We are almost done with the month of August, and I am looking forward to those cooler days of September and that feeling you get when fall is in the air. There are some updates on the death toll of Irene, and news outlets are beginning to report or speculate on what Obama’s job speech is going to propose. So let’s get to these news links…
As I mentioned, there is a New Irene death toll: 35 killed by the destructive storm – latimes.com
The death toll from Hurricane Irene, later downgraded to a tropical storm, rose dramatically Monday as at least 35 people were reportedly killed by the storm that ripped its way up the East Coast and into New England.
Vermont has 19 towns that are completely isolated due to flooding. CNN was reporting that FEMA is finally distributing supplies and the National Guard is starting to patrol hard hit areas.
I found this next article interesting, and I think you will too. Justice Ginsburg: If I Were Nominated Today, My Women’s Rights Work For The ACLU Would Probably Disqualify Me | ThinkProgress While giving a speech yesterday at Southern Methodist Law School, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had this to say:
If she were nominated to the Supreme Court today, her background as a civil rights attorney would likely prevent her from being confirmed:
“Today, my ACLU connection would probably disqualify me,” she said.
It’s worth noting exactly what kind of work Justice Ginsburg did for the ACLU before she was confirmed to the federal bench. As director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, Ginsburg was literally the single most important women’s rights attorney in American history. She authored the brief in Reed v. Reed that convinced a unanimous Supreme Court to hold for the very first time that the Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection applies to women. And her brief in Craig v. Boren convinced the Court to hand down its very first decision holding that gender discrimination laws are subject to heightened constitutional scrutiny. It is possible that modern doctrines preventing gender discrimination would simply not exist if Ruth Bader Ginsburg hadn’t done the work she did for the ACLU.
And yet, in today’s era of rampant right-wing filibusters, that alone would disqualify her for a seat on the federal bench.
Yes, but in the era of blatant abuses of legal and judicial ethics…you have Justice Clarence Thomas running rampant in the Supreme Court, and no one is holding him accountable.
Obama is getting ready for his pre-game speech about creating jobs for America…so here are a few links about that:
- Creating an “infrastructure bank.” President Obama has called on Congress to create an “infrastructure bank” that would make loans to support highway and rail construction projects. The idea has support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce but faces high hurdles in Congress, The Wall Street Journal reports.
- Renewing payroll-tax cuts. The White House and Congress agreed in December to a one-year cut in the level of Social Security payroll taxes paid by employees, from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for most workers. Speaking in Cannon Falls, Minn., earlier this month, Obama called for extending the tax cut beyond December, saying it would put money in consumers’ pockets and in turn boost businesses and hiring. “All we need to do is renew it,” he said. “It’s already in place.”
- Implementing a new-hire tax credit. Businesses would receive a $5,000 credit for hiring a new employee, and part of that employee’s salary would be subsidized. Labor economist Alan Krueger, who was nominated on Monday to head the White House Council of Economic Advisers, supports the idea, NPR reports. And the White House is reviewing it, according to Reuters.
- Extending jobless benefits. Some argue that extending jobless benefits does little to alleviate unemployment because it discourages people from looking for work. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, on the other hand, called it “one of the most direct ways to infuse money into the economy, because people who are unemployed and obviously aren’t earning a paycheck are going to spend the money that they get. They’re not going to save it; they’re going to spend it.”
- Creating a tax credit for hiring returning veterans. In early August, Obama proposed $120 million in tax credits for businesses that hire Americans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a comprehensive plan to boost employment support for veterans. One aspect of the program would be a “reverse boot camp” to help former service members transition back into a civilian labor market. Obama also said he will challenge businesses to hire or train 100,000 unemployed veterans and their spouses by the end of 2013.
- Ratifying pending trade deals. Finalizing long-stalled pending free-trade agreements with Korea, Panama, and Colombia would create a stronger platform for exports and in turn boost hiring in the United States, proponents say. Opponents argue they would outsource jobs. Voting on the trade agreements was stalled by debt-ceiling talks this summer but is expected to be on the congressional agenda this fall.
- Reforming the patent process. The Senate is scheduled to vote in September on whether to take up the patent-reform bill passed by the House in June. The bill is meant to help move the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office move through a backlog of applications and would establish a post-grant review process. “If we could reform how that system works and cut some of the red tape, we could have entrepreneurs like Google and Microsoft right now, all across the country,” Obama said this month. “But we’ve got to make this investment, and Congress could make that decision to make it happen.”
- Providing aid for teachers. The White House is reviewing a plan to provide aid to cities and towns to help them grow the number of teachers on their payrolls, Reuters reports. Proponents say the decline in state and local workers contributed to the rising national unemployment rate; opponents charge that the plan would amount to unnecessary spending.
- Improving rural broadband connections. President Obama has called for broadband and wireless coverage of 98 percent of the country (about 68 percent is currently covered). The initiative would be aimed at opening isolated businesses to farther-flung markets, which could boost rural hiring. “The days are gone where any business is going to succeed just by selling right where they’re located,” Obama said on his Midwest tour.
- Providing job training for long-term unemployed. Obama has praised a Georgia program that provides eight weeks of unpaid training at a local company for people receiving unemployment benefits. The Wall Street Journal reports that a similar program is likely to be included in the president’s new jobs initiative. Macroeconomic Advisers called such a plan expensive and “unrealistic” to quickly replicate nationwide.
- Funding school renovations. The White House is reviewing an initiative to fund school renovations, Reuters reports. The plan is popular among Democrats, who say it would create construction jobs while improving communities. Republicans would likely resist the initiative because it involves new spending.
Well, I for one would appreciate that rural broadband initiative…
Over at Naked Capitalism, Edward Harrison has this to offer. ECRI: “It’s Too Late” for Obama on Jobs « naked capitalism
Economic Cycle Research Institute co-founder Lakshman Achuthan was on Tech Ticker yesterday discussing the outlook for the economy. Business Insider does a good write-up of his commentary, highlighting the fact that the ECRI has yet to signal a double dip. However, I wanted to add a few comments as well. ECRI’s underlying message is this: we are in a decade-long post-credit crisis struggle which will mean high unemployment even if policy makers focused on jobs (which they have not, I would add).
I agree with this forecast. When I began Credit Writedowns in March 2008, I wrote:
I am cautious about the long-term outlook for the global economy and the U.S. economy in particular. The likely outcome for the next decade is one of sub-par global growth with short business cycles punctuated by fits of recession.
Achuthan explains that this too is the root cause of why he thinks the jobs picture is going to difficult for the US. In essence, Achuthan is saying he expects a series of what I have been calling Shiller Double Dip Recessions. This dovetails with my view of an austerity-induced initial dip followed by the recession-punctuated lost decade thereafter.
I will defer the discussion on this ECRI outlook to Dakinikat, but these last paragraphs sound familiar to me…
If you listen to the Republican voices in Congress and the Republican contenders for US President, this is what you will hear – and will continue to hear. I believe this will mean recession – and recessions cause tax receipts to plunge and outlays to increase, making the deficit larger. Does focusing on deficit reduction reduce deficits? No, an expansionary fiscal contraction will prove illusive. Focusing on deficit reduction will increase the deficit.
This is looking more like Hoover every day. So, the President will have to hang his re-election hat on being able to claim that he prevented an even worse economic environment, hoping the economy doesn’t double dip.
Emptywheel is getting tired of saying the same thing again and again as well…
Perhaps I’m getting tiresome with this point, but sorry, I’m going to make it again.
Two months ago, David Plouffe dismissed the possibility that the unemployment rate would have any effect on Obama’s reelection chances. He (correctly) noted that people judged the President’s performance on the economy by their assessment of how the economy is doing for them.
Problem is, he claimed that people’s perception of how they were doing was improving.
Only, people’s impression of the economy isn’t improving over time. In fact, they’re pretty pessimistic about the economy.
She goes on to cite a report from the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index® which:
…had improved slightly in July, plummeted in August. The Index now stands at 44.5 (1985=100), down from 59.2 in July. The Present Situation Index decreased to 33.3 from 35.7. The Expectations Index decreased to 51.9 from 74.9 last month.
Says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center: “Consumer confidence deteriorated sharply in August, as consumers grew significantly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook. The index is now at its lowest level in more than two years (April 2009, 40.8).
Consumers’ short-term outlook deteriorated sharply in August. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 11.8 percent from 17.9 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen surged to 24.6 percent from 16.1 percent. Consumers were also more pessimistic about the outlook for the job market. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead decreased to 11.4 percent from 16.9 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs increased to 31.5 percent from 22.2 percent. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 14.3 percent from 15.9 percent.
Emptywheel then ends this post hoping Plouffe starts to call the real consumer confidence situation what it really is, and not keep on claiming everything is hunky dorie…when it’s not.
Dak, what do you think about the possible proposals that Obama is going to push…cough, cough. (Excuse me, I got some of those bilateral job creators stuck in my throat there.)
I will end with this from RH Reality Check: Conservative Columnist Supports Family Planning as “Pro-Life” | RH Reality Check
It’s not often that I agree with Michael Gerson, the conservative former speech writer for President George H.W. Bush, advocate for abstinence-only policies in U.S. global AIDS programs, and columnist for the Washington Post.
Today, however, I am in near full-agreement with him on a piece he published in today’s Post.
Gerson just returned from a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo sponsored by CARE during which he and others saw firsthand the struggles of women who live in societies in which they have little control of whether, when and whom they marry, and whether, when and how many children they bear. In these settings, women bear more children than they want and can afford to raise, infant and child mortality rates are high, and complications of both pregnancy and unsafe abortion are the leading cause of deaths among women ages 15 to 49. Medical care is largely inaccessible.
Reproductive and sexual health and rights advocates have always argued that ensuring that women have unfettered access to family planning information and counseling and consistent contraceptive supplies is a “pro-life” strategy, because voluntary family planning dramatically improves the quality of life and survival rates of both children and their mothers, and by extension, families and societies.
But the anti-choice movement in the United has moved from opposing abortion per se to opposing all forms of birth control, an agenda it was always suspected to have in the first place. As such, this movement, led largely by male religious leaders, Congressmen or virulently anti-choice male activists opposes support for family planning services and birth control methods both at home and abroad.
I guess the “idea” that birth control should be offered as a way to protect lives and not offered just so that these women can go out and have a good time is a revelation for Michael Gerson.
Having a “card-carrying” conservative evangelical columnist support family planning as a “pro-life” intervention not only speaks to reality, it is what I hope to be a welcome first first step in pushing back against anti-choice positions that cost far more lives–those of women and children–than they ever “save.”
Visiting the village of Bweremana, Gerson writes:
[T]he correlation between the number of children and the absence of some of their mothers becomes clear. Kanyere Sabasaba, 35, has had 10 children, eight of whom have survived. Her last delivery did not go well. “I delivered the baby without any problem, but I was bleeding much,” she told me. The case was too complex for the local health center, so Kanyere had to pay for her transport to another medical facility. After the surgery, the doctor performed a tubal ligation. “If I give birth again, I could die,” she said. “The last child is the one who could really kill me.”
As Gerson rightly notes, for women in this part of Congo, the complications of childbirth are as dangerous as the militias in the countryside.
One woman I met had given birth to 13 children, only six of whom survived. Women sometimes deliver in the fields while working. Medical help can be a few days’ journey away. Each birth raises the odds of a hemorrhage, infection or rupture. Those odds increase dramatically when births come early in life, or late in life, or in rapid succession. In Congo, almost one in five deaths of women during childbearing years is due to maternal causes.
And, he notes, “While both the pill and condoms are generally available in larger cities such as Goma, access is limited in rural districts. Determining the pace of reproduction is often a male prerogative instead of a shared decision. Sexual violence can be as close for a woman as gathering fuel in the woods.”
These are all absolutely true and I appreciate and admire Gerson for acknowledging these realities.
Well, yes…I am glad this PLUB has realized the problems his “pro-life-until-birth” ideals cause women in countries like the Congo who suffer inconceivable horrors during their child-bearing years.
The United States was once the global leader in funding family planning worldwide. But U.S. funding of international family planning programs has remained essentially flat for the last 10 years, and is hamstrung by an increasing number of medically-unnecessary and ideologically-driven restrictions that end up reducing, rather than expanding access to this urgently-needed health intervention.
Gerson argues that support for family planning and contraceptive supplies shouldn’t be the ideological lightening rod it has become because:
“[e]ven in the most stringent Catholic teaching, the prevention of conception is not the moral equivalent of ending a life. And conservative Protestants have little standing to object to contraception, given the fact that they make liberal use of it. According to a 2009 Gallup poll, more than 90 percent of American evangelicals believe that hormonal and barrier methods of contraception are morally acceptable for adults. Children are gifts from God, but this does not require the collection of as many gifts as biologically possible.
In fact, more than 80 percent of the U.S. public writ large strongly supports women’s rights to determine the number and spacing of children they have.
Well, I am sorry, but I have trouble admiring this new-found reality, because it seems that Gerson has just pulled part of his PLUB head out of his ass…
As you can imagine, Gerson then shoves his head back up there when it comes to abortion as an option for women who do find themselves pregnant.
Gerson points to “[s]ome liberal advocates” who think these are intrinsically related. In regard to self-determination, human rights, and public health, the linkage between a woman’s ability to prevent pregnancy and her ability to safely and legally terminate an unintended and untenable pregnancy are intrinsically linked and women know this. It only becomes ideological when religion and politics intervenes in these basic rights and tries to undermine them.
Gerson states, “support for contraception does not imply or require support for abortion.” Hey, there is no argument with that, but you can see where he is going with this statement…
What Gerson doesn’t clarify is that for the purpose of U.S. policy, contraception and abortion are already kept separate. U.S. international family planning assistance goes solely to family planning information and supplies; it does not support access to safe abortion care. Under the Helms Amendment, funding for abortion care is only allowable in cases of rape, incest or the health and life of the mother. In reality, because of politics, U.S. funding is rarely if ever used even for these “allowable” conditions. The issue of abortion would come into play if we were talking about repealing the Helms Amendment, …which has nothing to do with current discussions around the scope of U.S. international funding for family planning, unless you are a Congressperson trying to deflect attention from the fact that you don’t want to support family planning and want to ignore the evidence that it saves the lives of women and their children.
So when we talk about ideological fights around family planning, it really comes down to a majority male GOP Congressional leadership that vociferously opposes access to basic services that would enable women to choose the number and spacing of children they want by using basic family planning services. Abortion is a red herring here, because it is not in the equation. Gerson himself would have been more forceful if he had clarified that, and he also would have been more honest if in this piece he had reversed his own earlier position supporting the prohibition of integration of family planning into U.S. global AIDS programs, a position adopted by the Bush Administration and, unfortunately, continued by the Obama Administration that dramatically diminishes access to contraceptive supplies to HIV-positive women who desire not to have any more children.
Yeah, it is good Gerson has made the connection between Family Planning and protecting the lives of women and children who live in countries where childbirth can be so dangerous and basic needs like food and healthcare are completely unavailable to the children once they are born. But I do not see this new-found understanding crossing over to the women and children in his own country.
I don’t know, maybe I am being too cynical to give Gerson a pat on the back for his article in the Post…but when you read headlines like these below:
…what does Gerson’s statement pronouncing “Family Planning is Pro-Life” really going to do for women in this country?
Well, you know what my answer to that question is…
Catch y’all later in the comments!
Good Morning!! I’m having trouble finding any new news, but I’ve done my best to dig up a few interesting reads for you.
The Boston Herald has the lowdown on President Obama’s illegal immigrant uncle.
An illegal immigrant from Kenya busted for drunken driving after nearly striking a cop car in Framingham is the uncle of President Obama, the Herald has learned.
Obama Onyango told cops he wanted to “call the White House” after he was nabbed for OUI Aug. 24 after nearly plowing his SUV into a police cruiser. He was arraigned Thursday and was ordered held without bail because he was wanted on a federal immigration warrant, officials said.
Mike Rogers, a spokesman for Cleveland immigration attorney Margaret Wong, who is representing Onyango, confirmed that the 67-year-old is the president’s uncle. Wong is the same lawyer who represented the president’s aunt, Zeituni Onyango, in her fight to win asylum last year.
Reached at her apartment in a South Boston public housing complex today, Zeituni Onyango said of her brother’s arrest: “Why don’t you go to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washingon, D.C. and ask your president? Not me.” She then hung up on a reporter.
OK, it’s another right wing source, but Fox News has a funny article on Obama’s announcement of his new economic adviser Alan Krueger: Seriously? Obama Uses 2 Teleprompters for 3 Minute Speech
President Obama required two heavy-duty teleprompters on Monday during a three-minute speech in which he nominated Alan Krueger to serve as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers.
“I am very pleased to appoint Alan and I look forward to working with him,” Obama said, staring at the large, flat-screen monitor to his right, then shifting his eyes to the teleprompter on his left. “I have nothing but confidence in Alan as he takes on this important role as one of the leaders of my economic team.”
Why couldn’t he just memorize that?
In more serious news, the aftermath of Hurricane Irene has been devastating in Vermont, but the networks aren’t covering it 24/7. I wonder why?
Vermont is reeling today from what is becoming the state’s worst natural disaster since the epic flood of 1927. At least three people have died in the storm, one man is missing, hundreds of roads statewide are closed, and thousands of homes and businesses suffered power outages and serious damage from flooding associated with Tropical Storm Irene.
[Update 5:40 p.m.] Three people are confirmed dead in Vermont in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, and a fourth person is missing, state officials said at a news conference in Montpelier late this afternoon.
The deaths occurred in Wilmington, Rutland and Ludlow. Another person, the son of the Rutland victim, is missing and feared dead, according to state officials.
Perhaps if the media elites lived in Vermont, we’d hear more about it. But they don’t, so it’s not real to them. This is why we can have 25 million people unemployed in this country and the media and political class completely ignore the devastation it causes.
Sarah Jaffe has an important article at Alternet on “How the Surveillance State Protects the Interests Of the Ultra-Rich.”
Jaffe discusses the refusal of the British government to recognize that poverty played a role in the recent riots in London and other cities, as well as the shutdown of cell phone service by BART during the protests of the killing of a man by BART police. She writes:
The techniques that were roundly decried by Western leaders when used by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak against his people’s peaceful revolution are suddenly embraced when it comes to unrest at home. Not only that, but techniques honed in the “war on terror” are now being turned on anti-austerity protesters, clamping down on discontent that was created in the first place by policies of the state.
As a burgeoning international protest movement takes shape, opposing austerity measures, decrying the wealth gap and rising inequality, and in some cases directly attacking the interests of oligarchs, we’re likely to see the surveillance state developed for tracking “terrorists” turned on citizen activists peacefully protesting the actions of their government. And as U.S. elections post-Citizens United will be more and more expensive, look for politicians of both parties to enforce these crackdowns.
Despite growing anger at austerity in other countries, those policies have been embraced by both parties here in the States. Groups like US Uncut have stepped into the fray, pointing out the connection between the tax dodging of banks like Bank of America and other corporations and the slashing of the social safety net for everyone else. The new protest movements are led not only by traditional left groups like labor unions, but a generation of young, wired activists using the Internet for innovative protest and revolutionary activism.
It’s a lengthy article, but well worth reading.
I’ll end with a literary piece. I’m a big fan of Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, so I got a kick out of this review of books about Heller at the NYT: The Enigma of Joseph Heller.
“Oh God, this is a calamity for American literature,” Kurt Vonnegut said on learning of Joseph Heller’s death in 1999. John Updike was less alarmed: Heller “wasn’t top of the chart” as a writer, he reflected, though he was “a sweet man” and his first novel, “Catch-22” was “important.” Note the Updikean judiciousness of “important”: he didn’t say he liked the book, but it was a great cultural bellwether as novels go, and it has endured. Despite mixed reviews on publication in 1961, “Catch-22” was soon adopted by college students who recognized a kindred spirit in Yossarian, the bombardier who rebels against a materialistic bureaucracy hellbent on killing him. “Better Yossarian than Rotarian” became a popular slogan, all the more so with the timely (for the novel’s sake) military escalation in Vietnam, which became the “real” subject of “Catch-22” and partly accounts for its sales of more than 10 million copies to date. It’s hard to argue with that kind of importance.
IMHO, John Updike’s work isn’t likely to be read 100 years from now. Does anyone still read “Couples?” Please. “The Witches of Eastwick” was funny, but hardly deathless literature. Catch-22, on the other hand, might hold up 100 years from now. To me it’s the ultimate book on the insanity of war. I might just check out that Heller biography, even though the NYT reviewer wasn’t that thrilled with it.
That’s all I’ve got for today. What are you reading and blogging about?
Vermont goes single payer! Via ConsumerReports.org:
Vermont has a plan for single-payer health care
Vermont made history today when Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, signed into law a plan to create the nation’s first state-run “single-payer” health system. If fully implemented, every Vermont resident, including those on Medicare and Medicaid, would be entitled to enroll in the state’s own insurance plan, Green Mountain Care. Private insurers would still be allowed to operate in the state.
Meanwhile in Texas, efforts to eliminate funding for birth control are afoot. Via RH Reality Check:
Report from Texas: Will Legislature Eliminate Access to Birth Control?
A colleague of ours working in the Texas legislature and wishing to remain anonymous has sent a report detailing efforts to eliminate funding for birth control in the state.
The colleague writes:
The Texas Legislature has been meeting since January to debate a grim budget prospective for the next two years. In a session where money is tight and there are many losers, women are losing the most.
According to reports, anti-choice groups in the state and the Republican party are working to ensure that it will be “next-to-impossible for low-income women to have access to healthcare and contraceptives through state-funded family planning services.”
RH Reality Check editor Jodi Jacobson adds this note from her colleague reporting out of Texas:
“If you believe that women have a right to control when they have a child and to access birth control–if you believe women are human beings with human rights–please call your State Senator & State Representative. Your voice will make a difference. Calls must be made before this Friday, May 27, 2011. To find out who your State Senator & State Representatives are go to http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/“
Here’s wishing Vermont the best of luck with their road map to healthcare that makes sense and hoping they can pave the way for the rest of us, especially those of us living in states like Texas, where Gov. Goodhair and his ilk seem hellbent on making healthcare a privilege of the rich instead of a right for us all.
I’ve never been a big fan of marriage even though I sat in one for about 20 years. Don’t ask and I won’t tell. I’ve found it to be a major constraint. I found compromise is a virtue only to those who lack ambition and leave it at that.
However, I know I’m not the least bit in the main stream about a lot of things; mostly about any kind of religion. It takes a lot of commitment and intellectual compromise to support religions developed back before high level reading, writing, arithmetic, and science were invented. I even think that the term “DARK AGES” and “Age of Enlightenment” are pretty self-explanatory but then if there’s a god gene, it just doesn’t seem to run in my family and hasn’t for a long time.
Still, I’ve noticed a generational thing surrounding the marriage issue as well as old time religion. The older you are, the more you insist it’s one man, one woman, and it’s best for children. I just think it’s unnecessary unless you really want to give away your assets, time, and dreams to some body else who can drag you through court and take even more by the time you’re done. My kids have yet to get married and think it’s something best put off to when you’re nearly dead any way (say somewhere between 30 and 40). The kids and I think any one who wants to be able to do it should be able to get married. My parents were both pretty accepting of gay people, but their generation just can’t see gay marriage. In that way, my family appears to be pretty typical.