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Wisconsin and the Case of the Dogs That Didn’t Bark

11:12 pm in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

My heart goes out to the brave, democratic citizens in Wisconsin who worked tirelessly to recall six Republican State Senators, managing to depose two and coming agonizingly close (barring fraud) on a third. They deserve our respect and thanks and our continuing support as they move to the next phase to protect Democratic State Senators.

Those who’ve been paying attention know how important these races are, both to slow down the vicious anti-government, anti-worker movement in Wisconsin and to signal to other states and Congress that they do not have to submit to a group of extremist thugs stripping away their rights, their livelihoods and their dignity. They can fight back.

If there were a worthy national party lending its full support to their Wisconsin counterparts, it might have made a difference. We will never know. Sure, the national organization helped in various ways. But it’s obvious that what the state folks did not want was heavy national presence, and in particular, the “help” of this supposedly Democratic President. Why was that?

I believe that what the folks on the front line in Wisconsin needed most was a united national movement amplifying their grievances and demands. They needed a strong national voice framing a very different, more supportive message than the one they’ve been getting from their President and national Democratic leaders. What they got instead can only have hurt Wisconsin’s efforts.

The consistent message from the national Democratic party and President Obama is that “this is the era of austerity.” The President repeatedly told the nation that government had to tighten its belt, that government debt was a serious problem standing in the way of economic growth and jobs. He said we needed a “grand bargain” that reduced government spending on important programs by trillions of dollars with only limited contributions from the wealthy and corporations. Although he claimed to favor worker rights, he unilaterally froze federal worker salaries. And then he told the elderly that they needed to accept “adjustments” in their pensions and health care after extending tax breaks for the wealthy.

With such a profoundly misguided and destructive message coming from the President and national leaders, it must have been particularly difficult for Wisconsin citizens to explain why voters should recall Republican State Senators for taking positions their President and party were embracing in Washington. To be sure, Wisconsin’s Tea-Party Governor is a fraud, and his party’s actions have been abusive and excessive in slashing state programs and benefits. But Walker’s budget goals and methods are consistent with those of his national counterparts whom Mr. Obama and Democratic leaders have now promised to meet half way in slashing federal programs and benefits. There are few at the national level, and none at the top, making the counter argument about how offensive and obscene this is.

The Republicans in Wisconsin and other battleground states claim they’re on a holy mission, to rid society of the unworthy and profligate, that ripping away public workers and functions is both fiscally necessary and morally righteous. It’s a false economic theory, a worse creed.

Our national leaders should have been reminding those fighting in the states that they were not to blame for the budget crises in their state capitals. Instead, men like Greenspan and Bernanke and Geithner and dozens of other federal regulators who were supposed to be watching the financial/banking sector either fell asleep on their jobs or willfully looked away, while Congress passed laws pretending that fraud and looting were okay if it was called “financial innovation” and “market making.” The regulators failed the country and the looters plundered, but thanks to this President, they’re still in power or presuming to lecture us on television. And now men like Boehner and Cantor and McConnell — and yes, Warner and Durbin and Lieberman are preventing desperately needed federal money from helping the states deal with the damage.

The truth is that President Obama and the national Democratic Party undercut the Wisconsin fighters by adopting harmful Tea-GOP talking points and repeating them night after night on national television. While the national Tea-GOP reinforced their state counterparts’ message at every turn, the national Democrats sabotaged the Wisconsin Democrats’ message.

Wisconsin Democrats didn’t need the President or Senate Democratic leaders to come to Wisconsin. What they needed were national leaders fighting for their cause, for their pro-government principles, for recognition of their rights — in Washington. They needed a President making that fight in Washington and carrying that message to the nation.

But the President and his party have abandoned that fight in D.C., and so abandoned those fighting in Wisconsin. And that’s why, despite heroic Wisconsin efforts, the good guys fell short. No one should count on or follow these corrupt leaders again, ever.

If you’re looking for new leaders, look to Wisconsin and other states under siege, where working people understand what’s going down and aren’t afraid to fight back.

Iz R Gummit Learning? Obama Meets Alan Greenspan, And Nobody Notices

11:01 am in Uncategorized by Scarecrow

The New York Times front page editors waste our time with an above the fold piece in which Peter Baker ponders how unusual it was for President Obama to say "I was wrong," since none of his predecessors could manage much more than "mistakes were made." But wrong about what?

I suppose getting a President to use the active rather than passive voice represents progress for those with minimal expectations about accountability. But it’s disappointing Baker and his editors made no effort to examine the nature of Mr. Obama’s mistake or what that tells us about how the Administration views its governing responsibilities. Instead we’re seeing articles about whether the executive branch’s response actions were diligent or displayed managerial competence — okay — but little on whether the prevailing, bipartisan governing philosophy under which this all came down has fundamentally, catastrophically, but predictably failed again.

At yesterday’s presser, this is the exchange that mattered [my bold]:

Calmes: Thank you Mr. President. I want to follow up on an exchange you had with [CBS's Chip Reid]. Leaving aside the existing permits for drilling in the Gulf, before, weeks before BP, you had called for expanded drilling. Do you now regret that decision, and why did you do so knowing what you have described today about this sort of dysfunction in the MMS?

Obama: I continue to believe what I said at that time, which was that domestic oil production is an important part of our overall energy mix. It has to be part of an overall energy strategy. I also believe it is insufficient to meet the needs of our future, which is why I’ve made huge investments in clean energy, why we continue to promote solar and wind and biodiesel, and a whole range of other approaches . . . why we’re putting so much emphasis on energy efficiency.

But we’re not going to transition to these clean energy strategies right away. I mean, we’re still years off and some technological breakthroughs away from being able to operate on purely a clean energy grid. During that time, we’re going to be using oil. And to the extent that we’re using oil, it makes sense for us to develop our oil and natural gas resources here in the United States, and not simply rely on imports. That’s important for our economy, that’s important for economic growth.

So, the overall framework, which is to say domestic oil production should be part of our overall energy mix, I think continues to be the right one.

Where I was wrong was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst case scenarios. . . .

So the key point here is not the President taking responsibility; it’s the admission that he was wrong in what he believed, and that belief goes to the core of what’s wrong with the dominant Washington view about the relationship between government and the corporate world.

To be sure, it’s not clear how any intelligent government official could assume that "the oil companies had their act together," that industry and government would be functioning with honest oversight and adequate regard for the public interest or that the "cozy relationship" would ever give sufficient attention to risks and catastrophic consequences. Since the President says he already understood MMS and Interior needed to be cleaned up and had appointed Secretary Salazar to do just that, it’s not credible for the President to tell us now, millions of spilled gallons and thousands of acres of destroyed wetlands later, that he’s just now learning a misregulated industry "didn’t have it’s act together."

In recent years, we’ve seen hundreds of stories of industry-government collusion and corruption, denial or downplaying of risks, failure to mitigate or plan followed by inevitable "accidents" that take lives and destroy communities. How many times must our governing elite make the same startled but too-late confession that "I didn’t realize" and still claim to be surprised?

Henry Waxman got Alan Greenspan to make exactly the same confession about his stewardship of the economy. Under questioning from Waxman, Greenspan conceded that his core belief, that the financial markets were ultimately self correcting, turned out to be fundamentally wrong. But it took a massive collapse of the financial sector, trillion dollar bailouts, trillion dollar deficits, tanking of the American economy, the loss of trillions in GDP and 15 million unemployed to wring that belated confession . . . which Greenspan later hedged.

From the Presidency to Congress to federal regulatory agencies and the courts that review their actions, Washington remains enthralled by a pernicious, disaster-prone ideology that pretends "hurricanes hardly happen." When "accidents" occur, it’s only because either "mistakes were made" or "I was mistaken" in assuming industry functions in the public interest or that a hate-the-government, anti-regulatory ideology is good for us.

The President’s Commission to examine what went wrong at the Horizon rig may be pointless. None of its members is likely to get outside the same deadly belief system, and until we start purging our heads of this dangerous illusion and acknowledge the devastation it has caused, we’re only shoveling oiled sand between catastrophes.

Robert Reich has a similar take.

Common Dreams, Monsanto hid decades of pollution
HuffPost/Ronnie Cummins, Monsanto’s Poison Pills for Haiti
NRDC, Historic cleanup of Hudson River begins; Will G.E. finish the job?
Reuters, FDA probes hundreds of children drug complaints
NYT, Deaths at W.Va coal mine raise safety issues
Seminal, Financial Crisis Commission, Why can’t people sue these crooks?
Emptywheel/bmaz, Scott Block cops a plea for bloching justice
HuffPost/Travis Walter Donovan, What to eat; what to avoid