Monday, October 21, 2013

Why Watergate Is Happening Again and Why It'll Never Be Reported (Real Americans Think Ted Cruz Is A Hero) CNBC Money-Hag Anchors Don't Know Squat About Social Security and Food Stamps Are Corporate Welfare?

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Yes, for those of us around during Watergate and its aftermath, it's been downhill ever since the election of 1974. Even when Carter was elected, the "Conservatives" had already staked out their take on those who were trying to save democracy.

They were against us.

The Birth of Conservative Delusion

By Michael Goldfarb, Salon

20 October 13

The long road to Ted Cruz, Fox News, the Tea Party and right-wing insanity has its roots in the events of 1973.
f you take the long view of Washington's ungovernability - and when you're as old as I am and live on the other side of the Atlantic as I do, the long view is all you've got - you have a particular insight as to how we got here.

Much of the problem can be traced back to events that took place exactly 40 years ago (Oct. 20, 1973): the Saturday Night Massacre, a major turning point of the Watergate scandal

The next day, banner headlines across the entire front page of The New York Times read:




It took a helluva lot to get that kind of coverage that autumn.

While Americans went about their weekend business, while the October war in the Middle East rumbled along, a mere 10 days after his vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigned over charges of tax evasion, President Richard M. Nixon raised the stakes in his fight to keep the truth about his involvement in the scandal and its subsequent cover-up secret.

It's tough to summarize all the events of Watergate, from burglary to the president's resignation. Woodward and Bernstein's "All the President's Men" is 349 pages long and I'm sure both of them still agonize over what they had to leave out. But the narrative's main turning points were on legal ideas related to executive privilege and judicial independence in the Constitution and the statutes and case law that underpin these ideas.

A recap of events for those who have forgotten - or never learned:

In May of 1973, Archibald Cox, a law professor at Harvard, was appointed "special prosecutor" to independently look into the Watergate scandal. The appointment was made by Attorney General Eliot Richardson, himself a Harvard man, who had only just taken up the attorney general post, following the resignation - because of Watergate - of Richard Kleindienst, another Harvard law graduate.

Richardson had pledged in his confirmation hearings to give the special prosecutor complete independence - including subpoena power - to follow the evidence wherever it led. A few months later it led to the Oval Office when it was revealed in a Senate hearing on Watergate that Nixon was recording all conversations there. Cox issued a subpoena demanding that Nixon turn over the tapes. Claiming executive privilege, Nixon refused and offered a compromise: a Republican senator would listen to the tapes and provide a summary. Cox turned down the offer and stood by his subpoena power.

That was on a Friday. Presidents don't need high-priced media advisers to tell them that if they're going to do something unpopular they should do it on the weekend, when interest in the news is at a low.

Late Saturday afternoon, the president ordered his attorney general to fire Cox. Richardson refused and resigned. Nixon then ordered Richardson's deputy, William Ruckleshaus (you guessed it, another Harvard man), to fire Cox. Ruckleshaus refused and resigned.

The onerous task next fell to the country's solicitor general, Robert Bork (not a Harvard man). Cox was fired, his offices sealed, and the FBI sent in to seize papers. All of this took place in the space of a few hours that Saturday evening.

The outrage was immediate: New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis reported the incident the next day and took aim at Nixon's chief of staff, General Alexander Haig. Lewis wrote that Haig told Ruckelshaus: "Your Commander in chief has given you an order." The columnist went on, "There it was, naked: the belief that the President reigns and rules, that loyalty runs to his person rather than to law and institutions. It is precisely the concept of power against which Americans rebelled in 1776 and that they designed the Constitution to bar forever in this country."

And if you think Lewis was just an overwrought liberal, a more dispassionate observer, Fred Emery, wrote in The Times of London: "Over this extraordinary weekend, Washington had the smell of an attempted coup d'etat .... Last night as the FBI men moved in without warrant to "seal" the Cox files, the whiff of the Gestapo was in the clear October air. Some of the soberest men in government and out are now privately expressing anxiety that the military might now intervene - either to back the President or throw him out."

For the first time since Watergate erupted, a plurality of Americans thought Nixon should be impeached. The calls for impeachment came from legislators as well - and not just Democrats; a fair number of Republicans joined in. They did so to preserve a basic, nonpartisan precept of our democracy: The president is not above the law.

Nixon was as good as gone after his Saturday Night folly. Although it took some time. The law, when every "i" is being dotted and "t" crossed, can be a slow-moving machine. Ultimately Nixon ran out of legal maneuvers and had to resign. But the game was over on the Sunday morning after the Saturday Night Massacre.

But was that the end of the story?


The conservative movement never really liked Nixon. He initiated detente with the Soviets, visited Mao in China - rather than bombing both countries. He raised taxes. But conservatives also saw him as a martyr to "liberals" and their lap-dogs the press. He also flew the flag for executive-branch power. Conservatives believe in a strong a executive branch - when a Republican is president.

The wound from one of their party - if not one of their own - having been driven from office is one that has never stopped festering for the Republicans.

Two Democrats in the last 30 years have made it to the White House: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Special prosecutors and impeachment for real or as a threat hovered around them almost from the beginning of their terms of office. Republican payback?

There were other ways the Saturday Night massacre continued to play out.

In 1987, Robert Bork, the man who ultimately carried out Nixon's orders that autumn afternoon, was nominated by Ronald Reagan to the Supreme Court. Bork later claimed Nixon had promised to nominate him to the Court as the quid pro quo for firing Archibald Cox. Bork was rejected, in part, because of his willingness to fire the special prosecutor.

As Bork was being, well, "Borked," in another part of the Capitol Building hearings into the Iran-Contra scandal were going on. This affair was arguably much worse than Watergate. It involved the illegal sale of weapons to Iran with the proceeds secretly going to fund the contra rebels in Nicaragua - both of which had been expressly legislated against by Congress. On the hearings panel, making the argument for unrestrained executive-branch power, was a congressman from Wyoming who had served in the Nixon White House, Dick Cheney.

Later, as George W. Bush's vice president, Cheney, given a helping hand by al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks, took the position to its logical extreme. "When the president does it, that means it's not illegal" Nixon told David Frost at one point in their famous interviews. Cheney brought that philosophy with him to the Bush White House.

So how did this disgraced idea of unchecked executive power survive the Saturday Night Massacre and how did it lead to the current impasse in Washington? Here's an unprovable theory - at least to professional historians - but it makes sense to me. Five days after the Saturday Night Massacre, Nixon held a press conference. Deference had long since exited the relationship between the president and the reporters who covered him.

Toward the end of the session the following interchange took place. A reporter asked: "What is it about the television coverage of you in these past weeks and months that has so aroused your anger?" Nixon answered, "Don't get the impression that you arouse my anger ... You see, one can only be angry with those he respects." He came back to the theme a few minutes later. "When a commentator takes a bit of news and then with knowledge of what the facts are distorts it viciously, I have no respect for that individual."

A four-decade-long war on the press's legitimacy had begun. The idea that it was a biased liberal press that made the molehill of Watergate into a mountain of Constitutional crisis took root.

A month later, an article in the New York Times quoted a letter to the editor written by one Lerline Westmoreland published in a Southern newspaper, the Memphis Commercial Appeal: "It seems to me that the greatest threat to this country is not so much a dictatorial Supreme Court or an imperfect President, it is a vicious, slanted news media on the minds of the masses of Americans who are either too lazy or too indifferent to think for themselves."

Under Reagan, Republican appointees on the FCC abolished the fairness doctrine, the obligation for broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues. This led to an explosion of opinionated propagandists on the air waves relentlessly attacking "liberal" media. It continues to this day, degrading American public discourse.

A Nixon media operative, Roger Ailes, discussed starting a Republican-slanted news program with the president pre-Watergate. Later, Ailes invented Fox News for Rupert Murdoch. Fox is one of the prime shapers of the hyper-partisan political culture that has made the U.S. practically ungovernable.

As I said, at the top, I take a long view from this side of the Atlantic. Over here, even Conservatives find themselves taken aback by the Tea Party and other extremist know-nothings who have been given the oxygen of publicity on Fox.

Only one of the principals of that evening in 1973 is still alive: William Ruckelshaus. Now in his 80s, he runs a foundation in Seattle and is still active in national life. He was then, and still is, a moderate Republican. I wrote to him and asked, "If you knew, that ultimately, President Nixon would be forced to resign and that future generations of Republican legislators would spend so much time trying to even the score, would you have taken a long view and done what was necessary to protect the president and keep him in office?" I didn't really expect an answer - but within two days an email came back: "The answer is no." Mr. Ruckelshaus added, "I felt what he was asking me to do (fire Archibald Cox) was fundamentally wrong and unconscionable."

In Autumn 1973, it was still possible for Republicans and Democrats to come together and agree on a basic principle of government - like the limits on presidential power. It is hard to imagine that happening today because of those events precisely 40 years ago.

Tom DeLay: 'Real' Americans Think Ted Cruz Is A Hero

Posted: 19 Oct 2013

Tom DeLay: 'Real' Americans Think Ted Cruz 'Is A Hero'

(Click here to view this media)

What's that I hear? Could it be a dogwhistle from deep in the heart of Texas? Why yes, I think that's it!

Huffington Post has the money quote:

"When you're in a fight, people just don't like the fight, so they're going to respond negatively," DeLay said on CNN. "It's who wins and comes out of the fight that has long-lasting effects. And I got to tell you right now, out here in the real world, outside of New York and Washington, D.C., these people think Ted Cruz is a hero. They think that those Republicans in the House are heroes. And they think that Obama is destroying this country."
So much fail, so little time. You'd think this was a reality show where Ted Cruz is vying for the title of "Amurkan of the Year" instead of That Guy Who Threatened To Blow Up The Global Economy. DeLay's "Real Americans" watch Fox News and believe the crap they get served without question, too. That doesn't make them any more American than President Obama, just dumber.

That indictment goes for Tom DeLay, too, who ought to be behind bars rather than spewing nonsense all over the airwaves. Because this is fact: Ted Cruz is popular inside the wingnut faction of the Republican party and nowhere else. What DeLay fails to notice is that the Tea Party CrazyPants faction of the GOP is less popular now than they have ever been.

For the sake of Fox viewers everywhere, let's break down those numbers:

The poll found that Ted Cruz, one of the most prominent tea party faces in the recent government shutdown, has seen his favorability soar among tea party supporters -- from 47 percent in July to 74 percent today. Among non-tea party Republicans, however, he's at just 25 percent. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saw their unfavorability ratings rise among tea party and non-tea party Republicans alike, according to the poll.
So among the one-quarter of self-identified Republicans, Ted Cruz has 74 percent approval. The rest of those self-identified Republicans disapprove of him by a 3 to 1 margin. 

And what percentage of the country identifies themselves as Republicans right now? 38 percent if you include GOP-leaning independents. 20 percent if you don't, but I will use the higher number for this calculation. Only 27 percent of those self-identified Republicans approve of the Tea Party.

That means that Republicans who support the tea party and approve of Ted Cruz represent about 10 percent of Republican voters. Republicans who don't support the tea party and disapprove of Ted Cruz represent about 55 percent of Republican voters.

But at least we know who the 'real' Americans are, right?

CNBC Anchors Prove They Don't Know Squat About Social Security

By Susie Madrak

The L.A. Times' Michael Hiltzik is one of the pundit class's staunchest defenders of Social Security, and does a wonderful job with this CNBC segment:

A couple of well-heeled anchor-reporters for CNBC - the type of people who need never beg for lunch dates among Wall Street bankers - Friday batted around the supposed threat to the republic posed by hordes of seniors collecting Social Security benefits.
Unfortunately for them, their interviewee was Damon Silvers, policy director for the AFL-CIO and one the best informed and fiercest defenders of Social Security in Washington. If they listened, they learned something. The evidence is they didn't listen.
"That's a lie put forward by billionaires who don't want to pay higher taxes."
The segment began with Silvers explaining that 55% of Americans today fear they'll be economically insecure in retirement. "That's up from 33% 20 years ago," he says. Consequently, "the last thing we should do for our country is cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits." He explains that's why the AFL-CIO has told congressional Democrats that any of them who vote for reducing benefits will get no financial support from the American labor movement.
At that point anchorwoman Kelly Evans steps up to the plate. "Nobody's saying that there's not a good rationale for having these programs in place," she says, charitably. "Of course people want to make sure that our citizens are taken care of. But that's almost not the point." (It's not?) Evans proceeds to assail Silvers and the AFL-CIO for refusing to "negotiate" over seniors' well-being.
"We're not embarrassed about that whatsoever," he replies. "If you cut Social Security benefits or Medicare benefits to our seniors, to our most vulnerable people in the country, you are going to get no support on it."
Then anchorman Simon Hobbs breaks in to deliver what he thinks is the coup de grace, asking, "Are you as clear on the reality that if you don't cut entitlement benefits this country may well go bankrupt." That's certainly one of the most baldly ignorant statements about the country's fiscal condition and the effect of the two big social insurance programs ever to be heard on CNBC (and that's a high bar), since (A) the U.S. can't go "bankrupt," and (B) the country has more than enough resources to pay for all its obligations to its seniors.
Silvers responds more politely than I would have. "That's frankly not true," he says. "That's a lie put forward by billionaires who don't want to pay higher taxes." (He might have mentioned, but didn't, Peter G. Peterson, the hedge fund billionaire whose network of Washington think tanks relentlessly pushes for "entitlement reform.") "The only people who believe what you just said," he added,"are people who are worried that their very large incomes will be taxed."

Greenspan wrote and was on the committee to raise the minimum SS tax from 3-6% he also knew that the SS trust fund needed to run a surplus for retirees, he also included the SS trust fund in the federal budget (to make the surplus smaller), and after knowing all these things he declared to BUSH that we need tax cuts because of the surplus projections in the Fed budget. The surpluses were SS surpluses and he lied. Read the report from the early 1980's. Greenspan should be in jail.

- Social Security and retirement benefit amounts have nothing to due with the budget. The wall street crowd wants to privatise these funds and get enormous fees for managing the monies. case closed.

jezdukowski to Pgathome 
Indeed they do... George Carlin stated it better than I EVER could: "And now they’re coming for your Social Security money. They want your fuckin' retirement money. They want it back so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you sooner or later 'cause they own this fuckin' place. It’s a big club and you ain't in it. You and I are not in the big club. ...The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged and nobody seems to notice.
...Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on. The fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that’s being jammed up their assholes every day, because the owners of this country know the truth. It’s called the American Dream, 'cause you have to be asleep to believe it."
God forbid - I have PAID into this system for almost 40 years - I've had a job since I was sixteen (I'm 50) played by the rules - and I will fight for this shit, forever... I DON"T WANT IT privatized, FFS - and no WAY, am I going to lose this money, I have worked hard my whole adult life for just a SMALL piece of freedom, some comfort in my old age - and I'll be fucked if any of these shits try and take it away from me...
DemoChristian to Pgathome 
When the housing bubble exploded it would have taken Social Security with it, if the Republicans had succeeded in privatizing it. It seems so important a point to never be mentioned in these "serious discussions".

The brit said that 1/3 of citizens don't pay taxes? Then what the fuck is that fica tax everyone pays? Lift the fucking cap on income. Poof problem solved. 
Luscious868 to negoldie
The wealthiest Americans don't pay FICA taxes, just us working stiffs. Income derived from capital gains isn't subject to the FICA tax which IMO is the crime of the century. The wealthy tend to derive most of thier income from capital gains. Capital gains should be subject to the FICA tax with an exemption up to a certain level for retirees. Why should somebody who makes money with money pay less in taxes than somebody who labors for a living?

DoublePlusLiberal DemoChristian

Cruz: GOP Lost Because They Didn't Accuse Dems of Holding Children 'Hostage'
That priggish little weasel is the perfect spokesman for the lie entitlements threaten our economy.More please!
With the lose of a regular pension by most workers social security is the only guarantee money for future retirees. This means social security is more important than ever. It may be the only thing that will keep you from being homeless and keep food in your belly.

Using exaggerated fear of deficits and the national debt (for which they are primarily responsible) as the rationale for cutting Social Security and MediCare is a tried and true Republican tactic.

Undoing the "New Deal". It's all the rage in conservative land.
zoom314 Roninkai
And has been for 78 years...  

For the network of supposed financial experts, CNBC is a fucking joke.

Bill Lumbergh to  angryspittle
And don't forget Santelli, the 'creator' of the Tea Party movement. His idea of expressing his opinion is to out-scream everyone else.

Social Security Reform is code for selectively defaulting on US investors get full payouts, social security trustees get screwed.  

Maria (Bartiromo) also asked Anthony Weiner once why he wasn't on medicare if it was so great. Weiner just stared at her and said "do I look 65 to you?" the look on her face was priceless.

This whole thing about "cut Social Security" for the good of the country" ... it just drives me crazy! The answers are clear.
1) Social Security does NOT affect debt nor affect the budget in any way. We all (or most of us) pay Social Security taxes out of each pay check. The money is collected for generations and invested at interest before a recipient collects a dime. SS recipients are not only entitled to their retirement ... they EARNED it. 2) The Social Security Trust Fund now has $2.5 TRILLION of current assets. In total, it has larger assets than the National Debt. The government has "borrowed" the difference between the approximate total assets of $18 Trillion and the current assets of $2.5 Trillion. Social Security affects the national debt only when the general fund must repay it's borrowings from retirement monies already accumulated through tax investments of working Americans.   3) Any possible short-falls that could conceivably happen (because the government is reluctant to repay it's borrowings, see 2 above) can be easily obtained. Just raise the approximate $110,000 cut-off where Social Security taxes are no longer withheld. Raise that maximum, and Social Security becomes solvent without repayment of the "borrowings" of the central government. Who is hurt by this? .... only those high wage-earners making over the cut-off. All other political claims about Social Security are bull. This is a trumped up problem. The solutions are clear. The responsibilities are clear. It's only the politicians who wish to muddy the waters that even bring this subject up.

Sunday, October 20, 2013 by Black Agenda Report

Food Stamp Corporate Welfare

If you think the SNAP food stamps debate is about poor people’s need to eat, you’re wrong. It’s about big corporations’ need to profit. “Xerox, JPMorgan Chase and eFunds Corporation have all successfully turned poverty into a profit center.” So have Coca Cola, Kroger, Wal-Mart, Kelloggs and a large slice of the rest of the Fortune 500 corporations.

“Discussions about government spending are inherently bogus because the elephant in the room, big business, is absent.”

The federal and state governments operate under a system which is of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. Ordinary governmental functions which could easily be carried out with public money are instead privatized, depriving the public sector of revenue and jobs and making the neediest citizens unnecessarily dependent on the private sector. Governmental largesse on behalf of big business is focused primarily on poor people, the group most at the mercy of the system. Corporations collect child support payments and then imprison the poor people who can’t pay. While imprisoned, another corporation provides what passes for medical care. The crime is a perfect one.

When the Republicans demanded cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, the debate revolved around human need versus the call for fiscal austerity. Scarcely anyone mentioned that JPMorgan Chase, Xerox and eFunds Corporation make millions of dollars off of this system meant to help the poor.

It all came to light on October 12th, when many SNAP recipients in the states of Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia were unable to make purchases with their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards because of a computer system malfunction at Xerox.

It may at first have seemed odd for a Fortune 500 corporation to have anything to do with the SNAP program, but Xerox, JPMorgan Chase and eFunds Corporation have all successfully turned poverty into a profit center. Food stamps were once literally stamps until the 1996 welfare reform act required all state SNAP benefits to be digitized. At that point JPMorgan, Xerox and eFunds were quite literally in the money. Only the state of Montana administers its own SNAP program. Every other state pays one of these three corporations millions of dollars in fees to do what they could do themselves. Since 2007, Florida has paid JP Morgan $90 million, Pennsylvania’s seven-year contract totaled $112 million and New York’s seven-year contract totaled $126 million.

“Every policy decision in state capitols and Washington DC is made with the needs of big business in mind.”

Food stamps are not the only government program that is administered by private corporations. WIC payments and child support collections are also moneymakers for Xerox and the rest of the financial services industry.

Like so many other debates in America, discussions about government spending are inherently bogus because the elephant in the room, big business, is absent. Millions of Americans are angry because food stamp recipients can use their benefits to buy junk food but don’t realize that they are able to do so because corporate America wouldn’t have it any other way.

Coca Cola, Kroger, Walmart, Kelloggs and other corporations have all lobbied the United States Department of Agriculture and Congress to prevent any measures being put in place that would restrict SNAP use to healthy food choices. It isn’t difficult to understand why this is the case. They want to make as much money as possible and won’t abide anything that impedes their ability to keep turning huge profits. In just one year, nine Walmart Supercenters in Massachusetts received more than $33 million in SNAP revenues, which is more than four times the amount of SNAP benefits received at all farmers’ markets nationwide.

The recent congressional fracas about food stamp expenditures was like the shutdown debate, all for show. The Republican right wing advocates the most extreme anti-government positions in order to satisfy their base. Democrats rightly complain about cruelty to the poor but while the drama goes on the real welfare cheats keep cashing in, unlikely to be disadvantaged by either side after the dust settles.

If Americans knew that tasks easily carried out by their states were contracted out to big business, they would be very angry. That explains why no one tells them the truth. Governors, state legislators, and members of Congress are unlikely to expose their own timidity and corruption and the corporate media do as little reporting on serious issues as they can possibly get away with.

It is no exaggeration to say that every policy decision in state capitols and Washington DC is made with the needs of big business in mind. Wars against drugs and dead beat dads may resonate with the public, but the end result always includes a means of increasing corporate profits.

No matter what happens after the shut down kabuki theater ends, Walmart will not lose one penny of its food stamp revenues. No one on Capitol Hill will mess with the 1%. The business of America is still business.

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