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Summary | Barack Obama, Change We Can Believe In: Week of January 30

7 New Items including:

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  • Obama's Bogus Explanation For Troubles: Too Much Regulation
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  • All the President’s Captors
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David Culver, ed., Evergreene Digest

Pat Oliphant

No Solutions at State of the Union, Laura Flanders, The Nation
Obama will deliver his take on the State of the Union tonight (Jan 25) and while Congress has bickered about bipartisan seating, it doesn't matter where anyone sits because the profiteers who define what’s possible in our politics have already barred any serious solution to what ails us.

Obama's New Pick For Jobs Panel Sends Work OverseasShahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post
Obama Picks Jeffrey Immelt, GE CEO, To Run New Jobs-Focused Panel As GE Sends Jobs Overseas, Pays Little In Taxes

Margaret Carlson: Obama Buys Into Business's Regulation Myth, Margaret Carlson,  Bloomberg News
You'd think regulation was totally unnecessary. That's not the case.

Obama's Bogus Explanation For Troubles: Too Much Regulation, Peter S. Goodman, Huffington Post

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  • Two years after inheriting the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression, President Barack Obama has settled on an unhelpful new explanation for his failure...
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  • Obama Buys Into Business's Regulation Myth
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Comcastrophe: Obama's FCC Approves Enormous Corporate Media Merger for Comcast/NBC, Josh Silver, Free Press/AlterNet

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  • Culmination of the deal, combined with the FCC's recent, loophole-ridden "Net Neutrality" rules, sets the table for Comcast to turn the Internet into cable television, where it has the ability to speed up its content, slow down or block its competitors such as Netflix, and hike the rates for its programming and services. We'll all end up paying more -- whether you're a Comcast subscriber or not.
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  • The new Comcast will control an obscene number of media outlets, from TV and radio to movie studios and a network of millions who subscribe to cable and internet.
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  • Free Press Denounces FCC Approval of Comcast-NBC Merger
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  • Let Washington know there are consequences to blessing this bad deal.
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Obama Proceeds with Haitian Deportations, Billy Wharton, Bronx County Independent Examiner
"Each deportee will represent one more knock against a President who has been strong on rhetoric, but remarkably weak on policy."

All the President’s Captors, Frank Rich, New York Times | NY

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  • No one expects Obama to imitate new Republican governor of New Jersey Chris Christie’s in-your-face, bull-in-the-china-shop shtick. But they have waited in vain for him to stand firm on what matters to him and to the country rather than forever attempting to turn non-argumentative reasonableness into its own virtuous reward.
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  • President Obama has seemingly been held hostage by Republican captors, surrendering his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think.
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Hogwash, Mr. President

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  • The speech was a distraction from what seriously ails us: an unabated mortgage crisis, stubbornly high unemployment, and a debt that spiraled out of control while the government wasted trillions making the bankers whole.
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  • The President Ignored the Elephant in the Room
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  • The State of the Spirit, 2011
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Robert Scheer, Truthdig

What is the state of the union? You certainly couldn’t tell from that platitudinous hogwash that the president dished out Tuesday evening. I had expected Barack Obama to be his eloquent self, appealing to our better nature, but instead he was mealy-mouthed in avoiding the tough choices that a leader should delineate in a time of trouble. He embraced clean air and a faster Internet while ignoring the depth of our economic pain and the Wall Street scoundrels who were responsible—understandably so, since they so prominently populate the highest reaches of his administration. He had the effrontery to condemn “a parade of lobbyists” for rigging government after he appointed the top Washington representative of JPMorgan Chase to be his new chief of staff.

The speech was a distraction from what seriously ails us: an unabated mortgage crisis, stubbornly high unemployment and a debt that spiraled out of control while the government wasted trillions making the bankers whole. Instead the president conveyed the insular optimism of his fat-cat associates: “We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.” How convenient to ignore the fact that this bubble of prosperity, which has failed the tens of millions losing their homes and jobs, was floated by enormous government indebtedness now forcing deep cuts in social services including state financial aid for those better-educated students the president claims to be so concerned about

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The President Ignored the Elephant in the Room, Robert Reich, Huffington Post
The president's failure to address the decoupling of American corporate profits from American jobs makes reviving the nation's "competitiveness" seem somewhat beside the point but also cedes to Republicans the dominant narrative.

The State of the Spirit, 2011, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Network of Spiritual Progressives

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  • Most liberals and progressives will likely spend the next twenty years either supporting political parties that don't even begin to address these issues in a holistic way (and justifying that by pointing out that candidate x is really much less bad than candidate y)
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  • Duty to Warn:  Approaching Spiritual Death
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Minnesota Needs a Fairer Tax System

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  • Minnesota’s lowest earners pay 9.2 percent of their income in state and local taxes while middle-income families pay 10.3 percent. Meanwhile, the state’s highest earners pay just 7.7 percent.
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  • A “no new taxes” policy shifts more of the overall tax bill on to homeowners. That tends to hit low- and middle-income Minnesotan’s harder. There are also several regressive mechanisms within the state’s property tax policy.
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Joe Sheeran, Minnesota 2020

Hey, 15th place isn’t so bad, right? Well, when you look at Minnesota in comparison to where the state’s tax system used to be and where it’s headed, 15th looks pretty glum.

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We’re not talking about taxes for corporations but how fair taxes are for all Minnesotans.

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Minnesota 2020 recently released a report that looked at the state’s tax regressivity in comparison to the rest of the nation; in other words, what proportion of income do the states’ poor and middle-class families pay in state and local taxes, compared to the states’ wealthiest.

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Minnesota’s Tax Fairness Retreat shows we’re becoming more regressive compared to the rest of the nation, slipping from 11th in 2000 to 15th in 2007 (the most recent year data was available for all states). While that number doesn’t seem so bad consider that only 11 other states had a more aggressive overall change toward regressivity than Minnesota.

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Minnesota’s Tax Fairness Retreat, Jeff Van Wychen, Minnesota 2020

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Since 2000, Minnesota’s state and local taxes have become more regressive, meaning low and moderate income families shoulder a disproportionate share of the tax load. It’s a trend happening faster in Minnesota than nearly every other state, as our latest report, Minnesota’s Tax Fairness Retreat: A 50-State Study, highlights.

No Solutions at State of the Union

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Obama will deliver his take on the State of the Union tonight (Jan 25) and while Congress has bickered about bipartisan seating, it doesn't matter where anyone sits because the profiteers who define what’s possible in our politics have already barred any serious solution to what ails us.

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Laura Flanders, The Nation

We know what the problem is: Jobs. 15 million still unemployed. A National Journal piece last week noted that the Great Recession wiped out what amounts to every U.S. job created in the 21st century. And jobs had already been leaving -- for three decades.

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That's a bipartisan problem—remember who passed NAFTA, which first opened the floodgates. As a commentator with the hardly radical Hoover Institute told the Journal -- Instead of reinvesting the gains of globalization in improved plants or a higher quality of life work in the US, private companies privatized the profits and hired abroad. Driving down wages for them, and us.

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Keep Social Security Safe, Stable, and Secure

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America is a community. Now, our community is coming under right-wing attack. Join me in calling on Congress to keep Social Security safe, stable, and secure for generations to come.

Jim Dean, Democracy for America

America is a community. We look out for each other as a nation. We build schools for our children, fund police for our safety and provide a secure retirement for our grandparents. We don't toss aside our seniors when they need our help the most. Instead, each generation of American workers invests in the Social Security Trust Fund under the guarantee that someday when they retire or get too sick to work, the Trust Fund will be there for them.

Now, our community is coming under right-wing attack.

Republicans in the House are chomping at the bit to gut Social Security, threatening to raise the retirement age and cut benefits that millions of seniors depend on to survive. Claiming Social Security is in crisis is simply not true, but that doesn't stop Republicans from saying it. Even with no changes to the system, reports show Social Security can pay out full benefits until at least 2037.

That's why cutting benefits now, including raising the retirement age, must remain completely off the table. Social Security is the economic backbone of a retirement free from poverty and homelessness for aging and sick Americans no longer able to work. Raising the retirement age is a job-killer for young Americans while cuts to benefits will force the elderly to choose between food and rent. That is not the America we believe in and we will do everything in our power to stop cuts from happening.

But stopping cuts should not be good enough. We can do better.

Right now, Bill Gates doesn't pay the same percentage of his income into Social Security that most Americans pay. Neither does Tom Cruise , Donald Trump or for that matter even President Obama. The reason why: the Social Security payroll tax is capped at $106,800 per individual costing tax payers billions of dollars in lost revenue from the people most able to invest. The cap risks the long-term health of the program while effectively giving wealthier Americans a tax cut.

Join me in calling on Congress to keep Social Security safe, stable, and secure for generations to come. Please add your name now.

This isn't just any new campaign. We're building off the success of our "Hands Off Social Security" campaign last year that helped defeat the reckless proposals created by the Deficit Commission. Now, we're pulling out all the stops and going on offense.

It's never been more important to stand up and fight than now. Right-wing Republicans are willing to do anything to tear down Social Security. They're talking about shutting down the government, holding the debt ceiling hostage. Whatever it takes to destroy Social Security and prop up big banks, insurance companies and Wall Street, they're going to do it.

We're building on our biggest campaign ever to stop them and it starts today. The first step is to deliver a message that Americans are unified and standing strong against cuts while fighting for improvements. Can you help us get to 100,000 signatures by the end of the month to launch the campaign and send Congress and the President a message?

Yes! I want to join the campaign.

We believe in a strong community that will keep Social Security safe, stable and secure for generations to come and we will stand up to make it happen.

Thank you for taking action today.

Raising False Alarms

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  • It’s actually hard to find any government program less in need of a major overhaul than Social Security.
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  • The president won’t give his seal of approval to any of the Bowles-Simpson proposals in tonight’s (State of the Union) speech, but don’t expect him to explicitly rule them out, either.
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Bob Herbert, New York Times | NY

It has gone a long way toward eliminating poverty among the elderly. Great numbers of them used to live and die in ghastly, Dickensian conditions of extreme want. Without Social Security today, nearly half of all Americans aged 65 or older would be poor. With it, fewer than 10 percent live in poverty.

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The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells us that close to 90 percent of people 65 and older get at least some of their family income from Social Security. For more than half of the elderly, it provides the majority of their income. For many, it is the only income they have.

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Obama won't endorse raising retirement age or reducing Social Security benefits, Lori Montgomery, Washington Post | DC
The president won’t give his seal of approval to any of the Bowles-Simpson proposals in tonight’s speech, but don’t expect him to explicitly rule them out, either.

The State of the Union: What the President Should Say

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  • The President will have to devote a big part of his speech to the economy, but which economy? Corporate profits are up but jobs and wages remain in the doldrums. People with lots of financial assets, or who are deemed "talent" by large corporations, are enjoying a solid recovery. But most Americans continue to struggle.
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  • Recovery Noises and Political Taboos
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Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog/Reader Supported News

If you liked reading this article, consider contributing a cuppa jove to Evergreene Digest--using the donation button above—so we can bring you more just like it.

The President will have to devote a big part of his speech to the economy, but which economy? Corporate profits are up but jobs and wages remain in the doldrums. People with lots of financial assets, or who are deemed "talent" by large corporations, are enjoying a solid recovery. But most Americans continue to struggle.

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In order for the public to understand what must be done, the President has to be clear about what has happened and why. Corporations are profiting from sales of their foreign operations, especially in China and India. Here at home, they're catering to rich Americans. But an important key to their profits is their reduced costs, especially payrolls. The result has been fewer jobs and lower pay.

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The Great Recession accelerated trends starting three decades ago - outsourcing abroad, automating work, converting full-time jobs to temps and contracts, undermining unions, and getting wage and benefit concessions from remaining workers. The Internet and software have made all this easier.

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Recovery Noises and Political Taboos, Richard D. Wolff, Socialist Webzine
The end of 2010 brings renewed Washington rhetoric, media hype, and academic me-too declarations about the US economy "recovering." We've heard them before since the crisis hit in 2007. They always proved wrong.

Does Scalia belong at Bachmann sessions?

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  • The justice will cross the street to meet with lawmakers in the first "Conservative Constitutional Seminar" Bachmann is holding. But will he cross a line?
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  • A Supreme Conflict of Interest
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  • Scalia: Women Don't Have Constitutional Protection Against Discrimination
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Kevin Diaz, Minneapolis Star Tribune | MN

If you liked reading this article, consider contributing a cuppa jove to --using the donation button above—so we can bring you more just like it.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., raised a few eyebrows last fall when she announced plans to hold "Conservative Constitutional Seminars" for arriving members of the new GOP-controlled House.
But the decision of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to speak at the first class on Monday has raised legal hackles about his participation in what turns out to be a closed-door event in conjunction with Bachmann's Tea Party Caucus.

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One of the most outspoken critics is University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under former President George W. Bush. Painter notes that Bachmann is among 63 House members who filed a brief in support of a lawsuit by more than two dozen states challenging President Obama's health care overhaul. The case could easily end up before the Supreme Court.

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A Supreme Conflict of Interest, Bob Edgar, Huffington Post

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  • Justices Scalia and Thomas are entitled to their political views. But if they attended or took part in the kind of events described in the Koch letter while the Citizens United case was pending, then they had no business voting on it.
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  • Justice Scalia's 'Originalist' Hypocrisy
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Scalia: Women Don't Have Constitutional Protection Against Discrimination, Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post

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  • Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-president of the National Women's Law Center, called the justice's comments "shocking" and said he was essentially saying that if the government sanctions discrimination against women, the judiciary offers no recourse.
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  • Justice Scalia's 'Originalist' Hypocrisy
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