Monday, December 13, 2010

Streams Of Consciousness, Dec. 13


There are assholes & there are assholes, but The Cooch is in a category of his own

You know people aren't just disappointed and disillusioned with Obama because he keeps caving in to the Republicans and letting them have their way-- possibly also his way-- on furthering the concentration of the nation's wealth into the hands of fewer and fewer wealthy families. His "compromise" with McConnell wouldn't have come as a surprise to any thoughtful DWT readers, since we pointed out all through 2007 that his short Senate voting record was something like Max Baucus', Joe Lieberman's and Blanche Lincoln's, slightly to the left of Ben Nelson-- but to the right of the heart and soul of the Senate Democats, a group not known for an abundance of either heart or soul. Obama's voting record was always dead center in the Senate, not dead center of the Democrats, dead center of a body that included extremists like Jim DeMint, Jim Bunning, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Jim Inhofe, Richard Burr, Jim Bunning, Sam Brownback, David Vitter... Hillary was a middle-of-the-road Democrat; Obama was a middle-of-the-road senator-- big difference. Yes, he always had a conservative bent, not something he pushed too hard during the Hope and Change campaign, which allowed us all to read whatever we wanted into it. Perhaps if more Democrats like Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (and Bernie Sanders, of course) had the guts to stand up to Obama and his Conservative Consensus, the nation might be headed in a different direction. This is what Merkley had to say about the Obama-McConnell take giveaway to the rich today:
“I have very strong concerns about the tax proposal before us and cannot support moving forward on the package as it now stands.

“This plan will add nearly a trillion dollars to the debt. Additional borrowing on that scale should only be undertaken if it is critical to getting Americans back to work in the short term or rebuilding our economic foundations for the longer term. However, major components of the package-- particularly bonus tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires-- have been consistently found to be among the least effective in terms of job creation.

“There are some good parts of this bill-- I strongly support and have voted for tax cuts for working families and continuation of unemployment benefits. That is why it is so disappointing that these proven and popular measures are paired with ineffective tax cuts for the very wealthiest in America. And it is even more disappointing to know that our children and grandchildren will be paying off those debts for years to come.

“I had hoped there would be a chance to improve this package to strengthen Social Security and ensure that we include initiatives that are proven to create jobs-- such as investments in energy efficiency. But it is now appears that we will not be able to do that. Instead, what we have here is the easiest compromise, but it is far from the best. And it will continue too many of the policies that drove our nation into record debt even while middle class families lost homes, jobs and savings.

“I cannot support legislation that will do so little to create jobs and help working families, yet cost our nation so much.”

[UPDATE: Only 15 senators stand up against the Conservative Consensus. They are Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, Sherrod Brown, D-OH, Tom Coburn, R-OK, Jim DeMint, R-SC, John Ensign, R-NV, Russ Feingold, D-WI, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, Kay Hagan, D-NC, Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ, Patrick Leahy, D-VT, Carl Levin, D-MI, Bernie Sanders, I-VT, Jeff Sessions, R-AL, Mark Udall, D-CO, and George Voinovich, R-OH. Neither Merkley nor Wyden voted, canceling out each other's votes.] And here's someone with his head screwed on right who Obama ought to pay more attention to... but won't:

After the vote, Senator Sanders made this statement:
“It makes no sense to me to provide huge tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires while we drive up the national debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay. I further object strenuously to the lowering of rates on the estate tax, which only benefits the top 0.3 percent, the very, very wealthiest people in this country. I also am concerned about a significant precedent which diverts $112 billion in payroll taxes away from the Social Security trust fund. Our goal now must be to strengthen Social Security, not weaken it. Of course we must extend unemployment benefits and the tax breaks that the middle class desperately needs, but in my view we could have and should have negotiated a much stronger agreement.”

You can show support for him and his positions by contributing to his reelection campaign.

No Public Option= No Real Health Care Reform

The right wing hack Bush appointed to the federal judiciary, Henry Hudson, found a way to moot Obama's one significant accomplishment, signing a half-baked excuse for healthcare reform. Had Obama gone the progressive route-- single payer-- instead of the conservative route he took, there might have been a compromise in the middle-- a public option-- which this judge couldn't have so easily struck down. Now the whole system Obama tried to build won't work. I mean requiring the public to buy private plans doesn't even sound constitutional to me. On the the other hand, were it a public plan... well, that's what Social Security and Medicare are.

House Ways and Means Chair Sander Levin tried explaining the mandate this morning, perhaps in the hope Obama decides to not just fold his cards immediately (the way his senatorial brother, Carl thinks Obama is doing in regard to repealing DADT) and ask Wall Street to write a healthcare bill.
“A quality health care system for all Americans is built on the premise that responsibility is shared between employers, the government, and the individual. Fourteen similar cases have been dismissed or decided in favor of the Affordable Care Act, recognizing the importance of a functioning, affordable health care market, and I am confident that after review at the appellate level this case will also be decided in favor of the Affordable Care Act.”

And Then There's That Whole Conservative Consensus Around Trade And Destroying U.S. Jobs

So... aside from caving on taxes and the national security state, Obama has also been a catastrophic disappointment to actual progressives-- again, something that isn't necessarily identical to being a Democratic Party supporter, the way Bobby Bright, Travis Childers and Ben Nelson, to pick 3 random homophobic, anti-Choice, anti-union, anti-healthcare fanatics, are-- in his views on trade. Like Clinton he's a supporter of so-called "free" trade rather than Fair Trade. His South Korean free trade agreement, like his and McConnell's tax "compromise" is music to the ears of Big Business and the wealthiest families who have been busy consolidating more and more of the nation's wealth.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing has been very supportive of Democratic policies this year-- and very pro-Obama. I was intrigued to find a blog post from them today showing some push back against Obama's conservative consensus free trade policies, although they focused on India rather than Korea.
In April 2009, we reported on the controversy surrounding subsidized Indian steel pipe being imported for the TransCanada Keystone pipeline. Not only was the unfairly subsidized pipe being used at a time when U.S. manufacturers of steel pipe stood ready to produce the same pipe, but there were concerns about the structural safety of the imported pipe.

Not surprisingly, TransCanada is now digging up 10 sections of the $5.2 billion crude oil pipeline, including one in Missouri, after "government-ordered tests identified possibly defective steel may have been used in the construction." All 10 sections of pipe currently being tested were manufactured in India.

In an editorial at the time, Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) Executive Director Scott Paul explained why it makes sense to use safe, high-quality American steel pipe:

The pipe for TransCanada's oil pipeline project should have been made in America. But TransCanada chose the low road and selected the subsidized Indian pipe for the vast majority of the's not too late for TransCanada to make the right call on its new Keystone XL pipeline. And it's not too late for federal, state, and local officials to tell TransCanada that if the company wants to secure permits and right-of-way, they need to make the pipe in America...India subsidizes its steel and should be held to account. Other countries that cheat should understand the consequences.

I don't think that teachable moment is part of the Obama agenda. Is Obama better than any of the Republicans eyeing White House runs? Yes, any of them; all of them. No doubt about it. Does that make him an acceptable president? Is a D better than an F? Sure. Isn't it time we aspire to getting an A for a president?

A Glimmer Of Hope For Democrats Today-- The Return Of Michael Steele

Yes, after everyone just writing him off as fading away into a lobbying firm, the RNC's ill starred cahirman, Michael Steele, is back! Or, at least, he plans to run for a second term. It's hard to imagine he'll actually win, but what fun it will be to watch the mayhem! Wily as ever, he says he was just playin' possum, trying to flush out his competitors. Norm Coleman didn't jump in yet but Saul Anuzis, Reince Priebus, Anne Wagner, Gentry Collins and Maria Cino all have, to one degree or another. Something tells me there are going to be a lot of hard feelings now.

Guns, Guns, Guns... Guns R Us

And let's close out today's Streams with a little something with an international flavor-- the problem in Mexico. At least in part, as the Mexicans have been telling us patiently for years, the problem is the U.S., or at least American gun nut power. Remember, there was a time-- and not so very long ago-- when virtually all non-right-wing Democrats and many mainstream conservative Republicans took responsible gun control seriously. That's gone now as gun control policy has been ceded to the NRA. It's destroying Mexican civil society.
As an unprecedented number of American guns flows to the murderous drug cartels across the border, the identities of U.S. dealers that sell guns seized at Mexican crime scenes remain confidential under a law passed by Congress in 2003.

...Drug cartels have aggressively turned to the United States because Mexico severely restricts gun ownership. Following gunrunning paths that have been in place for 50 years, firearms cross the border and end up in the hands of criminals as well as ordinary citizens seeking protection.

...What is different now, authorities say, is the number of high-powered rifles heading south - AR-15s, AK-47s, armor-piercing .50-caliber weapons - and the savagery of the violence.
Federal authorities say more than 60,000 U.S. guns of all types have been recovered in Mexico in the past four years, helping fuel the violence that has contributed to 30,000 deaths. Mexican President Felipe Calderon came to Washington in May and urged Congress and President Obama to stop the flow of guns south.
U.S. law enforcement has ramped up its focus on gun trafficking along the southwestern border. Arrests of individual gunrunners have surged. But investigators rarely bring regulatory actions or criminal cases against U.S. gun dealers, in part because of laws backed by the gun lobby that make it difficult to prove cases.

Gun lobby propaganda insists that the Mexican gun problem all comes from Central America, a complete and shameless fabrication. Guns from the United States "have been feeding the violence and overwhelming firepower being unleashed by drug traffickers," said Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico's ambassador to the United States. "We need to defang drug trafficking organizations of these high-caliber and semiautomatic and automatic weapons, and we need to do it now.

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