Friday, September 7, 2012

75 Days, 75 Solid Reasons for Anyone Left of Center Not to Vote for Obama #61: Giving BP a handjob for the Gulf disaster

2010: Obama biggest recipient of BP cash

 And just this October:


"In a bipartisan letter - a rare sight ahead of the November 6 presidential elections - eight senators told Obama they are worried the Justice Department is considering allowing the bulk of fines to be assessed under the Oil Pollution Act for damages assessed to the coastline, with a minority of fines assessed for damages under the Clean Water Act.

Fines arising from Clean Water Act violations could reach $21 billion, if BP is found to be grossly negligent of causing the April 20, 2010, explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that killed 11 rig workers and unleashed 4.9 million barrels of oil that soiled the shorelines of four Gulf Coast states. BP has adamantly denied any accusations of gross negligence, and declined to comment on the senators' letter.

Without the bill, federal Clean Water Act fines would have gone straight to the U.S. Treasury. Anywhere from $4 billion to $16.8 billion could flow into states' coffers under the bill's terms.
The Mobile (Alabama) Press-Register first reported the proposed deal earlier this week, citing unnamed officials who had been briefed by the Justice Department.

The potential settlement could be attractive to BP, because fines under the Oil Pollution Act are treated more favorably by the U.S. tax code than are Clean Water Act fines, congressional sources said.

"Not only would the federal government have final say as to what qualified as environmental damage but BP, who is responsible for this, would also get a tax deduction that could write off millions," Representative Jo Bonner, an Alabama Republican, told Reuters. "The audacity of giving BP a tax write-off." ..."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

75 Days, 75 Solid Reasons for Anyone Left of Center Not to Vote for Obama #60: Shielding the Bush/Cheney Administration from Prosecution

There has been no difference - zero difference, none, nada, zilch - between having Obama/Biden and McCain/Palin in the White House on the issue of prosecuting the Bush Administration for its crimes against the constitution and international law.  "Hope and Change" indeed.
"... we now have an account from someone involved in the decision process way back when. And he reports two other reasons for the decision to let all the war criminals off and devote vast energies to protecting them and covering up their crimes. The first of the two reasons is not terribly shocking: the CIA, NSA, and military would revolt if their crimes were exposed and prosecuted. This explains the cover-up portion of the past two-and-a-half years’ immunity-granting campaign particularly well. It fits with the known record, which has included seven former heads of the CIA publicly writing to President Obama to tell him not to prosecute torturers in the CIA.

The second reason, we’re now being told, was that if laws were enforced against Bush, Cheney, or their subordinates, the Republicans in Congress would retaliate by trying to block any useful piece of legislation. This is sort of morbidly funny in that the Republicans in Congress have spent the past two-and-a-half years trying to block any useful piece of legislation and many horrendous ones as well. They’ve just done it with the background hum of war criminals on promotional book tours. This explanation fits with the theme of “looking forward, not backward.” Just as House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers told us in 2008 that it was more important to elect Obama than to impeach Bush or Cheney (as if you couldn’t do both), Obama’s preference in early 2009 (and in 2008 when he had told Will Bunch the same thing) was for looking forward to the passage of hideously corporatized legislation rather than enforcing laws against anyone powerful (as if you couldn’t do both).

Nonetheless, there is something jarringly pathetic about the notion that Dick Cheney is unindicted because Barack Obama was dreaming of a working relationship with the party Cheney had left behind in Washington.  This shouldn’t be as jarring now as it might have seemed in 2009, however, after watching Obama “negotiate” away anything Republcans opposed in any number of areas."
You might be thinking, "But hey, it's not as if there are any Bush Administration officials who have stated they would testify against the administration in a war crimes trial, right?"

Wrong.

Former Bush official promises to testify if someone will ‘Pinochet’ Cheney

"The former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell pledged Tuesday to testify against former Vice President Dick Cheney if he is ever tried for war crimes.  Col. Lawrence Wilkerson told Democracy Now‘s Amy Goodman that he would participate in a trial even if it meant personal repercussions.

“I, unfortunately — and I’ve admitted to this a number of times, publicly and privately — was the person who put together Colin Powell’s presentation at the United Nations Security Council on 5 February, 2003,” Wilkerson said. “It was probably the biggest mistake of my life. I regret it to this day. I regret not having resigned over it. ...”
According to a Human Rights Watch lawyer, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are themselves breaking the law by not prosecuting Bush/Cheney.  This is before we get to the war crimes of the Obama Administration itself.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

75 Days, 75 Solid Reasons for Anyone Left of Center Not to Vote for Obama #61: Depression-Level Unemployment

Former US Treasury Department official Paul Craig Roberts has in recent years been cranking out columns telling people the truth about the American economy.  Here are some stats from one of them, from July 2012.
"According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in 2011 was only 1 million more than in 2002. As it takes about 150,000 new jobs each month to stay even with population growth, that leaves a decade long job deficit of 15 million jobs.
The US unemployment and inflation rates are far higher than reported. In previous columns I have explained, based on statistician John Williams’ work (shadowstats.com), the reasons that the government’s headline numbers are serious understatements. The headline (U3) unemployment rate of 8.2% counts no discouraged workers who have given up on finding a job. The government has a second unemployment rate (U6), seldom reported, which includes short-term discouraged workers. That rate is 15%. When the long-term discouraged workers are added in, the current US unemployment rate is 22%, a number closer to the unemployment rate of the Great Depression than to the unemployment rates of postwar recessions.

Changes in the way inflation is measured have destroyed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a measure of the cost of living. The new methodology is substitution based. If the price of an item in the index rises, a lower priced alternative takes its place. In addition, some price rises are labeled quality improvements whether they are or not and thus do not show up in the CPI. People still have to pay the higher price, but it is not counted as inflation.
Currently, the substitution-based rate of inflation is about 2%. However, when inflation is measured as the actual cost of living, the rate of inflation is 5%.

The Misery Index is the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates. The level of the current Misery Index depends on whether the new rigged measures are used, which understate the misery, or the former methodology that accurately measures it. Prior to the November 1980 election, the Misery Index hit 22%, which was one reason for Reagan’s victory over President Carter. Today if we use previous methodology, the Misery Index stands at 27%. But if we use the new rigged methodology, the Misery Index is 10%.

The understatement of inflation serves to boost Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP is calculated in current dollars. To be able to determine whether GDP rose because of price rises or because of increases in real output, GDP is deflated by the CPI. The higher the inflation rate, the less the growth in real output and vice versa. When the substitution based methodology is used to measure inflation, the US economy experienced real growth in the 21st century except for the sharp dip during 2008-2010.

However, if the cost-of-living based methodology is used, except for a short period during 2004, the US economy has experienced no real growth since 2000. The lack of employment and real GDP growth go together with the decline in real household median income. The growth in consumer debt substituted for the lack of income growth and kept the economy going until consumers exhausted their ability to take on more debt. With the consumer dead in the water, the outlook for economic recovery is poor."


 ... and what has Obama done to address this?


"Congressman Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat who represents Manhattan's West Side and parts of Brooklyn, was a panelist along with me this morning at a post-election breakfast in New York sponsored by Government Affairs Professionals and Winning Strategies Washington.
Mr. Nadler delivered what struck me as a surprisingly harsh assessment of President Obama, saying a reasonable jury would probably find him "guilty of political malpractice in the first degree," both for allowing himself to be negotiated into a stimulus that was "far too small" and too tilted toward unstimulative tax cuts, and also for his "extended use of Hooverite rhetoric to assure people that the economy is improving when it obviously isn't improving."
Mr. Nadler said that if unemployment stays high — as he predicted it will, given that the additional stimulus he said was needed to reduce it is now "politically impossible" — the consequence will be a Republican Senate and a Republican president in 2012, to be followed by a Democratic takeover of Congress in 2014.
Mr. Nadler said that given that "the gambling casino on Wall Street wrecked the economy," the financial regulation bill passed by Congress was "exceedingly mild" and probably not adequate to prevent the next crisis."
 Link.

 It's bad when an elected Democratic congressman is comparing a sitting Democratic president to Herbert Hoover.

Now, those are the people without jobs.  What about underemployment?

July Jobs Report: Underemployment Rate Rises to 15%, Full-time Jobs Drop By 228k

And the food banks?  One of many, many representative articles any idiot could find easily:

"“The emptying of food banks is another indicator of the depth of the recession and its long term impacts,” said Jerry McElroy, economics professor with Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., who has been watching the food bank crisis and blames a big part of it on long-term unemployment. “I was astounded looking at the food bank situation. It’s a national phenomenon across almost every state in the union.”
Is it customary to re-elect a president in these conditions?  Is this a president that deserves the support of the Left?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

75 Days, 75 Solid Reasons for Anyone Left of Center Not to Vote for Obama #62: Four More Years of Malign Neglect of the Mississippi Delta


That's Harry Shearer discusssing his motivation to make The Big Uneasy.

Where to begin?  What really has changed between the Bush and Obama Administrations in the multiple crises affecting the poorest region in the US?
LaPlace, LA in 2012, courtesy of the US Army Corps of Engineers
 "A couple have been found dead in their kitchen after flood waters dumped by Isaac swamped their Louisiana home and blocked their escape, bringing the U.S. death toll from the lumbering storm to four."  Link.

Note Isaac was a Category 1 storm; Katrina was a Category 5.  Note that Harry Shearer has been reporting recently on his radio show (listen to the "Let Us Try" segment at that link) that many of the New Orleans levees are still "temporary" ones beyond their expiration date, filled with "debris" including shopping carts, a water heater and old tires.

Katrina Pain Index 2012: 7 Years After


After Isaac, Coast Guard continues assessing dead and injured oiled [BP fallout still] wildlife

Isaac Victims Blame Levees for Floods

Note the organization Make Levees Not War; compare their priorities to that of the Obama Administration:

 "Founded in 2005, Levees Not War is a New York–based, New Orleans–devoted information / action network to build political will on the national, federal level to help the stricken Gulf Coast. We grew out of the 300,000-strong antiwar mobilization in Washington on Sept. 24—the weekend of Hurricane Rita, and only a month after Katrina. In Washington we and dozens of other marchers carried homemade signs saying MAKE LEVEES, NOT WAR. (We thought we were original until we saw everyone else’s signs, all saying the same thing.)

We mounted persistent letter-writing and e-mail campaigns and fax- and phone-blitzes to the White House and Congress and the “media elite,” urging serious financial help and sustained media attention to rebuild and protect New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. And we were sure as hell motivated when we learned of a highly respected Corps of Engineers official’s estimate that before Katrina, for only about $2.5 billion the New Orleans area levee and flood protection system could have been upgraded to Category 5 strength. (The U.S. burns through $2.5 billion about every three or four days in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The monthly cost for Iraq alone is now $12 billion.)"

Monday, September 3, 2012

75 Days, 75 Solid Reasons for Anyone Left of Center Not to Vote for Obama #63: Labor Day Special - "Obama and AFL-CIO Policy Supports Union Murders in Colombia"

We could do a whole week on labor issues alone, but let's start here.
"In an effort to gain a Congressional passage of the Colombian FTA (Free Trade Agreement) the Colombian Government, the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) and the support of the U.S. military have all contributed to the rationalizing of substantial anti-union killings in Colombia.  In 2010, Colombia alone accounted for over 40% of the entire world’s trade union killings.  The desire for a FTA with the U.S., lead the Colombian government to intentionally obfuscate the truth regarding how many Colombian union members had been killed and why.

It is the U.S.’s continued policy of providing massive aid to the Colombian military which itself carries out anti-union killings and which is aligned with right-wing paramilitaries which account for the lion’s share of anti-union killings in Colombia.  Wikileaks cables revealed how the AFL-CIO, which is beholden to the U.S. State Department and the U.S government, are hostile to left-wing institutions and are all indeed bent on wiping them out.

Such conduct on the part of the AFL-CIO has an adverse impact on U.S. policy.  For example, in the case of Colombia, undermining the union movement in the eyes of the U.S. government only serves to undercut the cause of the U.S. and Colombian unions who desperately attempted, and succeeded for several years, to prevent passage of the Colombian FTA, largely on the grounds that Colombia should not be rewarded for anti-union violence."
Of course then American workers get to "compete" for jobs, wages, benefits via the free trade pact with the cowed Colombians. Read more here and here.

The US trade report cited below is, like so many other items in this litany of 75 reasons not to vote for the asshole Obama, entirely out of the Executive Branch and has bugger all to do with Congressional Republicans.

"A new report issued on June 8, 2011 by the International Trade Union Confederation shows that more trade unionists were murdered in Colombia in 2010 than in the rest of the world combined. According to the ITUC 2011 Annual Survey of Trade Union Rights, 49 of the 90 trade unionists murdered in 2010 were killed in Colombia.**

The report was followed a few days later by a June 13 press release from the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk praising the Colombian government for meeting all the steps agreed to in an April Labor Action Plan, intended to pave the way for a vote on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement as soon as July [2011]."

Labor Day Special - Billy Bragg sings "Which Side Are You On?"



History of the song.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

75 Days, 75 Solid Reasons for Anyone Left of Center Not to Vote for Obama #64: Executive Order to Stop Regulating Business with added Murdoch-Approved Wall Street Journal editorial

Obama wrote an editorial that made this man very happy
Here's Mr. Hope and Change, writing in a January 18, 2011 editorial in not just any newspaper, but Rupert Murdoch's lie rag The Wall Street Journal:

"From child labor laws to the Clean Air Act to our most recent strictures against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies, we have, from time to time, embraced common sense rules of the road that strengthen our country without unduly interfering with the pursuit of progress and the growth of our economy.

Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business—burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs."

Was that clear enough?  Obama thinks that after 8 years of GW Bush and after 8 years of Clinton and after 4 years of the other Bush and after 8 years of the people who pulled Ronnie Reagan's strings, that American business is overburdened by too much regulation!

What's a billionaire-backed president to do?  How about draft an Executive Order - no input from Congress mind you, so again no blaming Republicans for any of this - for the federal government to generally ignore decades of hard-fought safety, environmental and legal regulations on business that were legislatively passed after years of struggle by a variety of public interest groups

The Center for Progressive Reform describes the move in an article titled - titled! - in case you think I overstate my case - New Executive Order Skewed Toward Placating Regulated Industries: Obama Administration Continues Retreat from Protection of Public Health, Worker and Consumer Safety, and the Environment.

By all means read the whole thing, but here's the jist:

"President Obama issued the latest salvo in the Administration's efforts to placate the business community this morning, in the form of a new Executive Order called “Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens.”   The Order would expand and enhance the unfunded mandate that would require agencies to scour through the rule books, finding “excessive” rules that would save regulated companies big money. As I have written elsewhere in this space, the latest example of such an effort would jeopardize food safety by allowing huge poultry processors to self-inspect for salmonella, not incidentally making the lot of the workers who are already overburdened by workplace safety hazards close to intolerable.

The new order sugarcoats its regressive mandate by instructing agencies to seek “public comment”  on regulatory “look-backs,” which in practice does not mean comments from mom and pop, who are unlikely to spend their spare time on regulations.gov watching out for the manufacture of dangerous consumer products.  While nice in theory, this window dressing cannot obscure the fact that the process announced here is explicitly tilted in a one-way direction toward deregulation. The public comments could include calls to strengthen existing protections, and such strengthening might very well be good for the economy—as regulations often are, industry's "job-killing" rhetoric notwithstanding. Yet the order explicitly says that agencies are to prioritize “those initiatives that will produce significant quantifiable monetary savings or significant quantifiable reductions in paperwork burdens.” The White House is saying agencies should take all the public comment – but prioritize the de-regulation ideas. ..."