Pew Research Center reports: Following the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation practices in the period following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 51% of the public says they think the CIA methods were justified, compared with just 29% who say they were not justified; 20% do not express an opinion.
The new national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 11-14 among 1,001 adults, finds that amid competing claims over the effectiveness of CIA interrogation methods, 56% believe they provided intelligence that helped prevent terrorist attacks, while just half as many (28%) say they did not provide this type of intelligence.
Partisan divides on these questions are wide. A large majority of Republicans (76%) say the interrogation methods used by the CIA after 9/11 were justified. Democrats are divided – 37% say the methods were justified, while 46% disagree. About twice as many liberal Democrats (65%) as conservative and moderate Democrats (32%) say the CIA’s interrogation techniques were not justified. [Continue reading…]
In case anyone has the slightest doubt whether Hillary Clinton is running for president in 2016, read her interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic.
She dutifully supports every position the Israel lobby demands and even deftly conjures up a rhetorical connection between jihadists and the nuclear threat from Iran, introducing a piece of non-proliferation jargon into counterterrorism when she refers to the breakout capacity “of jihadist groups that can affect Europe, can affect the United States.”
For a few neocons in Washington who are indulging in fantasies about their political rehabilitation, much of what Clinton says, must be music to their ears. She shares the view frequently expressed by Israel apologists during its assault on Gaza, that Israel is getting more criticism than it deserves.
When it comes to killing Palestinian civilians, Israel still suffers from its “old PR problem.” Indeed, hundreds of dead children always cause a PR problem.
Hillary Clinton: [W]e do see this enormous international reaction against Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself, and the way Israel has to defend itself. This reaction is uncalled for and unfair.
Jeffrey Goldberg: What do you think causes this reaction?
HRC: There are a number of factors going into it. You can’t ever discount anti-Semitism, especially with what’s going on in Europe today. There are more demonstrations against Israel by an exponential amount than there are against Russia seizing part of Ukraine and shooting down a civilian airliner. So there’s something else at work here than what you see on TV.
And what you see on TV is so effectively stage-managed by Hamas, and always has been. What you see is largely what Hamas invites and permits Western journalists to report on from Gaza. It’s the old PR problem that Israel has. Yes, there are substantive, deep levels of antagonism or anti-Semitism towards Israel, because it’s a powerful state, a really effective military. And Hamas paints itself as the defender of the rights of the Palestinians to have their own state. So the PR battle is one that is historically tilted against Israel.
JG: Nevertheless there are hundreds of children –
HRC: Absolutely, and it’s dreadful.
JG: Who do you hold responsible for those deaths? How do you parcel out blame?
HRC: I’m not sure it’s possible to parcel out blame because it’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Hamas initiated this conflict and wanted to do so in order to leverage its position, having been shut out by the Egyptians post-Morsi, having been shunned by the Gulf, having been pulled into a technocratic government with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority that might have caused better governance and a greater willingness on the part of the people of Gaza to move away from tolerating Hamas in their midst. So the ultimate responsibility has to rest on Hamas and the decisions it made.
That doesn’t mean that, just as we try to do in the United States and be as careful as possible in going after targets to avoid civilians, that there aren’t mistakes that are made. We’ve made them. I don’t know a nation, no matter what its values are– and I think that democratic nations have demonstrably better values in a conflict position — that hasn’t made errors, but ultimately the responsibility rests with Hamas.
Gallup: Forty-two percent of Americans, on average, identified as political independents in 2013, the highest Gallup has measured since it began conducting interviews by telephone 25 years ago. Meanwhile, Republican identification fell to 25%, the lowest over that time span. At 31%, Democratic identification is unchanged from the last four years but down from 36% in 2008.
The results are based on more than 18,000 interviews with Americans from 13 separate Gallup multiple-day polls conducted in 2013.
In each of the last three years, at least 40% of Americans have identified as independents. These are also the only years in Gallup’s records that the percentage of independents has reached that level.
Americans’ increasing shift to independent status has come more at the expense of the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Republican identification peaked at 34% in 2004, the year George W. Bush won a second term in office. Since then, it has fallen nine percentage points, with most of that decline coming during Bush’s troubled second term. When he left office, Republican identification was down to 28%. It has declined or stagnated since then, improving only slightly to 29% in 2010, the year Republicans “shellacked” Democrats in the midterm elections.
Not since 1983, when Gallup was still conducting interviews face to face, has a lower percentage of Americans, 24%, identified as Republicans than is the case now. That year, President Ronald Reagan remained unpopular as the economy struggled to emerge from recession. By the following year, amid an improving economy and re-election for the increasingly popular incumbent president, Republican identification jumped to 30%, a level generally maintained until 2007.
Democratic identification has also declined in recent years, falling five points from its recent high of 36% in 2008, the year President Barack Obama was elected. The current 31% of Americans identifying as Democrats matches the lowest annual average in the last 25 years.
The Washington Post reports: The political network spearheaded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch has expanded into a far-reaching operation of unrivaled complexity, built around a maze of groups that cloaks its donors, according to an analysis of new tax returns and other documents.
The filings show that the network of politically active nonprofit groups backed by the Kochs and fellow donors in the 2012 elections financially outpaced other independent groups on the right and, on its own, matched the long-established national coalition of labor unions that serves as one of the biggest sources of support for Democrats.
The resources and the breadth of the organization make it singular in American politics: an operation conducted outside the campaign finance system, employing an array of groups aimed at stopping what its financiers view as government overreach. Members of the coalition target different constituencies but together have mounted attacks on the new health-care law, federal spending and environmental regulations.
Key players in the Koch-backed network have already begun engaging in the 2014 midterm elections, hiring new staff members to expand operations and strafing House and Senate Democrats with hard-hitting ads over their support for the Affordable Care Act.
Its funders remain largely unknown; the coalition was carefully constructed with extensive legal barriers to shield its donors. [Continue reading…]
Arun Gupta and Steve Horn write: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did not win the June 5 recall vote because a parade of Daddy Warbucks stuffed his suit full of six-figure checks. The Democratic challenger Tom Barrett did not lose because he raised a scant $4 million to Walker’s $30 million war chest.
Walker won because he had a vision, however brutish, and he forged a rich-poor alliance that supports it. Barrett lost because he stood for nothing, because the Democrat Party shuns organized labor, because labor retreats from street politics even when they have the upper hand and because progressives confuse elections with movements.
In short, Walker’s cakewalk is a microcosm of why American politics tilts further and further right year after year, and why the Democrats, progressives and unions have an endless capacity for self-inflicted wounds. As much as liberals whine “big money thwarts people power” and the Obama campaign dismisses the loss as due to local conditions, the election portends deep trouble for a president and party facing an energized right in November’s election.
The recall is also a study in the paths not taken for the Wisconsin Uprising and why the Democratic Party is the graveyard of social movements. There was an expression among activists in Wisconsin that went, “One year longer, one year stronger” a year after the beginning of the “Uprising.” But the reality is that, one year longer, the left as an organizing force is, in actuality, “one year weaker.” [Continue reading…]
“The Insider” writes: In an earlier installment, I noted that eight smoking guns point to the fact that the much-ballyhooed “99-Percent Spring,” taking place from April 9-15, is merely a front group for MoveOn.org and the Democratic Party. More specifically, it is a front for the Obama Administration and the Party’s 2012 electoral efforts.
The article has proven contentious in many circles, and was analyzed in many lefty publications, including Salon.com, The Huffington Post, The Nation, TaylorMarsh.com, and Dissent Magazine, to name several. Those articles wrestled with the ongoing battle occurring between genuine, mostly volunteer grassroots Occupy activists and well-paid full-time Democratic Party-allied “activists.” ‘
In the main, the articles dug into the whether or not The 99 Spring was playing a constructive, supportive role of the real on-the-ground Occupy movements in cities nationwide and worldwide, or on the contrary, if The 99 Spring’s raison d’etre is simply to co-opt the Occupy movement and steal it as its own, while pooling those efforts into the Democratic Party’s electoral efforts in 2012.
These liberal commentators shared similar observations:
● “All parties seem mindful of the dreaded accusations of co-option, but rarely does such an annexation occur overnight,” explained The Nation’s Allison Kilkenny on April 6.
● “It seems to me that the 99 Percent Spring does indeed complement large sections of Occupy efforts – the sorts of actions, accessible to media narratives, that directly protest institutions like Bank of America, ALEC or rulings like Citizens United,” posited Salon.com’s Natasha Lennard.
● The Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim wrote, “It’s a reflection of how the Occupy movement has forced some institutional liberal groups to radicalize — or at least appear to — to meet the new fervent climate, as stubborn unemployment and yawning inequality push activism outside the confines of traditional electoral politics.
The so-called “independent media” and news shows, such as AlterNet, TruthOut, The Nation on multiple occasions, Bill Moyers‘ new show, The Thom Hartmann Show on two occasions, and The Nation Washington Editor Chris Hayes’ show “Up with Chris Hayes,” have also offered shameless plugs and interviews for The 99 Spring’s organizers, and have been likely been “in on the take,” so to speak and in varying degrees, of this well-coordinated effort.
Above and beyond softball coverage of the prospective “movement,” though, is a fundamental misunderstanding, among all factions, of the type of co-option MoveOn.org and Friends have already achieved and continue to achieve, of the Occupy movement.
There are a number of ways to derail or co-opt social justice movements.
Government agents and/or corporate agents can go right in, infiltrate it with informants and agent provocateurs, and behave in such a way so as to delegitimize the movement in the public sphere. This is generally done by intelligence agencies and police forces, such as the FBI, CIA and NYPD, both at home and abroad.
Governments, corporations and foundations can also seduce the leadership of movements with money and power, and get organizations to work in ways palatable to them.
In this case, the co-option of the Occupy Movement has occurred in a classic fashion developed by MoveOn.org and its network of liberal foundation funded, Democratic Party allies. All claim to be “responsible progressives working for fundamental social change,” yet the reality is far more mendacious.
MoveOn.org directed networks, such as The 99 Spring, excel at the creation of dog and pony shows, pageantry, and theatrical performances to co-opt the imagery, language, and ideas of a movement, including the very idea of direct action itself.
In this case, it’s the Occupy movement, showing the servile mainstream media, as well as the so-called “left” media (with which it shares the same funding streams) that The 99 Spring is the organized, more professional, and more responsible heir to the Occupy movement, with a suave spokesman, too: Van Jones, head of theRebuild the Dream “movement.”
For a group like MoveOn.org, the existence of an on-the-ground social justice movement, after all, is perfect — it relies on movements of this sort to co-opt for its own purposes: electing Democrats. [Continue reading…]
Charles Davis writes: More than three years into the presidency of Barack Obama, it’s almost a cliché now to ask: What if George W. Bush did it? From dramatically escalating the war in Afghanistan to institutionalizing the practice of indefinite imprisonment, Obama has dashed hopes he would offer a change from the Bush’s national security policies – but he hasn’t faced a whole lot of resistance from liberals who once decried those policies as an affront to American values.
Like those on the right who now crow about fascism but spent the Bush years gleefully declaring left-wing celebrities “enemies of the state,” many of those on the liberal-left treat issues of war and civil liberties as useful merely for partisan purposes. When a Democrat’s in power those issues become inconvenient. And usually ignored.
Former dean of the Yale Law School Harold Koh, for instance, used to rail against the imperial presidency, speaking of the horror of torture and “indefinite detention without trial.” Now a legal adviser for the Obama State Department, he recently declared that “justice” can be delivered with or with out a trial. Indeed, “Drones also deliver.” Don’t expect much more than a yawn from Democratic pundits, though, much less any calls for impeachment. It’s an election year, after all. And what, would you rather Mitt Romney be the guy drone-striking Pakistani tribesmen?
“Obama and the Democrats being in power in Washington defangs a lot of liberal criticism,” Chase Madar, a civil rights attorney in New York, told me in an interview. Indeed, but with a few exceptions – Michael Moore, Dennis Kucinich, The Nation – those who would be inclined to defend Manning were Bush still in office are the ones either condemning him or condoning his treatment, which has included spending the better part of a year in torturous solitary confinement, an all too common feature of American prisons. Even his progressive defenders, remaining loyal to the Democratic Party, tend to downplay Obama’s role in the Bradley Manning affair; his authorizing the abuse of an American hero is certainly no means not to vote for him again.
“The whole civil libertarian message only really seems to catch fire among liberals when there’s a Republican in the White House,” says Madar. When there’s not a bumbling Texan to inveigh against, all the sudden issues that were morally black and white become complex, and liberal media starts finding nuance where there wasn’t any before.
Josh Ruebner writes: “No Aid to Israel?” wonders a recent Facebook ad sponsored by US President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. “Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich say they would start foreign aid to Israel at zero. Reject their extreme plan now!” the ad implores, directing people to sign a petition to that effect on my.barackobama.com (“Stand against “zeroing out aid to Israel””).
After signing the petition, the caption underneath a beaming photo of the president declares that “Any plan to cut foreign aid to zero across the board is dangerous and ignorant. It’s up to us to get the word out about it. Donate now to help us spread the facts about the Romney-Perry-Gingrich plan to wipe out foreign aid to allies like Israel.”
As Salon writer Justin Elliott correctly notes, “the Obama ads are incredibly dishonest. First of all, the Republican candidates were talking about setting foreign aid at zero each year as a starting point in discussions about how much to give, not setting it at zero as a matter of policy” (“Obama’s dishonest Israel ads, Salon, 12 December 2011).
However, the Obama campaign is far from unique in employing a breathtakingly simplistic strategy of artifice and vituperation (both against opposing candidates and against Palestinians) to bolster their pro-Israel street cred in a transparent ploy to attract campaign donations and votes. US support for Israel, once a carefully nurtured bipartisan consensus, is fast degenerating in the context of the 2012 presidential election into a mud-slinging partisan contest as to which party, in the words of Mitt Romney, who leveled the accusation against Obama, is more guilty of having “thrown Israel under the bus” (“Mitt Romney accuses Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus”,” CBS News, 19 May 2011).
The former Obama administration official, who received a golden parachute at Princeton and the Democratic think tank Center for American Progress when he left the administration, is doing what Democrats always do—see the energy of an independent movement, race to the front, then lead it down a dead end and essentially destroy it. Jones is doing the dirty work of a Democratic operative and while he and other Dem front groups pretend to support Occupiers, their real mission is to co-opt it.
Glenn Greenwald says in a recent blog, “White House-aligned groups such as the Center for American Progress have made explicity clear that they are going to try to convert OWS into a vote-producing arm for the Obama 2012 campaign.”
Before he ran to the front of the Occupy Movement, Jones’ Rebuild the Dream had been saying that its first task was to elect Democrats. Now he is claiming there will be 2000 “99% candidates” in 2012. These Democrats will be re-branded as part of the 99% movement. Democrats will now be re-labeled and marketed as part of the 99% movement. Republican operatives did the same thing to the Tea Party. Tea Party candidates, who often used to be corporate “Club for Growth” candidates, ran in the Republican Party. See, e.g. Senator Pat Toomey – before and after.
Jones is urging the Occupy Movement to “mature” and move on to an electoral phase. This would only make us a sterile part of the very problem we oppose. The electoral system is a corrupt mirage where only corporate-approved candidates are allowed to be considered seriously. At Occupy Washington, DC, we recognize that putting our time, energy and resources into elections will not produce the change we want to see. What we need to do right now is build a dynamic movement supported by independent media that stands in stark contrast to both corporate-bought-and-paid-for
Matt Stoller writes: It’s been a little over a month since this bolt of political lightning known as Occupy Wall Street jolted through the political establishment. It’s time to assess just what Occupy Wall Street has gotten done. That it has accomplished a great deal is beyond dispute. Franklin Foer in the New Republic and John Nichols in the Nation have both noted that Occupy Wall Street profoundly challenged President Obama and the Republicans. But what an odd challenge. A few thousand people camped out in parks around the country? Really?
Yet this challenge has completely changed the dominant theme in Washington. Less than a year ago, JP Morgan’s Bill Daley was the glad-handling centrist du jour, praised by everyone from Howard Dean to Bob Reich. The “austerity class,” as Ari Berman so nicely put it, was in control of the debate, with the Tea Party waiting in the wings ready to slash and burn.
Fast forward to October 2011. Obama is increasingly taking on a populist tone and using executive orders to attempt stimulating the economy, with Democrats smacking around Mitt Romney for encouraging foreclosures as a way to clear the market (a policy Obama administration officials like HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan agree with. The centrists are losing, perhaps not power, but certainly the debate. Third Way, the political brain behind this centrist White House and Senate, is one of the few groups warning Democrats away from Occupy Wall Street, but few are listening.
There’s a reason; the themes put out by the protesters are overwhelmingly popular. The poll numbers are out. If Occupy Wall Street were a national candidate for president, it would be blowing away every other candidate on the stage, including Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Fifty-four percent of Americans agree with the protesters, versus 44 percent who think President Obama is doing a good job. Seventy-three percent of Americans want prosecutions for Wall Street executives for the crisis. Seventy-nine percent think the gap between rich and poor is too large. Eighty-six percent say Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much power in Washington. Sixty-eight percent think the rich should pay more in taxes. Twenty-five percent of the public considers itself upset, 45 percent is concerned about the country and 25 percent is downright angry.
That these themes are dominating establishment debates now is somewhat bizarre. It’s not as if people didn’t hate banks in 2008, 2009 or 2010. And when you think about it, camping out in various cities isn’t a particularly radical act, in and of itself. Occupy Wall Street can’t project political power, at least not in any traditional sense. It can’t make decisions about how to relate to the police, or politicians. It is ideologically incoherent. It can’t even stop drum circles from drumming at night, because drummers don’t recognize the legitimacy of the general assemblies that try to cut deals with the neighborhood. There are increasing reports of medical and safety problems in parks around the country. One person at the protests told me the World War I disease called trenchfoot is making an appearance due to damp conditions. The protests are a ball of raw energy, with one basic message: The 1 percent on Wall Street have taken advantage of the 99 percent of the rest of us.
Max Blumenthal writes:
Bob Turner, the Republican candidate campaigning to replace disgraced Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, picked up a crucial endorsement last week when Democratic Assemblyman Dov Hikind threw his support to him. Hikind is the former leader of the the Jewish Defense League (JDL), which the FBI lists as a terror organization. He was also a confidant of the fanatical Israeli settler leader Meir Kahane, who called for the “slaughter” of Palestinians. Under Kahane’s direction, Hikind operated a front group with the JDL cadre Victor Vancier (aka Chaim Ben Pesach), who served 10 years in prison for carrying out numerous firebomb attacks on innocent people, and openly contemplated killing the renowned Palestinian professor Edward Said. According to journalists Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman, “Hikind had been suspected [by the FBI] of similar activities” including a string of six bombings against Arab-American targets across the United States.
Hikind once told the journalist Robert I. Friedman that he supported a Jewish terrorist underground that assassinates Nazis. “If it is a group that is made up of people who are intelligent professionals and their goal is to execute those clearly responsible for killing tens of thousands, then I would have no trouble with that,” Hikind said. Hikind added that he also favored the assassination of Arab-American supporters of the PLO. The JDL was widely suspected of killing Arab-American Anti-Discrimination committee western regional director Alex Odeh in 1985, though the FBI was never able to apprehend the likely perpetrators. In 2001, JDL leaders Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel were arrested for conspiring to blow up a Los Angeles-area mosque and assassinate Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, who is of Lebanese descent.
Hikind’s terrorist links were never raised by Bob Turner’s Democratic opponent, David Weprin. Instead, Weprin joined Turner in the pro-Israel competition that has become a hallmark of American political campaigns, attacking President Barack Obama’s policy towards Israel as “outrageous.”
From Britain, Larry Elliott writes:
For the past two centuries and more, life in Britain has been governed by a simple concept: tomorrow will be better than today. Black August has given us a glimpse of a dystopia, one in which the financial markets buckle and the cities burn. Like Scrooge, we have been shown what might be to come unless we change our ways.
There were glimmers of hope amid last week’s despair. Neighbourhoods rallied round in the face of the looting. The Muslim community in Birmingham showed incredible dignity after three young men were mown down by a car and killed during the riots. It was chastening to see consumerism laid bare. We have seen the future and we know it sucks. All of which is cause for cautious optimism – provided the right lessons are drawn.
Lesson number one is that the financial and social causes are linked. Lesson number two is that what links the City banker and the looter is the lack of restraint, the absence of boundaries to bad behaviour. Lesson number three is that we ignore this at our peril.
From Washington, Steven Pearlstein writes:
Another great week for Corporate America!
The economy is flatlining. Global financial markets are in turmoil. Your stock price is down about 15 percent in three weeks. Your customers have lost all confidence in the economy. Your employees, at least the American ones, are cynical and demoralized. Your government is paralyzed.
Want to know who is to blame, Mr. Big Shot Chief Executive? Just look in the mirror because the culprit is staring you in the face.
J’accuse, dude. J’accuse.
You helped create the monsters that are rampaging through the political and economic countryside, wreaking havoc and sucking the lifeblood out of the global economy.
Did you see this week’s cartoon cover of the New Yorker? That’s you in top hat and tails sipping champagne in the lifeboat as the Titanic is sinking. Problem is, nobody thinks it’s a joke anymore.
Did you presume we wouldn’t notice that you’ve been missing in action? I can’t say I was surprised. If you’d insisted on trotting out those old canards again, blaming everything on high taxes, unions, regulatory uncertainty and the lack of free-trade treaties, you would have lost whatever shred of credibility you have left.
My own bill of particulars begins right here in Washington, where over the past decade you financed and supported the growth of a radical right-wing cabal that has now taken over the Republican Party and repeatedly made a hostage of the U.S. government.
When it started out all you really wanted was to push back against a few meddlesome regulators or shave a point or two off your tax rate, but you were concerned it would look like special-interest rent-seeking. So when the Washington lobbyists came up with the clever idea of launching a campaign against over-regulation and over-taxation, you threw in some money, backed some candidates and financed a few lawsuits.
The more successful it was, however, the more you put in — hundreds of millions of the shareholders’ dollars, laundered through once-respected organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, phoney front organizations with innocent-sounding names such as Americans for a Sound Economy, and a burgeoning network of Republican PACs and financing vehicles. And thanks to your clever lawyers and a Supreme Court majority that is intent on removing all checks to corporate power, it’s perfectly legal.
And from Omaha, Nebraska, Warren Buffett writes:
Our leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.
While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.
These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.
To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.
I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.
At Mondoweiss, Philip Weiss writes:
DailyKos has acted to ban commenters from linking to Mondoweiss, charging me with anti-Semitism. It is a disgraceful smear and hides DailyKos’s real anxiety: it cannot deal with the issue of Palestinian human rights, any more than the Democratic Party can, and so Israel supporters are striking at me.
Their point of attack is my repeated insistence on talking about the large Jewish presence in the American establishment and the importance of Jewish money in the political process. Such an attack was inevitable, and in that sense I welcome it. For while these are delicate issues, they are important ones. I have often expressed my own discomfort with them, and yet I advance them in the discourse because as a journalist I recognize that they meet an ancient test of what is newsworthy: these issues are new, true, and important. Were they merely new and true, I would ignore these issues. But their importance has put them in my road, and I can’t shy away from discussing them, and DK’s smear gives me an opportunity to revisit my thinking.
Why is the Jewish prominence in the American establishment an important issue? For a few reasons. 1, it is a development I witnessed myself and celebrate as a Jew. When I was growing up, we were excluded from the turrets of the American system by anti-Semitism. Today that is not the case. Jews should recognize this new reality, celebrate it, and yes, allow it to affect our consciousness of our unfolding historical position in western society. 2, It deeply affects Middle East policy, which is the true source of my difference with Daily Kos; I believe you cannot talk about the Israel lobby without addressing the Jewish presence in the establishment. And following directly from that, 3, the Jewish presence is not neutral– no, sadly (and because of the Holocaust), my community has been indoctrinated with Zionism.; as J Street’s Steven Krubiner said the other night, Jewish identity education includes Loving Israel. Well, I think Zionism is a form of anachronistic nationalism that has served to oppress the Palestinians and helped lead my own country into war, and in seeking to uproot Zionism inside Jewish life, I have repeatedly pointed out that the ideological basis of Zionism is the idea that we are unsafe in the west, a claim that is patently absurd in the face of our achievement in the United States and our prominence in the establishment– which everyone knows about and accepts, but DailyKos finds it anti-Semitic even to mention.
Chris Hedges writes:
Ralph Nader in a CNN poll a few days before the 2008 presidential election had an estimated 3 percent of the electorate, or about 4 million people, behind his candidacy. But once the votes were counted, his support dwindled to a little over 700,000. Nader believes that many of his supporters entered the polling booth and could not bring themselves to challenge the Democrats and Barack Obama. I suspect Nader is right. And this retreat is another example of the lack of nerve we must overcome if we are going to battle back against the corporate state. A vote for Nader or Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney in 2008 was an act of defiance. A vote for Obama and the Democrats was an act of submission. We cannot afford to be submissive anymore.
“The more outrageous the Republicans become, the weaker the left becomes,” Nader said when I reached him at his home in Connecticut on Sunday. “The more outrageous they become, the more the left has to accept the slightly less outrageous corporate Democrats.”
Nader fears a repeat of the left’s cowardice in the next election, a cowardice that has further empowered the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, maintained the role of the Democratic Party as a lackey for corporations, and accelerated the reconfiguration of the country into a neo-feudalist state. Either we begin to practice a fierce moral autonomy and rise up in multiple acts of physical defiance that have no discernable short-term benefit, or we accept the inevitability of corporate slavery. The choice is that grim. The age of the practical is over. It is the impractical, those who stand fast around core moral imperatives, figures like Nader or groups such as Veterans for Peace, which organized the recent anti-war rally in Lafayette Park in Washington, which give us hope. If you were one of the millions who backed down in the voting booth in 2008, don’t do it again. If you were one of those who thought about joining the Washington protests against the war where 131 of us were arrested and did not, don’t fail us next time. The closure of the mechanisms within the power system that once made democratic reform possible means we stand together as the last thin line of defense between a civil society and its disintegration. If we do not engage in open acts of defiance, we will empower a radical right-wing opposition that will replicate the violence and paranoia of the state. To refuse to defy in every way possible the corporate state is to be complicit in our strangulation.
Joe Lieberman’s Terrorist Expatriation Act is designed to strip the constitutional rights from any American who is accused of supporting terrorism, but the political sentiment he’s tapping into is simply, America first. Does Lieberman have no concern about where this might go?
How about this New Yorker who Max Blumenthal interviewed recently? Presumably she’s an American citizen, but it sounds like she puts Israel first:
Several major Democratic officials spoke positively about the proposal, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Noting that the State Department already had the authority to rescind the citizenship of people who declare allegiance to a foreign state, she said the administration would take “a hard look” at extending those powers to cover terrorism suspects.
“United States citizenship is a privilege,” she said. “It is not a right. People who are serving foreign powers — or in this case, foreign terrorists — are clearly in violation, in my personal opinion, of that oath which they swore when they became citizens.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she supported the “spirit” of the measure, although she urged caution and said that the details of the proposal, like what would trigger a loss of citizenship, still needed to be fleshed out.
Interesting comment from Clinton… Makes me wonder: how does she feel about Rahm Emanuel serving in the Israeli Defense Force? I know that doesn’t count as an infraction of the law because Israel is not a country hostile to the US, but there’s no avoiding the fact that serving in the Israeli military is serving a foreign power.
As for the “spirit” of the measure, I guess Pelosi will have to explain what she means, but Megan McArdle is not alone in finding this spirit hard to discern:
Can someone explain to me–hopefully using graphs, and small words–why Joe Lieberman is willing to share the precious blessing of American citizenship with Charles Manson, Gary Ridgeway, and David Berkowitz, but wants citizenship stripped from a guy who strapped some firecrackers to a bag of non-explosive fertilizer?
The left may be pressuring President Obama to exit Afghanistan. But their heroes—from FDR to JFK—promoted U.S. involvement in more wars than all modern GOP presidents combined.
Should President Barack Obama continue his escalation of the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it will be the liberal thing to do.
What too few Americans realize—especially the president’s anti-war supporters, who accuse him of betraying liberal or “progressive” values—is that if he accedes to General Stanley McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan and intensifies the drone attacks in Pakistan, he will follow squarely in the footsteps of the great liberal statesmen he has cited as his role models. Though opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cheered loudly when Obama spoke reverentially in his campaign speeches of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy, those heroes of the president promoted and oversaw U.S. involvement in wars that killed, by great magnitudes, more Americans and foreign civilians than all the modern Republican military operations combined. [continued…]
Congress’s failure last week to agree whether and how to fund the war puts the onus on the Pentagon, at least for now, to find a way to cover expenses in Iraq, potentially forcing the Defense Department to close dozens of domestic military bases and imperil the livelihoods of tens of thousands of defense workers.
The congressional inaction may trigger Secretary Robert Gates to carry out his threat last week to furlough as many as 200,000 civil servants and defense contractors this winter, raising the stakes for Democratic lawmakers determined to tie war funding to a drawdown of US troops from Iraq.
Before lawmakers left town Friday for their Thanksgiving recess, they did approve the Pentagon’s $470 billion base budget, but not a supplemental funding request to pay for war operations. Democrats don’t want to fund that $189 billion defense request from President Bush unless the money is tied to deadlines, or at least goals, to bring the bulk of troops home from Iraq by the end of 2008. [complete article]
Democrats in Congress failed once again Friday to shift President Bush’s war strategy in Iraq, but insisted that they would not let up. Their explanation for their latest foiled effort seemed to boil down to a simple question: “What else are we supposed to do?”
Frustrated by the lack of political progress in Iraq, under pressure by antiwar groups and mindful of polls showing that most Americans want the war to end, the Democrats last week put forward a $50 billion war spending bill with strings attached knowing it would fail.
Like so many of the war-related measures that Democrats have proposed this year, the spending bill sought to set a timeline for redeploying American troops, and to narrow the mission to focus on counterterrorism and on the training of Iraq’s security forces. [complete article]