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An open letter

To the New York Times staffers, from Russ Baker.

Terrorism

Minnesota has a very large Somali population, and this is a very stupid thing.

Back in Zuccotti Park

They’re backkk….

Updated, 10:07 a.m. | Security guards working for Brookfield Properties took down a cordon of metal barricades surrounding Zuccotti Park on Tuesday evening, but entered the park later that night to enforce rules forbidding anyone to lie down.

The police arrested three people late Tuesday, a woman and two men, and charged them with trespassing, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest.

More than 200 Occupy Wall Street protesters milled inside the park past midnight, celebrating the removal of the barricades, which some lawyers had said violated city laws.

Moira Meltzer-Cohen, 34, a law student from Bedford-Stuyvesant, said that she was in a meeting in a public atrium on Wall Street on Tuesday when word began circulating that the barricades were being taken down. She said she rushed to the park and saw security guards stacking barricades that had ringed the park since the police cleared an Occupy Wall Street encampment there in mid-November, forcing protesters to enter single file.

“People flooded in, and there was a lot of jubilation,” she said. “There was so much joy because the park had been caged for so long.”

Vestiges from the park’s recent past emerged. Protesters brought crates of books left over from a library that had been established at the park before it was cleared. They also ladled out meals from large containers, something that Brookfield guards had prevented over the last two months.

Vulture capitalism

While Perry is certainly as bad in his own way and is simply looking for anything he can use to attack Mittens, the fact remains that he’s right. Voters will certainly be wary of Romney’s background.

Does austerity work?

What Duncan said. Morons.

Slap on the hand

Rich Eskow with details of the administration’s proposed bank settlement:

The Obama White House continues to push for a settlement that would let bankers avoid being punished – or even investigated – for a wave of mortgage-related crimes that includes perjury, tax evasion, and several types of fraud.[1]

Despite the President’s new-found populism – rhetorically, anyway – officials in his Administration continue to push an unfair deal designed to conceal the financial Crime of the Century.

The Financial Times reported on new details of the proposed settlement, whose stated purpose is to punish banks and reduce the amount of money owed by underwater homeowners. But it’s increasingly clear that the deal wouldn’t help homeowners very much and wouldn’t punish bankers at all.

Banks could lower those loan balances by reducing the amount owed on mortgages owned by investors and not by the bank itself. That’s what Bank of America is accused of doing as part of an $8 billion settlement it reached in 2008. This deal would set the stage for a repeat performance.

This proposed deal is still unfair, unjust, and very unbalanced. And it has the Administration’s fingerprints all over it.

Last night

I had on as my guest Michael Patterson, an Iraq war vet from Alaska who is with Occupy D.C., and Stuart Zechman for the second half of the show. It was, as always, very spirited. You can listen here!

Shock treatment

I suspect this move will make him more enemies than friends, since so many people watch the Super Bowl with their kids. Via Raw Story:

People in 40 cities across the country may be subjected to a graphic anti-abortion ad while watching the Super Bowl in February.

The ads are the brainchild of anti-abortion crusader Randall Terry, who founded Operation Rescue. The ads claim abortion is mass murder and show what is purported to be images of aborted fetuses.

He mounted a Democratic primary challenge against President Barack Obama to take advantage of a Federal Communication Commission (FCC) loophole that prevents campaign ads from being censored.

FCC-licensed TV stations can reject ads based on graphic content, but they are required by law to run the ads of federal candidates within the 45-day window of any primary election or caucus in a given state.

But the ads will only run in local markets. NBC is not required by law to air the ads.

Terry plans to air the ads in the 40 cities where he will be on the ballot against Obama in Democratic primaries or caucuses. He has already purchased air time for at least one ad.

No nukes

It’s been coming from all sides as if it’s a settled fact, so it’s interesting that Leon Panetta says Iran isn’t developing nuclear weapons:

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta let slip on Sunday the big open secret that Washington war hawks don’t want widely known: Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.

Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Panetta admitted that despite all the rhetoric, Iran is not pursuing the ability to split atoms with weapons, saying it is instead pursuing “a nuclear capability.”

That “capability” falls in line with what Iran has said for years: that it is developing nuclear energy facilities, not nuclear weapons.

“I think the pressure of the sanctions, the diplomatic pressures from everywhere, Europe, the United States, elsewhere, it’s working to put pressure on them,” Panetta explained on Sunday. “To make them understand that they cannot continue to do what they’re doing. Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they’re trying to develop a nuclear capability, and that’s what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is, do not develop a nuclear weapon. That’s a red line for us.”

Republicans have been beating the drums of war in recent weeks as tensions in the Iranian gulf have soared. Iran has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil transport hub crucial to global industry, if U.S. warships return to monitor their activities.

Iran said it was planning to hold military exercises in the Strait of Hormuz in the coming weeks, and prior wargames saw the Iranians test missiles that are designed to sink warships.

And yet:

An Iranian university professor working at a key nuclear facility has been killed in a bomb explosion, the latest in a series of assassinations and attempted killings linked by the country’s authorities to a secret war by Israel and the US to stop the development of what Tehran insists would be a peaceful nuclear capability.

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment plant in central Iran, died after two assailants on a motorcycle attached magnetic bombs to his car, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Two other Iranian nationals were reported injured in the blast, which comes at a time of rising international tension.

Kicking people when they’re down

Everything Gov. Tom Corbett does comes right out of the ALEC playbook. But because he rarely speaks to the press, preferring to fly under the radar, there are no outrageous sound bytes on the local news and public outrage is hard to generate. Maybe this latest decision will finally get Pennsylvanians to speak up. From the Philadelphia City Paper:

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has announced a major assault on the food stamp program that feeds 1.8 million Pennsylvanians, including 439,245 in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfareannounced that on May 1, people under 60 with more than $2,000 in savings or other assets will be barred from receiving food stamps. People over 60 would have a $3,250 cap.

As the Inquirer points out in a detailed look, the move to cut food stamps is way out of line with what other states are doing: “Pennsylvania plans to make the amount of food stamps that people receive contingent on the assets they possess — an unexpected move that bucks national trends and places the commonwealth among a minority of states.

The trend during the Great Recession, with millions falling into poverty, has been to remove such barriers to assistance. Gov. Ed Rendell eliminated the state’s asset test in 2008. Pennsylvania now joins 11 states with asset tests — including Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota.

Eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse” is an old and recurrent refrain from those who seek to dismantle the country’s social welfare system. But it’s a cynical ruse: 30 percent of those eligible for food stamps in Pennsylvania don’t receive them. According to federal data, the Inquirer notes, Pennsylvania has a fraud rate of just one-tenth of 1 percent.

Conservatives frequently bristle at the idea that poor people might have nice things while receiving public assistance (“they have a television on welfare!”). But Pennsylvania will now create the most bizarre of disincentives: dissuading poor people from saving.

“We all know that families need to save money to get off government assistance and achieve self-sufficiency,” according to a press release from Carey Morgan, Executive Director of the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.

“So it’s not only inhumane, but counterproductive to force people to drain their savings before they can get any help. Someone with less than $2,000 in the bank would easily be wiped out by one visit to the emergency room.”

[…] “Food stamps are really the only functioning part of the safety net,” the New York Coalition Against Hunger’s Joel Berg told The Nation. “It’s the only thing left.”

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