Tag: Politcs

The Good, the Bad and That Dead Fairy

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The Confidence Fairy is Dead but its ghost is still haunting the halls of the European Union countries and the United States, as Herr Doktor notes:

This was the month the confidence fairy died.

For the past two years most policy makers in Europe and many politicians and pundits in America have been in thrall to a destructive economic doctrine. [..]

The good news is that many influential people are finally admitting that the confidence fairy was a myth. The bad news is that despite this admission there seems to be little prospect of a near-term course change either in Europe or here in America, where we never fully embraced the doctrine, but have, nonetheless, had de facto austerity in the form of huge spending and employment cuts at the state and local level.

Krugman also pointed the de facto austerity policy of the Obama administration and Congress have added to the stagnant job market:

Here’s a comparison of changes in government employment (federal, state, and local) during the first four years of three presidents who came to office amid a troubled economy:

Public Employment in 3 Administrations

That spike early on is Census hiring; [..] If public employment had grown the way it did under Bush, we’d have 1.3 million more government workers, and probably an unemployment rate of 7 percent or less.

The job market is taking its toll on consumer spending which will continue to slow down any recovery:

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week and consumer confidence declined by the most in a year, signaling that a cooling labor market may restrain household spending. [..]

“There has been some slowdown in the labor market,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, who correctly projected the level of jobless claims. “That makes consumers feel less confident, and makes them more cautious about their spending. We could see some weakness in April payrolls.”

And even though the predictions about the housing market have been optimistic don’t be fooled, there is a dark side as falling home prices drag new buyers under water

More than 1 million Americans who have taken out mortgages in the past two years now owe more on their loans than their homes are worth, and Federal Housing Administration loans that require only a tiny down payment are partly to blame.

That figure, provided to Reuters by tracking firm CoreLogic, represents about one out of 10 home loans made during that period.

It is a sobering indication the U.S. housing market remains deeply troubled, with home values still falling in many parts of the country, and raises the question of whether low-down payment loans backed by the FHA are putting another generation of buyers at risk.

As of December 2011, the latest figures available, 31 percent of the U.S. home loans that were in negative equity – in which the outstanding loan balance exceeds the value of the home – were FHA-insured mortgages, according to CoreLogic.

In an interview with The European Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz said:

…When you look at America, you have to concede that we have failed. Most Americans today are worse off than they were fifteen years ago. A full-time worker in the US is worse off today than he or she was 44 years ago. That is astounding – half a century of stagnation. The economic system is not delivering. It does not matter whether a few people at the top benefitted tremendously – when the majority of citizens are not better off, the economic system is not working… [..]

The argument that the response to the current crisis has to be a lessening of social protection is really an argument by the 1% to say: “We have to grab a bigger share of the pie.” But if the majority of people don’t benefit from the economic pie, the system is a failure. I don’t want to talk about GDP anymore, I want to talk about what is happening to most citizens.

Meanwhile back in Europe with the distinct possibility that French President Nicholas Sarkozy may lose to the Socialist candidate Fran├žois Hollande, some leaders are getting the message but aren’t ready to give up totally:

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager struck a deal with the opposition and got a majority backing on an austerity package to meet the 3 percent budget deficit target in 2013, after seven weeks of talks with Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party failed and led to the collapse of the minority government.

The package increases the value-added tax to 21 percent from 19 percent, doubles the bank tax to 600 million euros ($791 million) and changes the financing of mortgages, De Jager said in a letter to parliament yesterday.[..]

The Labor Party, the Socialist Party as well as the Freedom Party of Geert Wilders didn’t back the agreement. “This is a bad package and the people with a state pension will pay the bill,” Wilders said in parliament.

In an editorial in Bloomberg News, the editors expressed their ideas how European leaders can “boost economic growth in the euro area”:

First, Europe’s leaders must recognize that common deficit rules alone will not guarantee the currency union’s survival. When countries such as Italy and Spain fall into a spiral of shrinking output and rising budget deficits, countries with stronger economies must be willing to help, either by transferring funds or by stimulating their own demand.

Currently, that would mean more German spending. [..] The Bundesbank would also need to live with a little more German inflation than the current 2.1 percent. Higher prices in Germany would help make other euro- area economies and their exports more competitive, reducing both their current account deficits and Germany’s surplus.

Second, the agreement should give Spain and Greece in particular more time to bring down debts piled up over the past 30 years. Requiring them to slash education, research and development, and other budgets will only stunt their future growth potential. To calm markets concerned about Spain’s deficits, the rest of Europe — Germany again — and the International Monetary Fund would have to provide more bailout funds.

Finally, the pact should acknowledge one of the most immediate requirements for a return to economic expansion: Recapitalization of private sector banks so that they can start providing businesses with more credit. Without that, Europe is doomed to anemic growth and a persistent confidence crisis, no matter what documents its politicians may sign.

Stiglitz in his interview makes two important points. First, “The question of social protection does not have to do with the structure of production

It has to do with social cohesion or solidarity. That is why I am also very critical of Draghi’s argument at the European Central Bank that social protection has to be undone. There are no grounds upon which to base that argument. The countries that are doing very well in Europe are the Scandinavian countries. Denmark is different from Sweden, Sweden is different from Norway – but they all have strong social protection and they are all growing.

Hear that, Mr President and Congress? Get your hands off reduction in the social safety net.

And second, that here in the US, “politics is at the root of the problem“:

Most Americans understand that fraud political processes play in fraud outcomes. But we don’t know how to break into that system. Our Supreme Court was appointed by moneyed interests and – not surprisingly – concluded that moneyed interests had unrestricted influence on politics. In the short run, we are exacerbating the influence of money, with negative consequences for the economy and for society. [..]

The diagnosis is that politics is at the root of the problem: That is where the rules of the game are made, that is where we decide on policies that favor the rich and that have allowed the financial sector to amass vast economic and political power. The first step has to be political reform: Change campaign finance laws. Make it easier for people to vote – in Australia, they even have compulsory voting. Address the problem of gerrymandering. Gerrymandering makes it so that your vote doesn’t count. If it does not count, you are leaving it to moneyed interests to push their own agenda. Change the filibuster, which turned from a barely used congressional tactic into a regular feature of politics. It disempowers Americans. Even if you have a majority vote, you cannot win.

The Europeans may well be the “game changers” because the election of their politicians doesn’t hinge on campaign contributions, long drawn out primaries or a rigid two party system that has degenerated into a lack of political choice. We need to kill the fairy once and for all and put governance in the hands of the American people.

The Least Interesting Man in the World

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Mitt Romney

Stay boring, my friends.

Election 2012: Let the Games Begin

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Rick Santorum is out, bloodied and bruised by Mitt Romney’s onslaught of negative campaign ads. Mitt is the presumed heir apparent. The Obama campaign machine has already begun to focus their attacks on Romney. The problem for voters, there is little light between them on policy.

By his own admission, Barack Obama has embraced conservative ideas and policies, some that are straight out of the Heritage Foundation. In his article chastising the Obama DOJ for siding with corporately owned prisons on strip searches, Glenn Greenwald out the facts about Obama’s neo-con policies:

In a speech to the Associated Press today, President Obama boasted that his signature domestic policies were basically conservative (he labeled them “centrist”): his individual mandate, he said, was pioneered by conservatives and the Heritage Foundation; his cap-and-trade policy was first proposed by Bush 41; federal spending is lower now than it was during any year of the Reagan administration, etc. Even the successes most touted by his supporters – the Detroit bailout, TARP, the withdrawal from Iraq – were started by Bush 43. Obama’s foreign policy and civil liberties assaults also, of course, were largely shared by his predecessor and are frequently praised by the Right.

Dick Cheney has been especially pleased with Obama’s covering up war crimes and prosecuting more whistle blowers than any other president under the Espionage Act, letting the criminals walk free.

Up with Chris: With the election in sight, Obama directs attacks at Romney

The Up w/ Chris Hayes panel of Newsweek/Daily Beast contributor Michelle Goldberg, The Nation.com editor Richard Kim, playwright and author Esther Armah, and MSNBC Political Analyst Jonathan Alter, weigh in on how they expect the president to frame his campaign message against Romney.

The next seven months are going to be nauseatingly boring. The four years after that are going to be even worse no matter which of the two candidates for president is elected.  

Mandated Health Insurance: Should It Stay or Should It Go?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Can the government force you to eat broccoli or buy a cell phone? Those were some of  the questions asked during the first two of three days of hearings before the US Supreme Court over whether it is constitutional for the government to mandate an individual to buy health care insurance from a private company or face a “penalty” to be collected by the Internal Revenue Serve. Candidate Barack Obama opposed a mandate but changed his mind, including it his “signature” [Affordable Care Act , taking single payer and then the option for a public sponsored insurance off the table. At this point, the majority of the public is opposed to the mandate and about a third want the entire bill scrapped, even though it has a few good provisions such removing pre-existing conditions as a reason to deny coverage and the implementation of lifetime caps on what the insurance company will pay.

Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate, gives her analysis of the first two days:

One thing was clear after the two hour session (pdf) at the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act: The outcome of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement probably rests on the shoulders of two men-Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. Or, to put it differently, everyone else seems to have staked a clear position. [..]

In the beginning, all eyes were on Kennedy who opened his questioning by asking Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to “assume this law is unprecedented.” (Gulp. That isn’t the way Verrilli wanted this to begin.) Both Kennedy and Roberts pressed Verrilli to enunciate a limiting principle on the congressional power asserted here. Or as Kennedy put it, early in the argument: “Can you identify any limits on the commerce clause?” [..]

Kennedy had serious doubts and Verrilli appeared unable to allay them. The odds on a 5-4 vote to strike down the law looked good. Kennedy asked far fewer questions of the challengers, although near the end of the morning he said, in his inimitably oblique style that young people are “uniquely, proximately very close to affecting the rates of insurance and the cost of providing medical care in a way that is not true in other industries.” That may suggest he believes that the health insurance market really is unique in some ways. [..]

My sense is that we saw only a part of what the justices were really thinking today. We heard Roberts and Kennedy expressing doubts about each side of the argument. But we didn’t get to hear them think aloud about what it actually means to strike down a monumental act of congress. We can assume that is weighing on some of the justices, nonetheless. The other thing we didn’t hear much about today was case law. Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out more than once that the justices weren’t there to debate whether or not they liked the bill. But it may be worth counting up the references to forced gym memberships, cellphone purchases, and broccoli mandates, and tallying them up against references to actual court cases. That’s either because the mandate is so unprecedented that precedent doesn’t matter. Or, because precedent just doesn’t matter.

What we do know is that an individual can survive very well without broccoli or a cell phone but at some point that individual will need health care. In another article by Ms. Lithwick she points out that the conservative argument that this is about freedom has a very dark side:

It’s always a bit strange to hear people with government-funded single-payer health plans describe the need for other Americans to be free from health insurance. But after the aggressive battery of questions from the court’s conservatives this morning, it’s clear that we can only be truly free when the young are released from the obligation to subsidize the old and the ailing. [..]

Freedom also seems to mean freedom from the obligation to treat those who show up at hospitals without health insurance, even if it means letting them bleed out on the curb. When Solicitor General Donald Verrilli tries to explain to Justice Scalia that the health care market is unique because “getting health care service … [is] a result of the social norms to which we’ve obligated ourselves so that people get health care.” Scalia’s response is a curt: “Well, don’t obligate yourself to that.” [..]

Freedom is the freedom not to rescue. Justice Kennedy explains “the reason [the individual mandate] is concerning is because it requires the individual to do an affirmative act. In the law of torts, our tradition, our law has been that you don’t have the duty to rescue someone if that person is in danger. [..]

Freedom is to be free from the telephone. [..]

Freedom is the freedom not to join a gym, not to be forced to eat broccoli. It’s the freedom not to be compelled to buy wheat or milk. And it’s the freedom to purchase your health insurance only at the “point of consumption”-i.e., when you’re being medivaced to the ICU (assuming you have the cash). [..]

Some of the members of the court find this notion of freedom troubling. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg notes that: “Congress, in the ’30s, saw a real problem of people needing to have old age and survivor’s insurance. And, yes, they did it through a tax, but they said everybody has got to be in it because if we don’t have the healthy in it, there’s not going to be the money to pay for the ones who become old or disabled or widowed. [..]

Sotomayor, again pondering whether hospitals could simply turn away the uninsured, finally asks: “What percentage of the American people who took their son or daughter to an emergency room and that child was turned away because the parent didn’t have insurance-do you think there’s a large percentage of the American population who would stand for the death of that child if they had an allergic reaction and a simple shot would have saved the child?” {..]

This case isn’t so much about freedom from government-mandated broccoli or gyms. It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another, freedom from the modern world in which we live. It’s about the freedom to ignore the injured, walk away from those in peril, to never pick up the phone or eat food that’s been inspected. It’s about the freedom to be left alone. And now we know the court is worried about freedom: the freedom to live like it’s 1804.

My biggest problem is that forcing people to buy insurance from a private company that does not insure access to care and cost controls or without an inexpensive public option, like buying into Medicare, is just a financial gift to the insurance companies. Without a public option, this bill is a major failure and unlikely to be fixed in the future, as so many Obama supporters claimed, or be replaced if SCOTUS declares the bill unconstitutional.

Provoking A War With Iran

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In January a young Iranian nuclear scientist was killed in a Tehran car bomb explosion, the fifth scientist to be killed since 2007. There were accusations by the Iranians that this was carried out by the Israelis with the blessings of the United States to stop Iran’s nuclear energy program. Of course there were the obligatory denials by the Israelis and the US through the State Department even though Israel had previously hinted about a covert campaign with Iran and told a parliamentary panel that 2012 would be a “critical year” for Iran in part because of “things that happen to it unnaturally”.

Robert Baer, the long-time senior CIA officer who spent 21 years working the Middle East, was on MSNBC’s ‘Hardball’ saying that he believes Israel is assassinating Iranian scientists in an attempt to provoke Iran to fight back and draw the US into a full-scale war. Baer has made this argument before considering Israel’s “track record of assassinations, from the Palestinian perpetrators of the Munich Olympic attack of 1972, to the killing of senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel room in early 2010″:

“If you look at the choice of target it really could only be Israel,” says Robert Baer, a former CIA agent in the Middle East, currently working on a book on assassination called The Perfect Kill. “If it was an internal group, like the MeK (Mujahedin-e-Khalq) it would be security official or policeman who had been torturing their guys. If you look at the motivation, it must be Israel.”

However, Baer adds that it is quite likely that Israel is acting in tandem with an Iranian dissident organisation. “To do this in the middle of the day, with a limpet charge and then getaway, you need a lot of people on the ground,” he says. ” You need an extensive network of the kind only someone like MeK can provide.”

Glenn Greenwald at Salon has labeled this, not murder, but terrorism

   Part of the problem here is the pretense that Terrorism has some sort of fixed, definitive meaning. It does not. As Professor Remi Brulin has so exhaustively documented, the meaning of the term has constantly morphed depending upon the momentary interests of those nations (usually the U.S. and Israel) most aggressively wielding it. It’s a term of political propaganda, impoverished of any objective meaning, and thus susceptible to limitless manipulation. Even the formal definition incorporated into U.S. law is incredibly vague; one could debate forever without resolution whether targeted killings of scientists fall within its scope, and that’s by design. The less fixed the term is, the more flexibility there is in deciding what acts of violence are and are not included in its scope.

   But to really see what’s going on here, let’s look at how a very recent, very similar assassination plot was discussed. That occurred in October when the U.S. accused Iran’s Quds Forces of recruiting a failed used car salesman in Texas to hire Mexican drug cartels to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador at a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Let’s put to side the intrinsic ridiculousness of the accusation and assume it to be true […] when that plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador was “revealed,” virtually every last media outlet – and government official – branded it “Terrorism.” It was just reflexively described that way. And I never heard anyone – anywhere – object to the use of that term on the ground that targeted assassinations aren’t Terrorism, or on any other ground.

There is quite a bit of evidence to support this. The New York Times reported that there is more truth to the plot to draw Iran into a war than not:

   The campaign, which experts believe is being carried out mainly by Israel, apparently claimed its latest victim on Wednesday when a bomb killed a 32-year-old nuclear scientist in Tehran’s morning rush hour.

   The scientist, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, was a department supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, a participant in what Western leaders believe is Iran’s halting but determined progress toward a nuclear weapon. He was at least the fifth scientist with nuclear connections to be killed since 2007; a sixth scientist, Fereydoon Abbasi, survived a 2010 attack and was put in charge of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization […]

   “I often get asked when Israel might attack Iran,” Mr. (Patrick, director of the Iran Security Initiative at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Clawson said. “I say, ‘Two years ago.’ ”

   Mr. Clawson said the covert campaign was far preferable to overt airstrikes by Israel or the United States on suspected Iranian nuclear sites. “Sabotage and assassination is the way to go, if you can do it,” he said. “It doesn’t provoke a nationalist reaction in Iran, which could strengthen the regime. And it allows Iran to climb down if it decides the cost of pursuing a nuclear weapon is too high.”

Now flash forward to recent events with the attempt to kill Israeli embassy personnel in New Delhi and Tbilisi, Georgia. The Israelis were quick to accuse Iran without any evidence that there was any Iranian involvement and, of course the US media was quick to parrot the accusations as retaliation:

The rare coordinated attempts on the lives of Israeli diplomatic representatives came a month after the latest assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist and were set against an escalating war of words between Israel and Iran over a possible Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. The attempted attacks also coincided with the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, a leader of Hezbollah, a militant Shiite Lebanese group backed by Iran.

India has stated that they have no evidence that Iran was involved but they have their own motivations, as does Russia, to protect Iran. Both India and Russia are ignoring the international sanctions to get Iran back to the table for discussion of their nuclear program. But. as Glenn Greenwald noted in his article about media the push to a war with Iran the media failed to mention

….the glaring irony that the mode of attack in India is virtually identical to the one used to kill numerous Iranian scientists (“a magnetic bomb was slapped onto {the} car by a passing motorcyclist”). One thing is crystal clear, as macgupta put it in the comment section: “In any case, no matter who the perpetrators are, these attacks are a sign that we are moving closer to a war with Iran.

The Guardian has analysis of why Iran seems an unlikely culprit for the attacks on Israeli diplomats:

Tehran has good relations with Thailand, India and Georgia. Why would it endanger that by planting bombs there?

Let’s assume that sections of the military and security apparatus in Iran are responsible for the string of bombings in Georgia, Thailand and India. What would be the motive? The argument that Iran is retaliating for the murder of five civilian nuclear scientists in Iran is not plausible. If Iran wanted to target Israeli interests, it has other means at its disposal. It is hard to imagine that the Iranian government would send Iranian operatives to friendly countries, completely equipped with Iranian money and passports – making the case against them as obvious as possible.

If the Iranian Revolutionary Guards are as professional, highly trained and politically savvy as we have been told repeatedly by Israeli politicians themselves, if they have successfully trained and equipped the cadres of Hezbollah and other movements with paramilitary wings in the region, then why would they launch such a clumsy and self-defeating operation?

And why India, Georgia and Thailand, three countries that Iran has had cordial relations with during a period when Iran is facing increasing sanctions spearheaded by the United States? A few days ago, India agreed a rupee-based oil and gas deal with Iran and resisted US pressures to join the western boycott of the Iranian energy sector. As a net importer of 12% of Iranian oil, India’s total trade with Iran amounted to $13.67bn in 2010-2011. What would be the motive for damaging relations with one of Iran’s major trading partners and regional heavyweights?

In December of 2010, Greenwald appeared on Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough to why Iran is not a threat to the US or Israel. His argument still holds true.

Is this another run up to another unnecessary war in the Middle East? If it looks like a duck …….

Federal Investigation Mortgage Fraud A Possible Charade

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

While there are there are many reasons to cheer President Obama’s announcement during his State of the Union address that he was forming a special unit within the Financial Fraud Task Force to investigate the fraud and other illegalities that caused the financial crisis and collapse of the housing market, there are plenty of reasons to be very skeptical.

The unit will be co-chaired by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who withdrew from the DOJ panel of state attorney generals that was working on a settlement with the big banks over their part in mortgage fraud. That’s about all the good news there is. The other members of the unit are Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general at the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, Robert Khuzami, director of enforcement at the SEC; John Walsh, a U.S. attorney in Colorado, and Tony West, assistant attorney general in the Civil Division at DOJ.  Also, the And there in lies the farce of this unit.

Lanny Breuer, along with Attorney General Eric Holder, was partner in the Washington DC law firm Covington & Burling that represented a number of big banks and MERS which are at the center of alleged foreclosure fraud. He recently appeared on “60 Minutesmaking numerous lame excuses justifying the lack of prosecutions out of the Justice Department. Despite the evidence, including records from federal and state courts and local clerks’ offices around the country, showing widespread forgery, perjury, obstruction of justice, and illegal foreclosures on the homes of thousands of active-duty military personnel, the Holder DOJ has not brought any criminal cases against big banks or other companies involved. There is a clear conflict of interest and possible ethics violations.

The director of enforcement of the SEC is another embarrassment. Robert Khuzami, a former general counsel at Deutsche Bank, one of the leading trustees in securitization, will no be looking into the instruments of the fraud he helped create. It has been Khuzami’s office that has been giving the banks no-fault settlements which recently were rejected by U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff.

U.S. Attorney in Colorado, John Walsh, is most notable for justifying the crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in that state. He doesn’t appear to have any experience in prosecuting banking fraud.

The last unit member is Tony West, the brother-in-law of California’s Attorney General, Kamala Harris who like Schneiderman withdrew from the DOJ agreement because it was too little and didn’t hold the banks or companies libel. West, a lawyer with a Oakland, CA law firm and a former US attorney, appears to have little experience with financial fraud.

Is this really the way to do this? Why not create a Special Prosecutor with the budget and subpoena power rather than a committee within a task force that has done minimal in the last three years to investigate fraud? Both David Dayen at FDL News Desk and Yves Smith at naked capitalism think that Schneiderman is being used for a charade that would eventually let the banks get away with fraud anyway. But is Schneiderman that easily misled or dazzled by Obama’s offer? He certainly didn’t sound like he was going to end his state level investigation in this release from his office:

I would like to thank President Obama for his leadership in the creation of a coordinated investigation that marshals state and federal resources to bring justice for the victims of the misconduct that caused the mortgage crisis.

In coordination with our federal partners, our office will continue its steadfast commitment to holding those responsible for the economic crisis accountable, providing meaningful relief for homeowners commensurate with the scale of the misconduct, and getting our economy moving again.

The American people deserve a robust and comprehensive investigation into the global financial meltdown to ensure nothing like it ever happens again, and today’s announcement is a major step in the right direction.

(emphasis mine)

Considering who has run the Treasury, the revolving door of bankers in the Oval Office and Obama’s weak efforts in investigating or prosecuting any person or entity that would ruffle the feathers of his Wall St. contributors over the last three years, there is a whole lot of reason to be doubtful about the president’s sincerity or any future hope of substantial relief for homeowners.

Both SOPA And PIPA Stopped For Now

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

It certainly been an eventful day. The two bills, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), were defeated Wednesday by an internet blackout of key web sites and the avalanche of petitions, street protests, e-mails and phone calls to congressional members.

When the powerful world of old media mobilized to win passage of an online antipiracy bill, it marshaled the reliable giants of K Street – the United States Chamber of Commerce, the Recording Industry Association of America and, of course, the motion picture lobby, with its new chairman, former Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat and an insider’s insider.

Yet on Wednesday this formidable old guard was forced to make way for the new as Web powerhouses backed by Internet activists rallied opposition to the legislation through Internet blackouts and cascading criticism, sending an unmistakable message to lawmakers grappling with new media issues: Don’t mess with the Internet. [..]

Congress now follows Bank of America, Verizon and Netflix as the latest institution to forced to change course by an internet led revolt.

It was especially dismaying that First Amendment stalwarts, like Senator Patrick Leahy and Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, were sponsoring this bill. It took Republicans in the House, assisted by Paul Ryan (R-WI) and, initially, six Republican senators to get both bill pulled from consideration. To his credit, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) was a one man road block to PIPA until the Republicans, pressured by their House compatriots, pulled their support.

So, besides Sen. Wyden, why weren’t there more Democrats opposed? Why were they even supporting a bill that would infringe on free speech and hurt job growth in the technology field? Follow the money. Hollywood, the music and movie industry, are a big supporters of anti-piracy and IP protection laws and Democrats.

Former Senator, Chris Dodd (D-CT), who forswore a lobbying career but is now CEO of Motion Picture Assn. of America, railed against technology companies such as Google, Mozilla and Wikipedia calling the blackout a “stunt”:

“It is an irresponsible response and a disservice to people who rely on them for information and who use their services,” Dodd said in a statement. “It is also an abuse of power given the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace today.”

It wasn’t until Saturday that President Obama spoke out about the most controversial portions of the House bill that would require Internet service providers to block infringing websites but said nothing about PIPA, the Senate version, and fell short of saying he would veto the bill.

Up until the last few days the media, especially television and cable have been pretty silent. Chris Hayes of MSNBC’s “Up with Chrishosted a debate with NBC Universal’s General Counsel, Richard Cotton, Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit.com, former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Since it became apparent that the traditional media was missing the boat on one of the biggest news stories of the year, they all started jumping back on the ship.

Wednesday night, Mr. Hayes was a guest on “The Rachel Maddow Show” where he and Rachel talked about the power and effectiveness of the online protest in influencing Congress who by and large didn’t understand the bills or the internet.

Will this stop these two bills? No, it won’t. As Wikipedia points out in its thank you to its visitors, “we’re not done yet”

SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith stated that the House of Representatives will push the bill forward in February. Senate sponsor Patrick Leahy still plans for a PIPA vote on January 24.

Moreover, SOPA and PIPA are symptoms of a larger issue. They are misguided solutions to a misunderstood problem. In the U.S. and abroad, legislators and big media are embracing censorship and sacrificing civil liberties in their attacks on free knowledge and an open Internet.

Although support has slipped in both the Senate and the House, there is a Senate vote on PIPA scheduled for January 24, and the House will be moving forward as well. It is important to keep the pressure up on both houses. We expect changes that appear to tone down the damaging effects of the laws, without addressing their fundamental flaws.

Keep calling your representatives! Tell them you believe in a free and open Internet!

It looks like this is just start of the war to save the internet.

Why Are We Still In Afghanistan?

Cross Posted fromThe Stars Hollow Gazette

Osama bin Laden is dead. Now after 10 years why are we still Afghanistan? What our diplomats fail to recognize about tribal customs of the Afghan people gets an explanation from Rachel Maddow. The reason for the military to be in Afghanistan is dead, of that I am certain. Are we now getting closer to bringing our troops home?

On “Military Endorsements”, Or, Another Weird Christine O’Donnell Story

I have a ton of things on the desk at the moment, and I don’t have the time to really run out this story before Election Day, but I want to bring to your attention something very strange that I found on the 2008 “Christine O’Donnell for Senate” MySpace page.

What it basically comes down to is that the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army are “Christine O’Donnell for Senate” MySpace friends, or that there are persons who have created United States Army and USMC MySpace pages that purport to be official that have “befriended” her candidacy. There’s also a Navy page that appears to emanate from a US Navy recruiting office in California on her ’08 campaign’s “friends” list.

At a minimum, all of this would seem to be a combination of inappropriate behavior and poor management of social media; at worst, you have activity that is “some kind of unlawful”, either on an administrative or civil level.

I’ll make this fast…but I’ll also make it interesting.

Follow along, and you’ll see what I mean.

Terms of Engagement

(An open series for reflecting on, and overcoming obstacles on the path to finding a World Solution that works.)

This is the first barrier. We are one, but not one, in that our ways are myriad.

Each society has differences, cultural norms of behavior, religious based rules, and laws that may address either equitably or unfairly.

We, as Americans, tend to see all these variations through the glass darkly when they do not align with our biased Western perspective.

I believe the largest obstacle is how to allow the greatest autonomy in cultural preservation and freedom while trying to prohibit abuse of any persons individually.

The answer, in my opinion cannot be raising McDonald’s in the shadow of temples world wide, and demanding homogenization to a Western template.

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