The Ninety-Nine Percent Declaration

The Ninety-Nine Percent Declaration.

some timely words…from Thomas Jefferson

“I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.”

“I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty…. And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience [has] shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

Gov. Scott Walker Reportedly Planning Financial Martial Law In Wisconsin

Gov. Scott Walker Reportedly Planning Financial Martial Law In Wisconsin – Rick Ungar – The Policy Page – Forbes

2 years ago, this would have been unthinkable. Now it’s rapidly becoming the norm. We’re in a rapid descent into fascism and it’s happening right in front of us. Being covert about it no longer seems to matter? Apparently we’ve finally reached the desired level of servitude?

US Uncut: It’s Not About Budgets, it’s About Revenue

US Uncut: It’s Not About Budgets, it’s About Revenue

The US Uncut community is buzzing in anticipation of Saturday’s big national day of action. Around forty cities are signed up at the official website [1], and several of the organizers contacted me to offer a preview for what they’re planning this weekend.

For Justin Wedes, a representative from the New York chapter, the overall message of the day will be about reframing the debate about the recession. “Don’t cut federal and state budgets that pay for firefighters, cops, teachers and other important services when large corporations are evading their taxes. In other words, we don’t have a budget problem. We have a revenue problem,” he says.

Part of the revenue problem stems from America’s growing class divide. For example, just 400 Americans have more wealth [2] than half of all Americans combined. As Michael Moore pointed out in a recent speech [3], many of these lavishly rich individuals benefited directly from the bailout, and many also exploit America’s current two-tier economic system in which average citizens are asked to pay taxes while corporations abscond with billions of dollars that could save public jobs and repair infrastructure. The entire crooked system is economic treason. 

Saturday will be about raising the profile of the group and also about bringing awareness of America’s revenue problem to the very people being asked to sacrifice their already meagre services. “Manhattan alone has [more than] 150 Bank of America branches,” Wedes says. “Where better to start to raise some awareness?”

The DC team told me they’re unconcerned with specific turnout numbers as long as those who do show up are ready to take meaningful action. “If we can shut down or disrupt the business of corporate tax evaders with continuous creative non-violent direct actions, we do not care if one thousand people are involved or five people,” according to a statement from their chapter.

In DC, they’re encouraging decentralized local planning with a goal of eventually being able to “stage multiple locally led demonstrations all across the city on a regular basis.” As in New York, their target will be Bank of America.

Leslie Dreyer from the San Francisco chapter sent me the branch’s action guide that details what’s planned for Saturday, and without going into specific details, also adheres to the plan of “occupy and disrupt” services within Bank of America.

The protest in Ohio will look a little different since Bank of America doesn’t have branches in the state (there are ATMs, but no banking centers). Representative Alec Johnson tells me the group will be focusing on Verizon instead. “What really grabbed me was learning that they were able to avoid taxes through an alliance with UK’s Vodaphone,” says Johnson. Vodafone is another tax dodger that has been the target of UK Uncut since its inception. Johnson was thrilled with the unifying connection. “It was like Christmas in March,” he says.

As for the mission, Johnson reiterates what I’m hearing from all chapters of US Uncut. This movement, including the actions Saturday, will be about emphasizing that America has lots of money, but it’s simply going into the coffers of a very small number of ruling elites who are refusing to give back to the society that facilitated their wealth. US Uncut hopes to unite working Americans currently tearing at one another’s throats over the crumbs left behind by a callous plutocracy, according to Johnson.

“We insist on shifting the frame from Workers vs. Taxpayers to Honest Tax-Paying Americans vs. Wall Street Fraudsters and Corporate Tax Cheats,” he says.

An Advocate Who Scares Republicans

Elizabeth Warren, the Republicans’ Punching Bag – NYTimes.com

 

An Advocate Who Scares Republicans

The piñata sat alone at the witness table, facing the members of the House subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer credit.

The Wednesday morning hearing was titled “Oversight of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.” The only witness was the piñata, otherwise known as Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard law professor hired last year by President Obama to get the new bureau — the only new agency created by the Dodd-Frank financial reform law — up and running. She may or may not be nominated by the president to serve as its first director when it goes live in July, but in the here and now she’s clearly running the joint.

And thus the real purpose of the hearing: to allow the Republicans who now run the House to box Ms. Warren about the ears. The big banks loathe Ms. Warren, who has made a career out of pointing out all the ways they gouge financial consumers — and whose primary goal is to make such gouging more difficult. So, naturally, the Republicans loathe her too. That she might someday run this bureau terrifies the banks. So, naturally, it terrifies the Republicans.

The banks and their Congressional allies have another, more recent gripe. Rather than waiting until July to start helping financial consumers, Ms. Warren has been trying to help them now. Can you believe the nerve of that woman?

At the request of the states’ attorneys general, all 50 of whom have banded together to investigate the mortgage servicing industry in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, she has fed them ideas that have become part of a settlement proposal they are putting together. Recently, a 27-page outline of the settlement terms was given to banks — terms that included basic rules about how mortgage servicers must treat defaulting homeowners, as well as a requirement that banks look to modify mortgages before they begin foreclosure proceedings. The modifications would be paid for with $20 billion or so in penalties that would be levied on the big banks.

Naturally, the banks hate these ideas, too. So the Republican members of the subcommittee had another purpose as well: to use the hearing to serve as a rear-guard action against the proposed settlement.

“Under what statutory authority are you currently acting?” demanded Representative Patrick McHenry, a Republican from North Carolina, questioning the legitimacy of her role in setting up the consumer bureau. He also questioned whether the government had the right to impose a $20 billion penalty on the banks — and then use that money for (heaven forbid) mortgage modifications.

Spencer Bachus, Republican of Alabama, the new chairman of the Financial Services Committee, wanted to know how closely Ms. Warren had been consulting with the White House and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner about naming a director for the bureau — and whether she would accept a recess appointment “knowing the type of blowback from that.” (A recess appointment is a temporary appointment the president can make when the Senate is in recess, thus avoiding the need for Senate confirmation.)

Representative Steve Pearce, Republican of New Mexico, said that he fully expected the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to be no better than “the S.E.C. and Mr. Madoff.” “Within two years,” he added, “your agency is going to be operating exactly the same, that it’s simply out there grinding wheels away.”

Representative Scott Garrett, Republican of New Jersey, zeroed in on the proposed settlement. Where in the statute did she have the authority to consort with the attorneys general? he demanded to know. “Are you making recommendations to government regulators about the dollar amount?” he badgered. “Is that part of your role, to make recommendations about dollar amounts?”

On and on it went, until the hearing sputtered to a close, two and a half hours after the browbeating had begun.

To listen to the House Republicans, you’d think the financial crisis of 2008 was like that infamous season of the long-running soap opera “Dallas,” the one that turned out to be a season-long dream. Subprime mortgages? Too-big-to-fail banks? Unregulated derivatives? No problem! With the exception of their bête noire, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Republicans act as if nothing needs to be done to prevent another crisis. Indeed, they act as if the crisis never happened.

The home page on the House Financial Services Committee’s Web site has been turned into a screed against Dodd-Frank. Clearly, the committee is going to spend this session trying to minimize the effect of the legislation, starving agencies of the funds needed to enact the regulations mandated by the new law, for instance. In fact, that effort has already begun.

It’s not just the House Republicans either. Already the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has reverted to form, becoming once again a captive of the banks it is supposed to regulate. (It has strenuously opposed the efforts of the A.G.’s to penalize the banks and reform the mortgage modification process, for instance.) The banks themselves act as if they have a God-given right to the profit they made precrisis, and owe the country nothing for the trouble they’ve put us all through. The Justice Department has essentially given up trying to make anyone accountable for the crisis.

Thank goodness, then, for the attorneys general — and for Ms. Warren. On Main Street, where the attorneys general operate, it is pretty obvious that problems persist. During the subprime boom, many states tried to stop the worst lending abuses, only to be blocked by federal banking regulators. Now that the country is dealing with the aftermath of those abuses — the rising tide of defaults and foreclosures — it is the attorneys general who are, once again, put in the position of trying to stamp out abuses, this time of the foreclosure process itself.

Their leverage comes from the fact that the banks and their servicing divisions have, in the words of the University of Minnesota law professor Prentiss Cox, “routinely violated basic legal process” by, for instance, not transferring the note after the sale of a home. But in addition to assessing a financial penalty on the banks, the A.G.’s are trying to use the threat of litigation to force the banks to finally deal with defaulting homeowners more fairly and humanely. That is the essence of the settlement proposal that has been floating around. That — and a big push to finally come up with a modification plan that works.

When I spoke to Tom Miller, the Iowa attorney general — and the leader in this 50-state effort — he said that one reason he had asked Ms. Warren for advice was that she had already hired people with genuine expertise that he wanted to take advantage of. But that’s not the only reason. If the banks were to agree to settle the case on the A.G.’s terms, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would be the agency charged with enforcing the terms. So it makes sense to include its current leadership as they work through ideas for a settlement. Besides, the A.G.’s don’t really trust anybody else in the federal government to be on the side of financial consumers. Given their previous experience, why would they? Ms. Warren is the one person in Washington they feel is on the same side they’re on.

The notion that Ms. Warren lacks statutory authority to talk to the attorneys general is an objection so silly it is hard to take seriously. Consulting with the only government officials around who are actually trying to do something for financial consumers is precisely what she ought to be doing. Given that her agency could wind up enforcing the terms, it’s practically a necessity.

As for the idea the Republicans have been spreading talk that the attorneys general are overstepping their bounds by trying to force reform — and a big penalty — on the mortgage servicers, that’s pretty silly, too. As Adam Levitin, a Georgetown law professor, has pointed out on his blog recently, settlements are private agreements between two parties. The banks can accept what the A.G.’s are proposing. Or they negotiate different terms. Or they can reject them outright, and go to court to fight over the proper remedy. It’s really not any different from the multistate tobacco settlement of some years ago, which imposed some minor reforms on the tobacco industry along with a giant financial penalty. Congress had nothing to do with it.

I wish I could say with certainty that the ideas put forth by the attorneys general will finally help ease the foreclosure crisis. I hope they do. Mr. Levitin thought there was a decent likelihood of success; Mr. Cox, a former assistant attorney general himself, was also hopeful — though more skeptical. “So much of it rides on how well it is enforced,” he said.

Which is also why Ms. Warren is the most logical person to be the agency’s initial director: if the settlement does come to pass, no one will understand its terms better, or have a better feel for how to enforce them. Let’s face it: there isn’t anybody in Washington more fearless about standing up to the big banks. No wonder they don’t like her.

As I listened to her on Wednesday, I was struck anew at how clearly she articulates the need for the new bureau. “If there had been a cop on the beat to hold mortgage servicers accountable a half dozen years ago,” she said at one point, “the problems in mortgage servicing would have been found early and fixed while they were still small, long before they became a national scandal.”

Senate Republicans have vowed to block her appointment if President Obama nominates her. Yet even if her nomination goes down in flames, Senate confirmation hearings would be clarifying. Americans would get to hear Ms. Warren explain why the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has the potential to help Americans. And they would get to hear Republicans explain why the status quo — including the everyday horror of the foreclosure mess — is just fine.

It has been much noted in recent months that President Obama seems unwilling to start a fight with Republicans. Maybe that’s why he has shied away from nominating Ms. Warren to a job for which she is so clearly suited. But if protecting financial consumers — and helping the millions of Americans struggling to hold onto their homes — isn’t worth fighting for, then what is?

 

High Noon On Wall Street

Richard (RJ) Eskow: High Noon On Wall Street

Posted: March 21, 2011 12:32 AM

High Noon On Wall Street

The bankers are endangering innocent people, their pals are roughing up the law, and the people who should be helping out are sitting on the sidelines doing nothing You can almost hear Tex Ritter singing “Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin’,” the theme song from High Noon.

You remember High Noon. That’s the movie where Gary Cooper plays Will Kane, a retired gunslinger who can’t find anybody to help him defend the town from a dangerous gang. In fact, the townspeople give him almost as much trouble as the gang does.

The financial system has its own sheriffs, and bankers behaved like an unruly mob with one of them this week. Meanwhile Democrats were characteristically diffident and Republicans formed a stone-throwing mob of their own.

Red Lights Everywhere

The lawmen – both women, in this case – were being baited, taunted, and thwarted at a time when the economy’s dashboard is flashing red with warning signs. A lot of people think Wall Street banks are healthy again because it’s making a lot of money. But they were making lots of money right before the last crash, too.

A new report from from Bloomberg Government confirms that the “too big to fail” banks at the heart of the last crisis and TARP bailout have become bigger since the crisis, not smaller. Bloomberg Government reports that “the number of ‘too big to fail banks’ will increase by 40 percent over the next 15 years,” adding: “Today, the top 10 banks hold 77 percent of all U.S. bank assets, compared with 55 percent of the total assets in 2002.”

Here’s another flashing red light: The Federal Reserve’s chief bank regulator said 30% of the banks in this country have “less than satisfactory” supervisory ratings. Banks are “stabilizing” overall, said Patrick Parkinson, but banks in this country are “still in the repair and recovery stage.”

Meanwhile the FDIC reports that 884 banks, nearly 12% of the banks in the country, are in danger of failing. More than 150 banks failed last year, and the number of expected failures this year, while less, would have been considered catastrophic before the crisis. Profits are up but, as FDIC head Sheila Bair explained, that’s not because banking is thriving. It’s because banks won’t be setting aside as much money to cover losses from bad loans this year.

Super-Over-Prostituting Politicians

If one-third of America’s airliners had “less than satisfactory” ratings and one-twelfth of them were at risk of failure, they’d shut down every airport in the country. But politicians are all too eager to help banks keep flying the friendly skies, unsafe or not. They’ll probably even serve “a complimentary beverages of your choice” if they’re asked.

Take House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who addressed the American Bankers Association this week and told them “You are at the center of what allows our economy to grow!” (That would explain our current record levels of unemployment and under-employment – 25 million Americans at last count.)

Cantor added: “We are not overregulated, we are super-overregulated!” Cantor’s neologism, “super-overegulated,” is reminiscent of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the made-up word from Mary Poppins that inspires Dick Van Dyke to burst into song. It’s like that – but without the intellectual heft.

Cantor and his fellow Republicans insist that “We don’t need more regulation” even as too-big-to-fail banks get bigger and staggering numbers of banking institutions remain fragile, capable of collapsing at any serious external shock to the economic system. And they’re backing up their words with a series of measures to repeal (rather than strengthen) the reforms put in place last year. The bills aren’t likely to succeed as long as Democrats control the Senate, but the Senate could change hands next year, and it’s part of the GOP’s plan to argue that deregulation will lead to more jobs. (Because, you know, the deregulation-induced meltdown was so good for jobs last year … or something .)

Tea Party Bankers

After they drove their own banks into the ground, taking the economy with it, you might have expected bankers to lay low for a while. But they’re acting as self-entitled and unruly as ever. As Dave Clarke at Reuters reported, “bankers guffawed and groaned” at Bair when she told them they should support financial reform at a meeting of the American Bankers Association.

Mob psychology was the rule of the day, replacing even enlightened self-interest with blind hostility. As Reuters reported, “Audience members who complained about Dodd-Frank did not provide specific examples of what troubled them.”

“I can’t believe this. I really can’t believe this,” said Bair. These unruly bankers were mostly from community banks, which could actually benefit from financial reform. But they appeared to have been duped by objections from the “too big to fail” mega-banks, whose interests aren’t aligned with theirs at all. Like Tea Partiers, these bankers were actually acting against their own interests. Like Tea Party supporters, they seemed to be easily manipulated and … well,there’s no nice way to say this … not particularly bright.

“I would just encourage you to think for yourselves,” said Bair. Good luck with that.

Imagining a World Without Warren

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers were just as thuggish to Elizabeth Warren as the bankers were to Sheila Bair. Joe Nocera documented the ugliness in the New York Times, in an excellent piece that should be read in its entirety. “The piñata sat alone at the witness table,” begins Nocera, who noted that “the real purpose of the hearing” was “to allow the Republicans who now run the House to box Ms. Warren about the ears.”

Nocera quotes Warren as saying “If there had been a cop on the beat to hold mortgage servicers accountable a half dozen years ago, the problems in mortgage servicing would have been found early and fixed while they were still small, long before they became a national scandal.” That’s undoubtedly true. But these Republicans don’t want cops on the beat. They want cops who’ll sit in the diner sipping coffee when they’re told to, so the gang can run wild.

Warren more than held her own, which brought the motto of the Texas Rangers to mind: “One riot, one ranger.” But she deserved a little backup from the White House, and it was nowhere to be found.

“Do not forsake me, oh my darling ….”

The real story of High Noon wasn’t the confrontation between the hero and the gang, but the one between Kane and the “good people” of Hadleyville who lacked the courage or conviction to act in a time of need.

The FDIC is suing senior executives at the failed WaMu bank for “recklessly disregarding” sound financial practices (along with their wives, who allegedly helped conceal their assets from creditors). It’s astonishing that no executives had been held personally responsible for the destruction of the economy or a wave of illegal foreclosures, and the FDIC should be congratulated for this move. It should also be encouraged to move against executives of current banks, as well as ones that no longer exist.

But Sheila Bair must be feeling a little lonely. The Justice Department still hasn’t brought any actions against executives from any of the big banks for their corporate crime wave. It needs to do so, and soon, if it doesn’t want to look like those Western film sheriffs who are always saying things like, “Gee, Frank, if you want me to let the boys out of jail, just ask!”

Paul Krugman noted that “Warren has clearly faced a lot of hostility from within the administration …. ” (Bob Swern has a good round-up of pieces about Administration resistance to Warren.)

On one hand, there are the Republicans, whose most eloquent spokesman is Rep. Spencer Bachus: “In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated, and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” Then there’s the Administration. Krugman points out that Warren “could serve (the White House) both as an able administrator and as a symbol of commitment to reform,” while noting that “so far, the administration seems eager to avoid drawing any contrasts with the GOP, even when it has both justice and public opinion on its side.”

This is the Administration’s chance to stand with fighters like Elizabeth Warren, both in its words and in its deeds. Some well-targeted prosecutions, along with a strong defense of public champions like Bair and Warren, would be an enormous political boon. It would also be the right thing to do.

Elizabeth Warren stood alone on Capitol Hill. Sheila Bair’s fighting the good fight. They’re waiting for someone to step forward and help them. If it’s any comfort to them, Will Kane knows exactly how they feel.

__________________________________________

Richard (RJ) Eskow, a consultant and writer (and former insurance/finance executive), is a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future. This post was produced as part of the Curbing Wall Street project. Richard also blogs at A Night Light.

He can be reached at “rjeskow@ourfuture.org.”

Website: Eskow and Associates

Follow Richard (RJ) Eskow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rjeskow

Bob Cesca: Sarah Palin’s Narcissism Feeds Her Constitutional Incompetence

Bob Cesca: Sarah Palin’s Narcissism Feeds Her Constitutional Incompetence

 

We can’t know for sure whether or not she recognizes how unserious and unintelligent she is, but, in Sarah Palin, we can plainly see a reality show celebrity who seems to believe that national office doesn’t require the widely accepted prerequisite of “knowing things” — especially things that squarely relate to the national office she has sought in the past and the one she will likely seek this year. Only people with clinical personality issues, well beyond the reasonably normal purview of ego, believe they can achieve the most prestigious elected offices in the United States without, at the very least, knowing basic information about the universe of those jobs.

Ego isn’t new to politics. In fact, it’s almost as necessary as intellectual heft and leadership experience. Anyone who believes they possess the rare potential to be elected by an entire nation to the office of the presidency requires ego beyond that of, you know, everyone. The self-affirmational refrain “I can be the president” is an exceptional thing, so completely exceptional that only a handful of people out of 300 million dare to run for president every four years.

Sarah Palin’s ego, however, is way beyond just about anyone we’ve observed in modern politics. She’s purely narcissistic.

Psychiatrist Glen Gabbard divided narcissists into two subtypes: the “hypervigilant” shameful type, and the “oblivious” shameless type. Palin’s narcissism naturally falls into the latter end of the diagnostic spectrum. Shameless and oblivious. She appears to be so thoroughly clueless — so blinded by her self-importance and ambition that her syllabus of mistakes are ignored and left uncorrected, and so she arrogantly repeats the same mistakes over and over, and accompanied by, Winning!

There’s no other analysis or diagnosis that more adequately explains Palin’s ongoing problems with the U.S. Constitution.

During the 2008 election, she repeatedly and utterly failed to accurately describe the constitutional (or otherwise) role of the vice president. The very serious job she was seeking, by the way. Not only did she fumble the response once, she fumbled it at least three times. She couldn’t do it in the vice presidential debate against Joe Biden, she couldn’t do it during a post-debate softball interview on Fox News Channel and she couldn’t do it when interviewed by a third-grader. The answer that eluded the Republican vice presidential nominee is readily found in the Constitution. It’s not difficult to find or to read, at least for anyone with a internet access and a pulse.

Here’s the line from Article I, Section 3:

The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

Here’s how Palin answered in attempt number two during a post-debate interview on Fox News:

Uh. That thankfully our founders were wise enough to say we have this position and it’s constitutional — vice president will be able to be not only the position flexible, but it’s gonna be those other duties as assigned by the president. A simple thing.

No, no. The actual constitutional language is “a simple thing.” Instead, what Palin delivered here was — yeah, I have no idea what that was.

Just to be fair, let’s give her another stab at unraveling a complicated phrase like “shall be President of the Senate.” Here’s attempt number three, in response to a question from a third-grader:

[T]hey’re in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom.

Wrong again — nearly 20 days after the previously bungled word salad, and she still failed miserably to answer the question.

Oblivious.

So after failing to answer a basic constitutional question several times in a row, most of us would be embarrassed enough to at least read and, perhaps, study the Constitution. Maybe chat with an expert about the most important sections and clauses. After all, it’s the Constitution and it’s rather essential in the sphere of American politics.

But not Sarah Palin, who still couldn’t be bothered — at least with anything that can’t conveniently be printed on a bumper sticker. On second thought, the role of the vice president could easily fit onto a bumper sticker. And she still couldn’t do it. As a professional instigator and reality show star, Palin continued to misunderstand the quintessential founding document, while also contemplating a campaign to become chief executive.

Boiled down, Sarah Palin doesn’t understand the First Amendment to the Constitution. The most popular amendment. The amendment everyone talks about. And she’s been screwing up its meaning for three years now without correcting herself or adjusting her remarks.

Palin believes the First Amendment protects, well, Sarah Palin and her friends from everyone else, and allows them to say whatever they want without being challenged, corrected or held accountable. And, it goes without saying, she’s very wrong.

Rewind to 2008. After repeatedly mangling the role of the vice president, Palin delivered her first mangling of the First Amendment.

“If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,” Palin told host Chris Plante, “then I don’t know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.”

Nope. Wrong. The First Amendment doesn’t protect Sarah Palin from the media. Conversely, the First Amendment protects the media from politicians like Sarah Palin. The text of the First Amendment plainly states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The media isn’t Congress or the law. Sarah Palin didn’t know this, and, based upon her subsequent remarks about the amendment, she never bothered to learn.

Fast forward to last August and the Dr. Laura Schlessinger fiasco. Without getting into specifics of the scandal, here’s how Palin defended Dr. Laura on Twitter:

Dr.Laura:don’t retreat…reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence”isn’t American,not fair”)

Wrong again. The First Amendment doesn’t protect Dr. Laura from her network bosses, nor does it protect Dr. Laura from “2activists trying 2silence.” It protects Dr. Laura from the government and nothing else. Palin still didn’t know.

And so she did it again.

Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice,America!

Same misinterpretation.

Meanwhile, she was also busy mistaking the Declaration of Independence for the Constitution.

“[O]ur Constitution, of course, essentially acknowledging that our unalienable rights don’t come from man; they come from God.”

“Of course!” But wrong. The word “unalienable,” as most grade school students ought to know, appears in the Declaration of Independence. Not the Constitution. Furthermore, there’s not a single mention of “God” — or a “Creator” for that matter — in the Constitution. Whoops, again. And, again, no correction or retraction.

Okay, by now you’d think someone would pull her aside and read the Constitution to her. It’s readily accessible on the internet. Who knows, maybe someone tried to help, and she refused to listen — stubbornly and narcissistically repeating her own definition. It’s my talkin’ mouth and I can talk whatever word things I want. Harrumph. True, but still inaccurate. And not to be taken seriously.

This week, she continued to screw it up.

The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 yesterday that Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church cult has the right to protest on public property, and near military funerals, with their grotesque “God Hates Fags” paraphernalia. However awful and hurtful the Westboro people are, the First Amendment applies here and the Supremes did the right thing. Ultimately, if they’ll defend the speech rights of people as morally reprehensible as Westboro, then they’ll easily defend your speech rights, too. That’s comforting.

Predictably, Palin failed again. She tweeted this about yesterday’s decision:

Common sense & decency absent as wacko “church” allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers’ funerals but we can’t invoke God’s name in public square

So now she wants government, specifically the Supreme Court, to silence protesters who aren’t breaking any laws (except the laws of good taste).

Put another way: people who criticize her and Dr. Laura? Unconstitutional! Government restriction of free speech? Constitutional! The speech clause of the First Amendment says the exact opposite thing. Palin appears to be opposed to the First Amendment, while also suggesting she’s in favor of it. Yes, the ridiculous contradictions of a shameless narcissist.

Think about it. Sarah Palin, who has repeatedly botched — and obviously so — the meaning of the First Amendment, had the audacity to school eight of the nine Supreme Court justices, including the very conservative chief justice, with a poorly-written lesson on the very thing she’s repeatedly botched: the First Amendment. Again, Palin, who is always wrong about the First Amendment, thinks she knows more than almost the entire Supreme Court of the United States.

There’s no other way to slice it. This is narcissism of the highest order, illustrated by one of America’s most recognizable political actors.

While scanning through recent American history, it’s not easy to cite another political dilettante as remarkably out of his or her depth as Sarah Palin. But she’ll definitely run for president anyway. Because, despite all evidence to the contrary, she believes she can do the job. And she’ll run without even a remedial-level understanding of the most important political document of the last three centuries, simply because she refuses to acknowledge that it’s way over her head. To acknowledge her constitutional and functional incompetence runs contrary to every instinct and every psychological short-circuit within her walnut-brain.

 

Sarah Palin Fumbles and Flails Into an Otherwise Solemn Day

Bob Cesca: Sarah Palin Fumbles and Flails Into an Otherwise Solemn Day

 

Following Sarah Palin’s videotaped statement today, let there be no doubt about her total lack of seriousness — a character trait, in fact, that’s utterly dwarfed by her chronic inability to construct prepared, teleprompter-presented remarks without virtually choking on her own tongue.

Sarah Palin could have used her time to be a leader — to take the high road and talk about the heroes and the victims of this terrorist attack. She could have used the time to discuss responsible gun ownership. She could have taken the time to address her people and mitigate the anger and political hatred that’s bubbled up around this tragedy. Instead, she diminished the tragedy by conflating it with the attacks against her and her record of inflammatory statements.

And, along the same line, arguably the biggest gaffe of today’s narcissistic word salad was her use of the phrase “blood libel.” So not only did she opt to whine about her critics on a day when real heroes and real victims will be memorialized, but she also compared the criticism and stress she’s endured throughout the last four days to thousands of years of anti-Semitic religious persecution endured by Jews.

Can you imagine how she’ll react in a crisis should everyone go insane and elevate her to the White House? “Rachel Maddow is committing a holocaust against me. Wah! Feel sorry for me! Oh, and by the way, we’re invading Mexico. God Bless America. And my life is as tragic as a German Jew in 1943, also. Good night!”

The histrionics are staggering, especially for someone who wants to be taken seriously as a potential candidate for national office. Though, in her defense, it’s very likely she didn’t write this speech. So whoever included “blood libel” in the text had to have understood the meaning — even if she didn’t. After all, it’s not a phrase that pops up in normal conversation or within the average political address.

She’s clearly been taking seriously the e-mail Glenn Beck sent to her following the shootings, in which he implied that she’s the victim in all of this, and how she ought to hire his personal security firm, because if she’s ever taken out, it could mean “the end of the republic.”

At no other point in her address were Beck’s phony-baloney, maudlin dramatics more apparent than when she accused the press of inciting violence against her: “Especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.”

So when a public figure says something incendiary on television, it can trigger violence, and, therefore, public figures should be careful about their language. Let that be a warning, Keith Olbermann. No recommendations for “Second Amendment remedies” to our problems. And chill out, Arianna Huffington, with anything resembling the word “reload.” Sarah Palin said that words can motivate people to commit violence. So cut the crap.

Except she doesn’t believe that. How do we know? She said so in the very same presentation: “Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them.”

That’s a direct contradiction. We can only gather that, in her opinion, words are and are not responsible for inciting violence. Confused? She reminds me of that Tom Hanks Saturday Night Live character from the 80s, Mr. Short Term Memory, who perpetually forgets what he said seconds earlier.

For what it’s worth, I actually agree with the Sarah Palin who said that words aren’t solely responsible for acts of violence. I also agreed with what she said about our history of intense political discourse in America. But when she so often contradicts herself, it’s difficult to tell whether Sarah Palin agrees with Sarah Palin.

And as if her narcissism, contradictions and thoughtless insults weren’t ridiculous enough, especially for a potential chief executive, Palin predictably shoe-horned into her text a variety of phrases assembled with her patriotic American Exceptionalism fridge-magnet words. Fine. We’ve come to expect bumper-sticker platitudes and patriotic claptrap in political addresses. Especially Palin’s speeches.

But when she includes condescending, grade-school-level social studies lessons about the founders and the origins of the nation in her speeches, it’s particularly insulting to our collective intelligence, given her unapologetic, uncorrected propensity for confusing the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution with the Declaration of Independence, while also not knowing the constitutional role of the vice president — the job she famously sought to occupy. If that’s not pathetic enough, she also repeatedly misinterprets the First Amendment (in the same tweet as “reload”) and insists that it protects all speech from everyone, even though this clause of the amendment only protects speech from the government laws abridging speech — it doesn’t protect Dr. Laura from her network, or Palin from her critics. So spare us the shallow history and civics lessons, Sarah. Crack open a book if you want anyone beyond the usual conga line of pharmaceutically-horny baby boomer men to take you seriously.

What can we divine from all of this? One thing is obvious right off the bat. Combined with a staffer’s laughably flimsy “surveyors crosshairs” excuse, her speechwriting staff appears to be almost as incompetent with words as Palin herself, who once famously said the vice president role is “position flexible” and, you know, the “refudiate” thing. All told, a Palin campaign for president would be one long Hee-Haw sketch, with less polish and more laughs. Conservative columnist Peter Wehner wrote recently:

Virtually every time Ms. Palin speaks out, she reinforces some of the worst impressions or deepest concerns many of us have about her. If she were to become the voice and representative of the GOP and the modern conservatism movement, both would suffer a massive rejection. Sarah Palin will not be elected president; and for her sake, I hope she decides not to run.

My reaction to this prospect is always, of course, “Run, Sarah, run!”

Whenever she parades her white-trashy reality show attitude into public view, it’s an ongoing display of ridiculousness, unrivaled in decades. But today, she veered far from her usual flailing, and jutted her screechy yapper into the wrong news cycle — on a day when she would have been better served by exercising some self control. On a day when the victims of Tucson will be memorialized and the heroes of Tucson will be elevated to historical prominence, it’s no time for a cable TV doof to inject her brand of political masturbation.

Ultimately, her nincompoopery and fumbly ignorance was completely eclipsed today by her reprehensible tastelessness, proved by the ill-considered timing of her video, and, even worse, by her unforgivable lack of deference to the men and women who have more than earned our attention for at least one uninterrupted day. We can only hope the embarrassment she’s enduring as a consequence of today’s gaffe-parade will dissuade her from doing it again.

 

Sarah Palin’s presidential hopes surely can’t survive this assassin’s bullet

Sarah Palin’s presidential hopes surely can’t survive this assassin’s bullet | Jonathan Freedland | Comment is free | The Guardian

Sarah Palin’s presidential hopes surely can’t survive this assassin’s bullet

She didn’t pull the trigger, and she’s not the first to use the language of combat. But the Alaskan’s career will certainly suffer

Until Saturday, it was a fair working assumption that Sarah Palin was just a few weeks away from announcing her candidacy for the presidency of the United States. Barack Obama launched his campaign in February 2007, a full 21 months before polling day in November 2008, making February 2011 the obvious time for anyone with an eye on 2012. But if Palin had pencilled an imminent date in her diary, she’s certainly rubbed it out now. Events outside a Safeway in Tucson have seen to that.

It’s not exactly fair. Palin didn’t pull the trigger that killed six people, including a nine-year-old girl, in Arizona and left a member of Congress fighting for her life. But politics isn’t fair. The cold reality is that the individual most politically damaged by the Saturday shootings is the former vice-presidential candidate turned reality TV star, bestselling author and all-round media phenomenon.

For proof, just imagine how a Palin presidential campaign would now unfold. Her fellow Republicans might steer clear of the Arizona killings in the primary phase of the contest but, if she somehow became her party’s nominee, she would be challenged constantly about a single image: the map she posted on her website last autumn dotted with 20 gunsight-style crosshairs over 20 congressional districts occupied by Democrats who had dared to vote for Obama’s healthcare reform – among them one Gabrielle Giffords.

Palin might try to argue that she wasn’t really targeting Giffords and the others, echoing the absurd attempt by one of her closest aides at the weekend to pretend those rifle sights were really “surveyor’s symbols”. But that won’t wash, not when Palin herself referred via Twitter to the “‘bullseye’ icon used 2 target the 20 Obamacare-lovin’ incumbent seats“. More importantly, there would be a potent witness ready to testify against Palin: Giffords herself. The most important 13 seconds of videotape could prove to be the clip, already running on a loop on American television, of Giffords complaining last autumn about that crosshairs ad, warning those behind such violent imagery to “realise there’s consequences to that action”. That statement, full of poignant prescience, can’t help but point a finger at Palin. If, as those around her hope and pray, Giffords survives, she would need to do no more than appear on a platform or in a TV ad in the 2012 campaign to indict Palin. She would embody in her very person the case that the former governor of Alaska lacks the judgment to be president.

Perhaps Palin could have overcome this obstacle, expressing deep contrition for the crosshairs map and vowing to join those calling for calmer, cooler public discourse. But her response since the shootings has deepened her problem. Her single public statement was chilly and defensive. It began, “My sincere condolences are offered …” a form of words that, one senior Democrat mused to me, looked as if “it had been drafted by a lawyer”, anxious not to say anything that read like an admission of guilt.

The result is that the Giffords shooting – and Palin’s statements before and after it – have seared into the public mind a version of the would-be president that alienates her from the moderate and independent voters crucial to any general election victory, aligning her with the most extreme elements of the Republican party. One former Democratic strategist noted the visual grammar of that target list of Palin’s: “Remember the instigators of those abortion clinic murders? They had a list and went down the list. This puts her in that camp.”

Is any of this fair? If it is true that, as one veteran political adviser puts it, “The crosshairs are now on Sarah Palin’s career,” is that just? There is much Palin could point to in her defence. The evidence is scant – so far – that the alleged gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, was a paid-up member of the Palin cult (if you doubt that it’s a cult, read a sample of her followers’ comments on Facebook). At first glance, he seems less the determined political assassin than a man in a dangerously advanced state of mental illness. If Loughner didn’t see Palin’s call to arms in the last midterm campaign, and developed his hostility to Giffords long before anyone had heard of the Alaskan huntress, then surely, her allies will say, she should escape any blame.

What’s more, Palin is hardly the first politician to use the language of combat. She could argue that anyone who has ever referred to “battleground” constituencies, talked of candidates “wounded” by “fatal blows” or arguments “shot down” is just as guilty as she is. In this, she could cite the unlikeliest examples. It was the sainted Obama who revved up a crowd in 2008 by declaring of his Republican opponents: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” I know it’s not her style but, if Palin wanted to offer an international example, she might even mention Britain’s Liberal Democrats. Despite its long reputation as the cuddly party, the Lib Dems had a “decapitation strategy” in 2005, aimed at lopping off key Tory heads such as Michael Howard and Oliver Letwin. So why make Palin the villain?

Yet these attempts at exoneration go only so far. Even if Loughner is shown to suffer from extreme mental illness, he did not exist in a vacuum. Instead he lived in a climate that pervades today’s United States, and that exists with particular intensity in Arizona, in which political violence is glorified. Last year, Giffords’ Republican opponent held an event encouraging voters to join him and “shoot a fully automatic M16” to “help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office”. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said she wanted voters to be “armed and dangerous” against Obama’s energy policy. On Fox News, Glenn Beck speaks daily as if on an underground resistance network, urging his audience to rise up against the wicked dictatorship that has somehow usurped power.

This is in a different category from Lib Dem talk of decapitation. First, it is taking place in a society in which many millions carry real, rather than metaphorical, guns. Second, it is not generalised rhetoric but directed at specific, named individuals: that Republican candidate urged voters to shoot an automatic weapon to get rid of Giffords. In this context, it is not hysterical to suggest some of this will have rubbed off on a disturbed young man such as Loughner. As Andrew Sullivan has pointed out, the gunman could have chosen anywhere for his rampage, but he chose a specific politician whom many influential people – including Palin – had already defined as a target.

By rights, then, those who have been stoking this fire should be shamed into changing their vocabulary. Yet the precedents are not encouraging. After the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Bill Clinton denounced the “loud and angry voices” who, he said, were guilty of “spreading hate and leaving the impression … that violence is acceptable.” Clinton’s response to Oklahoma revived his presidency, but it did not still the loud and angry voices: Rush Limbaugh was spewing vitriol then and he’s still doing it now. Obama goes to Tucson today: if he can do as well as Clinton, he will have done himself a great favour. If he can do better than Clinton, and make a lasting impact on the tenor of America’s public conversation, he will have done his country a great service.

Obama the Centrist Irks a Liberal Lion

Reich Disappointed in Obama the Centrist – NYTimes.com

Obama the Centrist Irks a Liberal Lion

 

BERKELEY, Calif. — So how would he grade President Obama’s economic policies, and the new team put in place this week?

Though Robert B. Reich, the former labor secretary, endorsed Mr. Obama and has traveled to the White House to provide economic counsel, he offers a smile that looks unmistakably pained.

“We have a remarkably anemic recovery; it’s paper-thin,” Mr. Reich says. “In the narrowest, tactical terms, in sheer dollars committed to programs, Obama’s done pretty well, and his favorability ratings are better than those of the Democratic Party.”

Then he sweeps his hands far apart in his sun-filled warren of an office at the University of California, Berkeley.

“If you widen the lens, the public is being sold a big lie — that our problems owe to unions and the size of government and not to fraud and deregulation and vast concentration of wealth. Obama’s failure is that he won’t challenge this Republican narrative, and give people a story that helps them connect the dots and understand where we’re going.”

Mr. Reich, 64, is one of several prominent liberal economists who despair of what they say is this president’s political caution, and his unwillingness to duel with an emboldened Republican Party.

Faced with a Republican majority in the House, Mr. Obama this week appointed Gene Sperling, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, as director of his National Economic Council, and William M. Daley, a centrist politician turned banking executive, as his chief of staff. Mr. Daley was a member of the Third Way, a group that counsels deficit reduction, more tax cuts and perhaps trimming Social Security.

Mr. Reich is not pleased by the president’s message of late.

“By freezing federal salaries, by talking about deficits, by extending the Bush tax cuts, he’s legitimizing a Republican narrative,” Mr. Reich says.

“Why won’t he tell the alternative story? For three decades we’ve cut taxes on the wealthy while real wages stood still.”

Mr. Obama’s liberal economics critics include Nobel Prize winners, Paul R. Krugman, the Princeton professor and columnist for The New York Times, and Joseph E. Stiglitz, the Columbia professor who served as chairman of Mr. Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors.

Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and a professor at M.I.T., once advised liberals to stop blaming Mr. Obama’s advisers for pushing policies too friendly to Wall Street — the president makes those decisions.

Mr. Reich served as labor secretary for President Clinton, and in his latest book “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future” he applauds Mr. Obama for deft work in preventing the economy from toppling into a Depression.

But the president demanded too little of the bankers he saved, Mr. Reich says, and he conflated a rising stock market and soaring corporate profits with an improving economy.

The majority of Americans, who derive much of their wealth from their homes rather than the stock market, are falling far behind the top 1 percent, who took in 23 percent of the nation’s income in 2007. That inequality, he says, is at the heart of America’s malaise.

“Obama had a chance to reboot the bailout,” he says. “He could have said to the bankers, ‘If you want more, you’ve got to put a cap on salaries, you’ve got to agree to modify X number of mortgages.’ ”

Mr. Reich sees a parallel with his former boss, Mr. Clinton, and draws no comfort from the comparison. Confronted with a muscular Republican majority in the House in 1994, Mr. Clinton mastered triangulation, which is to say he sailed into a sea neither Republican nor Democratic. It was a strategic masterstroke, but he threw overboard some liberal founding stones.

“I found myself truly impressed by how quickly Clinton moved to the putative center,” says Mr. Reich, a touch archly.

Mr. Reich sees President Obama taking a similar tack. This argument drives the president and his advisers to distraction.

To survive in a Washington where Republicans and Democrats are on nearly permanent war footing with one another, the president’s advisers say, requires an agility little understood by those on the outside. They point to health care and financial reform, to extended unemployment benefits and to the stimulus bills (which liberal economists criticized as too small) that let city and state governments avoid tens of thousands of layoffs. They will put their accounting up against that of their critics.

(Congressional Republicans are split between those who have described Mr. Obama as a liberal, or a dangerous radical, or, more exotically, a Kenyan-style socialist).

Mr. Reich says he knows careful compromise is the daily bread of government. He emphasizes he is not a paleo-liberal.

He favors incentives rather than the lash of requirement when it comes to job creation. He pushes an industrial policy to make workers more competitive. And his view that trade is a beneficial balm leads him to a fairly benign view of China.

He also remains willing to have his heart broken by politicians. He worked in the Gerald Ford administration — as a young lawyer he worked for Robert Bork, now a conservative luminary — and for President Jimmy Carter.

A New Yorker in childhood, a Bostonian by academic residency for many years, he moved west to Berkeley five years ago, and that sunny clime seems to suit his disposition. His office, overlooking cypress trees and a courtyard, is jammed with books and posters of his political heroes, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to an old Life magazine portrait of Adlai Stevenson.

During the 2008 primaries, he wrote a tough column about Hillary Clinton. (In a reminder that alliances are ever shifting, Mr. Sperling fired back with a column in defense of Ms. Clinton and criticizing Mr. Obama, who just tapped Mr. Sperling for his new economic team.)

Why does political romance so often sour into disappointment? “Even the most visionary president — Reagan, say — gets surrounded by ambitious tacticians,” he replies. “Everyone is giving advice about the next battle, and there is no room for thinking about how to communicate with all those Americans essentially sitting in the bleachers.”

Democratic presidents, he goes on, raise money from and are surrounded by Ivy League-educated meritocrats, often of substantial wealth.

“Their norms are of those who earn more than $300,000, whose kids go to private school and whose primary savings are in the stock market rather than in their homes,” he says. “Their assumptions are different in profound ways from most struggling Americans.”

The modern Democratic Party, he says, is removed from what he and Mr. Krugman view as a better time: the decades stretching from World War II until about 1970. The typical high-income earner then paid more than 50 percent of income as taxes. The economic bargain was explicit: government encouraged industry, and working Americans shared in the fruits, buying houses and cars, with pensions to tide comfortable retirements.

“We tend to think of the political center as static, but it’s become much more conservative over time,” Mr. Reich says. “What’s happened in the last 30 years is that the private sector worker has taken a shellacking.”

Conservatives and centrists rejoin that a return to an age of strong unions and fixed benefits would leave the economy gasping in a global age. Mr. Reich has taken lumps over the years from fellow liberals as well, and not just from conservatives.

The late Tony Judt, founder of the Remarque Institute at New York University, once criticized Mr. Reich for writing too glibly, and not infusing his analysis of corporate behavior with a more rigorous and moral core.

Put that question to Mr. Reich and he raises his hands: guilty as charged.

Economics, he says, takes its origin as a moral philosophy. “Tony was right; I left out the questions of power and inequality,” he says. “The Great Recession has made it impossible for me to ignore that.”

Ask Mr. Reich if he would go back to government, knowing idealism would be trampled, and he nods.

As for now? He smiles.

“When you’re out, you have a lot less of a megaphone,” he says. “But you can say a lot more.”