Dec 15, 2011

Dec 5, 2011

Should the Occupy Movement Get Credit for the "Super-Committee's" Failure? | AlterNet

Should the Occupy Movement Get Credit for the "Super-Committee's" Failure?

It's rare that I disagree with Dean Baker, but I don't believe that the Occupy Movement deserves much credit for derailing the "super-committee."

Dean writes:

OWS and the response it has drawn from around the country has hugely altered the political debate. It has put inequality and the incredible upward redistribution of income over the last three decades at the center of the national debate. In this context, it became impossible for Congress to back a package that had cuts to social security and Medicare at its center, while actually lowering taxes for the richest 1%, as the Republican members of the supercommittee were demanding.

As a result, he says that "much of the credit" for the committee's failure to strike a deal "goes to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement."

I couldn't agree more that OWS has had a profound impact on the national discourse -- in fact I wrote about what I called the Occupy Movement's "stunning victory" in shifting the mainstream ecenomic discussion just last month.

The problem with crediting the movement is that the 'Gang of Twelve's' failure to strike a deal was always a foregone conclusion.

In early August, fully a month before the Occupy Wall Street movement got off the ground, I wrote that the entire process was "nothing more than a piece of kabuki theater."

The “super congress” that emerged from the [debt ceiling] deal offered a way to kick what had been an unbridgeable divide down the road a ways, but it doesn't alter the contours of the debate. While some Republicans have indicated that they might support closing a few loopholes to raise revenues, the party as a whole remains committed to their no-tax pledge. Democrats – especially House Democrats – have repeated that we need a “balanced” approach to cutting debt like a mantra. They've signaled they would be willing to accept some cuts to Social Security and Medicare, but not cuts sufficiently deep to entice enough GOP support for a package with new revenues.

Political scientist Seth Maskett analyzed the voting records of the Gang of 12 and concluded that it represents a “a pretty good balance between the parties,” featuring “roughly equal proportions of extremists and moderates” that “should agree on approximately nothing.” The most likely scenario is that this group won't come up with a deal that gets the seven votes needed to send it to the full Congress for a vote. If they do, it will by necessity be at least a somewhat “balanced” approach, and the GOP, terrified of its Tea Party base, has made it clear that such a deal is a non-starter – it'd be DOA on the Hill.

The “leverage” that's supposed to move these legislators closer together is one of those Beltway fantasies that bears no resemblance to any objective reality. Conservatives have little incentive to deal, in part because Democrats have already negotiated away substantial cuts in military spending in the “trigger.”

When I wrote that, I wasn't at all worried that I'd end up with egg on my face.

By Joshua Holland | Sourced from AlterNet

Posted at November 25, 2011, 2:13 pm

Oct 5, 2011

Conservative Party Conference 2011: Boris Johnson defies David Cameron to call for referendum on Europe - Telegraph

Conservative Party Conference 2011: Boris Johnson defies David Cameron to call for referendum on Europe - Telegraph

Conservative Party Conference 2011: Boris Johnson defies David Cameron to call for referendum on Europe

Boris Johnson has openly challenged David Cameron’s authority by calling for a referendum on Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

Conservative Party Conference 2011: Boris Johnson pledges to bring back village spirit
Mayor of London Boris Johnson gives his keynote speech to delegates at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The London mayor said it was “not a bad idea” to give the British people a direct say on Europe. He told a fringe meeting at the Conservative conference that voters deserved a chance to express their views on the issue.

He said: “The British people haven’t had a say on Europe since 1975. There hasn’t been a vote. It seems to me to be that if a reasonable question could be framed and put to the people of this country, I think it is not a bad idea.”

One option for the referendum would be an “in-out referendum”, he said.

He predicted that while voters might not vote to leave the EU, they might demand a “looser relationship” with Brussels.

Mr Johnson, seen as a potential future Conservative leadership contender, spoke hours after Mr Cameron had ruled out any popular vote on EU issues and insisted that the Conservatives should not focus on the issue

“I don’t want Britain to leave the EU,” the Prime Minister said. “I think it’s the wrong answer for Britain. People in rooms up and down Britain aren’t thinking, gosh, if only we could have a treaty change in Europe.”

The mayor’s intervention shatters Mr Cameron’s attempts to take Europe off the conference agenda and will infuriate Downing Street. Mr Johnson made the move even as he insisted he was not interested in trying to take Mr Cameron’s job in the future.

He said he would not take another “big job in politics” after being London mayor, and wanted to “knock on the head” speculation about his ambitions, declaring: “I really don’t want to do anything else.”

Mr Johnson, who will seek a second term as mayor next year, was repeatedly applauded as he addressed the conference about his record running London.

Mr Johnson’s performance underlined his status as a favourite of Tories and a potential leadership candidate. Many Conservative MPs believe Mr Cameron will be replaced by either Mr Johnson or George Osborne, the Chancellor.

But in television interviews last night, Mr Johnson described talk of prime ministerial ambitions as “complete nonsense”. He told ITV News: “Let’s take this opportunity to knock this on the head. The job of Mayor of London is the most wonderful, most engrossing job I could ever imagine I would have in politics.

“It gluts the appetite for power and executive action, and I love it. And I really don’t want to do anything else.”

Recent reports have suggested Mr Johnson could seek to return to the House of Commons in his second term as mayor. Conservative rules say the party leader must be an MP.

Mr Johnson told the BBC’s Newsnight there is “not a snowball’s chance in Hades” of a return to the Commons.

He has said he will only serve two terms as mayor. Asked about trying to become Prime Minister, he replied: “I don’t think I will do another big job in politics after this.”

Relations between Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson have often been tense and Downing Street insiders say the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are determined to help Mr Johnson win re-election next year in order to complicate any leadership plans he may harbour.

Oct 4, 2011

Russian Reality-Check

David J. Kramer and Christopher Walker: Russian Reality-Check -

Putin's return to the presidency should dispel any remaining delusions about the Medvedev era


The prevailing wisdom is that Vladimir Putin's return to the Russian presidency is bad news. That may be, but there is also reason to welcome his not-so-surprising Kremlin homecoming: It will remove the fiction of Russian reform and modernization that the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev represented. This in turn should allow U.S. and European Union policy makers to see the country as it is, rather than as they would prefer to imagine it.

Oct 3, 2011

Gazprom-phobia escalates in Brussels : Voice of Russia

Gazprom-phobia escalates in Brussels : Voice of Russia
Sep 28, 2011 15:21 Moscow Time

Russia has urged the European Commission to observe the rights of its energy giant Gazprom. The country’s Energy Ministry said its interests as a supplier and investor and protected by international agreements. The day before, members of the European Commission have searched offices of a number of EU energy companies that are one way or another linked to Gazprom. The Russian giant itself referred to this as common practice being in strict conformity with Brussels’ orders concerning the protection of competition. EU commissioners claim it is too early to talk about any violations.

Sep 23, 2011 / News In Brief / Finland proposed to keep Greek assets in Luxembourg / News In Brief / Finland proposed to keep Greek assets in Luxembourg
Finland in June proposed that Greek government shares in ports and the national phone company should be held by a company in Luxembourg as collateral in case it defaults on its second bailout, Reuters reports citing a eFinnish document. The shares were to pass to lenders if Greece goes bust.

Sep 20, 2011

Crashing the Tea Party -

Crashing the Tea Party -
Op-Ed Contributors

Crashing the Tea Party

    GIVEN how much sway the Tea Party has among Republicans in Congress and those seeking the Republican presidential nomination, one might think the Tea Party is redefining mainstream American politics.

    Sep 18, 2011

    BBC News - Russia media boss Alexander Lebedev in TV punch-up

    BBC News - Russia media boss Alexander Lebedev in TV punch-up

    Russia media boss Alexander Lebedev in TV punch-up

    Related Stories

    Russian media mogul Alexander Lebedev, who owns two UK newspapers, has punched a fellow guest off his seat during a televised economic debate in Moscow.
    Mr Lebedev, owner of the Independent and Evening Standard, hit former real estate businessmen Sergei Polonsky with two right hooks, sending him off the back of the platform.
    Mr Lebedev said Mr Polonsky had been aggressive throughout the debate, which is to be aired on NTV on Sunday.

    Sep 11, 2011

    We need to come up with a plan B for the Euro crisis - Irish, Business -

    We need to come up with a plan B for the Euro crisis - Irish, Business -

    We need to come up with a plan B for the Euro crisis

    The tyranny of mediocrity in Brussels will march on -- unless drastic action is taken immediately, writes Declan Ganley

    Sunday July 03 2011
    LAST Tuesday morning, I woke up in the pre-dawn darkness of a downtown Manhattan hotel. Having flown in the night before and still unadjusted to the five-hour time change, I decided to take a walk along the Hudson shoreline to the Irish Famine memorial, a place that, for me, always stirs deep emotions.

    Aug 18, 2011

    The Right Word: Fox News fears riots | Sadhbh Walshe | Comment is free |

    The Right Word: Fox News fears riots | Sadhbh Walshe | Comment is free |

    The talk show pundits have no hangups about attributing the UK riots to cuts and deprivation, but their prescriptions differ

    • Sean Hannity

      Sean Hannity

      Sean Hannity is deeply troubled by the British riots, particularly because he believes we may soon see similar levels of unrest here in America (view clip). Unlike many of his conservative counterparts in the United Kingdom, even Prime Minister Cameron who declared the riots nothing but "criminality, pure and simple", Hannity sees a direct link between the riots and the recent austerity measures imposed in Britain. Yet he believes the best way to avoid a similar outcome in America is to impose even deeper spending cuts than the $2.4tn recently authorised by Congress.

      I'm looking at what's going on in London right now and the rioting that's taking place there. Rioting is taking place in large part because of austerity measures because their country's going bankrupt. We should be learning from their mistakes but we're not; and people are out there, they're blaming conservatives, they're blaming the government, they're blaming "rich people" that it's their fault. They've got 16,000 police officers in London trying to handle this – more than they've ever had – and I'm thinking this sounds a lot like America ten, 12, 15 years down the road, because once those promises can never be fulfilled [sic].

      He discussed the problem with freshman Senator Rand Paul, a leading member of the Tea Party caucus, who agreed that the austerity measures that are due to be implemented in the US aren't nearly severe enough to stop Americans imitating their British counterparts. Although it may seem counterintuitive to think that the best way to prevent riots that both men believe were caused by austerity measures is to impose even more drastic austerity measures, Paul explains that it's best to start implementing cuts immediately, because if we wait too long, people will just get a bigger shock when their checks stop coming.

      Neither Hannity nor Paul saw any merit in trying to find alternative means of dealing with our deficit woes (such as increasing revenue by revoking the tax cuts on the rich, for instance) that might avoid inflicting the sort of pain on the masses that could possibly cause them to revolt. Hannity was also upset that the Tea Party is being blamed for the downgrade of America's credit rating, which he fears will not be restored anytime soon.

      Half the country doesn't pay taxes; 15% of the country now is on food stamps, Senator, and the chairman of S&P said they upgraded after they downgraded five countries, the average length of time that takes is between nine and 18 years. We're not going to be upgraded anytime soon, in spite of congressional senate investigations. That's not going to happen.

      Paul agreed that the downgrade will be with us for a while, and added that blaming the Tea Party was "like blaming firemen for coming to put out the fire". (Although S&P did make it clear that some of the Tea Party contributions to the debate, including the "prolonged controversy" and the inability to reach "an agreement on raising revenues", were some of the reasons for their decision.) Anyway, the bottom line for both men was that the best way to prevent riots in America is to continue cutting spending.

      Rush Limbaugh

      Rush Limbaugh byline

      Rush Limbaugh was also deeply concerned about the possibility of riot fever spreading to the United States (listen to clip). He did not buy the idea put forth by many in the media that the riots in British cities are simply hooliganism run amok; instead, he is certain that what we are witnessing is class warfare of the worst kind – that is, an all-out war on the rich. He equates the rioters with "Obama voters", or a group of have-nots, who just want to bring the have-lots down to their level.

      All this is happening 'cause of rich people, the people that got businesses, the conservatives. That's why all this is happening. You're dubious about this? They burn down the stores to show the rich people we can destroy what they have so that they will have nothing, too. We can burn down the property of the rich people so that they've got nothing, either.

      In addition to believing that the rioters and looters are no different than "Obama voters", Limbaugh goes on to assert than not only is it inevitable that the rioting is "precisely what we are headed for", but also that "Obama would not be upset. Obama wants it." He doesn't explain exactly why he thinks that President Obama would like to see American cities descend into chaos, but it appears to have something to do the fact that he believes the president is trying to spoil Americans the same way that British people have been spoiled with free healthcare.

      They live in a full-fledged socialist country. They have their equivalent of food stamps. They have interminable unemployment. They have free medical care, ostensibly. This is what they were promised. These were the people that bought into the false promises of socialism. These are the people that bought into the false promises of Utopia, and who are they mad at? They are mad at people who didn't! They are mad at people who are self-reliant. They're mad at people who are making something of themselves independently. They think they have been defrauded.

      So, apparently, Limbaugh believes that the best way to ensure that Americans do not react in a similar way to harsh spending cuts is to condition them to believe that they are entitled to nothing from the government, not even the entitlement programmes they pay into. Otherwise, they too will turn to rioting and looting or what he calls "the privilege of the new leisured class" or "wards of the state".

      Bill O'Reilly

      Bill O'Reilly byline

      Bill O'Reilly believes that there is probably some economic element to the riots, but he is not sure how much of it has to do with the spending cuts and how much is just "a combination of thuggery and a little bit of that anarchy" (view clip). He discusses the situation with Fox News correspondent Amy Kellogg, who explains that while there have been huge cuts, some of which have affected youth programs and education opportunities, and while the riots may have been sparked by a legitimate grievance (the death of a Tottenham man shot by police), they have since turned into something else that everyone is grappling to understand. O'Reilly draws on his personal experience covering the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles to try to make sense of the situation.

      Yeah, these are neighbourhoods that are marginalised, they're largely immigrant neighbourhoods; there is a class system in Great Britain, but this is similar to Rodney King situation in LA – and I was right in the middle of that, Amy, where you had the Rodney King beaten by the cops, and then you had all the riots and the looting and the burning and people dying … and it was crazy; there's no difference. All right, so the fuse is lit and this happens.

      Like many people, O'Reilly is less concerned at the moment with the underlying causes of the riots than with containing them, and he thinks that this might be a good moment for Britain to review their stance on gun ownership: that is, to allow ordinary citizens, as well as police, to bear arms.

      The difference between America and Great Britain is that here in America, many of us are armed because of the second amendment. In Great Britain, they don't like guns, as you mentioned, the cops don't even carry guns. But here is a really good example of if you are a shop owner or a store owner and you don't have a gun, you're in big trouble. Now, is [sic] any of that been raised by the BBC and the other liberal British press that maybe the cops should be tougher and maybe should be armed?

      So far, there has been no serious proposal to arm British citizens, and considering that there were 54 fatalities in the LA riots, mostly from gun violence, that might not be a bad thing. O'Reilly feels certain, however, that if the riots spread to more upmarket areas, then the authorities will "have to bring in the military – and then the gun debate will ramp up".

    Aug 16, 2011

    Ron Paul remains media poison - Roger Simon -

    Ron Paul remains media poison - Roger Simon -
    Ron Paul remains media poison
    By: Roger Simon
    August 15, 2011 03:17 PM EDT

    I admit I do not fully understand Ron Paul and his beliefs. But I do understand when a guy gets shafted, and Ron Paul just got shafted.

    On Saturday, the Ames Straw Poll was conducted in Iowa amid huge media interest and scrutiny. The results were enough to force one Republican candidate, Tim Pawlenty, out of the race, and catapult another, Michele Bachmann, into the “top tier.”

    Aug 15, 2011

    Stop Coddling the Super-Rich -

    Stop Coddling the Super-Rich -

    Kelly Blair

    These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.
    Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

    Aug 14, 2011

    Hundreds arrested as London riots spread

    Hundreds arrested as London riots spread | Pakistan Today | Latest news, Breaking news, Pakistan News, World news, business, sport and multimedia

    Monitoring Desk/Agencies
    LONDON – Firefighters tackle a blaze at a store attacked by rioters in Croydon. (Inset) Police use armoured vehicles, called Jankels, in Hackney. Reuters/AFP
    • British govt deploys 10,000 more police to stop unrest
    • Buildings and vehicles set ablaze in worst-ever violence
    • Looting spreads to other British cities
    LONDON - Prime Minister David Cameron called Tuesday for an emergency session of Parliament, and announced an almost tripling of police on London streets, after the capital and other British cities burned in this nation’s worse civil disturbances in decades.

    London Riots: BlackBerry Messenger Service Should Be Suspended, MP David Lammy Reportedly Says (UPDATE) (VIDEO)

    London Riots: BlackBerry Messenger Service Should Be Suspended, MP David Lammy Reportedly Says (UPDATE) (VIDEO)

    London riots entered their third night on Monday, reportedly prompting Tottenham MP David Lammy to call for the suspension of the BlackBerry Messenger service some rioters are using to organize their movements. As Sky News reported:

    GOP Presidential Candidates Spurn Press -- And Gain Popularity For It

    GOP Presidential Candidates Spurn Press -- And Gain Popularity For It
    Romney Press
    AMES, IOWA -- Politicians don't like the press. Republican politicians like the press even less. Richard Nixon put reporters on his Enemies List, perhaps with good reason. George W. Bush kept the press at at arms length, allowing only a few reporters glancing access.

    Deeper Than Oil: Russia’s reaction to the UK riots | Columnists | RIA Novosti

    Deeper Than Oil: Russia’s reaction to the UK riots | Columnists | RIA Novosti

    Topic: England's summer of discontent

    09:40 11/08/2011
    Weekly column by Marc Bennetts“England pays for its tolerance,” ran the headline in one leading Russian daily, as rioting swept the UK. There was a similar gleefulness to other reports here in Moscow of the disturbances, many of which focused on “immigrant rioters.” But these articles perhaps said much more about Russian xenophobia than the real situation in London and other cities.
    “England pays for its tolerance,” ran the headline in one leading Russian daily, as rioting swept the UK. There was a similar gleefulness to other reports here in Moscow of the disturbances, many of which focused on “immigrant rioters.” But these articles perhaps said much more about Russian xenophobia than the real situation in London and other cities.
    When I spoke to family members and friends in the cities hit by rioting, it was notable that not one of them mentioned the racial make-up of the rampaging mobs. Russians, however, were obsessed with the theme.

    Aug 8, 2011

    Vladimir Putin: Russia's "real life action man' - Home of the Daily and Sunday Express | Express Yourself :: Vladimir Putin: Russia's "real life action man"


    Story Image

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rides a horse during his vacation outside the town of Kyzyl
    Monday August 8,2011

    By Anna Pukas

    DRESSED in killer heels and figure-hugging suit, the shapely blonde strides through central Moscow, speaking into an iPhone.

    Rather than talking business, she is in fact arranging to meet up with two friends who are chilling out on sun loungers at what looks like a trendy private club.

    This is what Modern Russia looks like: confident, self-assured and savvy, they know what they want.