FDL Membership: Finding An Activist Home

You know that feeling, when you arrive somewhere you’ve wanted to be? That satisfaction? The ahhh of having arrived? That’s how I felt about FDL when I finally started commenting here after lurking through just about all of 2007 and parts of 2008.

What I saw here at FDL was transformative. I got a video camera, which I had planned anyways, but really thought about documenting activism. Right after the election in 2008 I was worried – we weren’t going the direction I thought we would, even though we were getting rid of Bush.

And right in January and February after the Inauguration, allasudden my trepidation was confirmed by Jane. So fact #1 – the news here at FDL and the reading of the tea leaves? Irreplaceable. I didn’t see that report elsewhere at the time. So I was hooked. Here.

Stupak_Phone_Bank
Me, Michelle & Tug - just before making calls

The political battles started playing out, and rapidly came to the Teabagger Summer of ’09. And when FDL called to action, I came to witness (video).

And not only then but local Townhall madness, which I found out from FDL too (video), not my Congress critter.

FDL sponsored a “Stop Stupak” phonebanking drive in December 2009 , and the three os uf made 300 calls one night. We had a GREAT time doing it too. We really did! The beer was cold and the peeps were awesome.

It was only a couple months later, early into 2010 when the Healthcare battle was drawing to the close that we were at it again. Jane actually hooked me up with David Sirota as we marched on Senator Thurston Howell III Michael Bennet’s office to make him keep his promise on the Public Option. Bennet didn’t of course.

But that’s not the point.

The point is about fighting, opposing, making a difference, not just winning. Being active, not passive. regardless of the outcomes, the sense of resistance, of being alive, the sense of of simply mattering is huge, at least to me.

And all of that was before the Membership Opportunity.

Just about a year ago, all sorts of actions began to bloom, come into fruition. Tahrir and Madison were covered here at FDL, in an incredible manner. When one looks backward, the irony is intense.  My personal favorite from this time frame basically says “FDL is not radical, we’re boringly Centrist” with poll data – by Jon Walker.

You see what I’m getting at, right?

If FDL is not prescient, it’s at the very least very clearly forward looking.

Because what else happened last year?

Well right before that first Membership drive there was a call to action for Solidarity with Wisconsin Activists.  I answered in solidarity (video).

Later, the drive toward austerity by both political parties angered all of us. We planned a response. I was honored to help plot the database for the map of the FDL National Day of Action, where over 2,500 people reported their efforts to influence their congresscritter – in person. Direct Political Action, before it was cool. I went there, don’t ya know.

Jane herself visited 40 congressional offices that day; and later was on the Ed show, talking about it, and anti-austerity, protecting the Social Safety Net. So see? Sometimes we actually make news.

And everything above was before the Occupy Movement exploded on the political scene.

Which has been, I don’t have the words, so unbelievably important to what is happening politcally today. Occupy changed the National Conversation away from austerity – at least for a now.

I have seen the cops myself, been right there as they’ve deployed, and saw the powers take out Occupy Denver. And I know a bit about how that happened.

Which brings me to my final point.

FDL has always been Occupy-ish, before there was Occupy. That’s just a fact.

But the Membership drive? That’s separate – don’t be confused.

Members make FDL itself happen, and FDL walks and chews gum and supports Occupy all at the same time. So what I’m asking you to do right now, is support FDL itself. To get your news, your tea-leaves, your inspiration, your invitation to activism.

You know you’d rather be a part of this action, if you’re not already.

Let me close with what Brian already said:

To our current members, I can’t even begin to thank you for what you’ve done and continue to do. The difference in our capacity from before and after the start of the membership program is astonishing – like night and day. We’re becoming more stable and confident with time, because we know we have you not just at our backs, but neck-deep in the mud with us. I greatly admire you for stepping up and taking stock in everything we hope to accomplish here, whether it be joining simply to donate $45 or more per year, being an active participant in our webinars or joining the struggle for change in your community by getting involved with Occupy Supply and the Occupy movement. You should all be so proud of yourselves for what we have built together, and I really look forward to continuing to work with all of you.

As we enter our second year of the Firedoglake membership program, we’re brimming with ideas for what’s next and are glad to hear our members are, too. I look forward to what’s next and hope you’ll join the program if you haven’t already and help us continue to organize and innovate for change.

Avoiding Veal Pen Progressivism

This is derived from a site about “Uncle Tom Atheism.” Basically I tried to replace “Uncle Tom Atheists” with Corporatist Democrats/Obama Apologists/Hack Democrats and “atheists” with Firebaggers/Progressives. Some work better than others.

If nothing else, these websites are kind entertaining…

 

Without further ado,

You Might Be Inside the Veal Pen if…

 

1. You “Accommodate” Democrats’ Demands to Be Exempt From the Law or Progressive Ideals.

Solution: Treat the Democratic Party like any other political party, faction, or ideology.

 

2. You Allow those in Power to Give Themselves a Special Status to Speak on Political or Moral Issues.

Solution: Refuse to accept that being in power justifies any special privileges.

 

3. You Make Civility and Being “Nice” More Important than Condemning Immorality.

Solution: Recognize that morality & justice can be more important than civility.

 

4. You Argue that Progressives are Somehow Responsible for the Disenfranchisement Against Them.

Solution: Be Yourself, Because Apologists/Sycophants/Hacks Will Always Find an Excuse.

 

5. You Vote for Corporatist Democrat as the Lesser of Two Evils.

Solution: Vote your conscience.

 

6. You Apologize for Dirty F*cking Hippies Making Democrats Uncomfortable.

Solution: You Can Criticize Fellow Progressives Without Having to Apologize for Them.

The WaPo MMT Post Explosion: Dean Baker’s Second Try On MMT (3)

This is the third and last installment of a critical review of Dean Baker’s second reaction to the debate kicked off by the WaPo’s piece on Modern Monetary Theory, written by Dylan Matthews. The first two installments starting with this one, discussed Dean’s views on using the monetary channel to boost aggregate demand, devaluing the currency and increasing exports, and work sharing. In this final installment I’ll evaluate Dean Baker’s view of the problems associated with relying primarily on the fiscal channel,

Pitfalls of the Fiscal Policy Channel

”One of the problems is the potential for creating large structural imbalances that could be difficult to correct, as noted in the case of large trade deficits. But there are other reasons why exclusive reliance on the government channel may not be the best route.”

As I said above, I don’t think that Dean Baker makes a convincing case for the claim that the trade deficit is a structural balance that will be difficult to correct, or for that matter that its costs necessarily outweigh its benefits. Above all, I don’t think that Dean has made the case that we need to do something about the trade deficit rather than just letting it change as other nations decide that they’d rather consume more of their own output. So, here is a disagreement between myself and, I think, the MMT economists, and Dean and (I suspect) other Keynesians as well.

Next, Dean says:

“First, if we go the spending route, there is a risk that some of the spending will be wasteful. This is both an economic concern and a political one. From an economic standpoint, we should always want our spending to be done in the most useful possible way. In the context where the alternative is just wasting resources by having workers and capital sit idle, then paying workers to dig holes and fill them up again would be an improvement, but we should hope to do better. Rushing huge amounts of spending into ill-conceived projects is not likely to be the best use of funds.

“This also raises the obvious political issue that bungled projects make great stories for the political opponents of economic stimulus. We will be hearing much about Solyndra in the months and years ahead. It is worth taking political risks when there are clear policy gains from going a specific route, but if it is not necessary, why do it?”

I don’t think Dean is directly addressing MMT proposals in this area. MMT doesn’t advocate wasteful spending, or digging holes for the sake of the activity, or spending money on projects and programs that will waste real resources or people’s lives. There is a risk that any spending, private or public, will be wasteful or involve an excess of real costs over real benefits. But that’s no excuse for avoiding private sector spending, so why should it be one for avoiding public sector spending when that’s called for?

The events of the last ten years show that both Federal spending on Wars, and private spending on financial adventures can be disastrous, but it was wasteful investments on fantasy sand castles that crashed much of the world economy; not deficit spending in the United States intended to achieve public purpose. In fact, that kind of spending has been starved for the past 35 years at least. And right now, there is no record of wasteful public spending that remotely compares with the record of wasteful private spending over that same period.

By the way, it really hurts me when I see an acknowledged progressive give voice to the conservative narrative that public spending is somehow excessively wasteful or subject to greater corruption than private sector spending is. That is not a narrative that has an empirical foundation. It is false. And it is not a framing that we ought ever to strengthen in the way Dean Baker does here.

Moving on to MMT, itself, it favors spending that can be justified based on projections of its real benefits and costs, not projections of its nominal benefits and costs to a Federal Government that can never have any solvency problem. MMT is against crony capitalism, and for prosecutions of banksters and fraudsters. MMT proposals in the health care area would not only improve health care outcomes and reduce private sector expenditures on health care but would also produce millions of new jobs in the health care sector, while putting the health insurance barons out of business. MMT stimulus proposals for ending the recession, include Revenue Sharing grants to States on a per person basis, so that States could re-hire staff laid off in response to the recession’s impact on tax revenues. It’s very doubtful that hiring back Police, Firefighters, Teachers, and other State Civil Servants would be viewed as wasteful to most people.

The MMT JG program would have its projects planned and implemented locally with the participation of workers in the program, as well as local Government and non-profit stake holders. Only projects whose positive value could be projected by these stakeholders would be approved. Of course, some of them would be wasteful. There’s no way to avoid that. But there’s no reason to believe that many, many worthwhile projects producing valuable and durable results would not occur. That’s what happened during the New Deal, and that’s what would happen here.

On the subject of political risks, the fact that Dean even raises the question of whether there are clear benefits shows that he still doesn’t know the MMT literature. The Job Guarantee proposal envisions a permanent program, that in the context of other stimulus measures would create Full employment WITH Price Stability. Dean may doubt this claim of MMT, but before saying that he can’t see the difference between Keynes and MMT, he has to address and dismiss this claim, because neoliberal Keynesians think there’s a trade-off between Full Employment and Price Stability at some level of Unemployment.

But MMT economists firmly reject that assumption and offer a policy that, in theory, at least destroys this historic trade-off by ending the unemployed buffer stock and replacing it with an employed buffer stock. If MMT is right and this goal can be achieved, then it is certainly worth taking a political risk to try to accomplish it, and show that Government can help the economy to create both Full Employment and Price Stability in both good times and bad ones.

Next, Dean addresses tax cuts as a way to deficit spend:

Alternatively, we can go the tax cut route. There is little doubt that if we have big enough tax cuts that we will eventually prompt enough consumption to bring the economy back to something resembling full employment. However, this does raise the risk that at some point when housing has recovered, the additional consumption from the tax cut will lead to a real problem of excess demand leading to inflation. I know the MMT answer is then to raise taxes, but I am not confident that this can always be done so easily.

Politicians are not generally eager to raise taxes. If we create a situation in which we are counting on big tax increases to prevent inflation, then we run a real risk that inflation could become a big problem, especially if we have been very loose with our monetary policy.

MMT policy proposals for both spending and tax cuts occur in the context of creating a strengthened safety net with automatic stabilizers that would not require frequent positive action by Congress to maintain. The JG program is one of these. Since the JG hourly rate would be the de facto minimum wage rate and once implemented, would not be raised to compete with the private sector even in good times, so when private employers require all available labor, JG program spending would fall to close to zero, and would make close to no contribution to Government deficit spending. On the other hand, when deficit spending is needed because private sector employers had laid people off, the JG program would rapidly ramp up deficit spending to directly create effective demand.

In the revenue sharing program the program would be triggered during each cyclical downturn when unemployment reaches a particular level. The Federal grants would be implemented through a single countercyclical infusion for each cyclical downturn.

On the tax cut side, one of the major MMT legislative proposals is to cut all payroll taxes on both the employer and employee sides during a recession, when a particular level of unemployment is reached, then payroll taxes would be automatically re-imposed based on reaching a preset level of unemployment. Neither the cuts, nor the re-imposition of taxes would require Congressional intervention once the MMT program was passed.

There are variations of the above proposals, of course, and debates about which variation is best. But the main point here is that whatever tax cut programs would be implemented by MMT would be based on the idea of automatic indexing to real economic conditions. The legislation would provide for both automatic tax cuts and tax increases indexed to cyclical conditions measured by specific economic indicators.

Dean’s Conclusion and Mine

Dean next discusses the political difficulty of resolving tax and spending trade-offs in Washington, DC at this point. And he concludes by talking about his reluctance to embrace MMT because:

— He has “. . . long realized that in Washington policy debates who says something is far more important than what is being said.” And “. . . that anyone challenging the status quo is almost completely excluded from public debate.”

— And that if one can’t even “. . . win a debate on arithmetic, how can we think we will get people in policy positions to accept that their conceptual framework is wrong?”

— And that he thinks the best course is to challenge people on their arithmetic and their inconsistency if you want change, rather than to change people’s minds about the “. . . sort of monetary theory the Fed should be applying.”

I think this is a reasonable position for a person to take; but I also think that it makes the common mistake of denizens of Washington, which assumes that the politics of the past will, more or less, be the politics of the future. Politics in Washington is frequently linear and stable in its patterns over a period of years. One comes to understand those patterns and to believe that there will never be more than incremental pattern change.

However, my view is that Washington in its current state doesn’t care about logical inconsistency, or rationality, or arithmetic. At this point it is a closed “village” of opinion. As Dean implies, points of view that have no currency in the village don’t get discussed, or ridiculed when they are. The question however, is how does a closed system like this change, since it is fairly closed to changes in viewpoint that may be necessary to use to solve its problems?

I think the answer to that question is raw failure that destroys confidence in the governing world view which is neoliberalism. The highly visible failure of neoliberalism in 2008 wasn’t capitalized on by this Administration. It was loyal to the neoliberal point of vew and followed the prescriptions of neoliberals for fixing the problems it created.

However, the failures of neoliberalism continue. We see the disaster in Europe now taking shape, we see the extreme discontent among so many in American society, including most importantly the young who cannot see any acceptable future. The stresses grow with each passing year of injustice and maintenance of levels of real unemployment that haven’t been seen in this country since the 1930s.

Washington is still the old Washington, and it is terribly resistant to changes in thinking. But OWS is a movement that will come back with renewed vigor this Spring, and related movements will grow more and more intense in Europe, and the Administration’s latest attempt to bail out the big banks with the mortgage settlement will be undermined by those very banks themselves as they accelerate their immoral and illegal seizures of properties and evictions of the homeowners whose homes they have literally “stolen” through forged documents that they continue to forge.

The worst of the anger is yet to sweep this country. When it does, when the banking system falls either in Europe or here, when the big banks are taken into resolution and the serious investigations start under a new Attorney General, the changing of the guard in Washington will come; and the old regime, along with their neoliberal paradigm, will be swept away. And it is then that MMT will be accepted in Congress and the Executive Branch sufficiently, so that its policies will get a chance. If those policies succeed, then neoiberalism will be gone, hopefully for good.

(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com

Why the ‘Hoo-Ha’ About DHS ‘Spying’ on the Occupy Movement Is Reasonable

Zuccotti Park right after Occupy Wall Street was evicted (photo: david_shankbone)

WikiLeaks published a Homeland Security Department (DHS) report yesterday that showed DHS had been monitoring the Occupy movement. Naturally, those that had been participating in Occupy protests reacted to the news. They were outraged that DHS would suggest that growing support for the Occupy movement increased the possibility of violence. They were upset that Homeland Security put together a report that suggested the Occupy movement posed “risks” or “threats” to “critical infrastructure” in the country.

John Hudson of The Atlantic, however, finds the “hoo-ha” about DHS “spying” on the Occupy movement “adorable,” and by that he has a banal and condescending view of the Occupy movement’s reaction to the report.

Hudson writes:

Perhaps Homeland Security’s fear of the movement is exaggerated but this summary merely reads like a worst-case-scenario research document compiled from publicly available sources. Could Occupy protesters pose a risk to “critical infrastructure”? Sure. So could scores of Justin Bieber fans. In any event, it’s not a breach of civil liberties to draw up such a document. Mostly, it shows how boring it must be to work at DHS, scheming up scenarios that are probably never going to happen.

The Dissenter‘s coverage was mentioned in Hudson’s post. So, I feel compelled to challenge Hudson’s conclusions and failure to understand why the report is troublesome.

Hudson used this quote from me in his post:

The suppression of Occupy is nothing less than an attack on those who would try to exercise their civil liberties, their rights and seek to energize democracy.

In doing so, Hudson totally ignored the key point that the report WikiLeaks uncovered led me to make.

The report alluded to the potential risks the Occupy movement posed to “critical infrastructure.” What influence, if any, did this report have on decisions by political leaders or law enforcement to crackdown on Occupy groups?

Hudson dismisses the possibility that the conclusion in the report had any bearing on the Occupy movement by saying it must be “boring” to work at DHS  and scheme up “scenarios that are probably never going to happen.” But, that ignores the reality, which is that these “scenarios that are probably never going to happen” are what heads of police departments and mayors of metropolitan areas repeated to justify bringing an end to ongoing 24/7 Occupy protests back in November and December of last year.

What kind of life does a report like this have? Surely, it was not only read by employees of Stratfor. It presumably was read by other officials in the country. It possibly helped influence many leaders’ views on the Occupy movement.

Additionally, since Hudson’s post seems to be all about accuracy and not distorting the actual content of the report, it is worth sharing that I did not read the Rolling Stone article from Michael Hastings and then write a post designed to agitate the Occupy movement. I read the report itself and posted just about the same time that Rolling Stone went to publish Hastings’ article. I drew my conclusions without reading Hastings’ “ominous appraisal.” And, Firedoglake and Truthout may be part of the Occupy information bloodstream, but given that the movement has reawakened democracy in this country (something TIME magazine acknowledged), I see that as an honor and not something that makes Firedoglake or Truthout less sophisticated than the Rolling Stone or The Atlantic.

Cenk Uygur’s point on The Young Turks was misguided. The issue is not that the Tea Party was monitored or not monitored or that it was not monitored as closely as the Occupy movement. The issue is the fear and hyperbole in the report that may have influenced how political leaders and members of law enforcement responded to the presence of the Occupy movement in cities and states all over the country.

Do I think that the report shows the Occupy movement was “spied” on by DHS? No. I think that the employees that put together the report, whether they were part of a private contractor or the department itself, were simply pulling sections of articles and piecing together a report. That’s why I used the word monitored.

And, actually, Hastings never called it “spying” either. Kilkenny did in her headline. This is important because Hudson seems to be suggesting that Hastings and I played a role in making the Occupy movement go hysterical. Well, a significant portion of the Occupy movement reacted like that because they recalled seeing vehicles marked Homeland Security near their encampments or daily protests. It had nothing to do with misrepresenting the contents of the report. In fact, a number of people in the movement tweeted at me saying something to the effect, “Really? We needed WikiLeaks to tell us this was happening?” or “Is this really news?”

The outrage stemmed from the fact that they believed their suspicions of being watched might have been confirmed, which is not wholly unreasonable. If the Office of Infrastructure Protection put together a report on the Occupy movement, other divisions of DHS were probably doing work involving the Occupy movement too.

Hudson has only written a couple of posts on the Occupy movement. He thinks the Stratfor release from WikiLeaks has been mostly dull so far. That may be why he scoffed at this report. In any case, he chose to deride those who truly considered the implications of the report and overlooked the reality that citizens in the Occupy movement have been rightfully concerned about Homeland Security’s possible role in cracking down on the movement for months because they themselves were victims of the crackdown.

Watercooler: The Magic of “29”

So it’s Leap Day today, that fix we use every four years in February to correct for astronomical variances and keep the calendar all hunky dory. So I popped “29” into youtube’s search box to just see what I could find for a Watercooler  and found this most amazing personal experience.

I was born deaf and 8 weeks ago I received a hearing implant. This is the video of them turning it on and me hearing myself for the first time.

Edit: For those of you who have asked the implant I received was Esteem offered by Envoy Medical. Check out my blog:http://sarahchurman.blogspot.com/. Sarah Churman.

That just moved me, beyond words. I literally can’t imagine not hearing. I can’t. Sometimes I daydream in internal sound, like I think many musicians do. Mayebe non-musicians daydream in sound too. Anyway,  when you go and look at Sarah’s blog, this is the song that moves her. At least right now. Beautiful Things by Gungor:

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

Sarah has excellent judgment for newly found ears, doesn’t she?

You know the garden that comes up from this ground, here at FDL, right?

New found belonging

Late Night FDL: It’s 3 AM. Do You Know What Your Legislature Is Doing?

Good evening everyone! Phoenix Woman here, commandeering the Late Night helm like a drunken teenager hot-wiring an El Camino. Clear the highway, Phoenix’s comin’ through!

Tonight’s topic involves the possibility that, to serve the interests of Mammon, our state legislatures are selling off not only our birthrights, but our freedoms as well. Sally Jo Sorensen, who at her blog Bluestem Prairie monitors the goings-on in and around Greater Minnesota, passes on this disquieting news — news that affects all Minnesotans and likely reflects similar shenanigans going on in your home state’s legislature:

On Friday afternoon after the Clinton hearing [a hearing concerning whether to allow a company to dynamite the local scenic granite outcroppings for concrete mix], I receive a blast action alert from the Land Stewardship Project, which keeps a field office in Montevideo that promotes local food and sustainable, family-scale agriculture. Organizer Bobby King cuts to the chase about the threat to local control, specifically interim ordinances like that approved by the Ortonville Township board:

House File 389 will make it more difficult for citizens who want their township, county or city to take action and protect the community from unanticipated, harmful development. The bill weakens the power of local governments to enact interim ordinances (also called land use moratoriums). An interim ordinance allows local governments to quickly put a temporary freeze on major development. This power is essential when the community is caught off-guard by unanticipated and potentially harmful proposals, especially those from corporate interests and outside investors, such as big box stores like Wal-Mart or a large-scale factory farm. An interim ordinance freezes the status quo and gives the community time to review or create the appropriate zoning ordinances.

(more…)

The Actual Problem With Income and Debt Has Nothing to Do With Wall Street Bonuses

unemployment
Wall Street bonuses down a bit (image: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, flickr)

I’m supposed to feel sorry for the banker who might have to pull his kids out of private school:

Schiff, 46, is facing another kind of jam this year: Paid a lower bonus, he said the $350,000 he earns, enough to put him in the country’s top 1 percent by income, doesn’t cover his family’s private-school tuition, a Kent, Connecticut, summer rental and the upgrade they would like from their 1,200-square- foot Brooklyn duplex.

“I feel stuck,” Schiff said. “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach.”

The smaller bonus checks that hit accounts across the financial-services industry this month are making it difficult to maintain the lifestyles that Wall Street workers expect, according to interviews with bankers and their accountants, therapists, advisers and headhunters.

“People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress,” said Alan Dlugash, a partner at accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron LLP in New York who specializes in financial planning for the wealthy. “Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?”

First of all, the bonuses, as a whole, are only down 14%. Some investment banks capped bonuses or lowered them beyond that 14% number, but not appreciably.

Second, I know there’s a cottage industry of financial professionals whining about how they’re only millionaires and not multi-millionaires now, but on the priority of economic problems in the country, I’m going to rank this quite a bit higher:

I went through the Federal Reserve’s Quarterly Release on Household Debt and Credit released today, and there were two notable trends. One is that the amount of consumer debt is declining, but that delinquency rates are stabilizing above what they were before the crisis. And the second is in this graph, which is that the number of people subject to third party collections has doubled since 2000, from a little less than 7% to a little over 14% of consumers. Ten years ago, one in fourteen American consumers were pursued by debt collectors. Today it’s one in seven.

Wall Street bankers with slightly smaller bonus checks – outside their normal compensation – is a significantly lesser-order issue than the fact that 1 in 7 Americans have fallen into enough debt that they are being harassed by debt collectors. And this harassment can lead to imprisonment for debts, garnishment of wages or even threats that debtors will be either fired from their jobs or unable to find a new one, as employers increasingly use credit reports in their hiring decisions.

If you prefer, you can add the stat that one in five people didn’t have enough money to feed themselves in 2011. I know I don’t see a report in Bloomberg about this every other week, but I have to believe it has a bit more news value than whether the investment banker can afford his second home. It’s simply a much more vital public policy problem, a more vital social problem, a more vital human problem.

And the people in the story don’t wear fancy suits and eat at Morimoto.

…I do enjoy the part of the Bloomberg article that explains that Wall Street types don’t save their money, so when their compensation gets reduced, they suffer. Aren’t these types of people fond of explaining to the lower orders how they have to be fiscally responsible? Aren’t they often saying that nobody was hurt by foreclosure fraud because it was just about a bunch of deadbeats who didn’t pay their mortgages? Hm.

Why the ‘Hoo-Ha’ About DHS ‘Spying’ on the Occupy Movement Is Reasonable

Zuccotti Park right after Occupy Wall Street was evicted (photo: david_shankbone)

WikiLeaks published a Homeland Security Department (DHS) report yesterday that showed DHS had been monitoring the Occupy movement. Naturally, those that had been participating in Occupy protests reacted to the news. They were outraged that DHS would suggest that growing support for the Occupy movement increased the possibility of violence. They were upset that Homeland Security put together a report that suggested the Occupy movement posed “risks” or “threats” to “critical infrastructure” in the country.

John Hudson of The Atlantic, however, finds the “hoo-ha” about DHS “spying” on the Occupy movement “adorable,” and by that he has a banal and condescending view of the Occupy movement’s reaction to the report.

Hudson writes:

Perhaps Homeland Security’s fear of the movement is exaggerated but this summary merely reads like a worst-case-scenario research document compiled from publicly available sources. Could Occupy protesters pose a risk to “critical infrastructure”? Sure. So could scores of Justin Bieber fans. In any event, it’s not a breach of civil liberties to draw up such a document. Mostly, it shows how boring it must be to work at DHS, scheming up scenarios that are probably never going to happen.

The Dissenter‘s coverage was mentioned in Hudson’s post. So, I feel compelled to challenge Hudson’s conclusions and failure to understand why the report is troublesome.

Hudson used this quote from me in his post:

The suppression of Occupy is nothing less than an attack on those who would try to exercise their civil liberties, their rights and seek to energize democracy.

In doing so, Hudson totally ignored the key point that the report WikiLeaks uncovered led me to make.

The report alluded to the potential risks the Occupy movement posed to “critical infrastructure.” What influence, if any, did this report have on decisions by political leaders or law enforcement to crackdown on Occupy groups? [cont’d.] (more…)

Frontline’s Fukushima “Meltdown” Perpetuates Industry Lie That Tsunami, Not Quake, Started Nuclear Crisis

Fukushima Daiichi as seen on March 16, 2011. (photo: Digital Globe via Wikipedia)

In all fairness, “Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown,” the Frontline documentary that debuted on US public television stations last night (February 28), sets out to accomplish an almost impossible task: explain what has happened inside and around Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility since a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled reactors and safety systems on March 11, 2011–and do so in 53 minutes. The filmmakers had several challenges, not the least of which is that the Fukushima meltdowns are not a closed case, but an ever-evolving crisis. Add to that the technical nature of the information, the global impact of the disaster, the still-extant dangers in and around the crippled plant, the contentious politics around nuclear issues, and the refusal of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to let its employees talk either to reporters or independent investigative bodies, and it quickly becomes apparent that Frontline had a lot to tackle in order to practice good journalism.

But if the first rule of reporting is anything like medicine–“do no harm”–than Frontline’s Fukushima coverage is again guilty of malpractice. While “Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown” is not the naked apologia for the nuclear industry that Frontline’s January offering, “Nuclear Aftershocks,” was, some of the errors and oversights of this week’s episode are just as injurious to the truth.

And none more so than the inherent contradiction that aired in the first minutes of Tuesday’s show.

“Inside'” opens on “March 11, 2011 – Day 1.” Over shaking weather camera shots of Fukushima’s four exhaust towers, the narrator explains:

The earthquake that shook the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was the most powerful to strike Japan since records began. The company that operates the plant, TEPCO, has forbidden its workers from speaking publicly about what followed.

But one year on, they are starting to tell their stories. Some have asked for their identities to be hidden for fear of being fired.

One such employee (called “Ono” in the transcript) speaks through an interpreter: “I saw all the pipes fixed to the wall shifting and ripping off.”

Then the power went out, but as Frontline’s narrator explains: [cont’d.] (more…)