Welcome! "What's Happenin'?" is a casual community diary (a daily series, 8:30 AM Eastern on weekdays, 10 AM on weekends and holidays) where we hang out and talk about the goings on here and everywhere.
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Gerber daisies. (Photo by joanneleon. October 1, 2012)
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
~ Frederick Douglass
|The day they closed the Factory down - Harry Chapin
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News and Opinion
Austerity War Revs Up: Peter Peterson Drops Millions On New Budget Campaign
WASHINGTON -- Billionaire private equity mogul Peter Peterson is investing millions of dollars in a new Washington-based campaign for austerity, planning to blanket the airwaves after the election to bolster the case for a "grand bargain" in Congress' lame-duck session that would slash Medicare and Social Security spending in exchange for new tax revenue.
The new Campaign to Fix the Debt is chaired by former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, and former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, a Republican. It's priming for lame-duck negotiations over the expirations of the payroll tax cut and the Bush tax cuts, as well as scheduled cuts to defense and non-defense spending.
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MacGuineas said she has raised close to $30 million for the Campaign to Fix the Debt, but the goal is "bigger than that." The largest contribution so far has been $5 million from a single donor, she said. (HuffPost guessed that donor was Peterson, and MacGuineas said, "You could go out on that limb.") The rest of the money is being raised from corporate CEOs and other wealthy donors.
Obama's Social Security Answer Leaves Democrats Utterly Baffled
"There is a real difference in philosophy," she said. "For Obama to say that he believes he and Romney agree, either Obama has not been straight about his position on Social Security all these years, or he and his campaign haven't looked at Romney's position."
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"Oh my God," said Eric Kingson, co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security campaign. "That is really very sad. Mitt Romney has written about it in one of his books ... It also speaks to a lack of appreciation for the importance of this institution to our country ... It really is remarkable that a Democratic president at this point in time would not draw a very dramatic line. They probably have to say, 'I made a mistake, I misspoke.'"
What You Need to Know About Obama and the Social Security Sell-Out
The Raiders of Your Lost Retirement are busy laying plans in Washington. Will Obama help them if re-elected?
Ladies and gentleman, that was the sound of your president offering to screw you on your retirement. This revealing exchange was followed by some politically strategic talk by both candidates about how current retirees shouldn’t be worried, because, as we all know, their votes are needed in the short term. But the rest of us? Be very, very worried.
The Roots of Betrayal
There is a persistent myth, or, to put it more bluntly, an outright lie, repeated by Republicans, and, alas, many Democrats, that Social Security needs to be “fixed” in order save the government money.
The Republicans have been dying to kill Social Security ever since FDR signed it into law in 1935, and Ronald Reagan answered their prayers by delivering a blow in the form of a “tweak” that essentially robbed the program, as economist Allen W. Smith explains splendidly in a 2010 article in Dissident Voice .
Alan Greenspan was the architect of that fraud against the American people. [ ... ] And who was right smack in the middle of this disastrous –and thankfully derailed -- negotiation? None other than Erskine Bowles, Clinton's Chief of Staff. You know, the guy whose name was on the lips of both presidential candidates Wednesday night and the man who is rumored to be at the top of Obama’s list for the next Treasury Secretary should he win his re-election bid. [ ... ]
Is the Greek Crisis a Harbinger of Our Future?
John Perkins, author of "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," explains on The Huffington Post:Greece has been struck by economic hit men.... The Greek people were not the ones who agreed to accept these debts and for the most part they did not benefit from them; yet they will be burdened for years to come because they were hoodwinked by the international banking community and their own corrupt leaders.... In my books, I write about how world economics and politics today are controlled by a very few people - the corporatocracy. This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that whenever "debt restructuring" or "debt forgiveness" deals are struck they include privatizing parts of the economy that were previously considered public. Utilities, schools, prisons, even significant parts of the military are sold to multinational corps.Consider the fact that Goldman Sachs helped the Greek government, according to a New York Times report, "quietly borrow billions of dollars" in a deal which was "hidden from public view because it was treated as a currency trade rather than a loan" and "helped Athens to meet Europe's deficit rules while continuing to spend beyond its means." And "in dozens of deals across the Continent, banks provided cash up-front in return for government payments in the future, with those liabilities then left off the books. Greece, for example, traded away the rights to airport fees and lottery proceeds in years to come."
In the United States, the Federal Reserve has provided secret bailout funds to banks. As a result of a historic first audit of the privately owned Federal Reserve, conducted thanks to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vermont) amendment to the Wall Street reform law, "We now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world," said Sanders. "This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you're-on-your-own individualism for everyone else."
Why Is Cash-Strapped NYC Blowing Nearly $100 Million in Taxpayer Money to Help Donald Trump Build a Golf Course in the Bronx?
Just what New York's poorest borough needs: a fancy golf course plopped over over a methane-plagued landfill and named for an asshole.
Trump belongs to a political party that rains contempt on public facilities and expenditures every time a microphone is nearby. But behind closed doors, moguls like him are ready to line their pockets at public expense at every salivating opportunity.
One in five residents of the Bronx is living in poverty, and the borough is New York City’s poorest. Every now and again you hear buoyant announcements that gentrification is coming and that the Bronx will be the new Brooklyn. But developers tend to find that it’s not so easy to erase decades of neglect, racism, and crushing poverty with the wave of a magic wand. Unlike Staten Island and Brooklyn, the Bronx has seen nothing of recovery from the recession . Average household incomes have dropped approximately $1,000 per year since 2008.
Residents of the Bronx need a lot of things. Jobs, for example. Affordable housing. Basic social services.
But now, if they can afford the green fees, which are to be higher than what is normally charged at a municipal course, they can play golf on Donald Trump’s course and look forward to breathing in methane gas, which has been detected at the site, a former landfill.
Benches are falling apart, trees have been cut down, water fountains often don't work, and "unsightly security planters" litter the avenue, according to the group dedicated to raising awareness of important landscapes.
The poor report card on the avenue - the route of the inaugural parade and designated a national historic site in 1965 - is the latest black eye for the nation's capital.
Budget cuts have delayed repairs of 1,300 cracks in the Capitol dome. A thick layer of green algae has forced the National Park Service to drain the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial after a $34-million renovation project. And the Washington Monument will remain closed for at least a year for earthquake repairs.
Imran Khan’s march against U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan stops short of its goal
Khan said in a statement he halted the march after it had passed Tank when the military contacted him to warn of a “genuine threat” ahead in South Waziristan. On Friday, the Pakistani Taliban had issued a statement criticizing Khan and the march, and U.S. diplomats had warned Americans among the marchers of a possible terrorist attack.
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Festooned with flags and posters, the march – actually a long train of several hundred vehicles – was greeted en route by enthusiastic crowds, who turned out in towns and villages along the way, waving and wanting to see Khan, a superstar for all Pakistanis due to his years as a champion cricket player. Khan is expected to launch a long-shot push to become Pakistan’s next prime minister when elections are held sometime in the next few months.
“Drones are against all human rights and international law. We wish to give the Americans a message : the more you do your drone attacks, the more people here will hate you,” Khan, wearing an elaborate tribal turban, told a rally of several thousand supporters in a dusty field at the end of the march.
Grim milestone: War in Afghanistan enters 12th year
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Nobody wants a repeat of the bloody ethnic fighting that followed the Soviet exit from Afghanistan in the 1990s - least of all 32-year-old Wahidullah who was crippled by a bullet that pierced his spine during the civil war.
Yet as the Afghan war began its 12th year on Sunday, fears loom that the country will again fracture along ethnic lines once international combat forces leave by the end of 2014.
Conservative Party Conference 2012: No early exit from Afghanistan, says Philip HammondCounterterrorism and continued training of Afghan forces which the President claims are the "two narrow security missions" after 2014, don't sound like narrow missions to me. Narrow? Seriously? The current claim is that the war will be ended in 2014 and that all combat troops will be removed. How can that be if counterterrorism remains as one of the two main missions after 2014?
Speaking on the opening day of the Tory party conference in Birmingham, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says Britain will not "cut and run" over Afghanistan but will leave with "head held high".
[ Click the link to see the video of the speech -- video will not embed properly. ]
Afghanistan Deadline Awaits Next U.S. President
How does a president bring the war in Afghanistan to an end? There are 68,000 American troops serving in the country as the war enters its 12th year.
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Obama says that while the U.S. combat mission will end in December 2014, not all American troops will be coming home. The president signed a 10-year strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in May, which says the U.S. will help target al-Qaida and train Afghan troops.
In his speech in Afghanistan in May, Obama described that agreement.
"We'll work with the Afghans to determine what support they need to accomplish two narrow security missions beyond 2014: counterterrorism and continued training," he said.
Right after the agreement was signed, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, "The most important point is that we're not going anyplace."
"We have an enduring presence that will be in Afghanistan. We'll continue to work with them on counterterrorism," Panetta said. "We'll continue to provide training assistance and guidance, we'll continue to provide support."
Beginning of a new ‘Great Game’ in AfghanistanHard to excerpt but lots of good, consise analysis in this article -- quick read and well worth it.
As for the regional powers, some interesting developments are in the offing. China’s entry into Afghanistan’s security paradigm is indicative of a reshaping of policy in Beijing. Securing the vast economic investments China has made to the tune of $3 billion (Dh11 billion) in the Aynak copper mines — among at least a trillion dollar investments in the pipeline, as estimated by the US — is not the only justification for the recent strategic agreement signed between Kabul and Beijing. This deal, though one among other economic and security cooperation agreements signed during the visit of China’s Home Security Chief, Zhou Yongkang, to Kabul is aimed to help “train, fund and equip Afghan police”. Yongkang’s visit is incidentally also the first high-ranking official visit to the country since 1966.
Beijing may be seeking a long-term security relationship with Afghanistan for a number of reasons.
First, China is quite concerned about the export of ideological militancy, especially as it fears an alleged militant Islamist threat in its restive Xinjiang province. Bolstering a moderate Afghan regime to lessen or prevent cross-border militancy is in the interests of China.
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Second, it may also be paving the way to strengthen its relationship with Afghanistan by fulfilling the country’s more urgent needs of security and economic investments to enable any future transcontinental conduits for much-needed energy resources like oil and gas. Minerals and precious earths also constitute a major need for China that is investing heavily in tapping these natural resources in countries as far flung as Africa and Latin America. Afghanistan’s wealth of natural resources make it a potential gold mine and a lucrative investment zone, despite the current conflict environment.
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Finally, Beijing’s intrusion into a US-West dominated arena could be interpreted as a move to counter growing American assertiveness in support to East Asian nations against China in the ongoing maritime and territorial disputes as witnessed over the past many months.
Afghanistan war, 11 years on: What more can and should the US military do?
Though the work of US troops has become increasingly deadly in the Afghanistan war, many analysts warn that it has not been increasingly effective.
Some might argue that “the right thing to do is sticking it out and suffering the casualties we will suffer until 2014,” he adds.
But whether that is indeed the right thing to do, he says, hinges on, “how much can you shift the terms of a prospective settlement in your favor while you continue to fight?”
Right now, it’s increasingly hard to answer that question. “We’re doing a variety of things that even as we continue to fight are moving the settlement terms in the wrong direction,” Dr. Biddle says.
The ability to sustain any settlement will be another key indicator of the success of the war – and it is dependent on Afghan government reform, he adds.
Americans deserve a better choice in this election than the one they've got
A US electoral system funded by the wealthy will never distribute resources equitably, whether Barack Obama is in charge or not
Such are the cramped parameters within which Democratic loyalists converse. Questions about poverty, bankers, inequality, climate change or drone attacks are not engaged with a defence of Obama's record on the economy, regulation, the environment or foreign policy but avoided with a threat: Romney. Speculation about what Obama might have done differently are met with arguments about what Bush did do wrong. Inquire if Obama will get more done if elected, and they shrug and point to the obstructionist Republicans in Congress.
Dare to prod further as to why anyone should vote for him given the likelihood that Republicans will win in Congress and they'll take you right back where you started: Romney. Any question about the good things that might have happened as a result of Obama's victory in 2008 is short-circuited by a response about the bad things that might happen as a result of his defeat in 2012. Hope curdled to fear. Everyone can tell you how things get worse; no one can tell you how they get better.
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So it matters who wins. Just because improvements are incremental rather than transformative doesn't mean they're not important. The problem isn't that there's no difference between Obama and Romney but that there is insufficient difference between what Obama has delivered and is offering and what the country needs at a time when poverty is rising, wages have stalled, civil liberties have been suppressed, kill lists drawn up and drone attacks escalated. It is possible to indict the Republican party and vote for Obama without endorsing his record or making excuses for his failures.
The Maple Spring is important to all Canadians, not just Quebec
Six months later, the record of the longest student strike in Canadian history speaks for itself. The resignation of one education minister, then another. The defeat of Premier Charest, and his government. And, finally, the repeal of the tuition hike, and an unprecedented “special law” that sought to deny basic rights to organize and protest.
Throughout the years of mobilization that went into building this social movement, we had a simple slogan: Together, we can block the hike.
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I am currently on a national speaking tour with former CLASSE Executive Cloé Zawadzki-Turcotte and rabble.ca journalist and Canada.com contributor Ethan Cox. By this Friday we will have visited seven cities in seven days, speaking to students, activists and citizens about the lessons of our Maple Spring, and what comes next.
Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest
Tracy Chapman - Talkin bout a revolution
Remember when progressive debate was about our values and not about a "progressive" candidate? Remember when progressive websites championed progressive values and didn't tell progressives to shut up about values so that "progressive" candidates can get elected?
Come to where the debate is not constrained by oaths of fealty to persons or parties.
Come to where the pie is served in a variety of flavors.
"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." ~ Noam Chomsky