Mar 31, 2009
A recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice entitled Maryland’s Parole Supervision Fee: A Barrier to Reentry (.pdf, 602Kb, 42 pp.) relates how the $40 per month fee charged to parolees in Maryland only gets paid 17 percent of the time, and is strongly opposed by parole officers, who feel it interferes with more important aspects of their jobs.1
Here is another example of Soaking the Poor we wrote about back in September 2008. Only 25 percent of parolees have full-time work upon release, and only a third are fully employed at the end of their parole. “Not our problem,” says the State of Maryland, however, which then duns the parolee for payment with letters threatening to revoke parole during the term, and turns the debt over to a collection agency at the end. The term of parole is supposed to be a time when the parole officer and parolee work to bring the ex-offender back into society. Dunning letters during and after the parole period certainly do nothing to help the recidivism rate in Maryland.
The report’s authors, Rebekah Diller, Judith Greene, and Michelle Jacobs, make a number of recommendations for revising the system if the state is not willing to abolish the supervision fee. The recommendations do not include what we would recommend, however: Get these people a job! Guarantee a job to every one of them willing and able to work. What must their lives be like, burdened by requirements which may also include substance abuse or anger management treatment and child support and alimony payments, and only a third of them have adequate employment by the end of their parole term!
Today’s lesson? Don’t fall a little behind in this system because, Brother, you are on your own.
1 Brennan Center Study Shows Parole Fees Undercut Reentry, Mar 23, 2009, accessed Mar 27, 2009.
Mar 30, 2009
We live in two Americas now.
In the first, a few people take home in one year far, far more than you and all your neighbors put together will earn in your entire lifetime of work. These lucky few own many homes and, if asked just how many in an unguarded moment, may not even be able to recall the correct number. They jet between their homes in luxurious private or chartered aircraft, and their primary care physicians are affiliated with no HMO and you may be sure they still make house calls. These people have bought, paid for, and own the government and, when they screw up, their government does everything it can to prevent their suffering the consequence of their blunders.
The other America is in thrall to this First America. They (we should say “we”) live within a narrow and shrinking range of incomes, from those of us able to save something toward our children’s education and our own retirement, to those who live from payday loan to payday loan, and whose meagre minimum wage is under constant assault from First America's inducements to shop, gamble, drink, play, and borrow. Though both Americas have shared a recent decline in their net worth, ours is catastrophic and essentially uncushioned by government assistance; theirs affects their lifestyles not one whit, and their government is bankrupting itself, and us, to minimize their losses.
The First America is a parasitic America whose parasitism has been perfected over the past thirty years and is now so thoroughly interwoven in our society and our economy as to be virtually inextricable from the body politic. It has done a wonderful job of frightening those whom its educational system has rendered stupid, has co-opted many others, and ignores the rest of us since, for all our bluster, what, after all, can we do when the foxes own the henhouse?
Parasites, of course, eventually kill their hosts, and First America will be no different. If this crisis doesn’t do it—and none of the more dire indicators has improved in Obama’s first months in office—then the next one will.
As we asked in last Thursday’s entry, how could we have come to such a pass? There are scores, if not hundreds, of organizations opposed to the road down which our hapless nation is traveling. There are dozens of eloquent voices in opposition to the corporate takeover of America. However, like the blind men and the elephant, they are each involved in a separate piece of the problem and their efforts are uncoordinated.
Our nation’s salvation lies in finding, funding, and electing a new generation of untouchable politicians to represent all the people and our aspirations for a just and equitable society, for an end to militarism, for a return to the principals and ideals that will restore us to our place at the forefront of the struggle to bring freedom from oppression and want to all the peoples of the world. To that end, we must bring all those organizations and voices together as one. They all have their fervid constituents, and together we can take back America.
Divided, we haven’t a chance.
Mar 27, 2009
Our very first posting on All Together Now was The Killing Fields, the report from Amnesty International on death penalty statistics from 2007. The report for 2008 is now available1, and we cannot say the world has come very far. Numbers in parentheses are the 2007 figures. In 2008:
Mar 26, 2009
There is no doubt the government is taking a risk. The question is how best to do it.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner1
Mar 25, 2009
The $780 billion in bank bailouts and the $180 billion in the A.I.G. bailout having failed to deliver one degree of thaw to the credit freeze, the government will now step in and supply up to $1 trillion to purchase bad mortgages and related paper—the famous “toxic assets”—from those same institutions which have been so busy incurring our impotent wrath by distributing big bonuses from our wallets.1
The $1 trillion will be made available as loans to hedge funds and other cowboy financial investment institutions, providing them with up to 97 percent of the money necessary to purchase, at auction, packages of these troubled assets. The buyers won’t be required to put up any collateral other than the toxic assets themselves, and the government refuses to say how much interest they will charge the investors or reveal other details of the plan. The potential payoff—interest on the loans and participation in the profits from resales—could be many years down the road.
To date, investors haven’t been willing to pay more than about 30 cents on the dollar for these assets, and the banks haven’t been willing to sell them for less than 60 cents. The banks’ participation in this plan will be voluntary, so it is difficult to see how a significant portion of the assets will change hands, even when the buyers are purchasing them with borrowed money (ours). It is also difficult to believe that even if the banks do get these assets off their books that they will suddenly be willing to start performing their primary function of granting loans as opposed to bucking up their reserves, adding to their empires through the purchase of smaller and even more troubled institutions, handing out more bonuses, etc., etc., which is all the bailout money has prompted them to do. (Note to Obama: Why not take the $1 trillion and start making low-interest loans direct to the individuals and businesses that need them rather than handing over all that cash to the same reckless gamblers who landed us in this economic hellhole?)
Meanwhile, Glass-Stegall, like Generalissimo Francisco Franco, is still dead. And no significant regulation legislation is pending before either house of Congress. The foxes (Summers, Geithner) are still in charge of the henhouse, transparency continues to elude an administration which has gone hoarse guaranteeing it, and if there is a light at the end of this tunnel, let us hope it is not the 3:10 from Yuma, bearing down on what little remains of our hopes, our dreams, and our 401k’s.
1 Toxic Asset Plan Foresees Big Subsidies for Investors, by Edmund L. Andrews, Eric Dash, and Graham Bowley, from the New York Times, Mar 20, 2009, accessed Mar 22, 2009.
Mar 24, 2009
No Child Left Behind has had one starkly disturbing effect. Recess has completely disappeared from many American elementary schools, in towns and cities that aren’t even bothering to include playgrounds when planning new structures.1,2 It is fast becoming all academics, all the time, to the manifest detriment of our children’s development.
Now, the Alliance for Childhood has published a study that shows this trend infecting kindergarten and even preschool ages. Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School reveals that “what we do in education has little or nothing to do with what we know is good pedagogy for children” [from the Foreword, by David Elkind].
Recess or child-initiated play in Kindergarten and preschool has been reduced to thirty minutes or less out of the school day, while the lion’s share of the day is devoted to literacy and numeracy instruction and to the preparation and taking of standardized tests, tests which are extremely unreliable indicators of anything regarding a child’s future academic prospects.
Children are natural, engaged learners, but we all know what schools can do to those instincts. They are doing it at younger and younger ages all the time, and with dire results. Preschool expulsion rates are three times higher than national rates for K-12, and boys are being expelled four to five times more often than girls. The loss of child-initiated play in our preschool and Kindergarten years stifles creativity and imagination, and excessive instruction is contributing to early frustration and failure.
This report needs to be read by all parents of young children, and then the battle must be joined against the political ideologues whose misplaced emphasis on early childhood instruction contradicts everything we know about how children learn.
1 Banning School Recess, by Ann Svensen, from FamilyEducation.com, undated, accessed, as other notes in this item, Mar 21, 2009
2 no-recess policies being implemented in u.s. school districts, from adoption.com, undated
Mar 23, 2009
The Vermont state legislature was battling over a gay marriage bill last week. When we went to press (last Thursday) the issue had still not been resolved. Vermont, of course, was the first state to permit what we called at the time “civil unions,” presumably to distinguish them from all the uncivil ones that dotted the state. Since then, many states have followed our lead, but only two—Massachusetts and Connecticut—have gone all the way and legalized same-sex marriage. Our Republican governor thinks civil unions are good enough, though he hasn’t yet answered the very good question of why they aren’t good enough for him.
Coincidentally, we are currently all wrapped up in another terrific HBO series, Big Love. It is about a polygamous union in Utah. Bill Paxton is married to three wives—why do such unions never consist of one woman and multiple men?— and is having a tough time keeping a low profile as he builds a Home Depot-like empire in the Salt Lake City suburbs. As with the Sopranos, you can’t help but root for the ones who are supposed to be the bad guys from time to time, particularly as everyone around them seems even more loathsome.
We like to think we are reasonable enough to listen to both sides; however, we can’t find any argument on the side of those defending conventional marriage that doesn’t seem simply to come down to, “Because we don’t like it.” Gay marriage, plural marriage, common-law marriage, no marriage (another status that brands you a misfit in our society)... Why can’t we just leave each other alone and let us all hook up the way we want to? There must be a dollar at risk somewhere, though we can’t for the life of us figure out where it is.
Still, ten years ago, there was no such thing as civil unions or same-sex marriage anywhere in the land, and today there is. That’s progress. And we’ll leave it there.
Mar 20, 2009
Seventeen copies sold, of which eleven at trade price to free circulating libraries beyond the seas... Getting known.
from Krapp’s Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett
Mar 19, 2009
Newspapers are disappearing from the land.
Denver’s Rocky Mountain News shut down this month, a few days shy of its 150th anniversary (the longest-running business in Colorado). The San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Tucson Citizen are on the brink of closure. The Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, and New Haven Register are in bankruptcy. The venerable Christian Science Monitor is about to go web only.1
Meanwhile, journalism students, at least in Australia, don’t read newspapers, preferring to get their news from TV or the Internet.2
It is the height of irony that the greatest communication medium ever devised may lead to a level of ignorance regarding matters most affecting our well-being that has not been endured by the general public since before the invention of the printing press. Not that the mainstream media, controlled by a handful of billionaires,3 drenched in entertainment posing as news, increasingly right wing, and starved of investigative reporting, hasn’t been abrogating its responsbilities for some time now.
However, if anyone thinks the Internet, let alone the wretched, propagandistic, shrill, and cynical television “news” industry, is a substitute for newspapers, they had better wake up and smell the chloroform. Most Internet news is rehashed newspaper stories and those newspapers have seen their advertising revenues plummet. As they begin to close, the vestiges of investigative reporting—the soul of the newspaper industry—will disappear.
As Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayres write in the Guardian, “[T]here are huge costs to losing a vibrant core of investigative reporters covering local, national, and international stories. The internet is well suited to detect scandals that require lots of bloggers to spend a little bit of time searching for bits of incriminating evidence. But it’s no substitute for serious investigative reporting that requires weeks of intelligent inquiry to get to the heart of the problem. Without Woodwards and Bernsteins, there will be even more Nixons and Madoffs raining mayhem and destruction.”4
There already are, as you know if you haven’t been ripvanwinkling it for the past eight years. Who was watching the SEC not watching the investment banks? And how many stories we never read of the piecemeal dismantling of our democracy might have provided us with an early warning that could have turned things around in 2004? We still have not nearly plumbed the depths of those shameful times, and we may never.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. And every day, more and more of our vigilant watchers have turned in their notebooks and are looking for work.
No news is good news? From now on, it is decidedly and dangerously bad news.
1 Rocky Mountain News Ceases Publication as Other Newspapers Face Threat of Similar Fate, from Democracy Now, Mar 6, 2009. All notes accessed Mar 13, 2009.
2 Journalism Students Don’t Read Newspapers Says QUT [Queensland University of Technology] Journalism Professor, from TechWired Australia, Mar 12, 2009.
3 The Media Are the Message, from All Together Now, Sep 6, 2008.
4 A national endowment for journalism, by Bruce Ackerman and Ian Ayers, from the Guardian [UK], Feb 13, 2009.
Mar 18, 2009
Health insurance is so expensive that 46 million Americans (15 percent of us) can’t afford it. The government provides it at a deep discount for many millions of others who are elderly, disabled, or veterans.
Health insurance expends huge amounts on administrative costs and profit-taking, far more than the government does in managing Medicare and Medicaid.
Health insurance costs as much as it does because the companies that offer it spend large amounts of money trying to avoid covering people likely to need coverage and fighting to avoid paying for the services required by those who have it.
Health insurance is history in the rest of the industrialized world, where single-payer universal health coverage has been happily in place for as long as 60 years.
So of course the change artists in our current administration are backing a very clever idea for providing universal health care: require everyone to have health insurance.
Obama’s recent health care conference was not even going to include a single voice for single-payer, until the outcry was so loud that Representative Conyers was invited. Still, you will find little or no mention of this rational solution in the news media. The blackout is all but complete (except on Democracy Now, of course1).
The element in Obama’s plan most likely to provide real relief for Americans—the devising of a national health insurance provider to compete with private insurers—is almost certain to go down in defeat, despite the fact that over 70 percent of Americans favor it2,3. And we will be left with a system that costs employers more, that costs the insured more, that continues a vastly inefficient and inequitable system, and that will leave more, not fewer, Americans uninsured.
1 As Obama Hosts Summit on Healthcare, Marginalized Advocates Ask Why Single Payer Is Ignored, from Democracy Now, Mar 6, 2009. All notes accessed Mar 12, 2009.
2 Poll Excludes Single-Payer Healthcare; Respondents Implicitly Endorse It Anyway, by Jerry Policoff, from OpEd News, Mar 12, 2009
3 Poll: 73% of Voters Think Health Care Reform Must Include Choice of a Public Health Insurance Plan, by Robert Creamer, from the Huffington Post, Mar 10, 2009
Mar 17, 2009
Bernard Madoff lived in his penthouse apartment for several months following his confession to masterminding what is probably the biggest single-handed swindle in history.1
Bank executives at Merrill Lynch pulled in $3.6 billion in bonuses in 2008, a year when the firm lost $27 billion and was sold at bargain basement rates soon after the checks cleared.2
And Jose Padilla, U.S. citizen, was kidnapped, incarcerated, and tortured—excuse us, interrogated harshly—for three and a half years before he was turned over to the legal system and, ultimately, sentenced to 17 years in prison.3
Now, the individuals responsible for that, from Bush on down, as well as those responsible for Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, waterboarding, destruction of evidence, and domestic warrantless wiretapping are about to get the same kid glove treatment Bernie and the boys and girls at Merrill Lynch received. They are about to be whitewashed through a “Truth Commission” in the Senate, led by Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, which will probably immunize most of the players in order to get their testimony, rendering them free of the threat of prosecution.
And prosecution is what these people deserve and must receive, if we are to look ahead to a nation once again of laws and not of men (or, rather, one man). Until they are prosecuted, we remain in Bush/Cheney territory, regardless of who is in the White House. It is clear from Leahy’s manner, halting over his lukewarm and canned announcement,4 that he is out of touch with the will of the people.
Indeed, the Obama administration has failed to take one principled stand against the enormities of the Bush administration’s destruction of the U.S. Constitution. Instead, we merely hear what we heard from Bush: “The U.S. does not torture.”
Meanwhile, Guantanamo remains open, with worse things happening there than ever;5 the administration continues to scuttle legal proceedings by invoking specious “state secret” privileges;6 international kidnappings and transport to third countries (renditions) are not off the table.7 Sadly, we could go on and on.
This is not change. This is not an administration we can believe in. And we are saddened even more to see our own senator leading a toothless panel of inquiry that may very well render many of the worst villains in American history beyond the reach of the law.
1 Madoff’s Future: Where the Case Is Likely to Go, Steven M. Davidoff, from the New York Times, Mar 11, 2009, accessed. as were all notes in this item, Mar 11, 2009
2 Nearly 700 at Merrill in Million-Dollar Club, by Michael J. de la Merced and Louise Story, from the New York Times, Feb 11, 2009
3 Padilla Sentence to 17 Years in Prison, by Kirk Semple, from the New York Times, Jan 22, 2008
4 Lawmakers Debate Establishing “Truth Commission” on Bush Admin Torture, Rendition and Domestic Spying, from Democracy Now, March 5, 2009
5 Administration Draws Fire for Report on Guantanamo, by William Glaberson, from the New York Times, Feb 23, 2009
6 Obama Backs Off a Reversal on Secrets, by John Schwartz, from the New York Times, Feb 9, 2009
7 Obama’s Interview Aboard Air Force One, from the New York Times, Mar 7, 2009
Mar 16, 2009
We were of two minds about the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), until we read the report on it from the Congressional Research Service.1 As always with the CRS, the report was succinct, clear, comprehensive, and nonpartisan. It provides Congress with a good understanding of complex legislation. After reading it, we are of one mind about the EFCA.
Unions are an endangered species in our society (see our Dec 26, 2008, item, We Can Do It!). The EFCA liberalizes the procedures involved in organizing workers into unions.
Currently, 30 percent of a body of workers need to present a petition stating their desire to organize. The National Labor Relations Board (“the Board”) then calls for an election by secret ballot among all the workers in that body. The median period from petition to election in FY2008 was 38 days, and 95.1 percent of elections were held within 56 days (8 weeks). If most of the workers vote for union representation, the union is formed and the procedure passes on to the initial collective bargaining. In 32 percent of these cases the parties fail to reach agreement within the first two years following an election.
The EFCA would require the Board to certify an individual or labor organization as the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit without an election if a majority of the affected workers indicated their desire to unionize by signing a card. It would also allow binding arbitration to determine the initial contract between the parties should they not be able to come to an agreement in a reasonable amount of time. Finally, the EFCA would impose new and stiffer penalties for unfair labor practices by employers.
Proponents of the EFCA argue that by eliminating the long period between the petition and the election, employers will not be able to lobby against the election by means which they allege are unfair, coercive, and punitive. Opponents offer a good deal of cant regarding the perversion of the democratic process in eliminating secret ballot elections, but essentially they are bewailing the same thing the labor organizers are applauding: the end of that gap in time between petition and election. A better argument they offer (and sometimes even with a straight face) is that the new method exposes workers to the same intimidation tactics organizers accuse employers of using.
We feel, however, that if the law already requires 30 percent of the workers to petition publicly in favor of unionizing, then there is little additional harm in declaring a union in force once 51 percent do the same thing. It is not the best of all possible solutions. That would be one where all workers could decide for themselves, without pressure from employers or organizers. We don’t live in a perfect world however, and this solution does restore some balance between the parties seeking to support and to suppress unionization. The latter have had it their own way for some time, as the precipitous decline in union membership indicates. And that decline has played not a small part in the vast inequities in wealth we have seen develop in the U.S. over the past 30 years.
It is time to claim our fair piece of the pie. And we can only do that if we do it all together.
1 The Employee Free Choice Act, by Jon O. Shimabukuro, from the Congressional Research Service via OpenCRS, Jan 26, 2009, accessed Mar 9, 2009
Mar 13, 2009
We wrote about Burlington, VT, progressive mayor Bob Kiss in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on Feb 12. He was in a tough five-way race for a second term, despite the fact that he had a sterling first term in Burlington. He didn’t raise taxes in two of his three years in office, and he presided over an economy that saw much bigger wage gains and private-sector employment increases than the rest of the state. Nevertheless, credible Republican, Democrat, and Independent candidates all ran against Kiss. One can imagine the Democrat and, perhaps, Independent candidates acting as spoilers for Kiss’s candidacy, helping the Republican into office. Nevertheless, Kiss won by a majority 51.5 percent versus 48.5 percent.1
How so, you say, with five candidates? It was thanks to the wonder of Instant Runoff Voting, or IRV, which was applied for the second time in the Burlington election. With IRV, voters not only pick the candidate of their choice, they also state a second-place preference. When the votes are first counted, if no candidate wins a majority, IRV kicks in. The candidate with the lowest number of votes is dropped from the race and, in the recount, the stronger candidates retain their first-place votes and also pick up a vote for the ballots from the dropped candidates where they were listed as the second choice. In this way, Kiss, who polled 28 percent of the vote to the Republican’s 32 percent in the first round, picked up enough of the second-place votes from the Democrat’s and other ballots through successive rounds of instant runoff counts to win the majority.
IRV not only avoided the spoiler effect, it also conveyed a second blessing on the campaign. Fearful of losing the second-choice status on votes cast for their opponents, the campaigners were careful to conduct a civil, respectful campaign that managed to focus on the issues and not on personalities.
Both Obama and his erstwhile opponent McCain have come out in support of Instant Runoff Voting, which has been around in Australia and Ireland for years and is now spreading throughout the U.S.
Congratulations to Bob Kiss, and to the voters of Burlington for their farsighted wisdom in adopting the eminently sensible IRV.
1 Kiss re-elected by narrow margin, by John Briggs, from the Burlington Free Press, reprinted on FairVote, accessed Mar 8, 2009.
Mar 12, 2009
The U.S. is the leading arms exporter throughout the world, accounting for over 45 percent of all the weapons transferred globally in 2007. This appalling statistic is in a report from the New America Foundation, entitled U.S. Weapons at War 2008. Among the report’s other disclosures:
Mar 11, 2009
The Taliban stone people to death. They harbored bin Laden while he hatched his lunatic scheme that succeeded so well. They blew up those ancient giant buddhas that stood watch over the Bamyan Valley for so many centuries. They are particularly fearful of women and when they were calling the shots in Afghanistan for a few years in the mid- to late-90s, they would not let women be treated for medical problems, let alone pursue an education.
Now, a New York Times story1 is floating the notion of talking to the Taliban, or at least to portions of it which we believe can be split off from the more militant and intransigent elements. It is worrisome to read that the administration’s thoughts on the matter are just as inchoate and hesitant as their cogitations regarding Iraq and the fiscal situation. Good intentions and a refreshingly revised estimation of America’s place in the world are no substitute for a firm sense of purpose and a clear direction in times of extraordinary crisis. Look for others to soon begin tossing around words like “floundering” and “waffling” when describing the new administration’s lack of resolve and public head-scratching over the admittedly intractable challenges it faces.
The problem, in our eyes, is not that the administration is incapable of seeing its way clear to taking a proper position in the face of its challenges. Rather, the facts of Realpolitik2 in this day of the ascendant corporatocracy argue that militarism and corporate profit must be the first consideration of an administration and legislative body that owe their very existence and makeup to those elements. And so the banks are isolated from their blunders while the people line up at the unemployment office; and our children continue to suffer and die for another useless 18 months while $200 billion more is squeezed out of a war lacking any definable tactic, strategy, or point.
But talk? Of course. Talk to anyone who will talk to us. Talk all day. Talk all night. When you are talking to someone, you are almost never shooting at them, and that can only be a good thing. Because war is not the answer, it is never the answer, unless the question is one of survival.
1 Dreaming of Splitting the Taliban, by Helene Cooper, from the New York Times, Mar 7, 2009, accessed Mar 7, 2009
2 Realpolitik, from Wikipedia, accessed Mar 7, 2009.
Mar 10, 2009
How do 2,789,000 job losses over the past seven months morph into 3,460,000? Well, we couldn’t say, exactly, but they did. Every month since August 2008, the Labor Department has revised its initial announcement of job losses, and the revisions have always been higher, on average by 112,000.1 You would think that the obviously imperfect art of calculating job losses, if conducted in anything like an atmosphere of political neutrality, would occasionally be too high initially, and subsequently be revised downward. Such is not the case recently, however, and on March 6, 2009, we found ourselves with 671,000 more of us out of work than was initially reported.
However you explain the rocky path to calculating unemployment, we are losing a half a million jobs a month on average, and more than 650,000 a month over the last quarter. “These jobs aren’t coming back,” opines John Silvia, chief economist at Wachovia.2 “A lot of production either isn’t going to happen at all, or it’s going to happen somewhere other than the United States. There are going to be fewer stores, fewer factories, fewer financial services operations.”
We are in a perfect storm of collapse. Businesses have no access to the lifeblood of credit in the face of the banking industry’s self-destruction and the ineffectiveness of the trillions in federal handouts and guarantees. Millions of unemployed cinch their belts another notch, and those who are still pulling a paycheck save more of it in order to bolster their decimated retirement accounts. Spending declines precipitously (17 million cars sold in 2007 and are now selling at an annual pace of 9 million).2 As spending declines, more businesses lay off more workers, spending declines further, and where does it end? If allowed to continue, nowhere pretty.
Let’s do some math. Assume there are five million people seeking work. If the government provided a job for all of them at the average weekly wage of $615.00,3 it would cost $3.075 billion a week, or $159.9 billion for one year (with much of it coming back as income tax and FICA). That is only 20 percent of the $785 billion stimulus package (universally acknowledged to be inadequate), and way less than the government has lavished on the banks to no apparent purpose. And jobs—not hedge funds, collateralized debt obligations, investment banker bonuses, unemployment compensation extensions, tax credits for home improvements, or subsidized COBRA premiums—jobs are the bedrock of any economy. Getting money into people’s pockets next week: This is where the administration should be focused.
Or this vicious circle we find ourselves in will widen, accelerate, and take us all down.
1 Will Job Numbers Keep Being Revised Down?, by Floyd Norris, from the New York Times, Mar 6, 2009, accessed Mar 7, 2009.
2 Job Losses Hint at Vast Remaking of Economy, by Peter S. Goodman and Jack Healy, from the New York Times, Mar 6, 2009, accessed Mar 7, 2009
3 The Labor Picture in February, from the New York Times, Mar 6, 2009, accessed Mar 7, 2009
Mar 09, 2009
During the campaign, it was 16 months and we’re outta there! Last week it was 18 months (on top of the one that has passed already, for a grand total of 19) and we’re outta there!1 The long national nightmare of a misbegotten military adventure, founded on a lie, costing 35,000+ casualties2 and three trillion dollars, mismanaged for six endless years, would finally be over.
All right, we were patient. We were coming to understand that this was a careful, deliberate, thoughtful president, unlike the loose cannon that had been caroming off the Oval Office walls for the past eight years. If he wanted to extend combat operations all the way to August 2010, what the hey, we would be patient and see how it went.
Then our brain kicked in. That additional detail in the Obama plan which would leave 35-50,000 troops in Iraq with combat capability after the end of “combat operations ” in August 2010 did not quite scan on our logic receptors. Furthermore, whoever heard of unilaterally setting a schedule for the end of a war a year and a half in advance? The fact that we can pretend to do so reveals just what a phony war this is. And what have we not accomplished in six years that we hope—or need—to accomplish in the next 18 months? No one has told us. And if we are still going to be fighting in 18 months, how can we possibly hope to put up a good front with fewer than a third of our present contingent, when that contingent has been inadequate to the task so far?
Our inevitable conclusions fill us with fear and trembling: As in their responses to the collapse of the world’s economies, so in the matter of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the present administration is floundering, directionless, and fully as oblivious to the needless suffering and the clear will of the people as the past one. Its proffered solutions so far lack both boldness and sufficient adequacy of scope.
The only thing we have to fear is the fearfulness of the administration itself, which “paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” What are they afraid of? Of failure. Of angering their corporate paymasters. Of admitting the error even of the error-ridden ways of their predecessors. And so their reactions to these crises are meek, inadequate, temporizing, and ultimately doomed to failure.
How desperately we hope we are wrong!
1 6 Years In, Troops Glimpse Real Path Out of Iraq, by Steven Lee Myers, from the New York Times, Mar 6, 2009, accessed Mar 7, 2009.
2 Iraq Coalition War Casualties, accessed Mar 7, 2009
Mar 06, 2009
Those who profess to love freedom, yet deprecate agitation, are those who want crops without plowing. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did, and it never will.Follow us on Twitter.com for early notice of these Action Items, and click the Aux Barricades! tag in the left-hand column to display earlier Action Items. Send your Action Items to us and we will add them to this list.
—Frederick Douglass, 1857
Mar 05, 2009
Here is a listing, in reverse chronological order, of All Together Now from January-June 2009. Each line consists of three parts:
Mar 04, 2009
She produced the evening news for New York’s WBAI radio station for ten years, then founded Democracy Now1 in February 1996. Intended as a short-term daily election program for the 1996 campaign, it was so popular that it has extended its run for 13 years.
She has been beaten, arrested, and banned in East Timor; she, along with Jeremy Scahill, won the 1998 George Polk award for a documentary exposing Chevron’s role in killing Nigerian protestors; and she was manhandled and arrested by the police during the Republican convention in 2008.
Democracy Now, her one-hour news program, airs five days a week on 750 radio stations, satellite and cable television, and the internet, and is available in both audio and video podcasts. She is the first journalist to win the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize” for “developing an innovative model of truly independent grassroots political journalism that brings to millions of people the alternative voices that are often excluded by the mainstream media.” She has won a host of other awards.
For her physical and intellectual bravery; for her devotion to the cause of exposing cupidity and criminality in high places; for her innovative exploitation of, and longevity in a media world controlled by a handful of billionaire corporate moguls; for giving voice, day after day and year after year, to the progressive struggle for a humane and just world, we award Amy Goodman our sixth Golden A for Achievement.
Mar 03, 2009
We pass on a recent email from Moveon.Org regarding Obama’s budget. The cards are on the table; the battle is about to be joined; your children’s future rests in the balance. Here is what MoveOn has to say:
Want to see what change looks like? Real change?
Well, here it is. Last week, President Obama unveiled his budget—his blueprint for America— and it’s ambitious, amazing, and unapologetically progressive. As Paul Krugman said, it will set America on a “fundamentally new course.”1
President Obama called his budget “a threat to the status quo,” and trust me, the status quo noticed. Oil companies, big banks and insurance companies are already mobilizing to stop it.2
Unfortunately, most folks don’t realize how far-reaching and progressive the plan is—that’s where we all come in.
Here are 10 really incredible things about Obama’s plan. Check them out and then send them on to your friends and family so that millions of people will have the information they need to fight to make this vision a reality.
Mar 02, 2009
Two great voices started off the year on Democracy Now last month: On January 1, Amy Goodman re-ran her 2004 interview of Utah Philips, folk musician and activist, who died in 2008. The next day, DN showed activist and historian Howard Zinn speaking at Binghamton University a few days after the November election. View, listen to, or read, but don’t miss these inspiring talks.Notice that “Utah Philips, folk musician and activist” and “activist and historian Howard Zinn” are in a slightly different font from the rest of the text. Click inside either phrase and you will go to the Democracy Now page that contains both the podcast for that show, which you can view and listen to on your computer, and the printed transcript of the interview. If you right-click the link, you are given the opportunity to open the link in a new Window or Tab, keeping All Together Now viewable in its window.
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