Gene Sperling: “A mix of entitlements and revenues was part of the DNA” of the Sequester “from the start.”

Gene Sperling and Barack Obama

Gene Sperling and Barack Obama

I want to call attention to some rather startling statements in Gene Sperling’s e-mail to Bob Woodward, which I posted earlier. Please note the highlighted sections.

From Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward on Feb. 22, 2013

Bob:

I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.

But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)

I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is diffferent. Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.

My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.

Gene

Really? Does anyone recall President Obama saying that at the time the sequester was proposed and voted on in 2011? Did President Obama discuss these plans for entitlement cuts during his campaign for re-election? I’ve always suspected he did plan cuts in Social Security, Medicare, but when did he publicly state this? I’ve done a somewhat cursory search, but I can’t find anything.

There is no mention of these agreed-upon cuts in the Wikipedia entry on the Budget Control Act of 2011. There no mention of “entitlement” cuts in this extensive article at The Bipartisan Policy Center. This analysis (pdf) notes that the Supercommittee was authorized to cut Social Security:

The “Super Committee” deficit reduction plan: BCA also creates a new, special joint committee of Congress charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction to avoid any potential sequestration. This “Super Committee” can cut spending (including Social Security and Medicare), raise revenue, or propose a combination of both. If the committee cannot agree on a plan, or Congress fails to approve it, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion will be triggered through sequestration. To assist the Super Committee with its task, Congress also provided for an accelerated review of the Super Committee recommendations, provided that the Super Committee followed specific timelines, as outlined in the text.

But I think it was generally assumed that the Super Committee would not be able to agree on anything, and if they did that the Senate at least would not vote for Social Security cuts.

So now the truth has come out. Certainly no one from the White House has come rushing out to deny that cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are what is supposed to balance any new revenue. A few other bloggers have written about this.

Digby is always alert for any mentions of Obama’s seeming obsession with cutting Social Security, and she didn’t miss this one.

I don’t know that anyone’s ever admitted that in public before or that the president was completely, shall we say, honest when he ran for his second term about that specific definition of “a balanced approach”. I haven’t heard anyone say publicly that the sequester “deal” as far as the White House was concerned was to cut “entitlements” in exchange for new revenues. I wonder how many members of congress were aware of this “deal” when they voted for the sequester? The public certainly wasn’t.

I wish I could understand why it is so important to Barack Obama to cut these vital programs before he leaves office. It seems to be his obsession. But there you have it. It’s not just in the DNA of the sequester, it seems to be in the DNA of this White House.

In this sense, it seems that Sperling and Woodward–and by extension Obama–do “see eye to eye.”

At FDL, John Walker gets right to the point in his headline: Sperling: Obama Wanted Sequester to Force Democrats to Accept Entitlement Cuts.

The way Obama has handled basically every manufactured crisis from the debt ceiling, to the Bush tax cuts expiration, to the sequester has been about trying to force both Democrats and Republicans to embrace his version of a “grand bargain.” While it is clear this has been the driving force behind Obama’s decisions, if you pay close attention to his actions is is rare than an administration official will directly admit this. This is actually what I think it most interesting about the recently leaked email exchange between Bob Woodward and Gene Sperling up on Politico…..

Obama wants to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Obama also wants to raise taxes, but he only wants to do these unpopular things if he can get bipartisan cover to destroy basic democratic accountability. If everyone is to blame than no one is to blame.

What has sometimes been viewed as incompetence on the part of Obama during negotiations is actually Obama trying to weaken Democrats’ hand to “force” them to accept entitlement cuts while being able to blame it on the mean Republicans.

That is why even now Obama isn’t calling for the sequester to be simply repealed or delayed. Obama still wants to use this manufactured crisis to force congressional Democrats to betray their base by adopting Social Security cuts and get Republicans to accept revenue increases.

Finally, thanks to JJ for sending me the link to this piece by Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect: Dear White House, You’ll Regret This.

[Gene Sperling’s] e-mail is pure confirmation that Obama’s position, dating back to at least 2011, has been to try to trade cuts in Social Security and Medicare for new revenues. It confirms that Sperling and his boss have been channeling the likes of Robert Rubin, Pete Peterson, the corporate-sponsored Fix the Debt campaign, et al., who have been promoting exactly this grand bargain. Sperling confirms that the sequester was designed to force exactly such a dismal deal.

But even worse, writes Kuttner, is what the e-mail demonstrations about Sperling’s–and Obama’s–pathetic negotiating skills.

The Woodward-Sperling exchange is far more interesting for what it reveals about Sperling/Obama’s propensity for giving ground on core issues and getting almost nothing in return. I supposed we should be grateful that Sperling is only wrecking the economy, the Democrats, Social Security, and Medicare—and not negotiating nukes with the Ayatollah.

I’ve said ever since I read The Audacity of Hope back in 2007 that Obama wanted to cut Social Security. Actually, he made it clear in the book that he wanted to privatize it, but he must have realized that wasn’t going to happen. It’s time for those of us who care about these issues to start screaming bloody murder again. We need to get on this ASAP. So tell your friends and call your Congress critters.

The floor is open for discussion.


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

The Tax Cuts for Billionaires (tm) program has passed and will keep all the scrooges making merry merry for a bit.  Unfortunately, the stimulus and capital investment will probably go outside the United States and a budget fight is on deck.   The next budget crisis is looming.  The Federal government will probably hit the debt ceiling in April.  There’s 50 other problem budgets out there also. CBS has an interesting state of the states piece up called “The Day Of Reckoning”.

Most states will have worse problems because they must balance their budget, they’re running cyclic deficits which happens when unemployment goes up and they can’t print money.  State budgets are overwhelmed with needs for state programs like food stamps and unemployment as well as SCHIP and other family safety net programs.  They are also underwhelmed by incoming revenues because demand for things is way off.  Federal tax cuts make this worse because many states–including here in Louisiana–base their income tax formulas on how much Federal Taxes have been paid. It’s tough for them to change the law at this point to reflect that Obama/McConnell Billionaire rescue plan ™.   States and municipalities must watch their bond ratings and compete with other states for investor funds.  This keeps them on a much tighter rein than the Feds.  Additionally, there was some stimulus money in the original Obama stimulus progam that is not being renewed and will run out.    All-in-all, 2011 will be a bad year for states. The worst is yet to come.

This situation has already worried Wall Street and  will undoubtedly cause an increase in unemployment as state and local workers are laid off to balance budgets.  One problem that we’ve had here in Louisiana is that state employment levels have been frozen in the clerical areas and the increased demand for unemployment has led to a 4 – 6 month backlog in processing unemployment benefits.   If you don’t have a rich relative or an emergency savings fund, you’re most likely going to find yourself out on the street.  It’s been the topic of many an investigative report in local TV.  I found that it’s not just in Louisiana.  It’s happened in Connecticut, Kansas, Rhode Island, and California too.

The states have been getting by on billions of dollars in federal stimulus funds, but the day of reckoning is at hand. The debt crisis is already making Wall Street nervous, and some believe that it could derail the recovery, cost a million public employees their jobs and require another big bailout package that no one in Washington wants to talk about.”The most alarming thing about the state issue is the level of complacency,” Meredith Whitney, one of the most respected financial analysts on Wall Street and one of the most influential women in American business, told correspondent Steve Kroft

Whitney made her reputation by warning that the big banks were in big trouble long before the 2008 collapse. Now, she’s warning about a financial meltdown in state and local governments.

“It has tentacles as wide as anything I’ve seen. I think next to housing this is the single most important issue in the United States, and certainly the largest threat to the U.S. economy,” she told Kroft.

Asked why people aren’t paying attention, Whitney said, “‘Cause they don’t pay attention until they have to.”

Whitney says it’s time to start.

This investigative report has examples of looming problems for California, Arizona and New Jersey.  If you live in any of these three states, you should be prepared for an incredible scale back of government services and possible tax hikes. Another state with serious problems is Illinois.  Illinois is already in the ‘deadbeat’ state category.  Here in Louisiana, severe budget cuts by “Bobby is for Bobby” Jindal have led to attempts to break all public service unions including the ones for teachers, state clerical workers, firefighters and police.  Here’s a list of targeted furloughs, layoffs, and firings in Louisiana as reported by WBRZ, a Baton Rouge TV station last month. If they’re not happening in your state already, they will undoubtedly be starting next year when the stimulus funds run out.  Prison guards are even on the list.  I wonder who will win the debtor’s prisons and poor house farms?  Halliburton perhaps?

There is one more major lame duck issue sitting on the docket.  Democratic senate leaders are hopeful they will get the START treaty ratified despite ongoing Republican obfuscation. Let’s hope they’ve got the votes they need.  Even Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell are on board with ratification.

By the end of another tumultuous day, treaty backers said they could count more than the two-thirds majority required for approval in votes that could begin as early as Tuesday. The Senate mustered as many as 64 votes in defeating Republican amendments on Monday, just two short of what supporters need for final approval, and three senators who supported one of the amendments have already said they will vote for the treaty in the end.

The momentum building for the treaty came despite the announcements of the two top Senate Republican leaders, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Jon Kyl of Arizona, that they will vote against the treaty, known as New Start. Treaty supporters pressured wavering Republicans on Monday with an appeal by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nation’s top military officer, to approve the agreement.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s recent slip of the tongue will undoubtedly create issues should he decided to make a run for the presidency in 2012. Barbour gave an extensive interview that basically showed how many parts of the south have not changed.   The Mississippi governor praised a civic group that is–for all intent and purpose–a  white supremacist group  in the state.  He also made a comment about the things not being so bad during the civil rights era.  Kinda makes me think Trent Lott might have a better shot at the presidency than good ol’ Haley does.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says he doesn’t remember the Civil Rights era being “that bad,” citing his attendance at a Martin Luther King Jr. rally nearly 50 years ago.

“I just don’t remember it as being that bad,” Barbour (R), 63, told the conservative Weekly Standard, which did a lengthy profile on the governor. “I remember Martin Luther King came to town, in ’62. He spoke out at the old fairground and it was full of people, black and white.”

The profile also showed Barbour’s ignorance of the role of hate group in trying to maintain segregation.  The group has a long history of white supremacist activities and writings.

“You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK,” said Barbour. “Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you’d lose it. If you had a store, they’d see nobody shopped there. We didn’t have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City.”

The White Citizens Council movement was founded in Mississippi in 1954, shortly after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that outlawed segregated public schools, and was dedicated to political activities opposing civil rights — notably boycotts of pro-civil rights individuals in Barbour’s hometown, as opposed to Barbour’s recollection of actions against the Klan. It was distinguished from the Klan by the public self-identification of its members, and its image of suits and ties as opposed to white robes and nooses.

If you check the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate map of Mississippi, you’ll see that they’ve identified approximately 25 hate groups there.  Many are in the area surrounding Yazoo.  You’ll see that the Council of Conservative Citizens is quite active around the area. Some of these groups have changed their name to sound more palatable but it’s the same old racist screeds. It wouldn’t take much for Barbour to learn about these folks.

The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) is the modern reincarnation of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South. Created in 1985 from the mailing lists of its predecessor organization, the CCC, which initially tried to project a “mainstream” image, has evolved into a crudely white supremacist group whose website has run pictures comparing pop singer Michael Jackson to an ape and referred to blacks as “a retrograde species of humanity.” The group’s newspaper, Citizens Informer, regularly publishes articles condemning “race mixing,” decrying the evils of illegal immigration, and lamenting the decline of white, European civilization.

In Its Own Words

“God is the author of racism. God is the One who divided mankind into different types. … Mixing the races is rebelliousness against God.”
— Council of Conservative Citizens website, 2001

“We believe the United States is a European country and that Americans are part of the European people. … We therefore oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime. We believe that illegal immigration must be stopped, if necessary by military force and placing troops on our national borders; that illegal aliens must be returned to their own countries; and that legal immigration must be severely restricted or halted through appropriate changes in our laws and policies. We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action’ and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races.”
—Statement of Principles, Citizens Informer, 2007

“Controlling immigration is about the security of this republic [terrorists illegally crossing the borders] and making sure countries like Mexico stop dumping their murderers, rapists, those carrying AIDS and other communicable diseases and gang members on America’s door step.”
—Devvy Kidd, Citizens Informer, 2006

Yup, nothing to see here.  Just about as benign as your local chamber of commerce or Elk’s Club. You’d think a governor would be familiar with terrorist and hate groups in his own state, wouldn’t you?

This Politico op-ed by Robert Kuttner is undoubtedly one of the first in the a number that will come up as Obama moves on Social Security. It’s called ‘Obama to blink first on Social Security’. Kuttner says that key senate Democrats and the White House are moving to embrace the Cat Food commission report AND cuts in social security. We’re supposed to hear about it in the State of the Union address coming up in January.

The idea is to pre-empt an even more draconian set of budget cuts likely to be proposed by the incoming House Budget Committee chairman, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), as a condition of extending the debt ceiling. This is expected to hit in April.

White House strategists believe this can also give Obama “credit” for getting serious about deficit reduction — now more urgent with the nearly $900 billion increase in the deficit via the tax cut deal.

How to put this politely? For a Democratic president, this approach is bad economics and worse politics.

For starters, cutting Social Security as part of a deficit reduction deal is needless — since Social Security is in surplus for the next 27 years. The move also gives away the single most potent distinction between Democrats and Republicans — Democrats defend your Social Security, and Republicans keep trying to undermine it.

If you think the Democratic base feels betrayed by Obama’s tax-cut deal, just imagine the mayhem when Obama proposes to cut the Democrats’ signature program.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) compared Obama’s tax deal to punting on first down. A pre-emptive cut in Social Security is forfeiting the game before kickoff.

Hey, Al, I got an idea.  Why don’t you and the others fight him just for once?  Frankly no deal is better than the deals he’s been negotiating for us.  Don’t hold your nose and vote for this one like you did with the Tax Cut for Billionaires (tm) plan.  Please?

Altogether now,  “We are so F’d”.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Monday Reads

Good Morning!! It’s the beginning of another week and, despite the impending holidays, there is quite a bit of news.

Six U.S. soldiers were killed by a bomb in Afghanistan yesterday.

Six U.S. soldiers were killed and more than a dozen U.S. and Afghan troops were wounded Sunday when a van packed with explosives was detonated at a new jointly operated outpost in southern Afghanistan.

The soldiers were inside a mud-walled building near the village of Sangsar, north of the Arghandab River, when the bomber drove up to one of the walls and exploded his charge.

The explosion blasted a hole in the thick wall, causing the roof to collapse on the soldiers inside. Others quickly arrived and clawed and pulled at the waist-deep rubble to free the buried troops.

[….]

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing. “We have killed numbers of Americans and Afghan soldiers and wrecked and ruined their security check post,” a Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said by phone. “We will carry out similar attacks in the future.”

USA Today: Taliban small arms attacks nearly double

U.S. forces have encountered more than 18,000 attacks this year from Taliban fighters armed with automatic weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and in some cases missiles, according to data from the Pentagon. That compares with about 10,600 such attacks in 2009.

But supposedly, that’s a good sign.

Army Capt. Ryan Donald, a military spokesman in Kabul, said the rise is a result of bringing “the fight to them.”

Donald said coalition troops have been on the offensive in an attempt to dislodge Taliban forces from their strongholds in southern Afghanistan and in the east along the mountainous border with Pakistan.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, this week to assess the situation.

More hard fighting remains, Gates said.

“This is tough terrain, and this is a tough fight,” Gates said. “But as Gen. Petraeus has said, we are breaking the momentum of the enemy, and we will reverse that momentum in partnering with the Afghans and will make this a better place for them, so they can take over, and we can all go home. It will be awhile, and we’ll suffer tougher losses as we go.”

More from the Globe and Mail:

Barack Obama’s high-risk war wager that sent tens of thousands of U.S. troops surging into Afghanistan is showing signs of success, U.S. officials say. The raging Taliban insurgency is being defeated, but foreign troops are still years away from heading for the exit.

“Our joint efforts are paying off,” said Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defence and the only cabinet secretary kept on by Mr. Obama from the former Bush administration. “[I’m] convinced that our strategy is working and that we will be able to achieve key goals set out by President Barack Obama last year.”

Hey, we’re years away from exiting this endless war, so how is that success? I just don’t get the point of all this violence and death.

In another of Obama’s battles–this one to give more money to the rich–David Axelrod claims the Democrats in Congress will go along with the con game.

White House adviser David Axelrod said the administration expects House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, to back the compromise tax package negotiated by President Barack Obama and the Republicans.

“At the end of the day no one wants to see taxes go up for 150 million Americans on January 1st,” Axelrod said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “This framework represents a compromise that both sides can accept and we can’t change it in major ways and expect that this thing is going to pass.”

So the rich will get richer and the old and the disabled with pay the price.

At Huffpo, former Obama believer Robert Kuttner writes about the “coming cave-in” of Social Security.

If you think the Democratic base is mad at Obama now for making a craven deal with Republicans that continues tax breaks for the richest Americans and adds new ones for their heirs through a big cut in the estate tax, just wait a few weeks until Obama caves on Social Security.

A few weeks?!

…Obama has created a kind of pincer attack on Social Security. One arm is the deficit commission, which has created the blueprint. The other is the tax-cut deal, which increases the deficit, adding to the artificial hysteria that Social Security is going broke. Meanwhile, the right is playing a very cute game, congratulating Obama for the deal….

When the right congratulates Obama for winning, you know he is losing. For starters, the proposed compromise isn’t much of an economic stimulus. If the deal passes Congress, taxpayers will be paying the same income tax rates in 2011 and 2012 as in 2010. No stimulus there.

The only real stimulus is the temporary cut in Social Security taxes, the extension of unemployment insurance plus a few minor tax breaks for regular people, totaling about $200 billion. That’s a little more than one percent of a $15 trillion economy. Pretty puny, certainly a lot smaller than the inadequate stimulus of February 2009 when the recession was only beginning to deepen.

Except for the extension of unemployment insurance, which should be done out of common decency, most of the “stimulus” is pure Republican ideology — stimulate the economy by cutting taxes.

Folks, the only thing standing between us and economic disaster for the majority of Americans is the weak-kneed Democrats in Congress. Nancy Pelosi needs to come through this time.

Robert Reich thinks lots of people are going to be to beat down and discouraged to drag themselves to the polls and vote in 2012.

In the 2010 midterm elections Democrats suffered from a so-called “enthusiasm gap.”

If Dems agree to the tax plan just negotiated by the White House with Republican leaders, they’ll face a “why-should-I-get-up-out-of-my-chair” gap that will make 2010’s Dem enthusiasm seem like a pep rally by comparison.

It’s a $70,000 gift for every millionaire, financed by a gigantic hole in the federal budget that will put on the cutting board education, infrastructure, and everything else most other Americans need and want.

“Why should I get out of my chair” in 2012, he asks.

Here are a couple of interesting stories about the potential effects of Wikileaks on the corporate media.

Dakinikat sent me this link: ‘The Fourth Estate is dead,’ former CIA analyst declares

Ray McGovern, of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, told Raw Story in an exclusive interview. “The Fourth Estate in his country has been captured by government and corporations, the military-industrial complex, the intelligence apparatus. Captive! So, there is no Fourth Estate.”

[….]

McGovern, a CIA analyst for 27 years, whose duties included preparing and briefing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates, said that he preferred to focus on the First Amendment battle of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange than on the current “cyber war” in which WikiLeaks is embroiled.

McGovern said that modern people can now become informed through what he termed “The Fifth Estate.”

“Luckily, there is a Fifth Estate,” he said. “The Fifth Estate exists in the ether. It’s not susceptible of government, of corporations, or advertisers or military control. It’s free. That is very dangerous to people who like to make secrets and to make secret operational things. It’s a huge threat. And the Empire – the Goliath here – is being threatened by a slingshot in the form of a computer and a stone through these emissions thrown into the ether to our own computers.”

And there’s this story at The New York Times: WikiLeaks Taps Power of the Press

In July, WikiLeaks began what amounted to a partnership with mainstream media organizations, including The New York Times, by giving them an early look at the so-called Afghan War Diary, a strategy that resulted in extensive reporting on the implications of the secret documents.

Then in October, the heretofore classified mother lode of 250,000 United States diplomatic cables that describe tensions across the globe was shared by WikiLeaks with Le Monde, El Pais, The Guardian and Der Spiegel. (The Guardian shared documents with The New York Times.) The result was huge: many articles have come out since, many of them deep dives into the implications of the trove of documents.

Notice that with each successive release, WikiLeaks has become more strategic and has been rewarded with deeper, more extensive coverage of its revelations. It’s a long walk from WikiLeaks’s origins as a user-edited site held in common to something more akin to a traditional model of publishing, but seems to be in keeping with its manifesto to deliver documents with “maximum possible impact.”

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’s founder and guiding spirit, apparently began to understand that scarcity, not ubiquity, drives coverage of events. Instead of just pulling back the blankets for all to see, he began to limit the disclosures to those who would add value through presentation, editing and additional reporting. In a sense, Mr. Assange, a former programmer, leveraged the processing power of the news media to build a story and present it in comprehensible ways. (Of course, as someone who draws a paycheck from a mainstream journalism outfit, it may be no surprise that I continue to see durable value in what we do even amid the journalistic jujitsu WikiLeaks introduces.)

A new site for leaks, “Open Leaks” is supposed to debut today. It was formed by some disgruntled Wickileaks employees. Is it possible that we are really seeing a way to combat the power of the corporate media and force them to respond to the needs of ordinary Americans or become obsolete?

Media professor Douglas Rushkoff says the Internet “was never free or open and never will be.”

Secrets outlet WikiLeaks’ continuing struggle to remain online in the face of corporate and government censorship is a striking example of something few truly realize: that the Internet is not and never has been democratically controlled, a media studies professor commented to Raw Story.

“[T]he stuff that goes on on the Internet does not go on because the authorties can’t stop it,” Douglas Rushkoff, author of Program or be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age and Life, Inc.: How Corporatism Conquered the World and How to Take it Back”, said. “It goes on because the authorities are choosing what to stop and what not to stop.”

Rushkoff told Raw Story that the authorities have the ability to quash cyber dissent due to the Internet’s original design, as a top-down, authoritarian device with a centralized indexing system.

Essentially, all one needs to halt a rogue site is to delete its address from the domain name system registry.

Rushkoff says if we really want a free internet we’ll have to build it ourselves.

Here’s a great story: a blogger at NPR asked a question about the 1969 moon landing, and Neil Armstrong himself responded with a lengthy e-mail.

In yesterday’s post, I talked about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s walk across the lunar surface back in 1969 and wondered, how come they walked such a modest distance? Less than a hundred yards from their lander?

Today Neil Armstrong wrote in to say, here are the reasons:

It was really, really hot on the moon, 200 degrees Fahrenheit. We needed protection.

We were wearing new-fangled, water-cooled uniforms and didn’t know how long the coolant would last.

We didn’t know how far we could go in our space suits.

NASA wanted us to conduct our experiments in front of a fixed camera.

We [meaning Neil] cheated just a little, and very briefly bounded off to take pictures of some interesting bedrock.

But basically, he says, we were part of a team and we were team players on a perilous, one-of-a-kind journey. Improvisation was not really an option.

You can read the entire e-mail at the link.

I know everyone has already seen this nutty op-ed by Ishmael Reed: What Progressives Don’t Understand About Obama. I just want to call attention to one strange comment that Reed made in the piece:

…I read a response to an essay I had written about Mark Twain that appeared in “A New Literary History of America.” One of the country’s leading critics, who writes for a prominent progressive blog, called the essay “rowdy,” which I interpreted to mean “lack of deportment.” Perhaps this was because I cited “Huckleberry Finn” to show that some white women managed household slaves, a departure from the revisionist theory that sees Scarlett O’Hara as some kind of feminist martyr.

WTF?! Scarlett O’Hara, a feminist? Let’s see, she wore corsets and spent most of her time flirting with boys. She disliked other women and used men to get what she wanted. What could possibly make her a feminist? Believe it or not, I found a journal article on the subject. You can download the entire article in PDF form if you’re interested. The author, J. M. Spanbauer, describes Scarlett as:

…at best irritating, and at worst, despicable: a character who embodies all of the negative stereotypes attributed to women throughout history. She is narcissistic, shallow, dishonest, manipulative, amoral, and completely lacking in any capacity for self-reflection and for analysis of the emotional and psychological responses of others.

That’s a feminist? The article is an interesting analysis of the roles of women in Scarlett’s time and ours, and why many women still find Scarlet’s fascinating. Read it if you want to know more. I still don’t see how anyone could make a case for Scarlett as a feminist though, any more than I can agree with Ishmael Reed that the reason Obama can’t fight for any principle is that he’s black and black men can’t get angry without threatening white people. Reed should stick to poetry, because he doesn’t understand politics. Obama wouldn’t need to get angry to stand for something. He could be cool as a cucumber and still veto the tax cut extension for the super-rich.

Sooooo… what are you reading this morning?


Tuesday Reads

Barack Obama communes with the ghost of Herbert Hoover

Good Morning!!

I just have one question this morning. Does President Obama read? If he does, there is no way he could miss the fact that he has blown his chance for a second term. Back in January, he told Diane Sawyer:

“I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president,”

Sorry Barack, you’re not even going to be a mediocre one-term president. You’re working on being Herbert Hoover II. You’re destroying the country, and a lot of people are waking up to that reality and beginning to ask how on earth we can get rid of you. Some cases in point:

Norman Solomon, Huffpo:

For the Obama presidency, moral collapse has taken on the appearance of craven clockwork, establishing a concentric pattern — doing immense damage to economic security at home while ratcheting up warfare overseas.

By the end of the weekend, a deal was just about wrapped up between the president and Republican congressional leaders to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

On the spin-cycle agenda this month is yet more reframing of the president’s foggy doubletalk about Afghanistan. Strip away the carefully crafted verbiage and the picture is stark — with plans for a huge U.S. war effort in that country for many years to come.

At the end of a year with massive U.S. military escalation in Afghanistan, parallels with the Johnson administration’s unhinged Vietnam War are hard to miss. Conjectures about an inside-the-Democratic-Party challenge to Obama’s re-nomination are now moving from shadowy whispers to open discourse.

Clarence B. Jones, Scholar in Residence, Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University (H/T Wonk the Vote) Time to Think the Unthinkable: A Democratic Primary Challenge To Obama’s Reelection You need to read the whole thing, but here’s just a sample:

It is not easy to consider challenging the first African-American to be elected as President of the United States. But, regrettably, I believe that the time has come to do this.

It is time for Progressives to stop “whining” and arguing among themselves about whether President Obama will or will not do this or that. Obama is no different than any other President, nominated by his national party. He was elected with the hard work and 24/7 commitment of persons who believed and enlisted in his campaign for “Hope” and “Change.”

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist nor have a PhD in political science and sociology to see clearly that Obama has abandoned much of the base that elected him. He has done this because he no longer respects, fears or believes those persons who elected him have any alternative, but to accept what he does, whether they like it or not.

It is time for those persons who constituted the “Movement” that enabled Senator Barack Obama to be elected to “break their silence”; to indicate that they no longer will sit on their hands, and only let off verbal steam and ineffective sound and fury, and “hope” for the best.

Robert Kuttner, who once hope Barack Obama would be the next FDR:

Let’s stop pretending. Barack Obama is a disaster as a crisis president. He has taken an economic collapse that was the result of Republican ideology and Republican policies, and made it the Democrats’ fault. And the more that he is pummeled, the more he bends over.

So what can we do about it?

the choices boil down to these:

*Let Obama continue to undermine the economy, the real Democratic Party, and the New Deal-Great Society legacy.

*Do a ton of grass roots organizing to put pressure on the administration to change course and in the meantime to back real progressive leaders. The one time in recent memory that something like this worked was in the successful campaign to have Elizabeth Warren appointed interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The trouble is that the Warren appointment was something of a one-off. Though progressive pressure can produce an occasional decent appointment, it is not capable of compelling Obama to grow a spine.

*Run a progressive candidate against Obama in the 2012 primary. At a recent meeting of the Democracy Alliance, most of whose private donors and trade union backers were big Obama supporters, the two White House emissaries were ripped apart. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka was severe in his criticism of the White House failure to promote a real jobs and recovery program. Co-panelist Austan Goolsbee appeared weak and ineffectual, like his President.*

[….]

Yet if we are to be spared an awful decade, both economically and politically, either Obama needs to grow a backbone; or some other Democrat could well challenge him in 2012. Either course will require the progressive community to stop crying in our beer and to get out and organize.

Politics Daily: Dan Rather is predicting a primary challenge to Obama.

Former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather is predicting that if the Bush tax cuts are extended for two years (as now appears likely) President Obama will face a tough primary challenge from the left.

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Jansing & Company,” Rather said:

“This is a political nightmare for Barack Obama as president. The more-left portion of his party hates this with a passion. And politically, within his own party, if this goes through, Barack Obama will be in a position to have his shirttail on fire, his back to the wall, and the bill collector at the door. Which is metaphorically a way of saying he’s almost guaranteed — if this goes through — to have a serious challenge in a Democratic primary for president in 2012.”

Rather went on to add that “the perception of [Obama] is that he won’t fight for anything.” He also noted: “Many of the heavy contributors to the Democratic Party are beyond shock about this happening, and are saying to themselves, ‘This guy . . . has about four to six months to turn the perception of him and the party around or we’ve got to start thinking about somebody else in 2012.’ “

Wrong, Dan. We have about two months to find someone to run against this guy now or we’re doomed.

I did find one prominent Democrat who thinks the talk about primarying Obama is a bunch of hooey, good old Ed Rendell.

Outgoing Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told Salon in an interview this afternoon that he does not think “there’s any chance of a serious contender mounting an effort against the president.”

Rendell offered two reasons for his belief: First, any primary challenge would be “too hard to do — it costs too much money.”

And, second, Rendell believes that Obama has checked off enough boxes on the progressive scorecard to keep any challenge from the left at bay.

“Has he achieved everything that he wanted to achieve — or that [the progressive base] would have wanted him to achieve? No. But given the state of the filibuster rule in the Senate, I think he’s done well in moving the ball forward in a lot of areas, areas he doesn’t get credit for,” Rendell said, rattling off a list of Obama’s accomplishments: not only the healthcare bill, but also the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, credit card reform, student loan reform, and the extension of insurance to low-income children in the S-CHIP program.

Hey Ed, what could be more expensive than keeping Obama? He’s already given away the store. God only know what he’ll cave on next. The country is going down the tubes and you want to keep this tool in office?

That’s what I’ve got for today. What are you reading this morning?