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Shameful

As Duncan says, file this under “someone should probably do something”:

President Obama’s former top economic advisor sharply criticized the federal government for failing to take more aggressive action against unemployment.

“I frankly don’t understand why policy makers aren’t more worried about the suffering of real families,” former Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer, who left the Administration last fall, said during a discussion at Vanderbilt University in Nashville Tuesday. “I think there are tools we have tools we have that we can use, and I think it’s shameful that we’re not using them.”

Romer had been a voice inside the Obama Administration pressing for a larger ecnomic stimulus and more aggressive government action from the early days of the Administration, and she’s continued to make that case from the outside in a New York Times column.

But the sharpness of her criticism reflected deep concern among many Democratic economists about a political consensus that the federal government has to rein in expensive attempts to restart the economy even as rising oil prices again put a damper on growth.

“We need to realize that there is still a lot of devastation out there,” Romer said, calling the 8.9% unemployment rate “an absolute crisis.”

“If I have a complaint about policy these days, it’s that we’re not doing enough,” she said. “That goes all the way up to the Federal Reserve, [which] could be taking more aggressive action. It goes to the Congress and the Administration – there are fiscal policy actions they could be taking.”

“And don’t tell me you can’t [take those actions] because of the deificit because I think there are fiscally responsible ways,” she said.

A modest proposal

What a radical concept: If we just stopped selling arms to repressive regimes, they wouldn’t be able to use them against their own people! I think I like this idea:

In 2009 alone, European governments – including Britain and France – sold Libya more than $470 million worth of weapons, including fighter jets, guns and bombs. And before it started calling for regime change, the Obama administration was working to provide the Libyan dictator another $77 million in weapons, on top of the $17 million it provided in 2009 and the $46 million the Bush administration provided in 2008.

Meanwhile, for dictatorial regimes in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, US support continues to this day. On Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even gave the US stamp of approval to the brutal crackdown on protesters in Bahrain, saying the country’s authoritarian rulers “obviously” had the “sovereign right” to invite troops from Saudi Arabia to occupy their country and carry out human rights abuses, including attacks on injured protesters as they lay in their hospital beds.

In Yemen, which has received more than $300 million in military aid from the US over the last five years, the Obama administration continues to support corrupt thug and president-for-life Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently ordered a massacre of more than 50 of his own citizens who dared protest his rule. And this support has allowed the US to carry out its own massacres under the auspices of the war on terror, with one American bombing raid last year taking out 41 Yemeni civilians, including 14 women and 21 children, according to Amnesty International.

Rather than engage in cruise-missile liberalism, Obama could save lives by immediately ending support for these brutal regimes. But for US administrations, both Democratic and Republican, arms sales appear to trump liberation. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute documented that Washington accounted for 54 percent of arms sales to Persian Gulf states between 2005 and 2009.

Last September, The Financial Times reported that the US had struck deals to provide Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman with $123 billion worth of arms. The repressive monarchy of Saudi Arabia accounts for over half that figure, with it set to receive $67 billion worth of weapons, including 84 F-15 jets, 70 Apache gunships, 72 Black Hawk helicopters, 36 light helicopters and thousands of laser-guided smart bombs – the largest weapons deal in US history.

Instead of forking over $150 million a day to the weapons industry to attack Libya or selling $67 billion in weapons to the Saudis so they can repress not just their own people, but those of Bahrain, we – the ones being asked to forgo Social Security to help pay for empire – should demand those who purport to represent us in Washington stop arming dictators in our name. That might drain some bucks from the merchants of death, but it would give nonviolent protesters throughout the Middle East a fighting chance to liberate themselves.

The US government need not drop a single bomb in the Middle East to help liberate oppressed people. All it need do is stop selling bombs to their oppressors.

Jobs, jobs, jobs!

There’s no sign of Speaker John Boehner’s promised “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Instead, extremist teabagger Republicans are busily trying to take care of the already-rich, kick people when they’re down, and further weaken the ability of those who do have jobs to strike against employers:

All around the country, right-wing legislators are asking middle class Americans to pay for budget deficits caused mainly by a recession caused by Wall Street; they are attacking workers’ collective bargaining rights, which has provoked a huge Main Street Movement to fight back.

Now, a group of House Republicans is launching a new stealth attack against union workers. GOP Reps. Jim Jordan (OH), Tim Scott (SC), Scott Garrett (NJ), Dan Burton (IN), and Louie Gohmert (TX) have introduced H.R. 1135, which states that it is designed to “provide information on total spending on means-tested welfare programs, to provide additional work requirements, and to provide an overall spending limit on means-tested welfare programs.”

Much of the bill is based upon verifying that those who receive food stamps benefits are meeting the federal requirements for doing so. However, one section buried deep within the bill adds a startling new requirement. The bill, if passed, would actually cut off all food stamp benefits to any family where one adult member is engaging in a strike against an employer.

The bill also includes a provision that would exempt households from losing eligibility, “if the household was eligible immediately prior to such strike, however, such family unit shall not receive an increased allotment as the result of a decrease in the income of the striking member or members of the household.”

Yet removing entire families from eligibility while a single adult family member is striking would have a chilling effect on workers who are considering going on strike for better wages, benefits, or working conditions — something that is especially alarming in light of the fact that unions are one of the fundamental building blocks of the middle class that allow people to earn wages that keep them off food stamps.

But here’s the punchline: Striking workers have been ineligible for food stamps for years. (The only way a striker is eligible right now is if you met the eligibility standards before you went on strike — and if you belong to a union, odds are, you didn’t.) So not only are teabagger Republicans just plain mean and pandering to special interests, they’re stupid to boot!

The bill also rolls back back spending on government assistance programs back to 2007 levels, plus inflation, once unemployment falls below 6.5 percent. (Well, at least we know that won’t be anytime soon!)

New Jersey’s Rep. Scott Garrett, a teabagger hero, is also busy trying to slash funding for the SEC – but denies that he’s doing it. (Says the fact that its spending has gone up so much since the market crash proves the agency has plenty of funding, thank you very much!) Oh, and he’s one of the Republicans who voted against extending the budget.

He’s also the guy who’s pushing for every bill to show “constitutional authority” for why Congress has the right to pass the bill.

Rep. Jim Jordan, the other person who wants to kick voters when they’re down? Was he working on “jobs, jobs, jobs”? Nope. He’s chair of the extremist Republican Study Committee, a caucus that exists to push House Republicans Further. To. The. Right.

Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN) wasn’t working on “jobs, jobs, jobs,” either. He voted against the budget extension, too. Instead, he introduced a nasty little states-right bill:

“Last week, President Obama made an unprecedented decision to declare a Federal law unconstitutional and thereby abdicate his own constitutional responsibility to uphold and defend that law. Activist judges, and now an activist President, have been trying to unilaterally define marriage for too long. This issue should instead be decided once and for all by the American people and the states.

“That is why I have introduced the “Marriage Protection Act” which simply states that no Federal Courts will have jurisdiction to hear cases regarding same-sex marriage. Instead, the definition of same-sex unions would be determined by the people through their State legislatures or via referendum.

And he also sponsored a bill that would strip President Obama “of his power to waive a law requiring him to move the embassy to Jerusalem.”

Rep. Louis Gohmert? He’s from Texas and the author of the famous “terror babies” story. A real American!

Last but not least, South Carolina’s Rep. Tim Scott. The poor guy’s really got to prove himself – first, because he voted for the continuing resolution that extended the budget for three weeks, but also because he’s a black Republican. So he’s a member of the Club for Growth, plus he just introduced the Rising Tides Act of 2011.

And what does it do, exactly? It cuts the corporate income tax rate by 10% on companies making more than $10 million annually.

Where on earth are those jobs, jobs, jobs?

Because so many of them end up like this. Very sad:

An autopsy report released by the Miami-Dade County medical examiner this week described the tragic circumstances surrounding the suicide of former Chicago Bears safety and two-time Super Bowl winner Dave Duerson.

Duerson retired from the NFL after 11 seasons and may have suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition linked to athletes who have sustained repeated concussions, according to the Associated Press. Despite his athletic success, Duerson fell on hard times later in life. He was divorced in 2009 and after years of running a successful business, filed for bankruptcy months before his suicide.

The autopsy report confirms that the 50-year-old Duerson “complained of memory loss and inability to spell” before his death, and had asked his family to donate his brain to the NFL Brain Bank. The New York Times reported in February that Duerson wanted to know if he had the degenerative disease tied to depression, dementia and suicide.

The autopsy report states that on February 17, Duerson was discovered in his bed with a gunshot wound to his chest. He had reportedly propped a chair against the front door of his Florida apartment and folded an American flag on his bed along with two certificates and medals.

“The walk-in closet in the master bedroom has a football statue, three helmets from different football teams, and three football trophies,” the report says. He had also laid out multiple documents on the dining room table.

Florida

Teabagger Gov. Rick Scott is a real fuckhead. Poor Florida!

I try

Macy Gray:

Someday we’ll know

I had a short but very intense thing with this brood-y guy once, and this song alway makes me think of him. Wonder if he’s still alive? The New Radicals:

Deepwater drilling

Imagine that, nothing’s changed!

Virginity test

I wonder if men will one day accept the radical notion that women are full human beings:

The international human rights group Amnesty International claimed Wednesday that a number of female protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were rounded up by the Egyptian military and tortured recently.

Some women even said they were subjected to a “virginity test” while soldiers looked on and took pictures.

Amnesty said at least 18 different women were subjected to this treatment, first at a military prison, then inside the Cairo Museum.

The women claimed they were beaten and tortured with electric shocks, and one woman who allegedly “failed” her virginity test was reportedly singled out for the worst abuse.

“20-year-old Salwa Hosseini told Amnesty International that after she was arrested and taken to a military prison in Heikstep, she was made, with the other women, to take off all her clothes to be searched by a female prison guard, in a room with two open doors and a window,” the group explained. “During the strip search, Salwa Hosseini said male soldiers were looking into the room and taking pictures of the naked women.”

All of them were taken on March 9, as the military cleared Tahrir Square of demonstrators.

“Women and girls must be able to express their views on the future of Egypt and protest against the government without being detained, tortured, or subjected to profoundly degrading and discriminatory treatment,” Amnesty said in an advisory. “The army officers tried to further humiliate the women by allowing men to watch and photograph what was happening, with the implicit threat that the women could be at further risk of harm if the photographs were made public.”

$1 trillion stashed abroad

Give us the money, or we shoot the dog! American corporations once again try to strike a bargain to avoid paying their taxes. Congress shouldn’t be cutting services to the rest of us while even one penny goes uncollected from these corporate bums:

Google (GOOG) Ireland is not a branch office of the U.S.-based search giant. It’s a separate corporation, and the IRS can’t touch a dime that Google Ireland earns from its core business until it sends profits back home to the mother ship. The term of art for bringing the money back is repatriation—the same as for a soldier captured abroad.

U.S. multinationals have more than $1 trillion in profits stashed in overseas subsidiaries. Some of the companies with the most money squirreled away say they’re prepared to bring a big chunk of it home. All they want in return is a temporary tax break that wouldn’t cost the U.S. Treasury anything, since it’s money that would otherwise be kept abroad and not taxed at all. The tax break would actually raise billions of dollars from applying the reduced tax rate to the money that’s been repatriated.

What’s not to like? John T. Chambers, Cisco’s (CSCO) chief executive officer, told securities analysts in February that “you’re now seeing political leaders at all levels understand” the case for a tax holiday on repatriated foreign profits. “I think this one has well over a 60 percent probability of being resolved in a positive way,” he said. Although a lobbying campaign is just getting under way, Representative Brian P. Bilbray (R-Calif.) has already introduced a bill that would let companies bring home money tax-free if they used it for research and development or facilities expansion.

Aside from Cisco, the growing coalition for repatriation relief includes Adobe (ADBE), Apple, CA Technologies (CA), Duke Energy (DUK), Google, Microsoft (MSFT), Oracle (ORCL), Pfizer (PFE), and Qualcomm (QCOM)—powerhouses all. The group is seeking fundamental changes in tax law, but if it can’t get them right away, it still wants the tax holiday. Its opening position is that there should be no conditions on how the money is used. Chambers argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last October that a repatriation might create as many as 2 million jobs.

It’s a seductive argument—reap billions in tax revenue from money that’s currently untaxed and generate economic growth to boot. On closer inspection, though, the coalition’s argument has some logical loopholes. A nearly identical holiday passed by Congress in 2004 and taken mostly in 2005 did little to boost jobs or investment, according to several independent economic studies. Some economists say a holiday today might be even less effective because cash isn’t a constraint in 2011—it’s bountiful, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s loose-money policy. U.S. nonfinancial corporations have $1.9 trillion in liquid assets, the Fed says. No more than half of that—probably significantly less—is offshore. (An unknown portion of the $1 trillion-plus in foreign-held profits isn’t cash. It’s tied up in foreign factories, offices, and the like and can’t easily be repatriated.)
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