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Real-Life Frank Underwoods: Netflix, ‘House of Cards’ and Third Way

March 3rd, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Democrats, elections, safety net

 

By Richard Eskow
Progressive America Rising via Campaign for America’s Future

March 3, 2014 – Frank Underwood is known for deceiving people into acting against their own best interests. (We’ll miss you, President Walker.) Now we learn that this trait may extend to the series that features him.

The greatest betrayals on “House of Cards” can be found in the misleading arguments, presented as “truth,” that suggest that cutting “entitlements” is a necessity and raising taxes isn’t even an option.

The fact that Netflix has insisted upon heavy tax breaks for filming the show in Maryland may be merely coincidental. Here’s what’s not: We have learned that the series hired a leading “new Democrat” (read, “corporate Democrat”) as a consultant for the show’s most misleading episode.

The audience loves watching Frank Underwood deceive other characters. It’s less likely to appreciate being deceived itself, especially as some real-life Frank Underwoods are launching an attack against the party’s populist wing.

The Spoiler

If you’re like me, “House of Cards” has been a binge-watching guilty pleasure, a chance to set aside the burden of idealism for a dark but engaging worldview that is half Machiavelli and half telenovela.

But who knew that the show itself – not the characters, but the show – had a hidden agenda? It’s already taken on teachers. Now comes the anti-“entitlement” tirade from Frank Underwood in Episode One of the new season. Frank, despite his evil ways and means, has an ambitious dream, which is introduced during a lengthy scene in which he lectures his staff, and the audience, on some highly misleading “facts.”

How did that happen? How did the “AmericaWorks” fictional plot point come to be built on real-world lies?

Here’s a clue: Episode One’s credits list Jim Kessler as a consultant. Kessler is, as his IMDB biography notes, the co-founder of Third Way. That’s a Wall Street-funded, so-called “centrist” Democratic organization with a mission: to promote neoliberal economics and make the world safe (at least financially) for its wealthy patrons.

Third Way has consistently misrepresented the financial condition of Social Security, misdirected the public debate about Medicare, and generally promoted the socially liberal but fiscally conservative worldview of its patrons.

Kessler and co-founder Jon Cowan carefully tiptoed their way through the minefield of public opinion for years, pretending to be technocrats rather than de facto lobbyists for powerful interests. They finally lost their balance last year. When confronted with the rise of Elizabeth Warren and the populist wing of the Democratic Party, they lashed out at Sen. Warren with an intemperate Wall Street Journal op-ed. (Continued)

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How Class Struggle Emerges Under the Democratic Tent

March 2nd, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, Democrats, poverty, safety net, Wall Street

Centrist Dems Ready Strike against Warren Wing

By Kevin Cirilli
Progressive America Rising via The Hill

March 2, 2013 – Centrist Democrats are gathering their forces to fight back against the “Elizabeth Warren wing” of their party, fearing a sharp turn to the left could prove disastrous in the 2016 elections.

For months, moderate Democrats have kept silent as Sen. Warren’s (D-Mass.) barbed attacks against Wall Street, income inequality and the “rigged economy” thrilled the base and stirred desire for a more populist approach.  

But with the race for the White House set to begin, centrists are moving to seize back the agenda.

The New Democrat Coalition (NDC), a caucus of moderate Democrats in the House, plans to unveil an economic policy platform as soon as this week in an attempt to chart a different course.

"I have great respect for Sen. Warren — she’s a tremendous leader,” said Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.), one of the members working on the policy proposal. “My own preference is to create a message without bashing businesses or workers, [the latter of which] happens on the other side."

Peters said that if Democrats are going to win back the House and Senate, "it’s going to be through the work of the New Democrat Coalition."

"To the extent that Republicans beat up on workers and Democrats beat up on employers — I’m not sure that offers voters much of a vision," Peters said.

Warren’s rapid ascent has highlighted growing tensions in the Democratic Party about its identity in the post-Obama era.

Caught in the crossfire is the party’s likely nominee in 2016, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband took the party in a decisively centrist direction during his eight years in office. (Continued)

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The Dangerous Candidacy of Scott Walker

February 26th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, GOP, rightwing

By John Cassidy

Progressive America Rising via the New Yorker

Feb 24, 2015 – Let’s stipulate up front that Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, is an odious politician whose ascension to the Presidency would be a disaster.

Set aside, for a moment, his repeated refusal, in the past few days, to say whether he believes that President Obama loves America, or whether he believes that the President is a Christian, and look instead at Walker’s record running what used to be one of America’s more progressive states. Having cut taxes for the wealthy and stripped many of Wisconsin’s public-sector unions of their collective-bargaining rights, he is now preparing to sign a legislative bill that would cripple unions in the private sector. Many wealthy conservatives, such as the Koch brothers, who have funnelled a lot of money to groups supporting Walker, regard him as someone who’s turning his state into a showcase for what they want the rest of America to look like.

But just how threatening is he? If you’ve been following the political news during the past week, you may well have the impression that he’s stumbling in his campaign for the 2016 G.O.P. nomination. Among the political commentariat, the consensus of opinion is that Walker’s repeated refusal to distance himself from Rudy Giuliani’s incendiary comments about Obama, and his subsequent encounter with the Washington Post’s Dan Balz and Robert Costa, during which he appeared to question Obama’s religious faith and took some shots at the media for asking him silly questions, weren’t merely reprehensible: they were serious gaffes that raised questions about Walker’s political abilities.

It wasn’t just liberal columnists who piled on. In a column at the Daily Beast, Matt Lewis, who also writes for the Daily Caller, said that Walker’s comments raised the question of whether he “might not be ready for prime time on the national stage.” Lewis went on: “Conservatives should be worried that Walker hasn’t proven capable of navigating these land mines.” MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who is a former G.O.P. congressman, wrote at Politico: “Good candidates know how to make dumb questions look, well, dumb.”

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‘People Are Really Getting Angry’: How Bernie Sanders Just Electrified Iowa — And What It Means for 2016

February 24th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in 2016 Election, Bernie Sanders, youth and students

At an under-the-radar town hall in Des Moines, Sanders had the crowd begging for more. Here’s why it matters

By Robert Leonard
Progressive America Rising via Salon.com

Feb 24, 2015 – DES MOINES — Bernie Sanders has neckties older than most of his audience at last Friday’s Drake University Town Hall in Des Moines. Yet the age differential didn’t matter. His college-age audience loved him. Organized by Drake progressive students, Sanders and his audience seemed to have a near telepathic connection. His issues are their issues, and if anything, they are more pissed off than he is.

Several Drake students set the stage for Sanders in brief topical introductions, laying waste to money in politics, Citizens United specifically, the reality and dangers of climate change, the importance of pay equity for women, immigration reform, and the crushing burden of the cost of college and debt. Then Bernie nailed it, touching on all of these topics and more.

Unlike the speeches at the recent Republican Iowa Freedom Summit, Sanders was long on ideas, and short on chest-thumping, fiery rhetoric. He also didn’t have an audience mostly old enough to vote when Ronald Reagan was running for president.

At first it was unclear who the bigger enemy of the people were to Sanders — the Kardashians or the Koch brothers.  The Kardashians, or rather our public fascination with them, represents America’s apathy. Sanders was clear that nothing progressive can happen until people start paying attention.  Sanders told his audience that Americans are getting screwed, and that we had better pay attention and get off our asses.

According to Sanders, our government is bought and paid for by the Koch brothers, and we are living in an oligarchy. He illustrated the point by reminding us of the recent announcement that the Kochs plan to spend $900 million on the next presidential election, when Obama and Romney each spent approximately $1 billion in 2012.  He feels that soon, they will have more power than either the Democratic or Republican parties, just because of their wealth and the leverage the 5-4 Supreme Court Citizens United decision gave them and other billionaires.

The question and answer session took an interesting turn when a stocky young man with the voice of a broadcasting major asked Sanders, “Will you run for president in 2016?”

If he had asked, “Are you going to run…” Sanders might have responded differently. “I don’t know yet,” would have been a good answer. But since he was asked, “Will you run…” Sanders apparently heard it as a request for him to run. 

“That’s a good question that you’ve asked,” Sanders said.  “Let me throw it back to you… do you think there is the support in this country?” To which the young man replied, “ I think I do. I do. I think there is the support out there … people are really getting angry about this income inequality, climate change…we’re tired of it.”  (Continued)

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Americans Are Fleeing Religion and Republicans Are To Blame

February 18th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in GOP, rightwing

By Lisa Wade, PhD,

Progressive America Rising via Sociological Images

Over the past 40 years, Americans have become increasingly likely to deny an affiliation with a religion. The graph below shows that people with “no religious preference” rose from about 5% of the population in 1972 to about 20% today. Overall, however, Americans do not report a corresponding decline in the a belief in God, life after death, or other religious ideas. What’s going on?

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Sociologists Michael Hout and Claude Fischer — the guys who made the graph above — argue that the retreat from religious affiliation is essentially, a retreat from the political right. Religion has become strongly associated with conservative politics, so left-leaning people are choosing, instead, to identify as “spiritual but not religious.”

Here is some of their evidence. The data below represents the likelihood of rejecting a religious affiliation according to one’s political views. The more politically liberal one is, the more likely they have come to reject religion.

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Using fancy statistical analyses, they explain: “generational differences in belief add nothing to explaining the cohort differences in affiliation.” That is, people haven’t lost their faith, they just disagree with religious leaders and institutions.  Hout and Fischer conclude:

Once the American public began connecting organized religion to the conservative political agenda — a connection that Republican politicians, abortion activists, and religious leaders all encouraged — many political liberals and moderates who seldom or never attended services quit expressing a religious preference when survey interviewers asked about it.

Democrats have wondered how to break the association of the right with religion and claim a little bit of moral authority for themselves. It looks like they may not need to or, even, that having failed to do so has a surprise advantage.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Moral Mondays’ Barber Says America’s Political System Suffers From a ‘Heart Problem’

February 16th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Black Lives Matter, Civil Rights, rightwing, safety net, Voting Rights

Saturday’s Moral Mondays march once again brought a multicultural crowd of thousands to Raleigh, N.C., protesting budget cuts and voting restrictions enacted by the state’s Republican Legislature.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards and NAACP National President Cornell Brooks (far right) listen to the North Carolina NAACP’s the Rev. Dr. William Barber speak at the Moral Mondays march in downtown Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 14, 2015.

By David Swerdlick
The Root

Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 14: An African-American Muslim imam, Oliver Muhammad, offered the call to prayer; members of black Greek-letter fraternities served as event marshals; and as marchers in North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement began their walk across downtown Raleigh, the state’s capital, Chapel Hill Town Council member Maria Teresa Palmer announced—in Spanish—that “interpreters will be available at the intersection of Hargett and Fayetteville.”

It’s that kind of come-one, come-all event. And even though this year’s ninth annual march wasn’t as big as last year’s—one that The Nation’s Ari Berman reported as “the largest civil rights rally in the South since the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965”—organizers again brought together a diverse coalition of activists on a chilly Valentine’s Day to protest what movement leader and state NAACP President the Rev. Dr. William Barber II described as the state’s—and the nation’s—“heart problem.”

And while the Moral Mondays movement is left-leaning, Barber told supporters that he wanted them to be political “defibrillators” because “we find we’ve got, not a left problem or a right problem or a conservative problem or a liberal problem. We’ve got a heart problem. When money and greed and political hubris and pride and ego and beating your opponent become more important than working together to uplift humanity, we’ve got a heart problem.”

For the movement, the stakes haven’t changed.

Barber called on legislators to “fund Medicaid expansion, raise the minimum wage, index it with inflation—put it on the ballot and let the people vote,” as well as “restore cuts to public education,” reject “the attacks on women’s health and environmental protection, repeal the death penalty, reform the criminal-justice system,” enact “fair immigration reform, and respect the constitutional rights of all humanity, regardless of race, creed, color and sexuality.” (Continued)

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If Voting Means Little, Why Is the Right Working So Hard to Suppress It?

February 10th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in racism, rightwing, Voting Rights

Selma and Shelby: The Fight for the New South

BY JESSE JACKSON
Progressive America Rising

Feb 10, 2015 – What time is it?  It’s important to be clear.  Is it mid-day and our labors still have hours to go?  Or is it evening, our work done, and we can rest our weary heads?  What time is it for the New South?  Is it time to celebrate Selma, Alabama – and the triumph of the Voting Rights Act?  Or is it time to mourn Shelby, Alabama – and the radical backlash against voting rights?

Fifty years after Selma’s Bloody Sunday that led directly to the passage of the Voting Rights Act, many will gather to celebrate that victory.  But we should understand that our work is not done. With the Shelby decision of the Supreme Court, the struggle for equal rights must go on.

Too often, we remember the triumph and ignore the backlash.  In 1870, the 15th Amendment, codified in in the blood of the Civil War, was ratified to give African Americans the right to vote.  It declared that the right to vote shall not be denied “on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.”

But the triumph was immediately challenged by the backlash.  Across the South, states controlled the structure and laws of voting.  They immediately set up seemingly neutral barriers to voting – poll taxes, literacy tests and more – that were used to disenfranchise black voters.  The reconstruction of the South was ended as the Supreme Court ratified legal apartheid, and segregation was brutally enforced.

It took nearly a century, a mighty civil rights movement, Bloody Sunday and other sacrifices, to pass the Voting Rights Act that gave the Justice Department the right to pre-screen any changes to voting laws in states with a history of discrimination, and ban those that would have a discriminatory effect, even if they looked neutral on their face.

Two years ago, however, in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, the five conservative judges on the Supreme Court effectively gutted preclearance laws, arguing in essence that there as a new South that had moved beyond racism.

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Will ISIS Debate Get Us ‘War Without Limits?’

February 3rd, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Long War, militarism

By Tom Hayden

Progressive America Rising

The Republican Congress is expected to take up an authorization bill for the war against ISIS even though the U.S. bombing and ground escalation campaign has been underway for months.

The specter of the Islamic State has silenced Congressional criticism and marginalized anti-war voices on the outside. The looming question is whether an open-ended authorization will extend the War on Terror for years to come.

The most critical issues are these:

First, whether an authorization will include a narrow or a broad definition of the "enemy". Will it be ISIS in Iraq and Syria or ISIS and associated groups? The broader definition, similar to "Al Qaeda and associated groups" in the 2002 authorization, will allow US military action in any region where Islamic State loyalists raise a flag, like northern Egypt. Even the narrower definition  is ambiguous, since the "Islamic State" is a category based on shifting loyalties among battlefield factions. A new authorization for a global war on terrorism therefore may be in the making.

Second, whether the president’s prohibition on US ground troops will prevent another Americanized war. Obama already has sent hundreds of advisers and at least 1,500 new US ground troops. All reports indicate that Baghdad’s armed forces are incapable of fighting on their own, even with American bombing, with the exception of some Kurdish units and sectarian Shiite militias. Obama’s military advisers and Republican senators are urging the deployment of ground troops.

Third, whether the authorization will be for 18 months before another Congressional debate or extend for three or four years, into the next presidency. Secretary Kerry and Rep. Adam Schiff both are proposing a three-year extension, which would contain serious Congressional debate until 2017. That would continue the war as onecarried out by the executive branch and CIA except for annual debates on appropriations.

Fourth, whether the authorization will include mandatory independent reports on metrics of progress, casualties [including civilian casualties] and costs in US tax dollars. History indicates that such reports are useful if done by an independent inspector general with specialists in budgeting and wartime civilian casualties.

The most important test will be whether a majority votes to bloc US ground troops, or whether the gates of hell will be left open.

Rep. Barbara Lee is attempting to inject limiting amendments and non-military alternatives into the floor debate. On her left, many peace advocates want a vote opposing the use of US military force altogether. On her right are the McCains and Grahams who blame Obama for withdrawing UStroops in the first place. The unknowns include presidential aspirants of both parties.

Lee argues that her Dec. 16 bill intends to "ensure that the U.S. pursues a comprehensive diplomatic, political, economic, and regionally-ledstrategy to degrade and dismantle ISIL, including working through the U.N. The bill would also repeal the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for the use of military force (AUMF) to ensure that they are not relied on for authority in lieu of an ISIL-specific AUMF passed by Congress. Lastly, the bill would require a report from the Administration on its comprehensive strategy to degrade and dismantle ISIL and information on human rights vetting for partner elements the U.S. is supporting in Iraq and Syria."

According to Lee’s legislative director Diala Jadallah, "The underlying point is to ensure that the non-military solutions to the crisis in Iraq and Syria are included in any debate on the war. Right now, no one is talking about that, and all other legislative proposals are simply putting limits on a possible AUMF rather than trying to end the war through diplomatic, humanitarian, and political means. We are not prescribing a [new] AUMF."

The Congressional vote also will define a core peace bloc willing to stand firm during a moment when the winds of escalation are

Greece Proves Populist Movements Can Fight And Win

January 27th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Banks, economic democracy, Europe, Greece

By Terrance Heath
Campaign for America’s Future

Jan 27, 2015 – After five years of protests, demonstrations and strikes, Greek citizens voted to throw off five years of crushing austerity. Their victory has emboldened populist parties across Europe, and should inspire Americans to resist austerity here at home.

The victory of Greece’s leftist anti-austerity Syriza party, and Alexis Tsipiras’ ascension to prime minister ushers in a government that will push back against the austerity measures devised by the troika of Greece’s international creditors and the International Monetary Fund, and accepted by the country’s economic elite, after the crash of Greece’s economy in 2009.

Greece’s new leaders left little doubt about their intentions as they celebrated victory.

    Alexis_Tsipras“Greece leaves behind the austerity that ruined it, at least behind the fear, leaves behind five years of humiliation, and grease moves forward with optimism and hope and dignity.”
    ~ Alexis Tsipiras, Greece’s new prime minister

    “We are going to destroy the basis upon which they have built, for decade after decade, a system, about a network that viciously sucks the of energy and economic power from everybody else in society. ”
    ~ Yanis Varoukis, Greece’s new prime minister, on Greece’s oligarchy.

The International Monetary Fund assumed the Greek government could impose austerity without significant impact on economic growth and unemployment. In fact, the IMF assumed Greece’s economy would grow as a result of the 2010 aid package, for which the troika and the IMF demanded austerity measures. The results were disastrous.

  •     Greece’s economy shrunk by 25 percent, and wages dropped about the same amount.
  •     Along with shrinking the economy, austerity increased Greece’s national debt.
  •     Unemployment has reached depression levels. Overall unemployment is at 28 percent. Youth unemployment stands at 60 percent — even after the government lowered the minimum wage for youth by 32 percent, to encourage job creation.

Wealthy Greeks got off scot-free. Cocooned in suburbs, austerity cuts didn’t touch them until mid–2013, when the government ruled that wealthy Greeks were no longer entitled to free police bodyguards. Since 2009, businessmen and journalists threatened by anarchist groups received personal police protection.

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Uphill Fight: Taking on Finance Capital in Congress

January 26th, 2015 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Banks, Budget Debates, financial crisis, PDA, Wall Street

How Bernie Sanders, In New Role, Could Make Wall Streeters Very, Very Unhappy

By Ari Rabin-Havt
Progressive America Rising via American Prospect

Jan 26, 2015 – Big banks now have to contend with an old enemy in a new position of power.

Bernie Sanders, the United States senator from Vermont, plans on using his new position as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee to take on too-big-to-fail financial institutions by advocating for their dissolution. Though a registered independent, Sanders caucuses with the Democrats, allowing him to assume the ranking member role representing the minority party.
Sanders knows how to draw the media spotlight when advocating for a cause.

While normally the domain of the Senate Banking Committee, the oversight of Wall Street, Sanders and his staff believe, is a critical budgetary issue. Democrats need to directly challenge Wall Street’s power, they assert, by boldly reframing the argument against the consolidation of financial institutions in terms of its cost to the national coffers. Though the term “ranking member” might not ordinarily have the barons of finance quaking in their custom-made oxfords, Sanders knows how to draw the media spotlight when advocating for a cause.

“Being the ranking member of the budget committee gives Senator Sanders the opportunity to say, look, people on food stamps didn’t cause the economic crisis, people that lost their jobs weren’t responsible for the economic crisis that we faced,” explained Warren Gunnels, director of the committee’s minority staff, during an interview in his office. “Average ordinary Americans weren’t responsible for the financial crisis we had.”

While centrist Democrats have expressed displeasure with progressives’ forceful defense of regulations included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Sanders plans on pushing the boundaries of the debate in the other direction. This potentially puts Sanders, who is seriously considering a run for the White House, in a head-on conflict with Hillary Clinton, Wall Street’s favorite presidential candidate.

As media types muse over Sanders’s prospective presidential campaign, the focus of the minority Budget Committee staff, hard at work in a corner suite on the sixth floor of the Dirksen Senate office building, is elsewhere. Such a run by the senator would no doubt shine a light on the mission he’s set before his committee staff, but the work in this office has no connection to that effort.

Packed boxes are stacked almost randomly as the staff focuses on more important matters—unpacking would be just a temporary process, anyway. Republicans, having won the Senate in the midterms, will take over the office in a few months after the rush of budget season subsides.

Warren Gunnels’s office has a sweeping view of the Capitol dome, but for most of the hour I spent speaking with him about Sanders’s plans for the upcoming Congress, the blinds remain closed.

Gunnels has worked for Sanders in a variety of capacities since 1999, journeying with the Vermonter from his House staff to his Senate staff, when Sanders won the office in 2006, and now to the Budget Committee. There Sanders has recruited a hard-charging group that is by far the most progressive of any committee on Capitol Hill. Instead of sulking in the Democrats’ new minority status, Sanders is preparing to use his staff to advocate aggressively on behalf of a progressive agenda.

Even late on a Friday afternoon, with the senator back in Vermont, there is a sense of hustle in the office, with several meetings taking place around desks.

Gunnels put the blame for our economic collapse squarely on Wall Street. “The people responsible for the financial crisis were the CEOs in charge of the largest financial institutions in this country,” he said. “That nearly drove the economy off a cliff. We are still paying for that today.” (Continued)

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