Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Quick Hits - December 27, 2011 - UPDATED

Since it has been a while since we've looked at and recapped the latest news from the OccupyWallStreet front, today we're kicking off with some of the latest from OWS...

OccupyLondon, still engaged in court trying to prevent their eviction from the area around St. Paul's Cathedral, has occupied a disused courthouse and has announced that it will create it's own court to hold trials of the 1%. 

In an example of tolerance and respect, about 2 dozen OccupyWallStreet hecklers attempted to disrupt a Michelle Bachmann campaign appearance at an Iowa City diner by shouting her down.

OccupyWallStreet protesters, part of OccupyCharlotte, are holding meetings to plan how the organization will turn the Democrat National Convention into a Chicago-1968 style convention marked by protests and violence.  They are meeting with union officials and other potential allies.

An OccupyWallStreet activist, who is also a leading member of the trotskyist International Socialist Organization has written a screed where he makes the case that his fellow socialists should attempt to maipulate rank and file police officers to take action against the 1%:
Occupy is a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-merge the socialist and working-class movements and create a viable broad-based party of radicals, two prospects that have not been on the cards in the United States since the late 1960s and early 1970s. Occupy is broader in terms of active participants and public support and, most importantly, is far more militant and defiant. Tens of thousands of people are willing to brave arrest and police brutality...
The socialist / marxist / anarchist threads run completely through the entire OccupyWallStreet movement, particularly with their embracing of class warfare against the '1%'. Virtually all of the leading organizers, across multiple groups, are admitted socialists, marxists, or anarchists. Also let's not forget that these are also the people that motivated Barack Obama to run for political office on their behalf - and are the people that Barack Obama sought out when in University. This is the cornerstone of the Obama re-election message for 2012.

President Obama, while on vacation in Hawaii, has made a formal request for another $1.2 trillion increase in the national debt limit as the country starts pressing against the current $15.2 trillion debt limit.  Congress has 15 days to vote down the request made by the President otherwise it is automatically granted - as defined in last summer's 'debt reduction bill'.

This is as Big Government has a post highlighting '7 Devastating Facts About 2012' that looks at the national economy and effects of the President's agenda and record over the last 3 years.
  1. Every day, the US Government takes in about $6 billion and spends about $10 billion.  [This means we are spending $4 billion more than we have (and have to borrow) which is comparable to building a Nimitz carrier group every day.]
  2. The real unemployment rate is 11%.  [This does not count the 'underemployed'. ]
  3. Every 5th man you pass on your way to work is out of work.
  4. College grads are 34% less likely to find a job now than under the previous Administration.
  5. Every 7th person you pass on the sidewalk depends on food stamps.
  6. More Americans live under the federal poverty line than at any time since these records have been kept.
  7. Every 5th child now lives in poverty.
These facts reflect a very grim economic condition that is not resulting from the recession of 2008-9, but from the economic policies of the President and his supporters to 'fundamentally change' the country.

This is 'Why the US Needs a New President'...
On the night Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in November 2010, John Boehner laid out the new Congress’s key priorities: to restrain the growth of government, cut spending, reform how Congress works, and end the uncertainty in the economy to help get Americans back to work. But then he offered a cautionary note to voters: “While our new majority will serve as your voice in the people’s House, we must remember it is the president who sets the agenda for our government.”

As the first year of the 112th Congress draws to a close, it seems that Boehner, like so many other Americans, may have overestimated Barack Obama’s ability to govern. It would not be easy to say just what the president’s agenda has actually been over the past year. But House Republicans have done an impressive job of using what leverage they have had to pull Washington a bit rightward, and to set the stage for a real change of direction after 2012.
The 2012 Presidential election is going to be one of the most crucial for the future of the United States.  It is fundamentally a battle between ideology and vision - one based on collectivism and a larger, powerful, and controlling centralized government and one based on smaller government, individualism, and personal accountability / responsibility.  The past three years has seen the US lurch far harder to the left than attempted under the New Deal or the 'Great Society' initiatives of FDR and LBJ.  We are on an unsustainable path.

UPDATE - In addition to the battle for the Presidency - which means control of the agenda and the Executive Branch, the battle for Congress is also one of extreme importance.  The Democrats seek to reverse the effects of the historic 2010 change in the House, where the Republicans gained 63 seats - many of these Tea Party candidates.  The Democrats also are fighting to maintain or expand on their 53-47 (including 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats) majority in the Senate.  Of the former, the effort is based on the efforts of the Democrats to discredit the Tea Party - and run against the 'Republican Congress'.  This is an uphill fight. 

In the Senate, the Democrats have a daunting task with 23 Democrat incumbents either not running or running for re-election while only 10 Republican seats are up for grabs.  Far more of the Democrat seats are likely to be flipped based on current polling - and today's announcement by Democrat Senator Ben Nelson, a moderate Democrat, that he is retiring, reflects the challenges many are facing in their re-election bids.

Even with a fillibuster proof majority in the Senate, and a 60+ vote majority in the House, President Obama struggled to get major elements of his agenda passed through Congress.  If the President is re-elected and faces a true Republican Congress, we can expect more of what we've seen in the last year - gridlock, regulatory fiat, and renewed battles based on constitutional separation of power.

Sears Holdings, the parent organization for Sears Department Stores and Kmart Stores is reporting a sharp drop in their holiday sales compared to last year's sales information - and that it will be closing between 100 and 120 Sears and Kmart stores this year.

In the battle for the GOP Presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich is running into some more challenges as he attempts to attack Mitt Romney for his past policies - and the accusation that Romney is a 'flip-flopper'.  Memos from 2006 show that Newt Gingrich as a major supporter of the Romneycare health care initiative for Massachusetts - in particular the concept of the individual mandate..
Kaczynski. ”Individuals who can afford to purchase health insurance and simply choose not to place an unnecessary burden on a system that is on the verge of collapse; these free-riders undermine the entire health system by placing the onus of responsibility on taxpayers.”

All of the candidates for the Republican nomination that remain in the race have substantial challenges and flaws that prevent any one from getting a real traction as a front runner that can reach across the Republican party. One concern many Republican's have to have is a fear that the Party will do on the national stage what it did in Delaware and nominate a severely flawed candidate who then did as much damage to herself as that done by the media or her opponent.

In the international arena, Brazil has overtaken the United Kingdom as the world's 6th largest economy.

In Syria, the Arab League monitors are starting to arrive on site inside the country. The violence seems to be entering a new stage - and not lessening noticeably. One Arab League observer in Homs was injured by a Syrian army artillery shelling on one neighborhood in that city. It is also reported that the Syrian army now has orders to shoot suspected deserters on sight as up to 30,000 troops (10% of the total size of the army) are suspected to have deserted to take up arms against the Syrian regime. This is a far wider rebellion than the islamist upheaval against Assad's father in Homs in 1981...that one was crushed as Assad pere bombed and shelled the city into submission killing between 20,000 and 30,000 people.

Iranian naval units are beginning their main stage of their 10 day war games in and around the Straits of Hormuz...

Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is active escalating the Iraqi political crisis - and doing the bidding of Iran while he is at it...

On this day in 1979, the armed forces of the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and put in place a communist puppet government.

Today is also the 4th anniversary of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto while she was campaigning for the 2008 Pakistani general election.

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