Rep. Waters urges Obama to drop nice-guy act and fight Republicans, Tea Party
By Mike Lillis – 09/22/11 08:03 PM ET, The Hill
President Obama should quit watching sports and drinking beer with his political opponents in hopes it will lead to GOP cooperation, Rep. Maxine Waters said Thursday.
The outspoken California Democrat said Obama needs to fight harder for Democratic policy priorities in the face of entrenched opposition from Republicans and the Tea Party.
“He’s been very nice about it,” Waters said of Obama’s budget negotiations with Republicans. “He’s been on the other side of the aisle talking with people. He’s invited them up to the White House to have beer. He’s invited them to come and watch the Super Bowl games.“He’s done all of that, and when they eat his food and drink his beer and leave, then they go and try to kill him [on Capitol Hill],” she told an audience gathered for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Foundation’s annual legislative conference in Washington.
“You’ve gotta fight — you will not win this battle without fighting,” she added.
Many House liberals have been disenchanted with Obama going back to December, when the president accepted GOP demands that the Bush-era tax rates be extended to even the wealthiest Americans — a provision strongly opposed by most Democrats.
The president drew similar liberal criticism this summer for backing enormous cuts in both a 2011 spending bill and legislation to raise the debt ceiling. More recently, some CBC members wondered aloud why Obama didn’t visit any urban areas on his August jobs tour through the Midwest.
Obama this month has taken steps to silence his liberal critics, adopting a more combative tone, for instance, in his Sept. 8 address before a joint session of Congress. Liberals are also cheering Obama’s proposal to eliminate the same tax rates for the wealthy that he’d backed in December.
Still, Waters suggested Thursday that CBC members remain wary of Obama’s willingness to fight for liberal priorities when the going gets tough.
“We love the president. We want him to be successful,” Waters said. “But does he feel our pain? Does he understand what’s going on out here?”
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
Waters, who heads the CBC’s jobs taskforce, said she’s encouraged by Obama’s new proposal to address unemployment and rein in deficit spending. But she also warned that the group will be watching closely as the high-stakes budget negotiations evolve.
“We’re pleased that the president has a jobs proposal. Now we have to trace it and to track it … because strange things happen in the legislative process. We don’t want this to end up being just a tax-cut deal only,” she said.
“I love the president,” she added, “but I will ask the president, ‘Where’s the money?’ ”
Waters suggested the black community needs to become more involved if it wants Washington lawmakers to take notice, for instance, that the recession hit minority communities much harder than it did white populations.
“We have got to show up. The Tea Party shows up. The Tea Party intimidates everybody,” she said. “We have to show people that we have no fear. Don’t mistake the silence for intimidation.”
Waters generated headlines last month when, amid a CBC job-promotion tour, she said the Tea Party “can go straight to hell.”
On Thursday, she wasn’t apologizing.
“Yes, I was displayed in national media telling them where to go,” she said. “And I mean that.”
If anyone in the audience was surprised by Waters’s trenchancy, they shouldn’t have been. Indeed, the California Democrat had warned the crowd that she wouldn’t be holding her tongue.
“Please be worried about what I’m going to say,” she said at the start of her remarks,” because I’m going to say it anyway.”
Behind the scenes of #OccupyWallStreet
The protests on Wall Street are growing larger, despite police using pepper spray and making arrests.
Danny Schechter Last Modified: 27 Sep 2011 11:42
Back in the 1960s, a gang of Yippies, a politicised arm of the hippies led by the late Abbie Hoffman, wormed their way into the tour of the New York Stock Exchange. While up on the visitors’ gallery, looking down on the trading floors, they threw US legal tender – coins and bills – at the men below who, when they realised what it was, began diving for dollars.
That colourful assault on the money culture took place 40 years ago on August 24, 1967. CNN recently remembered the moment, noting: “Some of the brokers, clerks and stock runners below laughed and waved; others jeered angrily and shook their fists.”
The bills barely had time to land on the ground before guards began removing the group from the building, but news photos had been taken and the Stock Exchange “happening” quickly slid into iconic status.
Once outside, the activists formed a circle, holding hands and chanting “Free! Free!” At one point, Hoffman – an old friend of mine – stood in the centre of the circle and lit the edge of a $5 bill while grinning madly, but an NYSE runner grabbed it from him, stamped on it, and said: “You’re disgusting.”
What disgusts some, inspires others, and that event is now firmly embedded in the legacy of the US left, which may have changed its character, but not its dislike of America’s Mecca of money and symbol of greed.
In the 1920s, the “Street” was bombed by anarchists, but a new non-violent breed today, holding on to the hatred of the wheeling and dealing that drives US capitalism – and perhaps global capitalism – have for the last week staged an encampment a few blocks north of the Exchange as a part of what they call #OccupyWallStreet.
The hashtag is a sign of their reliance on Twitter and other social media to organise a protest modelled after Tahrir Square (and perhaps Madrid’s Plaza Del Sol) where activists seized public space to launch a political movement. There is no central command, no orders from above. And you can watch the action online on a live stream.
This is not the usual approach to politics of an electoral kind with its traditional mobilisations and marches by mass organisations. It has attracted a group of wannabe revolutionaries, even as a right wing website called them a “menagerie” and others ridicule their youth, their hair, and their naiveté. It’s like a Wall Street Woodstock – so far without the music (but that might be coming) – as a number of celebrities have dropped by to show solidarity.
Had he lived, Abbie Hoffman would have been there to witness the takeover of nearby Zuccotti Park that has become the meeting ground of a growing bottom-up leaderless movement, drawn from several political traditions including libertarians, communists and environmentalists. Abbie now has 901,000 citations on Google.
Like the Egyptian movement they are emulating, there is no one political line or detailed set of demands, but it’s not clear if that matters.
Decisions are made by a “general assembly” in which everyone can have a say. To speak, all you have to do is shout “mic check,” and, in call and response style, the activists present repeat your words, as they have been doing with the key ideas being expressed by speakers, so everyone can hear them. Sound systems, amplifiers and Public Address loudspeakers are not permitted by the city’s officials.
I observed a spirit of good-natured tolerance in the multi-generational group that numbers between a few hundred and a few thousand. They had hoped for 20,000 but that has not occurred yet, although one New York newspaper reported that, after New York Police arrested 80 marchers, using pepper spray and mace, the size of the protest actually grew.
Activists fear the police are looking for a pretext to shut down this fledging experiment in democracy, as the Wall Street companies want to get rid of people committed to defiance and resistance. At the same time, many of the ordinary cops in blue have been friendly – to the chagrin of their officers in white shirts. Chaz Valenza noted, “Employees and owners of several businesses harboured marchers to save them from arrest. And, a number of sympathetic NYPD officers treated those arrested with respect and extraordinary leeway, some expressing support.”
“The police officer told me he was going to cuff me very loosely so it wouldn’t hurt,” said one woman arrested on Saturday. Waiting in the bus she found the plastic strap cuffs were so loose her hands were not bound and she could freely take one out to use her cell phone.
Valenza offered this “box score” on the protests’ tenth day: “OWS Protesters Arrested: 121 – 200 (?); Wall Street Banksters Arrested: 0; People Power Hours since Day 1 (NYC only): 349,000 (an estimate of the amount of time activists invested).”
There is no doubt that Wall Street is a place millions of Americans love to hate, but protests take time to reach a critical mass – as they did in Egypt.
The event has triggered a sizable police presence perhaps because Wall Street, so close to “Ground Zero”, is a world financial centre. Ever since 9/11, the place had been militarised with an army of security forces and surveillance cameras.
Curiously, the protest is against Wall Street tactics such as “securitisation” in its trading, even as the area itself is securitised – with no protests allowed at the Stock Exchange, a private company patrolled by New York City police at taxpayer expense.
So much for freedom of speech and assembly, when you want to take on the most powerful plutocrats in the USA.
Yves Smith, who edits NakedCapitalism.com, a leading financial website wrote: “Welcome to the Police State”, noting, “I’m beginning to wonder whether the right to assemble is effectively dead in the US. No one who is a wage slave (which is the overwhelming majority of the population) can afford to have an arrest record, even a misdemeanor, in this age of short job tenures and rising use of background checks.”
The police like to put up steel pens in the streets to block congregations. They are literally turning Wall street into a walled off area, even as Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post headlined it “Fall Street”, commenting on the crashing markets.
This Great Wall of New York is nothing new. The first wall on Wall Street was built to keep Indians away. For many years, the area was taken over as a breeding ground by pigs, until a huge fire consumed the neighbourhood in 1832. What a nefarious history.
Freedom of the press is also at risk, as most top media outlets initially ignored, downplayed or scoffed at the protest. It took mass arrests for them to consider it newsworthy. As the website AmpedStatus.com noted, there has also been censorship:
“On at least two occasions, Saturday September 17 and again on Thursday night, Twitter blocked #OccupyWallStreet from being featured as a top trending topic on their homepage. On both occasions,#OccupyWallStreet tweets were coming in more frequently than other top trending topics that they were featuring on their homepage. This is blatant political censorship on the part of a company that has recently received a $400 million investment from JP Morgan Chase.”
Despite the spotty and often sneering press coverage – there is no Al Jazeera here, as there was in Cairo with around the clock coverage – word of the protest has spread, and will continue to spread. Activists from around the country and the world are arriving at the action – originally called for by the Canadian magazine AdBusters.
These events radicalise participants, and spotlight Wall Street abuses just as they call attention to media complicity and police brutality.
Ten days on, the persistence of the Occupy Wall Street protest is a minor miracle in itself, surprising a cynical media and even activists who weren’t sure if they could pull off a sustained attack on financial power. Young people are showing how political they can be – in part, no doubt because so many are out of work and deeply in debt.
What will #OccupyWallStreet accomplish? Its existence is an accomplishment in itself. Writes Nathan Schneider onReader Supported News: “For many Americans, nonviolent direct actions like this occupation are the best hope for having a political voice, and they deserve to be taken seriously as such.”
As for the future, that remains to be seen.
News Dissector and blogger Danny Schechter called for protests in his film Plunder: The Crime Of Our Time,exposing financial crimes on Wall Street. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.
Obama’s United Nations address can be viewed lived here: http://www.c-span.org/Events/Obama-to-Speak-at-the-United-Nations/10737424247-1/.
It’s about 10 minutes in at this point.
The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles this morning rejected a request to reconsider its decision in the case of Troy Davis, who’s scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. tonight.
The board released a statement. In its entirety:
Parole Board Denies Request to Reconsider Davis Decision
September 21, 2011;
Atlanta, GA – The Board has received a request from the representatives of Troy Anthony Davis, requesting the Board reconsider its decision to deny clemency to Davis. The Board has denied the request to reconsider its decision of September 20, 2011, denying clemency to Davis.
You can read the board’s earlier statements here.
Sign of the times: Hallmark adds sympathy cards for job loss
By CHRISTINA ROSALES, The Dallas Morning News
Greeting card companies have taken a cue from the nation’s 9 percent unemployment rate.
In a six-by-four inch envelope, someone can send a friend who lost his or her job a pre-printed message of encouragement and sympathy.
Though not available at every corner store, layoff greeting cards are being manufactured by Hallmark and sold at its stores and online – and selling well, said Frank Fernandez, owner of two Hallmark stores in North Texas.
“We’re in the emotional business,” said Fernandez. “You want to say something emotionally correct and give them (your friends) a card that you’ve chosen to express your own thoughts.”
One Hallmark card with a photo of a cat reads: “Is there anywhere I could hack up a hairball, like say, on a former employer’s head?” Another card says: “Losing a job is just plain painful. So I want you to remember I’m in your cheering section … ”
Online companies such as Zazzle and Greeting Card Universe have also begun selling layoff cards. The second largest greeting card company, Ohio-based American Greetings, has not produced greeting cards with specific captions about job loss. Spokesman Frank Cirillo said consumers can write their own messages to make the cards more personal.
David Smason, 25, moved to Dallas from New Orleans and was laid off from his last job in the hospitality industry. While standing in line at a downtown job fair last week, he said he was unsure if getting a layoff card would have been all that encouraging for him.
“I do think it’s thoughtful,” he said. “But I think you have to have a healthy sense of humor to appreciate that kind of thing.”
Stanford University professor Bob Sutton said layoff cards might be a good way to show compassion to someone who needs support during a tough time.
“Treating them as if they are invisible is often the worst thing,” said Sutton, who has written several books on management and the workplace. “It is a very small thing, but may matter to some people.”
Still, he said, not everyone would appreciate it, especially those who consider losing one’s job a private or embarrassing issue.
That’s the reason pre-printed cards are sold, said Emily West, a communications professor at the University of Massachusetts who has studied the greeting card culture. Hallmark and similar companies are taking some of the difficulty out of sending concern and support to a friend who might have lost his or her job, she said.
“The production of the cards can help legitimize a sentiment,” West said. “It can be comforting. It says that it’s OK to send a card or to have this sentiment or say these things.”
Hallmark, based in Kansas City, Mo., has always adapted its cards to the current events, and it has taken into consideration the economy since 1910, said spokeswoman Jaci Twidwell.
Hallmark produces six kinds of layoff sympathy cards. The company would not disclose sales figures, but the manager of a Dallas store said such sympathy and encouragement cards sell out quickly.
In the past, some Hallmark cards have dealt with difficult issues – such as the military draft in the 1960s, nuclear warfare and the Great Depression. Cards have also offered sentimental greetings to members of the military during the 1940s and to those who suffered loss after Sept. 11, 2001.
Addressing the current economy is another way for Hallmark to take a cultural snapshot of people’s concerns. “We know these job-loss captions are not going to be the strongest performer,” Twidwell said. “But they are meant to meet a relevant and niche consumer need for many who are looking for it.”
Rodney Johnson, a former private school owner, said he has had to let go of some of his employees. He said it’s often emotional for the employees to face the loss of a job. It’s important to let them know they have support.
“If they’re devastated and get a nice card in the mail, it might make their day a little better,” he said. He added that he had never seen a card about job loss, but that he was interested in finding them.
“Cultural critics might say, ‘Oh, that’s too bad that people can’t come up with their own words,’ ” said West, the communications professor. “There wasn’t a golden age where people could come up with their own words.”
West found that people who send cards during tough times prefer to buy pre-printed messages instead of writing their own. Often, the time spent trying to find the right card is just as important as finding a way to express the right sentiment, she said.
“I think,” she said, “people recognize that the right words are magical.”
Regulators Reject Proposal That Would Bring Fox-Style News to Canada
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., President, Waterkeeper Alliance; Professor, Pace University
Posted: February 28, 2011 09:54 PM, The Huffington Post
As America’s middle class battles for its survival on the Wisconsin barricades — against various Koch Oil surrogates and the corporate toadies at Fox News — fans of enlightenment, democracy and justice can take comfort from a significant victory north of Wisconsin border. Fox News will not be moving into Canada after all! The reason: Canada regulatorsannounced last week they would reject efforts by Canada’s right wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news.
Canada’s Radio Act requires that “a licenser may not broadcast….any false or misleading news.” The provision has kept Fox News and right wing talk radio out of Canada and helped make Canada a model for liberal democracy and freedom. As a result of that law, Canadians enjoy high quality news coverage including the kind of foreign affairs and investigative journalism that flourished in this country before Ronald Reagan abolished the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987. Political dialogue in Canada is marked by civility, modesty, honesty, collegiality, and idealism that have pretty much disappeared on the U.S. airwaves. When Stephen Harper moved to abolish anti-lying provision of the Radio Act, Canadians rose up to oppose him fearing that their tradition of honest non partisan news would be replaced by the toxic, overtly partisan, biased and dishonest news coverage familiar to American citizens who listen to Fox News and talk radio. Harper’s proposal was timed to facilitate the launch of a new right wing network, “Sun TV News” which Canadians call “Fox News North.”
Harper, often referred to as “George W. Bush’s Mini Me,” is known for having mounted a Bush like war on government scientists, data collectors, transparency, and enlightenment in general. He is a wizard of all the familiar tools of demagoguery; false patriotism, bigotry, fear, selfishness and belligerent religiosity.
Harper’s attempts to make lying legal on Canadian television is a stark admission that right wing political ideology can only dominate national debate through dishonest propaganda. Since corporate profit-taking is not an attractive vessel for populism, a political party or broadcast network that makes itself the tool of corporate and financial elites must lie to make its agenda popular with the public. In the Unites States, Fox News and talk radio, the sock puppets of billionaires and corporate robber barons have become the masters of propaganda and distortion on the public airwaves. Fox News’s notoriously biased and dishonest coverage of the Wisconsin’s protests is a prime example of the brand of news coverage Canada has smartly avoided.
Same-sex couples in Alaska get tax exemption, judge rules
By Rosemary Shinohara | The Anchorage Daily News
An Anchorage judge has ruled that same-sex couples in Alaska qualify for the same exemptions on local property taxes as those that apply to married couples.
At issue are a state law and regulations that mandate local governments offer property tax exemptions for seniors 65 years old and up, and for disabled veterans.
The exemptions are for taxes on the first $150,000 of assessed value of someone’s primary residence.
State regulation to this point interprets the law as saying a married couple can get the full exemption whether the property is held in one name or both. If one hits 65, even if the spouse is younger, they qualify.
But if same-sex couples or other unmarried couples share ownership and occupancy, the regs say an eligible person can only exempt value proportionate to the amount of the house he or she owns.
Superior Court Judge Frank Pfiffner ruled on Friday that married couples and same-sex domestic partners are “similarly situated,” and due equal protection under the state constitution. That means equal tax exemptions, he said.
Three Alaska same-sex couples brought the suit, saying they had been denied equal tax benefits. They are represented by the ACLU of Alaska and the national American Civil Liberties Union
Here’s how it worked for one couple: plaintiff Julie Schmidt was 67 and eligible, but her partner Gayle Schuh was 62. Schmidt was able to exempt only half the full value of her Eagle River home — worth $254,200 last year — because the state only gave her credit for occupying half the house, or $127,100 worth of it. If the two were married, they could exempt $150,000 worth and get $359.31 more off their taxes.
The judge notes same-sex couples are forbidden from getting married under a 1998 state constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Yet they’re due equal treatment.