Category Archives: Politics

Publicopoly Exposed

On February 25, 2011, Florida State Representative Chris Dorworth (R-Lake Mary) introduced HB 1021. The bill sought to curtail the political power of unions by prohibiting public employers from deducting any amount from an employee’s pay for use by an employee organization (i.e., union dues) or for any political activity (i.e., the portion of union dues used for lobbying or for supporting candidates for office).

Furthermore, HB 1021 stated that, should a union seek to use any portion of dues independently collected from members for political activity, the union must obtain annual written authorization from each member.

In effect, this bill defunds public-sector unions—like AFSCME, SEIU, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—by making the collection of member dues an onerous, costly task. With public-sector unions denatured, they would no longer be able to stand in the way of radical free marketeers who plan to profit from the privatization of public services.

Given the similarities between HB 1021 and a rash of like-minded bills in states across the country, including Wisconsin, on March 30 a public records request was sent to Dorworth’s office seeking copies of all documents pertaining to the writing of HB 1021, including copies of any pieces of model legislation the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) may have provided.

Within an hour of submitting this request, Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon’s (R-Winter Park) Communications Director Katherine Betta responded: “We received a note from Representative Dorworth’s office regarding your request for records relating to the American Legislative Exchange Council and HB 1021. Please note that Mr. Dorworth’s legislative offices did not receive any materials from ALEC relating to this bill or any ‘model legislation’ from other states.”

But two weeks later Dorworth’s office delivered 87 pages of documents, mostly bill drafts and emails, detailing the evolution of what was to become HB 1021. Buried at the bottom of the stack was an 11-page bundle of neatly typed material, labeled “Paycheck Protection,” which consisted of three pieces of model legislation, with the words “Copyright, ALEC” at the end of each.

Dorworth legislative assistant Carolyn Johnson claims that, although Dorworth is an ALEC member, neither she nor her boss have any idea how the ALEC model legislation found its way into Dorworth’s office. Dorworth could not be reached for comment.

via Publicopoly Exposed — In These Times.

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McGuireWoods Lobbying for ‘Smart Card’ Maker Dynamics Inc.

Former Rep. L.F. Payne (D-Va.) of McGuireWoods Consulting is advocating for a smart payment card maker on debit card fees, according to a lobbying registration form submitted to Congress less than a week after changes to debit card transactions went into effect Oct. 1.

Payne, the president of McGuireWoods, is representing Cheswick, Pa.-based Dynamics Inc. with two other lobbyists from the firm. The trio is lobbying for the company on security issues, payment card technology and credit card fee legislation, in addition to the implementation of new debit card fees.

The Federal Reserve in June approved rules that lower the fees merchants pay for a customer’s debit card usage. Bank of America Corp. and other banks plan to add or already have added monthly charges for debit card users to help offset money lost by the rules, angering cardholders.

Dynamics, founded in 2007, announced this month that it has reached agreements to produce more than 1 million smart payment cards through 2012. The company’s products include cards that handle two accounts, provide password protection for payment card numbers and allow cardholders to use points or credit for purchases.

McGuireWoods Consulting is the only firm that has registered to lobby for Dynamics, congressional records show.

Neither Payne nor a Dynamics spokesman immediately responded to requests for comment.

via McGuireWoods Lobbying for ‘Smart Card’ Maker Dynamics Inc. – The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.

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Is politics from below ‘class warfare’?

The exciting presence and perseverance of protestors on Wall Street (and the spread of the #OccupyWallStreet protests to cities throughout America) is a welcome respite from years of passivity, and not only in relation to the scandalous legal and illegal abuses of comprador capitalists.

In addition, it is a reaction to the prolongations of predatory wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to a rising anti-democratic Islamophobic tide, to a shameless reliance on incarceration for harmless activities, to a presidency that seems less willing to confront hedge fund managers than jobless masses, and to a Congress that incredibly represents billionaires while scorning the people that put them in office.

But will this exhilarating presence be sustained in a manner that brings credible hope of restored and renewed democracy that is dedicated to social well-being at home and responsible law-oriented leadership abroad that is no longer drone-driven?

“Obama’s electoral victory in 2008 was the last hope of the young in America.”

There is little doubt that this move to the streets of America expresses a deep disillusionment with ordinary politics based on elections and governing institutions. Obama’s electoral victory in 2008 was the last hope of the young in America who poured unprecedented enthusiasm into his campaign that promised so much and delivered so little. Perhaps worse than Obama’s failure to deliver, was his refusal to fight for what he claimed to believe, or even to bring into his entourage of advisors a few voices of empathy and mildly progressive outlook.

From his initial appointment of Rahm Emmanuel onwards, it should have been clear that the Obama presidency was intent on playing the same old Washington games waged by special interests. More recently, these interests were further deformed by a Republican Party lurching to the right, by a surging Tea Party intent on pushing the government policy and role to the outer extremes of cruel and irresponsible public policy, by a pathetic Democratic Party that is trying to survive mainly by mimicking Republicans, and by a domineering media that has become largely captive to corporate America.

If such a portrayal of ordinary politics is more or less correct it is a wonder that a more radical sense from the left of America’s future took so long to materialise, if indeed it has. At least #OccupyWall Street is displaying the distress of young urban Americans and sending some warning signals to the bastions of the established power that acute displeasure is rising, and may become threatening to what is, as well as engaging with what might be.

Far right radicals

Of course, radicalism is not absent from the American political scene. Ever since the end of the Cold War, the forces of the right have been riding higher in the United States.

Such an impression is strengthened by the loss of composure by the Democratic party that struggles to show that it is almost as capitalist, pro-military, anti-tax, anti-immigrant, and patriotic as its reactionary critics. Its traditional principles of a compassionate state serving the interests of the citizenry have been put in cold storage. Democrats are scared to seem weak, and even more scared to seem to be socialists.

“One serious cost of the collapse of the Soviet Union was to discredit efforts by government to care for the health, education and wellbeing of less advantaged people in the country.”

One serious cost of the collapse of the Soviet Union was to discredit efforts by the government to care for the health, education, and well-being of less advantaged people in the country. Thus the Wall Street protests, if indeed they do have a radical agenda, which is not yet clear, will be to fill this vacuum on the left that has been so disabling during the last twenty years when capitalism had no ideological rival.
One amusing legacy of Cold War anti-Marxism is for the reactionary legions in the country to complain that the protesters are intent on launching ‘class warfare.’ It is one of those post-liberal epithets that gets promiscuously tossed around by ascendant right wing ideologues so as to demonise even those who are reckless enough to propose a modest tax increase on the super-rich in America.

Even Barack Obama who has done his best to please Wall Street 99 per cent of the time, is being charged with waging ‘class warfare’. Liberals are so timid ever since the Berlin Wall fell, and with it fell the possibility of compassionate society, whether capitalist or socialist, the label intimidates. Since then every effort has been made to protect the interests of the exploiting social forces that exult and prosper while marginalised minorities weep and bleed.

As has been pointed out by trenchant critics of what is going on, yes, there is class warfare being practiced, not by its victims, but by the very folks that decry class warfare.

The rich have been extraordinarily successful during the last decade or so in redistributing income upward, from the poor to the rich and ultra rich, including from the increasingly worried middle classes to those plump elites sitting comfortably on top of the economic pyramid.

Combined with pro-corporate and pro-bank deregulation, tax holidays, labour-busting tactics, anti-immigrant-fervor, this assault on the citizenry of the country is an inversion of class warfare as delimited in the Marxist tradition.

The ‘new’ class warfare

The new class warfare is waged on behalf of those with great wealth who have solidified their control over the reins of government with the purpose of disenfranchising the citizenry, breaking the social contract of the New Deal, and relying on law enforcement to keep those who object under suspicion. This is a task facilitated by the repressive legislation made plausible by the 9/11 attacks and the curtailment of individual freedoms associated with the rigours of ‘homeland security’.

“The new class warfare is waged on behalf of those with great wealth who have solidified their control over the reins of government.”

Disavowing American party and institutional politics and situating hope with the arousal of progressive forces in civil society is different from concluding that the Wall Street protests are more than a tantalising flash in the pan at this stage.

Even with this cautionary commentary, it is obvious that these events own a large acknowledged debt to Tahrir Square (as well as to a surprising initial push from the Canadian anti-consumerist magazine, Adbusters) – especially the ethos of a nonviolent leaderless, programme-less spontaneous rising that learns day-by-day what it is about, who it is, and what is possible.

Of course, the immediate stakes for the protesters seem much lower than in Egypt or elsewhere in the Arab world, as there is little present risk of death or physical injury at the hands of the police on American streets. Additionally, however disappointing and abusive the political and economic realities have become, they are not cruelly and corruptly autocratic.

For this reason, the ghouls of Wall Street do not provide quite as potent a unifying target as was the grim personage of Hosni Mubarak, a cruel autocrat in power for more than three decades, and so it may be harder to transform these protests into a sustainable movement.

But in other ways the stakes and risks on Wall Street are higher than they might seem. As long as America is beholden to militarists and right-wing billionaires its shadow negatively affects many ongoing struggles throughout the world.

This America turns away from the needed global cooperation to address climate change, world poverty, severe human rights abuses, nuclear disarmament, and such concrete issues as self-determination for the Palestinian people and peace for Afghanistan, Iraq, and many other outposts of misery.

This America opposes carbon taxes, and refuses to support the establishment of a Global Peoples Parliament or a UN Emergency Peace Force that might encourage global democracy and make the protection of vulnerable people a task for the United Nations rather than a geopolitical maneuver.

The world needs an America that rediscovers its own dream of liberty and justice, and awakens from a long and debilitating nightmare that has silenced its ‘better angels’.

In the end, we all must hope and engage. The beginnings of hope are rooted in the correctness of analysis, and so we can be thankful that this initiative places its focus on the shortcomings of a merely procedural democracy, the deforming impact of financial and corporate practices, and does not look to the reform or even the control of the state as the cure for what ails.

The implicit not so subtle point is that the centre of power over the destinies of the American people has shifted its locus from Washington to New York, and beyond! Underneath the rhetoric is the search for substantive democracy that upholds rights, demands justice and freedom, and allows people to participate in the control of their destinies

via Is politics from below ‘class warfare’? – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

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Elizabeth Warren raises $3 million in challenge to Scott Brown

Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren announced Monday that her campaign has raised $3.15 million in her bid to challenge U.S. Senator Scott Brown.

Ms. Warren announced in an e-mail to her supporters that she has raised $3.15 million since entering the race in September. The Massachusetts Democrat announced that her fundraising haul was largely raked in through small-dollar donations. The Warren campaign said 96 percent of her contributions from donors giving less than $100.

Ms. Warren, who helped set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is a favorite candidate among progressives, announced the impressive third-quarter results as polls continue to show support for her candidacy on the rise. An October 2 University of Mass-Lowell/Boston Herald poll found Mr. Brown leading Ms. Warren 41 to 38. A Western New England University poll conducted from September 29 through October 5 found Mr. Brown leading 47 to 42 among registered voters.

Writing in an email to supporters on Monday, Ms. Warren reiterated her campaign pledge to focus on the middle class. “With the big banks and special interests lining up against us, we know it’s going to take a strong, grass-roots campaign to win,” Ms. Warren wrote in the email. “That’s why your support is more important than ever. I need you to help us build the strongest grassroots campaign we can by encouraging your friends and family to join us, too.”

“These are pretty amazing numbers for our first official finance report, raised in a very short period of time, so you can understand why I want to say thanks a million — and more! — for this remarkable support,” Ms. Warren added.

Mr. Brown, who continues to enjoy a solid base of support, has said he remains focused on his job in the U.S. Senate, downplaying speculation that Ms. Warren could unseat him.

via Elizabeth Warren raises $3 million in challenge to Scott Brown | The State Column.

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Murdochs should be kicked off News Corp board | World | News | London Free Press

Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan should be kicked off the News Corp board along with 10 other directors when shareholders vote at this year’s annual general meeting, a corporate governance watchdog said on Monday.

The phone hacking scandal at News Corp’s UK weekly tabloid paper News of the World has rocked the entire company since it erupted in July. ISS said the scandal has “laid bare a striking lack of stewardship and failure of independence.”

The board had been unable to set a “strong tone-at-the-top“ about unethical business practices, ISS said. ISS is a proxy firm that advises some of the largest institutional investors in the United States on shareholder votes.

The statement was particularly critical of the board’s decision to approve a 180 percent increase in Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch’s cash bonus to $12.5 million in the fiscal year to June 2011 soon after the phone hacking fallout began.

Rupert Murdoch controls the company through a 40 percent stake in the company’s voting stock.

Including the Murdochs, ISS recommended shareholders vote against reelecting 13 of the 15 directors at its annual general meeting on Oct. 21. It suggested votes against executives on the board including Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey, Chief Financial Officer David Devoe and former general counsel Arthur Siskind as well as independent directors including former British Airways CEO Rod Eddington and former assistant attorney-general Viet Dinh.

The only two directors ISS backed were veteran lawyer Joel Klein and venture capitalist Jim Breyer “as neither has yet served on the board for more than a few months. Breyer is set to join the board on Oct. 21, after fellow venture capitalist Tom Perkins announced he was stepping down last month.

News Corp said it “strongly disagrees“ with ISS analysis.

“The company takes the issues surrounding News of the World seriously and is working hard to resolve them. However, ISS’ disproportionate focus on these issues is misguided and a disservice to our stockholders,“ said a company spokeswoman.

“Moreover, ISS failed to consider that the company’s compensation practices reflect its robust performance in fiscal year 2011.“

via ISS: Murdochs should be kicked off News Corp board | World | News | London Free Press.

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Politics getting in way of dole plan for poor, says Pimentel | Inquirer News

Politics is getting in the way of the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, a promising financial scheme aimed at helping the poor, former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said Monday.

Pimentel, one of the principal authors of the Local Government Code that devolved services to city and municipal governments, assailed the discretion enjoyed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in disbursing billions of pesos for the program.

“Why is the department heading the program when its task has already been devolved to local government units?” he asked on the sidelines of an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Local Government Code.

“All I can see here, to answer my question, is politics. The government should give [the program’s administration] to LGUs (local government units),” the former senator said.

The DSWD is asking for a P39.4-billion budget in 2012 for the CCT program, also known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, for distribution to three million families, up from the current 2.3 million.

The poverty reduction program encourages mothers in poor communities to send their children to school and to undergo regular vaccinations, and to have checkups at health centers.

Under the program, each household can get between P800 and P1,400 a month in health and education benefits, depending on the number of children (at most three per family).

Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara on Saturday pushed for reciprocal services from millions of poor families benefiting from the program.

Angara said the families could be tapped in national environmental programs starting at the barangay level to help communities cope with the growing threat of climate change.

“There must be reciprocity in the current conditional cash transfer program to erase criticisms that the program is just another form of dole,” he said.

Angara said able family members should lend their services to activities like tree planting and the cleaning of canals, rivers and other waterways within their respective areas.

Under the proposed P1.816-trillion General Appropriations Act for 2012 which was approved recently by the House of Representatives, the Department of Budget and Management has allotted provisions for the so-called “lifeline to the poor.”

Aside from the P39.5 billion for the CCT, P1.2 billion is allotted for the social pensions of 198,370 poor people aged 75 years and over. They are to receive P500 each monthly.

The proposed amount is 38 percent higher than the 2011 total of P871 million, which covers 138,960 beneficiaries.

Also included in the lifeline program for the poor is P2.9 billion for the DSWD’s supplemental feeding program to help provide nutritious meals to 1.6 million children enrolled in day-care centers nationwide

via Politics getting in way of dole plan for poor, says Pimentel | Inquirer News.

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Not To Be Left Out, China Announces Its Own Bank And Stock Market Bail Out | ZeroHedge

To anyone still believing that capital markets around the world express something other than government policy, the latest news out of China may come as a surprise: “Beijing will buy more shares in China’s biggest banks, in an expression of support for the beleaguered stock market and most concrete state action to date to shore up confidence in the slowing economy.” The FT reports further: “Central Huijin, the domestic arm of China’s sovereign wealth fund, will buy the shares to help stabilise the pillars of the country’s financial system, the official Xinhua news agency said on Monday. Coming as the Chinese stock market closed at a 30-month low, the move was the strongest sign that Beijing wants to engineer a restoration of confidence in share prices and the economy. It paid instant dividends with a rally in the final minutes of trading on Monday.” And there you have it: stocks are now nothing more than a means for governments to validate their “success” in something, since they have no more control left over either employment or inflation, or public expression of affection with capitalism as per #OWS. So why not ramp up the DJIA to 36,000? Granted that will happen as all global currencies get terminally davalued against gold, but so what – after all that only thing that matters now is whose stock market is the biggest.

More:

Although Chinese growth has so far held up well, the European debt crisis and the risk of a double-dip recession in the US have cast a shadow over the country’s economy. With inflation running near three-year highs and debt levels swollen by heavy spending, economists doubt that Beijing could launch the kind of stimulus it did when the global financial crisis struck in 2008.

 

Sensing vulnerability, investors have turned against China, driving down commodity prices, betting on the chances of a government default and selling shares in the banks that are the economy’s lifeblood.

 

The government, through Huijin, is already the majority shareholder in all of the country’s major banks. While the announcement gave no details about how much more it intends to buy, it was unabashed in declaring that it aimed to halt the roughly 30 per cent slide in bank stocks in recent months.

 

In a rebuff to traders who have been betting that the renminbi will weaken as the Chinese economy slows, Beijing also allowed the currency to record its biggest one-day gain in years on Monday, letting it rise 0.6 per cent against the dollar.

 

The motivation for that also appeared to be diplomatic, with the US Senate set to vote on Tuesday on legislation that would punish China for keeping its currency undervalued.

And so on.

We could say “we told you so” but so what – at this point only the biggest idiots don’t realize that is the last ditch desperation manoeuvre to preserve social stability by keeping stock markets at a level that will prevent all out panic. Yes, someone will have to pay the piper at the end of the day because not even Keynes could have envisioned this kind of wholesale lunacy, but by then it will be “someone else’s problem.” For now – it is time to buy, buy, buy and, to those who listen to Berlusconi, create some market volatility.

via Not To Be Left Out, China Announces Its Own Bank And Stock Market Bail Out | ZeroHedge.

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