First off: thank you. You guys have been just wonderful and patient. And I can’t say how much I appreciate ya’ll coming back, even despite the problems. It’s looking to me like we might have a problem with comments getting pulled in for approval even when they shouldn’t be. So I’m going through every comment y’all have left so far to release anything sitting in a moderation queue that shouldn’t have been there. I should be done with that by Monday, and then I’ll keep working through the backlog. So if you’ve lost something, we’ll try to find it. Again, thank you. And for your patience, let’s make this a requests open thread. If there’s something you’d like me to try out, or consider, tell me here, and I’ll get cracking on them.
As long as the idea of switching to the use of the Chained CPI is in the news it’s worth emphasizing that though the scale of the cut to Social Security benefits implied by doing this is very small, it falls quite heavily on people who are very old since it compounds over time. Social Security Works has a table (PDF):
CAP’s Social Security proposal pairs a switch to Chained CPI with more generous benefits for the poorest retirees and with more generous benefits for the very elderly. On net, our proposal would reduce poverty among senior citizens. But if you simply do the C-CPI-U switch without changing anything else, you end up making Social Security’s adequacy problem worse.
As ThinkProgress’s Ali Gharib previously noted, the State Department recently put out a statement warning that American citizens who join a flotilla of aid ships to Gaza that is leaving soon — the lead U.S. boat is calling itself the Audacity of Hope — may face arrest, injury, or even death resulting form Israeli military activities. This warning is particularly important given last year’s events, where a U.S. citizen was killed while aboard an aid flotilla.
Now, six Members of Congress have written a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking her to ensure the safety of Americans onboard aid flotillas to Gaza. The Members note that while Israel has every right to defend itself, that the measures it takes must “conform to international humanitarian and human rights law” and that the U.S. must also work to protect its own citizens:
We write to express our concern for the safety of American passengers on the U.S. ship The Audacity of Hope, which will set sail for Gaza in the next few days. We request that you do everything in your power to work with the Israeli government to ensure the safety of the U.S. citizens on board. [...]
We wholeheartedly support Israel’s right, and indeed its duty, to protect its citizens from security threats. The measures it uses to do so, as in the case with any other nation, must conform to international humanitarian and human rights law. We are encouraged that The Audacity of Hope organizers have stated that their cargo “is open to international inspection” and that they “are fully committed to nonviolence and the the tenets of international law”.
The letter comes at a time when other governments are taking much sterner lines on protecting the activists aboard the flotilla. “Israel must exercise all possible restraint and avoid any use of military force if attempting to uphold their naval blockade,” said Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore. “In particular, I would expect that any interception of ships is conducted in a peaceful manner and does not endanger the safety of our citizens or other participants.”
For more on the flotilla, see this interview with Israeli-American independent journalist Joseph Dana on Al Jazeera English’s The Stream. I appeared on the show and along with the co-hosts interviewed Dana about his upcoming trip on the aid flotilla.
From the General Theory of Money, Interest, and Employment:
Moreover the richer the community, the wider will tend to be the gap between its actual and its potential production; and therefore the more obvious and outrageous the defects of the economic system. For a poor community will be prone to consume by far the greater part of its output, so that a very modest measure of investment will be sufficient to provide full employment; whereas a wealthy community will have to discover much ampler opportunities for investment if the saving propensities of its wealthier members are to be compatible with the employment of its poorer members. If in a potentially wealthy community the inducement to invest is weak, then, in spite of its potential wealth, the working of the principle of effective demand will compel it to reduce its actual output, until, in spite of its potential wealth, it has become so poor that its surplus over its consumption is sufficiently diminished to correspond to the weakness of the inducement to invest.
This is roughly speaking what I think is going to be our path out of the slump. Stay in a little depression long enough, and eventually the surplus of people over homes gets to the point where residential investment has to make a comeback. But it’s an unnecessarily long, unnecessarily hard slog.
What’s more, the thing Keynes didn’t foresee is that advanced wealthy societies would eventually adopt a dazzling array of measures that make it exceedingly difficult to conduct public sector infrastructure programs quickly. The government regulates itself (via contracting rules, environmental review, community input, grant formulaes, etc.) to a staggering degree.
I always think of my friend Will Wilkinson as a bloodless technocrat’s bloodless technocrat, but he lives in Iowa so he’s trying his hand at campaign reporting and he turns out to be damn good at it, combining excellent prose with what I would say is a case study in the idea that perhaps more campaign reporting should be done by people with less of a politics focus:
Toward the end of the Q&A session, Cain suggests speeding domestic oil and gas production by creating a “regulatory reduction commission” that will ease regulatory control. In particular, Cain would seek the advice of energy executives whose firms’ efforts have been hindered by environmental regulation. “If you’ve been abused by the EPA like Shell Oil, I’m going to ask the CEO of Shell Oil would he like to be on this commission, and give me some recommendations. The people closest to the problem are the ones who can solve the problem.” It does not seem to occur to Cain that regulatory policy might not be improved in the public’s interest by amplifying the influence of those it is meant to regulate.
Exactly. Conservatives are, clearly, correct to think that poorly done regulation can be a problem for the country. But the knee-jerk impulse to say that we’ll make it better by handing more authority over to powerful incumbents is. odd.
Sadly, this is not the first time Prosser stands accused of a sexist attack on one of his fellow justices — although it appears to be the first allegation where he actually laid hands on one of his colleagues. Last year, during an argument with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, Prosser called her a “bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her.
Like all accused criminals, Prosser enjoys a presumption of innocence and he should not be condemned until the evidence clearly shows that he is guilty. Should the allegations prove true, however, there are at least four paths to remove Justice Prosser from office:
- Resignation: The most obvious solution is that Prosser should immediately step down from his position on the state supreme court. It should be self evident that someone prone to violent outbursts has no business as a judge — much less as a supreme court justice — and if Prosser truely possess the independent judgment he claimed to have in his recent reelection campaign this fact should be clear to him as well
- Impeachment: The Wisconsin Constitution permits judges to be removed through an impeachment trial and conviction. As under the U.S. Constitution, this process requires a majority vote in the state assembly to begin impeachment proceedings and a two-thirds vote in the senate to convict. Impeachment could potentially be the quickest way to prevent Prosser from ruling on any more cases until this matter is resolved, as the state constitution provides that “[n]o judicial officer shall exercise his office, after he shall have been impeached, until his acquittal.”
- Removal by Address: A supermajority of both houses of the state legislature can also remove Prosser through a process known as “removal by address.” Under this process, “Any justice or judge may be removed from office by address of both houses of the legislature, if two−thirds of all the members elected to each house concur therein.”
- Recall: As a last resort, Prosser may be removed by a recall election using the same process that was recently invoked to attempt to recall several state senators. Under Wisconsin law, however, elected officials enjoy a one year grace period during the beginning of their term in office where they are immune from recall. Because Prosser was just recently reelected, this means he could continue to serve as a justice for quite a while before a recall election could take place.
Wisconsin is obviously caught in some deep ideological battles, including an impending recall election that will determine control of the state senate. If there is one issue that should transcend party lines, however, it is the basic fact that no one is allowed to lay hands on a sitting judge. Should the allegations against Prosser prove true, it is tough to imagine a truer sign that our political system has broken down than if the calls to remove him from office are not unanimous.
I grew up in the Village in New York, so to me LGBT equality has always been a given, including on the marriage issue as it arose in the 1990s. But if you asked me ten years ago, I would have been very surprised at the direction the road to equality has taken. I was fairly certain, at the time, that we were heading in the opposite direction. That people would say that, on the one hand, most large religious denominations objected to the idea of same sex marriage. But people would say that on the other hand it’s not fair for people to live in a state of permanent second-class citizenship. So since a wedding is, at root, a kind of religious ceremony we would achieve equality through the disestablishment of marriage. People, gay or straight, would form registered legal partnerships of some kind (“civil unions”) and the question of who is and isn’t married would be left to various religious denominations.
The upshot would be that secular people generally wouldn’t get married. Once upon a time, after all, the religious function of baptism was closely tied to the secular function of legally registering new births. But that’s not the way things work anymore. There’s a perfectly egalitarian secular system of birth certificates, and operating in paralel you have some different religious ceremonies to mark new births for those who are interested.
Obviously, I’m totally wrong. Marriage equality came to New York last night and the whole country is on the road. Meanwhile, my best friend from high school got married earlier this summer, I’m going to a wedding later today, and I’ve got several more weddings on the agenda for 2011. It’s inspiring to see these victories for justice and equality, but I also do think it’s worth pausing to acknowledge that the specific form the victory has taken is an interesting affirmation of the conservative streak running through American life. LGBT rights advocates and their allies really haven’t wanted to tear down traditional family structures, they’ve patiently, insistently, and effectively demanded access to them.
Wisconsin Justice Prosser ‘grabbed fellow justice around the neck’ prior to union bill decision | The Wisconsin State Journal reports: “Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser allegedly grabbed fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley around the neck in an argument in her chambers last week, according to at least three knowledgeable sources.” The incident occurred “before the court’s release of a decision upholding a bill to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public employees.” According to their sources “Bradley purportedly asked Prosser to leave her office, whereupon Prosser grabbed Bradley by the neck with both hands.” Prosser recently “defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,000 votes out of nearly 1.5 million cast.”
A recent campaign stop by Rick Santorum reveals at least part of the strategy. During the question and answer period of an event last Monday at the Pizza Ranch in Ames, Iowa, Santorum was asked by a man if he would pledge to support the Keystone XL, an oil pipeline currently under construction to bring crude oil from Canada through several states to refineries in Texas. Santorum disregarded the question, and spoke for a few minutes about problems encountered by the fracking industry in his home state of Pennsylvania. The man interjected and again asked whether Santorum would say definitively if he supports the pipeline. Santorum, looking slightly annoyed, relented and said yes.
During the event, two young people in the back of the room handed out cards and pamphlets from a new organization called the Iowa Energy Forum. “We’re a grassroots group,” said Connor Reed, one of people sporting Iowa Energy Forum t-shirts. The website for the forum says it is simply “a growing community of concerned citizens committed to two goals – achieving energy security for our country and holding our elected officials accountable for shaping energy policies.” The website highlights Canadian tar sands and the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline, as well as the need for more domestic drilling.
Rather than being a grassroots organization, the Iowa Energy Forum is a slick, new creation of the oil and gas industry. The group is financed by the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association representing Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Transcanada, Shell Oil, and other oil industry heavyweights.
After witnessing the spectacle at the Santorum event, ThinkProgress observed Iowa Energy Forum staffers attending various Iowa Tea Party events and Herman Cain campaign stops. Iowa Energy Forum trackers have pressed their issue to Mitt Romney and other 2012 candidates.
Daniel Weiser, a partner at the Iowa lobbying firm Capitol Strategies, told ThinkProgress that his company helped set up the Iowa Energy Forum. “We’re lobbying for them down in the capitol, got the legislative task forced signed up,” Weiser said. Weiser’s firm helped recruit about 40 people so “theoretically when a presidential candidate comes, we have people to speak to them.” The goal, Weiser said, was to press the candidates on supporting domestic energy production, including renewables. However, Weiser admitted that fossil fuels are the priority. “Drilling for oil and natural gas, those are the biggies.”
However, the main drivers of the front group appear to be linked to LS2g, a corporate public relations and lobbying firm based in Des Moines. Chuck Larson and Karen Slifka, former Republican Party operatives, manage the Iowa Energy Forum and the LS2g office serves as the group’s headquarters.
In addition to astroturfing candidate events, the Iowa Energy Forum has pushed to defend billions in targeted subsidies to the oil and gas industry. The group recently hosted American Petroleum Institute economist John Felmy, who blasted attempts by Congress to repeal such giveaways. The group has managed to snag notable politicians, including Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA), to appear at their press conferences.
A new profile of American Petroleum Institute head Jack Gerard sheds light on the purpose of groups like the Iowa Energy Forum. Gerard’s lobbying strategy has focused on boosting the public perception of big oil. Gerard has dedicated millions of dollars worth of ads promoting his industry, but he has also organized fly-ins of African American and Hispanic oil workers, bused in workers to hold large public rallies in pivotal states, and recruited unlikely allies to press his case, including labor unions. He even hired one of the Nature Conservancy’s top officials to help build his pro-oil army.
The oil industry’s brazen attempt to manipulate the Republican primary isn’t necessarily a new strategy, however. In 2008, the coal industry sent staffers posing as grassroots activists to campaign events for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to hawk “clean coal.” The fake activists would press the candidates to support coal industry priorities, and then once they went on record, the video would be used in coal industry advertisements.
Nice chart from the Atlanta Fed’s latest big set of charts (PDF) shows that inflation expectations have tumbled since the April FOMC meeting:
This is, again, a reminder of how bizarre the Fed’s stand pat attitude is. If inflation expectations had gone up by a large amount since the last meeting, there’s no doubt that the Fed would have responded with tighter money. So why doesn’t a fall in inflation expectations lead to looser money?