Tag Archives: Underdog
So, for Black History Month, I would like to talk about being black in America. But that’s, well, fucking stupid because I’m a privileged white girl. So here’s Cornel West, talking to Craig Ferguson on last night’s Late Late Show. It was a really spectacular conversation, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Dr. West, on courage, wealth disparity, black history and an orgasm machine.
David Kato, a leading activist for queer rights in Uganda, was killed in his Kampala home on Wednesday. His murderer struck him in the head and fled from the scene, leaving the 43-year-old man to die.
Kato had been outed by that shithole of a tabloid, Rolling Stone (unrelated to the Rolling Stone you know about) back last year when his picture had been published on the front page with the caption “hang them” scrawled above.
According to Al Jazeera, Ugandan police are hesitant to say that this murder was in any way related to his sexuality. “It’s too early for me to make a conclusion on that. What we are investigating is the murder,” Vincent Ssekate, a deputy police spokesman, told the AFP news agency. Well, that’s fucking surprising! Imagine: the police of an extremely anti-gay government might not want to make this about their government’s filthy anti-“aggravated homosexuality” bill.
David Kato worked with a group called Sexual Minorities Uganda. Along with two other activists, he successfully sued Rolling Stone for damages, a case which resulted in the high court injunction outlawing all media outings of LGBT individuals. He also was a vocal opponent of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that has yet to go through Parliament.
AlterNet reports that a Vietnam veteran in Colorado has been denied health care coverage for his cancer treatment because he underpaid by two cents. Apparently, Ronald Flanagan was preparing for a bone biopsy at the Exempla Rock Creek Medical Center when his wife informed the hospital that the couple no longer had health insurance.
It was an innocent enough mistake, according to Ron’s wife, Frances Flanagan. “If I only had just hit the nine instead of the seven,” Frances said. When she was paying their monthly health insurance premium online in November, Frances swapped a 7 for a 9, leaving their $328.69 payment two cents short.
The insurance company, Ceridian Cobra Services, released a statement: “Since the payment was not full, it fit into the definition in the regulations of an ‘insufficient payment’ … Ceridian understands nothing is more important than one’s health.”
One of the things that the health care reform does is that it provides protection for patients when they are dropped frivolously like this. I doubt it will get repealed, but Republicans will no doubt be fighting to defund it.
And if we had another option for patients like Mr. Flanagan, maybe of the public variety, we wouldn’t have people dying when they need not. A… public option, they could call it.
1. “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”
2. “We shall overcome.”
3. “I have a dream.”
4. “Why I Am Opposed to the Vietnam War.”
5. “Nonviolence is the Most Powerful Weapon.”
I’m not about to say from whom I got it, mostly because my source didn’t have a right to publish it. Basically, it’s a newsletter printed by Capital Insights Group, which according to its website, provides “quality research and analysis of the political economy of the United States and the big emerging market countries of Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Southern Africa.” They are basically run by foreign relations scholars, like Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute, and corporate insiders. If you know anything about the AEI, you know that it is a extremely conservative think tank and helped construct some of our favorite Bush policies.
So we know where this is coming from, okay?
There’s very little that we don’t already know, but there are some key phrases in the publication that should solidify any doubts we have in our minds about Obama’s “loyalty” to his base.
On the Obama Presidency thus far:
He probably got the best deal possible on the tax package. And on that deal, he showed clearly a pragmatism that we expect to keep seeing. Congress is so partisan and dysfunctional, though-the worst we’ve ever seen-that additional high-profile compromises may well be unattainable. The tax deal damaged Obama’s relationship with his base; but he’s working to repair it, and they have nowhere else to go. Obama also had an improved outreach to business leaders last week.
Okay. First of all, all we have seen so far has been technically pragmatic, to put it kindly. Obama and his administration have wanted to get things done, and they technically did. Whether or not their health care reform is good, they got it done. They wanted a win. For better or worse, they wanted a win and got it. So that this group considers the tax deal pragmatic as opposed to caving on an important campaign promise is hilarious but apropos.
And it should worry us, because apparently Obama is trying to become more “business” friendly; aka, he’s reaching across the aisle to the corporatists, as if he wasn’t already. When people talk about business, they’re talking about corporate interests and executives on Wall Street. That’s the lingo, so don’t let it fool you.
The most telling part of that passage is that the corporate world knows the left has been left behind by its own party, and that the left pragmatically has no other option but to support the Democrats. And that gives corporate America lots of political leverage. Why? Because if they can be assured that the true populists and true leftists are ignored almost completely, corporations will get their way regardless of the political party in power. Just lobby, lobby, lobby, and it’s game over for the other team. And unfortunately, that team isn’t just the left in the long run. If our government continues to serve ever-so faithfully the interests of national and multi-national corporations, the majority of the American people will suffer.
Next: Congress and the Financial Agenda Next Year
House Republicans are voicing ambitious goals for the financial services area, much like their goals for health care reform and spending reductions. That is, they want to repeal or replace much of the new Dodd-Frank bill, and expand the oversight function to be sure regulation doesn’t get out of hand.
I’m seriously laughing right now. Oh, please. As if the Dodd-Frank bill had any real reform and regulation of the financial industry. And the industry knows that, too. But honestly, they don’t want any regulation at all, so they couldn’t be happier about the narrative that the bill is too tough on business. That means it will be easier for corporatists in Congress to make it easier for Wall Street to gamble with taxpayers’ money.
The contrast couldn’t be starker between the House and Senate banking committees in terms of partisan dynamics. Incoming chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Tim Johnson, D-SD, has said very little about his agenda for next year, and in remarks this fall, stressed he would be more moderate on housing finance reform than Sen. Dodd would have been, noting that he hails from a state where financial services matter. (He voted for Dodd-Frank but voted against sweeping credit card legislation.) He sounds more leisurely, waiting for the Administration’s GSE reform proposal to be followed by a series of hearings.
As if Senator Dodd was in any way liberal or progressive. See how far the narrative has swung to the right? Chris Dodd, a corporatist’s wet dream, isn’t moderate enough for these assholes. Moderate meaning in the pocket of Big Business, of course. So this Tim Johnson can’t be good.
They talk about financial issues in some detail, but I’ll focus on the ones that seem the most disconcerting.
Consumer Protection Bureau
Elizabeth Warren and her efforts to pave the way for a workable entity will likely be blasted by House Republicans no matter what she says or does. Rep. Shelly Moore Capito, incoming subcommittee head for financial institutions, says she would like to reshape the bureau, and others want to reconstitute it to make it more accountable and less powerful. Getting any such legislation through the Senate and signed by Obama will be a long shot, but making Warren and the eventual head of the bureau miserable is quite possible.
I love how Elizabeth Warren makes corporate America squirm. Here’s a really progressive economist who actually gives two damns about the working classes, who knows her shit and has consistently provided excellent dialogue on the financial meltdown. Of course, Warren came up with the Consumer Protection Bureau, but she does not head it and likely has very little power as an “adviser” regardless of her popularity.
But see what they want? They equate this bureau being “less powerful” with being “more accountable.” This bureau is intended to fight for the consumers, and therefore it is a threat to corporate interests.
Federal Reserve Oversight and Auditing
Incoming subcommittee head Ron Paul isn’t shy about his views on monetary policy, but he isn’t promising bills to abolish the Fed yet. In a recent interview, he promised to hold hearings on Fed transparency-his biggest issue with the Bernanke Fed, he says. He says monetary policy is a major contributing factor to unemployment. He says he comes at monetary policy from an Austrian, not Keynesian viewpoint, and want the theory behind the Fed examined. He says that incoming chairman Bachus has said he will let Paul do what he wants “within reason.”
I mean, I agree with Ron Paul on the need for utmost transparency of the Fed, but abolishing it? Oh dear. My guess is that the financial industry doesn’t want the Fed abolished, either. They also don’t want transparency, and why would they? The Fed bails them out, so corporatists like a murky Fed. And that Sen. Bachus isn’t even going to fight Rep. Paul is not surprising but immensely frustrating, to say the least.
Other Dodd-Frank Issues
There are a lot of other Dodd-Frank matters that will be addressed next year, including for example: derivatives regulation and treatment of corporate end users; rolling back some of the deposit insurance changes that were made; perhaps reining in the new Office of Financial Research before it gets too carried away with data collection and subpoena power; and perhaps passing covered-bond measure to facilitate this form of mortgage investment. (This issue is a favorite of Rep. Garrett and his consulting colleague Bert Ely, who helped with this overall list.)
There isn’t any substantive derivatives regulation right now, so I assume Wall Street just wants it all blown out of the water. And they don’t want the Office of Financial Research to have any sort of subpoena power because that would result in more transparency in the corporate world, wouldn’t it?
But it is also likely that House Financial Services will get wrapped up in “who-shot-John” fights about who’s to blame for the Fannie/Freddie mess. This happened during all of the Dodd-Frank fight, and will surely be a feature in future committee discussions. Of course playing the blame game doesn’t help pass bills or solve problems, but it is part of what we should expect. Regulators will be playing defense most of the year, however, which is part of the goal.
The reality could be lots of hearings and bluster, but little actual legislation. But regulators will have to be good at defending their actions.
My favorite bit is how regulators being on the defense is part of the goal for corporate America.
And then comes the Q+A segment called A Turning Point for Obama?
Q: Did Obama cave on the tax deal, as the liberals contend and the GOP believes?
No. Not in our view, anyway. He couldn’t have stopped an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, because too many moderate Democrats were lined up with the Republicans on the other side. And he had little bargaining power, because of the election “shellacking” and because time was running out and because any “next deal” made retroactively in January with a GOP-controlled House and a smaller Democratic majority in the Senate, would only have been worse. Obama extracted more concessions than we would have thought possible under the circumstances, actually. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer called it the “swindle of the year,” asserting that it’s a second stimulus package that the President would have been laughed out of town for proposing directly.
Look at this. They certainly don’t mind being bailed out by the taxpayers, but a stimulus package? Protection for the unemployed? Forget about it. Look, that tax deal was a gift to the rich. And my family will probably do quite well with it. But that’s not important. We’d do fine without the tax cuts. The truth is, Obama is clearly going to be moving even further to the right, and these guys will be deliriously happy about that.
And when I say he’s going to move to the right, I mean he is going to become even more corporatist, not conservative. Fiscal conservatism =/= corporatism. I want to make that perfectly clear. I disagree with truly conservative fiscal policy, but I understand that this trend toward protecting the elite and the privileged isn’t necessarily conservative.
Q: How much has the tax deal damaged Obama’s relationship with his base?
It isn’t just the deal itself that angers House Democrats. It’s also that they weren’t included in the making of it. And that when Obama was defending it so early on he made disparaging remarks about some Democratic nay-sayers. In fact, Obama made a mess of the early announcements and explanations. He criticized the deal itself and those on both sides of it, then insisted everyone should vote for it. Liberal Democratic groups outside the Congress are even angrier, in our view because they are even less realistic about what Obama’s options really were. The President and others in the White House have been meeting with those groups and with Democratic lawmakers in recent days to try to ease the tension. More outreach will be needed; but in the end, liberals really have nowhere else to go, and they know it.
I have to agree with the first part of this analysis. Obama did himself a great disservice by shutting out his own party from the policy-making process. And when he criticized his own deal, he came off as weak and floundering. The thing that gets me is that we weren’t less realistic about Obama’s options but quite the opposite. It is realistic to suggest that Obama stick with the vast majority of public opinion by pressuring the Republicans to take what he wanted to give. Bargaining usually works like this: you strike higher than you know you need to get and then haggle, usually going for what you originally intended to get. That’s what Democrats would have done with health care reform, had they actually wanted a public option. Establish your intent to get single-payer, then haggle down to the public option.
But Democrats apparently don’t understand politics. And Republicans, and therefore corporate America, know that well. That’s why they know we liberals don’t have any party but the schmucks who begrudgingly accept us into the fold around election season.
And that, my friends, is just a little insight into the other side courtesy of Capital Insights Group. Nothing extraordinarily new, but quite indicative of the fact that progressives are in serious trouble, and Barack Obama ain’t coming to save us.
Congress did something right! Kudos, Harry Reid/Democrats.
And what about the DREAM Act? You know, the equally important legislation that would allow highly motivated children of immigrants to become citizens after two years of either military experience or college? What about that?
… that didn’t pass?
Well, that’s fucked up.
I mean, LGBT activists got fully behind DREAM, just like they did DADT repeal. Oh wait, they didn’t?
That’s odd. I mean, there’s this story that should remind LGBT activists who haven’t thought about DREAM as much as they should have:
Several students staged a May 17 sit-in at Sen. John McCain’s home state office in Arizona, in the wake of an anti-immigrant law enacted recently in that state. But for one young man, 24-year-old Mohammad Abdollahi, that act of civil disobedience could mean deportation–and possible imprisonment, torture, even death. Abdollahi is gay, and he’s from Iran.
Though he is an undocumented immigrant, Abdollahi has lived in the United States since he was three years old, reported The Detroit News on May 20. The young man’s family came to America on the strength of his father’s student visa; when the visa ran out, the family stayed. For Abdollahi to participate in the office sit-in posed a risk of which the young man was fully aware, but if it means that a bill that would reform immigration policy is passed, he says, the danger to his well being and his life is worth it.
It’s not surprising that DREAM didn’t pass, but it’s not right. With more pressure from the public, it would have.