Obama's defense of NSA makes the Dems look bad, makes Republicans look good

TruthOut is reporting on a bill introduced to the Washington State House:

HB2272 was introduced by a bipartisan team of legislators, Rep. David Taylor, a Republican from Moxee, and Rep. Luis Moscoso, a former three-term secretary of the state Democratic Party from Mountlake Terrace.

If passed, the bill would make it the policy of the state “to refuse material support, participation, or assistance to any federal agency which claims the power, or with any federal law, rule, regulation, or order which purports to authorize, the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant.”

The other day I was listening to right wing AM talk radio — in the car, I confess — and I heard the talk show host criticizing our government’s massive spying operations.

Obama’s sellouts to the military-industrial complex, his prosecution of whistle-blowers, and pandering to Wall Street and insurance companies have given an opening to conservatives to attack the Democrats and have caused lots of people to think the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans.      The Dems should be the populists.

That’s what the Dems get for not holding their own accountable.

Darcy Burner played a big role in fixing the Senate filibuster

Virtually Speaking reports that Washington State’s Darcy Burner played an important role in Harry Reid’s move to fix the Senate filibuster.

Click here to hear filibuster experts Joan McCarter and David Waldman’s analysis.  Listen from 10:30 to hear the discussion of Darcy’s role. Here’s an excerpt:

To me Darcy Burner was instrumental in moving us from, “Hey, we really ought to be doing this” chat in emails to “Let me introduce you to the people who can make it happen.” And from there we took off running, and we all did this work together. But it was Darcy who said, “I can make this thought become reality.” So, she deserves a giant chunk of the credit for this today.

Darcy Burner (Wikipedia portrait)

This CNN article has more detail about the filibuster change: And credit for the nuclear option goes to…

“It took a coordinated and sustained effort from an unlikely place — progressive activists on the blogosphere.”  The so-called Fix the Senate Coalition of groups and unions phoned and emailed senators. They pursued an “inside-outside” strategy of pressure from the grassroots and from insiders whom the senators trusted.

Darcy Burner on her facebook page offers this explanation of how filibuster reform came about (republished with permission):

David Waldman (aka KagroX of DailyKos) and I talked about it while I was running ProgressiveCongress.org, and then we convinced Daniel Weise of the Ordinary People Foundation to fund roughly a year of David’s time through ProgressiveCongress.org (in addition to his blogging at DailyKos.com) to lay the groundwork with the Senate. This is the ultimate outcome of that effort.

Lessons? (1) Small investments can make big differences if they’re strategically done. (2) Visionary donors – and Daniel qualifies – can have a huge impact. (3) We should be doing a better job of funding bloggers.

Why to oppose Summers: a resolution

A Resolution Opposing the Appointment of Larry Summers as Chairman of the Federal Reserve

Whereas the current term for the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, will end in early 2014 requiring President Obama to nominate a successor and the US Senate to confirm him or her, and

Whereas the Federal Reserve, since its creation in 1913, has had a dual mandate of (a) maximizing employment and (b) stabilizing prices, i.e. inflation, but since then its scope has expanded to include maintaining the stability of the financial system, as well as supervising and regulating banking institutions, including new regulations imposed by the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and

Whereas Larry Summers, a possible nominee for the position of Chairman of the Federal Reserve has possibly the worst record among leading American economists with regards to banking regulation and financial stabilization, with examples including:

  • in the 1990’s then-Treasury Secretary Larry Summers successfully prevented the then-head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Brooksley Born, from regulating derivatives – the financial instruments that magnified the housing bubble and accelerated the financial collapse,
  • Larry Summers fought successfully as Treasury Secretary to dismantle Glass–Steagall banking regulations, which created a firewall between commercial and investment banks, with the passage Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act in 1999,
  • Larry Summers promoted as Treasury Secretary the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which banned all regulation of derivatives, and

Whereas Larry Summers also denied the existence of the housing bubble in the mid-2000’s and criticized economist Raghuram Rajan’s paper warning of an imminent catastrophe due to excessive risk-taking and the banking system’s toxic securities as “misguided” and based on a “basic, slightly lead-eyed premise,” and

Whereas Larry Summers also as Director of the White House United States National Economic Council for the Obama Administration blocked Christina Romer, then-Chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, from proposing her recommended stimulus packages ranging from $1.2-to-1.8 trillion to President Obama, which would have led to a far more rapid economic recovery post-Great Recession, and

Whereas Larry Summers also has shown an indifference to income inequality and was quoted in Ron Suskind’s book Confidence Men as saying “One of the reasons that inequality has probably gone up in our society is that people are being treated closer to the way that they’re supposed to be treated,”

Therefore be it resolved we, The 30th District Democrats, call upon President Obama to nominate someone as Chairman of the Federal Reserve who would not only seek to fulfill the Federal Reserve’s dual mandate, but also be a good steward for banking regulation and financial stabilization, including proper implementation of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and

Be it finally resolved that The 30th District Democrats urge Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell to oppose and vote against the appointment of Larry Summers as Chairman of the Federal Reserve should he ultimately be nominated by President Obama for that position.

7th day of August, 2013 by The 30th District Democrats

Tim Burns, Chair

Submitted by Richard Champion, richard.champion@gmail.com

Adding up the benefits of Obamacare

The other day I went onto the Washington Health Benefit Exchange website to look at the actual costs for health coverage. (In the interest of full disclosure, my spouse works for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange.) I wanted to escape the non-stop rhetoric from those who are panicked that the Affordable Care Act will actually begin. It is not that they think it won’t work. They fear that it will.

Will it? To find out, I looked up what the cost of health insurance next year under the Affordable Care Act will be for workers and their families in Snohomish County.

Let’s say you are single and working at a minimum wage job. You are working close to full-time and going to community college. So what does the Affordable Care Act do for you? Actually, a lot. With your income of less than $16,000, you’re covered under Medicaid and pay nothing for your health care coverage.

What happens if you have a couple of children, while working full-time at a $15 an hour job? Your monthly Obamacare premium for health coverage for your whole family is $104. If your employer cuts back your hours to four days a week, you keep your health care coverage and your premium goes to zero.

Two out of five households in Snohomish County have less than $50,000 in income. How about these households? With a $40,000 income, your monthly Obamacare premium to cover your family of four will be $164.

OK, well how about a family smack-dab in the center of the middle class? Their household income is $63,685. Their Obamacare premium to cover two adults and two children is $449. If they have three kids, the premium for total coverage drops to $383 a month.

How about those families with incomes between $75,000 and $100,000? Yep, even they get some help. If your family income is $90,000 and you have three kids, your monthly premium will be $713 to cover all five family members. Add all these families together and almost 75 percent of households can benefit from Obamacare.

Wonder how your family will make out under the Affordable Care Act? See for yourself at www.wahbexchange.org/news-resources/calculate-your-costs/

Many of us have already benefited from Obamacare. Do you remember pre-existing conditions? If you admitted to any of a number of health incidences, and you were denied coverage or forced into a very expensive pool of “high risk” people, not because you were bad, or didn’t pay your bills, or cheated on your taxes, but because you were sick. Now you cannot be discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition. That didn’t happen through the good graces of insurance companies. That was part of Obamacare.

How about young people in their 20s? It used to be that once they turned 25 (or much younger in other states) young adults were kicked off their parents’ family coverage. Now young adults can continue their coverage on their parents’ insurance until they are 26. This provision particularly helps the children of upper income families the most because their parents are the ones most likely to have employer health insurance.

Are you on Medicare? You should notice that the doughnut hole for prescriptions is getting smaller and smaller and you are paying less for your medicine. Is that because the pharmaceutical companies have decided to trim their profits to help you out? No, it’s thanks to Obamacare.

The Republicans in D.C. seem intent on doing everything possible to dislodge health-care reform. Just last month, in their 40th Obamacare repeal vote, every single Republican voted to prevent enforcement of the Affordable Care Act. That includes our state’s Republican members of Congress — Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Doc Hastings, Dave Reichert, and Jaime Herrera Beutler — all who receive government-paid health care coverage for themselves and their families.

They should be panicked. Once the Affordable Care Act kicks in for good with affordable care, we are not going back. It’s good public policy, if you believe that everyone should have access to high quality health care. But if you don’t care about the benefits of health coverage for the citizens of our country, then you will try to throw every barrel in the way of the Affordable Care Act. Luckily for us, the act has been signed, sealed and is about to be delivered. No symbolic vote of opposition is going to block its implementation and your health-care coverage.

Originally published at the Everett Herald

Bombing Syria Isn't Warranted, Won't Fix Congress's Partisan Stalemate

I am willing to believe the Obama Administration’s claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on Syrians. And anyone who has read about World War I chlorine and mustard gas casualties knows what a horror these weapons are, and understands that even war has its rules.

Yet does crossing this “line” require a U.S. military attack? It is estimated that as many as 110,000 Syrians have been killed in an ongoing civil war, with hundreds killed by the recent gas attack.  Because the Administration deems only the latter warrants our intervention, it would be a bitter irony if as many Syrian civilians died as a result of our intervention’s “collateral damage” as they did in the attack that prompted it.

Secretary of State John Kerry accused Democrats opposed to an attack of a “Munich” attitude. By referring to the Allies’ decision, in 1938, to cede Czechoslovakia to the Naxis, Kerry was equating Syria’s internal conflict with Nazi Germany’s external aggression. Is this to suggest the Nazis could have been pacified by a few days’ bombing? And if the Syrians are the equivalent of the Nazis, should we not declare war and invade?

It seems as likely an attack might worsen the situation.

In attacking, we would go it alone. Yes, some principled allies like Saudi Arabia, where beheadings are legal for “witchcraft” among other crimes, are said to be cheering us on from the sidelines. But Britain, where a progressive parliamentary minority had the temerity to stand up, will not be with us. That will not change soon, even though President Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, is a paid consultant to British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative government.

To attack will require Congressional Democrats to carry the day. To exaggerate like Kerry, the record this year of bipartisan voting would make Neville Chamberlain proud.

In January, House Democrats followed the lead of their campaign committee chair, Steve Israel of New York, in repudiating—even before Obama’s second term—the President’s successful 2012 campaign pledge to restore a higher income tax threshold for those earning $250,000 or more. The threshold was instead set at $400,000. Israel had stated, “I would hope that he would not go back to 250.  It’s fair—$250,000 may sound like it’s a lavish income in Louisiana. Not on Long Island.”

(Israel’s efforts did not go unrewarded: J.P. Morgan forgave him $93,000 he owed on his house).  Of Washington state’s Congressional delegation, only Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7) failed to vote the same as far-right Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, 3.)

Second, there was the so-called “Let Congress Fly Home Faster” bill. There, in a 361-41 April vote, the U.S. House voted to exempt air travel from sequestration, while programs like Medicare and tax credits for small businesses that provide health insurance were being cut. Every member of our congressional delegation voted “yes” with the exception of Representative McDermott and an absent Representative Adam Smith (D-WA, 9). Representative John Dingell of Michigan, the “Dean of the House” as longest-serving member, asked, “Mr. Speaker, is there no one in this chamber who is embarrassed?  Or perhaps the question should be: Is no one in this chamber not embarrassed?”

A chortling House Majority Leader Eric Cantor then sent out a memo to House Republicans quoting a reporter characterizing Democrats’ “complete, utter cave.”

Next was a July House vote to ban runaway electronic snooping by the National Security Agency. By a 217-205 margin, the amendment was defeated. Of our Democratic House members, only Suzan DelBene D-WA,1) and McDermott failed to join 134 Republicans, as Rep. “Doc” Hastings (R-WA,4) increasingly looked like the benchmark for our delegation’s progressivity. This was true even though Washington’s state constitutional guarantee of privacy is not exceeded nationally and is far more protective than the 4th Amendment.

But whatever … No one’s spying on members of Congress.

Now, with various self-imposed catastrophes facing Congress – including ongoing sequestration and a debt ceiling deadline next month that, once again, has the potential to blow up the federal budget and bankrupt us – we’re to believe the latest urgent occasion for a bipartisan Kumbaya is agreeing to fire cruise missiles into Syria. Sorry if I, and the vast majority of voters, do not buy it.

Originally published at publicola

Thoughts on Obama's March to Folly in Syria

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Thoughts on Obama’s March to Folly in Syria
Article by Robert Fisk with Introduction by Chuck Spinney
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Backbone Friends,

Amidst much movement building and action support work from Seattle to Kalamazoo to Chicago, and now planning for upcoming trainings and actions in DC, Obama’s sudden push for military action in Syria causes my mind to whirl. Like many of you, I have read about the Spanish Civil War and detest the abandoning of opponents of tyranny, but I also detest the idea of illegal, unConstitutional US military intervention, and the idea that our bombs ever bring peace.

Chuck Spinney, the person I look to as a mentor in grand strategy, domains of conflict and a guide to the Pentagon labyrinth sent the below article by Robert Fisk with his insightful introductory comments. I have included two graphics to help you understand the grand tactical concept of the “OODA loop” to which Spinney refers. Click on the images to view larger, more readable versions.

I hope it helps you as it helped me.

In collaboration,

Bill Moyer

From Chuck Spinney:

President Obama’s Syria nightmare is becoming increasingly bizarre. The man who claimed he could distinguish dumb from smart wars is marching headlong into the dumbest one yet, with allies jumping ship left and right. Consider, please, the following:

(1) NBC just released a poll saying a majority of the American people are opposed to another war in Syria, and 80% are opposed to a war without Congressional authorization.

(2) But Congress is out of session. Nevertheless Mr. Obama is under pressure to attack before Congress returns from its Labor Day vacation. Moreover, despite the fact that at least 188 members of Congress have called for a debate and vote on the war question; thus far, Mr. Obama has not indicated he will call Congress into an emergency session. Yet six years ago, Senator (candidate) Obama told interviewer Charlie Savage on December 20, 2007: “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

(3) The nearest counterpart to our Congress, the British Parliament, just voted to pull the plug on Prime Minister David Cameron’s warmongering — and in so doing, the unwritten British Constitution has made a mockery of the written, legalistic US Constitution. Bottom line: the checks and balances in the UK are working to ensure our closest ally will not partake in our adventure, while those in the United States are being bypassed.

(4) The UN and the Security Council also pulled the plug on approving and supporting a US strike; ditto for the Arab League and Jordan, and our coup-leading friends in Egypt.

(5) The secretary general of NATO, Anders Rasmussen, said NATO will not be part of a strike on Syria.

So who is left in Obama’s increasingly isolated coalition of the willing: France and Israel — two countries with a lot of sordid baggage loading down the Syria Question. Some readers may never have heard of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, but your can bet most Syrians have.

A reasonable person might ask how an obviously intelligent Mr. Obama could land himself in such a mess?

The proximate cause is clear: Mimicking Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s provocative definition of a red line on Iranian nukes, Mr. Obama recklessly established a red line on chemical weapons in the ongoing increasingly chaotic Syrian civil war. But the red line made Obama vulnerable to being boxed in by all sorts of false flag operations — and false flags are a recurring reality in the wilderness of mirrors that is Middle Eastern politics. Ironically, President Assad, who is being blamed for the release of chemical weapons, is about the only player in the game who has nothing to gain from a such an attack.

OODA Loop simple - click for larger version.
OODA Loop simple – click for larger version.
While it is too early to understand the deeper reasons for Obama’s mad march to war, I submit there is at least one hypothesis that is at least superficially consistent with the behaviour patterns of Obama and his advisors: Mr. Obama’s (and that of his advisors’) behaviour stems in part from the subtle interactions of at least two psychological factors that shape the Orientation driving the decision making behaviour of their OODA loops.

The first stems from a habitual belief that Mr. Obama — an inveterate deal maker — can control domestic politics by cutting and shaving political differences at home. But cutting and shaving uses up maneuvering space, and its gradual loss has insensibly salami-sliced him into a corner. Policy to aid rebels with nonlethal aid then establishing the red line being cases in point; each bought time at the expense of future flexibility. In effect, Mr. Obama, by his own volition, has slowly become ensnared by the permanent war party in Versailles on the Potomac. This cutting and shaving is also evident in his conduct of the drone campaign and Afghan War, not to mention his inability to significantly reduce the Pentagon’s bloated budget.

OODA Loop complex – click for larger version.OODA Loop complex - click for larger version.
The second factor — a naiveté about the effectiveness of precision weapons — compounds the first in shaping the Orientation of the President and his advisors. Prior to becoming President, Mr. Obama had no experience in the conduct of military affairs. In effect, the Orientation driving his decision cycle was like a blank sheet to be filled in by “experts.” His obvious intelligence and lawyerly mind has made him especially vulnerable to pseudo-scientific, logical sounding exhortations of a group-thinking coterie of formal and informal defense advisors. These officials have a long track record of grossly exaggerating the revolutionary capabilities of precision weapons. The persuasive power of their exhortations is usually packaged in slick looking power point briefings, hard to fathom computer simulations, glossy contractor advertisements, etc. The hidden assumptions, excessive technical complexity, and aura of scientific authority surrounding these exhortations, especially when coupled with arrogant notions about the utility of guided bombs in carefully calibrated tit-for-tat political signaling, at once capture the intellect and stroke the political ego of leaders.

Bringing these two strains of thought together, habits and naive beliefs — more generally, arrogance and ignorance — have, in effect, worked insidiously to sap Mr. Obama of the initiative in the Syrian Question and have rendered him a passive traveler into a trap of his own making.

If I am right, then in effect, President Obama is now a reactive player struggling to preserve himself in the US march to folly. A natural question is who and what pressures are driving the parade? Cui bono?

The seasoned Middle Eastern reporter, Robert Fisk, has one theory:

Published on Friday, August 30, 2013 by The Independent/UK
Iran, Not Syria, Is the West’s Real Target

Iran is ever more deeply involved in protecting the Syrian government. Thus a victory for Bashar is a victory for Iran. And Iranian victories cannot be tolerated by the West
by Robert Fisk

Before the stupidest Western war in the history of the modern world begins – I am, of course, referring to the attack on Syria that we all yet have to swallow – it might be as well to say that the cruise missiles which we confidently expect to sweep onto one of mankind’s oldest cities have absolutely nothing to do with Syria.

They are intended to harm Iran. They are intended to strike at the Islamic republic now that it has a new and vibrant president – as opposed to the crackpot Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and when it just might be a little more stable.

Iran is Israel’s enemy. Iran is therefore, naturally, America’s enemy. So fire the missiles at Iran’s only Arab ally.

There is nothing pleasant about the regime in Damascus. Nor do these comments let the regime off the hook when it comes to mass gassing. But I am old enough to remember that when Iraq – then America’s ally – used gas against the Kurds of Hallabjah in 1988, we did not assault Baghdad. Indeed, that attack would have to wait until 2003, when Saddam no longer had any gas or any of the other weapons we had nightmares over.

And I also happen to remember that the CIA put it about in 1988 that Iran was responsible for the Hallabjah gassings, a palpable lie that focused on America’s enemy whom Saddam was then fighting on our behalf. And thousands – not hundreds – died in Hallabjah. But there you go. Different days, different standards.

And I suppose it’s worth noting that when Israel killed up to 17,000 men, women and children in Lebanon in 1982, in an invasion supposedly provoked by the attempted PLO murder of the Israeli ambassador in London – it was Saddam’s mate Abu Nidal who arranged the killing, not the PLO, but that doesn’t matter now – America merely called for both sides to exercise “restraint”. And when, a few months before that invasion, Hafez al-Assad – father of Bashar – sent his brother up to Hama to wipe out thousands of Muslim Brotherhood rebels, nobody muttered a word of condemnation. “Hama Rules” is how my old mate Tom Friedman cynically styled this bloodbath.

Anyway, there’s a different Brotherhood around these days – and Obama couldn’t even bring himself to say “boo” when their elected president got deposed.

But hold on. Didn’t Iraq – when it was “our” ally against Iran – also use gas on the Iranian army? It did. I saw the Ypres-like wounded of this foul attack by Saddam – US officers, I should add, toured the battlefield later and reported back to Washington – and we didn’t care a tinker’s curse about it. Thousands of Iranian soldiers in the 1980-88 war were poisoned to death by this vile weapon.

I traveled back to Tehran overnight on a train of military wounded and actually smelled the stuff, opening the windows in the corridors to release the stench of the gas. These young men had wounds upon wounds – quite literally. They had horrible sores wherein floated even more painful sores that were close to indescribable. Yet when the soldiers were sent to Western hospitals for treatment, we journos called these wounded – after evidence from the UN infinitely more convincing than what we’re likely to get from outside Damascus – “alleged” gas victims.

So what in heaven’s name are we doing? After countless thousands have died in Syria’s awesome tragedy, suddenly – now, after months and years of prevarication – we are getting upset about a few hundred deaths. Terrible. Unconscionable. Yes, that is true. But we should have been traumatized into action by this war in 2011. And 2012. But why now?

I suspect I know the reason. I think that Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless army might just be winning against the rebels whom we secretly arm. With the assistance of the Lebanese Hezbollah – Iran’s ally in Lebanon – the Damascus regime broke the rebels in Qusayr and may be in the process of breaking them north of Homs. Iran is ever more deeply involved in protecting the Syrian government. Thus a victory for Bashar is a victory for Iran. And Iranian victories cannot be tolerated by the West.

And while we’re on the subject of war, what happened to those magnificent Palestinian-Israeli negotiations that John Kerry was boasting about? While we express our anguish at the hideous gassings in Syria, the land of Palestine continues to be gobbled up. Israel’s Likudist policy – to negotiate for peace until there is no Palestine left – continues apace, which is why King Abdullah of Jordan’s nightmare (a much more potent one than the “weapons of mass destruction” we dreamed up in 2003) grows larger: that “Palestine” will be in Jordan, not in Palestine.

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper. He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

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email: info@backbonecampaign.org
web: http://backbonecampaign.org/
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American Enterprise Institute likes Pres. Obama's choice for economic chief advisor

“He has written on the importance of fiscal discipline, the need to undertake entitlement reform sooner rather than later, the role of international trade in improving living standards, and the benefits of Wal-Mart in boosting living standards for low-income Americans.“– Far-right American Enterprise Institute praising President Obama’s choice as chief economic adviser.

from the American Enterprise Institute:

www.aei-ideas.org

We are pleased that President Obama has nominated Jason Furman, currently the principal deputy director of the National Economic Council, for the position of Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

For and against Bradley Manning

http://iam.bradleymanning.org/ released the following powerful video in support of Bradley Manning:

Somehow I received by email a message from Forward Progressives, containing an article by Alan Clifton:

Like it or Not, Bradley Manning is a Traitor — Not a Hero.

Despite the occurrence of the word “progressive” in the site’s name, Forward Progressives strikes me as astro-turf site devoted to defending the Obama Administration. In the article Clifton says, “What Manning did was violate his oath to the United States military.”  Clifton further says:

Bradley Manning didn’t release this information to be a hero.  He didn’t release the information to see “the truth come out.”  He released this information because he seemed to be seeking validation, not justice, in a life that he never felt comfortable in.

The rest of the article is repetitive.