So...funny thing. After yesterday's BradCast on KPFK, I drove the delightful Desi Doyen (of our Green News Report) out to The Young Turks' studio where she was scheduled to guest host once again last night. Two minutes or so before airtime, the third guest-host had yet to arrive. Guess who was drafted into last-minute duty?
Unshaven, jacket-free and prep-less, the show went on. With Desi, myself, and the great Jimmy Dore on board, it was an all-KPFK/Pacifica Radio episode of TYT, to boot!
We discussed, among other things, the mass stabbing in TX yesterday (where nobody died!); Rand Paul's claim that Republicans and he are civil rights champions; Obama's attempt to slash Social Security; and the plan for a vote in the U.S. Senate on a gun sale background check bill.
Below are a few short edited video segments with the three of us on last night's lively hour of The Young Turks [Update 4/16/2013 - The Turks have posted a few more clips --- including our discussion about Pat Robertson and climate change denier extraordinaire Rep. Joe Barton --- so I've also now added those below as well]...
A week or two ago, after seeing Attorney General Eric Holder, in Senate testimony, pretend that he was "concerned" about a lack of prosecution of big banks due to their being too large, I described his claims, in a bit of a rant here as "complete bullshit".
This exchange --- by Congressional committee proxy --- got a bit more buried than it deserved to be amidst a week of important (Rand Paul's drone filibuster) and not so important (Presidential/Congressional dinner dates!) news items last week.
You may have already seen both of these clips. But just in case you haven't, the remarks made during two different Congressional hearings last week illustrate the very heart of the most broken part of our broken government, so I wanted to be sure to at least flag these two short videos here.
The first was Attorney General Eric Holder's remarkable admission last week, when asked about why one the world's largest banks, such as HSBC --- which admitted to some $881 million dollars in drug cartel money laundering and working with regimes in a number of countries around the world in blatant violation of human rights sanctions against them --- have not been brought to trial by the Obama Dept. of Justice...
"The concern that you have raised is one that I, frankly, share," Holder responded to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-NE). "I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large."
"It has an inhibiting influence --- impact --- on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate," he continued. "So, the concern that you raise is actually one that I share."
With all due respect to AG Holder --- and he is due very, very little --- what he just said is, to the best of my knowledge, complete bullshit. While I'm not an expert in financial law, I am familiar with no clause in any of those laws which offers a "get out of jail free card" to institutions who have become so large that prosecuting them would have "a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy."
I know of no provisions in the criminal code which says that if your corporation has become large enough that facing criminal prosecution might make the world markets jittery, you don't have to face prosecution for those crimes. In fact, we still have anti-trust laws on the books to deal with exactly those situations --- cases in which corporations have become so powerful, have such a monopolistic effect on the market, that they may be broken up by the Dept. of Justice, or even taken over and then sold off piece meal to bring the company back into manageable size again.
The next day, in another U.S. Senate hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), expressed a similar sentiment, in a must-see video clip, absolutely slamming U.S. Treasury regulators for their lack of willingness to take action against some of the most criminal corporations, such as HSBC.
"What does it take to get you to consider shutting down a bank for money laundering?!," she asked the regulators who couldn't respond as to the last time a bank had been prosecuted for this sort of thing. "How many billions of dollars before somebody says we're shutting you down?"...
As the Dow hit its all-time record high yesterday (continuing same today) and while corporate profits continue to hit record highs along with it --- underscoring, yet again, that Barack Obama is the worst socialist ever --- there are a couple more charts worth reminding you about today, courtesy of Rachel Maddow's show last night...
And while corporate profits sky-rocket, unemployment slowly (really slowly) improves, and Republicans hold the nation hostage with the "Sequester" by refusing to close any tax loopholes for the rich which might serve to increase revenues by even the tiniest amount, there is this chart to ponder...
So, remember, when you hear Republicans claim they are concerned about "the deficit", they are not. They are flat out lying. They are concerned only about maintaining low taxes and sky-high profits for corporations and the rich people who need those tax-payer funded giveaways the least.
Yes, Washington D.C. and the corporate media which cover it, are spending a whole lot of time and resources playing into what amounts to a massive presentation of kabuki theater, and its not one that actually helps us with the addition of new jobs or economic growth in any real way whatsoever. Arguably, as Spross explains, it may well accomplish just the opposite.
It's difficult to select just the key passages from the piece, as mentioned, since it's chock full of smart analysis throughout. But, for those without the patience to read the whole thing, here are a few of the central thoughts that you should educate yourself about...
The massive operating deficits that have driven the U.S. Post Office to announce an end to delivery of First Class mail on Saturdays, beginning in August, are not the product of postal service ineptitude. Those deficits are not the product of increased public access to emails or from competition by private delivery services like UPS or FedEx.
The U.S. Postal Service has been victimized by the Orwellian-labeled Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA), which embodies a scheme designed to destroy the constitutionally established U.S. Postal Service in order to privatize mail and parcel delivery. In a lame duck session, at the peak of the USPS' profitability and productivity, a then Republican-controlled Congress forced the U.S. Postal Service "to pre-fund 75 years worth of pensions" in the span of ten years, "a requirement not made of any other public or private institution." If not for the onerous and unprecedented requirements of the PAEA, the U.S. Postal Service, which is not funded by any taxes, would now be experiencing a $1.5 billion surplus.
The contrived demise of the postal service must be understood within the broader subversive goals of libertarian and right wing philosophy --- a philosophy which, despite the express provisions of both the Preamble and Article I of the U.S. Constitution, rejects the right of government to "promote the general welfare"...
From Bill Maher's "New Rules" on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher last Friday...
And finally, new rule, America needs to show it's the home of the brave...by acting like it.
Did you know that the defense budget of the United States is bigger than the defense budgets of the next thirteen countries combined, most of whom are allies and none of whom are enemies?
So, lemme ask you: If a guy on your block was so frightened of mostly non-existent prowlers that he spent all of his resources on alarm systems and guns and cameras --- so much so that he didn't even have enough money left to maintain his home or send his kids to college --- would you call him "brave"?
* * *
By the way, here's what those courageous numbers look like...
And, for those who've heard about the "devastating" $500 billion in spending cuts to our military budget that will soon come as a result of the 2011 "sequestration" deal if a new accommodation isn't worked out, here's what those numbers will look like...
While the short answer is that it is no doubt protected against criminal prosecution by the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution, one can't help but think of how the successive efforts by radical 'Tea Party' Republicans, first during the manufactured "fiscal cliff" crisis, and now by way of holding a figurative gun to the head of the nation's and world's economy, in order to extract concessions that would destroy the New Deal safety net (see two Jan. 14 segments of the Ed Schultz show below), resembles the crime of extortion, perhaps even treason.
For those of us who live in California, this latest round of GOP hostage-taking comes as no surprise. Year-after-year, the CA GOP utilized the Golden State's requirement of a 2/3 vote for passage of either spending or revenue enhancing measures as a means to force austerity, such as former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's draconian $15 billion cuts to education and health care. By refusing to pass a budget, the CA GOP at one point forced the state controller to issue $2.6 billion in IOUs. And, all during the CA GOP reign of economic terror, the Golden State's budget deficit expanded --- reaching an indebtedness in excess of $20 billion despite those massive cuts.
Democracy struck back. The percentage of CA voters who are registered Republicans dropped to less than 30%. During the 2012 election, CA voters passed a relatively progressive, revenue-enhancing tax measure supported by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) by a wide margin and the GOP's ability to hold the state hostage was eliminated when Democrats achieved a super-majority in the state legislature.
As a result, fiscal sanity was restored. CA is now on track to achieving a budget surplus even as $5.2 billion has been added to the state's school, university and health care budgets.
It is appropriate that President Barack Obama, who unfortunately lacks a record of holding fast to principle, has, so far, stated that he will not give in to the latest extortion demands concerning the upcoming need to raise the debt ceiling once again. But, given the nature of the far greater damage to both the U.S. and even global economy that could be wrought by the Congressional GOP's latest round of hostage-taking, can the nation or the world await a subsequent election to deal with extortion by an organization, the so-called 'Tea Party,' that is funded and controlled by the rapacious billionaires Charles and David Koch, whose Koch Industries was described by William Koch, David's twin, as a form of "organized crime?"
Two 1/14/2013 segments of MSNBC's The Ed Show addressing GOP hostage-taking on the debt ceiling follow below...
We're busy with today's BradCast on KPFK, so, until later, here are a few items that may, or may not, matter to you this afternoon...
• President Obama names Vice-President Biden to head up a task force to work on new gun safety regulations to be submitted to him by January. Press conference transcript here.
• Supreme Court rulings on what gun control measures are allowed by the 2nd Amendment are actually quite narrow and leave a lot of room for further interpretation and rulings. Here's a quick legal analysis of where the court seems to stand at the moment.
• 3 State Dept. officials resign after a report on Benghazi attack finds "grossly inadequate" security measures at the U.S. consulate on the night Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed last September 11th. "We did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability," said report panelist Adm. Mike Mullen. In response, Sec. of State Hillary Clinton accepted all 29 of the panel's recommendations, while nursing her reported recent concussion that has, to date, kept her from testifying to Congress on the matter.
• Something or other occurred today in regards to the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations, but we couldn't care less what it was. At this point, after Sandy Hook, the "fiscal cliff" stupidity feels a whole lot like the "Summer of Sharks" did, in retrospect, after 9/11. Of course, after Obama's prepared remarks at his presser on guns today, the D.C. press wanted to ask him, almost exclusively, about "fiscal cliff" bullshit. Same as it ever was.
45 Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House are calling on Congressional leadership in both chambers to cut $100 billion from a "bloated nuclear weapons budget" as part of the ongoing so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, issued a press release citing the letter sent to House Speaker John Boehner (R), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) and Senators Harry Reid (D) and Mitch McConell (R) charging that "Our oversized nuclear weapons arsenal fails to reflect historic reality" and that "Our spending on radioactive relics of the past requires a reality check" after the successful conclusion of the Cold War.
The 45 House Dems list unnecessary current expenditures for "refurbishing a nuclear bomb that no one wants…a Uranium processing facility we do not need…a nuclear bomber when the ones we have will last for decades."
The letter, (posted in full below) implores leadership:
Cut Minuteman missiles. Do not cut Medicare and Medicaid. Cut nuclear-armed B-52 and B-2 bombers. Do not cut Social Security. Invest in the research and education that will drive our future prosperity, not in weapons for a war we already won.
While the letter from the largely progressive Congressional members appears to be a rational step in the right direction, it raises additional questions. Among them: (1) Given that two nations, the U.S. and Russia, possess 95% of the world’s nuclear arsenals, and given that each nation’s individual arsenal is capable of destroying all life on the planet many times over, does it make sense to simply trim only $100 billion from an estimated $640 billion in nuclear weapons expenditures scheduled over the next ten years? (2) Why not couple the immediate request to trim $100 billion from the nuclear weapons budget with a call for a joint resolution of Congress calling upon the President to initiate negotiations under the auspices of the U.N. for a multilateral Treaty that would entail the eventual dismantling of all nuclear arsenals?...
After four years of lousy bills, or lack thereof, brought about through unnecessary concessions, it seems as though the President has finally learned something, at least: how to make an opening bid in a negotiation.
As Josh Marshall aptly described the two party's relative positions in the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" negotiations (the specifics of which are broken down by Ezra Klein at the bottom of this article for anybody, understandably, not paying attention to all of this silliness):
There’s no way to understand the jousting and positioning over the ‘fiscal cliff’ without understanding the following facts: Both President Obama and congressional Republicans are moving right along to the edge of the cliff. Both say they’re ready to go over the edge. Only President Obama is gliding along in a hot air balloon and John Boehner and co. are on foot. So the repercussions over going over the edge are quite different. And both sides know it.
The take away here is that it's a welcome change of pace that Obama not only seems to understand his upper hand in these negotiations, but he's finally learned to actually negotiate on that basis this time around.
One of our earliest and most consistent complaints about Obama has been his embarrassingly dreadful negotiation skills. In fact, that was one of our earliest documented complaints about him, way back in April of 2007.
We were reminded once again about his lousy negotiation skills in August of 2011 when he gave away the store during that year's "hostage crisis," as Congressional Republicans were then holding the routine matter of voting to raise the debt ceiling --- and both the American and global economy along with it --- hostage to extreme spending cuts.
Here's what we wrote in 2011, harkening back to our initial warning about Obama's horrific negotiation skills back in 2007...
The Oct. 23, 2012 Third Party Presidential Debate between four candidates vying, along with President Obama and Mitt Romney, for the office of the U.S. Presidency, provided a rare, yet valuable glimpse at what a genuine, representative American democracy might look like. The worthy discussion, at the very least, should be read via text transcript, exclusively available here at The BRAD BLOG, for those who lack the time to watch the ninety minute video, embedded below.
Unlike Democracy Now's three expanded debates, which presented third party candidate responses to the questions posed at the three "official" Presidential debates and one Vice-Presidential debate sponsored by the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates, the Oct. 23 debate provided a forum that was not tethered to what co-moderator Christina Tobin of the Free and Equal Foundation, the organizers, described as "the private interests who control our beliefs, our opinions and our lives." Here, questions were neither posed directly by, nor filtered through corporate media-controlled moderators. Rather, they were presented, word-for-word, as submitted by citizens through social media.
With the single exception of the failure of Libertarian Candidate and former New Mexico Republican Governor Gary Johnson to say where he stood on "top-two" primaries (aka "Cajun primaries"), it was a debate in which all candidates left no room for doubt as to where they stood. It was a debate that included in-depth discussion on a wide variety of issues of vital importance, many of which were understandably evaded not only by the two major party Presidential candidates, but by the corporate media in the official debates, because those issues conflict with corporate wealth and power, including the wealth of the corporate-owned media.
It was a debate that began with Tobin's promise of future debates between "more candidates at every level of government" and ended with her surprise announcement of a final, foreign policy debate, next Tuesday, Oct. 30, commencing at 9:00 p.m. ET, broadcast via RT America, between two of the four candidates to be selected via an [ugh] online, instant run-off vote...