The elderly poor --- there are a whole lot of them
This report by the Kaiser Family Foundation about elder poverty is shocking. I don't think people realize just how many millions of people are barely subsisting in their old age, but it's many more than the government likes to admit to. Just as with the Chained-CPI, we're dealing with how they are accounted for rather than the actual numbers these people are forced to live on.
Dylan Matthews explains why elder poverty is so much worse than we realize:
While the SPM takes transfer payments into account, it does the same with out-of-pocket medical costs. If you’re an unmarried senior with no dependents, make $15,000 a year, and spend $10,000 of it on medical care, under the official poverty measure you’d most likely not count as poor, as $15,000 is above the 2012 poverty threshold for a single senior ($11,011).
But under the SPM, you’d count as poor as $15,000 – $10,000 = $5,000, which is below the relevant SPM threshold. And despite having Medicare, many seniors struggle with out-of-pocket medical bills. As my colleague Michelle Singletary pointed out over the weekend, the Employee Benefit Research Institute has found Medicare only pays for about 60 percent of seniors’ total health costs. Sarah has written about how out-of-pocket costs tend to pile up particularly at the end of seniors’ lives.
Can you believe that we're actually talking about whether or not $15,000 counts as poverty in America in the first place? And then it turns out they aren't counting what these old people have to lay in medicare costs! That's just mind-boggling.
In any case, the article is very interesting and shows that some of the places with the highest elderly poverty are in places like California where 20% of SS recipients are in poverty.
And yet, the president and members of both parties have been talking about cutting benefits. Unbelievable.
As always when I read about the necessity of a guaranteed old age pension that keeps people living in dignified circumstances after they are too old to work, I'm reminded of this great article by Arthur Delaney and Ryan Grim from a few years ago:
An employee of Associated Charities, a private organization dedicated to alleviating poverty in the District of Columbia, met an old black woman carrying a basket of cinders near the dump in Southeast D.C. on a bitterly cold day in December 1896.
The woman "could not give street and number, but could 'fotch' the agent to her place," according to a case study labeled "Aunt Winnie" in one of the organization's annual reports from near the turn of the century. "Old age, with a heavy load on top and a strong wind blowing, made the walk a trying one. At last the 8x10 cabin was reached. In it was a stove in many pieces held together with wire, a bedstead with rags for mattress and rags for covering. From the leaky roof the floor was wet through and through."
Aunt Winnie, the report said, had no income save the 50 cents she made every two weeks for taking in wash. In summertime she raised herbs and greens, but in winter she "suffered for food and fuel." Her children had all been sold away to slavery, and a nearby niece was too poor to offer any support. Her neighbors helped, providing money for the stove and cot, and a "colored friendly visitor was found to carry broth and other comforts to her." The neighborly charity wasn't enough to persuade the agent, who was essentially a private sector version of a social worker, that the old woman should be on her own.
"In the fall of '98 agent asked her to go into the almshouse, but she would not consent. During the storm in February '99, she was kept from perishing with a great effort. Every visit, and they were many, had to be made through snow up to the waist. It was during these visits that the promise was made that before another winter she would take refuge in an almshouse."
When the weather warmed, Aunt Winnie backed off her promise to go to the almshouse. The social worker started to play hardball.
"It would be hard to say which, the agent or the applicant, suffered the more, because through all this distress had sprung up a loving confidence and perfect trust that seemed cruel to deceive. Attention and assistance were withdrawn gradually."
It worked: In July, Aunt Winnie relented and said she'd go to the almshouse as soon she could sell her cabin. Nobody would buy it, so the social worker told her to tear it down and sell it for kindling. At 2 p.m. on Aug. 23, 1899, the social worker showed up in a wagon.
"[S]he was sitting on her trunk, without a stick of the cabin to be seen. Without a murmur she dropped a courtsey to the bare spot where once stood the cabin and turned away. After an affectionate separation in the almshouse the agent came away feeling that for such a balmy day in August it was a trying task to perform, but for winter's blizzards, a blessed relief. In case of her death a promise has been made to her that the general secretary of the Associated Charities will keep her body from potter's field."
Aunt Winnie, whose story is preserved in the archives of the Historical Society of Washington, had been sent to an American institution that was by then some 300 years old and went by a variety of names: the county farm, the poor farm, the almshouse or, most often, simply the poorhouse. She would probably have been surprised to learn that more than a hundred years later, after the virtual eradication of elderly poverty, a powerful political movement would materialize with the mission of returning to the hands-off social policies that made the poorhouse the nation's only refuge for the jobless, the aged, the infirm and the disabled.
Stimulus working in Japan. Austerity failing in Europe. Will economists learn?
by David Atkins
I noted a few days ago how the inflation rate has dashed the expectations of conservative economists by remaining stubbornly low, then pointed out (as Paul Krugman has been gleefully doing for months) that conservative economists have been proven wrong about nearly everything:
The world is in deflationary spiral, not an inflationary one. Just as Keynesian economists predicted, and as conservative economists insisted could never happen.
Throw this in there with the disproven claims that bond vigilantes would punish the dollar for the S&P downgrade, that tax cuts would lead to economic growth, that deregulation would lead to endless prosperity and self-policing markets, that lower taxes would lead to increased revenues, and that austerity would lead to increased investor confidence and lower unemployment. All wrong. Dead wrong.
Even as Europe fell deeper into what just became its longest recession since World War II, Japan posted an unexpectedly robust growth rate of 3.5 percent under the bold new stimulus measures championed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — precisely the medicine many have urged European leaders to take.
“The elites in Europe don’t learn,” said Stephan Schulmeister, an economist with the Austrian Institute of Economic Research. “Instead of saying, ‘Something goes wrong, we have to reconsider or find a different navigation map, change course,’ instead what happens is more of the same.”
He added, “Angela Merkel is not willing to learn from the Japanese experience,” referring to the German chancellor.
Since taking office in December, Mr. Abe has pushed a three-pronged program — called the three-arrowed approach in Japan — to end two decades of stagnation in the Japanese economy. It involves a strongly expansionary monetary policy, increased fiscal spending and structural changes to improve competitiveness; the first-quarter growth spurt suggests that his approach is already paying off.
Not only have exports improved, the logical outgrowth of a weaker currency, but consumer sentiment and household consumption also have risen. “The real economy is responding,” said Adam S. Posen, president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. “The last five months, six months, there’s been a mini consumer boom. All the things that people said could never happen in Japan have turned around.”
He added: “Japan’s central bank is supporting recovery, and it’s working. The European Central Bank is supporting stagnation, and it’s working.”
If there were justice in the world and economics were an actual science like it pretends to me, every conservative and neoliberal economist who has made wildly wrong predictions at the expense of traditional Keynesians would find their careers and livelihoods in jeopardy. But that's not how the system works. Economists who tout the corporate line serve on boards where they are extremely well-compensated for continuing to infect the academic bloodstream with wildly fallacious theories that have no bearing on reality. Remember this particularly compelling segment of the outstanding docmentary Inside Job:
The time is long past for policy makers to do what works and leave aside what doesn't. There is a temptation (as Digby has noted) to see economics as a morality play in which the poor and middle class must suffer for the sins of the rich. But that does not good policy or economics make.
If the profession of economics refuses to act like a real science and make predictions based on available data rather than on conservative political morality, then it should should have the same impact on public discourse and policy that astrology and young earth creationism do.
Apparently it's necessary to point out that just because something has been legalized, it does not mean that anyone has an obligation to do it. I'm speaking, of course, about this unfolding leak scandal. Yes, the administration appears to have adhered to a strict interpretation of the law (although it seems to me that if the FBI misled the court about possible indictments of reporters in order to get warrants then perhaps that's not actually the case.)
But who cares that it's legal? There is a constitutional principle at stake and we have a right to expect the Department of Justice to be exceptionally cautious about using the sledgehammer of the federal government to shut down the press. Yes, we know the government has reasons to keep secrets and we know the press has reason to want to reveal them. It is a tension that exists at the heart of our system. But that is why we expect that the government, our representatives after all, to give the press notice and allow the process to be litigated through proper channels. These backdoor subpoenas, surveillance of reporters, sweeping dragnets for information is contrary to the principle that the press is a uniquely important institution in a free society.
Perhaps it is just a standard "policy dispute" as the jaded punditocracy drolly asserts today, certainly nothing we could call a "scandal." Everyone knows that reporters are going to be secretly tracked by the government in the course of their jobs. Why what could be more All-American than that?(Oh, and don't worry reporters --- if the government finds something in the course of their surveillance that doesn't pertain to their investigation they pinky swear to forget they ever saw it, so no need to worry that federal agents are prying into your personal life.)
Still, I think it's worth just a teensy bit of concern by those who foolishly believe that the more secrecy a government insists upon having, the more suspicious one should be about why it's keeping all those secrets. That just seems like common sense to me.
Update: It occurs to me that even people inside DC don't know just how massive this secret, domestic intelligence apparatus is, far beyond what's going on with these particular press leaks. There is a hugely expensive, unaccountable, secret part of our government. I've mentioned this Frontline documentary before but it's never been more timely than now. If you haven't seen it, it's worth taking the time. Certainly journalists and opinion writers should. How anyone could be blase after seeing it is beyond me.
Today, a bipartisan Senate committee published the searing results of a two-year investigation (PDF) into “fusion centers,” which were created in the aftermath of 9/11 as places for state, local and federal officials to share and analyze information, in the hopes of detecting and thwarting terrorist threats.
The country’s 70-plus state and local fusion centers have “not produced useful intelligence to support federal counterterrorism efforts” and have “too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties,” according to the report, which goes on to criticize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for insufficient oversight.
According to the congressional report, DHS estimates that it has spent between $289 million and $1.4 billion to support fusion centers since 2003. Why is there such a broad range and so little certainty of just how much money has been spent?
DHS has given an unusual amount of autonomy to each state to figure out what to do with fusion center money, which also means they don’t have good accounting of what each state spends their money on and how effective it’s been. It’s a broad problem for DHS. They were trying to give states autonomy, but it lacks the accountability that such a broad and expensive program needs.
Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) noted that while fusion centers have not provided useful intelligence, they “may provide valuable services in fields other than terrorism,” like criminal investigations, public safety or disaster response. What’s the likelihood that the centers remain in place, but take on other activities? What’s the likelihood that they are eliminated altogether?
Is this ok? Are we just accepting that the government has built 70 surveillance centers that are not doing anything to thwart terrorism, but need to be funded because they might become valuable in "other things" like criminal investigations and "public safety?" Feel safer with more and more yahoos with surveillance power using this federally funded technology to track ...well, anything they want to?
That's just one example. Perhaps it's true that nobody gives a damn about all this, but the one group I would expect to care would be the press. To see some of these pundits and reporters pooh-pooh it is just depressing.
We've known about much of this for some time, what with the disdainful treatment of Wikileaks and stories of other reporters being hounded and personally investigated. But it's still very unnerving to know that the so-called liberal media won't even uniformly fight for itself when it finds the press in the cross-hairs. What the hell are average citizens supposed to do?
Update:This Greg Sargent interview with Mark Mazzetti, who covers national security for the New York Times, is well worth reading. Unlike the jaded commentariat (not Greg, obviously) people who work in the field really are disturbed.
Of course, if you don't care to know what your government is doing well then, this is just a tempest in a teapot.
. digby 5/20/2013 02:00:00 PM
It was obvious during the runup to the Iraq war that what was going on in the minds of many hawks — and not just the neocons — was not so much a deep desire to drop lots of bombs and kill lots of people (although they were OK with that) as a deep desire to be seen as people who were willing to Do What Has to be Done. Men who have never risked, well, anything relished the chance to look in the mirror and see Winston Churchill looking back.
Actually, I suspect that even the torture thing had less to do with sadism than with the desire to look tough.
And the austerian impulse is pretty much the same thing, except that in this case the mild-mannered pundits want to look in the mirror and see Paul Volcker.
Much of the problem in trying to stop the march to war was precisely the fear of many pundits that they would be seen as weak and, above all, not Serious if they objected. Austerity has been very much the same thing — and again, it’s not just the right-wingers who are afflicted.
I wrote something similar about the right's Benghazi obsession yesterday. But Krugman is correct that it isn't just a right wing thing. It's a Very Serious People thing as well, both in foreign policy terms as well as, we now know, economic ones. The world is run by a bunch of macho wannabes who have some deep need to show their masculine bonafides by either pounding their chests for war or demanding human sacrifice to "toughen us up."
Maybe people like this should be in charge instead.
Prosecuting the press: "This has not fared well in American history."
Wow. It would appear that the Obama administration's Department of Justice is now officially out of control. This report about a leak investigation involving Fox DC bureau chief James Rosen:
FBI investigators used the security-badge data, phone records and e-mail exchanges to build a case that Kim shared the report with Rosen soon after receiving it, court records show.
In the documents, FBI agent Reginald Reyes described in detail how Kim and Rosen moved in and out of the State Department headquarters at 2201 C St. NW a few hours before the story was published on June 11, 2009.
“Mr. Kim departed DoS at or around 12:02 p.m. followed shortly thereafter by the reporter at or around 12:03 p.m.,” Reyes wrote. Next, the agent said, “Mr. Kim returned to DoS at or around 12:26 p.m. followed shortly thereafter by the reporter at or around 12:30 p.m.”
The activity, Reyes wrote in an affidavit, suggested a “face-to-face” meeting between the two men. “Within a few hours after those nearly simultaneous exits and entries at DoS, the June 2009 article was published on the Internet,” he wrote.
The court documents don’t name Rosen, but his identity was confirmed by several officials, and he is the author of the article at the center of the investigation. Rosen and a spokeswoman for Fox News did not return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.
Reyes wrote that there was evidence Rosen had broken the law, “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.” That fact distinguishes his case from the probe of the AP, in which the news organization is not the likely target.
Under questioning by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Holder dismissed the notion of prosecuting reporters as, basically, nuts.
"You've got a long way to go to try to prosecute people—the press for the publication of that material," Holder declared. "This has...not fared well in American history."
"With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I've ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy," Holder added later. "The focus should be on those people who break their oath and put the American people at risk, not reporters who gather this information. That should not be the focus...of these investigations."
Apparently, they just used the threat of prosecution to persuade a court to issue a warrant. Which, considering Holder's testimony, means they misled the court -- or he misled the committee. But hey it appears that anything goes with these cases so maybe nobody cares.
I'm going to guess that the explanation for all this will be that these investigations are at the individual prosecutor's discretion and they're only following departmental policies, doing their jobs etc, etc. And maybe these prosecutors really are personally offended by national security leaks, in this case from the State Department regarding North Korea. But even if this goes all the way to Holder, how likely is it that the DOJ has taken it upon itself to worry about protecting a North Korean source, which is the issue at stake in the Rosen case? Who's ordering these investigations?
Like a lot of reproductive rights advocates, I've often been accused of being hysterical about the anti-abortion right's agenda. I'm often told that there is no desire to deny women their agency and that we really should lighten up. When we point out that the logical end point of the anti-abortion zealots' arguments for conferring "personhood" from the moment of conception is to criminalize miscarriage, we're told that we are being ridiculous and that we need to calm down.
If a woman in Virginia has a miscarriage, they must report it within 24 hours to the police or risk going to jail for a full year. At least, that’s what would have happened if a bill introduced by Virginia state Sen. Mark Obenshain (R) had become law.
And yet, the Virginia Republican Party wants to make Obenshain into the state’s top prosecutor. This weekend, Virginia Republicans selected Obenshain as their nominee to replace tea party stalwart Ken Cuccinelli (R) as the state’s attorney general.
Under Obenshain’s bill, which was introduced in 2009,
When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance upon the mother at or after the delivery or abortion, the mother or someone acting on her behalf shall, within 24 hours, report the fetal death, location of the remains, and identity of the mother to the local or state police or sheriff’s department of the city or county where the fetal death occurred. No one shall remove, destroy, or otherwise dispose of any remains without the express authorization of law-enforcement officials or the medical examiner. Any person violating the provisions of this subsection shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
That means they could face up to one year in prison. But don't worry your pretty little heads about it girls, they probably won't use it except on the really "bad" girls who deserve it.
Meanwhile, did you know that this is already on the books in Virginia?
Even without Obenshain’s bill, Virginia law already treats many miscarriages as potential crimes. Under existing Virginia law, “[w]hen a fetal death occurs without medical attendance upon the mother at or after the delivery or abortion or when inquiry or investigation by a medical examiner is required, the medical examiner shall investigate the cause of fetal death and shall complete and sign the medical certification portion of the fetal death report within twenty-four hours after being notified of a fetal death.”
That's almost as chilling as far as I'm concerned. Criminalizing a failure to report miscarriage takes it to a more sinister level, but I don't know why it's any of the state's business at all. It's an extremely common, natural occurrence after all. Half the time we don't even know it's happened. They might as well require reporting of nocturnal emissions or menstrual periods. It's an extremely inappropriate intrusion on the internal bodily functions of women.
At least as it stands, the only time the state is involved is if they are informed of an "unattended" fetal death, but just having that on the books means that the state can treat miscarriage (and now possibly the practice of medical abortion with oral mifepristone) as something requiring an official investigation. Sure, it probably doesn't happen very often and is used mostly to gather statistics. But then you inevitably have some patriarchal throwback like Mark Obenshain come along to try to take it to the next level. After all, he was just proposing to give the existing law a little bit more teeth wasn't he?
And he's running for Attorney General to replace this guy, so it's not as if these nuts can't get elected. Indeed, that neanderthal is so successful he's now running for Governor.
I'm all for "reform" and "streamlining" but in my personal experience in the corporate world that inevitably just meant making one person do the job of three. Or four. For the same money. They call this "enhanced productivity" and on paper it looks really great. But for anyone who's on the job, most often it's clear that morale tanks and the work suffers.
The controversy that erupted in the past week, leading to the ousting of the acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner, an investigation by the FBI, and congressional hearings that kicked off Friday, comes against a backdrop of dysfunction brewing for years.
Moves launched in the 1990s were designed to streamline the tax agency and make it more efficient. But they had unintended consequences for the IRS’s Exempt Organizations division.
Checks and balances once in place were taken away. Guidance frequently published by the IRS and closely read by tax lawyers and nonprofits disappeared. Even as political activity by social welfare nonprofits exploded in recent election cycles, repeated requests for the IRS to clarify exactly what was permitted for the secretly funded groups were met, at least publicly, with silence.
All this combined to create an isolated office in Cincinnati, plagued by what an inspector general this week described as “insufficient oversight,” of fewer than 200 low-level employees responsible for reviewing more than 60,000 nonprofit applications a year.
This was all the rage among the New Democrat types during the 90s. They told us that even though "the era of Big Government" was over, there was no reason services would suffer. How'd that work out for us?
Bill Nye, the harmless children's edu-tainer known as "The Science Guy," managed to offend a select group of adults in Waco, Texas at a presentation, when he suggested that the moon does not emit light, but instead reflects the light of the sun.
As even most elementary-school graduates know, the moon reflects the light of the sun but produces no light of its own.
But don't tell that to the good people of Waco, who were "visibly angered by what some perceived as irreverence," according to the Waco Tribune.
Nye was in town to participate in McLennan Community College's Distinguished Lecture Series. He gave two lectures on such unfunny and adult topics as global warming, Mars exploration, and energy consumption.
But nothing got people as riled as when he brought up Genesis 1:16, which reads: "God made two great lights -- the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars."
The lesser light, he pointed out, is not a light at all, but only a reflector.
At this point, several people in the audience stormed out in fury. One woman yelled "We believe in God!" and left with three children, thus ensuring that people across America would read about the incident and conclude that Waco is as nutty as they'd always suspected.
I'm going to take a wild guess that it wasn't the "moon" thing that got them all upset so much as the "science" thing in general.
Va. GOP picks conservatives for fall ticket; black minister is lieutenant governor choice
“The tea party leaders in Virginia are not for toning it down,” said Mark Daugherty, chairman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation, which unites 46 tea party groups across the state. “We think folks who left us billions in debt and deficits and regulations, they need to tone it down. . . . Trying to move to the middle, or moderate your view, or tone down your conservative view is the wrong approach to future electoral success.”
Jeff Ryer, spokesman for the state Senate Republican caucus, said party activists are yearning for unabashed conservatives.
“I just get the sense that most Republicans are looking for candidates that are forthright, that are direct,” Ryer said. “They’re looking for people who aren’t embarrassed . . . like they’re at a cocktail party and they chose the wrong fork.”
That description could apply to North, the former Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and Iran-contra figure who attended the convention to support businessman Pete Snyder for lieutenant governor.
“I go all over the country for my party, and I’m not ashamed to do so,” North said in an interview Friday. “The best chance we have as a party is to find young, positive, free enterprise-experienced conservatives who understand what the media describe as social issues are really deeply moral and spiritual issues. And those candidates we need have not only that full background, but they’re unashamed to stand up and say so.”
And to think that just a couple of months ago everyone was writing the right wing's epitaph. Again.
That's not to say they wouldn't be wiser to moderate and try to capture at least a small portion of the middle of the American electorate. But they still aren't convinced they need to. And if they have a good 2014, they will remain assured they are on the right track.
I wonder how much this has to do with the fact that they've successfully bullied a large portion of the country to identify itself as "conservative" in polls even though they aren't. That sort of thing could easily lead to self-delusion.
And now that they know the tyrant King Obama sicced the jack-booted thugs on their tax-exempt applications well ...
That's right. Chief Fox news researcher Karl Rove gets everyone back on track with the "scoop" that the State Department spokeswoman said the National Security Staff was on the case. It's very important that everyone keep their eye on the prize which is the implication that the White House was petrified of being found out to be the national security blunderers they really are.
I'm sure this is a banal observation but I'll make it anyway since it's an important factor in understanding why people drift to modern conservatism: it's the right that is afraid --- of losing its reputation as the military leaders of American culture. It is, after all, at the center of their emotional appeal. That's why this bizarre Benghazi obsession remains at the center of the Fox News cycle and why they are so excited about it. In their minds, it washes away any Democratic advantage from killing of bin Laden and puts the Democrats back in the coward corner where they rightfully belong.
They have a deep psychological need to see themselves as the "manly party", protecting the babies from the bad guys. Sure, they hate taxes and love traditional values. These are very important pieces of their philosophy. But at the heart of their self-image is the idea that they are the warriors. If you look at the past 50 years of conservative thought, it's that which animates their engagement and it's that which they need to get back in order to feel confident again.
The IRS thing speaks specifically to the paranoid, small government, anti-tax, Obamacare hating part of the Republican Party. That part overlaps with the larger macho, military-worshiping, imperial part of the GOP. (Unfortunately, that part also overlaps a big part of the Democratic party as well ...) It's been neglected since Bush screwed the pooch with Iraq. But they aren't going to give it up. It's a major piece of their identity.
What do Jonathan Karl and James O'Keefe have in common?
Jay Rosen has a critique of the Jonathan Karl brouhaha over the edited Benghazi emails on his site that's well worth reading if you haven't paid attention to the details. Like Rosen, I sort of expected that ABC This Week would address it, but they didn't.
This part of Rosen's piece is the most pertinent:
I had been following all this and last night I said on Twitter: “Jon Karl got played. But he refuses to admit it. Every ABC anchor who doesn’t ask him about it is complicit, too.” I was anticipating Karl’s appearance on ABC’s signature political program, This Week with George Stephanopoulos. He had appeared on May 12th, two days after his original report, to talk about Benghazi with guest host Martha Raddatz. There had been big news in the intervening week: the release of the original emails.
I figured that ABC News would have him on again, if they believed so strongly in his original report. He is, after all, ABC’s Chief White House Correspondent; the story that dominated Washington all week was the re-emergence of a scandal narrative. A typical headline: Obama Pivots to Jobs Tour at End of Scandal Filled Week. (That’s from The Note, the politics blog at ABCNews.com, to which Karl is a major contributor.) Well, here’s the line-up for This Week with George Stephanopoulos. No Jon Karl. Instead, ABC News Senior Washington Correspondent Jeff Zeleny.
When a confidential source burns a reporter, a reporter is within his rights to burn–that is, “out”–that source. But it almost never happens because reporters are concerned that potential sources will take it as a sign that the reporter cannot be trusted to keep their names secret. That’s bad enough. But this is worse. Karl had a chance to limit the damage to ABC News from his faulty reporting when he first responded to Jake Tapper’s report.
He blew that. Inexplicably, an ABC News spokesperson then doubled down on Karl’s original reporting: strike two. They had a chance to recover by asking Karl to explain how he got misled on This Week. They blew that when they chickened out and asked Jeff Zeleny to appear instead.
Karl came to mainstream journalism via the Collegiate Network, an organization primarily devoted to promoting and supporting right-leaning newspapers on college campuses (Extra!, 9-10/91)—such as the Rutgers paper launched by the infamous James O’Keefe (Political Correction, 1/27/10). The network, founded in 1979, is one of several projects of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which seeks to strengthen conservative ideology on college campuses. William F. Buckley was the ISI’s first president, and the current board chair is American Spectator publisher Alfred Regnery. Several leading right-wing pundits came out of Collegiate-affiliated papers, including Ann Coulter, Dinesh D'Souza, Michelle Malkin, Rich Lowry and Laura Ingraham (Washington Times, 11/28/04)[...]
After a stint at the New York Post, Karl soon found his way to CNN, but he was still connected to ideological pursuits; he was a board member at the right-leaning youth-oriented Third Millennium group and at the Madison Center for Educational Affairs—which, like the Collegiate Network, seeks to strengthen young conservative journalism. After moving to ABC in 2003, Karl contributed several pieces to the neo-con Weekly Standard, such as his April 4, 2005 article praising Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as out to “make her mark with the vigorous pursuit of the president’s freedom and democracy agenda.”
Karl’s high profile at ABC demonstrates that conservative messages can find a comfortable home inside the so-called “liberal” media. Karl channeled former ABC corporate cheerleader John Stossel with a segment (3/5/11) complaining that regulation of the egg and poultry industries was “almost embarrassing,” since different government agencies regulate different aspects of the industries. “Got that?” Karl asked. “Fifteen separate agencies have responsibility for food safety.”
During the rollout of Paul Ryan’s budget plan, Karl (1/26/11) gushed that the Republican media darling was “a little like the guy in the movie Dave, the accidental president who sets out to fix the budget, line by line.” And while Democrats were saying Ryan “is a villain,” Karl was clear about which side he was on: “Ryan knows what he sees.... Paul Ryan is on a mission, determined to do the seemingly impossible: Actually balance the federal budget.” (Actually, even with its draconian spending cuts and absurdly optimistic economic assumptions, the Ryan plan still foresees a cumulative deficit of $62 trillion over the next half century—Congressional Budget Office, 1/27/10.)
There's more and some of it, in my view, are just examples of the beltway media being beltway media. But Karl's history does suggest that he's tied in with the conservative network in DC, which means that his reasons for not exposing his source may very well be personal. I'd guess they all know a lot of things about each other. It would be risky.
The news that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the most important global warming gas, have hit 400 parts per million for the first time in millions of years increases the pressure on President Obama to deliver on his pledges to limit this country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
America cannot solve a global problem by itself. But as Mr. Obama rightly observed in his inaugural address, the United States, as both major polluter and world leader, has a deep obligation to help shield the international community from rising sea levels, floods, droughts and other devastating consequences of a warming planet. In his State of the Union speech, he promised to take executive action if Congress failed to pass climate legislation.
Which is just what he will have to do. The prospects for broad-based Congressional action putting a price on carbon emissions are nil. The House is run by people who care little for environmental issues generally, and Senate Republicans who once favored a pricing strategy, like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have long since slunk away. Meanwhile, Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have spent the last two weeks trying to derail Mr. Obama’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency — a moderate named Gina McCarthy. Ms. McCarthy has served two Republican governors (Mitt Romney was one) but is considered suspect by the right wing because she wants to control carbon pollution, which is driving global temperatures upward.
So we just have to accept the coming climate immolation, right? Well, not so fast:
As this page has noted, it is possible to adopt a robust climate strategy based largely on executive actions. The most important of these is to invoke the E.P.A.’s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit pollution from stationary industrial sources, chiefly the power plants that account for almost 40 percent of the country’s carbon emissions. The agency is reworking a proposed rule to limit emissions from new power plants. A more complex but no less necessary task is to devise rules for existing power plants, which cannot be quickly shuttered without endangering the country’s power supply, but which can be made more efficient or phased out over time.
Mr. Obama can also order the E.P.A. to curb the enormous leakage of methane, a potent global warming agent, from gas wells and the pipes that bring natural gas to consumers. This is critical if America’s bountiful supplies of cheap natural gas are to become a cleaner bridge from coal to alternative energy sources like wind and solar power.
The article goes on to note other executive actions the President can take as well. Will executive actions be remotely enough? Of course not. But they can help a great deal.
It's not as if Republicans are being remotely cooperative, anyway. Nothing is getting done in Congress. The President might as well step up and do the right thing. Washington, D.C. is a cold war zone. The President might as well do what's right and let the chips fall where they may.
The Seattle International Film Festival is in full swing, so over the next several weeks I will be sharing highlights with you. SIFF is showing 272 films over 26 days. Navigating such an event is no easy task, even for a dedicated buff. Yet, I trudge on (cue the world’s tiniest violin). Hopefully, some of these films will be coming soon to a theater near you…
In Our Nixon, director Penny Lane strives to construct an arch portrait of The Tricky One by sneaking in through the back door. It seems some of the president's men were home movie buffs. A treasure trove of Super8 footage taken by H.R. Haldeman, John Erlichman and Dwight Chapin during their White House tenure recently surfaced. Lane blends choice snippets of the aforementioned with archival news footage, interviews with the three aides and excerpts from the infamous secret Oval Office recordings. It's the Nixon administration retooled as an episode of Entourage. No new revelations or insight for political junkies, but for viewers of a "certain age", it sustains an oddly nostalgic tone.
Forbidden Voices (from Swiss director Barbara Miller) is an excellent doc profiling three influential "cyber-feminists" who bravely soldier on in the blogosphere whilst running a daily gauntlet of intimidation from their respective governments, including (but not limited to) overt surveillance, petty legal harassment and even physical beatings. Despite the odds, Yoani Sanchez (Cuba), Farnez Seifi (Iran, currently exiled in Germany) and Zeng Jinyan (China) are affecting change (if only baby steps). In an interesting (and disturbing) bit of kismet, a day after I saw this, the DOJ/AP phone records scandal broke.
Big Joy: The Adventures of James Broughton is an aptly entitled profile of the free-spirited poet, playwright and filmmaker (1913-1999) who was part of the "San Francisco Renaissance" (pre-cursors to The Beats). Stephen Silha's documentary is as playful and provocative as his subject, who emerges here as one of those fascinating, Zelig-like figures who managed to remain relevant to and in simpatico with nearly every major counter-culture arts/social movement from the Beats and the hippies to gay liberation and beyond. I admit being previously unfamiliar with Broughton, but this film made me a fan.
Canadian actress Sarah Polley has quietly made a name for herself as a feature film director in recent years (Away from Her, Take This Waltz). Now she turns the camera inward, for her documentary Stories We Tell. Polley uses her film as a sort of family therapy session, seeking to uncover the truth regarding her late mother's rumored dalliances outside the marriage. Polley was 11 when her mother (also an actress) died of cancer. As Polley gently grills her father (a retired actor), siblings and long-time family friends, secrets, lies and unbelievable truths slowly burble to the surface, Rashomon-style. It teeters toward the navel-gazing side, but it unravels like a good mystery should.
My favorite Emo Philips joke goes: A man came to my door and said "I'd like to read your gas meter." I said, "Whatever happened to the classics?" A breezy documentary called Out of Print takes that rhetorical question to the next level: Whatever happened to reading? That is, “reading” in the traditional sense…as in holding a book and turning pages? Director Vivienne Roumani examines the impact of digital media on the world of publishing, with a variety of industry mavens weighing in with their take on the central question: “Is the book dead?” The issues raised mirror the economic, legal and aesthetic hysteria stirred up by the advent of music file sharing back in the late 90s. Absorbing, if not essential (and at 54 minutes long, it’s surely destined for PBS). Meryl Streep narrates.
The Horde is an historical epic from director Andrey Proshkin based on a relatively obscure event (well, outside of Russia) that occurred in the 14th century, when the Metropolitan of Moscow (a monk also known as St. Alexius) saved his city from destruction by the Mongolian Golden Horde by “healing” the Khan’s mother, who had been stricken blind. The first half is involving, with royal intrigue and (literal) backstabbing amongst squabbling members of the Khanate, but once the story shifts to the endless suffering of St. Alexius as he wends his way home (we get it…he’s a saint) the film suffers too. Lavish production design and fine acting helps makes up the deficit.
The Rocket could prove to be one of this year’s sleepers. Aussie writer-director Kim Mordaunt tells the story of Ahlo (Sitthiphon Disamoe, in a remarkable performance), a 10-year old Laotian boy who can’t catch a break. In rapid succession, a member of his family dies in a freak accident and then the surviving members are forced to relocate after their village gets earmarked for razing to make way for a hydroelectric project. Ahlo’s dour grandma labels him as a “bad luck charm”. Determined to redeem his standing, Ahlo sets out to win an annual Rocket Competition. Mourdaunt has a Terrence Malick-like penchant for gorgeous “magic hour” composition; perfectly capturing the dichotomy of UXBs and battle-scarred ruins as they contrast with Laos’ lush, rugged natural beauty.
Note: You may or may not have noticed that the site I have been using for the past year or so to archive my reviews, Clipboard.com has put up a notice on their home page advising that they will be going dark at the end of June (I know..."So whaddya expect for free?"). I'm currently scrambling to find a similar site that I can port the archives over to.
People, people: the IRS wasn’t roaming around the countryside looking for Tea Party groups to persecute; it was responding (yes, poorly, no doubt) to voluntary applications for a tax exemption that has been routinely and massively abused over the years. Nobody’s doors were being kicked down; nobody was being fined or threatened, so far as we know. Yes, a benefit was delayed or withheld to which the applicants might have (or might not have) been entitled as a matter of (really bad, in my opinion) public policy. But any “monster under the bed” was entirely in their own minds, as it is in Mike Kelley’s.
This is what we used to call the paranoid strain in American politics. It isn't confined to the right, but any means. But they are the only one's to make such a tidy profit at it.
If I were you, I'd buy smelling salts futures. Why should they make all the money off of this nonsense?
Paying for their sins: human sacrifice edition by digby
I don't know if you've had the interest or time to follow the "Michael Kinsley" debate over the past few days, but suffice to say that he wrote something that indicated that we must have human sacrifice to pay for our sins. You know the drill. Anyway, at is so often the case, Paul Krugman features heavily in this discussion and a number of people have weighed in with interesting observations.
Kinsley’s original screed about inflation ... is in a way where all this started. It’s very worth reading, and not just because he was dead wrong (and learned nothing from the experience). For it is pure Schumpeter/Hayek/Mellon liquidationism:
In short, I can’t help feeling that the gold bugs are right. No, I’m not stashing gold bars under my bed. But that’s only because I lack the courage of my convictions.
My fear is not the result of economic analysis. It’s more from the realm of psychology. I mean mine.
But this cure has been one ice-cream sundae after another. It can’t be that easy, can it? The puritan in me says that there has to be some pain. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been plenty of economic pain. But that pain has come from the recession itself, not the cure.
Look, folks, when I write about the urge to see economics as a morality play, I am not just inventing this out of thin air. I read a lot; I also talk to a fair number of these people at things like Group of 30 meetings. Yes, there’s class interest; yes, there’s disaster capitalism at work. But the gut feeling that there must be pain (your pain, of course, not theirs) is very, very real too.
I'm not sure why we're so reluctant to believe this explanation. Every day we see wealthy, celebrity pundits all around us insisting on the need to "sacrifice" things which will cause them no pain but will make the rest of us suffer. It's very hard not to believe that this is some sort of psychological/emotional/spiritual belief that has overtaken the "winners" in this society, which suggests to me that it's a way of justifying the success they've had, either at the expense of others or in spite of what they know are their own ordinary talents. In order to live with themselves they've had to order their world around the notion that anyone who achieves material success in life does so because of their natural goodness. Those who fail to achieve such success must have failed because we are bad. Therefore, we must be punished.
Here's the young scion of a wealthy, influential family and recipient of nepotistic largesse from his father's employer --- Luke Russert:
Both parties don't want to tell the American people it's time to drink their tough medicine.Both parties are going to try to take 2012 as the avenue to have this debate further. But as this debate goes on and on and on. The real difficult decisions, the real ideas of how are we going to cut this deficit, they go unanswered.
Yes, the idea that this 25 year old richie rich believes that the American people must be punished doesn't seem like a stretch to me. And if Little Luke Russert believes it you can be the super-rich CEOs and Wall Street MOUs do. After all, we've failed to be properly respectful to our betters and made them feel embarrassed about their superiority. That will not stand.
Anyway, just read this. It gets to the crux of the problem.
Compared to Watergate, on the basis of everything we know about what are the current “scandals” amount to a piffle. Watergate was a Constitutional crisis. It was about a pattern of behavior on the part of the president of the United States abusing power to carry out his personal vendettas. It was about whether the president was accountable to the other branches of the government; it was about whether the Congress could summon the courage to hold accountable a president who held himself above the law. It was about a president and his aides who were out of control in their efforts to punish the president’s “enemies.”
It was also about, though this has still gone largely unrecognized, an attempt by a sitting president to determine the nomination of the opposition party’s presidential candidate. Potentially strong challengers were spied upon, their offices broken into and files disappeared, their campaign events disrupted by what were diminished by their categorization as laughable “dirty tricks.” It was about black bag jobs and paying criminals to carry out ideas that sprang from the fevered brain of a president who saw opponents, political and otherwise, as enemies, and then trying to hush the whole thing up. The attempt, not unsuccessful though not exclusively their doing, to try to get the opposition party to nominate its weakest candidate was a step along the road to fascism. It was a putsch by a head of state.
Nixon’s extraordinary abuse of his new power started almost as soon as he had put away his Inaugural finery. In February 1969 he told his staff that he wanted private funds raised to establish an intelligence unit within the White House to carry out around-the-clock surveillance of political opponents. This led to the hiring of a group of fanatics, bums, fools, and losers—most of them paid for with private funds but run by White House aides and right out of the Executive Office Building, next door to the White House. Some were of Cuban origin and had participated in the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba; to motivate them Nixon instructed that they be told that their mission was to root out Communists in the Democratic Party. (He even ordered that they be required to read the chapter of his memoir Six Crisis that recounts his exposure of Alger Hiss as a spy for the Soviet Union. But Nixon was always telling people, even Mao, to read Six Crises. The shrewd Mao had beat him to it.).
The following year Nixon signed off on a plan (the “Huston plan”) that included not just wiretaps also but break-ins and intercepting mail; the plan was so extreme that even the powerful FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, no civil libertarian, objected; though Nixon said that the plan had been rescinded parts of it were implemented. The list of “enemies” he ordered John Dean to draw up, was considered by many who were on it funny and even a point of pride, but it was a chilling exercise of power: the president used the levers of government, including the IRS, to audit and harass his opponents, a wide swath of people in public and private lives. Nixon was often heard on the tapes telling his aides he wanted them to “get the goods” on this or that perceived enemy. Edward Kennedy, presumably Nixon’s most powerful opponent for reelection, was put under twenty-four hour surveillance for a time by one of the clowns hired by the White House to carry out Nixon’s plan.
Nixon’s most serious problems arose out of his obsession about the leak of the Pentagon Papers, in 1971. This led—shortly after the Papers were first published in The New York Times—to the establishing, four days later, the White House “plumbers” office in the EOB. A sign saying PLUMBERS was on the door. But even before the plumbers office was fully set up Nixon’s aides implemented “Special Operation No. 1”: in a first step toward punishing the leaker, Daniel Ellsberg, the White House sanctioned the gravest offense—a break-in at the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in order to get the files of this particular patient. A raid of the office of the psychiatrist of a private citizen on the orders of the president of the United States. This clear flouting of the Fourth Amendment protection of private property from searches and seizures was the most disturbing act during this extraordinary period and it shook even conservative senators; Nixon knew that its discovery was the single greatest danger to him, and this was what he was so frantically trying to cover up. As it happened, even though one of the plumbers had cased the place, the psychiatrist’s office contained no files at all.
The obsession over the leak of the Pentagon Papers also led to the mad suggestion by the president of the United States that the offices of the Brookings Institution be firebombed in order to get to the safes in the offices of former Kissinger aides, Leslie Gelb and Morton Halperin, who were suspected of keeping the drafts of some unpublished chapters of the Pentagon Papers. The president could be heard on the tapes instructing his aides: “Godammit. Get in there and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.” You see, Kissinger had ordered up the study. Ellsberg had been assigned by Kissinger to do a super-secret study on the papers and had been given access to them, which were stored at Rand. Though one of the burglars had searched Brookings and reported that the files existed, there were none. In any event, some White House aides thwarted that plan before it was fully carried out.
In this context the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building on June 17, 1972 was almost routine. This one, when the burglars were caught, which started the unraveling of Nixon’s secret plots against his enemies, was actually the burglars’ fourth attempt: in the first attempt they faked a banquet to get into the building but ended up locked in a closet; the second time they couldn’t break the lock on the DNC office door; the third time, on Memorial Day, they got into the DNC office but put a bug on the wrong phone, so on they went back to fix it. Perhaps because breaking in had become so habitual they got sloppy and left the immortal piece of tape on a door. That the plumbers were stumblebums doesn’t negate the sinister nature of what they were told to do.
Read on to see what a congress that wasn't insane did in response to these revelations.
There have been scandals before and since. The 80s featured another blatant executive power grab with Iran-Contraand the 90s were one long investigation into the personal lives of the president and his family and associates. The Bush administration was investigated for yet more abuse of its executive power and at least one instance of using classified information to punish a political enemy. But none of those scandals reached both the scope and combination of personal pettiness and abuse of power of Watergate.
This White House has continued many of the executive prerogatives begun in the Bush administration in the name of the Global War on Terror. Indeed, there's never been an administration that "gave back" power once granted to its predecessor. (Yes, some of us mentioned that back in the day ...) But there is no evidence whatsoever that the President is anything like Richard Nixon. It's absurd to even suggest it. It was The Mother Of All Political Scandals.
And the Republicans will never stop trying to find something to even the score, I'm afraid. Had Clinton resigned, they might have calmed down. But I doubt it. Watergate was so huge on every level that it's hard to imagine there will be another one like it in their lifetimes. Sorry --- Nixon was uniquely corrupt.