Rep. Deutch introduces OCCUPIED constitutional amendment to ban corporate money in politics

Zaid Jilani reports: In one of the greatest signs yet that the 99 Percenters are having an impact, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, today introduced an amendment that would ban corporate money in politics and end corporate personhood once and for all.

Deutch’s amendment, called the Outlawing Corporate Cash Undermining the Public Interest in our Elections and Democracy (OCCUPIED) [PDF] Amendment, would overturn the Citizens United decision, re-establishing the right of Congress and the states to regulate campaign finance laws, and to effectively outlaw the ability of for-profit corporations to contribute to campaign spending.

“No matter how long protesters camp out across America, big banks will continue to pour money into shadow groups promoting candidates more likely to slash Medicaid for poor children than help families facing foreclosure,” said Deutch in a statement provided to ThinkProgress. “No matter how strongly Ohio families fight for basic fairness for workers, the Koch Brothers will continue to pour millions into campaigns aimed at protecting the wealthiest 1%. No matter how fed up seniors in South Florida are with an agenda that puts oil subsidies ahead of Social Security and Medicare, corporations will continue to fund massive publicity campaigns and malicious attack ads against the public interest. Americans of all stripes agree that for far too long, corporations have occupied Washington and drowned out the voices of the people. I introduced the OCCUPIED Amendment because the days of corporate control of our democracy. It is time to return the nation’s capital and our democracy to the people.”

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The new progressive movement

Jeffrey Sachs writes: Twice before in American history, powerful corporate interests dominated Washington and brought America to a state of unacceptable inequality, instability and corruption. Both times a social and political movement arose to restore democracy and shared prosperity.

The first age of inequality was the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century, an era quite like today, when both political parties served the interests of the corporate robber barons. The progressive movement arose after the financial crisis of 1893. In the following decades Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson came to power, and the movement pushed through a remarkable era of reform: trust busting, federal income taxation, fair labor standards, the direct election of senators and women’s suffrage.

The second gilded age was the Roaring Twenties. The pro-business administrations of Harding, Coolidge and Hoover once again opened up the floodgates of corruption and financial excess, this time culminating in the Great Depression. And once again the pendulum swung. F.D.R.’s New Deal marked the start of several decades of reduced income inequality, strong trade unions, steep top tax rates and strict financial regulation. After 1981, Reagan began to dismantle each of these core features of the New Deal.

Following our recent financial calamity, a third progressive era is likely to be in the making. This one should aim for three things. The first is a revival of crucial public services, especially education, training, public investment and environmental protection. The second is the end of a climate of impunity that encouraged nearly every Wall Street firm to commit financial fraud. The third is to re-establish the supremacy of people votes over dollar votes in Washington.

None of this will be easy. Vested interests are deeply entrenched, even as Wall Street titans are jailed and their firms pay megafines for fraud. The progressive era took 20 years to correct abuses of the Gilded Age. The New Deal struggled for a decade to overcome the Great Depression, and the expansion of economic justice lasted through the 1960s. The new wave of reform is but a few months old.

The young people in Zuccotti Park and more than 1,000 cities have started America on a path to renewal. The movement, still in its first days, will have to expand in several strategic ways. Activists are needed among shareholders, consumers and students to hold corporations and politicians to account. Shareholders, for example, should pressure companies to get out of politics. Consumers should take their money and purchasing power away from companies that confuse business and political power. The whole range of other actions — shareholder and consumer activism, policy formulation, and running of candidates — will not happen in the park.

The new movement also needs to build a public policy platform. The American people have it absolutely right on the three main points of a new agenda. To put it simply: tax the rich, end the wars and restore honest and effective government for all.

Finally, the new progressive era will need a fresh and gutsy generation of candidates to seek election victories not through wealthy campaign financiers but through free social media. A new generation of politicians will prove that they can win on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and blog sites, rather than with corporate-financed TV ads. By lowering the cost of political campaigning, the free social media can liberate Washington from the current state of endemic corruption. And the candidates that turn down large campaign checks, political action committees, Super PACs and bundlers will be well positioned to call out their opponents who are on the corporate take.

Those who think that the cold weather will end the protests should think again. A new generation of leaders is just getting started. The new progressive age has begun.

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The American-Israeli led anti-democratic alliance

“Never insult the Arabs,” advised Amos Gilead, former head of Israel’s Political-Military Bureau, speaking on Monday at the influential Herzliya national security conference.

But he wasn’t appealing for an improvement in Israeli-Arab relations since he only had a few Arabs in mind — Hosni Mubarak and other leaders “that are supporting stability and are coping with terror and have proven themselves along decades.”

As for Gilead’s views about the advance of democracy in the region, such a prospect presents nothing less than a path to hell.

“If we allow,” Gilead said, then edited himself realizing that democracy should not be presented as something Israel can allow (or forbid) and thus he continued in less instrumental terms, “or if there is democrative process in the Middle East, it will bring for sure — or, let’s say, quite sure — dictatorships which will make this area like hell.”

The Obama administration — which has yet to face any form of governmental pressure it was willing to resist — is now showing itself in much deeper sympathy with those voices who present democracy as a threat than those who claim democracy as their right.

The New York Times reports:

As the Obama administration gropes for the right response to the uprising in Egypt, it has not lacked for advice from democracy advocates, academics, pundits, even members of the previous administration. But few voices have been as urgent, insistent or persuasive as those of Egypt’s neighbors.

Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have each repeatedly pressed the United States not to cut loose Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, too hastily, or to throw its weight behind the democracy movement in a way that could further destabilize the region, diplomats say. One Middle Eastern envoy said that on a single day, he spent 12 hours on the phone with American officials.

There is evidence that the pressure has paid off. On Saturday, just days after suggesting that it wanted immediate change, the administration said it would support an “orderly transition” managed by Vice President Omar Suleiman. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that Mr. Mubarak’s immediate resignation might complicate, rather than clear, Egypt’s path to democracy, given the requirements of Egypt’s Constitution.

“Everyone is taking a little breath,” said a diplomat from the region, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing private conversations. “There’s a sense that we’re getting our message through.”

While each country has its own concerns, all worry that a sudden, chaotic change in Egypt would destabilize the region or, in the Arab nations, even jeopardize their own leaders, many of whom are also autocrats facing restive populations.

Like frogs that refuse to jump out of pot of hot water because its temperature is only rising slowly, those autocrats and their Western allies who now equate stability with their ability to act as a judicious brake on change, have a will to survive that is guiding them down a path of self-destruction.

Slow but sure are the watchwords of the proponents of an “orderly transition” to democracy in Egypt. Yet even as they profess a desire to see democratic change unfold and claim no interest in dictating the outcome of a democratic process, this posture of non-interference is contradicted by a clear intent to dictate the pace of change. The will of the Egyptian people will be respected — but not just yet.

What the West is telling the Arab world is this: be patient living under dictators we like because if you get rid of them you’ll end up being ruled by dictators we don’t like. Now, as ever, the West treats Arabs as being incapable of building their own democracies.

But beneath this veneer of contempt lies a much deeper fear: that a Middle East made up of truly self-governing independent nations fully in control of resources upon which the West depends will no longer bow to Western interests. That’s a prospect the West dreads to contemplate.

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Wall Street’s best friend: The Tea Party

In Salon, Andrew Leonard writes:

Call it the amazing bank bailout boomerang. Even though few things enrage Tea Party rebels more than government checks made out to Wall Street financial companies, the reverse dynamic does not seem to be a problem. The top 12 Senatorial candidates most favored by Tea Partiers have already hauled in $4.6 million in campaign contributions from Wall Street. Even more amazing is a tidbit reported by the Washington Post:

The two top recipients of money from companies receiving TARP funds are the top two House Republicans, Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) with $200,000 and Republican Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) with $187,000. They are followed by the ranking members of two key House committees, Spencer Bachus (Ala.) on Financial Services and Dave Camp (Mich.) on the tax-writing committee.

Let’s spell that out: The Wall Street banks that were bailed out with taxpayer money are using their profits to bankroll Republicans who now claim to be unalterably opposed to any more bailouts, ever, for all time, in any universe — even though the original TARP bailout was a Republican idea, signed into law by a Republican president, with the strong backing of the Republican leadership of both the House and Senate.

OK. We know that Wall Street always backs the likely winner, and its priorities here are obvious: weaken financial reform legislation and head off any tax hikes that could discomfit the wealthy. But there is still a massive paradox in play. Republican electoral momentum is in no small part fueled by Tea Party resentment against the government/Wall Street nexus. The roots of that Tea Party anger can be traced directly back to one signal event: the bank bailout.

The TARP bank bailout was extraordinarily unpopular with both the left and the right. While the financial crisis caused by irresponsible banks crushed average Americans, causing millions to lose both their homes and jobs, the banks got a massive get-out-of-jail-free card. Never mind the (probably valid) rationalization that it all would have been much worse if the banking system had simply been allowed to fail. That may well be true, but it’s equally true that the banks got bailed out while the majority of Americans got screwed. There are plenty of other motivating forces behind Tea Party rage — fear of big government “socialism” and racial antagonism, to name just two — but that sense of basic unfairness generated by the sight of fat cat elites getting away with murder is the bedrock foundation underlying populist anger.

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NEWS: Sharif excluded from upcoming election

Pakistan rejects Sharif’s election bid appeal

Pakistan’s Election Commission has upheld an election ban on former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his lawyer said on Tuesday, barring a main rival of President Pervez Musharraf from the January polls.

Sharif, who Musharraf ousted in 1999, was allowed back from seven years of exile last month and has been campaigning for the January 8 general election despite the ban, imposed this month for past criminal convictions he says were politically motivated.

Sharif had challenged the ban, but the Election Commission rejected his appeal, saying it should be filed with an election tribunal made up of judges who swore allegiance to Musharraf after he imposed emergency rule on November 3. [complete article]

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NEWS: Lebanon’s presidential election deadline looms

As presidential vote nears, Beirut’s residents sense they won’t be the winners

Mireille Adas took part in a march through downtown Beirut this week, demanding that Hezbollah end its yearlong occupation of the city’s commercial center. Her jewelry shop, steps away from the organization’s tent camp, has suffered major losses as a result of the power struggle between Hezbollah and the government, which has paralyzed the capital and brought Lebanese politics to a standstill for nearly a year.

Like most Lebanese, Ms. Adas has felt new heights of anxiety as the clock counted down to next Friday’s deadline for the country to choose a new president. Hezbollah and the pro-Western governing coalition have faced off in a game of brinkmanship over the selection of a president, the head of state, making no visible progress during two months of crisis negotiations that began when Parliament met to elect a president on Sept. 25 and promptly disbanded for lack of a quorum of two-thirds of its members.

Echoing many politicians and analysts here, Ms. Adas worries that the Friday deadline is likely to bring one of two outcomes, either of them bad: a deal that prolongs the current standoff, extending a long period of stagnation and malaise, or a catastrophic head-on clash between the governing coalition and the opposition led by Hezbollah, the Islamist Shiite faction. [complete article]

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NEWS: Jordan prepares for undemocratic elections

Jordan, fearing Islamists, tightens grip on elections

This month’s legislative elections were supposed to be a watershed in this pro-American kingdom’s slow but committed march to democratic change.

But Hamas’s rise to power in the Palestinian Authority and its violent takeover of Gaza in June have cast a heavy shadow over politics in Jordan, where a Hashemite monarch maintains a tight, authoritarian grip on a restive Palestinian majority and an activist Islamic opposition.

As a result, the government has dropped plans to change its byzantine electoral law, prohibited some critics from seeking office and threatened to bar independent observers from the polls. And, with less than two weeks before the Nov. 20 vote, opposition candidates are accusing the government of rampant voter fraud. [complete article]

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ANALYSIS: Elections in Lebanon

All power to the weak in Lebanon

Lebanon’s Parliament on Tuesday postponed the first stage in electing a new president after a Hezbollah boycott. If legislators do manage to complete the process – despite the mountainous obstacles – it will be the first real election in Lebanon since the country erupted into civil war in 1975.

Parliament’s 127 deputies will now vote next month on who should replace pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud, whose term ends on November 23. Parliament has until then to finalize the issue, though there is disagreement over just how this should be done to get a new man in Baabda Palace.

Lebanese politics is sharply polarized into two camps, which refuse to back down. On another level, the contenders are divided Lebanon caught in a proxy war between the great powers. [complete article]

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