Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barack Obama. Show all posts

Saturday, November 03, 2012

My Choice for President: Dr. Jill Stein (Green Party)

 For those who knew me in my younger days when I was a Republican, all I can say is this: today’s Republican Party is nothing like the GOP I grew up in.  It has been captured by religious extremists, by hateful leaders who train their supporters in academically dishonest sound bites, and by a scary collection of people who parrot an odd mix of mean-spiritedness, cluelessness, and hypocrisy.  Today’s Republican Party is no longer a serious contender for my vote. It is no surprise that they are frothing at the mouth at NJ Governor Chris Christie's post-disaster comments about the President, wouldn't give intellect John Huntsman the time of day, and eventually saw Maine Senator Olympia Snowe leave the party in frustration. End of Discussion.

But for those who know me, and who know I have a Libertarian streak a mile wide and a Liberal soul a mile deep… there might be some head-scratching as to why I can not support Gary Johnson (Libertarian), or, as the vast majority of my friends do, Barack Obama.  

No, I support Jill Stein.

There is no question that the 2012 election will be won by either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama.  And, given my dismissal of the Republicans in the opening paragraph, one could honestly ask me,

 “Why, in a close election year, aren’t you supporting Obama?  Why would you waste your vote on a candidate who can not win, and possibly ‘throw’ the election to Romney?’

Valid questions, and I am prepared to supply what I believe is a valid answer.

Why aren’t you supporting Obama?

I can not support Barack Obama because I disagree with his actions on the issues that are the most important to me.

One ‘collection’ of issues I have been writing about for several years is the growth of the American Police State: the continued loss of civil liberties, the continued shredding of Constitutional protections against the unwarranted search and seizure of Americans’ private lives, and the new surveillance state.  And Obama, in an effort to show he can be as hawkish on security as the GOP, has made that growing police state even worse.  His renewal of the Patriot Act, his support and signing of the indefinite detention provisions of the NDAA, and his reversal on the issue of closing the Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp belies a willingness to sacrifice liberty in the name of political capital. The coordination of his Department of Homeland Security with local police departments in an effort to suppress the Occupy Wall Street movement evidences a view on ‘security’ that is no different than the Republicans.

On  Environmental and Energy issues, the Republicans would have us believe that Obama has squelched domestic development of fossil fuels, thus hurting jobs and our economy. In response, the Obama administration and the Obama campaign have lost a golden opportunity: rather than embrace alternative energy in a real way, they point out that domestic drilling for oil and gas is at an all-time high.  The Obama campaign has taken painstaking steps to insure that all of their literature openly embraces the expanded use of domestic oil, gas, and even coal….in addition to clean energies.  We need to reverse this, not expand it. Fracking must be ended, not 'studied.'

On related issues, Obama has appointed a notoriously pro-genetically modified food Monsanto Executive to monitor our food supply at the FDA, and coordinated raids on small local farms selling raw milk to local customers. Large Agri-Business and the Chemical industry has gained under Obama, while the family farm has been in the bulls-eye.  Obama, as a supposed liberal, is a complete disappointment on environmental issues.

And then there are wars: wars in the Middle East, and the infamous War on Drugs.  This nation continues to fight an unwinnable war, with no defined goals, in Afghanistan – troops (including National Guard members) that could have been better-used at home during times of national disasters.  Suicides among troops now exceed combat deaths, and those who dare to blow the whistle on military operations – such as Bradley Manning - are imprisoned in conditions that have drawn the condemnation of the world.  

In the meantime, Obama has killed more people in one term of office – including innocent civilians – through drone strikes than George Bush did in two. There is NO excuse for this scorched-earth, innocents-be-damned policy.

As for the “War on Drugs,” the United States now has the largest incarcerated population in the world – more than states like China where rights are minimal.  This is due entirely to a federally-fueled, failed war on drugs. Obama has increased – not decreased – this war against those who commit victimless’ crimes.  This policy has devastated families, made young people ineligible for education loans, and has caused more death and suffering than any recent military operation. 

And yet, even while Americans are showing stronger and stronger support for the outright legalization of marijuana – Obama has systematically raided medical marijuana dispensaries in states where this has been legalized.  This is not the liberal President, or the ‘hope and change’ I had hoped for.

Where we *should* declare war is on the Bank Mobsters who destroyed our economy. On the issue of Bank Regulation – an issue that is at the top of the list for me – I must point out that Democrats, as a rule, have been as bad as Republicans.  The bailouts of Wall Street were not Republican schemes – they were bipartisan.  Democrat Chris Dodd in the Senate and Democrat Barney Frank in the House pushed for the bailouts – bailouts Obama supported.  Obama added insult to injury by *stacking* the United States government financial arms with executives from Goldman Sachs, thus solidifying an interest group that has been objectively shown to habitually make money through destruction.  What Romney did at Bain, Obama’s Federal Reserve and Treasury Appointments are doing from their Presidentially-guarded positions of authority.

And today, the Banks that were ‘too big to fail’ are now bigger than they were before the crisis – with no political stomach on Obama’s part to change it.

I’m sorry, but these are not the kind of positions that I can support. 

If a Republican had taken the positions Obama took, I wouldn't consider voting for them for a second.  There is no reason I should vote for Obama just because he has a “D” after his name.

But you’re wasting your vote!  Look, Obama is not perfect, but if everyone did what you are doing, we’d be throwing the election to Romney!

No, they would be joining me in demanding change.

Historically, Third Parties have had an under-appreciated role in the American politics.  It is not just through winning elections that change is secured.

The most important political changes in the last century: Anti-Trust legislation, Women’s right to vote, the right of unionization, the advent of the social security system, the end of the Vietnam War – did NOT happen because the major parties initiated them, or because people continued to vote for the ‘lesser of two evils.’

They happened because people voted for Third Parties. Third Parties have *always* been the engines that have catapulted important change to the forefront of political discourse.

These parties did not ‘win’ the elections – but they raised the issues in ways that were much louder and much more effective.  In each case, minor parties demanded these changes – and when the major parties saw their growing numbers, they finally found the political courage to adopt those positions.

Yes, I will vote for Jill Stein for President.  The Green Party has a platform that demands an end to military adventurism, the development of clean, renewable energy, the recognition of worker’s rights, the end of the Police Surveillance State, and a change in direction on the War on Drugs (including long-overdue legalized industrial hemp).

I take my vote seriously.  When I turned 18, I went to register to vote that very morning.  I have never missed an election since then.

The Green Party (or, in Massachusetts, the “Green-Rainbow Party") supports what I believe in.  It is precisely because I take my Right to vote seriously, that I will exercise that right by choosing Green and Honkala on Tuesday.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Obama vs Romney: Oct 1 Update

As of today, we're looking at a runaway slam-dunk for President Obama over Mitt Romney by an electoral vote of 348-190.

Romney's verbal gaffes and inability to connect with average Americans has seriously hurt any chances he had to pick off important swing states. In fact, it would be fair to say that the election is being lost by Romney more than it is being won by Obama: we expect many normally-Republican voters to just sit this one out in disgust. 

Ironically, it was Obama who feared a stay-at-home electorate earlier in the campaign, as progressive democrats grew increasingly disappointed by the President's military and environmental policies.  But Romney's penchant for embracing wealthy voters in overt and naïve ways - exacerbated by his wife's general cluelessness - has seen his poll numbers slide in almost every region of the nation.

In fact, President Obama is not polling appreciably better anywhere than he did last election, or than in the last few months; rather, Romney voters have begun to desert him and have decided to stay home, vote for a third party candidate, or remain undecided.

In key swing states -  Florida, Ohio, Virginia, New Hampshire, and North Carolina - Obama has clearly pulled ahead.  States viewed by some in the media as 'swing,' such as Colorado and Wisconsin, were never really in doubt at all and are solidly in the Blue column.

In this month's edition, we also move a few more electoral votes to the Democrats: Iowa, which we had felt confident would go red, is now blue again; and Nebraska - which divides its votes based on Congressional Districts - is likely to give one vote to Obama, in spite of the Republican's successful gerrymandering of Omaha during last years' redistricting.

And, we make note of three more states that are within the pollster's margins of error, but which should be reliably red: Georgia, Montana, and Arizona. We are keeping these in the Republican column for now, but if Romney continues to make these out-of-touch gaffes during the October debates, and if Obama finds a bit more mojo, the Republicans could be looking at losing even these previously safe red states.

I also am going to go out on a limb to make another prediction:  overall turnout will be low.  Many Americans remain unenthusiastic about both candidates. While some (including yours truly) will cast their vote for a third party candidate, many will stay home.  The election will be determined by degrees of disappointment, rather than degrees of enthusiasm.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Will an East Coast Strike Derail Obama's Re-election Bid?

 Historically, followers of presidential campaigns have looked for an “October Surprise” – a news event with the potential to change the course of the election.  Over the past few decades, the “October Surprises” have included a false announcement of the Vietnam War winding down by then-President Johnson during the 1968 Humphrey-Nixon-Wallace contest; Henry Kissinger’s announcement that a Vietnam peace was “at hand” just before the 1972 Nixon-McGovern election; the 1992 (Bush-Clinton) breaking of the Iran-Contra affair; and the release of George W. Bush’s drunken driving arrest just before the 2000 Bush-Gore election.

But sometimes, the ‘surprise’ comes from elsewhere…such as when Iran announced that they would not release the American Embassy hostages just before the 1980 Carter-Reagan election.  And that could well be the case this year.

Yes, Mitt Romney might release his Tax Returns (or they may be released to media sources by hackers claiming to have obtained them).  

Or perhaps Benjamin Netanyahu will decide to launch a surgical strike against Iran’s nuclear complex, forcing President Obama into the position of taking a hawk-like military stance (which will disappoint progressives, but not be good enough for Neo-con Republicans).

Or maybe it will come in the form of a looming longshoremen’s strike that has somehow evaded news reports, but which could shut down 14 ports and 95% of all shipping traffic on the east coast.

On September 30, the employment contract between the U.S Maritime Alliance (representing container carriers and port operators) and the  International Longshoremen’s Association expires.  Talks for a new contract broke down on Aug. 22 over wages and benefits, with no clear path to agreement in view. The union had requested a "last best offer” from Management, and the Alliance Management refused.  The union said last week that it was now “making preparations” for a possible strike on Oct. 1.

At the urging of the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the National Retail Federation, President Obama has ordered mediators to reopen talks between the groups.  The breakdown in talks comes in the midst of a concerted effort by Philadelphia area port operators, in an alliance with Del Monte Brands, to transfer dock operations away from ILA workers and towards lower-paid laborers.   

“Many companies are making contingency plans, but clearly even the best plans will be problematic in the event of a full- scale shutdown at East and Gulf Coast ports,” said Peter Gatti, executive vice president of the National Industrial Transportation League this week.  “Even the potential shift of that freight will put extraordinary demands on all modes of transportation, particularly for rail.”

In 2002, U.S. West Coast ports closed for 10 days after the Pacific Maritime Association locked out members of the International Longshore and Warehouse union, who it said were intentionally slowing down work.  President George W. Bush ordered an end to the shutdown under the Taft-Hartley Act, but the short lock-out cost the U.S. economy more than $1 billion a day. 

The resolution – or not – of this situation could well be the “October surprise” for 2012.  If the President is able to secure a negotiated settlement, it will earn him political capital.

But if an agreement is not reached, it puts the President in a no-win situation: as long as the strike continues, the economy will be further depressed, and Republicans will seize on the opportunity to criticize the President and unions.  If the President steps in and orders the dockworkers back to work, he will be seen as betraying blue collar workers, unionists, and progressives.

I fully expect Obama to win re-election, based on today’s numbers and sentiments.

But if this is the “October Surprise,” all bets could be off - especially in the three critical coastal swing states of Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida...and heavily unionized states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Obama vs. Romney Electoral Map, July 1 Update

NOTE: This post was updated on Sept 1 HERE.

We have been updating our prediction on the first of each month, and this month.....NOTHING changes.  We still see Obama being re-elected by an electoral vote of 304-234.  We see no changes in any states this month, as Obama's victory on health care and increased Latino organizing appear to be counterbalancing the generally poor economy.

Here's the map, with some analysis of swing states below:

ARIZONA: Once a red state, we see a backlash happening on several fronts: the zany antics of Sheriff Joe, efforts to define 'personhood' at ovulation, harping on the 'birther' issue, and harsh rhetoric about immigration should cause a perfect stew of resentment against Republicans by Hispanics, women, young people, and independents.  The elimination of three clauses of Gov. Jan Brewer's pet anti-immigrant legislation will further energize progressives and immigrant-rights groups to win in Arizona. We see this state swinging Blue now.

IOWA: Polls are mixed, and too close to call. Iowa is tough to gauge, and will be close: we give the edge to the organizing capabilities of the religious right combined with the pro-Romney Des Moines GOP machine. Red.

FLORIDA: This should be Blue, but a massive effort by Republicans in the state to purge voting rolls of Democratic-leaning groups is almost certain to throw the electoral votes of Florida into court - again.  We give it to the GOP - again.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Though it went for Obama (narrowly) last time, this is a tight state.  An active Libertarian Party bid in NH that emphasizes peace and an end to the war on drugs will hurt Obama as much as Romney; and an increasingly organized Green Party effort will hurt Obama far more than Romney.  Given the already tight race in this state, we now give it to Romney - though we doubt he will win it with a majority of votes.

NORTH CAROLINA: Democratic convention in Charlotte notwithstanding, there is some Triumphalism among the religious right over the recent vote to ban Marriage Equality in the NC Constitution.  This momentum may just carry them through the Fall.

As for the other "swing" states: We still give Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and Ohio to Obama, and Indiana (won by Obama in 2008) to Romney. We do not believe that Obama is in danger of losing Wisconsin, but next month's recall election may tell us more about political organization and voter sentiment.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Monsanto: Indian Suicides, the American FDA, and Global Food Control

In my text, “Principles of Macroeconomics,” I include a chapter entitled “Government Failure,” which examines some of the systemic reasons why government policy often results in economic injustice. One of those reasons is called “Capture Theory.” Quoting myself,

“a regulated interest will always capture the agency designed to regulate it, and will use it as a tool for its own ends.”

Said theory explains why Michael Taylor, the former Vice-President and Chief Lobbyist for Monsanto, is the Deputy Commissioner for food at the US Food & Drug Administration – in effect, America’s “food safety” czar.

Taylor’s career has moved back and forth between representing Monsanto and formulating policy at the FDA for the last several decades..and in all of these roles, Taylor has been instrumental in defending and orchestrating the introduction of Genetically Modified Crops (GMOs) into the world’s food system, in spite of significant scientific warnings to the contrary.

Monsanto’s GMOs and the Suicide Crisis in India

India, like China, has emerged as one of the world’s fastest growing economies. With a population of over a billion, India represents an enormous market for global companies. It should be no surprise, then, that Monsanto has sought to take advantage of that market. But the untold story of India is an epidemic of indebtedness and suicide that has been left in the wake of Monsanto’s GMO explosion.

Maharashtra State is the epicenter of what has been called India’s ‘suicide belt,’ where more than 1,000 farmers commit suicide each month. So far, 125,000 farmers have taken their lives – most by drinking insecticide and dying an excruciating death, and leaving behind a generation of homeless children.

The seeds of the current crisis were planted when India, seeking to reduce its high rate of poverty, applied in the 1990s for loans from the International Monetary Fund for economic development. The IMF offered India funds – as long as they would open their markets to western companies.
Enter Monsanto. Monsanto sent teams of salespeople and lobbyists to India, promoting GMO crops. The company promised that GMO seeds would provide record crops, increase overall income, and be resistant to parasites and insects which had often reduced Indian crops in the past. They were so persuasive that many government seed banks banned traditional varieties of seeds and stocked up on the Monsanto seeds.

Because these seeds were supposedly of such higher quality, Monsanto was able to charge a far higher price for them. Traditional cotton seeds in India cost the US equivalent of fifteen cents for one kilogram of seeds; Monsanto’s modified seeds cost one hundred and fifty dollars for the same amount of seed. In order to afford these seeds – now often the only ones available – farmers borrowed money and went heavily into debt. Local moneylenders in India – often the only source of funds for low-income farmers - often charge interest rates in excess of 20%. Throughout India, families tell the same story as to how they were persuaded to borrow to purchase GMO seeds on the promise that the financial returns from the seeds would be worth it.

GM Seed Performance

Monsanto justified the higher prices by saying that pesticides would not be needed for these ‘super seeds.’ But instead, many of their ‘pest-proof’ cotton crops were devastated by Indian Bollworms. In addition, it was discovered by the farmers that these GM seeds required twice the amount of water that traditional varieties required, and for many farmers, this was impossible due to water infrastructure or climate; entire crops of GM crops simply died.

When crops had failed in the past, farmers could still prepare for the following year by saving the seeds produced by surviving plants for replanting the following year, thus eliminating the need to purchase additional seeds. But not so with Monsanto’s GM seeds: GM seeds contain so-called 'terminator technology', which means the plants have been genetically modified so that viable seeds are not produced.

Season after season, farmers are forced to buy Monsanto seeds, at higher prices, with borrowed funds, to produce crops that fail. Faced with humiliating, mounting debt and imminent homelessness as their farms are repossessed, the suicide crisis grows.

Monsanto brushes this all aside as being the result of 'untimely rain' or drought, or by cavalierly suggesting that the victims are alcoholics or that suicide is just a part of traditional rural Indian life.

Because of the close historical relationship between Britain and India, Britain’s Prince Charles travelled to India to examine the situation first-hand. He was indignant at what he saw, calling the issue of Monsanto’s modified seeds a "global moral question" and setting up a charity – the Bhumi Vardaan Foundation - to help farmers establish organic farms using traditional seed varieties.

Monsanto and the FDA

From the Institute for Responsible Technology:

“When the FDA was constructing their GMO policy in 1991-2, their scientists were clear that gene-sliced foods were significantly different and could lead to “different risks” than conventional foods. But official policy declared the opposite, claiming that the FDA knew nothing of significant differences, and declared GMOs substantially equivalent.

This fiction became the rationale for allowing GM foods on the market without any required safety studies whatsoever! The determination of whether GM foods were safe to eat was placed entirely in the hands of the companies that made them — companies like Monsanto, which told us that the PCBs, DDT, and Agent Orange were safe.

GMOs were rushed onto our plates in 1996. Over the next nine years, multiple chronic illnesses in the US nearly doubled—from 7% to 13%. Allergy-related emergency room visits doubled between 1997 and 2002 while food allergies, especially among children, skyrocketed. We also witnessed a dramatic rise in asthma, autism, obesity, diabetes, digestive disorders, and certain cancers.

In January 2009, Dr. P. M. Bhargava, one of the world’s top biologists… concluded that the GM foods in the US are largely responsible for the increase in many serious diseases.

In May, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine concluded that animal studies have demonstrated a causal relationship between GM foods and infertility, accelerated aging, dysfunctional insulin regulation, changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, and immune problems such as asthma, allergies, and inflammation.

In July, a report by eight international experts determined that the flimsy and superficial evaluations of GMOs by both regulators and GM companies “systematically overlook the side effects” and significantly underestimate “the initial signs of diseases like cancer and diseases of the hormonal, immune, nervous and reproductive systems, among others.”

Who oversaw this FDA policy to fast-track the introduction of Monsanto’s GM seeds?

Michael Taylor.

He is now making policy about the American food system. And the FDA is wasting no time going after non-corporate food systems.

FDA Moves to Ban Organic Milk Sales

Unsurprisingly, the FDA is now moving against organic, non-corporate farmers here in the United States. Witness news reports from the lastfew months:

“On the morning of August 3, 2011, armed agents of the U.S. government and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office conducted a raid on a small private club in southern California, seizing the substances being sold therein and arresting three individuals on felony charges. It was the second raid on the club in two years and the culmination of a yearlong investigation by 10 local, state, and federal agencies that, according to the Los Angeles Times, ‘used high-tech video equipment hidden on a utility pole for round-the-clock surveillance and undercover agents to make covert buys.’

In what nefarious substances was the club trafficking? Marijuana? Cocaine? Heroin? No, the members of Rawesome Foods of Venice, California, were accused of the heinous crime of consuming milk and other dairy products that had not been pasteurized — products that the Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies insist are so dangerous that individuals must not be permitted to ingest them.

Advocates of unpasteurized (“raw”) milk consumption beg to differ. They argue that raw milk is nearly as safe as pasteurized milk and that its benefits outweigh its slightly increased risks. Many go to great lengths to obtain raw milk, joining private food clubs like Rawesome, entering into agreements whereby they purchase shares in cows and in turn receive the cows’ milk (called “herd sharing”), and, in some cases, openly defying the FDA’s ban on interstate raw milk sales”

But Americans are fighting back.

In Maine, three towns – Penobscot, Blue Hill and Sedgwick - adopted a “Local Food and Self-Governance Ordinance,” asserting that Maine towns can determine their own food and farming policies locally, and exempting direct food sales from state and federal license and inspection requirements. In addition, the Farm To Consumer Legal Defense Fund is filing suit against the FDA to stop the raid on farm-to-consumer sales.

The FDA's Response?

"...plaintiffs' assertion of a new 'fundamental right' under substantive due process to produce, obtain, and consume unpasteurized milk lacks any support in law."

In non-legalese, the FDA is claiming in court documents that Americans have no right to farm, produce, or eat the food they desire; rather, the FDA can decide what foods we can eat.

Not unlike Indian governments banning traditional seeds and forcing farmers to purchase products from Monsanto.

In related news, according to Bloomberg, Monsanto is now the world’s largest seed company. For the three months ending November 30, Monsanto exceeded financier's estimates on rising sales of corn and soybean seeds in Latin America and cotton seeds in Australia. Sales rose 7.8 percent to $1.83 billion, and net income was $6 million.

But India is also fighting back:

In an unprecedented decision, India's National Biodiversity Authority(NBA), a government agency, declared legal action against Monsanto (and their collaborators) for accessing and using local eggplant varieties (known as brinjal) to develop their Bt genetically engineered version1 without prior approval of the competent authorities, which is considered an act of "biopiracy."

The Journal of Nature Biotechnology reported:

"An Indian government agency has agreed to sue the developers of genetically modified (GM) eggplant for violating India's Biological Diversity Act of 2002. India's National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) is alleging that the developers of India's first GM food crop--Jalna-based Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) partnered with St. Louis--based seed giant Monsanto and several local universities--used local varieties to develop the transgenic crop, but failed to gain the appropriate licenses for field trials. At the same time, activists in Europe are claiming that patents on conventionally bred plants, including a melon found in India, filed by biotech companies violate farmers' rights to use naturally occurring breeds. Both these pending legal cases could set important precedents for biopiracy in India and Europe."


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Did Obama Campaign Forfeit New Hampshire Convention Delegates?

While the Media focus on the New Hampshire Primary has been on the actual number of votes each candidates will receive, the purpose of a primary is actually to permit the parties to choose Delegates to their respective national conventions. These delegates are the people who will spend several days in Charlotte, NC (starting September 3, 2012 for the Democrats) or Tampa, FL (starting August 27, 2012 for the Republicans) choosing their party’s standard-bearers, cheering and applauding televised speeches, politicking and partying in one of the grandest of political traditions. When voters cast their votes in the Primary, they are actually choosing Delegates who are supportive or ‘pledged’ to the candidate for whom they vote.

And while the attention has been on the Republican Party, the Democrats also will have a convention, presumably to nominate President Barack Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden for a second term. And that means that in each state, Democratic partisans must also cast votes, caucus, or otherwise choose their Convention delegates.

Except in New Hampshire, it appears that the Democratic Party may have forfeited their right to send delegates pledged to President Obama.

New Hampshire State law reads as follows:

RSA 655:50 Selection of Delegates: Each presidential candidate who has filed pursuant to RSA 655:47 shall file with the secretary of state no later than the third Friday following the last day of the filing period before the presidential primary the names and addresses in alphabetical order of the delegates and their alternates, one alternate per delegate, who shall represent him as his delegation to the national convention.

That would have been November 18, 2011 for this election cycle. Former Republican candidate Gary Johnson flew to New Hampshire in a panic on that day because his campaign had forgotten to file their delegate slate. But apparently the Gary Johnson campaign was not the only campaign to forget to file.

A check of the NH Secretary of State shows that Barack Obama’s campaign also forgot to file.

I expect this will not make much of a difference at Convention time. After the primary, NH Secretary of State Bill Gardner will announce that Barack Obama won the Democratic Primary (he only has token, frivolous opposition). The Credentials Committee of the National Democratic Party will find some way to seat delegates from New Hampshire anyway.

And the Republicans will make some political hay about the Democrats cavalier approach and sloppy attention paid towards New Hampshire – the only “swing state” in the American northeast.

Not really a bright move for the Democrats….


Saturday, December 31, 2011

Obama, GOP set stage for 2012 war in Iran

(Map of US Bases surrounding Iran)

[NEW: See Short Video reviewing the last 60 years of History between Iran and the USA at the end of this post]

From his home in Hawaii, President Barack Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act into law today, imposing the strongest economic sanctions to date on Iran, and increasing the probabilities of oil disruptions, rising gasoline prices, and military conflict.

The current sanctions are in response to Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear program, which Iran claims is for energy production, but which is suspected of developing weapons. Sanctions on Iran by the United States, however, go back long before the nuclear program. Sanctions started in 1980, when US Embassy workers were taken hostage for 444 days in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution that toppled the US-backed Shah. These sanctions prohibited almost all trade with Iran, except for activity "intended to benefit the Iranian people", including the export of medical and agricultural equipment to Iran, humanitarian assistance, and "informational" materials such as films and publications. Under the bill signed today, entities doing business with Iran’s central bank (Bank Markazi) will be prohibited from access to the US banking system, thus potentially crippling Iran’s ability to receive revenue from its oil exports.

According to BBC, “The bill specifically targets anyone doing business with Iran's central bank [and is] an attempt to force other countries to choose between buying oil from Iran or being blocked from any dealings with the U.S. economy.” The sanctions apply to foreign governments as well as to private companies.

Speaking anonymously, some U.S. officials believe that Tehran will view the bill signing itself as an act of war. The move could push Iran to take drastic measures, including an attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world's busiest shipping lane for crude oil, with its ample supply of marine mines. 20% of the worlds crude oil passes through the Straight of Hormuz; a blockade of the Straight would send oil prices skyrocketing. Even if Iran chooses not to take this action, fear on world markets of the mere possibility of oil disruptions will likely lead to speculation at the New York Mercantile Exchange, where traders will be placing purchase and sale orders for millions of gallons of future deliveries of crude oil, creating lucrative profits for commodity traders and oil companies.

Iranian officials view the sanctions as an intolerable assault on the country's economy and have vowed to retaliate. Israel’s Ha’aretz News Service quoted Iran's Revolutionary Guard Deputy Chief Hossein Salami as saying, "If they impose sanctions on Iran's oil exports, then even one drop of oil cannot flow from the Strait of Hormuz." Pentagon officials said they would meet the closing of the Hormuz straight with force.

Meanwhile, in a game of one-upsmanship, Republican Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, speaking in a campaign appearance in Iowa today, renewed his call for a proactive overthrow of the Iranian regime by the US through covert operations. All of the GOP candidates (with the stark and notable exception of Ron Paul) have called for tougher provisions against Iran.

For Iran’s part, it notes that the United States currently occupies 43 different military bases in the immediate vicinity of Iran; Pakistan, Russia, the US, and, it is widely suspected, Israel, all have nuclear weapon capability in the area.

It would appear that US soldiers are leaving Iraq just in time to return to Iran.

The bill also includes a highly controversial (and Unconstitutional) provision permitting terrorism suspects – including American citizens - to be held in detention indefinitely without a trial. While President Obama downplayed this clause by promising that his administration "will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens," he was contradicted by a senior administration official who explained that the President "is not saying that a U.S. citizen can never be held in military custody."


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Republicans Lose Critical Elections All Night

On ballot issues ranging from statewide elections to union bargaining rights and voter access, Republicans took a beating in all corners of the nation tonight.

Perhaps the most closely watched ballot initiative was in Ohio, where voters rejected “Issue #2,” a Republican-supported initiative that would have severely restricted the rights of unions to pursue collective bargaining agreements. The vote was not even close, as voters in this swing-state rejected Republican Governor John Kasich’s bill by more than a 2:1 margin.

At the same time, voters in Maine have decisively rejected conservatives efforts to eliminate same-day registration for voting by a margin of 60% - 40%.

And in Kentucky, a state that saw a Republican Senate win in a special election just last year, voters elected to give four out of five statewide offices to Democrats. And in New York's Suffolk County (Long Island), where Republicans made the County Executive race a "referendum" on President Obama, the Republican candidate was losing by a surprisingly large margin of 55%-45% with roughly 40% of all precinct reporting. Further south in Virginia, that state elected its first openly gay State Senator, Adam Ebbin.

[Update from the West: Russell Pearce, the Arizona state senator from the Republican-dominated suburbs of Phoenix who wrote Arizona's controversial immigration law lost, was recalled last night 55%-45%. The election was widely seen as a referendum on tough measures against illegal immigrants.]

Nationally, Republicans have waged multi-state campaigns to restrict collective bargaining rights, oppose gay rights, impede voters from accessing the polls, and fomenting anti-immigrant sentiment. In my home state of New Hampshire, the Republican-dominated legislature supported all such measures.

When one considers that off-year elections tend to result in losses for the President’s party….and considering that the lower turnouts associated with these off-year elections almost always benefit Republicans...and considering the continuing economic malaise – these results should send a very clear message to the GOP:

Americans may not be thrilled with how Obama has handled his Presidency so far - in fact, they may be downright unhappy, frustrated, and/or disappointed - but by even greater numbers they completely reject the agenda of the current extremist Republicans.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What the GOP doesn't get about Infrastructure and Taxes

In his last few speeches, President Obama has stressed the fact that many of his current proposals have, in the past, been supported – and even actively promoted – by both Democrats and Republicans. Today’s Republicans, though they may call on the name of Ronald Reagan as if his name was a magical incantation – would be horrified to know that Reagan, by his words and actions, would have agreed with President Obama more than he would have disagreed with him on these issues.

The upgrading and improvement of infrastructure – roads, bridges, ports, intermodal transfer facilities, and rail – was a cornerstone of the 1980 and 1984 Republican campaign platforms. After the economic ‘malaise’ of the 1970s, Buffalo Republican Quarterback-turned-Congressman Jack Kemp articulated a ‘new’ economic policy – one that emphasized government facilitation of business transactions (hence, “Supply” Side Policy," since it was aimed at the suppliers of goods and services rather than the consumers of said services). The theory was that by improving the nation’s infrastructure, businesses would be able to move goods and services in a more efficient, cost-effective manner, thus raising both profit margins and confidence in an economy that was sluggish at best. All one had to do was look at the effect of the Interstate Highway System, authorized under Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, to see the effect on businesses which could now ship goods from Boston to New York in 4 hours rather than two days along the old U.S. Route 1. Fortunately for the Republicans, they garnered the support of many Democrats, who supported the idea not for its effect on business, but because, following traditional Keynesian spending theory, it would put shovels in labor’s hands and put them to work. Intermodal Transit facilities, HOV lanes and E-ZPass all became part of our vocabulary.

By the end of Reagan’s 8 years in office, grants to states for highway and infrastructure construction were 28% higher than when Reagan took office. Jack Kemp and Bronx Democrat Robert Garcia co-introduced federal legislation establishing protocols for Enterprise Zones to revive blighted neighborhoods, making millions of infrastructure project dollars available to states for projects, including parking facilities, rail facilities, and highway interchanges. Even when Reagan wanted to pull back on infrastructure spending, Republicans in the House and Senate turned against him and, with Democratic support, overrode their own President’s veto of the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 (STURAA). This bipartisan policy continued through George H.W. Bush and Clinton, becoming a fixture of the American economic engine…and a piece of economic machinery supported by both political parties.

But somehow, today’s bunch of Republican extremists see this legacy only as “overspending." At a time when both natural disasters and deferred maintenance have destroyed or closed important transportation infrastructure, it is time for them to stop playing politics.

On Tax Policy, Obama has suggested a flattening of the overall tax brackets (part of the 1980, 1984, and 1988 Republican Party Platforms), as well as taxing investment income at the same rate as everyone else’s income. Currently, if you earn $100,000 from working at your job, you pay tax on the full $100,000. However, if you make $100,000 by buying and selling stocks, you only get taxed on 28% of your earnings – or $28,000. In one way, the Republicans are right – Tax policy *has* been used as class warfare: those who labor get taxed, those who sit back and place buy and sell orders with their online broker (and who produce *nothing* for the society) get taxed at far lower levels.

We have subsidized gambling by the wealthy on the backs of the laborer.

The biggest fallacy in the GOPs mock horror at Obama’s proposed tax changes is their assertion that these investments are good for business, and that taxing investment is bad for job creation. But there is nothing to show that those making money off of stock trading are creating jobs. Rather, they are hoarding the funds or simply continuing to trade ever-increasing amounts of wealth to amass more personal wealth.

In reality, most of what qualifies as 'investment’ and ‘capital' is neither. The vast majority of capital gains do NOT come from investing in a business, or from gains of capital provided to a company for expansion. MOST capital gains come simply from stockholders buying and holding stock from other stockholders. Such a purchase provides ZERO additional dollars to a business. It is simply another form of absentee landlord rent-seeking. Such “investors” generally do not participate in the corporations decision-making, governance, hiring, or expansion decisions. They use their wealth to purchase stock in a quick online transaction, follow it for a while (checking the price somewhere during the commercials on Dancing With The Stars), and ignore everything except how their ‘investment’ – which was purchased from another such ‘investor,’ not from the company – is doing. When the time is right, they access their account and hit the sell button…and make instant cash.

They produce nothing. They hire no one. They create nothing. They provide no expansion possibilities for businesses.

But they amass personal wealth. And yet, we treat them with kid gloves by taxing them less, at 28% the rate what we would tax someone who spends all day working and creating valuable goods and services in the economy.

Tax treatment that values gambling over the creation of goods and services, and that values 'wealth making wealth' rather than actual labor, is indeed class warfare, Mr. Boehner. It’s the class warfare that is destroying the middle class and rewarding a cadre of wall street elites that have you in their hip pocket.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

What Democrats can do about Obama

A liberal argues that the 2012 Democratic nomination should be debated -- with all options open

(This article by Matt Stoller first appeared 2 hours ago on
From the debt ceiling fiasco to the recent rescheduling of a jobs speech at the behest of Speaker Boehner, it has not been a good summer for President Obama. Like Chinese water torture, Gallup's daily tracking poll has shown a steady and unrelenting drip of bad news. He has been in and out of the high 30s for his approval, and in the low to mid-50s for his disapproval.

George W. Bush's approval rating didn't drop this low until Katrina hit. And on the economy, 71 percent of Americans disapprove of how Obama is doing his job. Even among reliably Democratic groups -- union households, women and young people -- he's now unpopular.

No one, not even the president's defenders, expect his coming jobs speech to mean anything. When the president spoke during a recent market swoon, the market dropped another 100 points. Democrats may soon have to confront an uncomfortable truth, and ask whether Obama is a suitable choice at the top of the ticket in 2012. They may then have to ask themselves if there's any way they can push him off the top of the ticket.

That these questions have not yet been asked in any serious way shows how weak the Democratic Party is as a political organization. Yet this political weakness is not inevitable, it can be changed through courage and collective action by a few party insiders smart and principled enough to understand the value of a public debate, and by activists who are courageous enough to face the real legacy of the Obama years.

Obama has ruined the Democratic Party. The 2010 wipeout was an electoral catastrophe so bad you'd have to go back to 1894 to find comparable losses. From 2008 to 2010, according to Gallup, the fastest growing demographic party label was former Democrat. Obama took over the party in 2008 with 36 percent of Americans considering themselves Democrats. Within just two years, that number had dropped to 31 percent, which tied a 22-year low.

Of course, there are many rationalizations for Obama to remain the nominee. He's faced difficult opposition. He's passed major legislation. His presidency is historic. The economy is hard to resuscitate. But all such rationalizations evade the party's responsibilities to actually choose the nominee best suited to win votes. If Obama looks unlikely to get enough votes to win, he should not get the nomination.

If would be one thing if Obama were failing because he was too close to party orthodoxy. Yet his failures have come precisely because Obama has not listened to Democratic Party voters. He continued idiotic wars, bailed out banks, ignored luminaries like Paul Krugman, and generally did whatever he could to repudiate the New Deal. The Democratic Party should be the party of pay raises and homes, but under Obama it has become the party of pay cuts and foreclosures. Getting rid of Obama as the head of the party is the first step in reverting to form.

So why isn't there a legitimate primary challenger to Obama to make this case? Forty years ago, primaries were instituted in the Democratic Party as a response to party insiders having too much influence over nominations. These reforms were implemented before the prevalence of money in politics was as extreme as it is now. At this point, primary challenges are so expensive that a serious 2012 campaign would ironically require support of party insiders for viability. The party, inflexible as it was in 1968, is perhaps even more rigid today. As a result, no candidate has stepped up to challenge Obama in a primary, even though 32 percent of Democratic voters want one.

This is an institutional crisis for Democrats. The groups that fund and organize the party -- an uneasy alliance of financiers, conservative technology interests, the telecommunications industry, healthcare industries, labor unions, feminists, elite foundations, African-American church networks, academic elites, liberals at groups like MoveOn, the ACLU and the blogosphere -- are frustrated, but not one of them has broken from the pack. In remaining silent, they give their assent to the right-wing policy framework that first George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama, cemented in place. It will be nearly impossible to dislodge such a framework without starting within the Democratic Party itself.

In other words, party inflexibility has a price. If the economy worsens going into the fall, and the president continues as he has to attempt to cut Social Security, Democrats might be facing a Carter-Reagan scenario. Reagan, at first considered a lightweight candidate, ended up winning a landslide victory that devastated the Democratic Party in 1980. Carter wasn't the only loss; many significant liberal senators, such as George McGovern, John Culver and Birch Bayh, fell that year.

Today, it's clear that certain Democratic constituency groups -- unions especially -- are on their deathbed. A reinvigoration of debate over the nature of the American workplace is desperately needed, yet labor leaders seem to prefer supplicating quietly to politicians who betray them. This is not inevitable. People can show dignity.

So what can party leaders do? History offers one model. In 1892, the Democratic Party nominated Grover Cleveland, and with sweeping majorities in both houses, Democrats had control of the federal government for the first time since before the Civil War. Then a financial crisis, plus Cleveland's stubborn allegiance to banking interests, turned his presidency into a catastrophe for Democrats.

When taking state candidates into account, the 1894 midterm elections were comparable to the 2010 wipeout; Cleveland was disliked so ardently that party leaders pushed him out of running for reelection. Instead the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan, who introduced many populist themes into the party and began the ideological transformation that would culminate with the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.

History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme. If a few of the key constituency groups in the Democratic Party publicly wondered whether Obama should run for reelection, rumblings would start. Some organized constituency groups -- say some components of the AFL-CIO -- would need to announce that their support is up for grabs, based on a clear set of criteria. Given the Obama administration's rampant anti-labor policies, this wouldn't be an unreasonable posture. And then a senior politician, like, say, a Tom Harkin, would need to decide that he would want to encourage robust intra-party debate about the party's future.

Harkin could run as a "favorite son" of Iowa, and encourage people in the caucuses to send a message to the party and to Obama by choosing him. Other candidates could then emerge in early primary and caucus states, as a way of repudiating Obama's leadership. Candidates wouldn't have to pretend to be running for president or be presidential quality; they could simply stand in as favorite sons or daughters of their own geographic area. This would immediately fire up a highly aggressive and needed debate about the direction of the Democratic Party and the country at large. It would build a new set of leaders, and elevate others who would like to distance themselves from the Obama policy agenda.

In a few months, we'll know better if Obama still looks like a loser next year. If he does, that does not mean the Democratic Party must follow him down the path to oblivion.

For Obama, the die is cast. He has put forward his economic program, and it will work to return jobs and income, and get the votes, or it won't. Knocking on doors won't change that, nor will a donation in a $6 billion election season. What can change the reality of 2012 is if Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, begins to take his job of representing workers seriously, and one or two establishment Democrats who remember liberalism decide to model courage for the younger generation. Then a robust debate can happen. Only by shaking up the current political order will solutions emerge.

Such debates tend to create institutional reforms -- the vibrant antiwar blogosphere of 2002-2006, and eventually the Obama campaign itself, emerged out of such a series of debates. Such a debate would also force the Obama campaign to come up with some answers to questions it would prefer to defer until after the election: Where are the jobs, and what is the plan to stop foreclosures? It would allow millions of Americans who have been hurt -- and who have benefited -- from administration policies, to have their say.

I wish I could say I was optimistic that party leaders will step forward and start the debate Democratic voters need. As for many, the last few years have shattered my faith in the political process. Obama has basically endorsed every major plank of George Bush's administration, yet Democrats still grant their approval. What we're finding out is that Obama's pathologically pro-establishment and conflict-averse DNA was funded by party insiders and embraced by liberal constituency groups in 2008 for a reason.

Political parties need to be flexible enough to allow for new ideas to come into the process, or else third parties or civil disorder are inevitable. All it would take to provide this flexibility are well-known Democratic elders who understand that rank and file Democrats deserve a choice, and a few political insiders who realize that they can increase their own power by encouraging a robust debate. I don't think this will happen. But just imagine if it did.

Matt Stoller is a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. His twitter feed is @matthewstoller and he can be reached at stoller at