Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thursday Mashup (6/17/10)

  • More funnies with Matt Bai of the New York Times (here)…

    (In the matter of Number 44’s recent outcry against BP) If Mr. Obama has so consistently cast himself as the populist scourge of corporate abusers, then why does so much of the popular anger seem to be directed at him instead?

    In part, this is probably because Mr. Obama, while seemingly eager to read from a populist script, is really too cool and contemplative to be terribly convincing in the role. For sheer intensity of emotion, the president hardly rivals even the more patrician John F. Kennedy, who complained after a run-in with steelmakers that all businessmen were in fact “sons of bitches,” as his father had counseled him.
    As Daily Kos diarist blackwaterdog shows us here, the “too cool and contemplative” president met with residents of the beleaguered Gulf Coast recently, and in the words of the “classic” rock song, “every picture tells a story, don’t it?”

    Bai also tells us the following…

    …a succession of liberal politicians — Jesse Jackson, Jerry Brown, John Edwards — have tried to run for president on a traditionally populist, anticorporate platform, with little success.
    It’s really a stretch to consider Jesse Jackson Sr. as a politician, but Bai is technically correct here. As Wikipedia tells us, in addition to being a two-time presidential candidate, Jackson was also a “shadow senator” from the District of Columbia from 1991-1997, though these individuals are never seated in the U.S. Senate (this is part of the idiotic gamesmanship that has proceeded for years in this country, all part of granting D.C. the representation it deserves, which hopefully will be achieved one day).

    And Bai also tells us…

    This new American populism (yet more “tea party” love from Bai) is why the federal deficit has emerged as a chief concern for voters
    In response, I give you the following shockingly sensible editorial from The Philadelphia Inquirer last Sunday, particularly the following…

    According to a new Pew Research poll, 23 percent cited the federal budget deficit as their top concern. By contrast, a substantial 41 percent put jobs at the top of the list.

    That's no surprise, given a still-rocky recovery that has forced workers to live off unemployment checks and piece together part-time jobs. So why is Congress suddenly worried about federal spending rather than job creation? Why did Congress get fiscal religion after eight years of a profligate presidency that left the nation swimming in red ink?

    Elected leaders are understandably nervous after the banking collapse of 2008 - especially since they didn't see it coming. With Europe struggling to contain a debt crisis that started in Greece and threatens to spread, no responsible U.S. politician wants to be accused of ignoring impending fiscal doom here.

    But any responsible U.S. politician would read the fine print in the warnings: U.S. budget deficits will pose a critical problem for the economy about 10 years from now, as more baby boomers retire and entitlement spending soars. Should the White House work on a plan to balance the books before then? Absolutely.

    One of the best ways to do that is to put taxpayers back to work. An estimated 20 percent or so of the current federal deficit, according to the Center for American Progress, was brought on by the recession; when taxpayers lose their jobs and businesses go bankrupt, they don't pay taxes. A recovery would boost the federal treasury.
    Yes, but it conflicts with the “conventional wisdom,” don’t you see (with the corollary to this manic preoccupation with the deficit being that those who are out of work and drowning in debt shouldn’t be tossed a life preserver, but an anvil instead).

    What country am I living in again?

  • Staying with “the old gray lady,” I also give you this…

    HARGEISA, Somalia — As the United Nations Security Council expressed a “deep concern” on Wednesday over the continued use of child soldiers and a “readiness” to adopt sanctions against individuals who deploy them, an American lawmaker warned that the United States might have broken several laws by providing assistance to the Somali military, which uses children in conflict.

    The United Nations lists the Somali government as one of the “most persistent violators” in the world of using child soldiers, and this week The New York Times documented several child soldiers, some as young as 12, toting assault rifles and working for the Somali transitional government in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.

    The story also tells us that Dem Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois expressed concerns to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over this country paying the salaries of Somali soldiers and providing millions of dollars in arms. Durbin’s concern is that this assistance might violate the Child Soldier Prevention provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008; the Durbin-Coburn Child Soldiers Accountability Act; and the Durbin-Coburn Human Rights Enforcement Act.
    We also learn the following in the Times story…

    On Wednesday, the Security Council held a long-scheduled meeting on child soldiers and issued a presidential statement expressing its “readiness to adopt targeted and graduated” sanctions against commanders who deploy under-age combatants.

    “This is the first step,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations’ special representative for children and armed conflict, said by telephone from New York. “For the last two or three years, the Security Council has not focused on this issue. Now at least they are showing the readiness for sanctions.”

    Measures are already in place in a limited number of conflicts, as in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But the agreement Wednesday would make it a blanket provision in all the conflicts the Council monitors, said Marco A. Morales, the spokesman for the mission of Mexico, which pushed through the change in its role as this month’s Council president.

    Several international treaties cover the issue. While the American government has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which presses countries not to deploy soldiers younger than 15, the American government has ratified an optional protocol to that convention eschewing the recruitment and the use of child soldiers.
    I wondered why on earth this country hasn’t ratified the Convention, and as you read this Wikipedia article, what you learn is that conservatives in this country don’t like the Convention because it disallows the execution of child criminals (though a Supreme Court ruling citing the Convention does the same thing), and another “straw man” argument is that the Convention “would virtually undermine parents’ rights as we know it in the United States.”

    Oh, and the happily-now-departed Jesse Helms once referred to the Convention as a "bag of worms," and an effort to "chip away at the U.S. Constitution."[8]

    To his credit, though, President Obama has called our failure to ratify the Convention “an embarrassment,” which it most certainly is (Somalia is the only other country that hasn’t ratified it, and they plan to do so shortly – Somalia, people!).

    To be fair, I should note that the U.S. government has ratified an optional protocol to the Convention eschewing the recruitment and the use of child soldiers, as the Times tells us. However, that doesn’t absolve us of doing the right thing, even if it means signing off on a long-overdue measure that doesn’t bear the names of U.S. politicians.

  • Finally, it seems that John Feehery is unhappy (awwwhere)…

    In full disclosure, I think the Disclose Act is a complete joke, and it is getting funnier.

    What is the Disclose Act?

    According to The Hill, the Disclose Act is “the Democratic response to a January Supreme Court ruling that overturns limits on spending by corporations and unions in political campaigns. It would tighten transparency requirements associated with corporate and union contributions, including forcing the CEOs of businesses to appear in ads funded by the company.”
    And in response to the horrific Citizens United ruling (and after all, let’s not forget the origins of the group in question, as noted here), Think Progress told us the following (from last February here)…

    Just two weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of opening the floodgates of corporate donations into electoral politics, a class of Wall Street Republicans have assembled around a new GOP group that aims to capitalize on corporate America’s empowerment. According to The New York Times, the group aims to “develop and market conservative ideas…hoping to capitalize on the fundraising and electioneering possibilities opened up by a recent Supreme Court ruling.” “This administration as well as Citizens United — when you combine the two the prospects for funding these types of efforts are greatly enhanced,” said former senator Norm Coleman, one of the group’s organizers.

    The Republican figures behind the American Action Network have a long history and symbiotic relationship with Wall Street.
    And one of the individuals who is part of that “long history and symbiotic relationship,” as TP tells us, is Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who is currently involved in the American Action Network.

    This was after he co-founded Barbour, Griffith and Rogers, a lobbying firm involving the Mississippi guv, which morphed into BGR Holdings (here), which mutated somewhat into New Bridge Strategies, a “company established to help clients win Iraq reconstruction contracts” according to TPM’s Josh Marshall.

    And you’ll never guess who served as a “lobbyist and public affairs strategist” for Barbour, Griffith and Rogers, as noted here.

    Why, that would be none other than John Feehery, of course (of The Feehery Group).

    No wonder Feehery doesn’t like the DISCLOSE Act! It has more than a little bit to do with how much of an “influential” he would be on Capitol Hill knowing that his activities would come under the scrutiny of the cold light of day.

    In full disclosure, I have only this further to say:

    I don’t think John Feehery has the slightest idea of what “full disclosure” really means.
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