Posts Tagged Washington
Amtrak Upgrades Wi-Fi Service on Trains
Luke Sharrett for The New York Times
Steven Jackson using Amtrak’s Wi-Fi service on a Boston-bound train last year. The service has drawn technology jokes, and praise, from passengers.
By RON NIXON
Published: May 16, 2013
WASHINGTON — After years of criticism of the wireless service on its trains, Amtrak announced on Thursday that it had upgraded its cellular-based Wi-Fi using broadband technologies that will improve the speed and reliability of the Internet in its passenger cars.
Amtrak’s Wi-Fi has been the target of technology jokes since the railroad introduced the service, with some passengers comparing it to dial-up services like America Online or Prodigy. But others have praised the service, saying it allows them to be productive while traveling between cities, unlike airline travel. Because of the technical difficulties of maintaining a strong Internet connection on a moving train, the increase in speed would still be less than most people experience at home.
The railroad said the broadband upgrade was complete on the high-speed Acela trains that travel the more than 400 miles between Washington and Boston. Several state-supported routes in California, including the Capitol Corridor, Pacific Surfliner and San Joaquin routes, have also been upgraded.
Amtrak said it would roll out the upgrades to all remaining Amtrak trains equipped with Wi-Fi, including the Northeast Regional, by late summer.
“We continue to place a strong focus on improving customer satisfaction, and this upgrade is delivering the improved speeds and connectivity required to maintain a competitive edge,” Deborah Stone-Wulf, Amtrak’s chief of sales distribution and customer service, said in a statement.
Amtrak said Acela passengers have already noticed an improvement in the Wi-Fi service aboard the trains and have been commenting through social media.
But not all the social media chatter has been positive.
Shelton Mercer, chief executive of TwitChange, an Atlanta-based Web site that brings celebrities and fans together for good causes, wrote on Twitter last month, “#Amtrak ‘Wi-fi’ should be renamed ‘Why-Try.’ ”
Amtrak responded to some negative Twitter posts, saying the upgrades would strengthen its Wi-Fi network and increase the amount of bandwidth available for tech-savvy passengers who have become accustomed to being connected while traveling.
Sara Wachter-Boettcher, an author and Web consultant in Lancaster, Pa., called the service an infuriating luxury. On a recent trip home from teaching a workshop in New York, she said, she was desperately trying to catch up on e-mail. But the Wi-Fi on the train booted her off every few minutes, she said, and she had to resort to a combination of her smartphone and laptop to keep working.
“On the one hand, we’re lucky to have such pervasive Internet access,” she said in an e-mail. “On the other, it’s frustrating anytime something that should work doesn’t.”
Unlike most airlines, Amtrak said it would continue to provide free Wi-Fi service. The railroad said that Wi-Fi was available on trains that serve 75 percent of Amtrak passengers, and that it routinely supported 30 percent to 50 percent of passengers on a given train.
But Amtrak also said it would continue to limit some Internet activities.
To ensure that all passengers have an opportunity to use the Wi-Fi service, Amtrak said, it would still restrict data-heavy activities that could slow the service down, like streaming video sites like Netflix and music sites like Pandora. The railroad also restricts file downloads larger than 10MB.
Even with the upgrades, Amtrak will continue to face some challenges with its wireless service. High-speed service is not available everywhere, and because the railroad uses different carriers along its routes, including Verizon and AT&T, service could still be interrupted or slowed as the Wi-Fi signals switch between the carriers. In addition, as the speed of the service increases, so will the number of people trying to use it, potentially slowing it down.
Still, Amtrak seems confident that passengers will have a better Internet experience aboard its trains. In a news release announcing the upgrades, the railroad suggested the following Twitter post: “Productivity on @Amtrak #Acela just got better. Their onboard #Wi-Fi is now powered by 4G technology.”
- Is Amtrak’s new Wi-Fi upgrade really going to work? (bizjournals.com)
- Amtrak’s WiFi Upgrade Allows More People to Complain About Amtrak WiFi (theatlanticwire.com)
- Amtrak Upgrades Wi-Fi (mobile.slashdot.org)
- Amtrak Upgrading W-iFi Service on Its Trains, Acela Trains Already Enjoying Speed Boost (hothardware.com)
- Amtrak Faces Money Shortfall (stlouis.cbslocal.com)
- Amtrak unveils new, efficient locomotives (smartplanet.com)
- Wichita’s Amtrak supporters plan announcement Friday (bizjournals.com)
- Amtrak Gets Siemens Locomotive to Serve U.S. Northeast – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Friday Reading: Marathon Training, Minus the Long Run (bucks.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Amtrak train headed to Milwaukee strikes car in Mount Pleasant (fox6now.com)
Daily Kos: Dairy industry warns of shortages and rising prices if it doesn’t get cheap guest workers
TUE MAR 12, 2013 AT 10:15 AM PDT
The current H-2A agricultural guest worker program just doesn’t work for dairy farmers—and they’re hoping immigration reform will change that. If it doesn’t, they warn, we could see dairy shortages and rising prices. There is this one flaw in the argument, though:
“They can never adequately explain why they can’t raise wages,” said Eric Ruark, research director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington. “If there’s a labor shortage, you raise wages. That’s classic supply-and- demand. Maximizing profits for the producer should not be the main goal of our food system.”
H-2A visas are only for seasonal or temporary work; since dairy farms operate year round, that’s not very useful to them and they want a guest worker program that meets their needs. Without immigrants, a report by the National Milk Producers Federation claims, retail dairy prices could rise by 61 percent. But that’s if you just subtract immigrant dairy workers and don’t replace them with anyone else, leading to milk shortages. The milk producers apparently aren’t giving any thought to raising wages significantly from their 2008 average of (according to the same report) $9.97. And while subtracting the 41 percent of dairy workers who are immigrants from the industry, leading to major shortages, might well increase retail prices by 61 percent, raising wages even by 50 percent would have a much smaller effect on prices, since wages are hardly the only component of pricing. In other words, it’s a little like when the CEO of Papa John’s exaggerates how much providing health coverage for full-time workers will increase the cost of a pizza.
So when dairy farmers are out talking to reporters about how even though they could sell more milk if they had it, they can’t expand their operations because of a shortage of immigrant labor, and saying they can’t raise wages because it would cut into their profits too much, what you have is a pretty obvious dairy industry campaign for cheap immigrant labor. And while we need immigration reform, it should not be geared toward providing cheap, long-term but ultimately disposable at the whim of the employer, labor to avoid raising wages over $10.
- Dairy industry warns of shortages and rising prices if it doesn’t get cheap guest workers (dailykos.com)
- Seeking workers, Wisconsin dairy farmers call for immigration reform (jsonline.com)
- Lack of Cow Milkers for Yogurt Drives Immigration Debate – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- AFL-CIO, Chamber of Commerce lay out initial principles for guest worker program (talkingunion.wordpress.com)
- Dairy growth centres on forestry deal (abc.net.au)
- Your “friends” in the dairy industry: Hard at work to change the definition of “milk” so they can add chemical sweeteners without labeling. (icedborscht.com)
- VIDEO REPORT: Some in Dairy Industry Hoping for Immigration Reform (nbc15.com)
- Milk price rise predicted as drought hits supply (radionz.co.nz)
- Willis Launches Insurance Program for Dairy Farm Industry (insurancejournal.com)
- Thousands Angered By Milk In Aspartame Petition (huffingtonpost.com)
The Government Has It Bass-Ackwards: Failing To Prosecute Criminal Fraud by the Big Banks Is Killing – NOT Saving – the Economy « naked capitalism
Cross posted from Washington’s Blo
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today:
I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions [banks] becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy
As we’ve repeatedly noted, this is wholly untrue.
If the big banks were important to the economy, would so many prominent economists, financial experts and bankers be calling for them to be broken up?
If the big banks generated prosperity for the economy, would they have to be virtually 100% subsidized to keep them afloat?
If the big banks were helpful for an economic recovery, would they be prolonging our economic instability?
In fact, failing to prosecute criminal fraud has been destabilizing the economy since at least 2007 … and will cause huge crashes in the future.
After all, the main driver of economic growth is a strong rule of law.
Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz says that we have to prosecute fraud or else the economy won’t recover:
The legal system is supposed to be the codification of our norms and beliefs, things that we need to make our system work. If the legal system is seen as exploitative, then confidence in our whole system starts eroding. And that’s really the problem that’s going on.
I think we ought to go do what we did in the S&L [crisis] and actually put many of these guys in prison. Absolutely. These are not just white-collar crimes or little accidents. There were victims. That’s the point. There were victims all over the world.
Economists focus on the whole notion of incentives. People have an incentive sometimes to behave badly, because they can make more money if they can cheat. If our economic system is going to work then we have to make sure that what they gain when they cheat is offset by a system of penalties.
Nobel prize winning economist George Akerlof has demonstrated that failure to punish white collar criminals – and instead bailing them out- creates incentives for more economic crimes and further destruction of the economy in the future.
(Review of the data on accounting fraud confirms that fraud goes up as criminal prosecutions go down.)
The Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division told Congress:
Recovery from the fallout of the financial crisis requires important efforts on various fronts, and vigorous enforcement is an essential component, as aggressive and even-handed enforcement will meet the public’s fair expectation that those whose violations of the law caused severe loss and hardship will be held accountable. And vigorous law enforcement efforts will help vindicate the principles that are fundamental to the fair and proper functioning of our markets: that no one should have an unjust advantage in our markets; that investors have a right to disclosure that complies with the federal securities laws; and that there is a level playing field for all investors.
Paul Zak (Professor of Economics and Department Chair, as well as the founding Director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, Professor of Neurology at Loma Linda University Medical Center, and a senior researcher at UCLA) and Stephen Knack (a Lead Economist in the World Bank’s Research Department and Public Sector Governance Department) wrote a paper called Trust and Growth, showing that enforcing the rule of law – i.e. prosecuting white collar fraud – is necessary for a healthy economy.
One of the leading business schools in America – the Wharton School of Business – published an essay by a psychologist on the causes and solutions to the economic crisis. Wharton points out that restoring trust is the key to recovery, and that trust cannot be restored until wrongdoers are held accountable:
According to David M. Sachs, a training and supervision analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, the crisis today is not one of confidence, but one of trust. “Abusive financial practices were unchecked by personal moral controls that prohibit individual criminal behavior, as in the case of [Bernard] Madoff, and by complex financial manipulations, as in the case of AIG.” The public, expecting to be protected from such abuse, has suffered a trauma of loss similar to that after 9/11. “Normal expectations of what is safe and dependable were abruptly shattered,” Sachs noted. “As is typical of post-traumatic states, planning for the future could not be based on old assumptions about what is safe and what is dangerous. A radical reversal of how to be gratified occurred.”
People now feel more gratified saving money than spending it, Sachs suggested. They have trouble trusting promises from the government because they feel the government has let them down.
He framed his argument with a fictional patient named Betty Q. Public, a librarian with two teenage children and a husband, John, who had recently lost his job. “She felt betrayed because she and her husband had invested conservatively and were double-crossed by dishonest, greedy businessmen, and now she distrusted the government that had failed to protect them from corporate dishonesty. Not only that, but she had little trust in things turning around soon enough to enable her and her husband to accomplish their previous goals.
“By no means a sophisticated economist, she knew … that some people had become fantastically wealthy by misusing other people’s money — hers included,” Sachs said. “In short, John and Betty had done everything right and were being punished, while the dishonest people were going unpunished.”
Helping an individual recover from a traumatic experience provides a useful analogy for understanding how to help the economy recover from its own traumatic experience, Sachs pointed out. The public will need to “hold the perpetrators of the economic disaster responsible and take what actions they can to prevent them from harming the economy again.” In addition, the public will have to see proof that government and business leaders can behave responsibly before they will trust them again, he argued.
Note that Sachs urges “hold[ing] the perpetrators of the economic disaster responsible.” In other words, just “looking forward” and promising to do things differently isn’t enough.
Shiller said the danger of foreclosuregate — the scandal in which it has come to light that the biggest banks have routinely mishandled homeownership documents, putting the legality of foreclosures and related sales in doubt — is a replay of the 1930s, when Americans lost faith that institutions such as business and government were dealing fairly.
Indeed, it is beyond dispute that bank fraud was one of the main causes of the Great Depression.
Economist James K. Galbraith wrote in the introduction to his father, John Kenneth Galbraith’s, definitive study of the Great Depression, The Great Crash, 1929:
The main relevance of The Great Crash, 1929 to the great crisis of 2008 is surely here. In both cases, the government knew what it should do. Both times, it declined to do it. In the summer of 1929 a few stern words from on high, a rise in the discount rate, a tough investigation into the pyramid schemes of the day, and the house of cards on Wall Street would have tumbled before its fall destroyed the whole economy.
In 2004, the FBI warned publicly of “an epidemic of mortgage fraud.” But the government did nothing, and less than nothing, delivering instead low interest rates, deregulation and clear signals that laws would not be enforced. The signals were not subtle: on one occasion the director of the Office of Thrift Supervision came to a conference with copies of the Federal Register and a chainsaw. There followed every manner of scheme to fleece the unsuspecting ….
This was fraud, perpetrated in the first instance by the government on the population, and by the rich on the poor.
The government that permits this to happen is complicit in a vast crime.
Galbraith also says:
There will have to be full-scale investigation and cleaning up of the residue of that, before you can have, I think, a return of confidence in the financial sector. And that’s a process which needs to get underway.
Galbraith recently said that “at the root of the crisis we find the largest financial swindle in world history”, where “counterfeit” mortgages were “laundered” by the banks.
As he has repeatedly noted, the economy will not recover until the perpetrators of the frauds which caused our current economic crisis are held accountable, so that trust can be restored. See this, this and this.
No wonder Galbraith has said economists should move into the background, and “criminologists to the forefront.”
The bottom line is that the government has it exactly backwards. By failing to prosecute criminal fraud, the government is destabilizing the economy … and ensuring future crashes.
- Eric Holder Insists Some BANKS ARE JUST TOO BIG TO PROSECUTE [VIDEO] (secretsofthefed.com)
- The Government Has It Bass-Ackwards: Failing To Prosecute Criminal Fraud by the Big Banks Is Killing – NOT Saving – the Economy (washingtonsblog.com)
- Failure to Prosecute Fraud Causes Economic Downturns (ritholtz.com)
- VIDEO – Eric Holder Questioned On Too Big To Jail (dailybail.com)
- Oh really, banks are ‘too big to jail’? Elizabeth Warren isn’t having it (tv.msnbc.com)
- Holder: Banks too big to prosecute (salon.com)
- Eric Holder Says Big Wall Street Banks Are Too Large And Systemically Important To Be Prosecuted Effectively (infiniteunknown.net)
- Eric Holder Concerned Major Banks Too Big to Prosecute (atlantablackstar.com)
- Dear Eric Holder: If banks are too big to prosecute, break ‘em up (americablog.com)
- Holder Confesses That Banks Are Too Big To Prosecute (crooksandliars.com)
TEA PARTY AND THE RIGHT
The Sequester as a Tea Party Plot
Sequestration grew out of a strategy hatched soon after they took over the House in 2011.
Photo Credit: Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com
March 1, 2013
Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public’s business, and to sow distrust among the population.
Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.
Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.
Far-fetched? Perhaps. But take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you’d be forgiven if you see parallels.
Tea Party Republicans are crowing about the “sequestration” cuts beginning today (Friday). “This will be the first significant tea party victory in that we got what we set out to do in changing Washington,” says Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.), a Tea Partier who was first elected in 2010.
Sequestration is only the start. What they set out to do was not simply change Washington but eviscerate the U.S. government — “drown it in the bathtub,” in the words of their guru Grover Norquist – slashing Social Security and Medicare, ending worker protections we’ve had since the 1930s, eroding civil rights and voting rights, terminating programs that have helped the poor for generations, and making it impossible for the government to invest in our future.
Sequestration grew out of a strategy hatched soon after they took over the House in 2011, to achieve their goals by holding hostage the full faith and credit of the United States – notwithstanding the Constitution’s instruction that the public debt of the United States “not be questioned.”
To avoid default on the public debt, the White House and House Republicans agreed to harsh and arbitrary “sequestered” spending cuts if they couldn’t come up with a more reasonable deal in the interim. But the Tea Partiers had no intention of agreeing to anything more reasonable. They knew the only way to dismember the federal government was through large spending cuts without tax increases.
Nor do they seem to mind the higher unemployment their strategy will almost certainly bring about. Sequestration combined with January’s fiscal cliff deal is expected to slow economic growth by 1.5 percentage points this year – dangerous for an economy now crawling at about 2 percent. It will be even worse if the Tea Partiers refuse to extend the government’s spending authority, which expires March 27.
A conspiracy theorist might think they welcome more joblessness because they want Americans to be even more fearful and angry. Tea Partiers use fear and anger in their war against the government – blaming the anemic recovery on government deficits and the government’s size, and selling a poisonous snake-oil of austerity economics and trickle-down economics as the remedy.
They likewise use the disruption and paralysis they’ve sown in Washington to persuade Americans government is necessarily dysfunctional, and politics inherently bad. Their continuing showdowns and standoffs are, in this sense, part of the plot.
What is the President’s response? He still wants a so-called “grand bargain” of “balanced” spending cuts (including cuts in the projected growth of Social Security and Medicare) combined with tax increases on the wealthy. So far, though, he has agreed to a gross imbalance — $1.5 trillion in cuts to Republicans’ $600 billion in tax increases on the rich.
The President apparently believes Republicans are serious about deficit reduction, when in fact the Tea Partiers now running the GOP are serious only about dismembering the government.
And he seems to accept that the budget deficit is the largest economic problem facing the nation, when in reality the largest problem is continuing high unemployment (some 20 million Americans unemployed or under-employed), declining real wages, and widening inequality. Deficit reduction now or in the near-term will only make these worse.
Besides, the deficit is now down to about 5 percent of GDP – where it was when Bill Clinton took office. It is projected to mushroom in later years mainly because healthcare costs are expected to rise faster than the economy is expected to grow, and the American population is aging. These trends have little or nothing to do with government programs. In fact, Medicare is far more efficient than private health insurance.
I suggest the President forget about a “grand bargain.” In fact, he should stop talking about the budget deficit and start talking about jobs and wages, and widening inequality – as he did in the campaign. And he should give up all hope of making a deal with the Tea Partiers who now run the Republican Party.
Instead, the President should let the public see the Tea Partiers for who they are — a small, radical minority intent on dismantling the government of the United States. As long as they are allowed to dictate the terms of public debate they will continue to hold the rest of us hostage to their extremism.
- Robert Reich: The Sequester and the Tea Party Plot (huffingtonpost.com)
- The Sequester and the Tea Party Plot (readersupportednews.org)
- The Sequester and the Tea Party Plot (obrag.org)
- The Tea Party Plot (robertreich.org)
- The Sequester And The Tea Party Plot – OpEd (eurasiareview.com)
- Robert Reich: None Dare Call it Treason (politicalcrazyness.tumblr.com)
- The Sequester as a Tea Party Plot (alternet.org)
- The Sequester And The Tea Party Plot – OpEd (albanytribune.com)
- Sequestration, Tea Party conspiracy? (salon.com)
- The sequester and the Tea Party Plot (blogs.berkeley.edu)
Congressman, Florida’s 26th District
No to Sequestration: It’s Time to End ‘Government by Crisis’
Posted: 02/28/2013 5:47 pm
I came of age in a Republican household during the Reagan years. My dad, Joe Sr., was a small business owner who served as a committee man for the local party. My mom, Carmen, like most Cuban exiles of her generation, voted Republican down the ticket. When the family would gather around the dinner table and discuss current affairs, my brothers and I wouldn’t always agree with our parents’ politics, but we were taught from an early age to respect other people’s views and keep an open mind because nobody has all the right answers.
This is a valuable lesson that has stuck with me, but it is one that many of my colleagues in Washington either never learned or have perhaps forgotten. The refusal of some in the Tea Party controlled Congress to compromise, learn from members of the other party, listen to reason, and put ideology and partisan politics aside has resulted in a government that is too often dysfunctional, reckless and irresponsible. From the debt ceiling, to the fiscal cliff and now the sequester, what we have is a Congress that governs and responds only to self-inflicted crises.
The consequences of sequestration are dire for Florida. Here are a few of the many examples of what they look like:
· Parents in neighborhoods like Kendall and Perrine will experience dramatic cuts in funding for Head Start and Early Head Start resulting in 2,700 fewer children in Florida from having access to those programs.
· Students at schools like FIU, FKCC and MDC will see cuts in work-study programs that help them pay for college.
· Florida will lose approximately $54.5 million in funding for primary and secondary education.
· Local hospitals that we all depend on will experience a loss of $368 million from cuts, potentially limiting first responders’ capabilities to respond to heart attacks, strokes and other critical medical issues.
· Longer lines at Miami International Airport with as many as 31,000 civilian Department of Defense employees being furloughed throughout our state.
These aren’t just numbers on a page. The sequester will impact the lives of millions of real people, such as our neighbors, grandparents, teachers, friends, and loved ones. The cuts that will go into effect if Congress does nothing are avoidable. There is a solution and a better way, but it’s going to require hard work and a willingness to compromise — two things that unfortunately are anathema to some in Washington. Consider the following: Despite these looming disastrous cuts, Congress was only in session for six of the 31 calendar days in January (about one day a week). Imagine how your boss would react if you only showed up to work one day a week. You probably wouldn’t have that job for too long.
This is unacceptable to me and I know it is unacceptable to many of my colleagues from both parties. Just a few weeks ago, I joined a bipartisan coalition of over 20 members — Republicans and Democrats, alike — who are committed to avoiding the sequestration by working in a bipartisan manner and compromising. For Democrats, this means we are open to spending cuts so long as seniors can retire with dignity, receive the benefits they have paid for and have access to affordable, quality health care. For Republicans, this means they are willing to look at revenue increases so long as Democrats meet them half-way.
This framework is similar to how most people go about their lives. When you and your coworkers disagree, you don’t stop showing up to work and take your company to the brink of disaster. Rather, you simply gather around a table, discuss your differences and find solutions. Not everyone will get what they want, but progress isn’t held hostage at the expense of ideological purity. It’s ironic that many of the same politicians who decry government for not operating more like the private sector have adopted a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to governing that would leave them fired, bankrupt or both in corporate America.
I hope my colleagues find it within themselves to compromise and learn how the rest of America works when people disagree and yet want to move forward. My family’s dinner table is a great place to start.
- Frankel, Murphy say Congress should stay in session until budget deal reached (postonpolitics.com)
- What Obama Isn’t Telling You About Sequestration – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Sequestration Looms Large For Florida (miami.cbslocal.com)
- Sequestration: Top 4 States With Largest Losses (theepochtimes.com)
- Sequestration will leave Pentagon cash-strapped but operational (stripes.com)
- What Sequestration Really Tells Us About Our Government (evergreeninstitute.wordpress.com)
- White House, Republicans dig in ahead of budget talks – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Obamacare/Sequestration Double Whammy For GOP (youviewed.com)
- Will A Government Shutdown Threat Determine The Winner Of The Sequestration Fight? (tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com)
- WaPo/Pew sequestration poll question oddly missing an option (hotair.com)
Making Sense, by Michael Reagan
America’s got some serious problems to solve.
Our Obama Economy is still stuck in a ditch by the side of the road.
Rick McKee / Augusta Chronicle
Our campaigner in chief is running around the country pushing for higher taxes and no spending cuts and crying, “The federal sky will fall!” if Congress doesn’t stop the puny 10 percent sequester from happening.
In Washington the incompetents and cowards in Congress can’t get our fiscal house in order, and they’re too stupid or self-serving to realize they are wrecking the greatest economic machine humans have ever created.
We have a budget to balance and an immigration problem. We’re spending trillions we don’t have and promising tens of trillions more in benefits our grandchildren can never repay.
And what are many of my fellow Republicans and conservatives in Washington — and the media — doing while America is being towed down the road to Greece?
They’re thrashing around in the political weeds, wasting their breath complaining about petty political things that may boost the ratings of talk shows but are otherwise meaningless.
For example, one of the outrages of the week involves the White House being accused of selling access to President Obama in exchange for $500,000 donations to his latest pet advocacy group.
Are these Republican and conservative friends of mine kidding? Were they born yesterday?
The parties in power in Washington have been selling access to their powers and privileges forever.
That’s why libertarians want to keep the federal government as small, weak and limited as possible, so that when Washington politicians are bought off, they can do as little harm to the country as possible.
Another example this week of Republicans making a partisan mountain out of a molehill is their attack on former Obama press mouthpiece Robert Gibbs for not telling reporters what he knew about the administration’s secret drone program.
Conservatives looking for dirt on Obama and liberal commentators like Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart went to town over Gibbs’ silence.
But it was just another petty complaint du jour. The White House doesn’t tell reporters everything it’s doing or planning. It never did, whether it was the date for D-Day, our U-2 flights over the USSR or the raid to kill Osama.
My father invaded Grenada and didn’t tell Congress in advance. He even forgot to tip off his buddy Margaret Thatcher, whose airspace had to be crossed by our warplanes.
The most ridiculous complaint of the week made by people on our side of the political fence was their reaction to Michelle Obama’s appearance on the Oscars broadcast Sunday night.
They acted like it was an impeachable offense. But the first lady handing out a best-picture award at an Oscar ceremony is not something Republicans should waste a second of their time on.
It’s not new and not a Democrat thing. On Jan. 20, 1985, Ronald Reagan — who, if I recall, was a Republican — performed the opening coin toss for the Super Bowl game via television from the White House.
The first lady’s appearance at the Oscars was something my father and my mother — his first wife, Academy Award-winning actress Jane Wyman — would have applauded, not booed.
It’s time for Republicans and conservatives to get serious. The country is burning down like ancient Rome, but we’re wasting our time and energy attacking Democrats for petty or nonexistent crimes that do nothing but hike TV ratings and give partisan bloggers fresh ammunition to shoot in the air.
It’s time for us to start fighting about the things that really matter. It’s time to come out of the weeds and start concentrating on the stuff that matters to the guy with no job or the business owner with high taxes, not the stupid stuff like Michelle Obama’s “Oscar Moment.”
- Michael Reagan: Mr. Obama Arrogance Isn’t the Answer (conservativeread.com)
- Michael Reagan cites air traffic controller strike: ‘Let the sequester happen’ (twitchy.com)
- Michael Reagan: Relax, my father’s childhood homes are safe from Obama’s library (twitchy.com)
- Michael Reagan: If It Was a GOP President the Headlines Would Be “Republicans Vote to Raise Your Taxes” (Video) (thegatewaypundit.com)
- Michael Reagan to keynote county GOP Lincoln Day dinner (sj-r.com)
- Michael Reagan: Waiting for the Sequel (conservativeread.com)
- Michael Reagan: Republicans need leader to follow (naplesnews.com)
- Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – ” Waiting for the Sequel (mbcalyn.com)
- Ronald Reagan by Michael Schaller (collectedmiscellany.com)
- Cagle Post – Political Cartoons & Commentary – ” Junk Laws (mbcalyn.com)
Sequestration: John Boehner, not Barack Obama, has the power to lead us out of the budget mess. – Slate Magazine
It’s Time for You To Lead, John Boehner
Stop blaming the president: The House speaker is the only one who can fix the budget mess.
The only person who has the ability to move Washington beyond this endless debate
Washington is once again at an impasse over fiscal matters, and once again the overwhelming majority of the intransigence comes from the Republican Party, which continues to rigidly reject any deal that includes any meaningful increases in tax revenue.
Nonetheless, the conventions of deficit scoldery mandate that the mere existence of disagreement shows that both sides must be to blame. Thus the editorial board concludes that “Republicans are wrong to resist further revenue hikes” but still wonders “why is Mr. Obama not leading the way to a solution?” David Brooks complains that Obama “has become a participant” in “stale debates” and should instead unilaterally “fundamentally shift the terms” of politics. Ron Fournier at says Obama is “ultimately responsible for the success or failure” of negotiations, no matter what his opponents say.
This is pernicious nonsense. The president of the United States has many powers at his disposal, but the ability to pull a Jedi mind trick and force congressional opponents to agree to deals they don’t favor isn’t among them. It’s that the ideas Obama has put on the table aren’t perfect, but at least he has put ideas out there and shown some flexibility. The person who has to act now is the one person who actually can change the dynamic: House Speaker John Boehner.
It is Boehner, not Obama, who must lead and find a way to a solution. It is Boehner, not Obama, who has the ability to move Washington beyond the endless stale debate, and it is Boehner, not Obama, who is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of policymaking in the 113 Congress.
Ryan Lizza, profiling Majority Leader Eric Cantor in , definitively nails down what many inferred at the time: Boehner and Obama were at one point close to a big deal, and then Boehner pulled the plug for fear of a rebellion on his right:
In June of 2011, the President and the Speaker began working toward a Grand Bargain of major tax increases and spending cuts to address the government’s long-term budget deficits. Until late June, Boehner had managed to keep these talks secret from Cantor. On July 21st, Boehner paused in his discussions with Obama to talk to Cantor and outline the proposed deal. As Obama waited by the phone for a response from the Speaker, Cantor struck. Cantor told me that it was a “fair assessment” that he talked Boehner out of accepting Obama’s deal. He said he told Boehner that it would be better, instead, to take the issues of taxes and spending to the voters and “have it out” with the Democrats in the election. Why give Obama an enormous political victory, and potentially help him win reëlection, when they might be able to negotiate a more favorable deal with a new Republican President? Boehner told Obama there was no deal. Instead of a Grand Bargain, Cantor and the House Republicans made a grand bet.
Whatever the merits of that strategy at the time, the gamble clearly hasn’t paid off. It’s time for Boehner to admit as much, come back to the table, and act like a statesman by offering a bold proposal that will split his caucus and risk his speakership. Boehner needs to acknowledge that Obama has repeatedly been offering the kind of large spending cuts that Republicans say they want, and learn to take yes for an answer. Tax revenue is the price Obama has consistently demanded in exchange for spending cuts, and Boehner could be statesman of the decade by agreeing to take the deal.
He doesn’t need to embrace new revenue, mind you. He doesn’t need to say he’s eager to raise taxes or even that he favors it. He just needs to say that he’s willing to give ground in order to get what he wants.
This would give Boehner the chance to push Democrats off some of their gimmicky thinking on taxes. The White House’s view that in an era of high inequality the rich should pay more is perfectly reasonable, but Obama’s politically motivated insistence that the rich be the exclusive payers of higher taxes is paralyzing. A sensible, economically efficient, loophole-closing tax reform such as the one proposed by Diane Rogers Lim for the Hamilton Project would raise more money from rich taxpayers than middle class ones but at least some Americans all across the income spectrum would pay somewhat more.
A big concession on taxes would also give Boehner the high ground in the debate over spending. For much too long, GOP intransigence has papered over divides in the Democratic coalition. Democrats—correctly—like to tout the role of federal spending on R&D, infrastructure, and education as important to economic growth. But the lion’s share of nonmilitary spending doesn’t go to investments in the future, it goes to subsidies for the elderly. Obama has often stated a desire to curb this spending in the context of a balanced deal, but that position has always been controversial within his party. It’s never truly been clear how many Democrats Obama could bring along with him for a deal, and we’ve never had to find out because there’s been no Republican partner.
is a comfortable common denominator view for Democratic leaders, uniting the liberal and moderate wings of the party. And it’s a potent electoral combination that clearly polls better than the all-cuts alternative. Boehner is absolutely correct to say that the long-run fiscal gap is mostly a question of excessive projected entitlement spending and not tax shortfalls. But if Boehner really wants to reduce that spending, he must show some leadership and bring at least a fraction of his caucus to the table, ready to compromise.
- Sequestration: Boehner says Senate need to get ‘off their ass’ (suntimes.com)
- The sequestration show: Obama holds shipyard rally; Boehner talks tough (bizjournals.com)
- John Boehner: Sequester Requires Senate To Get ‘Off Their Ass’ (VIDEO … (huffingtonpost.com)
- Sequestration Debate: Obama Campaigns, Republicans Don’t Act (theepochtimes.com)
- White House, Republicans dig in ahead of budget talks – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Boehner blasts Senate Democrats for inaction (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- Sequestration cuts: Obama cites Navy threat, immigrants freed as cuts loom – Chicago Tribune (chicagotribune.com)
- John Boehner’s Wall Street Journal Op-ed Failed (teaparty911.com)
- Boehner starts to lose his cool (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
- Obama highlights the defense hit in budget cuts battle – Reuters (reuters.com)
Mosbacher: I’m Furious at My Own Party
Jan 8, 2013 4:45 AM EST
RNC Finance Committee co-chair Georgette Mosbacher tells Michelle Cottle that she’s “mad as hell” about what Republicans have done to themselves.
Best not to ask GOP fundraising legend Georgette Mosbacher about the state of her beloved party unless you want an earful. The co-chair of the RNC’s Finance Committee (and CEO of Borghese cosmetics), Mosbacher is “mad as hell” about the myriad ways the “brand has been tarnished”: the sorry state of the presidential primary process, the ongoing alienation of Latino voters, the “outrageous” Senate candidates that the party ran this cycle, the epic failure of the fiscal-cliff negotiations, and, most recently, the House’s dithering over disaster aid for the victims of superstorm Sandy.
“I’m angry!” fumes Mosbacher. “I’m angry about the stupid mistakes that were self-inflicted.” It’s this last part she finds the most enraging. Though she believes the party has “unfairly” been defined by its recent mistakes, she is very clear about where the ultimate blame lies: “We did it to ourselves.”
Mosbacher is, of course, not alone in her ire. Postelection, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a hastily assembled group of Republican leaders laboring to figure out where the party went wrong last cycle and how to get it back on track. So far, however, Mosbacher is unimpressed by their efforts.
“I have not seen an honest postmortem assessment yet,” she told me. “I have not seen anything that gives me any comfort right now.”
This is an unfortunate development for the GOP, because, as Mosbacher explained it to me this weekend: “I’m not writing any checks, and I’m not asking anyone else to write any checks until I hear something that makes sense to me.”
The root problem, as she sees it: the sorry state of the party’s leadership in Washington.
Take the implosion of certain Senate candidates, she says. “One or two bad apples—excuse the cliché—really can spoil the whole thing. But it’s incumbent on our leadership to know who those are. Don’t tell me these people didn’t know who they were before they spewed their nonsense.” Mosbacher grows increasingly agitated. “How did they get this far? Where was the leadership to stop that?”
OK. So the party’s finance co-chair is disgusted to the point where she’s threatening to shut off the money spigot. That’s the bad news. Now for the worse news: she is not alone.
As Mosbacher tells it, many of her fellow mega-donors are vowing to sit on their wallets until something changes. “Since the election, there have been a lot of gatherings, a lot of meetings among those who are active in raising money,” she says. “There’s been one every week. There are a lot of us who are saying, ‘Just wait a minute.’”
Mosbacher adds, “The question is, ‘Are we united in drying that up?’ From the people I’ve talked to, the answer is, ‘Yeah.’”
Earlier this month, New York Republican Rep. Peter King caused a stir when, incensed by the House leadership’s refusal to vote on Sandy relief, he publicly called on area voters not to donate to his own party. “The Republicans have no problem finding New York when they’re out raising millions of dollars,” raged King. “I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds.”
“I’m not writing any checks, and I’m not asking anyone else to write any checks until I hear something that makes sense to me.”
King’s outburst—closely followed by a similar declaration of war by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—prompted a flurry of news reports about how much the GOP relies on New York funders. (State Republicans gave in the neighborhood of $378 million during the 2012 cycle, putting it No. 2 behind only California.) A scant hour after Christie’s denunciation, House leadership reversed course and scheduled an aid vote.
As far as Mosbacher is concerned, however, the damage was done. While “stupid,” the leadership’s fumble of the Sandy vote “was just that moment in time,” she says. “It only reinforced how angry we are about what they’re doing.”
If anything, says Mosbacher, the episode drove home the impact that New York—which she refers to variously as “the motherlode” and “the golden goose”—can have. “You know how loud we were. Let’s face it, it didn’t take long to turn that one around. It showed that the golden goose does have some pull.”
Now, she says, it’s time to tackle “the bigger issues,” subjects on which she and her fellow donors expect to be heard by party leaders before they hand out any more golden eggs.
“There’s one thing they understand,” she says with the confidence of a woman who has played at the highest level of the game for many years. “They understand money. Politics is about money. Make no mistake. They’re going to have to listen.”
And not merely listen. Mosbacher warns, “They may listen and not act. But that will be risky.”
- Another GOP insider discovers today’s Republican Party sucks (dailykos.com)
- The Road Less Travelled and a tale of the Middle Path (skydancingblog.com)
- Sylvia (arnoldzwicky.wordpress.com)
- Run Wild Missoula offers advanced training class for spring marathoners (missoulian.com)
- Mosbach (confuzzledom.wordpress.com)
- Tea Party pores over setting term limits for Texas politicians (reporternews.com)
- website work (mingissiyeva.com)
- Democrats overtook GOP in 2012 party affiliation: Poll. (greatriversofhope.wordpress.com)
- Why things might not be as bad as they look for Republicans – in 3 charts (washingtonpost.com)
- The Three Wise M’s: Marburg, Mannheim, Mosbach. – Marburg, Germany (travelpod.com)
Tea Party Republicans Flaunted Their Nihilist Extremism During Fiscal Cliff Negotiations
Why does the Tea Party crowd still have clout in the GOP? Support for them has dropped continually since 2010.
January 2, 2013
It is irresponsible to help create a mess and then to walk away and expect someone else to clean it up. That’s true whether the mess is a spill in the kitchen or something comparably sticky, smelly or hazardous in deliberations in Congress.
Multiple press reports observe that this is what the political tantrum known as the Tea Party has been doing. We haven’t heard much from the Tea Partiers recently because they opted out of participation in the fiscal cliff drama as the rest of the country counted down the time remaining until the New Year’s, and budgetary, ball drops.
In this latest phase in the tantrum, Tea Partiers unhappy that the political game has not gone entirely their way (with the outcome of the presidential election being, of course, their principal setback) have decided to take their own ball and bat and go home.
As a South Carolina Tea Party activist put it, “Why in the world would I want to get involved in the games they [i.e., members of Congress] are playing? I have other things to spend my energy on besides lost causes.”
Some of the causes which Tea Partiers evidently do not think are lost and to which they now are devoting energy include “nullification” by states of the Affordable Care Act, exposing corruption in Florida election boards that they believe illicitly handed the state to Obama, and opposition to a United Nations resolution on sustainable development that they contend is a threat to property rights.
Tea Partiers are providing some of their own drama with disarray and dissension within their own movement. The Washington-based Tea Party group FreedomWorks experienced an attempt by its chairman Richard Armey, accompanied by a gun-slinging aide, to purge his opponents within the organization, a few days before Armey himself was ousted in a counter-coup. Meanwhile, polls show public support for the Tea Party has dropped significantly from its heyday around the 2010 election.
This certainly does not mean — unfortunately — that we have heard the last of the Tea Party. But the more that this tantrum subsides or fades out of view, the better off the Republic will be. Republicans, and more broadly those who believe in a healthy two-party system, ought to be especially hopeful that it will fade out of view.
Tea Party activism during the primary season probably cost Republicans a couple of Senate seats. It also has cost the Republican Party the services in public office of some of its most distinguished thinkers, including Richard Lugar, a victim of one of those primary fights, and Jon Huntsman, who was the most sensible person on the stage in those primary debates but never seemed to have a chance to win his party’s nomination.
The biggest damage the Tea Party has inflicted has been the less measurable but still major boost it has given to intolerance and inflexibility, with everything that implies regarding dysfunction in the American political system. It has been poison to any spirit of compromise and to the normal give-and-take of politics in a democracy. In this regard it is remarkable how, among all the attention to the details of the fiscal cliff negotiations such as where to set tax brackets and how to define inflation adjustments, so little has been said about how we got confronted with the cliff in the first place.
To refresh our memories: sequestration and the other fiscal changes that define the cliff were devised as a threat to concentrate minds on the congressional super-committee that was charged with reaching, but failed to achieve, a fiscal and budgetary grand bargain. The super-committee was in turn a device for getting out of the impasse created when one side of the aisle resorted to extortion by threatening to force a default on the national debt if that side did not get its way.
The extortion was a marked departure from the normal way of conducting the people’s political business, which is to try to enact one’s preferred policies by winning support and winning votes for one’s point of view, rather than by threatening to inflict harm on the country. Since then, the inflexibility and resistance to compromise have been, as Ezra Klein reminds us in reviewing the bidding of the last couple of years, far more on the side that did the initial extortion than on the other side.
The Tea Party cannot be blamed for all of this, of course. Roots of inflexibility such as no-tax-increase obsessions and related starve-the-beast notions have been around before there even was a Tea Party movement. Nor is it only Tea Partiers who today kvetch endlessly about the deficit but not long ago did not say a peep about it when the unprecedented combination of a very expensive war of choice and simultaneous tax cuts turned — surprise, surprise — what had been a budgetary surplus into a ballooning deficit.
But the influence of the Tea Party has unquestionably made this whole sorry story substantially worse than it otherwise would have been. The very irresponsibility that the movement is exhibiting today, in walking away from the mess it did so much to help create, testifies to its character.
However much reasonable men and women may disagree about tax codes or the size of government, what is even more important to the health of a society such as America’s are the give-and-take habits and attitudes that are necessary for a liberal representative democracy to function. Those habits and attitudes are ultimately what keep the United States from being an Iraq or a Syria. The Tea Partiers never seem to have understood that.
We should all hope that they will consign themselves permanently to a safe-to-ignore lunatic fringe that burns its energy pursuing wacky conspiracy theories about Florida election boards and the like.
- Tea Party Republicans Flaunted Their Nihilist Extremism During Fiscal Cliff Negotiations (alternet.org)
- Go Away, Tea Party (nationalinterest.org)
- Tea Party Extremism and the ‘Cliff’ (veteransnewsnow.com)
- The Tea Party Mindset Still Dominates the GOP | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- “A Resettling Of The Hostages”: What The Tea Folk Want In The Fiscal Talks (mbcalyn.com)
- Even Mainstream Pundits Are Now Saying, Republicans ‘No Longer a Normal Governing Party,’ ‘Unfit for Government’ | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Sen. Chambliss warns Obama tough negotiations are ahead on spending cuts, entitlements (jacksonville.com)
- Both Obama, GOP have laid out hard lines for tough talks ahead (cnn.com)
- Congress: Cliff diving (firstread.nbcnews.com)
- Tea Party Extremism and the ‘Cliff’ (consortiumnews.com)