In the USA...United Surveillance America
November 23, 2013A Step, if Modest, Toward Slowing Iran’s Weapons Capability
By DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON — The interim accord struck with Iran on Sunday interrupts the country’s nuclear progress for the first time in nearly a decade, but requires Iran to make only a modest down payment on the central problem.
The deal does not roll back the vast majority of the advances Iran has made in the past five years, which have drastically shortened what nuclear experts call its “dash time” to a bomb — the minimum time it would take to build a weapon if Iran’s supreme leader or military decided to pursue that path.
Lengthening that period, so that the United States and its allies would have time to react, is the ultimate goal of President Obama’s negotiating team. It is also a major source of friction between the White House and two allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, which have made no secret of their belief that they are being sold down the river.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has described the terms of the accord announced early Sunday as a “bad deal” that does not require Iran “to take apart even one centrifuge.” That bitter assessment reflects the deep suspicion inside Mr. Netanyahu’s government that Mr. Obama will settle for a final agreement that leaves Iran a few screwdriver turns short of a weapon.
The Saudis have been equally blistering, hinting in vague asides that if the United States cannot roll back the Iranian program, it may be time for Saudi Arabia to move to Plan B — nuclear weapons of its own, presumably obtained from Pakistan, which entered the nuclear club on Saudi subsidies.
Such warnings are part of the expected theater of these negotiations, in which the United States must look simultaneously accommodating enough to a new Iranian leadership to keep fragile talks going and tough enough to its allies and Congress that it cannot be accused of naïveté. That is why Mr. Obama, speaking at the White House late Saturday, called the interim deal a necessary first step.
Iran’s agreement to convert or dilute the fuel stocks that are closest to weapons grade, Mr. Obama said, means that the deal would “cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb.” But it would cut them off only temporarily, long enough to pursue negotiations without fear that Iran would use the time to inch closer to a weapons capability.
But the rollback he won for this first stage, according to American intelligence estimates, would slow Iran’s dash time by only a month to a few months.
The most immediate risk to the interim agreement comes from hard-liners in Washington and Tehran who, after examining the details, may try to undo it. Mr. Obama met with senators from both parties last week, hoping to dissuade them from imposing new sanctions just as he is lifting some in an effort to coax Iran toward disarmament. But even some of his closest allies are unconvinced: Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last week noting that the temporary accord “would not require Iran to even meet the terms of prior United Nations Security Council resolutions,” which require complete suspension of nuclear production.
On the Iranian side, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which American intelligence agencies have accused of running a secret weapons-design program, may try to chip away at the accord as well, arguing that the sanctions relief is puny and that even the caps on enrichment will slow Iran’s efforts to build its nuclear capabilities.
Mr. Kerry and his chief negotiator, Wendy Sherman, say they have no illusions that the interim agreement solves the Iranian nuclear problem. It simply creates time and space for the real negotiations, they say, where the goal will be to convince Iranian leaders that the only way to get the most crippling sanctions — those that have cut the country’s oil revenue in half — lifted is to dismantle large parts of a program on which they have spent billions of dollars and staked national pride.
“Rollback may be a step too far for the Iranians,” said Vali R. Nasr, the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Iran’s recently elected president, Hassan Rouhani, “can’t go there for some time,” Dr. Nasr said, “because he can’t been seen at home giving up such a huge investment or abandoning national security.”
Lurking over the American negotiating team is the specter of what can go wrong even with a seemingly good deal to buy time. As Ms. Sherman was coaxing Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, toward the interim agreement, the North Koreans were restarting a nuclear reactor that they had partly dismantled in a similar agreement struck late in the administration of President George W. Bush — a deal meant to halt North Korea’s ability to produce plutonium fuel for weapons.
“It lasted five years, which isn’t bad,” said Christopher R. Hill, who conducted the North Korean negotiations for the Bush administration and is now dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. “But the reality is that, over time, everything is reversible.”
The North Korean example has become Exhibit No. 1 in Israel’s argument that the deal struck on Sunday gives a false sense of security. “There are two models for a deal: Libya and North Korea,” Israel’s minister of strategic affairs and intelligence, Yuval Steinitz, said in an interview during a recent trip to Washington. “We need Libya.”
Mr. Steinitz was referring to a 2003 agreement in which Libya gave up all of its nuclear equipment and was left with no ability to make nuclear fuel. But Libya had barely managed to unpack its equipment, purchased from Pakistan; it had invested far less than Iran and was nowhere near enriching nuclear fuel. In reality, no one imagines the Iranians will give up everything. The question is, how much is enough?
The complexity of the task ahead is evident from a glance at the main measurements of Iran’s progress since Mr. Obama took office in 2009, promising a new opening to the Iranians — an opening they had largely rejected until this summer, when the mounting toll of economic sanctions helped Mr. Rouhani win the presidential election.
At the beginning of Mr. Obama’s presidency, Iran had roughly 2,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, barely enough for a bomb. It now has about 9,000 kilograms, by the estimates of the International Atomic Energy Agency. A few thousand centrifuges were spinning in 2009; today there are 18,000, including new models that are far more efficient and can produce bomb-grade uranium faster. A new heavy water reactor outside the city of Arak promises a new pathway to a bomb, using plutonium, if it goes online next year as Iran says it will.
True rollback would mean dismantling many of those centrifuges, shipping much of the fuel out of the country or converting it into a state that could not be easily adapted to bomb use, and allowing inspections of many underground sites where the C.I.A., Europe and Israel believe hidden enrichment facilities may exist. There is no evidence of those facilities now, but, as a former senior Obama administration official said recently, speaking anonymously to discuss intelligence, “there has never been a time in the past 15 years or so when Iran didn’t have a hidden facility in construction.”
There is also the problem of forcing Iran to reveal what kind of progress it has made toward designing a weapon. For years, its leaders have refused to answer questions about documents, slipped out of the country by a renegade scientist nearly eight years ago, that strongly suggest work on a nuclear warhead. Inspectors have never been able to interview Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the academic believed to be in charge of a series of weapons development projects.
The good news for the American negotiators is that if there are no hidden facilities, it will take Iran several months to produce weapons-grade fuel from its current stocks, and perhaps a year or more to fashion that fuel into a usable weapon and shrink it to fit atop one of the country’s Shahab missiles.
Even then, a single weapon would do Iran little good next to Israel’s 100 or more and the United States’ thousands, as Mr. Zarif, the foreign minister, often points out. But the mere knowledge that Iran was on the cusp of a weapon would affect the perception of its power around the world, and that may be all its leaders seek.
Ultimately, the toughest challenge for Mr. Obama may be bridging the gap between the United States’ interests and those of Israel and Iran’s Sunni Muslim neighbors. For Mr. Obama, the interim deal to freeze Iran’s program is a major win, and a deal that rolled it back, even to where it was when he took office, would be an even bigger win.
After all, his stated goal has always been to prevent Iran from getting a bomb, not to prevent it from getting the capability to do so. He knows he cannot destroy, by bombs or deals, whatever knowledge Iran has gained of how to build a weapon. It is too late for that.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: November 24, 2013
An earlier version of this article misidentified the title of Yuval Steinitz. He is Israel’s minister of strategic affairs and intelligence, not its defense minister.
November 23, 2013In the Health Law, an Open Door for Entrepreneurs
By CLAIRE MARTIN
In the weeks since the health insurance marketplaces of the Affordable Care Act went online, a well-publicized ripple of alarm and confusion has permeated the ranks of small-business owners. But less well known is the response of another contingent: newcomers to entrepreneurship who see the legislation as a solution to the often insurmountable expense of getting health insurance. Some even view the Affordable Care Act itself as a business opportunity.
The hopeful include founders of start-ups who otherwise wouldn’t have access to affordable health insurance — people like Rajeev Jeyakumar, a co-founder of Skillbridge, a Manhattan-based online job marketplace for business consultants.
Mr. Jeyakumar is uninsured. But unlike many people who were thwarted by the government’s faulty health care website, he was able to sign up for individual coverage three weeks ago. He will pay just $74 a month, after tax credits, for his new plan through the New York State exchange.
His story illustrates how, when finances are tight, new entrepreneurs often place the health of their businesses over their own health. “In the early days, a venture is often very much self-funded,” Mr. Jeyakumar says. “You always trade off between the money you need to survive in terms of paying rent and food. And when you have health care as an additional cost, it’s always very tempting to not put money into it.”
But come January, Mr. Jeyakumar will have a health plan that “even includes dental,” he wrote in an email. “I’m very pleased with the outcome.” Until then, he’s refraining from using his Citi Bike membership or playing sports, lest he sustain an injury requiring medical care.
And when it’s time to hire employees, he says he will most likely avoid the extra work of administering a company health insurance plan and instead encourage employees to shop the new health care exchanges on their own and bump up their salaries to cover the cost.
Research published in the journal Health Affairs showed that small businesses with 10 to 24 employees have paid 10 percent more than large ones for the same health care coverage, and that companies with fewer than 10 employees have paid 18 percent more until now. Small businesses’ plans were also more vulnerable to rate increases; as a result, they often provided less coverage, if they offered it at all, resulting in a competitive disadvantage in hiring.
Constantia Petrou, owner of Konnectology, a website that provides information on health care specialists, expects the new law to broaden her hiring options. When she started her company seven years ago in Burlingame, Calif., she realized that she couldn’t afford to offer a group plan.
“In terms of hiring, the health care expenses contribute a huge, huge component to your cost of operation,” Ms. Petrou says. So instead of bringing on full-time employees, she relied on contract workers.
She is looking forward to getting price information online from the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, an exchange that was created by the new law. (Currently, business owners can obtain estimated SHOP prices online, but specific ones are only available by mail after filling out and mailing in a PDF downloaded from Healthcare.gov. Some states, including California, have their own SHOP exchanges, and their procedures vary.)
Ms. Petrou says the law could enable her to hire full-time employees, depending on the new costs of coverage. If so, she will either pay for a portion of the individual plans that her employees shop for on the exchange, or she may take advantage of tax credits and offer a small group plan. “We now have options to explore,” she says.
Some experts say this type of flexibility may have a big impact on the economy over all.
“Assuming we get the website working, it’s going to be the biggest step we’ve had in a long time in the U.S. in terms of changing the structure of the economy,” says Craig Garthwaite, assistant professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Mr. Garthwaite is a co-author of one of two recent studies that conclude that the Affordable Care Act could spur entrepreneurship by easing job lock — where people stay in a job mainly for the health insurance.
The act was aimed at people like Jeannie Armstrong, who in 2009 was planning to quit her job within a couple of years to start a private clinic for adolescents with substance-abuse problems. But then her 18-year-old son learned that he had diabetes. Fearing that he would be unable to find individual health insurance, she has stayed in her job so her son could keep receiving coverage under her employer’s health plan.
“We’re talking pre-existing condition, we’re talking no money, we’re talking health care costs out of the roof,” Ms. Armstrong says of her son’s situation.
But in January, her son will be eligible for individual health insurance. That will free Ms. Armstrong to quit her job as a social worker in the juvenile court system of Fairfax County, Va., and to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams. Now, instead of opening a for-profit clinic, Ms. Armstrong has decided to go the social-entrepreneurship route. In September, she founded the nonprofit Center to End Adolescent Substance Abuse Encounters.
Over the next year, she plans to stay in her job while her son finishes school; in her free time, she will assemble a board of directors and write the organization’s bylaws. By next fall, she plans to be running the nonprofit full time.
“I’m not hamstrung by having to stay in this job,” she says.
Ms. Armstrong sees the new law as an opportunity to start something new. But Kevin Kuhlman, manager of legislative affairs for the National Federation of Independent Business, says that while job lock is a real concern for entrepreneurs, he remains skeptical that the new law will be able to solve the problem.
The federation unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most people obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty, in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court last year. The plaintiffs were uninsured and didn’t believe that the government could require them to buy insurance.
Certainly, many established small-business owners are not clamoring for information on new health coverage. Barry Sloane, chairman and chief executive of Newtek Business Services, based in New York, says a majority of his customers haven’t bothered to visit the exchanges.
“The negative publicity that’s come out about the site not functioning has kept people from thinking they can go to it and get a result,” Mr. Sloane says.
Some small businesses aren’t shopping the exchanges because they don’t yet need to, he says. Businesses with fewer than 50 people will not be required to offer health insurance; those with 50 or more employees will have to do so, but not until 2015.
Small-business owners are “very confused and they’re very concerned,” Mr. Sloane says. And those feelings are only intensifying amid news reports that just a tiny number of Americans have enrolled in the exchange plans and amid questions about the government’s ability to keep enrollees’ personal information secure. “The negative stigma around the Affordable Care Act is building steam,” he says.
A new crop of Internet companies, meanwhile, is convinced that Americans will need help navigating the new health care landscape. Benefitter, for example, based in San Francisco, provides business owners and individuals with information on the new law’s requirements.
The Young Entrepreneur Council, based in New York, is focusing on small-business owners and solo entrepreneurs with a website, StartupInsurance.com, that it founded in September. It offers health insurance plans from six carriers.
“Whether the government is in there or not, whether corporations are in there or not, this is a big void,” Scott Gerber, the council’s founder, says of health care insurance for the small-business market.
Jack Hooper is among those who see the law as a business opportunity. A former intelligence analyst for the federal government, he enrolled at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 and hoped to start a company after graduation. His wife, Brittany, was to provide financial support and health care benefits through her job while he got the business going, but when she became pregnant with twins, those plans collapsed.
As he began investigating his own health care options, he realized that the Affordable Care Act could provide more than just access to coverage for his family.
“What’s been a very stagnant industry, health insurance, is being shaken up and people are starting to re-evaluate their plans,” Mr. Hooper says. He anticipates that premiums will remain expensive, pushing many Americans to high-deductible plans, and that these people will need help in managing care-related expenses.
Last spring, he started a service called Command Health, which he describes as “a Mint.com or TurboTax for high-deductible health insurance plans.”
Based on his previous experience working for the federal government, he says, he is not surprised by the problems that have emerged in the Healthcare.gov site. Entrepreneurs like him will end up providing the ultimate solutions to the problems that have emerged from the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Hooper says.
Mr. Jeyakumar of Skillbridge says of the law’s rocky start: “Being a tech entrepreneur myself, I appreciate that technology is often not perfect in the first release, and a lot of great products from Facebook to eBay were buggy when they first came out.”
He adds: “I think the concept is good, and as with anything, it’s a wait-and-see on execution. If it works, great, and if not, we will fall back on existing alternatives.”
******************John Boehner Lied and Faked Problems With Website While Signing Up for Obamacare
By: Jason Easley
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 5:55 pm
It turns out that Speaker Boehner lied about his struggles to sign up for Obamacare. The Speaker wasn’t having trouble with the website. He put the ACA rep on hold for 35 minutes.
Boehner described signing up for the ACA as, “Earlier this afternoon, I sat down to try and enroll in the DC exchange under the president’s health care law. Like many Americans, my experience was pretty frustrating. After putting in my personal information, I received an error message. I was able to work past that, but when I went to actually sign up for coverage, I got this “internal server error” screen. Despite multiple attempts, I was unable to get past that point and sign up for a health plan. We’ve got a call into the help desk. Guess I’ll just have to keep trying…Updated (5:35 pm ET:) Kept at it, and called the DC Health Link help line. They called back a few hours later, and after re-starting the process on the website two more times, I just heard from DC Health Link that I have been successfully enrolled.”
Lies, lies, and even more lies.
The truth according to Washington, DC NBC affiliate reporter Scott MacFarlane:
DC health exchange spokesman says Speaker Boehner office kept DC representative on hold 35 minutes, "lots of patriotic hold music", hung up
— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) November 21, 2013
It turns out that it took Boehner so long to sign up, because he left the ACA rep who called him on hold for 35 minutes. That is a little fact that the Speaker left out of the story posted on his website. The Republican propaganda campaign to smear the ACA knows no boundaries. Boehner was more than happy to fake a bad experience, because his sign up was designed to be a publicity stunt to discredit the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans can keep lying about the ACA, because the mainstream media has been such a willing accomplice. If you watch cable news for any amount of time, you will see talking heads wondering with bated breath if the ACA website will be fixed. What they aren’t telling viewers is that the website is already fixed for most users.
A fixed website isn’t a good news story for a media that seems to be rooting for the ACA to fail, so they pretend like the status of the website is a big unknown and that nothing has changed since October.
John Boehner has demonstrated an ability to lie about any issue, but this time he got caught.
Boehner’s ACA sign up wasn’t all that frustrating, and what he doesn’t want you to know is that it can be just as easy for you too.
****************John Boehner Must Stop Using Imaginary Rule to Silence House Democrats
By: Sarah Jones
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 1:57 pm
It’s time for Speaker Boehner to stop taking refuge in an imaginary, unwritten rule.
Speaker Boehner keeps the Democratic minority marginalized and usurps the democratic process by pretending that there’s a thing called a Hastert Rule. The Hastert Rule is the belief that no legislation should be allowed to come up for a vote without the support of a majority of the House Republican caucus.
Republicans have expressed complete outrage at the idea that Democrats might be allowed to bring a bill up for a vote. A VOTE. That is all. This from the same party crying that Harry Reid is a dictator for not letting them filibuster anything other than legislation and Supreme Court nominees. In case this isn’t clear, Republicans in the Senate still get to filibuster legislation but in the House, the minority party is not even allowed to bring something up for a vote.
David Axelrod, former Obama senior adviser and analyst for NBC News, pointed out that the Hastert Rule is the same abuse but in reverse. Calling the Hastert Rule the “de facto ‘filibuster’ in House”, he tweeted:
Now that Sen filibuster has been curbed, problem is de facto “filibuster” in House–the Hastert rule, by which Tea Party Rs block votes.1/2
Without unwritten Hastert rule, bipart coalition in House could pass immigration reform, budget compromises. Progress would come. 2/3
Sadly, only GOP House leadership can waive Hastert, & internal caucus politics makes that highly unlikely. So maj rule often thwarted. 3/3
Now that Sen filibuster has been curbed, problem is de facto "filibuster" in House–the Hastert rule, by which Tea Party Rs block votes.1/2
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 23, 2013
Without unwritten Hastert rule, bipart coalition in House could pass immigration reform, budget compromises. Progress would come. 2/3
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 23, 2013
Sadly, only GOP House leadership can waive Hastert, & internal caucus politics makes that highly unlikely. So maj rule often thwarted. 3/3
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 23, 2013
Speaker Boehner didn’t even bother to announce a rule change or change the rules formally as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did. He just started excusing his failure to bring anything up for a vote that wasn’t supported by the majority by taking refuge in the Hastert Rule. Magically invoked rule that allows Republicans to usurp democracy? CHECK.
It’s time for Speaker Boehner to stop taking refuge in a non-existent rule. Even Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) knows there is no such thing as the Hastert Rule — “The Hastert Rule never really existed. It’s a non-entity as far as I’m concerned.”
**************Obama Booya: The Media Ignores the Good Things Happening in Our Economy
By: Sarah Jones
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 12:54 pm
For those of you who are partial to reality, you’re going to get a real kick out of the President’s weekly address.
Here’s a hint “(I)f you look beyond those headlines, there are some good things happening in our economy.” Perhaps he’s referring to the surging markets, as seen this summer and fall with the DOW hitting a record high of 16,000 or the huge, record surplus in June.Booya. The Republicans, and hence the MSM, do not want to talk about the good things happening in the economy. That’s why they’re so busy making Kardashian mountains out of tech glitches, and why before that they distracted you with Darrell Issa’s Benghazi and IRS witch hunts, all based on Republican aides telling stories to the media and the media buying it without sourcing it. If anyone faces the fact that this President cut the deficits by more than half, Republicans could no longer justify trying to use their austerity measures to kill Social Security and Medicare.
President Obama said our economy is moving in the right direction. He mentioned that we cut our deficits by more than half (by the way, in June we had a record surplus), businesses have created millions of new jobs, and we have taken significant steps to fix our broken health care system.
Watch here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cW0YCOAygCc
The President acknowledged that people must be frustrated with the government shutdown and the launch of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, “But if you look beyond those headlines, there are some good things happening in our economy. And that’s been my top priority since the day I walked into the Oval Office.”
The President is very aware of the vast and increasing income disparity and he has tried to address those issues with policies like ending oil subsidies, raising the minimum wage, investing in infrastructure and his jobs bill. None of these things have gone over well with the Republican Party. “After decades in which the middle class was working harder and harder just to keep up, and a punishing recession that made it worse, we made the tough choices required not just to recover from crisis, but to rebuild on a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth.”
But things are improving. Obama noted, “Five years later, we have fought our way back. Our businesses have created 7.8 million new jobs in the past 44 months. Another 200,000 Americans went back to work last month.”
Another way Obama addressed the growing income disparity was through healthcare reform. So, even though the rollout was “rough”, he said “about 500,000 Americans are poised to gain health coverage starting January 1st. And by the way, health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.”
He wasn’t done schooling the press and Republicans.
“And one more thing: since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by more than half. And that makes it easier to invest in the things that create jobs – education, research, and infrastructure.
Imagine how much farther along we could be if both parties were working together.”
And the velvet glove came off… “Think about what we could do if a reckless few didn’t hold the economy hostage every few months, or waste time on dozens of votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act rather than try to help us fix it.”
Yes, imagine where we could be if Republicans actually wanted to help this country – if they put this country and her citizens ahead of covering up the fact that they have no ideas.
That’s a lot of good news that we hear almost nothing about. Of course, Obama won’t be remembered for any of that if you believe the beltway press. Oh, no. He’ll be remembered for that time desperate Americans without health insurance had to spend hours trying to log on to ObamaCare exchange, because it’s so annoying when you can’t get everything you want right when you want it.
According to beltway logic, when these Americans finally have affordable healthcare for the first times in their lives, all they will be able to think about was the hours it took to log on. They will never forgive Obama for being half as irritating tech wise as trying to pay their credit card bills. When their lives are saved by having free mammorgrams or access to doctors other than the emergency room, they’ll only be thinking about that tech glitch.
The only way this conclusion makes any sense is if you realize that the beltway press has always had insurance and has no clue what the rest of the country is going through, so for them, maybe waiting a few hours really is the End of the World as they know it.
In reality, the political press was so busy being led around by the nose by fake Republican scandals that they never asked themselves what all of the hoopla might have been distracting them from noticing.
If the press were really concerned with political implications and Obama’s legacy, they’d have been telling you for months that the impressive economic news is more likely to be something Obama is remembered for given the near Depression he walked into when he took office. If they want to talk legacy, they’d dig into his stimulus to find the hidden nuggets of liberal paradigm changers. But that would be hard. Much easier to follow the GOP’s playbook from accusation to accusation, never pausing to wonder why.
Obama will be the president who saved us from a depression, in spite of unprecedented obstruction from the GOP. He will be the president who saw the financial collapse as a time to address the growing income disparity between the haves and the have-nots, and although many of these policies were blocked by the Republicans, the Affordable Care Act was a huge step forward in protecting the middle class and working poor.
**************It Is The Mainstream Media’s Fault That America is Plagued By Sarah Palin
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 10:42 am
A “bad penny” does not necessarily mean a counterfeit or damaged penny. As an idiom, it means an unpleasant, disreputable, or otherwise unwanted person who repeatedly appears at inopportune times to disrupt periods of normalcy and cause distress. The intermittent, and all too brief, periods of respite the American public enjoy was brutally disturbed again during the government shutdown when America’s bad penny, Sarah Palin, crawled out of the swamp to join Ted Cruz to rail against President Obama for her male counterpart’s crowning achievement as de facto House Republican leader. Although Palin attracts attention from her Neanderthal devotees clamoring to eat her bovine excrement disguised as political commentary and invites ridicule due to her predictably unintelligible rants, it is the main stream media’s fault the nation is plagued with Palin’s recurring appearances on the national stage.
It is not that the media loves Sarah Palin; they certainly comprehend that every second she is on air, or the subject of a report, semi-intelligent Americans’ blood pressure elevates and they mourn the decline of intelligent political discourse in America. However, corporate media know that giving Palin a forum is another opportunity to take shots at President Obama by surrogate and ramp up opposition from a certain class of American that may have abandoned Fox News for a more “fair and balanced” view of national politics only to discover that maybe Palin really is a victim of the media. Martin Bashir fell into the media Palin-trap last week when he lashed out at her filthy reference to the national debt as slavery.
Was Bashir’s righteous indignation toward the Alaskan Neanderthal’s vile analogy comparing the nation’s debt to slavery justified? Of course it was. He certainly expressed the sentiment of tens-of-millions of Americans repulsed at Palin’s deliberate attempt to garner media attention to continue attacking President Obama because she received a wealth of media time for using what she admitted was “politically incorrect” (read racist) rhetoric. However, all Bashir accomplished was elevating Palin’s victim status among her acolytes and gave her a larger forum to rail against her media accomplices with faux outrage because she revels in additional air-time to advance her toxic brand of stupidity. It is not like Bashir was surprised at Palin’s obvious racial callousness and he knew his job was secure if he followed corporate media procedure and expressed remorse for pointing out Palin’s racial insensitivity.
It is inconceivable that Palin’s slavery reference was not calculated and probable it is a practice she endorses based on her staunch advocacy and devotion to the Old Testament’s approval of keeping other human beings as expendable property. Old Testament god directed his chosen people to exterminate his enemies’ slaves without remorse and threatened Israelites with death if they hesitated to annihilate his enemies and their slaves as retribution for not worshipping him, but that is another story. The point is that Palin’s despicable and flippant reference to the national debt as slavery was a calculated move to garner media attention as a victim, as well as sell her latest anti-Obama screed based on a non-existent war on the baby Jesus fable and its relationship to big business’s great commercial holiday season.
Palin knew her comments would spark outrage if corporate media got wind of her slavery comments because she said, “And this isn’t racist, so try it and try it anyway” as she waved off stage and then proceeded to compare the national debt to slavery. Palin was speaking to about 750 supporters at an event held by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event, and if it had been left there she would have impressed her devotees in attendance and little else. But she knew some corporate media outlet would take her to task and run with the story and besides playing the victim, she booked appearances on other corporate media outlets and garnered a world of attention to sell books and continue running her mouth about the President, the Affordable Care Act, and still more slavery. All the while the “bad penny” kept herself in the news and corporate media increased their audience share because Palin’s victim outrage sells and corporate conservative media will never pass up a chance to put an avowed Obama hater in front of a camera; especially if they assail the Affordable Care Act.
America is plagued with real issues affecting real people that is lost every time corporate media gives the Neanderthal Palin air time and a forum to spread her particular brand of right-wing evangelical drivel. It is true that John McCain first unleashed the brainless Palin on the nation in 2008 and the people suffered through months of unintelligible Palin-speak until she was sent back to Alaska to torture her constituents. It has been over five years and the media just cannot help themselves from resurrecting another round of Palin to besmirch the intelligence of the American people at regular intervals and it is getting old.
Right now, 47.8 million Americans, working families, seniors, children, and Veterans are going hungry and instead of addressing hunger in America or giving air time to politicians with real solutions, corporate media is pandering to Sarah Palin’s media addiction to sell books, promote television shows, and rail against social programs. Millions of Americans are out of work or toiling at part-time minimum-wage jobs and wondering how they will feed their families or pay rent next week, and Martin Bashir had to apologize to Sarah Palin for expressing outrage that, although justified, started a vicious cycle of more Sarah Palin media appearances. Should someone defecate in Neanderthal Palin’s mouth as Bashir suggested? As appealing as that prospect is to some Americans, she needs to be ignored by corporate mainstream media. However, there is an entertainment industry saying that any publicity is good publicity, and every time Palin opens her mouth to criticize President Obama, the Pope, or social programs some corporate-owned news outlet is obliged to give her a forum and it is damn high time they let Palin go back to the swamp, give the people a rest, and stop using the Alaskan Neanderthal as their anti-Obama propaganda machine.
*****************Senator Elizabeth Warren And The New Economic Populism
By: Michael A Maynard
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 8:48 pm
Will Senator Elizabeth Warren’s political economic populist movement change US economics and politics now and in the future?
In the one year since Elizabeth Warren first arrived in the Senate, the kindly looking Midwestern-born, but Massachusetts based, Harvard University professor, academic, author, banking and financial industry expert, reluctant politician grandmother has become an unlikely media sensation and policy making force. Remember her first major Senate meeting?
It was her Senate floor speech about why government matters may have been one of the final impetus, along with the on-going Republican blocking of President Obama’s judicial and agency nominees for the change in the Senate filibuster rules. Her speech is the best explanation of what government is and should be doing, as well as a scolding of the Senate’s “business as usual” approach. Senate Republicans, you can’t say the Senior Senator from Massachusetts didn’t warn you.
Elizabeth Warren is the voice of the middle and lower classes, those who believe the system is rigged against them. The voice of all those who feel frustrated with, but powerless to change the government of self-imposed inaction, unjustifiable fiscal limits protestations, and protection of the wealthiest. Senator Warren is very intelligent, well-spoken and intense. She is one of the leaders of the new economic populist movement in the Senate, along with Senators Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley. Newly elected Cory Booker, with his advocacy of community development and anti-consumerism, makes this a strong contingent in the Senate.
This economic movement has support from leading political economic figures as former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Professor Reich’s views about economic inequality are featured in the new movie, “Inequality for All”. The Economic Policy Institute agrees:
These charts explain the growing economic inequality where the top 10% of Americans have 73% of all net worth and the top 1% have 70 times the net worth of the lower classes:
The Top 10% Control 2/3 of Americans’ Net Worth
The Middle Class Isn’t Winning
Change in Wealth from 1983 to 2010
1/3 of Americans Consider Themselves Lower Class
What are the ideas of the new economic populism?
• Increasing the minimum wage, perhaps up to $15 to $22 per hour
• Protecting existing Social Security and Medicare benefits and increasing them
• Expanding the scope of the Affordable Health Care Act, potentially leading to having a one-payer system
• Putting more controls on banks and financial institutions through new Glass-Stengall like legislation
• Changing the current federal college student loan program financing program, reducing the existing amount of student debt, driving down college tuition rates and increasing the number of Pell Grants
• Overhauling the existing affordable housing programs to make housing more affordable to the middle and lower classes.
Most importantly, changing the existing tax code so that the very wealthy and corporations pay their fair share in taxes to pay for the new initiatives.
To win election, Senator Warren was involved in the most expensive Senate race ever. Over $78 million was spent in her defeat of former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, What was remarkable that in the era of big money political contributors, nearly half of her campaign contributions, $22 million, came from small individual donors. Nor is it a surprise that her opponent received approximately 25% of his campaign contributions from the financial and insurance industries that Senator Warren wants to regulate and reform. This race helped improve her campaign style and toughened her against political attacks.
Senator Warren, despite all the media furor, states that she will not run for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination. While she has become increasingly comfortable in the public spotlight, she is still a relative political neophyte. While she has financial backers, she does not have the extensive financial backing that Hillary Clinton does. But Senator Warren’s economic populism ideas are resonating with the public, especially the Democrats’ progressive/liberal base.
John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor for The Capitol Times writes:
But Warren is not just a fall-back contender—or even a progressive alternative to the centrist Clinton. She is more than just a prospective candidate. She is a purveyor of ideas, whether advanced on the campaign trail or in the Senate, that really do make her what Politico suggests: “Wall Street’s Nightmare.”
What is appealing about the prospect of a Warren bid—against Clinton or in a race without Clinton—is the determination of the Massachusetts senator to reach far beyond the traditional space filled by centrist and even liberal Democrats. She goes to where Bill de Blasio went in a progressive populist bid that swept him into New York’s mayoralty with an almost fifty-point margin of victory.
Warren’s message, in the Senate and beyond, is that Democrats can and should have an economic agenda that speaks to the great mass of Americans.”
In light of her popularity and influence, it will be interesting to see which 2014 Senate campaigns will be asking Elizabeth Warren’s support and appearances. Will female Senate candidates in close races like Alison Lundergren Grimes, Kay Hagan and Michelle Nunn want her help? Will male Senators in tossup races, like Mark Pryor and Mark Begich, benefit from her campaigning? Will she campaign against a potential 2016 presidential rival (and current colleague) like Lindsey Graham? What effect, if any, would she have on electing a House Democratic majority?
It will be interesting to watch whether Wendy Davis asks Warren to campaign for her in the close Texas gubernatorial race and whether Warren would draw the large crowds she has elsewhere. Student Elizabeth Warren got her undergraduate degree at University of Houston and Professor Warren taught at the University of Texas.
Maybe, just maybe, the presence of Elizabeth Warren and the new economic populism movement forces Hillary Clinton to move her views from centrist/slightly left to more liberal/progressive, especially economically. Maybe, just maybe, having a new political leader in the Senate spurs the current leader, Harry Reid, to step down. Maybe, just maybe, the combination of the first female President and first female Senate Majority Leader, possibly with a new progressive Speaker of the House, would be able to reverse the direction of and damage done by the old boys’ club that has led to the partisan gridlock and visceral hate manifest in current Washington D.C. politics.
Maybe, just maybe ………….
Senator Elizabeth Warren is not your typical pointy-headed, academic, ineffectual progressive/liberal politician. She is the real deal. The bigger question is: Does Elizabeth Warren and the economic populism she believes in represent the future of American politics and the future of America?