Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Conversation with Harry Belafonte on Race and Politics Today

Published on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 by ColorLines

ColorLines publisher Rinku Sen sat down with music legend and civil rights icon Harry Belafonte this summer for a wide-ranging conversation on race and politics in the Obama era. When we revisited the footage in the days after the election, it became clear Belafonte’s perspective was urgently relevant for people trying to make sense of today’s politics. So we’ve pulled out selections from their discussion in the video above, as part of our ongoing analysis on what the November “shellacking” does—and does not—mean.

Belafonte has spent decades helping to lead reform movements around the world. He’s not just leant his celebrity, but has played meaningful roles in several human rights struggles, most recently in the founding of the Gathering for Justice. His accumulated wisdom brings invaluable context to the ups and downs of electoral politics. Most importantly, Belafonte stresses that our concern needn’t be over President Obama’s political well being; our concern must be with building a people-driven movement for justice, to which any elected official must respond.

In the new year, we’ll publish the full conversation between Belafonte and Sen, along with a profile of his latest human rights campaign, against youth incarceration. In addition to the conversation with Belafonte, you can check out all of ColorLines’ post-election analysis and reporting on our Election: Now What? page. We’ll keep the conversation going as the new Congress takes over next year—and as we all plot the path to the change that so many rallied around two years ago.

© 2010 ColorLines Magazine - The Applied Research Center

Monday, November 29, 2010

The budget deficit and debt

The Budget Deficit and the Debt
What You Need to Know

 The deficit is the gap between what the government spends and the revenues it collects each year. We didn’t always run deficits. When President Clinton left office, the federal budget was running a surplus of $236 billion, or about 2% of the U.S. economy. And that extra revenue was being used to pay down the national debt. To understand how we moved from big surpluses to a growing deficit, it’s helpful to examine each of the major factors driving our nation’s current deficits.
  1. Every million additional jobs we generate reduces the deficit by $54 billion.
  2. It’s misleading (and dangerous) to confuse the short-term budget shortfall with the medium-term deficit or the long-term debt. Here’s a way of understanding it:
    1. The Short-Term Recession Shortfall (1-3 years): The Great Recession wasresponsible for 61 percent of the deficit last year.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Corporations Show Largest Profits in History Amidst Jobs Crisis

by David Dayen

According to revised statistics, the US economy grew at a faster rate [1] than first expected, up to 2.5%. Earlier growth in Q3 2010 was estimated at 2%. But the entire problem with looking at this topline number is reflected in these three paragraphs:

But the most recent increase in GDP still isn’t strong enough to make a dent in the country’s high unemployment rate, stuck at 9.6% in recent months. Analysts say GDP growth of at least 3% is needed to bring down the jobless figure, but many don’t expect the economy to perform that well in the fourth quarter or early next year.

The Federal Reserve’s latest economic outlook, to be released later Tuesday, is likely to reflect concerns among policymakers that unemployment will remain very high in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.

American corporations, on the other hand, have rebounded robustly from the recession. Tuesday’s report showed corporate profits jumped 28% in the third quarter from a year earlier, to an annualized total of $1.66 trillion. That’s a record high and reflects deep cost-cutting in the past and increases in demand for goods and services.

That’s right. Despite record unemployment, and no hope for reductions clearly in sight, corporations have experienced all-time record profits [2], the highest since the Commerce Department started tracking the figure 60 years ago. They’ve learned to produce as many or more goods without workers.

This is something of a dream for corporate America – bigger profits without those meddling workers to pay. This is the seventh straight quarter of corporate profit growth, with none of those benefits being shared with the working class. “Uncertainty” is blamed for the lack of job growth, but corporations are sitting on giant mounds of cash while they bask in the glow of their strategy to increase their profit margins by cost-cutting.

The other part of this is that multinational corporations are reaping profits from increased consumer spending in China and India. Their markets there have expanded greatly in the past few years.

In the other side of the funhouse mirror, American workers continue to have little hope for returning to the job. They are anxious about their future prospects, and while they continue to spend on necessities, they have trouble with the more substantive payments. Foreclosures and defaults continue unabated, and home sales have dropped [3], which will probably lead to lower home prices.

But capitalism is working, and the great malefactors of wealth are happy. Happy Thanksgiving.

© 2010 Firedoglake.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Paul Krugman, "The World as He Finds It"

New York Times, November 14, 2010

On Wednesday David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political adviser, appeared to signal that the White House was ready to cave on tax cuts — to give in to Republican demands that tax cuts be extended for the wealthy as well as the middle class. “We have to deal with the world as we find it,” he declared.

The White House then tried to walk back what Mr. Axelrod had said. But it was a telling remark, in more ways than one.

The obvious point is the contrast between the administration’s current whipped-dog demeanor and Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric as a candidate. How did we get from “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” to here?

But the bitter irony goes deeper than that: the main reason Mr. Obama finds himself in this situation is that two years ago he was not, in fact, prepared to deal with the world as he was going to find it. And it seems as if he still isn’t.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sen. Bernie Sanders, "The Billionaires Want More, More, More"

Published on Saturday, November 20, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

The billionaires are on the warpath. They want more, more, more.

In 2007, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income -- more than the bottom 50 percent. Not enough! The percentage of income going to the top 1 percent nearly tripled since the mid-1970s. Not enough! Eighty percent of all new income earned from 1980 to 2005 has gone to the top 1 percent. Not enough! The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Not enough! The Wall Street executives with their obscene compensation packages now earn more than they did before we bailed them out. Not enough! With the middle class collapsing and the rich getting much richer, the United States now has, by far, the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on earth. Not enough!

The very rich want more, more and more and they are prepared to dismantle the existing political and social order to get it. During the last campaign, as a result of the (Republican) Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, billionaires were able to pour hundreds of millions of dollars of secret money into the campaign -- helping to elect dozens of members of Congress. Now, having made their investment, they want their congressional employees to produce.

Friday, November 19, 2010

What is next? Richard Flacks

What is next? Richard Flacks.
Are you as tired as I am with never-ending critiques of Barack Obama coming from the left as well as the right? Mainstream punditry has decided that he is largely a failed president (never forget that the MSM thought he was a failed candidate before he wasn't). Everyone on the left thinks, as one friend (a committed feminist) said the other night, ‘he has no balls.' The current rage is focused on apparent White House support for some sort of compromise on extending those Bush tax cuts. And there's plenty of other betrayals over which to wring hands and gnash teeth.
Handwringing and teeth gnashing don't bring the needed change, however. Why do we keep playing this blame game?
Let's stipulate, the administration needs to be criticized and pressed to correct course. There's no doubt that the president needs to figure out how to explain his key policies to those whose disapproval seems based on misunderstanding. This seems especially true for health care reform, the complexity of which has been key to its apparent unpopularity (I say this in light of the fact that large majorities approve of most of the specific provisions of the act when these are described). But the demand that Obama become more confrontational in order to challenge the fatuous and foolish GOP in congress isn't good strategic advice for him. The country sees him as trying to solve problems and govern, and sees the GOP already as obstructionist. A significant number of people who once identified as Republican now declare as independents. Here's some recent polling evidence. For us on the left, Obama's reasonableness is frustrating. But it could be his best chance to prevail in terms of policy as well as politics.
As I keep saying in this space, if progressives want to promote real change we can't be waiting for Barry, it's up to us. We should be asking each other, not what should he be doing, but what should we do. Of course it's fine to mobilize for a progressive/populist tax measure in the lame duck congress and to defend social security in the face of the Bowles-Simpson initiative. These very focused issues lend themselves well to on-line actions that will give counter-weight to the rightwing onslaught.
But there are more far-reaching measures we should be figuring out how to mobilize for-measures that might really help the people:
       A new WPA?
In a recent web posting, Jeanne Mirer and Marjorie Cohen, argued that Obama could do what FDR did-create a lot of jobs by executive order:
"Can the President directly create jobs by executive order? The answer is a resounding yes. Remember when the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which created the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) was passed, one of the purposes was to preserve homeownership, and promote jobs and economic growth.
Much of the TARP money has been repaid and the administration refers to the profit on the payments. If one assumes an average cost of one job is $50,000, 6 million jobs could be immediately created for $300 billion. 12 million jobs could be created for $600 billion. Because this is already appropriated money, Congressional Republicans could not block it""
Such funding could also be used to support state budgets to protect education and public safety, and to promote weatherization and other green economy job creation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tax cuts for the super rich?

  • Why the Lame Duck Congress Must Extend Jobless Benefits For Hard-hit Families But Not Tax Cuts For the Rich

    America’s long-term unemployed — an estimated 4 million or more — constitute the single newest and biggest social problem facing America.
    Now their unemployment benefits are about to run out, and the lame-duck Congress may not have the votes to extend them. (You can forget about the next Congress.)
    The long-term unemployed can’t get work because there are still five people needing work for every job opening. And the long-term jobless are often at the end of the job line: Either they don’t have the right skills or enough eduction, or have been out of work so long prospective employers are nervous about hiring them.
    They’re also a big problem for the economy. Without enough money in their pockets, they and their families can’t pay their mortgages, which keeps fueling the mortgage crisis. Nor can they replace worn-out cars and clothing, or buy muchof anything else, which is a drag on the economy.
    Republicans and many blue-dog Dems say we can’t afford another extension.
    But these are many of the same people who say we should extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy for at least another two years.
    Extending the Bush tax cuts for the top 1 percent would cost an estimated $120 billion over the next two years. That’s more than another unemployment benefit extension would cost.
    The unemployed need the money. The rich don’t.
  • Monday, November 15, 2010

    Call in for unemployment benefits extension- today

    Hey!  In addition to calling Congress on the National Call-In Action Day there's another way to raise your voice on Tuesday, November 16 for continuing the federal unemployment insurance program.
    It's a Blog-A-Thon!
    We've teamed up with our friends at MomsRising.org to raise our blogging voices for unemployed workers and their families. MomsRising.org is promoting their own Blog Carnival on the unemployment issue on Tuesday, November 16.  And, in coordination, we're sponsoring a parallel Blog-A-Thon.
    Here's how it works:
    If you post on a blog, or have your own blog, make Tuesday, November 16 the day you post a blog on the unemployment crisis and the need for Congress to continue the federal unemployment benefits program.  

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    Jeff Chang: It’s Bigger Than Politics, the Real Shift is Cultural

    by Jamilah King
    Thursday, November 4 2010

    The Most Racist Campaign in Decades, and What It Demands of Us In the wake of this week’s election, we talked to scholar and ColorLines co-founder Jeff Chang about what to make of the country’s big shifts and shakedowns. The author of “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation” and “Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop”, Chang’s used to looking at the bigger picture. He’s got two new books due out next year, one of which, “Who We Be: The Colorization of America” takes a look at how culture impacts, and often precedes, political change. Here, he sheds some much needed light on what’s happening politically, and where we’re headed in the future.

    First, let’s get some historical context. What makes this political moment so potentially galvanizing for young voters of color? Aren’t we supposed to be “post-racial”?

    The culture wars are back, and they have targeted a new generation. To me, Sharron Angle’s “you look Asian to me” moment was a perfect example. Pundits and bloggers focused on the stupidity of her comment, but the discussion was prompted by a Chicano student who was calling her out on her anti-immigration commercials that featured criminalized brown youths. Angle’s defense—I’m so colorblind, I can’t even tell what race you are—was not just hilarious, it was brutal in its dishonesty. The ads that the students objected to were far from colorblind.

    For the right, this election proved—from Rand Paul to Jan Brewer—that racialized appeals to older white voters still mobilize, that the culture wars still work. The upside is that in Nevada, Chicano and Latino voters and young voters flipped the race for Reid, who had been several points down in the days leading up to the election.

    Young voters, particularly those of color, really rallied behind Obama in 2008. There’s been a lot of talk of how that support is quickly eroding. What needs to be done to once again strengthen that electoral base?

    Obama did fairly well by youth. He passed an outstanding student loan overhaul package that will immediately help access to higher education, especially in this era of skyrocketing public school tuition. Perhaps he could have sold it better. But his communications failure was a sign of a larger failure. Going on MTV was good. Barnstorming college campuses was good. Sending a message of “Vote or die” in 2010 was not good. What Obama failed to do for young people was what he failed to do for his base, because youths are now definitively seen as his base: offer a positive progressive vision for the next 2 years.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Jon Stewart, Opiate of the Masses

    [Editor's Note: Although Almond's critique of Jon Stewart may not endear him (or me) with the 18-29 demographic, I think he's right on target. When we start to mistake Stewart's witty satire for actual progressive critique and analysis of the power elite and how to effectively challenge them, we're in trouble. Stewart's tendency to falsely lump those of us who struggle for the powerless into the same morally equivalent camp as those who shill for the corporate elite is also growing tired. While I find his humor brilliant, Stewart's political analysis is naive and deeply flawed.]
    Published on Sunday, November 7, 2010 by the San Francisco Chronicle

    Jon Stewart, Opiate of the Masses
    by Steve Almond

    I realize this is going to put me in some pretty unsavory company, but here goes: I didn't like Jon Stewart's rousing speech at the end of his Rally to Restore Sanity. I found it cowardly and even a little heartbreaking.

    I'll get to why in a minute, but let me say first that I have been, for many years, a big fan of Stewart and his evil twin, Stephen Colbert. They're both brilliant comedians and, when they choose to be, powerful advocates of reason.

    Stewart's systematic dismantling of insurance company shill Betsy McCaughey, for instance, was a crucial bit of public theater that helped put to rest the myth of Death Panels. Colbert's upbraiding of both George W. Bush and the lapdog media that enabled him at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association dinner was a genuine act of heroism. So when Stewart and Colbert announced their joint rally, I was as excited as the next disaffected progressive. The more cultural bandwidth these guys get, I figured, the more sensible our discourse will become.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    An Open Letter to the White Right, On the Occasion of Your Recent, Successful Temper Tantrum

    by Time Wise
    November 3, 2010
    For all y’all rich folks, enjoy that champagne, or whatever fancy ass Scotch you drink.

    And for y’all a bit lower on the economic scale, enjoy your Pabst Blue Ribbon, or whatever shitty ass beer you favor.

    Whatever the case, and whatever your economic station, know this…

    You need to drink up.

    And quickly.

    And heavily.

    Because your time is limited.

    Real damned limited.

    So party while you can, but mind the increasingly loud clock ticking away in the corners of your consciousness.

    The clock that reminds you how little time you and yours have left.

    Not much more now.

    Tick, tock.

    Tick, tock.


    Friday, November 5, 2010

    E.J. Dionne, Jr. - "Why Pelosi is running for House minority leader"

    [Editor's Note: Give 'em hell Nancy! Progressives have your back.]

    Why Pelosi is running for House minority leader
     By E.J. Dionne Jr.
    Saturday, November 6, 2010
    The Washingtion Post

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is calmly assessing the political cyclone that routed her Democratic majority and will, at least temporarily, force her to vacate one of the best offices in the city, with its inspirational view of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

    She keeps coming back to the courage of her colleagues who cast hard votes that helped make the past two years one of Congress's most productive periods in recent times - and made her one of the most effective speakers in history. Her message is unmistakable: Democrats have nothing to apologize for, nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to regret.

    "One of the members called me and said, 'I'm in a tough race. It's even. I don't know how it's going to turn out,' " she recalls. " 'But I know one thing: that I wouldn't do anything differently. I wouldn't change my vote on health-care reform no matter how they tried to describe it. It was important for me to vote to give the opportunity that that bill provides.' "

    "These members know what they believe in," she notes, channeling her own feelings through those of her colleagues. "They will have plenty of options in life. I hope one of them is to consider coming back to Congress."

    I spoke with Pelosi less than 24 hours before she announced she wanted to stay on as Democratic leader, and everything she said made clear that she's not ready to allow millions of dollars in Republican attack ads to drive her from public life. She wants another crack at winning electoral vindication for a record she believes stands well on the merits.

    About how she was used this year as a political pinata, she is philosophical. Republicans always look for a liberal they can target, she said, and for decades, the choice was the late Edward M. Kennedy. What was done to her, she says, "was almost chicken feed" by comparison. "Now they didn't have him," she adds. "To some extent they did this with Mrs. Clinton for a while." And then Pelosi performs the political math. "Now you take a woman and a progressive and you put it together. . ."

    She stops, and breaks out laughing. She won't say it herself, but points to her former colleague Martin Frost's observation that a woman from liberal San Francisco was the ideal Republican target. "I don't think they could have done this to a male speaker," Frost told USA Today.

    But Pelosi's rule on the gender issue is: "Don't underestimate, don't overestimate, just move on from it." So identity politics is absent when she's asked point blank why the Republicans attacked her so fiercely.

    "Because I'm effective," she answers matter-of-factly. "It's why they had to do it. They had to put a stop to me because we were effective in passing health-care reform, which the health insurance industry wanted to stop; Wall Street reform, which Wall Street wanted to stop; [reforms of] students loans for taking the money out of the banks and giving it back to the taxpayer and to families."

    And in what might be read as a reminder of why she should remain as leader, she adds: "I'm one of the most effective fundraisers that the Congress has had . . . because I believe in something."

    Please Sign the Petition Demanding that General Electric/MSNBC Reinstate Keith Olbermann

    Keth Olbermann is one of the few progressive voices in the Corporate Media. Please
    click on Keith's picture. It will take you to an online petition where you can demand that General Electric/MSNBC reinstate him immediately!

    If Olbermann's Donations Are Bad, What About GE's?

    Action Alert

    If Olbermann's Donations Are Bad, What About GE's?


    MSNBC host Keith Olbermann has been placed on indefinite suspension without pay in the wake of a Politico report (11/5/10) that revealed Olbermann had donated $7,200 to three Democratic candidates, in violation of NBC's standards barring employees from making political contributions.

    A journalist donating money to a political candidate raises obvious conflict of interest questions; at a minimum, such contributions should be disclosed on air. But if supporting politicians with money is a threat to journalistic independence, what are the standards for Olbermann's bosses at NBC, and at NBC's parent company General Electric?

    Sen. Bernie Sanders' Statement on General Electric/MSNBC's Suspension of Keith Olberman

    November 5, 2010
    CONTACT: Senator Bernie Sanders
    Michael Briggs (202) 224-5141

    Sanders Statement on Olbermann Suspension

    WASHINGTON - November 5 - “It is outrageous that General Electric/MSNBC would suspend Keith Olbermann for exercising his constitutional rights to contribute to a candidate of his choice. This is a real threat to political discourse in America and will have a chilling impact on every commentator for MSNBC.

    “We live in a time when 90 percent of talk radio is dominated by right-wing extremists, when the Republican Party has its own cable network (Fox) and when progressive voices are few and far between.

    “At a time when the ownership of Fox news contributed millions of dollars to the Republican Party, when a number of Fox commentators are using the network as a launching pad for their presidential campaigns and are raising money right off the air, it is absolutely unacceptable that MSNBC suspended one of the most popular progressive commentators in the country.

    “Is Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz next? Is this simply a ‘personality conflict’ within MSNBC or is one of America’s major corporations cracking down on a viewpoint they may not like? Whatever the answer may be, Keith Olbermann should be reinstated immediately and allowed to present his point of view."

    Amy Goodman, "Rich Media, Poor Democracy"

    Published on Thursday, November 4, 2010 by TruthDig.com
    Rich Media, Poor Democracy
    by Amy Goodman

    As the 2010 elections come to a close, the biggest winner of all remains undeclared: the broadcasters. The biggest loser: democracy. These were the most expensive midterm elections in U.S. history, costing close to $4 billion, $3 billion of which went to advertising. What if ad time were free? We hear no debate about this, because the media corporations are making such a killing by selling campaign ads. Yet the broadcasters are using public airwaves.I am reminded of the 1999 book by media scholar Robert McChesney, "Rich Media, Poor Democracy." In it, he writes, "Broadcasters have little incentive to cover candidates, because it is in their interest to force them to publicize their campaigns."

    The Wesleyan Media Project, at Wesleyan University, tracks political advertising. Following the recent Supreme Court ruling, Citizens United v. FEC, the project notes, "The airwaves are being saturated with more House and Senate advertising, up 20 percent and 79 percent respectively in total airings." Evan Tracey, the founder and president of Campaign Media Analysis Group, predicted in USA Today in July, "There is going to be more money than there is airtime to buy." John Nichols of The Nation commented that in the genteel, earlier days of television political advertising, the broadcasters would never juxtapose an ad for a candidate with an ad opposed to that candidate. But they are running out of broadcast real estate. Welcome to the brave, new world of the multibillion dollar campaigns.

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010


    17TH Annual Multicultural
    Education Conference
    Keynote Speaker: Eugene Garcia, Ph.D.
    Arizona: Resisting the New
    {Anti}-Social Movement
    Sat. Nov. 6.  University Union.  CSU –Sacramento.
    For more information
    Duane Campbell presentation:  Stop the anti immigrant, anti public school movement.