Losing Liberals

artwork by nataliedee.com

There’s an emerging blog discussion on Obama’s dropping poll numbers in the Democratic Party base and the drop of yet another hippie bashing meme by OFA Director Ray Sandoval.  There’s a lot of people that think that the base has no place to go and will return to the fold, but I’ve noticed the increased number of Democratic Congress members that seem to have Obama fatigue.   You may have read BostonBoomer’s post on Maxine Waters who has been out with members of the black caucus in major cities trying to connect the jobless with jobs.

There’s also evidence that other members are equally disenchanted.  I’m not really sure what that will mean over the next year’s election cycle.  I just know that there’s a willingness now to speak up unlike the conspiracy of silence that plagued elected Democratic officials since early 2008.   I’ve got a few examples to share with you.

Here’s an excellent interview with  MA Representative Jim McGovern. The bolded sentence is my nomination for QOTD.

“We need to get the focus back on jobs,” said McGovern. “Here we are at the end of August, and Congress hasn’t done anything about jobs.”

McGovern voted “no” on the debt ceiling compromise, calling it “a catastrophe” that disagreed with both President Obama and the American people’s stance on revenues.

I didn’t run for Congress to dismantle the New Deal,” said McGovern.

The Massachusetts Rep is a loyal supporter of the president, but feels that the current political climate in the country calls for bolder leadership.

“The president needs to fight back,” he said.

Congressman Pete DeFazio says that Obama “lacks the will to fight” and that  may cost him Oregon. DeFazio says that his boldest defense of the President recently sums up to it could have been worse.  That’s hardly a resounding endorsement of bold leadership.

In his Eugene office Wednesday, Defazio accused the President of lacking the will to fight for the promises he made to get elected.

“Fight? I don’t think it’s a word in his vocabulary,” said the Springfield Democrat, who specifically cited Obama’s lack of follow-through in promises to restore Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

“He repeatedly said that. Then the Republicans telegraphed to him they were going to use a fake crisis over the debt limit in order to muscle some major spending reductions or other things on to him. And that was in December. And what happens? Suddenly he flip flops and concedes everything to the Republicans.”

Asked whether he thought the President had a shot at re-election, Defazio was skeptical.

“At this point it pretty much depends on how far out there the Republican nominee is. You know with a respectable–someone who is a little bit toward the middle of the road–Republican nominee, he’s going to have a very tough time getting re-elected,” said DeFazio.

He’s also not convinced the President will do well in Oregon.

“I believe Oregon is very much in play. I mean we are one of the harder hit states in the union, particularly my part of the state. I’ve just done six town hall meetings, have seven to go but people are shaking their heads and saying ‘I don’t know if I’d vote for him again.’” Defazio said.

Asked if he was surprised, the congressman shrugged.

“Not at all,” DeFazio said. “One guy asked me, ‘Give me 25 words what he’s about and what he’s done for me.’ I’m like, ‘It could have been worse.’”

So, those folks that were gaga over “No Drama Obama”  have suddenly found that translates into “No Guts and No Glory”.  Chuck Hobbs–a Florida Trial lawyer and writer for Politics365–has some interesting analysis on the thesis that President Obama is losing support from progressives.

Curiously, the president’s focus soon shifted from job creation to passing a sweeping health reform measure. What passed, known as the Affordable Care Act, was viewed by many progressives as a shell of the long desired single payer system in that the current act does more to provide incentives to existing insurance companies than containing costs or providing greater benefits to Americans.

Still, if most progressives are willing to concede that some form of universal care is better than none, few are as accommodating for other perceived missteps by the Obama administration. Chief among these include the president’s reticence to advocate government sponsored economic stimulation with respect to jobs—a modern day “New Deal” similar to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s public works programs. Others were concerned with the president’s escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan and willingness to attack Libya despite the fact that Libya’s civil war did not directly implicate any U.S. interests. Other progressives lament the fact that the president has taken a seemingly nuanced approach on the issue of gay marriage.

These concerns pale in comparison to progressives fevered pitch from the recent debt ceiling debate, one in which Tea Party conservatives’ unwillingness to compromise drove the president closer to the ideological right with respect to tax cuts.

The fact that no new revenue sources were created particularly vexed perennial third party challenger Ralph Nader, who now calls for a primary challenger to Obama in 2012.  Nader recently stated that he “would guess that the chances of there being a challenge to Obama in the primary are almost 100 percent.”

Nader also averred “when (Obama) surrendered the continuation of tax cuts for the rich last December, the least he could have gotten was the debt ceiling increased. He didn’t even do that. So he set himself up for this hostage situation by the Republicans and it’s his own fault. And the country and the workers are paying the price.”

Obama’s advisers are trying to position the President as the calm voice in Washington that seeks compromise and stays above the fray.  He’s got some room with that posture while the Republican primary contenders eat each other alive for the position of who can pander most successfully to the crazy right. It seems clear to me that Obama will never place himself in the position of pandering to the left or center left.  His strategy is appears to follow DeFazio’s characterization. Hey Vote for me! It could’ve been worse.

My thought is that line of reasoning will not hold water as the economy continues to crumble, joblessness remains high–especially among minorities and young people who are a core constituency of the President, and Republicans solidify behind a candidate.  Will Democratic voters sit this election out now that it’s unlikely to be viewed as historic?  Let me quote one more Democratic Congressman and examine a recent Obama policy morph.  This is from Luis Guitterez on Obama’s lost pledge to Latinos.

To understand why I chose to participate with others in an act of peaceful civil disobedience over President Obama’s record-setting pace of immigrant deportations, you need to go back to 12 July 2008. In San Diego, then Senator – and Democratic candidate for president – Barack Obama’s spoke to the annual national conference of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organisation. He told the mostly Latino audience:

When communities are terrorised by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel, when all that is happening, the system just isn’t working and we need to change it.

He received thunderous applause and went on to promise to address immigration reform to protect immigrants from deportation in his first year in office, and pledged he would not walk away even if it was politically difficult to keep moving forward. He won the election with an overwhelming and unprecedented 67% of the Latino vote – which had expanded by 2 million new voters since 2004 – and won key states like Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada (and, therefore, the White House) on the strength of the Latino vote. Indeed, the slogan adopted by his campaign, “Yes We Can”, is an adaptation of the iconic chant of the Mexican American farm labor movement of the 1960s, “Si Se Puede,” led by César Chávez.

Flash forward to now and Barack Obama‘s record on immigration as president does not match the rhetoric or the huge expectations he created in 2008. A million people have been deported by President Obama – approximately, 1,100 per day; most of them Latinos – far more than his predecessor George W Bush or any American president. Without being prodded by Congress, he expanded the use of the military at the border with Mexico, mandated the use of an electronic employment eligibility system for all firms doing business with the government and, most controversially, expanded a programme misnamed “secure communities” that enlists state and local law enforcement in federal immigration matters. Such programmes erode trust between immigrants and their local police because reporting a crime or domestic abuse could lead to deportation (which has, indeed, happened). When the governors of New York, Massachusetts and Obama’s own State of Illinois – solidly Democratic Obama territory – tried to withdraw from the program, the president told them participation by their states, counties and cities is mandatory.

The response to this has been interesting.  US Today has labelled the Obama deportation policy as “Smart Politics”.

President Obama’s new policy on deporting illegal immigrants won’t just help those immigrants without criminal records. It could help Obama as well.

The policy, announced by the Department of Homeland Security Thursday, places priority on deporting criminal aliens and other priority cases. Those who arrived in the United States as children, received college educations or served in the military will be less likely to get deported.

The decision is sure to be reviewed by Congress. In particular, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, argues the administration is overstepping its authority by picking and choosing among those who entered the country illegally.

But one thing seems clear: The move will help Obama among Hispanics, many of whom have long argued that he was being unnecessarily tough on deportation policy.

This is clearly another example of a White House policy that triangulates rather than shows any bold vision. This does appear to be a White House that plays 11th dimensional chess with itself and then loses.  So, my question of the day is how many folks will be willing to show up and vote for the President based on “it could’ve been worse”?


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’ll start out with a shocking story that, unfortunately, doesn’t surprise me. Bradley Manning, the young man who is suspected of giving information about U.S. war crimes to Wikileaks, is being exposed to conditions that decent people would call torture. I’ve been worried about the treatment Manning would receive in prison, and have repeatedly said I was afraid he’d be tortured.

Keep in mind that Manning has not been charged with any crime, but has been imprisoned for seven months–the first two months in Kuwait and the rest of the time in Quantico, VA. Glenn Greenwald writes that, although Manning has been a model prisoner, he has been living

under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning’s detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.

[….]

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.

In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig’s medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.

This is a disgrace. President Obama should be hanging his head in shame. But he probably can’t be bothered about little things like torture. He had a big important meeting today with the head honchos of the oligarchy.

Hoping to mend fences with business leaders and spur more hiring, President Obama spent more than four hours with chief executives of 20 major companies in a “working meeting” that both sides said paved the way for better cooperation.

Mend fences?! Obama has pretty much been down on his knees to these guys for years. The super-rich just never get enough, do they? But Obama will keep on endlessly cowering before them in hopes of one day pleasing them.

The session was another step in Obama’s move toward the political center after big Republican gains in last month’s mid-term elections. A year after referring to Wall Street executives as “fat-cat bankers,” Obama is taking a less confrontational approach.

Administration officials have chafed at being labeled anti-business and have been trying to dispel that criticism. They initiated business-friendly moves in recent weeks, such as completing a trade pact with South Korea and making a deal with congressional Republican leaders to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and other tax breaks helpful to U.S. companies.

If Obama moves and further to the “center,” he’s going to fall off the rightward edge of the political spectrum.

The President said he “made progress” in the meeting with the CEOs:

The business leaders, who included UBS AG Chairman for the Americas Robert Wolf and Honeywell International Inc. Chairman David Cote, met with Obama for more than four hours today for a discussion aimed at fostering cooperation and finding ways to spur U.S. economic growth.

“We focused on jobs and investment, and they feel optimistic that by working together we can get some of that cash off the sidelines,” Obama said as he left the session, referring to the almost $2 trillion that he said companies have amassed.

The meeting at Blair House, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, was convened by the president as part of an outreach to business to confer on issues such as education, exports, regulation and the budget deficit. It comes as his administration works to heal a strained relationship with the business community and to collaborate on ways to boost jobs, with the nation’s unemployment rate at 9.8 percent.

I just don’t get all this talk about a “strained relationship” with business. What a bunch of hooey!

The President must have made big promises to the oligarchs at this meeting, because he’s been spending the day making phone calls and whining to Congress critters about how his presidency will be over if they don’t pass his lousy tax-cuts-for-the-rich-bill.

Obama is telling members of Congress that failure to pass the tax-cut legislation could result in the end of his presidency, Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.) said.

“The White House is putting on tremendous pressure, making phone calls, the president is making phone calls saying this is the end of his presidency if he doesn’t get this bad deal,” he told CNN’s Eliot Spitzer.

The White House issued a denial after DeFazio’s appearance on CNN. But I believe DeFazio, because he’s not a proven liar like Obama is. What does DeFazio think about Obama’s chances of being reelected?

“…I think this is potentially the end of his possibility of being reelected if he gets this deal,” he said.

Glenn Ford has another must-read post up at Black Agenda Report. Of course you have to read the whole thing, but here’s a sample:

Now that self-proclaimed progressives have passed the point of disenchantment with Barack Obama and entered the stage of active anger at their once-imagined ally, they should quickly take the next step and acknowledge that he is what we at Black Agenda Report have been saying for six years: a right-wing Democrat who has long been aligned with the corporate Democratic Leadership Conference, and whose mission is to expand U.S. empire and put the American state at the service of Wall Street. He has been remarkably successful in both endeavors.

Of necessity, these strategic goals require Obama to wage war against the left hemisphere of his own Party, the main obstacle, in the absence of effective grassroots progressive movements, to forging a grand coalition with Republicans. The president, whom deluded Progressives for Obama hallucinated might become the kind of “transformative” leader that would galvanize Left constituencies into a ready-mix, shake-and-bake “movement,” also sees himself as a transformative figure, but of the opposite kind. He presented his candidacy as the antidote to what he described during the Nevada presidential primary as the “excesses” of the Sixties and Seventies. His reverence for Ronald Reagan is genuine. Indeed, if Obama were not Black, and if his supporters had not been busy getting drunk in a wishing-well, he would have been widely recognized as a stylistically updated Reagan Democrat.

Yup, Obama is transformative alright. He transformed the Democratic Party right out of existence.

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that two classified intelligence reports say that the Afghanistan debacle is getting even worse than anyone knew.

The reports, one on Afghanistan and one on Pakistan, say that although there have been gains for the United States and NATO in the war, the unwillingness of Pakistan to shut down militant sanctuaries in its lawless tribal region remains a serious obstacle. American military commanders say insurgents freely cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan to plant bombs and fight American troops and then return to Pakistan for rest and resupply.

The findings in the reports, called National Intelligence Estimates, represent the consensus view of the United States’ 16 intelligence agencies, as opposed to the military, and were provided last week to some members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. The findings were described by a number of American officials who read the reports’ executive summaries.

Robert Greenwald commented on this situation at FDL:

On Thursday, December 16, 2010, the White House will use its December review to try to spin the disastrous Afghanistan War plan by citing “progress” in the military campaign, but the available facts paint a picture of a war that’s not making us safer and that’s not worth the cost.

Let’s take a look at just the very broad strokes of the information. After more than nine years and a full year of a massive escalation policy:

– the insurgency continues to gain in size and strength,
– more U.S. troops are dying than ever,
– more civilians are dying than ever,
– violence in the country continues to spike,
– Pakistan is playing a double game with the U.S. and
– the military strategy lacks credible prospects for a turnaround.

And yet, we are told we can expect a report touting security gains and “progress,” and that there’s virtually zero chance of any significant policy change from this review. It sort of begs the question: just what level of catastrophe in Afghanistan would signal that we need a change in direction?

That’s a very good question. We need to get the hell out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen ASAP.

According to The New York Times, the U.S. hopes to develop conspiracy charges against Wikileaks editor Julian Assange.

Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.

Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

I’m sure they’ll figure out some trumped up charges, since the U.S. no longer operates under the rule of law.

From Raw Story, some TSA news:

Adrienne Durso, a resident of California, was selected for an enhanced pat-down after walking through a metal detector at Albuquerque International Sunport airport, according to a lawsuit.

Durso, a recent breast cancer survivor, said the TSA security officer forcefully searched the area of her recent mastectomy, leaving her in pain and on the verge of crying.

[….]

When her son [age 17] confronted a security supervisor about the incident, asking why his mother had been selected for a pat-down but not him, the supervisor allegedly replied that the son was not selected because “you don’t have boobs.”

After her experience, Durso joined three other plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA administrator John Pistole.

Nice, huh?

Finally, baseball fans will be saddened to learn that Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller has died. He was 92.

Bob Feller, who came off an Iowa farm with a dazzling fastball that made him a national celebrity at 17 and propelled him to the Hall of Fame as one of baseball’s greatest pitchers, died Wednesday at a hospice. He was 92.

[….]

Joining the Cleveland Indians in 1936, Feller became baseball’s biggest draw since Babe Ruth, throwing pitches that batters could barely see — fastballs approaching 100 miles an hour and curveballs and sinkers that fooled the sharpest eyes. He was Rapid Robert in the sports pages. As Yankees pitcher Lefty Gomez was said to have remarked after three Feller pitches blew by him, “That last one sounded a little low.”

A high-kicking right-hander, Feller was a major league phenomenon while still in high school in Van Meter, Iowa. His debut as an Indians starter, during his summer vacation, was spectacular: he struck out 15 batters.

Three weeks later he struck out 17, tying Dizzy Dean’s major league record. He pitched a no-hitter, the first of three in his 18-year career, when he was 21. (He went on to throw an astonishing 12 one-hitters.) He had more than 100 victories at age 22.

Feller was truly one of the greats.

Sooooo… what are you reading this morning?


The No Bailouts Act

Congressman Peter DeFazio from Oregon has sent a letter to colleagues offering an alternative to the current $700 billion bailout.  It is worth a look.

DeFazio Introduces the No BAILOUTS Act | Print |

The following is a Dear Colleague sent by Representative DeFazio introducing his No BAILOUTS Act, which would Address the current financial crisis without putting the American taxpayer on the hook for billions of dollars.

 

Dear Democratic Colleague:

 

 The House of Representatives rejected the $700 bailout yesterday. Distinguished economists across the world have stated it would not have solved the problem at hand. However, we can potentially solve this liquidity problem at little cost to the taxpayer.  I am proposing that Congress drop the Paulson Plan, and instead pass the No BAILOUTS Act.  The No BAILOUTS Act provides an alternative to the Paulson Proposal to address the current credit crunch.  Once Congress addresses the liquidity shortfalls in our financial markets, a Democratic Congress can turn to Democratic solutions to address the broader economic crises we face today.  Specifically, Congress can work to resolve the housing crisis across the country and pass effective job stimulus, which is the response Main Street America expects and deserves.      

While Democrats and Republicans may disagree on the underlying solutions to solve the economic crises we face, the No BAILOUTS Act – a regulatory based proposal – has the potential for significant bipartisan support. 

 The Paulson Premise Flawed

Simon Johnson, a former chief economist as the International Monetary Fund, stated today in the New York Times of Paulson’s plan, “It’s our view that this package, in a fundamental sense, will not solve the problem.”  Other economic analysts noted yesterday that the credit markets around the world were almost entirely dysfunctional even when political leaders and investors assumed that Congress had reached a deal and would easily approve the bailout.  There is no reason to believe Paulson’s plan will work.

 

 Alternatives

We have credible alternatives to the Paulson/Bush $700 billion gamble.  William Isaac, the chairman of the FDIC during the previous worst financial crisis in the United States during the 1980s, believes Congress can address the current crisis with simple changes to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules.  Mr. Isaac points out that while we face serious financial challenges today, many banks are still in good shape.  This allows Congress to take swift, uncomplicated steps to ensure the financial markets return to working order. After that, we can work to resolve the housing crisis and pass effective job stimulus.

 Today I am offering an alternative to the Wall Street bailout that will correct the capital shortfalls experienced by many financial institutions and help protect the integrity and quality of the securities market.  My plan could be implemented promptly meeting the demands of the Bush Administration to act immediately without putting the American taxpayer on the hook for billions of dollars.

     No BAILOUTS Act

Bringing Accounting, Increased Liquidity, Oversight and Upholding Taxpayer Security 

1)      Require the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require an economic value standard to measure the capital of financial institutions.

 This bill will require SEC to implement a rule to suspend the application of fair value accounting standards to financial institutions, which marks assets to the market value, no matter the conditions of the market. When no meaningful market exists, as is the current market for mortgage backed securities, this standard requires institutions to value assets at fire-sale prices. This creates a capital shortfall on paper. Using the economic value standard as bank examines have traditionally done will immediately correct the capital shortfalls experienced by many institutions.

 2)      Require the Securities and Exchange Commission to restricting naked short sells permanently

 This bill will require SEC to implement a rule that blocks naked selling, selling a stock short without first borrowing the shares or ensuring the shares can be borrowed. Such practices many times harm the companies represented in the sales and hurt their efforts to raise capital. There is no economic value produced by naked short sales, but significant negative effects.

 3)      Require the Securities and Exchange Commission to restore the up-tick rule permanently.

 This bill will require SEC to implement a rule that blocks short sales without an up-tick in the market.  On September 19, 2008, the SEC approved a temporary pause of short selling in financial companies “to protect the integrity and quality of the securities market and strengthen investor confidence.” This rule prevents market crashes brought on by irrational short term market behavior.

 4)      “Net Worth Certificate Program”

 This bill will require FDIC to implement a net worth certificate program. The FDIC would determine banks with short-term capital needs and the ability to financially recover in the foreseeable future.  For those entities that qualify, the FDIC should purchase net worth certificates in these institutions.  In exchange, these institutions issue promissory notes to repay the FDIC, counting the amount “borrowed” as capital on their balance sheets.  This exchange provides short term capital, with not cash outlay.  Interest rates on the certificates and the FDIC notes should be identical so no subsidy is necessary.

 Participating banks must be subject to strict oversight by the FDIC including oversight of top executive compensation and if necessary the removal of poor management.  Financial records and business plans should be subject to scrutiny while participating in the program.

 In 1982, Congress approved a program, known as the Net Worth Certificate Program, that allowed banks and thrifts to apply for immediate capital assistance.  From 1982 to 1993, banks with total assets of $40 billion participated in the program. The majority of these banks, 75%, required no further assistance beyond the certificate program.

 5)      Increase the FDIC Insurance limit from $100,000 to $250,000.

 The bill will require the FDIC raise its limit to provide depositors confidence that their money is safe and help eliminate runs on banks which are destabilizing to the industry.

 

Sincerely

 

Peter DeFazio

Member of Congress