Saturday, December 31, 2011

Digby: Devolution for some of the people

As always, Adele Stan nails the story when it comes to the connections among the far right fringies. In today's piece she draws together the strands that bring Ron Paul and the lunatic Christian Reconstructionists together. I urge you to read the whole thing -- it's quite illuminating. Here's the conclusion:

Ron Paul seeks to shrink the federal government to minimal size not because it intrudes in the lives of individuals, but because it stands in the way of allowing the states and localities to enact laws as they see fit -- even laws that govern people's behavior in their bedrooms.
ALEC-Linked Group Revealed as Major Secret Donor in Referendum on Maine Voting Rights

by: Scott Keyes, ThinkProgress | Report
Last month, Maine voters delivered a major rebuke to Gov. Paul LePage (R) and the Republican-held legislature when they approved a referendum restoring election day voting registration rights in the state. Earlier this year, state legislators passed a bill repealing the state’s 38 year-old law allowing citizens to register at the polls on election day.

Tens of thousands of Mainers responded by petitioning for the matter come to a referendum. Issue 1 was one of the most-anticipated votes on election day this year, with pundits watching closely to see how citizens would react to the Republican-led war on voting, which ramped up in states across the country this year.
Thomas Frank: How the Right Wing Hijacked Rage Over the Economic Collapse and Swindled America

Frank discusses one of the most important political developments of the Obama presidency: how the crash of 2008 served to strengthen the political right.

By Jefferson Morley, Salon
Posted on December 28, 2011, Printed on December 31, 2011

In his new book, “Pity the Billionaire,” Tom Frank turns his mordant eye on the unlikeliest political development of the Obama presidency: how the crash of 2008 served to strengthen the political right. The deregulation of Wall Street, championed for 30 years by right-wing leaders, had led to an economic catastrophe so frightening that the country elected a liberal Democrat to the presidency. Yet two years later, the most conservative faction of the Republican Party, the Tea Party, had taken effective control of the House of Representatives, the regulation of Wall Street had stalled, and the champions of economic deregulation in Washington had emerged stronger than ever.

Frank, author of the bestselling book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” provides a pithy and nuanced explanation of what he calls the “hard-times swindle.” He spoke with Salon from his father’s home in Kansas City, Mo.
Another Washington Post Social Security Mistake

Friday, December 30, 2011

Obama Signs NDAA Military Bill

by: Mark Landler, The New York Times News Service | Report 
President Obama, after objecting to provisions of a military spending bill that would have forced him to try terrorism suspects in military courts and impose strict sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, signed the bill on Saturday.

He said that although he did not support all of it, changes made by Congress after negotiations with the White House had satisfied most of his concerns and had given him enough latitude to manage counterterrorism and foreign policy in keeping with administration principles.
5 Dirty Tricks Right-Wing Zealots Will Likely Try Next in Their Battle to Control Women

Here are some predictions for where the anti-choice movement will try to go in 2012.  

December 28, 2011  |   Has there been a more sustained assault on women's rights in recent memory as what we saw in 2011? Republicans swept the House and many state governments in the 2010 election, and made attacking reproductive rights a major priority, right next to destroying union power and making it harder for students, poor people and people of color to vote. Republicans waged war on women’s ability to pay for an abortion, get an abortion without being needlessly hassled, get an abortion at a location within a day’s drive, or access affordable contraception. It seemed like not a week passed without another outrageous attack on women’s rights. It’s tempting to think that 2012 has to be better, on the grounds that it can’t be much worse.
Paul Krugman: Keyes Was Right

“The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury.” So declared John Maynard Keynes in 1937, even as F.D.R. was about to prove him right by trying to balance the budget too soon, sending the United States economy — which had been steadily recovering up to that point — into a severe recession. Slashing government spending in a depressed economy depresses the economy further; austerity should wait until a strong recovery is well under way.

Unfortunately, in late 2010 and early 2011, politicians and policy makers in much of the Western world believed that they knew better, that we should focus on deficits, not jobs, even though our economies had barely begun to recover from the slump that followed the financial crisis. And by acting on that anti-Keynesian belief, they ended up proving Keynes right all over again. 
Top 10 lies about Social Security (from those who just want to dismantle government)

Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:34 am by Monique Morrissey

Since the season of top 10 lists is upon us, here’s the Social Security Scrooge version:
  1. Social Security costs are escalating out of control. No. Costs are projected to rise from roughly five to six percent of GDP before leveling off.
  2. Americans want benefits but aren’t willing to pay for them. Wrong again. Americans across political and demographic lines support paying Social Security taxes. They also strongly prefer raising taxes over cutting benefits as a way to close the projected shortfall. The most popular option is raising taxes on high earners, since earnings above $106,800 aren’t taxed. But Americans prefer to close the gap on the revenue side even if asked to pay more themselves.
Snapshots of Washington’s essence

I intended to post sporadically or not at all this week, and that’s still my plan, but there is a new Washington Post article which contains three short passages that I really want to highlight because they so vividly capture the essence of so much. The article, by Greg Miller, is being promoted by the Post this way: “In 3 years, the Obama administration has built a vast drone/killing operation”; it describes the complete secrecy behind which this is all being carried out and notes: “no president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.”
Top MuckReads of 2011: Domestic Surveillance, Shell Companies and College Sports Corruption

by Daniel Victor
ProPublica, Dec. 29, 2011, 6:29 p.m.

Here are some of this year's top must-read stories from #MuckReads, ProPublica's ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism.

This is far from an exhaustive list of the year's best work. Please contribute more suggestions in the comments section here, on Twitter with the #MuckReads2011 hashtag (see more worthy submissions here), or by sending an email to We'll continue to add links to the story.

Highlights of AP's probe into NYPD intelligence operations, Associated Press
"Mosque crawlers" who monitor sermons and "rakers" who embed themselves into minority neighborhoods are among the tactics the New York Police Department has used since 9/11. It was done with the assistance of the CIA, which is prohibited from spying on Americans.
Contributed by @srubenfeld

A little house of secrets on the Great Plains, Reuters
A 1,700-square-foot house with a manicured lawn in Wyoming is home to more than 2,000 companies, at least according to their registration addresses. It's a little taste of the Cayman Islands here in the U.S., as a business uses the home to establish shell companies, or on-paper-only companies able to hide assets.
Contributed by @claudiaparsons
Major Ron Paul Supporter Favors Death Penalty for Gays

Paul's endorsement from a pastor who wants the death penalty for gays exposes his links to radical Christian Reconstructionists.

December 29, 2011  |  At first it seemed like the moment of triumph for the Ron Paul for President campaign. The Texas congressman had won the endorsement of Rev. Phillip G. Kayser, a prominent right-wing Nebraska pastor, just as momentum built toward a possible big win for Paul in next week's GOP caucuses in neighboring Iowa, where evangelicals comprise a majority of voters.

The campaign issued a press release on Wednesday, lauding Kayser and trumpeting his endorsement, citing "the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul's approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs." Then came word of Kayser's "Christian belief" in applying the death penalty for gay male sex, and the Paulites got busy scrubbing their press release from the campaign Web site. (The text of the release and a screen shot can be seen on the Web site Outside the Beltway.)
Paul Krugman: Carelessly Mistaking Theater for Policy
One crucial thing you need to understand about political journalists in the United States is that, with some honorable exceptions, they don’t know or care about actual policy.

In a way, that makes sense — the skills needed to cultivate contacts, to get the inside scoop on what’s going on in Congressional scheming or campaign war rooms, are very different from the skills needed to interpret spreadsheets from the Congressional Budget Office.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Are You Being Tracked? 8 Ways Your Privacy Is Being Eroded Online and Off

By David Rosen, AlterNet
Posted on December 28, 2011, Printed on December 29, 2011

A series of ongoing battles delineate the boundary of what, in the digital age, is personal, private life and information.

December 28, 2011  |   In a recent hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Al Franken reminded his fellow Americans, “People have a fundamental right to control their private information.” At the hearing, Franken raised an alarm about Carrier IQ’s software, CIQ.

Few people have ever heard about CIQ. Running under the app functions, CIQ doesn't require the user’s consent (or knowledge) to operate. On Android phones, it can track a user’s keystrokes, record telephone calls, store text messages, track location and more. Most troubling, it is difficult to impossible to disable.
Carrier IQ, located in Mountain View, CA, was founded in 2005 and is backed by a group of venture capitalists. Its software is installed on about 150 million wireless devices offered through AT&T, HTC, Nokia, RIM (BlackBerry), Samsung, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. It runs on a variety of operating systems, including the Apple OS and Google’s Android (but not on Microsoft Windows).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Koch brothers: secretive billionaires to launch vast database with 2012 in mind

David and Charles Koch, oil tycoons with strong right-wing views and connections, look set to tighten their grip on US politics

Ed Pilkington in New York, Monday 7 November 2011 10.36 EST

The secretive oil billionaires the Koch brothers are close to launching a nationwide database connecting millions of Americans who share their anti-government and libertarian views, a move that will further enhance the tycoons' political influence and that could prove significant in next year's presidential election.

The database will give concrete form to the vast network of alliances that David and Charles Koch have cultivated over the past 20 years on the right of US politics. The brothers, whose personal wealth has been put at $25bn each, were a major force behind the creation of the tea party movement and enjoy close ties to leading conservative politicians, financiers, business people, media figures and US supreme court judges.
The Book of Jobs

Forget monetary policy. Re-examining the cause of the Great Depression—the revolution in agriculture that threw millions out of work—the author argues that the U.S. is now facing and must manage a similar shift in the “real” economy, from industry to service, or risk a tragic replay of 80 years ago.

Joseph E. Stiglitz

It has now been almost five years since the bursting of the housing bubble, and four years since the onset of the recession. There are 6.6 million fewer jobs in the United States than there were four years ago. Some 23 million Americans who would like to work full-time cannot get a job. Almost half of those who are unemployed have been unemployed long-term. Wages are falling—the real income of a typical American household is now below the level it was in 1997.

We knew the crisis was serious back in 2008. And we thought we knew who the “bad guys” were—the nation’s big banks, which through cynical lending and reckless gambling had brought the U.S. to the brink of ruin. The Bush and Obama administrations justified a bailout on the grounds that only if the banks were handed money without limit—and without conditions—could the economy recover. We did this not because we loved the banks but because (we were told) we couldn’t do without the lending that they made possible. Many, especially in the financial sector, argued that strong, resolute, and generous action to save not just the banks but the bankers, their shareholders, and their creditors would return the economy to where it had been before the crisis. In the meantime, a short-term stimulus, moderate in size, would suffice to tide the economy over until the banks could be restored to health.
Vote Obama – if you want a centrist Republican for US president

Because Barack Obama has adopted so many core Republican beliefs, the US opposition race is a shambles, Tuesday 27 December 2011 15.00 EST
Glenn Greenwald

American presidential elections are increasingly indistinguishable from the reality TV competitions drowning the nation's airwaves. Both are vapid, personality-driven and painfully protracted affairs, with the winners crowned by virtue of their ability to appear slightly more tolerable than the cast of annoying rejects whom the public eliminates one by one. When, earlier this year, America's tawdriest (and one of its most-watched) reality TV show hosts, Donald Trump, inserted himself into the campaign circus as a threatened contestant, he fitted right in, immediately catapulting to the top of audience polls before announcing he would not join the show.

The Republican presidential primaries – shortly to determine who will be the finalist to face off, and likely lose, against Barack Obama next November – has been a particularly base spectacle. That the contest has devolved into an embarrassing clown show has many causes, beginning with the fact that GOP voters loathe Mitt Romney, their belief-free, anointed-by-Wall-Street frontrunner who clearly has the best chance of defeating the president.

Book examines America's turn from science, warns of danger for democracy

By Renee Schoof | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — Americans have trouble dealing with science, and one place that's especially obvious is in presidential campaigns, says Shawn Lawrence Otto, who tried, with limited success, to get the candidates to debate scientific questions in the 2008 presidential election.

Otto is the author of a new book, "Fool me twice: Fighting the assault on science in America," which opens with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government."

Bush Spent 5 Times More On Flights To Texas Than Obama‘s Christmas Vacation Costs

By Jason Easley

Those who criticize the cost of Obama’s Christmas vacation don’t want you to know that George W. Bush spent at least $20 million taxpayer dollars just on flights to his ranch in Crawford.

The right wing has been outraged at the four million dollar plus price tag for Obama’s family Christmas vacation, and they constantly hold George W. Bush up as an example of how thrifty a president should be when going on vacation.
The Shocking Republican Attack on the Environment and Our Drinking Water

Ensuring that Americans have clean water has been an effort with strong bipartisan support for four decades. But not anymore.

This is far from an isolated scenario, threats to the public drinking water supply are national in scope. From the 1950s to the 1980s, trichloroethylene, a carcinogenic metal degreaser, lurked, undetected, in the drinking water at North Carolina's Fort Lejeune -- affecting up to one million marines and their families.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

When Medicare Isn't Medicare

by: Wendell Potter, The Center for Public Integrity
Let’s say you have a Ford and decide to replace everything under the hood with Hyundai parts, including the engine and transmission. Could you still honestly market your car as a Ford?

That question gets at the heart of the controversy over who is being more forthright about GOP Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to “save” Medicare, Republicans or Democrats.
Paul Krugman: Springtime for Toxics

Here’s what I wanted for Christmas: something that would make us both healthier and richer. And since I was just making a wish, why not ask that Americans get smarter, too?

Surprise: I got my wish, in the form of new Environmental Protection Agency standards on mercury and air toxics for power plants. These rules are long overdue: we were supposed to start regulating mercury more than 20 years ago. But the rules are finally here, and will deliver huge benefits at only modest cost.

So, naturally, Republicans are furious. But before I get to the politics, let’s talk about what a good thing the E.P.A. just did.
We Are Not All Created Equal

The truth about the American class system

By Stephen Marche

There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here's one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you're gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you're gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world — just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can't bear to tell themselves isn't real. It's the most dangerous lie the country tells itself.
7 of the Nastiest Scams, Rip-Offs and Tricks From Wall Street Crooks

How many high-level Wall Street players have been put in jail for the crimes that led to the financial crisis? Not. Even. One.

How many high-level Wall Street players have been put in jail for the crimes that led to the financial crisis?  Not. Even. One.

Last week several executives from the Federal National Mortgage Association and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, known as “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,”were sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for civil fraud. They were charged with misleading investors about the quality of the loans they were buying.  But this is a civil suit, not a criminal prosecution, so they face no possibility of jail time.  And the SEC is notoriously ready to settle these cases, accepting fines without admission of guilt.  Meanwhile, last month Bloomberg News revealed that the Federal Reserve secretly loaned  $1.2 trillion to banks on Dec. 5, 2008, their neediest day, even as some of their CEOs were assuring investors their banks were healthy.  Are these CEOs facing prosecution or even civil fraud suits for doing the very same thing?  Not so much.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Right-Wing Politics Slow Climate Studies Despite Year of Extreme Weather

by: Justin Gillis, The New York Times News Service | News Analysis 
At the end of one of the most bizarre weather years in American history, climate research stands at a crossroads.

Scientists say they could, in theory, do a much better job of answering the question “Did global warming have anything to do with it?” after extreme weather events like the drought in Texas and the floods in New England.

But for many reasons, efforts to put out prompt reports on the causes of extreme weather are essentially languishing. Chief among the difficulties that scientists face: the political environment for new climate-science initiatives has turned hostile, and with the federal budget crisis, money is tight.
How Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories May Pose a Genuine Threat to Humanity

Tea Partiers, freaking out about "Agenda 21" and convinced global warming isn't real, are gumming up the works for those trying to save the planet. 

December 25, 2011  |  The paranoia infecting a broad swath of the American right-wing can be comical at times -- think about Orly Taitz and her fellow Birthers. But we laugh at our own peril, because what Richard Hofstadter famously characterized as "the paranoid style in American politics" poses a serious threat to our future: the right's snowballing conspiracy theories could ultimately lead to disaster.

Consider what's happening in Virginia's Middle Peninsula on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, among the areas in the U.S. most vulnerable to climate change. Earlier this month, Darryl Fears, reporting for the Washington Postoffered a glimpse into the madness that city planners have faced in recent months as a local Tea Party group, convinced that a nefarious plot by scientists and city officials is afoot, have disrupted their work trying to mitigate the potential impacts of rising sea levels.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Why Don’t Libertarians Care About Ron Paul’s Bigoted Newsletters?

James Kirchick
December 22, 2011 | 12:00 am

Nearly four years ago, on the eve of the New Hampshire Republican presidential primary, The New Republic published my expose of newsletters published by Texas Congressman Ron Paul. The contents of these newsletters can best be described as appalling. Blacks were referred to as “animals.” Gays were told to go “back” into the “closet.” The “X-Rated Martin Luther King” was a bisexual pedophile who “seduced underage girls and boys.” Three months before the Oklahoma City bombing, Paul praised right-wing, anti-government militia movements as “one of the most encouraging developments in America.” The voluminous record of bigotry and conspiracy theories speaks for itself.

And yet, four years on, Ron Paul’s star is undimmed. Not only do the latest polls place him as the frontrunner in the Iowa Caucuses, but he still enjoys the support of a certain coterie of professional political commentators who, like Paul himself, identify as libertarians. Most prominent among them is Daily Beast blogger Andrew Sullivan, who gave Paul his endorsement in the GOP primary last week, as he did in 2008. But he is not alone: Tim Carney of The Washington Examiner recently bemoaned the fact that “the principled, antiwar, Constitution-obeying, Fed-hating, libertarian Republican from Texas stands firmly outside the bounds of permissible dissent as drawn by either the Republican establishment or the mainstream media,” while Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic argues that Paul’s ideas cannot be ignored, and that, for Tea Party Republicans, “A vote against Paul requires either cognitive dissonance—never in short supply in politics—or a fundamental rethinking of the whole theory of politics that so recently drove the Tea Party movement.”
Trial By Media: The Justice System No One Wants You to Know About
by: William Fisher, Truthout | News Analysis 
Remember Mike Nifong? Sure. He's the sleazebag former district attorney in the Duke University lacrosse team's rape scandal back in 2006. He made himself a short-lived hero by agreeing to prosecute members of the Duke Lacrosse team for allegedly raping an African-American exotic dancer the team had hired for a party.

But Nifong, hellbent on winning re-election, forgot that he was an officer of the court. He went public with a series of accusations that later turned out to be untrue; he exaggerated and intensified racial tensions; he unduly influenced the Durham police investigation; he tried to manipulate potential witnesses; he refused to hear exculpatory evidence prior to indictment - that regulations on the conduct of an identification exercise were breached by failure to include "dummy" photographs, that he had never spoken directly to the alleged victim about the accusations and that he made misleadingly incomplete presentations of various aspects of the evidence in the case (including DNA results).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Wyden-Ryan Plan: Déjà Vu All Over Again
Uwe E. Reinhardt is an economics professor at Princeton. He has some financial interests in the health care field.

After wrestling for decades and in futility with the triple problems facing health care in the United States – unsustainable spending growth, lack of timely access to health care for millions of uninsured Americans and highly varied quality of care – any new proposal to address these problems is likely to be a recycled old idea.

The widely discussed new proposal from Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, to restructure the federal Medicare program for the elderly is no exception.

The idea – generally known as “managed competition” — goes as far back as 1971, when Dr. Paul Ellwood and his colleagues at the Health Services Research Center of the American Rehabilitation Foundation injected it into President Nixon’s attempt at health reform.
Paul Krugman: Europe's Austerity Measures May Guarantee Recession

European leaders earlier this month announced a plan that, on the face of it, was pure nonsense.

Faced with a crisis that is mainly about the balance of payments,with fiscal crisis as a secondary consequence, they supposedly committed everyone to severe fiscal austerity, which would guarantee a recession while leaving the real problem unaddressed.
The electoral college is a relic. It's time to let the people choose the president

A move to elect the US president by popular vote and to sideline the electoral college is gaining momentum – and it's making some lawmakers very angry indeed

Jason Farago, Thursday 22 December 2011 10.44 EST

It's nearly 2012, and the national horse-race polls that the media adore during primary season will soon recede. Instead it will be time, once more, for colored maps that divide the United States into red states, blue states, and swing states. Only the last category gets much attention, of course. The Washington Post cuttingly titles its own 13 states that matter." Sorry if you live in one of the other, irrelevant 37.

We all know what's to blame for the writing off of most Americans in the presidential election. The fault lies with the electoral college, that relic that means contests are decided state by state. It's ungainly, it's unpopular, it has a dirty, slavery-inflected history, and it's manifestly unfair. But attempts to reform it haven't made much headway since the passage of the 12th amendment two centuries ago. At least until recently.
How many more crashes before we fix the economy?

COMMENTARY | December 23, 2011
Some lessons were learned from the 2008 economic collapse but few reforms have been implemented; moneyed resistance is too powerful and stubborn. So a good question is: When will we fix the system? After the next crisis? The one after that? We sure aren’t fixing it now.

By Martin Lobel

“First, do no harm” was the mantra that Tim Geithner and Larry Summers used to rebuild Wall Street the way it was and to protect it from the structural reform proposals of Paul Volcker and others. The result is that, after trillions of taxpayers dollars, we are in the same position we were in before the recent economic meltdown, except that now all the big banks and investment houses are “too big to fail.”

Some observers, including some political leaders, have learned from the 2008 crisis – but not enough have. Pallative reforms were passed but instead of being implemented they are, mostly, being thwarted. So the question as we move into 2012 is:  When the next crisis occurs, will we have learned our lesson? Will we fix the system after that? Because we aren’t fixing it now.
Can we afford eco-cities?

Durban, South Africa (CNN) -- Making cities greener "actually makes a lot of sense" in spite of the economic crisis, says former Irish President, Mary Robinson.

"You save money," she said, adding that the real challenge is greening cities in poorer nations, like Bangladesh, where people live in "almost impossible conditions."

Robinson was one of four leading climate change thinkers discussing how viable it is to invest in sustainable cities in a debate hosted by CNN's Robyn Curnow during the 2011 U.N. Conference on Climate Change last week in Durban.
Goodbye 'Shop Til You Drop' Mentality: Renegade Band of Economists Call for 'Degrowth' Economy

By Christine MacDonald, AlterNet
Posted on December 23, 2011, Printed on December 24, 2011

In this country, shopping is not just a national pastime. Consumer spending, which makes up about 70 percent of the economy, is a sort of patriotic duty -- never more so than in the last four years of economic malaise.

So news from the National Retail Federation that the country is on track for a record-breaking holiday shopping season -- $469.1 billion in sales, up 3.8 percent from last year -- could only be a good thing, right?

But what if all roads to prosperity don't lead to the shopping mall, as most economists would have us believe? What if, in fact, all that shopping -- and the imperative to grow corporate profits quarter after quarter and continuously expand the economy -- was actually the root of many of the problems we face today? 

Friday, December 23, 2011

GOP Voter Suppression Plan: Seven Tactics To Block Your Vote in 2012

If you live in a state where voting is becoming tougher, plan ahead to register, to get the right ID and to know where you can vote.  

December 20, 2011  |   If you are a member of a racial minority, student or young voter, working poor, elderly or disabled, your ability to vote may be a lot harder in 2012—especially if you live in states that have a history of racial repression during the Civil Rights Movement. Simply put, the Republican Party knows which segments of society helped to elect President Obama and other Democrats in 2008, knows tens of millions of these people did not vote in the 2010 midterms, and has worked very hard to stop these people from voting again next year.

Their strategy has been simple: raise the barriers by complicating the rules to register to vote, to get a ballot, to vote early, or speedily. What follows are seven major trends that will affect you if you live in a state with new rules. Republicans know that most people do not pay attention to the fine print of election law. They get excited in the final days before presidential votes. But that may not be good enough in 2012. 
How the Public Misses Out on How Fights Over Bank Regulations Affect Them

The public keeps losing and losing and losing to big finance because financiers have made an art form of using complexity, opacity, and leverage to cover their tracks.

The last example comes in an anodyne-seeming article in the Financial Times about collateralized loan obligations, or CLOs. CLOs are a structured credit product, in this case, made from leveraged (as in risky) corporate loans. Think of it as the corporate lending analogy to subprime bonds. The major differences between CLOs and RMBS are that CLOs are not secured by collateral (houses) and that CLOs turned out to be much better diversified than RMBS (the mortgage bond designers thought that a geographic mix would provide adequate diversification, since the modern US had never suffered a nation-wide housing market price decline. Whoops!)
Bankers, Billionaires Try to Form Movement Against OWS

Whaddaya know? It seems the rich now want to eat the folks who want to eat the rich. Wrap your head around this Bloomberg report:

Jamie Dimon, the highest-paid chief executive officer among the heads of the six biggest U.S. banks, turned a question at an investors' conference in New York this month into an occasion to defend wealth.
A Christmas Message From America's Rich

It seems America’s bankers are tired of all the abuse. They’ve decided to speak out.

True, they’re doing it from behind the ropeline, in front of friendly crowds at industry conferences and country clubs, meaning they don’t have to look the rest of America in the eye when they call us all imbeciles and complain that they shouldn’t have to apologize for being so successful.
Paul Krugman: The Post-Truth Campaign

Suppose that President Obama were to say the following: “Mitt Romney believes that corporations are people, and he believes that only corporations and the wealthy should have any rights. He wants to reduce middle-class Americans to serfs, forced to accept whatever wages corporations choose to pay, no matter how low.”

How would this statement be received? I believe, and hope, that it would be almost universally condemned, by liberals as well as conservatives. Mr. Romney did once say that corporations are people, but he didn’t mean it literally; he supports policies that would be good for corporations and the wealthy and bad for the middle class, but that’s a long way from saying that he wants to introduce feudalism.
Why Are We Forced to Worship at the Feet of 'Mythical' Financial Markets Controlled by the Elite?

We are told to appease the market gods or face eternal financial damnation. 
Eliot Spitzer: Our Rallying Cry Should Be, "We Own Wall Street and We Can Stop Corporate America's Worst Behavior."

If the public exercised its ownership capacity by influencing board member selection, compensation, and political donations, then these companies would be fundamentally altered.

December 21, 2011  |  As the year ends, American politics remains mired in the agenda of the right. The House is, at least momentarily, refusing to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits—two policies genuinely beneficial to the middle class. And the presidential campaign heading into the Iowa primaries is dominated by the libertarianism of Ron Paul and the astonishing, appalling ideas—eliminate child labor laws, for instance—of Newt Gingrich.

Yes, Occupy Wall Street changed the debate for a brief spell, and, yes, President Obama harkened back to the glory days of progressivism with his Kansas speech. But in general American politics has lost sight of the most important crisis of our generation: the shrinking middle class.
Governing on Empty

The 10 Worst Economic Ideas of 2011

Thursday, 12/22/2011 - 9:21 am by Jeff Madrick

Let’s hope the New Year brings some new ideas, because this year’s couldn’t have been much worse — or more widespread.

I was at an Occupy Wall Street demonstration this weekend and many clergy addressed the group. One nun told the crowd it was Christmas season and that it was time for something new to be born in America.

It was a nice thought, and I hope that the “something new” is good sense, because it has been a year in which some of the worst economic ideas ever have gained support and are being applied around the world.
Yellowstone transformed 15 years after the return of wolves

The study this story is based on is available in ScholarsArchive@OSU:

CORVALLIS, Ore. – On the 15th anniversary of the return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park, a quiet but profound rebirth of life and ecosystem health is emerging, scientists conclude in a new report.

For the first time in 70 years, the over-browsing of young aspen and willow trees has diminished as elk populations in northern Yellowstone declined and their fear of wolf predation increased. Trees and shrubs have begun recovering along some streams, providing improved habitat for beaver and fish. Birds and bears also have more food.
The Defining Issue: Not Government’s Size, but Who It’s For
The defining political issue of 2012 won’t be the government’s size. It will be who government is for.

Americans have never much liked government. After all, the nation was conceived in a revolution against government.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Did Congress Just Endorse Rendition for Americans?

You've heard about indefinite detention in the defense bill. But it also contains some eyebrow-raising language regarding the transfer of terrorist suspects to foreign countries.

A defense spending bill that passed both houses of Congress overwhelmingly and is set to be signed by President Barack Obama as early as this week could make it easier for the government to transfer American terrorist suspects to foreign regimes and security forces.

The National Defense Authorization Act (PDF) contains a section that says the president has the power to transfer suspected members and supporters of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or "associated" groups "to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity."
Paul Krugman: Politifact, R.I.P.

This is really awful. Politifact, which is supposed to police false claims in politics, has announced its Lie of the Year — and it’s a statement that happens to be true, the claim that Republicans have voted to end Medicare.
The Ongoing Republican Plan to Shame the Poor

An Inconvenient Truth

Published: December 19, 2011

There is so much about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that we should be angry about.

In their heyday, these strange hybrids — part corporation, part government agency — were the biggest bullies in Washington, quick to bludgeon critics who dared suggest that their dual missions of maximizing profits while making homeownership affordable for low- and moderate-income Americans were incompatible. They steamrolled their regulator and pushed back at any suggestion that their capital was inadequate.
The Last Thing Medicare Needs is More Privatization

Tuesday, 12/20/2011 - 11:02 am by Richard Kirsch

 By enlarging the role of private insurers, the Ryan-Wyden Medicare plan would drive up costs and undermine effective reforms.

Americans United for Change said it best in a recent e-mail: “You can’t put lipstick on a pig,” even if a Republican and Democrat are applying the red gloss together. The big hype in federal health care politics last week was the announcement of a joint proposal to mostly-privatize Medicare from Republican House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Ron Wyden. But all the hubbub about bipartisanship won’t mask the truth: the plan takes Medicare in the wrong direction, building on the program’s failures and undercutting its most promising reforms.
Global Savings Glut or Global Banking Glut?

Yves here. It has been striking how little commentary a BIS paper by Claudio Borio and Piti Disyatat, “Global imbalances and the financial crisis: Link or no link?” has gotten in the econoblogosphere, at least relative to its importance.
As most readers probably know, Ben Bernanke has developed and promoted the thesis that the crisis was the result of a “global savings glut,” which is shorthand for the Chinese are to blame for the US and other countries going on a primarily housing debt party. This theory has the convenient effect of exonerating the Fed. It has more than a few wee defects. As we noted in ECONNED:
The average global savings rate over the last 24 years has been 23%. It rose in 2004 to 24.9%. and fell to 23% the following year. It seems a bit of a stretch to call a one-year blip a “global savings glut,” but that view has a following. Similarly, if you look at the level of global savings and try deduce from it the level of worldwide securities issuance in 2006, the two are difficult to reconcile, again suggesting that the explanation does not lie in the level of savings per se, but in changes within securities markets.
Similarly, the global savings glut thesis cannot explain why banks created synthetic and hybrid CDOs (composed entirely or largely of credit default swaps, which means the AAA investors did not lay out cash for their position) which as we explained at some length, were the reason that supposedly dispersed risks in fact wound up concentrated in highly leveraged financial firms.
Making Citizens Enemy Combatants: Glenn Greenwald on Bradley Manning and the NDAA

Constitutional lawyer and blogger Glenn Greenwald speaks to Amy Goodman about the Manning hearings and the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens
December 19, 2011  | AMY GOODMAN: We go right now to Rio, Brazil, where we’re joined by the writer, blogger, attorney, Glenn Greenwald, who has expressed criticism of Adrian Lamo for revealing the contents of his correspondence with Manning to the military.
Glenn, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about what’s happening right now at Fort Meade.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Don't Blink. The DC Machine Is Killing Medicare Right Before Our Eyes

This last week we've seen how Washington's elites are able to suppress popular opinion, work against the public interest, and wrap it all up with a bow so that it looks like 'democracy in action.' It's not. What we're seeing isn't democracy, and it isn't a free press either. It's merely another cynical ploy to rob Americans of government programs they both need and want.

The latest assault is on Medicare. The "Ryan/Widen plan" is a perfect case study in the cynical workings of an antidemocratic machine - a machine whose cogs are lazy journalists, whose gears are selfish politicians, and whose levers are pulled by the wealthy and powerful.
Paul Krugman: Will China Break?

Consider the following picture: Recent growth has relied on a huge construction boom fueled by surging real estate prices, and exhibiting all the classic signs of a bubble. There was rapid growth in credit — with much of that growth taking place not through traditional banking but rather through unregulated “shadow banking” neither subject to government supervision nor backed by government guarantees. Now the bubble is bursting — and there are real reasons to fear financial and economic crisis.

Am I describing Japan at the end of the 1980s? Or am I describing America in 2007? I could be. But right now I’m talking about China, which is emerging as another danger spot in a world economy that really, really doesn’t need this right now.
California politician advocates assassination of Obama and family

Sick and idiotic--Dictynna

Michael Stone,
Democrat Examiner December 18, 2011

Facebook faux pas: California libertarian and Tea Party darling Jules Manson is caught calling for the assassination of President Barack Obama and his children.

On Sunday, many Facebook users were greeted by the shocking spectacle of a California libertarian and Ron Paul supporter by the name of Jules Manson advocating for the assassination of President Barack Obama. Manson, a failed politician, recently ran for and lost a seat on the City of Carson’s City Council last March.
The Little-Known, Inside Story About How Newt Became the Man He Is

By Max Blumenthal, Nation Books
Posted on December 18, 2011, Printed on December 19, 2011

*The following is excerpted from Max Blumenthal's book, Republican Gomorrah.

When Clinton returned to the White House for a second term, Dob­son redoubled his efforts against the Republican leadership, particularly in undermining Newt Gingrich, whom conservatives within the House Republican Conference and outside it had come to regard as chronically unreliable because of deals he had made with Clinton, despite his shutting down the federal government twice. Dobson and ­DeLay agreed that Gingrich lacked not only the lust for confrontation that they sought in a party leader but also the moral qualities to be “a friend of The Family.” Referring to the Speaker, DeLay later wrote, “Men with such secrets are not likely to sound a high moral tone at a moment of national crisis.” Throughout his career in public life, Gingrich brushed off concerns about his moral fitness as mere distractions, reflecting to journalist Gail Sheehy, “I think you can write a psychological profile of me that says I found a way to immerse my insecurities in a cause large enough to justify whatever I wanted it to.” Newt Gingrich was born Newt McPherson to teenaged parents. Gingrich’s mother divorced his father and married a Marine officer, who adopted him and throughout his childhood savagely beat him and his mother. (Gingrich’s half-sister, Candace, became a lesbian activist. At the moment Newt became Speaker, she became the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Project Spokesperson.) As a young man, Gingrich, fascinated with zoos and dinosaurs, longed for an illustrious career in academia. He wound up teaching history and environmental studies at West Georgia College.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Brominated battle: Soda chemical has cloudy health history

Banned in other countries, little-known ingredient sparking renewed concerns

By Brett Israel
10:45 am, December 12, 2011 Updated: 11:02 am, December 14, 2011
MARIETTA, Ga. — It's Monday night at the Battle & Brew, a gamer hangout in this Atlanta suburb. The crowd is slumping in chairs, ears entombed in headphones, eyes locked on flat-screen monitors and minds lost in tonight’s video game of choice: "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim."

To help stay alert all night, each man has an open can of "gamer fuel" inches from his keyboard. "I've seen some of these dudes plow through six sodas in six hours," said Brian Smawley, a regular at the gamer bar.
Why Is the N.Y.P.D. After Me?

Published: December 17, 2011

WHEN I was 14, my mother told me not to panic if a police officer stopped me. And she cautioned me to carry ID and never run away from the police or I could be shot. In the nine years since my mother gave me this advice, I have had numerous occasions to consider her wisdom.

One evening in August of 2006, I was celebrating my 18th birthday with my cousin and a friend. We were staying at my sister’s house on 96th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan and decided to walk to a nearby place and get some burgers. It was closed so we sat on benches in the median strip that runs down the middle of Broadway. We were talking, watching the night go by, enjoying the evening when suddenly, and out of nowhere, squad cars surrounded us. A policeman yelled from the window, “Get on the ground!” 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where Is the Volcker Rule?

Three years ago, a financial crisis threatened to bring down the United States economy and to spread economic disaster around the world. How far have we come in preventing any kind of recurrence? And will the much-discussed Volcker Rule – attempting to limit the risks that big banks can take – play a positive role as we move forward?

Bad loans were the primary cause of the 2007-8 financial debacle. When the full extent of the problems with those loans became apparent, there was a sharp fall in the values of all securities that had been constructed based on the underlying mortgages – and a collapse in the value of related bets that had been made using derivatives.
Paul Krugan: G.O.P. Monetary Madness

Apparently the desperate search of Republicans for someone they can nominate not named Willard M. Romney continues. New polls suggest that in Iowa, at least, we have already passed peak Gingrich. Next up: Representative Ron Paul.

In a way, that makes sense. Mr. Romney isn’t trusted because he’s seen as someone who cynically takes whatever positions he thinks will advance his career — a charge that sticks because it’s true. Mr. Paul, by contrast, has been highly consistent. I bet you won’t find video clips from a few years back in which he says the opposite of what he’s saying now. 
Hacked climate emails: police seize computers at West Yorkshire home
Police seize equipment as part of investigation into the theft of thousands of private emails from the University of East Anglia

Leo Hickman, Thursday 15 December 2011 12.18 EST
Police officers investigating the theft of thousands of private emails between climate scientists from a University of East Anglia server in 2009 have seized computer equipment belonging to a web content editor based at the University of Leeds.

On Wednesday, detectives from Norfolk Constabulary entered the home of Roger Tattersall, who writes a climate sceptic blog under the pseudonym TallBloke, and took away two laptops and a broadband router. A police spokeswoman confirmed on Thursday that Norfolk Constabulary had "executed a search warrant in West Yorkshire and seized computers". She added: "No one was arrested. Investigations into the [UEA] data breach and publication [online of emails] continues. This is one line of enquiry in a Norfolk constabulary investigation which started in 2009."
Senate committee finds most 'trapped' offshore income is already in U.S.

By John Aloysius Farrell
6:00 am, December 15, 2011 Updated: 6:00 am, December 15, 2011
A select group of U.S. multinational corporations have been furiously lobbying for a tax holiday, they say, to bring more than a trillion dollars in so-called “trapped” foreign earnings back home and invest it in the American economy.

But a Senate report released Thursday shows the money is anything but trapped. Some of the richest firms have already brought hundreds of billions of dollars back to America, without paying U.S. taxes, and invested it in US banks, bonds, stocks and other assets.
Walker Enlists Karl Rove Protégé to Promote New Protest Policy

by Brendan Fischer 
As Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s new policies restricting protest in the Wisconsin capitol take effect in advance of the anniversary of 2011's historic labor uprisings, the controversial governor has enlisted a new spokesperson to sell the rules, a 28-year old protégé of Karl Rove and new political appointee of the governor.

Madison blogger Joe Vittie broke the story on about Jocelyn Webster, the person Walker hired as the public face defending the rules. Webster cut her teeth with Rove’s notorious Office of Political Affairs in the George W. Bush Administration. A congressional investigation of the activities of that office yielded allegations -- including specific allegations against Webster -- that Rove’s team was involved in partisan campaigning on the public dime, a claim also leveled at aides of her newest boss during his tenure as Milwaukee County Executive.
Ryan-Wyden Premium Support Proposal Not What It May Seem

Likely Would Shift Substantial Costs to Beneficiaries, Threaten Traditional Medicare, and Produce Few Savings

By Paul N. Van de Water
December 16, 2011

The proposal for Medicare premium support by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) differs in key respects from how many media reports are describing it.[1] Despite claims to the contrary, it likely would shift substantial costs to beneficiaries rather than protect them from such cost increases, could lead to the demise of traditional Medicare over time rather than preserve it, and likely would produce few savings.

Shifts Costs to Beneficiaries

Its sponsors say the proposal would avoid shifting health costs to beneficiaries, but that’s not so.   It would replace Medicare’s guarantee of health coverage with a flat payment that beneficiaries would use to help them purchase either private health insurance or traditional Medicare.  It also would limit the growth in spending per beneficiary to the growth of gross domestic product (GDP) plus one percentage point (presumably on a per capita basis).  But health care costs have risen faster than that for several decades and, as Chairman Ryan acknowledged at a December 15 briefing, if that faster rate continues, the amount of the government’s premium support payment to beneficiaries would be cut back — with more of the costs of coverage shifted to beneficiaries — unless Congress intervened and made offsetting cuts elsewhere within Medicare.
WHO, Specifically, Blocked Millionaire Surtax?

Three myths about the detention bill

By Glenn Greenwald
Condemnation of President Obama is intense, and growing, as a result of his announced intent to sign into law the indefinite detention bill embedded in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). These denunciations come not only from the nation’s leading civil liberties and human rights groups, but also from the pro-Obama New York Times Editorial Page, which today has a scathing Editorial describing Obama’s stance as “a complete political cave-in, one that reinforces the impression of a fumbling presidency” and lamenting that “the bill has so many other objectionable aspects that we can’t go into them all,” as well as from vocal Obama supporters such as Andrew Sullivan, who wrote yesterday that this episode is “another sign that his campaign pledge to be vigilant about civil liberties in the war on terror was a lie.” In damage control mode, White-House-allied groups are now trying to ride to the rescue with attacks on the ACLU and dismissive belittling of the bill’s dangers.
Occupy the Safety Net

This fall, as eye-popping statistics depicting the obscene wealth of the top 1 percent were liberated from obscurity by Occupy Wall Street, some equally revealing figures emerged showing how those on the lowest rungs of our economy are faring. The vicious bite of the Great Recession has left one in three Americans—100 million people—either poor or perilously close to it, one busted car or broken leg away from falling into the vortex of dire need whose gravitational pull is a constant feature of their lives. These figures—drawn from the government’s new Supplemental Poverty Measure, or SPM—provided proof of something these Americans already knew: that the social safety net—the anti-poverty programs that form the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society—remains, even in its stretched and frayed condition, their last, best defense against what FDR called “the hazards and vicissitudes of life.”

The official definition of poverty—developed as a temporary measure by a research analyst at the Social Security Administration named Mollie Orshansky, and formally adopted in 1969—has little relevance to how deprivation is experienced today.
Time Magazine Decides to Throw Numbers to the Wind to Promote Representative Ryan

Thursday, 15 December 2011 14:05

Every budget expert knows that the stories of exploding budget deficits in the tens or hundreds of trillions of dollars (depends how many centuries in the future we wants to count), are driven by our broken health care system. If the United States paid the same amount per person for its health care as other wealthy countries, we would be looking at long-term budget surpluses not deficits. However, people who don't do budget calculations for a living do not generally know that the real story is a broken health care system.

This allows charlatans like Representative Paul Ryan to push nonsense budget plans that mean huge tax cuts for the wealthy, while slashing the programs that low and middle income people depend upon, like Social Security and Medicare. They also know that they can count on innumerate reporters to tout their programs to the sky, since the media is largely controlled by people who also want to see government programs for low and middle and income people slashed.
The End of Welfare as I Knew It

Why Conservatives Can’t Fix Poverty

Newt Gingrich’s new idea offers a stark reminder.
BY James Thindwa

Newt Gingrich’s recent utterances about poor children–they “have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works”–reflect not only the inability of conservatives to talk seriously about poverty, but a mean-spiritedness that, unfortunately, largely eludes public scrutiny.

Apparently, Gingrich and the approving Iowa crowd have never heard of “the working poor”–folks stuck in low-wage jobs (often more than one), but still unable to escape poverty. Based on the crowd’s reaction, Gingrich’s November 28 speech achieved a key objective. Conservatives enjoy being told that poverty is caused by the bad behavior of its victims, a belief famously reaffirmed by Herman Cain (“If you’re poor, blame yourself!”). It is always easier to blame victims than to contemplate real solutions.
The Making of the American 99% And the Collapse of the Middle Class

by Barbara Ehrenreich and John Ehrenreich
Class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.
-- E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class

The “other men” (and of course women) in the current American class alignment are those in the top 1% of the wealth distribution -- the bankers, hedge-fund managers, and CEOs targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement. They have been around for a long time in one form or another, but they only began to emerge as a distinct and visible group, informally called the “super-rich,” in recent years.

Extravagant levels of consumption helped draw attention to them: private jets, multiple 50,000 square-foot mansions, $25,000 chocolate desserts embellished with gold dust. But as long as the middle class could still muster the credit for college tuition and occasional home improvements, it seemed churlish to complain. Then came the financial crash of 2007-2008, followed by the Great Recession, and the 1% to whom we had entrusted our pensions, our economy, and our political system stood revealed as a band of feckless, greedy narcissists, and possibly sociopaths.
Paul Krugnan: In the US, Decidedly Warped Standards for "Mission Accomplished"

Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum say the right thing about revelations that big banks got very easy terms during the 2008 financial crisis: the real scandal isn’t so much that those banks got rescued as that the rest of the population didn’t.

Recently, in an article for Slate titled “How the Fed’s Generosity Made $13 Billion for America’s Biggest Banks,” Mr. Yglesias writes: “It was always clear that massive emergency lending of some kind was going on and also that some people would regard this lending as a dastardly ‘bailout’ that kept banks in business. But what’s really coming into view now is that this lending was not at a penalty rate. It was ultra-cheap money that allowed banks to earn profits designed to help resolve fundamental solvency problems.”
There Goes the Republic

By Robert Scheer

Once again the gods of war have united our Congress like nothing else. Unable to agree on the minimal spending necessary to save our economy, schools, medical system or infrastructure, the cowards who mislead us have retreated to the irrationalities of what George Washington in his farewell address condemned as “pretended patriotism.”

The defense authorization bill that Congress passed and President Obama had threatened to veto will soon become law, a fact that should be met with public outrage. Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth, responding to Obama’s craven collapse on the bill’s most controversial provision, said, “By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in U.S. law.” On Wednesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney claimed “the most recent changes give the president additional discretion in determining how the law will be implemented, consistent with our values and the rule of law, which are at the heart of our country’s strength.”

What rubbish, coming from a president who taught constitutional law. The point is not to hock our civil liberty to the discretion of the president, but rather to guarantee our freedoms even if a Dick Cheney or Newt Gingrich should attain the highest office.

Gates Foundation Enables ALEC's Project to Privatize Public Education


In the war being fought over the very survival of public education, the privatizers are forging the future. Is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aiding and abetting them?
I don't know how you feel about Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, and one of the world's richest men. Many people appreciate what he's accomplished. Many think that Gates' wife, Melinda, is doing wonderful work aiding the poor in underdeveloped countries. Gates' dad, who has taken the lead in advocating higher taxes for the wealthy, has always seemed really likable.

In philanthropic circles, the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (, which gives some $3 billion annually, especially in fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria and mother-child deaths in underdeveloped countries around the world, is highly regarded.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Startling New Evidence Shows US Troops Helped Despotic Regimes Battle the Arab Spring Uprisings

During 2011, U.S. troops regularly partnered with and trained the security forces of numerous regimes that were actively beating back democratic protests. 
December 13, 2011  |   
As the Arab Spring blossomed and President Obama hesitated about whether to speak out in favor of protesters seeking democratic change in the Greater Middle East, the Pentagon acted decisively.  It forged ever deeper ties with some of the most repressive regimes in the region, building up military basesand brokering weapons sales and transfers to despots from Bahrain to Yemen

As state security forces across the region cracked down on democratic dissent, the Pentagon also repeatedly dispatched American troops on training missions to allied militaries there.  During more than 40 such operations with names like Eager Lion and Friendship Two that sometimes lasted for weeks or months at a time, they taught Middle Eastern security forces the finer points of counterinsurgency, small unit tactics, intelligence gathering, and information operations -- skills crucial to defeating popular uprisings.
Digby: Codifying Chateau d'If

I think one of the most stunning aspects of the administration's decision not to veto an historic expansion of government power to imprison even its own citizens indefinitely and without due process is the context. Sure, we live in a very dangerous world. But we've been living in one at least since the advent of of The Bomb and the last I heard we were picking off Ad Qaeda members three at a time. The fact that this is happening with the war in Iraq wound down and Afghanistan scheduled to do so as well is what's odd.
Obama Reverses Himself: Administration Won't Veto 'Global Battlefield' Indefinite Detentions Measure

President Obama is expected to sign a defense policy bill allowing the military to arrest and indefinitely hold terrorism suspects -- even Americans arrested on U.S. soil. 

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet
Posted on December 14, 2011, Printed on December 16, 2011

The Obama administration Tuesday reversed itself and said it would not veto a major 2012 defense bill that expands the American military’s authority to arrest suspected terrorists anywhere in the world—including Americans on U.S. soil—and hold them indefinitely without charge or the right to a civilian trial.

“We have concluded that the [defense bill’s] language does not challenge or constrain the President’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists, and protect the American people,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a written statement. “The President’s senior advisers will not recommend a veto.”