We'll get back to the action alerts on Monday, January 3; until then, please patronize the excellent websites found on the left- and right-hand sides of this page, and have a happy, healthy and safe New Year.
As you may know, wikileaks's main source for its multitudinous document dumps lately has been U.S. Marine Private Bradley Manning, now in military custody. You may not know that he's been subject to inhumane treatment for five months now -- can't communicate with almost anyone, can't read a newspaper, can't hardly sleep or walk around. If you're not a fan of what wikileaks has done, you might well be tempted to cheer these conditions, but set aside, for a moment, that (as Ralph Nader suggests here) opposition to wikileaks' actions might require a lot of intellectual inconsistency. Merely consider that Mr. Manning has not been convicted of a crime, and that we've been fighting similar treatment of "enemy combatants" for years now. And consider that some of the conditions of his detainment are, at the very least, suspicious -- for example, he's under "Prevention of Injury" restrictions despite (per his psychologist) not being a danger to himself/others, and these restrictions have also lasted far longer than normal. Finally, ask yourself: are we not a nation of laws? Aren't our freedoms and traditions strong enough to treat actual or perceived enemies decently while in our custody? Firedoglake helps you petition for better treatment for Mr. Manning.
Meanwhile, a massive fire in the That's It Sportswear clothing sweatshop in Bangladesh killed dozens of people on December 14, and seriously injured dozens more. These are the kind of folks who pull down less than two bucks a day making clothes for American brands ranging from Abercrombie & Fitch to Wrangler to Target, and, as you've probably already guessed, several exits in that sweatshop were locked. But a coalition of labor groups in Bangladesh have demanded compensation for the fire's victims and families, as well as independent and thorough safety inspections of all multi-story factories, and they're asking for our help. So change.org helps you petition corporations using That's It labor to compensate victims and investigate safety conditions. Doesn't sound like much, does it? It is much, though -- corporations respond to bad PR. I certainly hope that none of these corporations try to tell us that the sweatshop exits were locked because the workers keep trying to leave. Golly, why would an underpaid, overworked laborer ever try to leave a job site?
Closer to home, People for the American Way help you tell Fox News (sic) advertisers to stop advertising there. Similar campaigns have stopped most companies from advertising on Glenn Beck's program-if-we-can-call-it-that, but this petition would tell advertisers to stop advertising on Fox News entirely. I'll say it again: if we want to fight big media immorality and decadence, we have very little choice in this corporate economy but to start boycotts. We do not have a la carte cable packaging, so that we could simply not pay for stations we don't like, and since these stations are all privately owned, our government has little leverage as well. These stations survive only because large corporations continue to give them advertising money. But, as I said, large corporations don't like bad PR. They overreact to it, in my opinion. And, right now, that's the best weapon we have against them.
Finally, speaking of immorality and decadence, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy instructs us that the Wall Street Journal is full of soup to tell us that the top tax-bracket increase Oregon passed earlier this year caused up to 10,000 wealthy Oregonians to flee the state. Long story short: the Journal editorial focuses on the fact that 10,000 fewer Oregonians earned over $200,000 than the state expected -- without noting that 60,000 more Oregonians earned less than $100,000 than the state expected, which (in the absence of, I don't know, a big pile of address change forms) suggests that the 10,000 wealthy Oregonians didn't move out of state, but simply had a bad time of it due to the economy. And if this error seems vaguely familiar, well, there may be a reason for that.
As you probably know, the FCC approved its corporation-friendly "net neutrality" plan yesterday, and I can't hide my disgust. Real net neutrality -- the kind that wouldn't permit corporate censorship, that wouldn't destroy the level playing field between websites with money and websites without, that would let you, the consumer, dictate what you want to see and hear on the internet -- is a real bipartisan cause, but this "neutrality" plan has no constituency but the corporation. Yet that's no reason to give up -- if Mr. Obama won't listen, we have to speak louder. So both Bold Progressives and Free Press help you demand real net neutrality, not corporate net neutrality, from the government agency that's supposed to protect its owners, the people, from corporate power.
Meanwhile, many good folks who expected more from this Congress have decided that the Senate filibuster has to go. I'm not one of them; I remember when all that stood between us and Estate Tax repeal was the filibuster. I think the Senate hold, which allows the Tom Coburns and Jim DeMints of the world to act like dictators, is the bigger problem. But none of that means the filibuster is flawless, either -- the biggest problem with it, these days, is that it's painless, that 41 Senators can merely signal their intention to filibuster a bill without actually having to get up and read the phone book. I think if you don't like the DISCLOSE Act, you should have to hold the floor until you bore everyone to death. And if you expose yourself as a fraud in the process, well, too bad. So Daily Kos helps you tell the Senate to reform the filibuster.
The Campaign for America's Future helps you tell Mr. Obama not to cut Social Security, as the Catfood Commission and the Republican party want him to do. I disagree that we ought to tell Mr. Obama he might not get re-elected if he cuts Social Security, because I don't care if he gets re-elected or not. I also disagree that we should tell him he's "fought" for Social Security so far -- when? When he proposed raising the payroll tax ceiling? The man has no fight in him -- having already acknowledged that the Republicans are holding his putative agenda "hostage," and having acquiesced to the hostage-takers' demands, why would the hostage-taking stop? Nonetheless, it doesn't matter if he fights or not. It matters that we fight, and if he plays the weakling, again, he'll go down in history that way. Maybe that's how you get to him -- like Mr. Bush, he's enough of a fool to care how the history books treat him.
Meanwhile, H.R. 6548, the Fair Sentencing Clarification Act, would permit judges to apply reduced crack possession penalties (as enacted in the Fair Sentencing Act) retroactively. The Fair Sentencing Act pointedly did not do that, though we fought for it. I can see no reason not to apply the reduced penalties to folks who got convicted of possessing crack under the old guidelines -- crack wasn't more dangerous when they got convicted than it is now, right? Rumors of crack's awesome power to addict a man for life with a single puff are exaggerated -- crack cocaine is little more addictive than powder cocaine, and even then only so because of the way you get it into your system. Hence, FAMM helps you tell your Congressfolk to support H.R. 6548 -- even though Congress will adjourn fairly shortly, having completed very little of its work. I don't care if the Senate has to work through Christmas! If they wanted to get off early, they shouldn't have put holds on everything and filibustered everything. Really, you wouldn't tolerate such behavior from children.
Meanwhile, you may not know that some men in South Africa take it upon themselves to "convert" lesbians to heterosexuality through "corrective rape." Brilliant idea, that -- women who are biologically hardwired to want to have sex with other women can be "corrected" through unwanted, forced sex with men! Actually, I'm well aware I've just given it too much credit, that it's far more likely an expression of male rage. In any case, men do get arrested for "corrective rape," but they don't often serve time -- some 96%, in fact, never serve time, and lesbians often go into hiding when they find that the men who raped them have gone free. So change.org helps you tell the South African government to declare "corrective rape" a hate crime, thus forcing South African law enforcement to take it more seriously. Don't discount the ability of international pressure to force change. As I recall, it's already happened in South Africa during my lifetime.
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) introduced a stand-alone don't-ask-don't-tell repeal bill yesterday, and the House plans to vote on it today; you may use the tools in the upper left-hand corner to call your House Rep and urge him or her to support the bill. Mr. Murphy's pitch -- "I’m insulted by those who claim that our troops are somehow less professional or mission-capable than the troops of these foreign nations" who have integrated gays into their armed forces -- should have been the pitch Democrats used all along, until repeal's opponents were ashamed of themselves. Now, as Ms. Morrill notes, Senate Republicans could use the "not enough debate" or "not enough amendments" excuses if the bill passes the House, but at least Mr. Murphy's bill puts Scott Brown and Lisa Murkowski on the spot -- they've already said they'll support repeal; how much "debate" do they therefore need?
Also, Sen. Sanders (I-VT) plans to offer an amendment to the Obama "compromise" that would make said "compromise" plenty more palatable -- the amendment would limit tax cut extensions to income under $250,000 and would strengthen the Estate Tax. I know that the Senate has already voted down a similar bill (in that it only had a majority vote in favor, not a supermajority vote in favor), but do right-wingers give up when they've been rebuffed once? Not in my experience, and not even when they should rightfully give up in shame. And we have nothing to be ashamed of: what Mr. Sanders has proposed is better for the economy and enjoys more popular support than the Obama "compromise." And Congress needs to hear from us all the time, on every issue -- not just when it's convenient for them, or for Mr. Obama's hopes of re-election. So you may use the tools in the upper left-hand corner of this page and call your Senators and ask them to support the Sanders amendment. It'll get through the House easier if it passes the Senate with Mr. Sanders's amendment attached. And what's Mr. Obama going to do? Veto the bill that gave him exactly what he wanted because it wasn't exactly the "compromise" he made with Republicans? He's a truly stupid man if he does that.
CREDO helps you urge FCC Commissioner Michael Copps to vote "no" on Mr. Genachowski's net "neutrality" proposal. Mr. Copps has been a staunch advocate on the right side of media issues (from net neutrality to media consolidation) for many years now, and if the two commission Republicans also vote "no" (as expected), then Mr. Copps can scuttle the Genachowski proposal and help show him he's got to do better. Hopefully the letter signed by 80 different groups will help him see that, too (though I'm a bit disturbed that none of the net neutrality-friendly right-wing groups signed the letter). Seriously, Mr. Genachowski's "proposal" permits paid prioritization of internet traffic, exempts wireless broadband, and doesn't reclassify broadband under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. No wonder the corporations all love it.
Meanwhile, the Senate hasn't just held nearly everything hostage to tax cuts for the wealthy: it's also been busy eviscerating whistleblower rights. The Senate passed S. 372 on December 10; S. 372, you may recall, was the bill we didn't want to pass (the better bill was H.R. 1507). S. 372 actually excludes federal employees from whistleblower protections -- after all, why on earth would we ever need to hold the federal government accountable for its lawbreaking? S. 372 also allows the Merit Systems Protection Board (which aims to protect government employees from abuse by federal agency management) to dismiss a whistleblower's case without even holding a hearing. But the House could still fix these problems, so the National Whistleblowers Center helps you demand that they do so.
Speaking of the abuses suffered by federal workers, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty spent time this week lecturing us on the "menace" of public unions. He recycles that rubbish about the average public worker making more than the average private worker, which not only isn't instructive, but misses the point -- I think private sector janitors are underpaid, and I certainly wouldn't solve that problem by paying airplane mechanics, bus drivers, and school nurses the way we pay private sector janitors. And Mr. Pawlenty's argument doesn't carry more weight because he was in a union once or thinks unions should exist to fight "exploitation," as if saying so represent some elephantine act of rhetorical generosity. It might, though, if he could prove that public sector employees don't earn their money, and he doesn't do that merely by invoking "hard hats" and "gritty jobs" or noting that they have compensation packages that other people don't. All this so that Mr. Pawlenty can avoid the elephant in the room -- CEO compensation, the real backbreaker of this and other economies.
First, let me be clear: folks who criticize the Obama "compromise" aren't "sanctimonious" or "purist." Does Mr. Obama understand where the "sanctimonious" and "purist" folks really are in politics? Do cops who complain about big government at Tea Party rallies somehow fail to strike him as "sanctimonious" or "purist"? How about preachers who protest at Elizabeth Edwards's funeral? When Sen. Shelby complained about imposing a "nanny state" on the same banks who destroyed our economy, Mr. Obama didn't find that "sanctimonious" or "purist"? Plenty of right-wingers want all taxes, all regulation, all gays, all non-Christians, and all non-Republican Hispanics out of their way, and plenty of liberals want everyone to be able to get abortions and no one to be able to buy guns. But the next time I hear Mr. Obama complain about the "sanctimonious" "purism" of any of these folks will be the first.
It gets better. Letting tax cuts for the top two brackets expire isn't a particularly "purist" position -- liberals do not, as a bloc, demand the return of the 91% tax bracket (which that noted arch-liberal, Dwight Eisenhower, never lifted a finger to change). But when liberals merely petitioned Mr. Obama to do the same thing that polls consistently tell us a broad majority of Americans want him to do, Mr. Obama got to redefine a position held by as many as two out of three Americans as a "purist" position. Not incidentally, in the course of his remarks he also redefined the public option as a "purist" position, a position standing in the way of progress, when single-payer -- yet another position which registers majority support in poll after poll! -- seems far more like a "purist" position than the public option. Thus Mr. Obama has (at the very least!) acquiesced to the corporate strategy wherein all positions popular with the people but bad for CEO compensation somehow become extremist.
How has Mr. Obama reached his late forties without learning that, if politics is the art of the possible, then fighting for positions that reek of "purism" widens the pallet of the possible? Especially when those "purist" positions, like single-payer or higher taxes for the rich, are actually popular? Even Max Baucus says that if he'd put single-payer on the table, he could have gotten the public option (of which he was a nominal supporter) into the final health-care bill, since a public option would have seemed like the compromise position it actually is. But Mr. Obama seems to start every negotiation with what he'll settle for, guaranteeing that he'll get less. It's almost like that's the idea. But in real life you don't negotiate that way with anyone, let alone a negotiating "partner" who understands that fighting for more extreme positions always gets you more of what you want. And this is the main reason American politicians move rightward, as the bulk of America moves leftward -- the right-wing party fights to the death for what it wants (or, more precisely, what its corporate paymasters want), while the nominally left-wing party tries to make sure everyone's "happy."
What is a citizen to do, then? Simply, keep fighting -- keep calling and writing your Congressfolk, keep talking to the members of your community, keep demonstrating in public for the causes you believe in and the country you love. I don't guarantee victory all the time, or even, frankly, very much of the time -- the powerful do not relinquish their power to the people very easily. But I do guarantee that fighting for what you believe in always gets you more of what you want and deserve than giving up and wallowing in cynicism does. And having consecrated my life to the notion that democracy works, I'm hardly ready to declare it dead, even if a nominally Democratic President thinks his most important job isn't doing the will of the American people, but compromising with Republicans who are out to destroy him. We just need to communicate our will until he gets it, and if it takes Sarah Palin kicking his ass in 2012 for him to get it, then let that be his fault.
OMB Watch helps you call your Senators and tell them to fight the Estate Tax provisions in the Obama "compromise." Mr. Obama apparently decided that he'd start "negotiating" with restoring the Estate Tax at 2009 levels, ignoring the better proposals put forward by Sens. Harkin and Brown (OH) and Rep. McDermott -- ignoring, also, that if the Estate Tax snapped back to its 2001 level, that would raise more revenue than even the Harkin/Brown and McDermott proposals. He sure is one hell of a poker player, isn't he? Seriously, this mania Mr. Obama has for "successful" negotiation -- when the only "successful" negotiation the Republicans will allow is one that wholly benefits them -- is bordering on the sanctimonious. And don't be fooled by the Democratic House caucus nearly unanimously voicing its disapproval of the Obama "compromise" yesterday; there's still plenty of time for them to cave. So give their spines some steel.
Meanwhile, closer to home, Pennsylvania elected Tom Corbett as Governor in 2010, and Mr. Corbett seems to think that gas drillers should be able to drill pretty much wherever they like, without having to face consequences for their mistakes. So Penn Environment helps you demand that Mr. Corbett put Pennsylvanians before corporations. Mr. Rendell, on his way out the door, imposed a moratorium on new gas drilling permits, but Mr. Corbett plans to overturn that ban, when some forty percent of Marcellus Shale forest land has already been given to the gas drillers, who do not (as you may remember) pay a severance tax like drillers do in most other gas-drilling states. Maybe if Mr. Corbett could light his own tap water on fire (as many Pennsylvania residents in the Marcells Shale region can now do), he might see the use of good environmental regulation. I hope it doesn't come to another sixteen-hour gas explosion like the one that happened in western Pennsylvania a few months back.
Finally, you may have heard that the Senate refused to move forward on the Defense Authorization bill, and thus don't-ask-don't-tell repeal, yesterday. (Sen. Collins voted yes, as we'd been pressuring her to do, but Sen. Manchin, nominally a Democrat, voted against it and promptly walked his vote back, while Sens. Brown of Massachusetts and Murkowski, nominally in favor of repeal, used the not-enough-amendments excuse to vote against it.) Many "liberal" media outlets have declared the whole drama over, but that doesn't mean it is over. The Servicemembers' Legal Defense Network encourages you to call your Senators and tell them not to go home until they repeal DADT. (Perhaps not coincidentally, SLDN will rally today at noon, near the Capitol building at Constitution and Delaware Aves.) Mr. Obama, to his credit, has worked the phones this week in favor of DADT repeal. He rarely works the phones for much of anything, and when he does (i.e. keeping Mr. Bernanke in at the Fed) I rarely like it. But I'm not going to refuse to notice when he does something right, just because he called me a "sanctimonious" "purist" the other day.
As you may have heard, Mr. Obama has struck a "free" trade deal with South Korea. As you may not have heard, it's essentially the same deal Mr. Bush made with South Korea, with a few concessions to the American auto industry thrown in. This "deal" would keep us from, among other things, enforcing our own laws on South Korean corporations, limiting the growth of banks, and enforcing "buy American" policies. The deal would also render our overhaul of the financial sector essentially toothless -- we'd have the choice of not enforcing regulations concerning high-risk transactions like derivatives, or compensating South Korean corporations the money they'd lose because we enforce the regulations. Mr. Obama tells us this deal will create American jobs, though of course we know (because we're not idiots) that it will encourage jobs to flow overseas. So firedoglake provides a petition opposing the South Korean "free" trade deal. I'd be tempted to say that Republicans would deny Mr. Obama any victory, but they probably won't deny him this "victory," what with the economy being the way it is and all. Our elites use the economy as an excuse to do anything to make the economy worse! It's like beating a child up and saying you did it for her health.
Of course, not everything Mr. Obama does is evil. As evidence, I submit OMB Watch's report, which argues that Mr. Obama's administration has "stepped up enforcement of a number of important labor, consumer protection, and environmental laws and regulations." We learn (among other things) that OSHA violations have gone way, way, way up, that the FDA issued over twice as many warning letters in 2009 as it did in 2008, and that the EPA now finishes more environmental investigations, and collects more money in fines, than it did by a comparable point in Mr. Bush's first term. Now I don't want to give Mr. Obama too much credit for just doing his job, but this is a whole boatload better than the enforcement offered by Mr. Bush, who was obviously too busy being the Decider to do his actual, Constitutionally-enumerated job. And, in the interest of absolute fairness, I feel compelled to point out that Republicans have been holding Presidential nominations at a record rate, which reduces the Executive branch's ability to do its job well. The good news from OMB Watch is that the Republican obstructionism hasn't absolutely crippled your government's ability to respond to your needs. Of course, Republicans control the House in a few weeks, and as such have at least two more years to slow every-damn-thing to a crawl.
Here's something I didn't know was in the Obama "compromise" -- a massive Estate Tax cut, along the lines of the Kyl/Lincoln "compromise" we've been fighting all these years. Wealth for the Common Good helps you oppose the massive Estate Tax cut. As you know, the Estate Tax is not the "Death Tax," because only the very richest dead people pay it -- if you don't have millions of dollars to pass on to your heirs, there's nothing to tax. Meanwhile, Keystone Progress helps you oppose extending tax cuts while supporting unemployment insurance extension, though you can also just add that to the phone call Wealth for the Common Good helps you make. You may also want to add that you oppose the payroll tax cut, since the payroll tax pays current Social Security recipients, now, and would at best increase the deficit. You may also want to add that you'd be perfectly happy to sacrifice your own tax cuts if that's what it takes to make the rich pay more, if that's your position. It's totally my position. And there's no use being mad at Mr. Obama for suggesting that some six-tenths of Americans are "sanctimonious" -- it's all part of the drama he creates at the behest of his corporate paymasters, and it won't change what I do for the country I love.
Meanwhile, CREDO helps you call President Obama and demand real net neutrality, not this fake "net neutrality" he's been peddling. Make no mistake: the Genachowski "plan" would let corporations, not you, pick and choose what you see on the internet, and it wouldn't even set weak rules for wireless services. Also, the plan claims authority to enforce net neutrality regulations under Title I of the 1996 Telecommunications Act -- which a federal court has already said they don't have. If the FCC reclassifies broadband as a common carrier under Title II, they'll have done their job -- without worrying about pleasing President Scott Brown, without hearing all the double-talk coming from Blue Dogs. If Mr. Obama cares about corporations more than he cares about people -- which is my working assumption -- then he won't care to hear from you. Call him anyway. He needs to treat his feedback with some neutrality, too.
In other news, S. 510, the food safety bill, can't be passed because the Senate put all the revenue-raising provisions in the bill, which is (per Article I, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution) the House's job. Sigh. (I presume Article I Section 7 permits the Senate to raise revenues via amendments -- which is, after all, how the nefarious TARP bailout got passed -- so I must assume S. 510 didn't get its revenue-raising provisions via the amendment process.) So the dadgum thing has to go back to the House, where presumably the revenue-raising provisions can be inserted, and then passed by the Senate, a-freakin'-gain. That gives the Republicans yet another opportunity to stone it cold dead before the year's out! Yippee! Consumers Union helps you tell the House to pass the food safety bill. Then we'll deal with the Senate, until they do the right thing. Hopefully we won't have another massive food poisoning outbreak before then.
Finally, I've just heard that don't-ask-don't-tell repeal will be voted upon today, and that Democrats think they have the votes if Susan Collins (R-ME) gets on board. And two clicks later, I can tell you her phone number is 202.224.2523. (You may well get her voice mail, as I did.) She's been a supporter in the past, but she's also a loyal Republican and pretty much does what the leadership says when it counts. One wonders if she'll ever get tired of that, as Arlen Specter did. If so, I expect it to happen some time around 2013.
Both Free Press and the Prometheus Radio Project help you tell the National Association of Broadcasters to stop getting Senators to block S. 592, the Local Community Radio Act. NAB President Gordon Smith may be reached at 202.429.5449, and you may tell him that you want the NAB to support community radio by withdrawing the NAB's opposition to S. 592. Sen. Barrasso has released his hold, but Sen. Roberts may still have a hold on the bill, and several other Senators have put a hold on the bill at one point or another. Apparently the NAB doesn't know that a) S. 592 is a bill with actual bipartisan support, unlike so many other things unworthy of the name, and that b) their objections to the bill are largely fantasies. And, er, by the way, do you recognize that there name, Gordon Smith? That's right, he's the very same man who was Oregon's junior Senator from 1996-2008. No wonder he has the ear of so many Senators! And so much for the profound utility of Republican moderates.
Meanwhile, the Senate debates what to do about don't-ask-don't-tell repeal, and the ACLU helps you call them and tell them what to do. (The ACLU also provides an email tool, if you can't call.) But it's not just about DADT repeal: it's also about lifting the military's ban on privately-funded abortions. That's right, folks: if you're a woman in the military, you can't get an abortion even if you pay for it with your own money, even if you're serving overseas. The current bill in the pipeline in the Senate would only allow women soldiers to get abortions at military bases overseas if they pay for it themselves. It's exactly what the military permitted women to do until 1988. Many Republicans have been complaining that the Defense Authorization bill (to which each of the above provisions is attached) does too much social engineering. None of them describe the bans on gays and abortion that they support as "social engineering," but that's what they are. And these bans on gays and abortion are bad social engineering.
Finally, I'm relieved to know that all my favorite liberals are as ready to fight the great Obama "compromise" as I am. For instance, NETWORK, the national Catholic social justice lobby, helps you tell your Senators that trading unemployment insurance for tax cuts for the rich is a bad trade. The numbers don't lie: extending unemployment insurance for one year will benefit the unemployed to the tune of $12.5 billion, while extending tax cuts for the rich for two years will benefit them to the tune of $140 billion. And, er, the rich don't need the money. And the rich will not put the money back into the economy -- they'll hoard it. The unemployed, meanwhile, need the money and will put the money back into the economy. All Mr. Obama ever had to do was fight to do the right thing and he wouldn't be in the position he's in now, where the economy will still suck bad enough in 2012 that he won't get re-elected. You have to wonder why he did that.
As part of Mr. Obama's health care overhaul, the federal government gets to decide whether birth control is preventive care, which would make it free of charge, and though it might hurt some people's feelings to say so, birth control is preventive care -- do we really want folks having children before they're ready to have children? Naturally, Mr. Obama, despite being nominally pro-choice, has thus far resisted designating birth control as preventive care. Apparently religious extremists still get all the say about everything regarding a woman's body. But the Department of Health and Human Services is still holding hearings about the matter, so CREDO helps you tell Mr. Obama to designate birth control as preventive care. Between this and Mr. Obama's toleration of the infamous Stupak amendment and keeping abortion out of high-risk pools even if the woman pays for it, one does wonder who'll be left to vote for Mr. Obama in 2012 if even the pro-choice crowd stays home.
Meanwhile, S. 1816, the Chesapeake Clean Water Act, would finally begin to fight the pollution and overfishing that's wreaked havoc on the Chesapeake Bay for decades now. The bill would manage agricultural runoff and stormwater more effectively and fund restoration of the Bay more efficiently. Moreover, the bill stands ready to be voted upon by the full Senate. That describes a whole lot of bills, admittedly, and I know our new Republican overlords won't allow anything to be passed until they extort their tax-cuts-for-the-rich against the popular will, but at least the dash to the finish line won't be as long as with other bills. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation helps you tell the Senate to pass the Chesapeake Clean Water Act.
Finally, as I'm sure you know, the big tax cut vote failed by seven votes on Saturday, meaning "only" 53 Senators, out of 100, voted to extend middle-class tax cuts without extending upper-class tax cuts. I'm all for the rights of the minority party and what not, but I'm not all for rule by the minority party, especially when the minority party clearly opposes the popular will in case after case after case. Mr. Obama, ever the "compromiser," appears near a deal to get the Republicans to do what they used to do automatically in exchange for doing what he said he'd never do. But no power on Earth prevents you from calling your Senators and Reps and demanding that the tax cuts be allowed to expire, while still demanding unemployment insurance and Making Work Pay tax cut extensions. Just because Mr. Obama has coupled them in a "deal," that doesn't mean you'd be a hypocrite in merely expressing your will. The politicians do not create reality merely by saying so.
The House passed its middle-class-tax-cut-extension-only bill yesterday, and the Senate will vote on it Saturday. So the People's Email Network helps you demand that the Senate only extend middle-class tax cuts. Many observers believe the Senate will not pass the bill, and they may well be right. But their predictions are irrelevant: only our will is relevant. Since the Senate also plans to vote on an extend-tax-cuts-for-everyone bill, you may want to call your Senators and tell them that if the middle-class-only-tax-cuts bill doesn't pass, you don't want the extend-tax-cuts-for-everyone bill to pass, either. That's what I've told my Senators, and yes of course I'm aware that means I'll get fewer tax cuts from the government, but it ain't all about me. It's all about what actually stimulates the economy: lower taxes for folks who need to spend all their money does pump money back into the economy. Lowers taxes for the rich only pumps money into their bank accounts. If anything, the rich need to be taxed a lot more, so they'll be more encouraged to put their money back into the economy. If it worked all during the New Deal years, why do so many corporate fools insist that it doesn't work now? (Yes, I know that question answers itself.)
Meanwhile, Mr. Genachowski gave us a purported "net neutrality" rule this week, a rule mostly notable for how little network neutrality it protects, and Mr. Obama, true to form, chirruped positively about it, though the "rule" will let corporations treat some of its network traffic as better than other traffic, which will ultimately drive anyone who can't pay up off the internet, thus effectively silencing a lot of folks (ahem!) who have a voice on the internet now. What does it say that Mr. Bush obviously wanted to gut net neutrality and didn't, but that Mr. Obama told us he'd be "second to none" in defending net neutrality and won't? It tells us, at the very least, that Mr. Obama, in this as in so many other areas, is second to Bush. So CREDO provides an action alert demanding that Mr. Obama do the will of the people, not the corporations, and protect net neutrality. Mr. Obama should know, if he cares, that protecting net neutrality is an actual bipartisan cause, one shared by Byron Dorgan and Trent Lott, by Free Press and the Christian Coalition. Of course Mr. Obama typically defines "bipartisanship" as Democrats and Republicans coming together to give corporations everything they want. He should be truly "bipartisan" and just switch parties already. Bet they all stop calling him a Socialist Nazi Communist Kenyan anti-colonialist if he does.
In other news, that 23 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors got held off for another month, but the deadline is looming again, so the Patients' Action Network helps you tell Congress to pay doctors what they need in order to keep taking Medicare. The 23 percent cut will force many doctors to stop taking Medicare, which means the health care of a lot of seniors, disabled, and military families will suffer. C'mon, Republicans! Military families! And if Republicans are so worried about how to pay for keeping Medicare payments where they out to be, they should consider, you know, not fighting so hard for their beloved tax-cuts-for-the-rich. Or perhaps they should consider cracking down on corporations who shuffle their money off to the Cayman Islands so they can avoid taxation. Or they should consider closing the "carried interest loophole" so hedge fund managers get taxed like other rich people. See, I'm not just about yelling about problems; I'm also about solutions. Republicans aren't about solutions, of course. I'm certain the difference is worth noting.
Finally (cue cheers from convention crowd!), H.R. 5381/S. 3302, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, would force auto manufacturers to improve their safety standards and disclose their cars' safety problems more efficiently. The Act would also ratchet up fines on automakers who conceal their cars' safety defects, and it would tamp down on folks moving back and forth between the auto industry and the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency. I mean, input from the automakers when making regulations is fine, but the automakers are always angling for control of the regulating process, and slowing the revolving door between industry and government gets better regulations out of government. Consumers Union helps you tell your Congressfolk to support the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. And again, I'm aware Senate Republicans have said they'll do nothing until their treasured tax-cuts-for-the-rich get passed. But they're still our Senators, so we can still tell them to act like Senators, not blackmailers.
The House may vote on a middle-class-but-not-upper-class tax cut bill today. Its introduction and passage is a complicated matter -- the Senate sent H.R. 4853, an airport funding-related bill, back to the House with an amendment, and under those conditions the House leadership can bypass most of the parliamentary arcanities the Republican minority can use to stop the bill, while also adding its own amendment stripping out the contents of the bill and replacing it with an amendment extending middle-class tax cuts but not upper-income tax cuts. As far as I can tell, it won't need a two-thirds vote to pass, either. So Americans for Responsible Taxes urges you to call your House Reps and say that a) you want them to support "the rule on the bill" and b) you want them to vote for the bill when it comes up. Of course, the Blue Dogs in the House could decide not to support the rule, or the bill. In that case, the House could very easily let the tax cuts expire -- though Mr. Obama, who still apparently believes he can work with Republicans and seems willing to give up anything and everything to prove it, might also interfere. He's going to be a one-term President solely because he tried to work with people who only wanted to destroy him. Or is that just how it's supposed to look?
Meanwhile, Consumers Union helps you tell your state's lawmakers to make health insurance corporations justify their premium increase requests publicly. Currently health insurance corporations have to ask state commissioners to ratify premium increases, but since said corporations have been jacking up their premiums for years with no corresponding increase in quality of care -- but with corresponding increases in corporate profits, CEO salaries, and bureaucracy bloating -- clearly the whole process needs more accountability to the people. Typically states keep any rate-related communications between health insurance corporations and commissioners private, and commissioners reach their decisions without any public input. These governments are ours, though, still, right? And we have the right to pressure our state governments to work for our benefit, right? A lot of corporations (and corporate apologists) would say no. That's because they love money more than they love democracy. We must fight such follies to the death.
In other news, Public Citizen helps you tell the Oil Spill Commission to recommend, in its final report due January 11, the establishment of Regional Citizens' Advisory Councils. Basically, these Councils worked pretty well in Alaska after the Exxon Valdez Spill, so why not in the Gulf? Citizens' Advisory Councils would be drawn from all the Gulf states, and they'd monitor the production and transportation of oil and recommend measures to soften the socioeconomic and environmental blows from another spillageddon. You may be wondering: isn't this the federal government's job? Of course it's the federal government's job! And if the federal government can get input from the citizens who live and work in the Gulf, citizens empowered with the authority to scrutinize the doings of the oil companies drilling in their Gulf, then the federal government can do its job better.
Finally, the AFSCME helps you demand that the "liberal" media stop enabling and/or broadcasting groundless attacks on public service employees. Look, I believe in the public sector, and that means if anyone in the public sector commits fraud, they need to be punished with a quickness, because they make everyone look bad. But to hear right-wing rubbish about how federal workers make twice as much as private-sector workers, like that's not a slam against the private sector and its multitudinous wage slaves? "Overpaid" workers didn't crash the economy, arrogant Wall Street banksters did. And let me note that Mr. Obama, again, isn't helping with his proposal for a two-year freeze on wage increases for federal workers, which won't save very much money and will do the precise opposite of stimulating the economy. The elites hate the workers, and the "liberal" media are all corporate elites now, and Mr. Obama may well be the elites' Manchurian candidate. All any of that means is that we have to fight harder.
Have you heard? Comcast won't let Netflix stream movies over its wires unless it pays a fee. See, strong net neutrality provisions would prevent that, by requiring that ISPs (like Comcast) treat every piece of traffic over its network exactly the same, without giving preference to corporations that pay (or that are forced to pay) for the privilege. You may be saying, so what? So I pay a little more! But that's not the point: the point is that you, the consumer, should have all the say as to what you'll see and do on the internet. That's the free market, for real. So both CREDO and Free Press help you demand strong net neutrality provisions from the FCC. The FCC can do this all on its own, with the authority Congress has already given it, but apparently FCC Chair Genachowski will float a very weak net neutrality proposal today, exempting wireless services from net neutrality provisions and permittiing the sort of "paid prioritzation" that Comcast wants to inflict on you. So much for Mr. Obama's claim to be "second to none" in protecting net neutrality. But his will doesn't matter; yours does. So act, and don't lose heart.
Meanwhile, the Defense Authorization bill still has Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell repeal attached, and a few Republican Senators (Messrs. Lugar and Ensign) have lately signaled that they'd support repeal. Many other Senators have said they'd like to wait and see what the Pentagon's long-awaited report on DADT repeal implementation has to say before they decide. Well, said report has finally come out (as it were), and its verdict? DADT repeal wouldn't affect the military very much at all. Hence the ACLU helps you tell your Senators to end Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell once and for all. Now I'm sure as hell hoping the Senate doesn't change the bill so the House has to vote on it again, then run out the clock on the vote so that the House that gets to vote on it is the incoming House, the one with all the right-wing nutjobs in it. Be aware that this could happen. If it does, Mr. Obama's to blame, yet again, for not fighting for what he supposedly supports. No wonder liberals stay home on Election Day!
Unemployment insurance ended yesterday, without being extended by House or Senate. Heckuva job, Congress! Both NETWORK, the national Catholic social justice lobby, and the Coalition for Human Needs provide email tools with which you may demand that Congress extend unemployment benefits for one full year. I mean, Congress didn't do anything about the unemployment, and they're not going to do anything about the unemployment what with that wonderful new gridlock we're going to have in the next Congress, so the least they can do is make sure people don't starve to death. That's the moral argument. Here's the economic one: the Economic Policy Institute informs us that unemployment insurance generates the equivalent of 723,000 full-time jobs, which is about five months' worth of jobs created, at the pace this economy's "recovering." Beyond that, it's just common sense that when you give the least fortunate a little support, they spend it, which puts it back into the economy, which helps the economy. Newt Gingrich called that "liberal math." If he thinks "common sense" and "liberal math" are equivalent propositions, he's welcome to keep saying so.
Finally, S. 729, the DREAM Act, could go before House and Senate in this lame-duck session. The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants' children who a) graduate high school, b) have lived in the country for at least five consecutive years, and c) go to college or join the military. It would not build a NAFTA superhighway, promote voter fraud, put drug gangs in your neighborhood, steal your Social Security, or whatever other right-wing fantasy gets promoted by the "liberal" media these days. So NETWORK, the national Catholic social justice lobby, encourages you to call your Reps and Senators in support of the DREAM Act -- or you can use their handy email tool.