When You’ve Lost Ezra Klein….

A portrait of a smiling Ezra Klein
Even Ezra Klein has turned on Obama over the fiscal cliff.

President Obama campaigned for re-election on one central theme: those who’ve done well in America should pay more of their fair share. If you asked the lowest-information voter of 2012, s/he could probably tell you that Obama wanted to raise taxes on people making more than a quarter-million dollars a year. $250,000 was a number woven into every speech he made.

And, now, he seems to have abandoned even this benchmark as part of his ‘negotiation’ on the fiscal cliff.

Ezra Klein, loyal Administration mouthpiece, has noticed:

But after Obama won on a platform that was barely about anything aside from letting those tax cuts expire, it seemed inevitable he’d get it done. It was his due.

To the GOP’s delight, that no longer seems to be the case. In the Obama-Boehner negotiations, the White House offered to raise the threshold from $250,000 to $400,000. McConnell, in his negotiations with Harry Reid and now Joe Biden, has been trying to raise that to $500,000. It’s clear to the Republicans that they will get past the fiscal cliff with a smaller tax increase than they thought. Perhaps much smaller. Huzzah!

This negotiating-with-himself that Barack Obama specializes in has taken us to a familiar place, and Ezra Klein seems unafraid to point it out in the pixels of the Washington Post:

All this raises the tantalizing prospect for Republicans that they could end these negotiations having given up less tax revenue than they ever thought possible — less tax revenue than Boehner offered Obama, even — but still getting their entitlement cuts. Oh, and because there was never a big deal, they won’t have to agree to much stimulus, either. All in all, a pretty big win, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the White House’s baffling inability to stick to a negotiating position.

Ezra Klein could always be previously relied on to cheer the magnificence of the Emperor’s new negotiating clothes as each capitulation was paraded in front of the Punditocracy. For him to acknowledge Obama’s nakedness now may mean that Village Orthodoxy is breaking down, and our Elite Media is tiring, even before his second Inauguration, of Obama’s pretense of not doing the exact bidding of the plutocracy.

When everyone sees, and says, that a better deal is to be had post-Cliff, and the president is racing to make a deal pre-Cliff, the story that he’s working hard for middle-class taxpayers starts to wear a little thin. When Ezra Klein notices, and says so, the president may be in real trouble finding Elite Opinion to back his Deal, Grand Bargain or no.

(more…)

No Deal! House Expected To Adjourn Without Fiscal Cliff Vote

Even if the Senate comes up with a deal tonight the United States of America is still likely to go off the “fiscal cliff”:

President Obama said Monday that Congress is making progress on a short-term “fiscal cliff” deal, but it is increasingly clear as a midnight deadline approaches that Washington will have to fix the impending tax hikes and spending cuts retroactively.

House Republicans advised members Monday afternoon that no votes were expected on a final deal tonight, but cautioned that the situation is “very fluid.”…

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he will bring to the floor whatever passes the Senate, but he has cautioned that his chamber reserves the right to amend — or defeat — the proposal.

This is in no way surprising given how this has played out. But one wonders – can Boehner get this done Tuesday? Wednesday? Ever?

(more…)

Obama Will Keep Pushing for More Deficit Deals

President Obama says he will continue his quest for "balanced deficit reduction" -- basically code for cutting entitlements

The most important piece of news to come from President Obama’s strange TV address this afternoon is that he will remain heavily focused on trying to get a grand bargain-style deal to reduce the deficit. President Obama referred to previous cuts in 2011 and a potential deal to raise taxes on the rich as steps toward his overall goal of deficit reduction, but said they were not enough. He called for even more deficit reduction deals in the near future.

From Obama’s speech:

It may be we can do it in stages. We’re going to solve this problem instead in several steps.

Last year, in 2011, we started reducing the deficit through $1 trillion in spending cuts. Those have already taken place. The agreement being worked on right now would further reduce the deficit by asking the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay higher taxes for the first time in two decades. So that would add additional hundreds of billions of dollars to deficit reduction. So that’s progress, but we’re going to need to do more.

[…]

And I want to make clear that any agreement we have to deal with these automatic spending cuts that are being threatened for next month, those also have to be balanced, because, remember, my principle always has been let’s do things in a balanced, responsible way. And that means the revenues have to be part of the equation in turning off the sequester and eliminating these automatic spending cuts, as well as spending cuts.

Now, the same is true for any future deficit agreement. Obviously we’re going to have to do more to reduce our debt and our deficit. I’m willing to do more, but it’s going to have to be balanced. We’re going to have do it in a balanced responsible way. (emphasis mine)

This in unfortunate to say the least. Obama could have chosen this moment to basically declare victory on the deficit. He could have said that this roughly $700 billion in revenue, combined with previous cuts from earlier deals, savings from previous government freezes and potential Medicare savings resulting from Obamacare would together constitute having sufficiently “addressed” our long-term deficit for the time being.

Obama could have used this revenue-increasing deal to finally pivot to immigration, education, climate change, gun control or any of a dozen other issues that have been completely neglected while Washington has been overwhelmed with deficit hysteria. There is no shortage of more pressing problems in America that need to be dealt with. Instead Obama seems to be signalling that much of his second term is also going to be consumed with his desire to get a balanced deal to reduce the deficit, and in Washington “balanced deficit reduction” is basically the code word for cutting entitlements.

This potential revenue increase is not big enough to break Obama deficit fever.

When You’ve Lost Ezra Klein …

President Obama campaigned for re-election on one central theme: those who’ve done well in America should pay more of their fair share. If you asked the lowest-information voter of 2012, s/he could probably tell you that Obama wanted to raise taxes on people making more than a quarter-million dollars a year. $250,000 was a number woven into every speech he made.

A portrait of a smiling Ezra Klein
Even Ezra Klein has turned on Obama over the fiscal cliff.

And, now, he seems to have abandoned even this benchmark as part of his ‘negotiation’ on the fiscal cliff.

Ezra Klein, loyal Administration mouthpiece, has noticed:

But after Obama won on a platform that was barely about anything aside from letting those tax cuts expire, it seemed inevitable he’d get it done. It was his due.

To the GOP’s delight, that no longer seems to be the case. In the Obama-Boehner negotiations, the White House offered to raise the threshold from $250,000 to $400,000. McConnell, in his negotiations with Harry Reid and now Joe Biden, has been trying to raise that to $500,000. It’s clear to the Republicans that they will get past the fiscal cliff with a smaller tax increase than they thought. Perhaps much smaller. Huzzah!

This negotiating-with-himself that Barack Obama specializes in has taken us to a familiar place, and Ezra Klein seems unafraid to point it out in the pixels of the Washington Post:

All this raises the tantalizing prospect for Republicans that they could end these negotiations having given up less tax revenue than they ever thought possible — less tax revenue than Boehner offered Obama, even — but still getting their entitlement cuts. Oh, and because there was never a big deal, they won’t have to agree to much stimulus, either. All in all, a pretty big win, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the White House’s baffling inability to stick to a negotiating position.

Ezra Klein could always be previously relied on to cheer the magnificence of the Emperor’s new negotiating clothes as each capitulation was paraded in front of the Punditocracy. For him to acknowledge Obama’s nakedness now may mean that Village Orthodoxy is breaking down, and our Elite Media is tiring, even before his second Inauguration, of Obama’s pretense of not doing the exact bidding of the plutocracy.

When everyone sees, and says, that a better deal is to be had post-Cliff, and the president is racing to make a deal pre-Cliff, the story that he’s working hard for middle-class taxpayers starts to wear a little thin. When Ezra Klein notices, and says so, the president may be in real trouble finding Elite Opinion to back his Deal, Grand Bargain or no.

(more…)

Anti-Leaks Provision in Intelligence Authorization Bill May Encourage Selective Leaking

The White House shared classified information about the bin Laden killing while concealing key aspects & refusing to fill FOIA requests

Though most of the anti-leaks proposals in the Senate were dropped from the intelligence authorization bill, one provision remains in the bill that could potentially encourage selective leaking.

One section of the bill requires government officials “responsible for making certain authorized disclosures of national intelligence or intelligence related to national security to notify congressional intelligence committees on a timely basis with respect to such disclosures.”

The bill indicates the intent of the provision is to ensure committees are made aware of such disclosures so they can be “distinguished from unauthorized ‘leaks.’” However, Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News points out “authorized disclosures” are a category of information that have never been a part of Executive Branch policy:

…This is an unprecedented legislative definition (or recognition) of a category of information that has no explicit basis in executive branch policy– namely, authorized disclosures of classified information to an uncleared member of the press or the public.  (“Can Disclosures of Classified Information Be Authorized?”, Secrecy News, December 19, 2012).  While disclosures of classified information to the press obviously occur, the official authorization for such disclosures, if it exists at all, has always remained tacit.  (There is an exception for life-threatening emergencies, in which classified information may be disclosed to first-responders and the like.)

The new provision notably applies to all “government officials,” including White House officials.  It may oblige the Administration either to abstain from authorized disclosures of classified intelligence to the press, or to revise its policies to more clearly permit such disclosures, or to somehow evade the new reporting requirement, perhaps by defining it away.  Thus, for example, Vice President Dick Cheney stated in 2004 that classified information could be used “to shape and inform what one says publicly” without violating prohibitions on disclosure of classified information…

Recall, the “leaks” that motivated the hysteria, which led to the anti-leaks proposals being considered and proposed by the Senate, involved national security information involving cyber warfare against Iran, Obama’s “kill list” and a CIA underwear bomb plot sting operation in Yemen. Some, if not most of the information, was probably classified or considered sensitive before an official divulged or confirmed details for stories that were published.

The stories on the Obama administration’s policy toward cyber warfare and targeted killings with drones were seen as making the administration look tough and aggressive on national security in en election year. Like stories that included previously classified information on the operation that ended in the execution of Osama bin Laden, the officials were essentially able to share what they considered to be positive or justifiable about the programs while at the same time concealing key aspects by not talking openly in press conferences or refusing to fill Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Obama Will Keep Pushing for More Deficit Deals

President Obama says he will continue his quest for "balanced deficit reduction" -- basically code for cutting entitlements
The most important piece of news to come from President Obama’s strange TV address this afternoon is that he will remain heavily focused on trying to get a grand bargain-style deal to reduce the deficit. President Obama referred to previous cuts in 2011 and a potential deal to raise taxes on the rich as steps toward his overall goal of deficit reduction, but said they were not enough. He called for even more deficit reduction deals in the near future.

From Obama’s speech:

It may be we can do it in stages. We’re going to solve this problem instead in several steps.

Last year, in 2011, we started reducing the deficit through $1 trillion in spending cuts. Those have already taken place. The agreement being worked on right now would further reduce the deficit by asking the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans to pay higher taxes for the first time in two decades. So that would add additional hundreds of billions of dollars to deficit reduction. So that’s progress, but we’re going to need to do more.

[…]

And I want to make clear that any agreement we have to deal with these automatic spending cuts that are being threatened for next month, those also have to be balanced, because, remember, my principle always has been let’s do things in a balanced, responsible way. And that means the revenues have to be part of the equation in turning off the sequester and eliminating these automatic spending cuts, as well as spending cuts.

Now, the same is true for any future deficit agreement. Obviously we’re going to have to do more to reduce our debt and our deficit. I’m willing to do more, but it’s going to have to be balanced. We’re going to have do it in a balanced responsible way. (emphasis mine)

This in unfortunate to say the least. Obama could have chosen this moment to basically declare victory on the deficit. He could have said that this roughly $700 billion in revenue, combined with previous cuts from earlier deals, savings from previous government freezes and potential Medicare savings resulting from Obamacare would together constitute having sufficiently “addressed” our long-term deficit for the time being.

Obama could have used this revenue-increasing deal to finally pivot to immigration, education, climate change, gun control or any of a dozen other issues that have been completely neglected while Washington has been overwhelmed with deficit hysteria. There is no shortage of more pressing problems in America that need to be dealt with. Instead Obama seems to be signalling that much of his second term is also going to be consumed with his desire to get a balanced deal to reduce the deficit, and in Washington “balanced deficit reduction” is basically the code word for cutting entitlements.

This potential revenue increase is not big enough to break Obama deficit fever.

Anti-Leaks Provision in Intelligence Authorization Bill May Encourage Selective Leaking

The White House shared classified information about the bin Laden killing while concealing key aspects & refusing to fill FOIA requests

Though most of the anti-leaks proposals in the Senate were droppedfrom the intelligence authorization bill, one provision remains in the bill that could potentially encourage selective leaking.

One section of the bill requires government officials “responsible for making certain authorized disclosures of national intelligence or intelligence related to national security to notify congressional intelligence committees on a timely basis with respect to such disclosures.”

The bill indicates the intent of the provision is to ensure committees are made aware of such disclosures so they can be “distinguished from unauthorized ‘leaks.'” However, Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News points out “authorized disclosures” are a category of information that have never been a part of Executive Branch policy:

…This is an unprecedented legislative definition (or recognition) of a category of information that has no explicit basis in executive branch policy– namely, authorized disclosures of classified information to an uncleared member of the press or the public.  (“Can Disclosures of Classified Information Be Authorized?”, Secrecy News, December 19, 2012).  While disclosures of classified information to the press obviously occur, the official authorization for such disclosures, if it exists at all, has always remained tacit.  (There is an exception for life-threatening emergencies, in which classified information may be disclosed to first-responders and the like.)

The new provision notably applies to all “government officials,” including White House officials.  It may oblige the Administration either to abstain from authorized disclosures of classified intelligence to the press, or to revise its policies to more clearly permit such disclosures, or to somehow evade the new reporting requirement, perhaps by defining it away.  Thus, for example, Vice President Dick Cheney stated in 2004 that classified information could be used “to shape and inform what one says publicly” without violating prohibitions on disclosure of classified information…

Recall, the “leaks” that motivated the hysteria, which led to the anti-leaks proposals being considered and proposed by the Senate, involved national security information involving cyber warfare against Iran, Obama’s “kill list” and a CIA underwear bomb plot sting operation in Yemen. Some, if not most of the information, was probably classified or considered sensitive before an official divulged or confirmed details for stories that were published.

The stories on the Obama administration’s policy toward cyber warfare and targeted killings with drones were seen as making the administration look tough and aggressive on national security in en election year. Like stories that included previously classified information on the operation that ended in the execution of Osama bin Laden, the officials were essentially able to share what they considered to be positive or justifiable about the programs while at the same time concealing key aspects by not talking openly in press conferences or refusing to fill Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

As Glenn Greenwald has written, the Obama administration flagrantly abuses its “secrecy powers.” The administration “uses anonymous leaks to selectively boast about what it does and thus shape media narratives and public understanding of its conduct.” It then “simultaneously insists that the whole matter is classified — Top Secret — when it comes time to be subjected to any form of legal accountability or have its assertions publicly tested.” In short, it engages in the production of propaganda and that is, in effect, what the anti-leaks provision could make more permissible.

Additionally, the inclusion of the provision reflects the reality that this may have been more about Congress than national security from the start. Congress members like to go on television and wail about risks to national security caused by “leaks,” but if they are authorized by a presidential administration—a part of some information operation, those individuals can look pretty foolish. Often, Congress is not informed of what is going on with covert operations or acts the Executive Branch wishes to keep concealed. If a journalist or news organization has managed to uncover corruption and the Executive Branch wants to do damage control or perception management, Congress would like to be filled in ahead of time so as not to look wholly incompetent.

It was not a given that the anti-leaks proposals would be removed. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon placed a public hold on the intelligence authorization bill, which he intended to keep until meaningful debate or amendments to the provisions were allowed.  This was instrumental in leading to their removal. Had they been in the bill, they would have put potential whistleblowers at further risk of retaliation while also imposing increased restrictions on the free flow of information.

*

This episode represents a conflict that will continue in the year ahead and merit detailed coverage (yet one can almost guarantee it will receive scant coverage by establishment media).

The political class abhors transparency because it means national security matters are subject to more scrutiny. The Obama administration and intelligence community gravitate toward relying on covert or secret operations because they can keep them from being constrained by the law or politics. Congress is mostly willing to allow this to occur under their nose (so long as a few senators are kept informed of the basis for justification for such operations). Judges are all too willing to show deference toward the Executive Branch and allow whatever conduct to go on and shield officials from accountability for abuses of the law or civil liberties violations.

The culture of secrecy means whistleblowers are increasingly targeted as criminals or, worse, traitors. Meanwhile, the Surveillance State is increasingly entrenched. The government wants to have full access to information on all people of the world, including Americans. It will use loopholes or bogus justifications like “protecting national security” to violate civil liberties. It will arbitrarily target people of color without probable cause. It will seize electronic devices, violate individuals’ privacy and subject them to legal harassment. It will put people on lists and deprive them of adequate due process to challenge inclusion on lists that restrict their ability to travel (e.g. “No Fly” list) or make them targets for capture or death (e.g. “Kill Lists”). The State will also go after dissidents or vulnerable people in the hopes of sweeping them up in entrapment schemes (which officials call “sting operations”).

The government engages in secret operations. It develops more and more secret law each day to justify the secret surveillance and secret acts of the national security state. Those who poke holes in the shell of secrecy that conceals activities are targeted to the fullest extent. And at the same time officials enjoy the freedom to decide in secret what information should and should not be shared so that the public can be propagandized through “leaks” into supporting or accepting acts which should be seen as a threat to freedom and open society.

Liveblog: #IdleNoMore in DC

Drummers are at the Canadian Embassy in DC now:

http://www.ustream.tv/occupycarlisle

Video streaming by Ustream

Come by and Chat!

Update 1:

Here are some photos by way of the Twitter posts announcing them:

YourMediaTeam ?@OCCUPYCARLISLE
“@krzyndn13: http://instagr.am/p/T60JFoD7g3/ ” #IdleNoMore DC photo
3:47 PM – 31 Dec 12 · Details

YourMediaTeam ?@OCCUPYCARLISLE
“@krzyndn13: http://instagr.am/p/T60imDj7hk/ ” #IdleNoMore DC
3:47 PM – 31 Dec 12 · Details

YourMediaTeam ?@OCCUPYCARLISLE
“@krzyndn13: http://instagr.am/p/T60tjhD7h3/ ” #IdleNoMore photo
3:48 PM – 31 Dec 12 · Details

Jamerson ?@krzyndn13

#idlenomore

A photo posted by @krzyndn13 on


3:27 PM – 31 Dec 12 · Details

Update 2:

An archive of video shot today by @OccupyCarlisle of #IdleNoMore in DC in front of the Canadian Embassy

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/28168264
Video streaming by Ustream

More photos (44) here via @OccupyCarlisle!

2012: Another Year in Mainstream Media Malpractice

Corporate news whitewash

As we ring in 2013, it’s time to recognize how the major media buries the issues most important to Americans. With newsrooms focusing so much right now on the fiscal cliff and gun rights, it’s instructive to see nobody looking at the heart of either issue.

But even bigger issues face us, now in the fifth year of prolonged recession and the second decade of a debt-fueled war on terror. It’s more evident each year how “professional” journalists are unable or unwilling to report on reality-based news, making them ever more feeble.

The major media is not useless to you just because of billionaire ownership, it’s also the non-disclosure clauses in contracts that prevent anchors or reporters from telling the story behind the story. Final editorial control over what goes out over the air causes major behind-the-scenes conflict. Even when marquee names try to blow the whistle, the contractual gags always hold in the end.

The Fiscal Cliff
This could be settled quickly if the news simply said “House GOP favors needless tax cuts for rich in continuing class warfare”. Friday night we even saw President Obama dance around this millionaire money grab in his presser, blaming Congress only in vague terms for the manufactured crisis – but the media is worse, long avoiding the stark reality that the Bush tax cuts for the rich have poor stimulative effect, fail to create jobs, produce inadequate revenue and add debt.

When Republicans crow about some economic benefit, they are simply lying, helped along by Fox News and right wing talk radio, but the rest of the media also won’t debunk the slick talk in simple language, leaving voters unable to sort the mumbo jumbo. Obama flirted with the facts last week, adding to his talking points for the first time that middle class tax cuts are for “97% of small businesses” as well as 98% of income earners. But most media refuses to call out Republicans voting to continue the wealth extraction from our economy.

Gun Control
The gun issue is also a lark, a perennial wedge issue exploited in elections to divide voters over tribal lines using fear, chest-puffing, passion plays and subliminal racism. If the news reported plainly that the rise in gun availability is statistically linked to tragic outcomes, most would see that buying a firearm increases the chances someone in their household will end up shot over the long term. Instead, media tells us to arm for an eventual government siege – or the boogeyman next door.

Obama’s Non-Prosecution of Fraud
2012 marked the failures of media again, refusing to call out Eric Holder and the Department of Justice for selling justice as five-year statutes of limitations expire. Obama’s immunity deal with the biggest mortgage banks took away vast accountability for the 2008 economic collapse, for pennies on the dollar. All but a handful of state Attorneys General signed on to the deal along with the SEC and HUD. By contrast, 1,000 indictments resulted from the Savings and Loan fraud scandal of the late 1980s.

Obama’s DOJ also turned a blind eye to a massive overseas bribery scandal involving Walmart and their ultra-wealthy top executives, a corruption scandal still unfolding as investigations confirm whistleblower charges that went ignored until the evidence was handed to the NY Times. Oops. Expect the executive branch to be simply “cut in” for billions on Mexican plunder when Walmart’s deferred prosecution settlement is briefly announced on news stations receiving millions in Walmart ad revenue.

Industry Ads Trump Science in Hydrofracking Debate
2012 revelations about hydrofracking show the practice is inarguably a poor choice for our children. Even as advertisers blitz TV and radio with ads about “safe, clean fracking” (you can see these ads every night on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show) crucial facts that surfaced this year went down the rabbit hole. Campaign contributions tantalize lawmakers, but just when we needed the science made public, we saw the networks contaminated by industry cash.

For example, internal industry documents obtained by Gasland director Josh Fox show that new wells fail at the rate of 6%. With the passage of decades of erosion, land shifting and seismic activity, many more abandoned wells will fail as well. Our children will be burdened with monitoring and repairing these wells indefinitely, long after our generation pissed away the energy. Contrast this to Denmark or Germany who are leaving their children a legacy of free, lasting clean energy, by investing today in solar panels and wind turbines.

FCC Unaware Of Federal Communications Law (more…)

Obama Ready to Fold on Tax Rates

During the campaign President Obama’s big promise was to end the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000 a year. After the election Obama made some very firm statements about sticking to this promise, but it now looks like the administration will abandon it in the deal being worked out between VP Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

President Obama backed away from his $250,000 demand earlier as part of a possible far-reaching deal with Speaker John Boehner. Yet even though that big deal fell apart, Obama still let the GOP basically pocket this concession in this new smaller deal. It is this concession to the GOP that seems to have so angered Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and made him say that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

How much revenue will lost because of moving the rate to $400,000 may end up being less important than how this move affects all negotiations moving forward.

First, it signals to the GOP that Obama simple can’t draw lines in the sand. If Obama says he will not negotiate on something (say, the debt ceiling), any Republicans would be foolish to believe he won’t. Obama has never held firm before, and there is no reason to expect him to in the future.

Second, it again reinforced that the best negotiation tactic with Obama is for the Republicans to be purposely disingenuous. The GOP should pretend to be close to a deal so Obama publicly says what concessions he will make, only to have the GOP predictably blow up the deal. After that, the GOP can start negotiations again but use Obama’s concessions as the new goal posts.  Works every time.

After Obama again reinforced his image of weakness, I shudder to think how the next fight will go when Democrats inherently have significantly less leverage.