By Associated Press
WASHINGTON - The number of newly laid-off Americans requesting unemployment insurance benefits fell last week, a sign that job cuts could be easing.
The Labor Department says its tally of initial jobless claims dropped to a seasonally adjusted 610,000 from a revised figure of 663,000 the previous week. That is significantly below analysts' expectations of 655,000.
The number of people claiming benefits for more than a week increased to 6 million, the highest on records dating to 1967....(Click for original.)
By Eric Lichtblau and James Risen
The New York Times via MSNBC
WASHINGTON - The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews.
Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional.
The legal and operational problems surrounding the N.S.A.’s surveillance activities have come under scrutiny from the Obama administration, Congressional intelligence committees and a secret national security court, said the intelligence officials, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because N.S.A. activities are classified. Classified government briefings have been held in recent weeks in response to a brewing controversy that some officials worry could damage the credibility of legitimate intelligence-gathering efforts.
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The Justice Department, in response to inquiries from The New York Times, acknowledged Wednesday night that there had been problems with the N.S.A. surveillance operation, but said they had been resolved....(Click for remainder.)
Remember when congress put some limits on the NSA’s ability to spy on people without warrants while simultaneously signaling that breaking the rules wouldn’t be penalized? Shockingly, the NSA seems to have gone beyond what those new rules authorized. But I’m not sure why Eric Lichtblau and James Rosen put this so far down:
While the N.S.A.’s operations in recent months have come under examination, new details are also emerging about earlier domestic-surveillance activities, including the agency’s attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip, current and former intelligence officials said.You need to have limits on surveillance power or surveillance power will be abused. If members of congress are getting wiretapped without a warrant, something’s gone very badly wrong....(Click for remainder.)
There’s nothing like tax-filing season to remind Americans that the only things certain in life are death and taxes—or that few public outcries are considered more patriotic than grousing about paying up.
What’s an ornery tax filer to do? Have a tea party, of course.
With all the simplistic bombast that we’ve come to expect from partisans who are locked out of power and floundering with low public approval, conservative and Republican activists around the country have staged quite a number of these media events over the past few days, and already have begun organizing for more on July 4. The nation, they claim with straight—if angry—faces, is being strangled by high taxes, heavy-handed government and profligate spending. If only we could sweep away all this excess, we’d return to the shining prosperity we enjoyed ... when?
Well, they don’t say.
There is little anyone can do about these rants except worry they will be believed by a wider public. So, on the theory that the truth may one day—some day—set us free, it is worth examining exactly what we’re all paying, and what for.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office keeps track of this sort of thing. Just days ago, it released an updated analysis of the effective federal tax rate—that is, what individuals and businesses pay after they take exemptions, deductions, credits and so forth. And it turns out that the effective federal tax rate that households across the income spectrum pay is lower now than it was 30 years ago, with an average rate of 20.7 percent. That encompasses all federal taxes, including excise and payroll taxes....(Click for remainder.)
Associated Press via The Seattle Times
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Legislature has passed an "everything but marriage" bill that grants same-sex couples all the rights and benefits the state offers married couples.
After nearly two hours of debate, the House passed the measure on a 62-35 vote Wednesday. It now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.
The bill expands on previous domestic partnership laws by adding partnerships to all remaining areas of state law where currently only married couples are mentioned. The statutes range from labor and employment rights, to pensions and other public employee benefits....(Click for remainder.)
By Ewan MacAskill
Ewan MacAskill highlights a leaked US report warning of a rise in rightwing groups spawned by the recession, the internet, the president's colour and the possible return of disenchanted veterans from Iraq.
By Wendy Norris
The Colorado Independent
In the first of many expected “Tea Party” buzz kills today, a new Gallup Poll finds that 48 percent of Americans say the amount of income tax they pay is “about right,” edging out those that complain the rate is too high.
The pollster’s annual Tax Day survey notes a radical departure in this year’s report — taxpayers have the most rosy view of paying their fair share of government revenue since 1956.
On the April 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, America's Newsroom anchor and attorney Megyn Kelly asserted, "Between Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Justice [John Paul] Stevens -- those are the two most liberal justices on the Supreme Court -- they haven't made any bones about their political leanings. That's why they were appointed by the presidents they were appointed." In fact, according to a September 23, 2007, New York Times Magazine profile, Stevens has said, "I don't think of myself as a liberal at all. ... I think as part of my general politics, I'm pretty darn conservative" [emphasis in original]. In the profile, author Jeffrey Rosen wrote that Stevens "considers himself a 'judicial conservative' ... and only appears liberal today because he has been surrounded by increasingly conservative colleagues." Rosen described Stevens "as a moderate Republican [in 1975 when] he was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Supreme Court."
From the New York Times Magazine profile:
Stevens, however, is an improbable liberal icon. "I don't think of myself as a liberal at all," he told me during a recent interview in his chambers, laughing and shaking his head. "I think as part of my general politics, I'm pretty darn conservative." Stevens said that his views haven't changed since 1975, when as a moderate Republican he was appointed by President Gerald Ford to the Supreme Court. Stevens's judicial hero is Potter Stewart, the Republican centrist, whom Stevens has said he admires more than all of the other justices with whom he has served. He considers himself a "judicial conservative," he said, and only appears liberal today because he has been surrounded by increasingly conservative colleagues. "Including myself," he said, "every judge who's been appointed to the court since Lewis Powell" -- nominated by Richard Nixon in 1971 -- "has been more conservative than his or her predecessor. Except maybe Justice Ginsburg. That's bound to have an effect on the court."(Click for remainder.)
Despite polling showing that the public blames the Bush administration for the poor economy by a large margin, Politico's Eamon Javers asserted in an April 15 article that "after the spate of media attention to come when [President Obama] hits the 100-day mark, Obama will own the economy in a very real political sense" and that "[a]fter that, voters are likely to hold Obama more responsible for their economic suffering, and patience for blaming the Bush Administration will wear thin." Javers provided no evidence for his assertion that the public will no longer see the Bush administration as responsible for the state of the economy after Obama's "100-day mark."
In fact, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey conducted February 26-March 1 found that 84 percent of adults believe that Obama "inherited" the current economic conditions and that only 2 percent of those who feel that way think that Obama will become "responsible for the country's economic conditions" in less than six months.
Instead of supporting his assertion that "Obama will own the economy in a very real political sense" after 100 days in office with polling on public perception of Obama's responsibility for the economy, Javers pointed to a poll that asked respondents about Obama's ability to solve the nation's problems in general. Javers wrote, "A recent Public Strategies Inc./POLITICO poll suggests Obama does have some leeway. The survey of 1,000 registered voters found that two thirds of the respondents trust the president 'to identify the right solutions to the problems we face as a nation.' "...(Click for remainder.)
Imagine if Fox News had been on the air back on February 28, 1993, just months into the new Democratic president's first term, when agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms attempted to serve warrants on David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound, located on the outskirts of Waco, Texas. Agents arrived because federal authorities got a tip that Koresh and the followers of the misguided messiah were stockpiling weapons.
The authorities were right. Outgunned, ATF agents quickly met resistance from the Davidians, who had a .50-caliber rifle, machine guns, and more than a million rounds of ammunition at their disposal. The shootout lasted hours and became the longest in American law-enforcement history. In the end, four ATF agents were killed, and 16 were wounded. Inside the compound, five Davidians were killed and scores more injured, including Koresh, who was shot in the hip and the wrist. The gunbattle signaled the start of a 51-day standoff between Koresh and federal authorities.
Rupert Murdoch's all-news channel didn't debut in America until October 1996, but it's chilling to consider the what-ifs of how today's Fox News lineup of doomsday, anti-government prophets would have reacted to controversial and defining news events in the early 1990s -- like Waco....(Click for remainder.)
The Tilting Yard @ The Wall Street Journal
Unless it rains today, thousands of average people will stand up across the land, declare their mad-as-hell-ness. Look for folks to holler for lower estate taxes and a replacement for Sarbanes-Oxley. They will put on three-cornered hats, wave "don't tread on me" flags, and imagine that they are channeling the spirit of Tom Paine as they do their part to ease the troubles of the economy's winners.
And Fox News, which plans to cover the tea parties, will no doubt hail this plastic populism as the realest kind of social uprising, a movement that is the rightful expression of this year's discontents.
The tea-party movement began in February, triggered by the administration's mortgage plan, which aimed to rescue homeowners in danger of foreclosure, and which was the target of CNBC's Rick Santelli's much-televised ire. At a tea party I attended two months ago, speakers railed against the administration's stimulus package and defended deregulation and free markets. "Your Mortgage is Not My Problem," read one placard -- not really a slogan to rally the yeomanry of every Middlesex village and farm.
But then things changed. Thanks to the bonuses handed out a few weeks ago at AIG's Financial Products division, the public fell into the grip of a left-wing political malady that the commentariat quickly diagnosed as "populism," a word they often coupled with "mindless," "frenzy," and "fury."...(Click for remainder.)
The Lone Star State Loon: Texas Governor Talks Secession. Doesn't That Border on Rebellion, Insurrection or Sedition?
First, we were told that the Tax Day Tea Parties would draw "millions" of Tea Baggers upset about having to swallow government spending and taxes "at over 5000 locations". Then we were told that "up to a million" Tea Baggers would attend at "up to a thousand locations" to spit in the face of big government. That was then pared back to "half a million" Tea Baggers would be squatting at "over 2000 locations nationwide". Tea Bagging has climaxed and gone and we've seen perhaps 500 locations and attendance of less than two hundred fifty thousand people, perhaps even less than one hundred thousand people opening their mouths to voice their displeasure. (See http://www.pjtv.com/?cmd=tea-party and http://freedompress.ning.com/forum/topics/tea-party-updates and note that these are figures from those promoting the events so they may be padded).
For the event to have so low a turnout after two weeks of non-stop promotion by Fox News and the backing of all of these heavy hitting Republican think tanks is a statement in itself. Just think about what a few minutes of time on a major nationwide cable network like Fox News costs to buy. Fox News probably wasted $5000 to $10,000 of airtime for every attendee. In the current popular vernacular, this is what is known as an "Epic Fail" http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=epic+fail .
Fox kept talking about how the million-man march only had around half a million attendees some time ago. If CNN or Fox (had it been around then) allowed itself to be used as non-stop marketing for the million man march for two weeks like it did with the Tea Parties, you probably would have had two million men at the million man march....(Click for remainder.)
Richard Armitage, the former US Deputy Secretary of State, tells Avi Lewis of Al Jazeera why he should have resigned from the Bush administration over its lack of respect for the Geneva Conventions.
In the interview, Avi Lewis presses Mr. Armitage about why he remained in the Administration: "So when you knew that the administration of which you were a part was departing from the Geneva Conventions and sidelining them, why didn't you quit?"...(Click for remainder.)
By Mike Lillis
The Washington Independent
It happens all the time. A thirsty consumer grabs a cup of coffee with a debit card, unknowingly exceeds the available balance, and gets smacked with a $30 fee for the $3 purchase.
The banks call it overdraft protection — the usually automatic loan fronted by institutions to cover purchases even when checking accounts have run dry. And they consider it a service to customers. But critics argue that the industry has adopted a slew of abusive tactics to maximize the frequency of these loans — and the considerable fees that accompany them.
Now, as Congress is preparing to tackle a series of proposals tightening oversight and regulation of the finance industry, a growing chorus of lawmakers and consumer groups is urging Democratic leaders to include overdraft reform as a part of the package. In an economy where taxpayers have already bailed out Wall Street banks to the tune of billions of dollars, they argue, those institutions shouldn’t be permitted to turn around and slap abusive fees on their rescuers.
“They’re taking the TARP funds and then they’re raising fees and rates on the same people who funded TARP,” Pam Banks, policy counsel at Consumers Union, said of the banks benefiting from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. “They’re double dipping with the taxpayers’ money.”
But reform won’t come easy. Overdraft fees are a whirling profit engine for banks, and the industry is fighting tooth and nail to keep Congress at bay. Indeed, in a report released last November, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation found that overdraft fees range from $10 to $38, with a median charge of $27. And those fees add up. A 2007 report from the Center for Responsible Lending found that overdraft fees bring in roughly $17.5 billion each year — more than the estimated $15.8 billion in overdraft loans that generated them....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
I've had enough of Rick Perry.
At least the Perry who stood on the steps of the Texas Capitol today bashing our federal government and talking openly about Texas seceding from the United States.
This isn't the Perry I knew 25 years ago, when he first ran for the Legislature from my part of West Texas, and it's not the Perry who earned the respect of his colleagues and most Capitol reporters in the late '80s for his work on the House Appropriations Committee.
Perry's always been a conservative, but that isn't the issue. He's a demagogue now, and every single newspaper in Texas with a decent editorial page should denounce these remarks and call for him to retract them publicly or resign.
I mean that. This isn't a joke....(Click for remainder.)
Given what we are seeing with the little Teabaggers the Dog thought that today would be a good day to talk about effective protest and persuasion. There are many tools which we as activist can use. The critical thing is recognizing what works, when it works, why it works and choosing the ones which will achieve our goals most effectively. Today we have seen a failure of epic proportions which will do more damage to the Teabaggers causes (whatever the hell they are) than it will to advance.
Just like generals always prepare for the last war (where else are they going to get a template from?) activists tend to fight the last protest. Given the numbers Baby Boomers in the population, this tends to assume that mass marches are the way to go. The power of the people in the street is (with good reason) branded in their minds and seems to be the way to go. There is something to be said about this, as any democracy is effected by the collective will of the people but it suffers from a couple of problems in the 21st Century.
First off, when the massive marches on Washington to end the Vietnam War happened the country was significantly smaller. Back in 1970 we had a population of 203 million, today we have nearly 50% more. This factor alone makes it harder to get people into the streets in proportional number. The other factor is that those of the Dogs generation (he is either the very oldest of Gen X'ers or Gen Jones) and below are not the same cohesive cohort the Boomers were (which is not to say they were monolithic, by any means, but they came out the 50's as kids and had more willingness to join a team or movement). One of the factors that did unite the Boomers, especially the men, was the very real chance of being drafted for this war....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
No one likes to pay taxes, so tax day typically attracts a range of right-wing Republicans, kooks, and demagogues, all of whom tell us how awful we have it. Here's a short citizen's guide (that is, a citizen's guide that's short rather than a guide for short citizens) responding to the predictable charges:
1. "Americans pay too much in taxes." Wrong: The United States has the lowest taxes of all developed nations.
2. "The rich pay too much! The top ten percent of income earners pay over 72 percent of all income taxes!" Misleading: The main reason the rich pay such a large percent is they've become so much richer than the bottom 90 percent in recent years. If you look at what they pay as individuals -- the percent of their incomes over and above the highest rate below them -- you'll see a steady decline over the years. When Republican Dwight Eisenhower was president, the marginal rate on the highest earners was 91 percent (after deductions and tax credits, closer to 50 percent); by 1980 it was still up there, at 70 percent (an effective rate of closer to 45 percent); under Bill Clinton, it was 38 percent (an effective rate closer to 28 percent).
Look at the after-tax earnings of families and you'll see what's really going on. Between 1980 and 2000, the after-tax earnings of families at the top rose more than 150 percent, while the after-tax earnings of families in the middle rose about 10 percent. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 raised the after-tax incomes of most Americans by a bit over 1 percent -- but raised the after-tax incomes of millionaires by 4.4 percent....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
The hatred was palpable today on the State Capitol's steps. Hatred for taxes, hatred for government, hatred for state workers, hatred for teachers, hatred for Democrats, and hatred for all of the straw men that leap from the imaginations of talk radio jocks. But the most hated figure of all at today's "Tea Bag" anti-tax rally in Sacramento was President Barack Obama. One of the first placards I saw as I entered the Capitol grounds read: "Wake Up! Fresh Prince of Belair is Destroying Us -- Stop Drinking the Red Koolaid." A state police officer told me that he thought the crowd was "a couple thousand."
It was a sea of American flags of all shapes and sizes and many "Don't Tread On Me" yellow flags as well. The crowd was predictably very white, very Republican, and on the older side. I didn't see one African American (except for one of the musical performers on the stage who denounced Obama), and I didn't see any Latinos. George W. Bush could have been the focus of some of this rage because theoretically their hatred could just as well be aimed at him. But since he is a "good" Christian, white Republican Bush remained unscathed. I didn't see one sign that would indicate that it was anything other than a Republican hate rally.
Several placards called Obama the "Teleprompter in Chief" probably because Glenn Beck denounced the president for using one. The crowd chanted in unison: "No More Bail Outs! No More Stimulus! No More Taxes!" I was given an ice-cold coke from a vender who was handing them out for free and I strolled around for a good hour taking in the scene. There was one Jumbotron television or otherwise I couldn't see the stage because of the number of people packed into the Capitol grounds. It was a sizeable rally. Bigger than many of the anti-Iraq War protests I attended there. Obama's name or face was featured with sickles and hammers so much that his likeness became synonymous with something deeply un-American....(Click for remainder.)
By Amit R. Paley
The Washington Post
With the Obama administration proposing to overhaul the programs a majority of American students use to finance their college education, the student loan industry is fighting back.
The administration is calling for sweeping changes to the decades-old approach of providing federal subsides to private loan companies, arguing that the revamp will save $94 billion that can be redirected to needy borrowers and help even more people go to college. But the industry and its congressional allies are countering that it would add billions to the national debt, put thousands of industry employees out of work and provide shoddy service for borrowers.
The result of the growing confrontation will determine the way students across the country pay for college and, potentially, the fate of dozens of student lending firms.
"The Obama plan would mean that many lenders would lose 100 percent of their business," said Mark Kantrowitz, an industry analyst and publisher of FinAid.org. "It would be a dramatic shift for the way this industry works."...(Click for remainder.)
By Matt Taibbi
Following the Republican Party of late has been a movingly depressing experience, sort of like watching Old Yeller die — if Old Yeller were a worm-infested feral bitch who spent the past eight years biting children at bus stops and shitting in neighborhood swimming pools. As a useful force in American politics, the Republicans have been dead for a while now. But in the seven months since Sarah Palin's nomination, they have taken on an intriguing new role: providing much-needed comic relief during dark times, serving as the unofficial rodeo clowns of the Financial Crisis Era.
If there were any doubts about the once-mighty party's hilarious new role in American society, they vanished in recent weeks, as the Republican leadership's attempt to stop the passage of Barack Obama's budget turned into one of the most half-assed public-relations campaigns in congressional history. Watching this amazingly amateurish performance by a party that not long ago was led by highly skilled and ruthless political assassins like Tom DeLay and Karl Rove was just the latest bummer in the spiraling American-decline story. Not only don't we make good cars or airplanes anymore — now our Republicans have apparently lost their touch for evil politics.
The comedy began in late March when, after weeks of sniping about the high spending in the president's budget, the Republicans — steered by House Minority Leader John Boehner, one of the few influential Republicans in Congress to survive the Bush era — called a press conference to release an 18-page "alternative budget." The document quickly entered Washington lore as one of the most preposterous things a politician has ever handed, with a straight face, to a reporter on the Hill. Intending to counter accusations by Democrats that Republicans had become a "Party of No," blindly opposing every Obama initiative without a real plan, Boehner sternly waved the thinnish "Republican Road to Recovery" pamphlet at reporters gathered at his presser....(Click for remainder.)
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The Huffington Post
Today's "teabag" protests would be funny, if they didn't make me think of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and what he might have accomplished if Fox News existed during his time.
On February 9, 1950, McCarthy, a Republican from Wisconsin, said to the Women's Republican Club of Wheeling, West Virginia,
"While I cannot take the time to name all the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205."McCarthy never released the names on the list, and there is no evidence that he had any real knowledge of any actual Communist Party members or spies in the State Department. But that didn't stop McCarthy from going on a four-year rampage, destroying people's careers and lives based on lies, innuendo and guilt by association. By the time Special Counsel for the Army Joseph Welch asked McCarthy during a hearing of the Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Government Operations on March 11, 1954, "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?", the country had started to figure out that McCarthy was nothing but a charlatan, using fear and lies for political gain.
In light of more than 50 years of lessons on the dangers of McCarthyism, you would think that such a tactic could never work again. That may or may not be true, but one thing is for sure: If the tools employed by McCarthy fail today, it won't be for a lack of trying by the Republicans. Because as we sit here, in April 2009, an increasingly desperate Republican party has resorted to the worst abuses of the fear mongering of the 1950s to try and regain power....(Click for remainder.)
The Huffington Post
I love legislatures. When a legislature considers an issue, there is an opportunity to build coalitions. Ordinary people can communicate with their representatives. Compromises are possible. The process is open. Legislatures are where democracy happens.
That is why the action of the Vermont legislature overturning the gubernatorial veto of a gay marriage bill was so satisfying. Everyone had a say in that fight and the legislature finally recognized the simple justice of gay marriage. Of course, many people in Vermont disagreed with the legislature's decision, but they should have felt that the process was fair and that their opinions were heard. Furthermore, opponents of gay marriage will have the chance to vote against representatives they disagree with at the next election.
On the other hand, I don't trust courts. Judges are secretive and self-important. You have to hire a lawyer to speak to them because judges do not listen to ordinary people and they don't speak in ordinary ways. Courts are anti-democratic.
That is why the action of the Iowa State Supreme Court on April 3 legalizing gay marriage was so unsatisfying. The decision spoke the specialized language of equal protection, with levels of review, tiers of protection and over and under inclusion. I doubt a thousand people read that opinion. Certainly, the court did not convince anyone who did not already support gay marriage. It was just raw judicial power....(Click for remainder.)
The Washington Independent
While conservatives are planning nationwide “Tea Parties” protesting taxes — and even same-sex marriage — same-sex couples are planning some tea parties of their own, to protest the government overcharging them. The rationale: because same-sex couples are not recognized by the federal government, they face higher taxes than straight married couples.
Couples around the country will be handing out fliers at post offices educating Americans about this unfairness in the tax code. A group in Boston is even throwing their tax forms into the Boston Harbor.
“It doesn’t matter how long a same-sex couple has been together, come Tax Day they are considered single by the federal government,” states a press release from Join the Impact. “As single people, they must pretend their finances and their futures are not intertwined and forgo access to the many economic safety nets their tax dollars help fund, such as Social Security survivor benefits, estate tax deferral when inheriting property, and the ability to file taxes jointly. Every year, LGBT people are forced to pay taxes on their partner’s health care benefits as if it were additional income.”
Protests are scheduled in Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota today....(Click for original.)
The Daily Beast
Recent same-sex marriage victories don’t include the right to sponsor your spouse for a green card, leaving binational gay couples wondering where exactly home is.
The phone calls started as soon as word got out that the Vermont legislature had passed a bill recognizing the right of same-sex couples to get married. Sissi Loftin’s friends and neighbors thought she would be thrilled to be able to marry Janet, her partner of 25 years. They have been apart since 2006, when Janet—a British citizen—lost her work visa and was forced to return to England.
“Unfortunately,” says Loftin, “while we’re very pleased that lesbians and gays can marry in Vermont now, we can’t really celebrate, because it won’t help our situation. The state already recognizes our relationship—we got a civil union in 2000. Marriage won’t make any difference to us now because it doesn’t affect immigration rights.”
State-level legalization of same-sex marriage has gay and lesbian couples celebrating from the Green Mountains to the Corn Belt. But with the gay-marriage movement reaching a fever pitch—in addition to Iowa and Vermont, New York Governor David Paterson announced he’ll introduce a same-sex marriage bill this week—these couples are quickly learning that legalizing gay marriage at the state level, while keeping it illegal at the federal level, means some rights, like the right to collect a deceased spouse’s Social Security benefits, get lost in the mix....(Click for remainder.)
Protests on "tax day" are certainly nothing new, nor particularly novel. In my salad days as a cub reporter, I used to cover, every April 15, the picket outside a local IRS office by late friend Wally Nelson and other "war tax resisters." They're Americans who feel so strongly against contributing for military adventures that they refuse to pay for them; an economic version of conscientious objectors. They never sought to hide it or "evade" taxes. To the contrary, many wrote letters to the IRS explaining why they had refused to pay, saying essentially to the authorities, "come and get me." Many, like Wally, lived simply enough on subsistence farming and such that they owed almost nothing anyway, but I still thought that it took guts to hold themselves up as targets in Gandhian tradition. And some did lose their homes and bank accounts as a result of their convictions.
Today's Fox News-promoted "tea-bagging" protests across the country don't carry any similar risk for the attendees, yet they are are being hailed – whether naively or disingenuously - by conservative pundits and bloggers as some kind of second American Revolution, or at least as the beginnings of one.
As a student of organizing and movements, my ears perk up at any suggestion of grassroots rebellion. Whether or not I agree with a cause is a separate consideration than the cold and rational study of the tactics and, if any, strategy that deployed by movements, whether authentic or merely aspiring. Most tactics are not ideological; they can be deployed by right and left alike. So if the right comes up with a new innovation in organizing, I think it's worth studying and, if it works, appropriating.
Blogs are a good example of such appropriation: post September 11, 2001, the popularity of blogs first skyrocketed as a mostly pro-war genre with "conservative libertarian" tendencies. Before the Daily Kos and the left side of the screen came to dominate the blogosphere, the most widely read bloggers were from the right. Some on the left saw that the tactic worked, and appropriated it as our own. The rest is history.
In that light, is there anything to be learned – tactically or strategically – from today's tea-bagging protests said to be taking place in between 300 and 500 locations across the USA?
The short answer is, "so far, no."...(Click for remainder.)
Back in March, the state of Missouri completed a report looking into the nature of multiple militia groups that have sprung up (or moved in) around the state. The report, which was written as an aid to police departments dealing with militia issues, was started under a Republican administration, but it didn't actually go out to the police until Democratic governor Jay Nixon was in charge. Among the findings of the report? Militia members tend to be right wing wackos.
It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitution Party, Campaign for Liberty or Libertarian material. These members are usually supporters of former presidential candidates Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin and Bob Barr.How did the report's authors reach these startling conclusions? By attending militia events and talking to militia members. But despite the fact that the report's statements were: 1) true 2) so obvious that, like the Great Wall of China, they can be seen from orbit, righteous anger flared. Talking about the nature of the guys marking up their copies of The Turner Diaries while stirring cups of protest tea generated howls from the right. The screaming went on until the state first delivered an apology (for telling the truth) and then pulled the report from circulation....(Click for remainder.)
Crooks and Liars
The truth may set you free, but not if you're a Republican and the subject is taxes. After all, 95% of American families as promised received a tax cut from the Obama stimulus package. And while three-quarters of Americans support President Obama's proposal to roll back the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 to their Clinton-era levels, it turns out that affluent voters, too, chose Barack Obama over John McCain. Making matters worse, a Gallup poll Monday revealed that Americans' "views of income taxes among most positive since 1956."
So as their furious followers head off to their April 15th orgy of tea-bagging, the leadership of the GOP and its amen corner in the right-wing media have instead turned to tall tales on taxes.
Here, then, are 10 Republican Tax Day lies:
1. President Obama will raise taxes on small businesses.
2. The estate tax devastates small businesses and family farms.
3. 40% of Americans pay no taxes.
4. Tax cuts always increase revenue.
5. The GOP is the party of fiscal discipline.
6. Ronald Reagan was the greatest tax cutter of all time.
7. FDR caused the Great Depression, or at least made it worse.
8. Obama's cap-and-trade plan will cost each American family $3,100 a year.
9. Obama's tax proposals will undermine charitable giving.
10. The rich pay too much in taxes already.
For the details behind each of the GOP's Tax Day deceits, continue reading....(Click for remainder.)
Michael Weiner aka Savage: "Rogue Homosexual Elements Within Homeland Security are Engaging in Extra-Constitutional Activity
Lead Republican intellectual Michael "Savage" [Weiner], writing on one of the most important publications for the right wing noise machine, WingNutDaily, is concerned about a new report about domestic extremists issued by Homeland Security. Apparently, Savage is convinced that the report is proof that "rogue homosexual elements" are operating within Homeland Security.
Who are these rogue homosexual elements? Do you think they hang out in the 2M4M chat room?
It turns out that Big Sis [Napolitano] has just issued a report that warns against the possibility of violence by so-called "right-wing extremists."Uh no. But being anti-gay isn't a get out of jail free card if you're batshit crazy.
The report says that these dangerous right-wingers engage in "exploitation of social issues such as … same-sex marriage." What this means is that even though state after state has rejected gay marriage every time it has been put to a vote of the people, if you oppose the destruction of traditional marriage, if you oppose the gay mafia, then you are suspect. If you aren't happy with her "lifestyle choice," Big Sis will put you on her list.
It seems that rogue homosexual elements within Homeland Security are engaging in extra-constitutional activity. Where is the Republican Party to protect us from this rogue Obama government? Who will be next on the list? The Navy SEALs that shot the Somali pirates? Talk show hosts? Only Big Sis knows for sure.Michael Savage sounds a bit cranky. Someone clearly didn't get teabagged today....(Click for original.)
By Andrew Clark
The rump of the bankrupt bank Lehman Brothers is sitting on a stockpile of 450,000 lb of uranium "yellowcake" which could be used to power a nuclear reactor or, theoretically, to make a bomb.
Lehman's potentially explosive asset is a hangover from a commodities trading contract undertaken before the Wall Street bank went bust in September. The substance, yellowcake, is a solid form of mined uranium which is yet to be enriched.
Liquidators have been trying to offload the stuff for months. But the price of uranium has been dropping steadily, leaving Lehman's yellowcake languishing in a variety of secure storage facilities, some of which are in Canada.
Bryan Marshal, Lehman's chief executive, who was appointed to salvage value for creditors, told Bloomberg News that the stockpile, which is worth about $18m, would be sold responsibly.
"We plan on gradually selling this material over the next two years," he said. "We are not dumping this on the market and have no fire-sale mentality."
The price of uranium has slumped from $65 per pound to $40.50 over the last six months as pressure on recession-hit commodity investors to liquidate their assets has eased....(Click for remainder.)
WASHINGTON -- It was a great idea, really. Take a million tea bags and dump them in Lafayette Park to protest government spending. Hip, hip, hoo-ray!
But a funny thing happened en route to a visually pleasing Tax Day protest. The National Park Service said the tea party protesters didn't have the proper permit to dump their bags.
So instead of a raucous visual demonstration, all that was left were images of the tea party packing up their boxes of tea on a cold, soggy day in D.C.
"We have a million tea bags here, and we don't have a place to put them because it's not on our permit," said Rebecca Wales, lead organizer of D.C. Tea Party.
Fight the power, folks, but next time check your permits before acquiring 1 million tea bags....(Click for remainder.)