official numbers aren’t in yet, but In the 4th quarter of 2021, the United States economy is believed to have grown by about 5.5% or 6% (annualized rate). That’s a pretty incredible number, when you consider that the consensus forecast for China is only 3.5% in the same quarter. But things get even more impressive when you look at the employment numbers. The unemployment rate probably fell to 4.1% in December — a number below what we used to think to think of as the “natural rate” of unemployment.
If you told me in April 2020 that unemployment would be 4.1% by December 2021, I’d have laughed in your face. And yet here we are.
Of course, after the Great Recession, we all got very used to looking past headline unemployment numbers, to see who is actually working. But now when we do that, we see that all the other numbers tell the same story. U6, the broadest measure of unemployment plus underemployment, is down to the level of 2018 or 2006. And my personal favorite labor market indicator, the prime-age employment-to-population ratio, is back to the level of late 2017.
Other indicators also show an extremely healthy labor market. While some have interpreted rising quits as a sign of a “Great Resignation”, the truth is that this mostly just reflects job churn; people are quitting in order to get better jobs, because the opportunities are so good. To see that, check out this graph from the Economic Policy Institute, showing that hires are greater than quits pretty much everywhere:
He’s got some wonky FRED graphs to back up the analysis. And, this folks explains why we see some inflation. But, that’s not a problem; the Fed needs to bump the interest rates up to more normal levels and out of historical lows. This is an economy we haven’t seen for a long time, and it’s kind’ve exciting!
The hearing to sentencing for the three murderers of Ahmaud Arbery is in court right now. Read more at the ABC link.
Well, I think that’s enough for me today. Happy Carnival Season!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Oh, it’s so on this year! There are sights to see and
this song to sing!
Sunday’s ChoicePosted: February 2, 2020 Filed under: Happiness, Hillary Clinton, impeach trump, morning reads, open thread, Psychopaths in charge, SOTU 14 Comments
Well, I’ve gotten suspended again on the Twitbox, can’t even say a few fuck yous to a couple of dipshits these days:
I’m so sick of all this…so let’s just see a few tweets and call it a day.
Hell yes to that! So click that link and check out the good things people are saying about our Hillary.
In other news:
On a personal note, I have become an Initiate in The Temple of Mary.
The mysteries of the Temple of Mary focus on the spiritual transformation of body, mind and soul. Through the study and understanding of symbol, metaphor and myth, we discover that human consciousness has been evolving through the ages, but the message of Love has always been a part of our sacred stories and even more importantly, that all stories contain the same archetypes, the same challenges and are in many ways, the same story – just with different names and cultures.
I came across Hettienne Ma, during the Walking with Mary month of contemplation. After this time, I started to study with her about the Black Madonna…Divine Femine, Carl Jung, Hindu and Buddhist spiritual stories, tarot, teachings of Anandamayi Ma…and so many others. It is ongoing, and fascinating. Here is some more information about Hettienne and the Order of the Dove:
I have reached a point where Hettienne has given me a spiritual name…Niranjana Maria Devi…and yesterday was my Namadiksha.
If you are on Instagram and would like to follow this next 30 days of #walkingwithmary it starts on Monday:
Have a wonderful day.
This is an open thread.
Wednesday Reads: “Multicultural Affinity”Posted: January 30, 2018 Filed under: Civil Rights, Human Rights, morning reads, open thread, Political and Editorial Cartoons, racism, SOTU, the GOP, Trump, U.S. Politics, Wednesday Hump Day Cartoons | Tags: "Ethnic Affinity", African-American, Asian-American, Congressional Black Caucus, discriminatory advertising, exclude by race, Facebook, Facebook advertisers, Facebook advertising, Fair Housing Act, Fair Housing Act of 1968, Hispanic, multicultural affinity, ProPublica, target marketing, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 34 Comments
Anyone know exactly what “multicultural affinity” means?
In advertising terms it is:
used to descibe the quality of people who are interested in and likely to respond well to multicultural content. referring to their affinity to the cultures they are interested in. based on affinity, not ethnicity.
According to my Facebook categories, I have African-American multicultural affinities.
They also say I’m “very liberal” …I wonder what gives them that idea?
The reason I came about this discovery was an article about Facebook ads targeting your political affiliation:
How to Change Facebook Ads Privacy Settings Targeting Your Politics – Thrillist
Unless you’ve managed to avoid your Facebook feed for the last year and half, no doubt you’ve learned a whole lot more about your friends’ and family’s political views than you ever cared to. And even if you’ve personally made a conscious effort to stay neutral or discreet about your leanings in the midst of the madness, the reality is that Facebook has a pretty good idea of your political preferences anyway.
That’s because included amongst the hordes of data Zuckerberg and Co. are constantly collecting about you in order to better serve up ads is an inference about how liberal, moderate, or conservative you might be. Here’s how to find out what you’ve been categorized as, and how to change it.
What I find interesting…is that on that political front, facebook does not have any sample ads for my “very liberal” political leanings:
But what is really funny….is that they have samples of ads for my African-American “multicultural affinity”:
Hmmmm, credit problems and burner phones? Okay….
But what is interesting is that Facebook has me “categorized” as a US soccer kind of person…not one who has an American Football affinity:
Damn, no sample ads for that either….but keep that tidbit of info handy because we will come back to it shortly.
Why does all this shit matter you may say?
New Facebook Multicultural Affinity Targeting: More Granular Segmenting Options for Brands – PerformicsPerformics
(Date on this link is from 12/2015)
The 2010 U.S. Census reported that Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans make up one-third of the U.S. population, and that number is growing rapidly. Reaching and personalizing to these audiences is an essential part of any brand’s marketing strategy. As such, Facebook recognized a need for more multicultural targeting across Facebook and Instagram.
According to Facebook, Multicultural Affinity is “the quality of people who are interested in and likely to respond well to multicultural content.” This new targeting solution enables advertisers to more effectively reach and engage people of varying traditions, beliefs, aesthetics, languages and musical tastes. The targeting is based on affinity, not ethnicity. Affinity can be described as “a relationship, like a marriage, as a natural liking, and as a similarity of characteristics.” This means that ads can be targeted to people with multicultural interests.
Three audiences have been broken out in Multicultural Affinity: Hispanic, African American and Asian American affinities:
You can go to the link to read about the three audiences, the point to this should be highlighted here, cough…cough:
This targeting is very concentrated and it may not be the best solution for every advertiser or every campaign. To drive the best results, this targeting should only be used with a specific goal to reach a specific audience. Conduct a test to see how Multicultural Affinity targeting performs against existing targeting to determine its effectiveness.
However when you look more into the real reason for the breakdown, you can see what the real target is used for:
Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race — ProPublica
Oh, look at the date on this, Oct. 28th, 2016
Facebook’s system allows advertisers to exclude black, Hispanic, and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing ads.
Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers.
That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays.
The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.
You can see the actual name of this feature was called “Ethnic Affinity”:
The ad we purchased was targeted to Facebook members who were house hunting and excluded anyone with an “affinity” for African-American, Asian-American or Hispanic people. (Here’s the ad itself.)
When we showed Facebook’s racial exclusion options to a prominent civil rights lawyer John Relman, he gasped and said, “This is horrifying. This is massively illegal. This is about as blatant a violation of the federal Fair Housing Act as one can find.”
The Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes it illegal “to make, print, or publish, or cause to be made, printed, or published any notice, statement, or advertisement, with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits the “printing or publication of notices or advertisements indicating prohibited preference, limitation, specification or discrimination” in employment recruitment.
Facebook’s business model is based on allowing advertisers to target specific groups — or, apparently to exclude specific groups — using huge reams of personal data the company has collected about its users. Facebook’s microtargeting is particularly helpful for advertisers looking to reach niche audiences, such as swing-state voters concerned about climate change. ProPublica recently offered a tool allowing users to see how Facebook is categorizing them. We found nearly 50,000 unique categories in which Facebook places its users.
Oh boy…go and read the whole thing, and then see the follow-up here:
Facebook (Still) Letting Housing Advertisers Exclude… — ProPublica
Yeah, the date here is Nov. 21st, 2017
After ProPublica revealed last year that Facebook advertisers could target housing ads to whites only, the company announced it had built a system to spot and reject discriminatory ads. We retested and found major omissions.
In February, Facebook said it would step up enforcementof its prohibition against discrimination in advertising for housing, employment or credit.
But our tests showed a significant lapse in the company’s monitoring of the rental market.
Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook, but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African Americans, mothers of high school kids,people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina and Spanish speakers.
All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to publish any advertisement “with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.” Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines.
Every single ad was approved within minutes.
The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters “interested in Islam, Sunni Islam and Shia Islam.” It was approved after 22 minutes.
Under its own policies, Facebook should have flagged these ads, and prevented the posting of some of them. Its failure to do so revives questions about whether the company is in compliance with federal fair housing rules, as well as about its ability and commitment to police discriminatory advertising on the world’s largest social network.
Damn…that is surprising…ain’t it? (Snark is heavily insinuated here.)
Based on Facebook’s announcement, the ads purchased by ProPublica that were aimed at racial categories should have been rejected. The others should have prompted a screen to pop up asking for self-certification. We never encountered a self-certification screen, and none of our ads were rejected by Facebook.
“This was a failure in our enforcement and we’re disappointed that we fell short of our commitments,” Ami Vora, vice president of product management at Facebook, said in an emailed statement. “The rental housing ads purchased by ProPublica should have but did not trigger the extra review and certifications we put in place due to a technical failure.”
Vora added that Facebook’s anti-discrimination system had “successfully flagged millions of ads” in the credit, employment and housing categories and that Facebook will now begin requiring self-certification for ads in all categories that choose to exclude an audience segment. “Our systems continue to improve but we can do better,” Vora said.
About 37 percent of U.S. households rented in 2016, representing a 50-year high, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. On average, renters earn about half as much as homeowners, and the percentage of families with children that rent rather than buy has increased sharply in the past decade, the study said. Minority renters have long faced pervasive housing discrimination. A 2013 study by HUD found that real estate agents show more units to whites than to African Americans, Asians and Latinos.
Gee…innit that the three categories of multicultural affinity?
Facebook has been under fire for other aspects of its automated ad buying system as well. Two months ago, the company disclosed that it had discovered $100,000 worth of divisive political ads placed by “inauthentic” Russian accounts. And in September, ProPublica reported that Facebook’s ad targeting system allowed buyers to reach people who identified themselves as “Jew haters” and other anti-Semitic categories. Facebook pledged to remove the offending categories and to hire thousands more employees to enforce its ad policies.
“We’re adding additional layers of review where people use potentially sensitive categories for targeting,” Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch said during Senate testimony earlier this month.
After Stretch’s public statement, we wondered whether the ability to buy discriminatory housing ads had really been addressed. So we set out to buy an advertisement with the exact same targeting parameters as the ad we bought last year. The ad promoted a fictional apartment for rent and was targeted at people living in New York, ages 18–65, who were house hunting and likely to move. We asked Facebook not to show the ad to people categorized under the “multicultural affinity” of Hispanic, African American or Asian American.
(ProPublica generally forbids impersonation in news gathering. We felt in this instance that the public interest in Facebook’s ad system justified the brief posting of a fake ad for non-existent housing. We deleted each ad as soon as it was approved.)
The only changes from last year that we could identify in Facebook’s ad buying system was that the category called “Ethnic Affinity” had been renamed “Multicultural Affinity” and was no longer part of “Demographics.” It is now designated as part of “Behaviors.”
Go…yeah, go and see the actual screenshots of the ad placements. Remember that thing I mentioned up top about the soccer affinity?
Then we decided to test whether we could purchase housing ads that discriminated against other protected categories of people under the Fair Housing Act.
We placed ads that sought to exclude members of as many of the protected categories as we could find in Facebook’s self-service advertising portal. In addition to those mentioned above, we bought ads that were blocked from being shown to “soccer moms,” people interested in American sign language, gay menand Christians.
Just read the rest of the thread at the link, but wait there is more:
According to ProPublica, Facebook to Temporarily Block Advertisers From Excluding… — ProPublica
Uh…the date on this is Nov. 29th, 2017
The social network’s actions come after a ProPublica investigation revealed that Facebook failed to keep its promise to reject discriminatory housing ads.
Facebook said it would temporarily stop advertisers from being able to exclude viewers by race while it studies the use of its ad targeting system.
“Until we can better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately, we are disabling the option that permits advertisers to exclude multicultural affinity segments from the audience for their ads,” Facebook Sheryl Sandberg wrote in a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus.
ProPublica disclosed last week that Facebook was still allowing advertisers to buy housing ads that excluded audiences by race, despite its promises earlier this year to reject such ads. ProPublica also found that Facebook was not asking housing advertisers that blocked other sensitive audience categories — by religion, gender, or disability — to “self-certify” that their ads were compliant with anti-discrimination laws.
In her letter, Sandberg said the company will examine how advertisers are using its exclusion tool — “focusing particularly on potentially sensitive segments” such as ads that exclude LGBTQ communities or people with disabilities. “During this review, no advertisers will be able to create ads that exclude multicultural affinity groups,” Facebook Vice President Rob Goldman said in an emailed statement.
Goldman said the results of the audit would be shared with “groups focused on discrimination in ads,” and that Facebook would work with them to identify further improvements and publish the steps it will take.
Here are a few other articles on the matter:
Facebook disabling “multicultural affinity” group advertising tool – Axios
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a letter today to Congressional Black Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond that it is disabling a tool that allows advertisers to exclude “multicultural affinity” segments from their audiences. She also declared that Facebook is “determined to do better” on multicultural marketing.
Why it matters: Rep. Robin Kelly said in a press release earlier this month that Facebook’s “Ethnic Affinity” advertising option makes Facebook “complicit in promoting restrictive housing practices.” Sandberg said in her letter that Facebook would strengthen policies to prohibit discriminatory advertising, and that until Facebook can “better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately,” the tool is being disabled.Show less
Facebook suspends ability to target ads by excluding racial groups | Article [AMP] | Reuters
Sandberg said in the letter that advertisers who use Facebook’s targeting options to include certain races for ads about housing, employment or credit will have to certify to Facebook that they are complying with Facebook’s anti-discrimination policy and with applicable law.
Sandberg defended race- and culture-based marketing in general, saying it was a common and legitimate practice in the ad industry to try to reach specific communities.
I take it, those ads for burner phones and credit problems are legitimate practices…reaching a specific community…the multicultural African-American affinity community.
Alright…now for the fucking funnies!
By the way…if Mueller is fired…protest marches are already planned. To find the closest one in your area, text Mueller to Resistbot at 50409…the location of the nearest immediate protest march will appear with all pertinent information.
And now the cartoons:
And that’s all folks!
This is an open thread…
State of the Union Live BlogPosted: January 20, 2015 Filed under: Live, Live Blog, SOTU | Tags: 2015 State of the Union Live Blog 105 Comments
Tonight we’re watching the State of the Union address to see exactly what the last two years of the Obama presidency may bring. It will be a tough few years given the group that was sent to Congress last fall. We’re about to see a bunch of whackadoodle dandies go wild. There are several rumors up on the internet concerning possible executive orders that will be announced to tonight. Here is one of the more interesting ones.
It is being reported that one of President Obama’s surprises at the State Of The Union will be an announcement of an executive order that will take on the Koch Brothers and Citizens United.
Eleanor Clift of The Daily Beast reported:
Wednesday is the fifth anniversary of Citizens United, and reformers have been told that the president may announce executive action in his SOTU speech that would require businesses contracting with the government to disclose political contributions after contracts have been awarded. This would ensure that the contracting process is blind, but also give the public (and the media) the information needed to connect the dots to look for backroom deals or conflicts of interest.
Guess who happens to have multi-million dollar contracts with the Department of Defense? The federal government hatingKoch Brothers have tens of millions of dollars in defense contracts with the federal government. Rush Limbaugh also has a federal government contract that allows his showto be broadcast on the American Forces Network.
It is possible that the president will announce this executive order tonight, but he may also decide to wait and make a separate announcement. When/if the president does decide to make this announcement it will be a huge boost to transparency. The Koch brothers have a web of secret organizations that they route their money through, so most of their campaign spending will remain a secret, but it will become a bit easier to connect the dots and figure how much direct influence campaign donations are having on public policy decisions.
Ron Fournier of the National Journal suggests we just the President’s agenda with this set of criteria. Progress or Politics?
Republicans just seized control of Congress. President Obama’s job-approval ratings just jumped. Gas prices and the unemployment rate are down. The gross domestic product is up. Now what? Democratic and Republican leaders face a choice: Begin governing together, or treat this moment like just another stop on a perpetual campaign.
Unfortunately, both the White House and the GOP-led Congress seem focused prematurely on 2016. Republicans are sending to the White House legislation they know Obama will veto. The president is pushing an agenda he knows Congress won’t pass. It’s a recipe for more gridlock, more fighting, more courting of donors and ignoring the needs of a country in transition.
In other words: The state of the union is the status quo.
If you’re OK with that, stop reading. If you’d rather see progress than partisan gains, consider this: The State of the Union address is an opportunity for the president to chart a path toward consensus on issues like jobs, social mobility, education, infrastructure, energy, the debt, the environment, and terrorism.
Is Obama more interested in politics or progress? Here are five ways to tell from his address tonight.
Isn’t Obama a lame duck? After all, this speech comes after Republicans won control of both chambers for the first time this presidency. Here’s a trivia question: When was the last time a President gave his seventh year State of the Union to a Congress that wasn’t controlled by the other party? Answer: Franklin Roosevelt in 1939. Every other two termer had lost control of Congress by the last lap of his presidency. They all faced a steeper political terrain than Obama does. Dwight Eisenhower faced Cold War setbacks. Ronald Reagan spoke in 1987 right after the Iran-Contra scandal broke, and he had to lead the speech with a discussion and apology. Bill Clinton was in the middle of his Senate impeachment trial in 1999. And George W. Bush spoke at a time when we were losing in Iraq. He faced withering controversy over the “surge” of troops, which proved a good policy, but made for a challenging speech environment. Some of them had productive last two years; some didn’t. But there is much room for a creative president and Congress to achieve things, even by fighting.
For President Obama, the new party balance offers some unexpected benefits. In recent years, Congress has been paralyzed, polarized, and entirely dysfunctional. Now conservatives control it, but at least it might actually pass legislation. Obama suddenly will be more central, more relevant than he has been in domestic politics over the past year. His veto pen will be all that stands between the Republican agenda and enactment. He can draw lines, pick fights, or choose cooperation. In so doing, too, he will have the ability to make broad public arguments in the context of a real debate—on the economy, on the role of government, on contentious long-term issues such as climate change.
How can the President use this diminished but still potent platform?
So, grab the popcorn and let’s see if this year’s hostile audience pulls any big tricks.
President Obama is courting controversy with his decision to address a group that has become dominated in recent years by extremists.
Some have questioned the appropriateness of the President speaking to such an extremist group, especially because in the past it has issued threats against the United States government.
The SOTU will be streaming at CSPAN and on the White House Website if you want to avoid the District Puppetry errrrr Punditry.
MLK Holiday ReadsPosted: January 19, 2015 Filed under: morning reads, SOTU | Tags: 2016 presidential race, Martin Luther King's Birthday 22 Comments
It’s our holiday to celebrate the contributions of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King! No holiday celebration is complete without drawings by grade school children!!
President Obama will give his SOTU address tomorrow and will call for raising taxes on the wealthy to provide tax cuts for the middle class. This is an interesting strategy and I’m sure the Republicans are planning on screaming “class war” for the next few days.
President Obama will use his State of the Union address to call on Congress to raise taxes and fees on the wealthiest taxpayers and the largest financial firms to finance an array of tax cuts for the middle class, pressing to reshape the tax code to help working families, administration officials said on Saturday.
The proposal faces long odds in the Republican-controlled Congress, led by lawmakers who have long opposed raising taxes and who argue that doing so would hamper economic growth at a time the country cannot afford it. And it was quickly dismissed by leading Republicans as a nonstarter.
But the decision to present the plan during Tuesday’s speech marks the start of a debate over taxes and the economy that will shape both Mr. Obama’s legacy and the 2016 presidential campaign.
It is also the latest indication that the president, untethered from political constraints after Democratic losses in the midterm elections, is moving aggressively to set the terms of that discussion, even as he pushes audacious moves in other areas, like immigration and relations with Cuba.
The president’s plan would raise $320 billion over the next decade, while adding new provisions cutting taxes by $175 billion over the same period. The revenue generated would also cover an initiative Mr. Obama announced this month, offering some students two years of tuition-free community college, which the White House has said would cost $60 billion over 10 years.
The centerpiece of the plan, described by administration officials on the condition of anonymity ahead of the president’s speech, would eliminate what Mr. Obama’s advisers call the “trust-fund loophole,” a provision governing inherited assets that shields hundreds of billions of dollars from taxation each year. The plan would also increase the top capital-gains tax rate, to 28 percent from 23.8 percent, for couples with incomes above $500,000 annually.
Those changes and a new fee on banks with assets over $50 billion would be used to finance a set of tax breaks for middle-income earners, including a $500 credit for families in which both spouses work; increased child care and education credits; and incentives to save for retirement.
The initiative signals a turnabout for Mr. Obama, who has spoken repeatedly about the potential for a deal with Republicans on business tax reform but little about individual taxation, an area fraught with disagreements.
“Slapping American small businesses, savers and investors with more tax hikes only negates the benefits of the tax policies that have been successful in helping to expand the economy, promote savings and create jobs,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and chairman of the Finance Committee. “The president needs to stop listening to his liberal allies who want to raise taxes at all costs and start working with Congress to fix our broken tax code.”
Republicans have already referred to it as “trolling” given that they run both houses of the US Congress and will pass neither one. This does, however, have very bad optics for them. It puts them squarely in league with the uberwealthy.
“It’s not surprising to see the president call for tax hikes, but now he’s asking Congress to reverse bipartisan tax relief that he signed into law,” said Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Stewart said that “Republicans believe we should simplify America’s outdated tax code; that tax filing should be easier for you, not just those with fancy accountants; and that tax reform should create jobs for families, not the [Internal Revenue Service].”
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, also criticized the proposal.
“This is not a serious proposal,” said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck in a public statement. “We lift families up and grow the economy with a simpler, flatter tax code, not big tax increases to pay for more Washington spending.”
Plan details include hitting big banks and inheritance taxes. These suggestions really go at the types of tax cuts that incent gambling and increase financial wealth rather than industrial and business wealth that create jobs and economic growth.
During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama will lay out a plan to extend tax credits to the middle class by hiking taxes on wealthier Americans and big banks, according to senior administration officials.
Under the plan, the capital gains tax for couples with income over $500,000 per year would be raised from its current level of 23.8 percent up to 28. The plan would also strip a tax break, known as a “step-up,” that allows heirs to avoid capital gains taxes on large inheritances.
In addition, the plan would institute a new tax on the biggest financial institutions, basing the fee on liabilities in order to discourage risky borrowing. The administration says the fee would hit the roughly 100 banks that have assets of $50 billion or more.
The president’s plan would use revenues from those tax code changes to finance credits aimed at the middle class, officials said. That includes extending the earned income tax credits to families without children, which would benefit an estimated 13 million low-income workers, while also tripling the maximum tax credits for child care in low- and middle-income homes.
“This proposal is probably the most impactful way we can address the manifest unfairness in our tax system,” an administration official said.
The tax hikes on capital gains would run into heavy opposition from Republicans in the GOP-controlled Congress. Other elements of the president’s plan, however, have enjoyed some degree of bipartisan support. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has proposed a similar tax on big banks, and many Republicans favor the idea of broadening the earned income tax credit.
According to officials, the capital gains tax reforms would impact “almost exclusively” the top 1 percent of earners, carving out the majority of middle-income families from the hikes.
Here’s an essential outline for the items up for revision in the President’s plan. Is it his Piketty moment? This one is my personal favorite but they’re all good.
Raise the top capital gains tax rate from 23.8 to 28 percent. This is straightforward enough. Money you get from investments is taxed less than money you get from, you know, actually working, and while that might be good for the economy, it’s not good for a basic sense of fairness. Not when the top 400 households are getting 16 percent of all capital gains, and the top 0.1 percent are getting half of them. That’s why, as theCongressional Budget Office (CBO) dryly puts it, “preferential tax rates on dividends and capital gains provide almost no benefit to households in the bottom four quintiles, but provide notable benefits to households in the top quintile”.
So Obama wants to push the top capital gains tax rate, which only applies to couples making more than $500,000, up from its current level of 23.8 percent to 28 percent, where it was when Ronald Reagan left office. In all, the White House calculates that increasing the capital gains tax and getting rid of step-up basis would raise 99 percent of its money from the top 1 percent, with 80 percent of that coming from the top 0.1 percent.
This is one of the items that has really drawn money out of doing business and into stock market gambling. Why work when you can day trade your life into a lower tax bracket as a wealthy person?
Here’s a few political things sure to give you some fits and giggles. Lady Lindsey is said to be considering a run at the Presidency.
Sen. Lindsey Graham acknowledged on Sunday he’s seriously exploring a bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
Asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” if he had started polling voters about his chances in 2016, Graham said he is not polling, “but we set up a testing-the-waters committee under the IRS code that will allow me to look beyond South Carolina as to whether or not a guy like Lindsey Graham has a viable path.”
“I don’t know where this will go, but I’m definitely going to look at it,” said Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina.
Another Tiger Beat on the Potomac exclusive says that Sarah Palin is the only Republican with less popularity than Chris Christie.
A new CBS poll shows 29 percent of Republicans would like to see Christie run for the Republican nomination for president. But 44 percent say no. CBS points out “Only former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s numbers are more underwater: 30 percent of Republicans say they’d like to see her run, but 59 percent disagree.”
Fifty-nine percent of Republicans would like to see Mitt Romney jump into the 2016 race, while 26 percent believe he should stay out.
“Fifty percent of Republicans would like to see former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the campaign trail as well, while 27 percent disagree,” pollsters said. “If both Romney and Bush run, analysts expect them to wage a competitive battle for the allegiance of the Republican establishment.”
Numbers for some of the others often mentioned:
– Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: 40 percent of Republicans urge him to get in, and 29 percent say stay out.
– “Twenty-seven percent of Republicans would like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul to mount a bid, but 34 percent disagree. Twenty-six percent would like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to run, while 19 percent would not. Twenty-one percent want Texas Sen. Ted Cruz to run, while 25 percent want him to not run.”
– Gov. Rick Perry of Texas: 21 percent yes, 29 percent no.
– Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana: 14 percent yes, 20 percent no.
– Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin: 22 percent yes, 12 percent no.
Maybe winning isn’t everything after all. “Republicans, by a 61 to 35 percent margin, believe it’s more important to have a nominee who agrees with them on the issues than a nominee who can win the general election,” according to the poll.
Well, that’s it for today! We’ll see you with a live blog for the SOTU tomorrow!! Have a great holiday!
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?