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With the confirmation of Ben Bernanke for a second four-year term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, many Americans who wanted reform of the Fed feel frustrated.  Experts and laypeople widely agree that the Fed mismanaged the US economy in the years leading up to the current economic crisis, and while some feel that the Fed has done a better job since the crisis worsened, most feel that there is still much more to be done.

Yet the confirmation of Bernanke for a second term as Chairman does not close the door to the hope that the Obama administration will make lasting changes in the leadership of the Federal Reserve.  There is another way that will be as effective as replacing Bernanke as Chairman would have been, and perhaps more so.

That path is to fill the two vacant seats on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve with strong voices who have shown awareness of the economic issues that the current leadership of the Fed has failed to demonstrate.

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With the bombshell announcement of a freeze in net Federal discretionary spending on many domestic programs tonight, much confusion (and outrage) has ensued.  It seems to me that it would be useful, at this point, to take a look at what this might actually mean.

President Obama is proposing a freeze on discretionary spending levels outside of spending on the Pentagon, foreign aid, the State Department, the Veterans Administration and homeland security.  Total non-defense discretionary spending in 2011 is projected by the Office of Management and Budget (PDF) to be $641 billion in 2011.  This represents 17.7% of the total projected 2011 Federal budget.  However, of that $641 billion, Homeland Security is projected to account for $42 billion, the State Department $56.3 billion, and Veterans Affairs $54.5 billion.  That leaves $448.2 billion which will be frozen, or 12.05% of the total projected 2011 Federal Budget.

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In the wake of the Republican victory in the election for Senator in Massachusetts, many puzzling things have been observed.  A Washington Post poll showed stunning results, such as that 13% of them support the current health care reform bill, that 33% approve of President Obama's job performance, and that one in four Brown voters are enthusiastic about or support the current policies of the Federal government.  37% of Brown voters are dissatisfied with or angry with Republican Congressional policies!

This information has been (rightly) used to repudiate the lazy media narrative of Brown's election being a national referendum where health care reform specifically and the agenda of the Obama administration generally were rejected by the electorate.  But what does this information really tell us?

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Tue Jan 19, 2010 at 04:58 PM PST

The REAL Reason Coakley Won/Lost

by Jay Elias

While the actual result of the special election for the US Senate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is still in doubt, some things are already quite clear, and demand discussion.  First and foremost, what this election has shown is that the issue which I have been insisting is the most crucial issue for our community, our party, and our nation, has been ignored by the President, our leaders in Congress, and Markos.

Poll

The lesson of today's election will be...

26%15 votes
14%8 votes
59%34 votes

| 57 votes | Vote | Results

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This is the sort of post I hate to write – one lacking a specific topic or issue to tie it together and to make my meaning plain.  But I've been asked to address some of these issues by a few of the members of our community, so I'll do my best.  Thank you in advance for your patience and attention.

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Wed Jan 13, 2010 at 03:15 PM PST

R.I.P. Jay Reatard

by Jay Elias

Memphis garage rocker Jay Reatard, who broke out last year thanks to Watch Me Fall, has died at the age of 29, Reatard’s label Matador Records confirmed. According to Memphis’ Commercial Appeal, Reatard was found dead in his Memphis home at 3:30 am this morning and reportedly died in his sleep.

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Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 04:07 PM PST

Terror is not the goal of Terrorism

by Jay Elias

Amidst the hysteria over the attempted bombing on Christmas Day, a form of misinformation has enjoyed wide acceptance with little pushback.  In recent days, it has been said in many places, including Foreign Policy and the front page of this site.  

[T]errorism by definition is only successful if it produces "terror"

Q: What's the goal of terrorists?

A: To terrify.

This is, simply put, factually untrue.

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Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 12:14 PM PST

"Help!  They are killing me!"

by Jay Elias

It was February 1, 2007, when Boubacar Bah, a tailor from Guinea, fell and injured his head in the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey.  Bah, 52, had been taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for overstaying a tourist visa.  Bah had lived and worked in New York City for a decade, sending the money he earned to his family in Africa.

Mr. Bah died after months in a coma on May 30, 2007.  In the interim, ICE officials lied to his friends and family, concealed essential details, and conspired to cover up the incident, according to documents obtained by the ACLU and the New York Times.  Among the conspirators was Capt. Nina Dozoretz, CEO of Correctcare Consultants LLC and formerly the Division of Immigration Health Service’s Associate Director, which put her in charge of the over 20,000 inmates in ICE custody.

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Fri Jan 08, 2010 at 08:56 PM PST

The Torture We Tolerate

by Jay Elias

Imagine a revolver, lying in front of you on a table.  One round is placed in the cylinder and then it is spun.  That revolver is held to the head of a child, the trigger will be pulled, and that child will face a one in six chance of the hammer coming down on a chambered round.

Even Dick Cheney might perhaps admit to this being the torture of a child.  And this is happening in America, every day.  At your expense.

No, the children aren't literally being forced to play Russian roulette.  These children are facing a one in six chance of being raped in the current calendar year, and are the inmates of our nation's justice system.

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With 2009 having come to a close, we are of course inundated with lists of the best films of the year along with the early buzz for the Academy Awards, and near the top of almost every list has been Up in the Air, the Jason Reitman film starring George Clooney as a professional downsizer.  Up in the Air is something of a favorite going into awards season, with its topical subject matter, major star, and Hollywood royalty director (Jason Reitman is the son of Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman).

But largely lost in the accolades for how topical Up in the Air is has been what the film actually has to say about downsizing, and its impact on America.

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Sat Dec 19, 2009 at 06:41 PM PST

The Price of Velvet

by Jay Elias

After eight long years of the Bush administration, it was clear to all of us that we wanted to achieve great change in our nation and in our world.  Those years were more, to us all, than simply two terms of government by a President whose political views we did not share.  Those years were years which laid bare a fundamental abuse of our trust by our government, and which cost a terrible toll in lives both at home and abroad.  Something had to be done about this.  We sought a revolutionary change in how our nation is governed.

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New York City is supposed to be a haven for people like me, and I am still getting my ass kicked by the same goons who were kicking my ass in high school. They probably want to kick my ass because they see what huge assholes we all are, with our cocaine and our cameras and our annoying music. I also wonder why it was that so many thousands of people wanted to stand for hours in the rain to get hot and filthy and have their pictures taken by strangers and probably get their asses kicked to boot. I was there too, and didn't want to leave despite any of these issues, and why? Because I am no better than anyone I despise and couldn't stop chasing the green monster. I degraded and debased myself for a few bucks, and yes, we all know where that money is going.

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