President Obama gave another great speech at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., setting out a five-point program to rebuild the economy and restore the middle class by investing in infrastructure and bringing more manufacturing jobs back to America; providing a high-quality education for our children and training for workers; help struggling homeowners refinance their mortgages; help workers provide for a secure retirement; and implement the Affordable Care Act to give families and small businesses security in their health care needs. It was an entirely reasonable speech and prompted frequent applause and several standing ovations, particularly when he talked to the college crowd about making higher education affordable.
Obama called his proposal “A Better Bargain for the Middle Class.”
Unfortunately, the President faces implacable opposition from Republicans in Congress, as he has since 2010, when, as Charles Pierce observed at Esquire.com, “the American people put their brains in a jar and elected a House Of Representatives full of Louie Gohmerts and a Senate minority for which Bob Bennett of Utah was Che Guevara.”
Before Obama even took the stage, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) took the Senate floor to “prespond” to the President’s speech, portraying it as a partisan pandering to “radical elements” of his base.
“He’ll probably try and cast this as some titanic struggle between those who believe in ‘investing’ in the country and those who supposedly want to eliminate paved roads, or stop signs, or whatever ridiculous straw man he invents this time,” McConnell said, according to Politico.com. “Give me a break. There is a real philosophical debate going on in our country, but it’s not anything like how he imagines it.”
The day before Obama’s speech, a House Appropriations subcommittee moved to cut the EPA by 34% and eliminate Obama’s newly announced greenhouse gas regulations. It cuts financing for the national endowments for the arts and humanities in half and the Fish and Wildlife Service by 27%, the New York Times reported (7/24).
House Republicans propose to cut the Department of Labor 13%, Amtrak 33%, the IRS by 24%, the SEC by 18%, EPA clean water grants by 83%, low-income education grants by 16%, community development grants by 50%, alternative energy development by 75% and 100% of the Affordable Care Act. They also propose to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. These are tough bills,” Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) told the Times. “His priorities are going nowhere.”
Senate Republicans are circulating a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), drafted by Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, warning that they will not approve any spending measure to keep government operating after September if it devotes a penny to put in place the Affordable Care Act.
If Democrats get a budget through Congress by 10/1, the next challenge will be raising the government’s statutory borrowing authority, which is expected to run out in October or early November. Republicans have said they will not let the debt ceiling be raised without concessions either on entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, or overhaul of the tax code. “We’re not going to raise the debt ceiling without real cuts in spending,” House Speaker John Boehner said (7/23), according to the Times.
Pierce observed that “the House majority produced its wish-list that absolutely will become law the first chance they get to enact it. They do no bluff. This was no posturing. This is what they believe good government is, and it is what they will do to the country if they ever get the power. This was the trailer for the eventual disaster movie.”
Dispatch notes that even if voters were inclined to do something about it, they’re stuck with this dysfunctional Congress for another year and a half. As Pierce noted, “This is what happens when you don’t pay attention during midterm elections.”
WHITE HOUSE STILL HOPING FOR ‘GRAND BARGAIN.’ The White House is still holding out hope that a grand bargain on the budget is possible with Republicans who broke with their leader, Mitch McConnell, to negotiate a bypass of the filibuster on President Obama’s nominees. Republican senators meeting with Obama’s top aides to revive his vision of a grand bargain include Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson (GA), Bob Corker (TN), Lindsey Graham (SC), John Hoeven (ND), Richard Burr (NC), and of course, John McCain (AZ).
National Journal reported (7/17): “Everybody’s trying to assess whether we can accomplish something that would be big,” said Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, who has attended the meetings. “Big is reforming entitlements and it’s impossible to see a path where you get additional revenue without tax reform being part of it.”
This fall, the country will hit its debt limit and be unable to pay its bills unless Congress authorizes additional borrowing, NJ noted. Republicans plan to use the debate over raising the debt limit to force Democrats to cut spending — a negotiation Obama has said he won’t engage in. But these meetings demonstrate that the president is, in fact, engaging Republicans in a broader discussion about debt and spending.
An administration official said White House aides have made clear to Republicans that the president’s offer from December — including $600 bln in new tax revenue for $400 bln in Medicare and other health care cuts — still stands.
That offer also includes the chained CPI Social Security cut, Joan McCarter noted at DailyKos.com (7/20). “If there’s good news in this, it’s the same as has always been on the grand bargain: The crazies in the House will remain adamantly opposed.” She added, “The bad news is obvious: President Obama still sees offering up Medicare and Social Security as the sacrifice to compromise a valid option.”
Remind your senators and/or Congress member that supporting a cut in Social Security or Medicare benefits — even the “chained CPI,” which limits cost-of-living adjustments — is a good way to attract a primary opponent.
SENATE RACES TAKING SHAPE. Democratic hopes to retain control of the US Senate took a blow recently when popular former Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) announced he would not run for the seat that Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is giving up.
The current Senate has 52 Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Dems and 45 Republicans. Next year 21 Democrats and 14 Republican will be up for election, but one of them is an interim senator from New Jersey who probably will be unseated by a Democrat in an October special election, so Republicans would need to pick up seven seats to displace the Democratic majority.
To win the Senate majority, Republicans will have to “run the table” in their target states: Alaska (vs. Sen. Mark Begich), Arkansas (vs. Sen. Mark Pryor), Louisiana (vs. Sen. Mary Landrieu), Montana (open with the retirement of Baucus), North Carolina (vs. Sen. Kay Pryor), South Dakota (open with the retirement of Sen. Tim Johnson) and West Virginia (open with the retirement of Sen. Jay Rockefeller).
Democrats hoped that Schweitzer would go for the Senate seat, but he told the Billings Gazette (7/13), “I’m used to being in charge of things, getting things done. Unfortunately, the US Senate is a place where things die.” In the past, he has said he “wasn’t senile enough” to be a US senator.
He added, “I love Montana. I like my life in Montana right now. I’ve had eight years of public service.”
The most likely Republican in the Montana race is US Rep. Steve Daines, who is in his first term representing the statewide district. Dems interested in the race include state Auditor Monica Lindeen, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, state Rep. Franke Wilmer, EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock, Lt. Gov. John Walsh, state Supreme Court Justice Mike Wheat and former state Sen. Mike Halligan.
Democrats hope to win back three seats now held by Republicans. The easiest shot is in New Jersey, where Gov. Chris Christie named Jeffrey Chiesa as Republican interim senator after Sen. Frank Lauterberg (D) died and set a 10/16 special election. Newark Mayor Corey Booker is the favorite to win the special election, though US Reps. Rush Holt and Frank Pallone and Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver also are running in the 8/13 Democratic primary. Other Democratic pickup possibilities include Georgia and Kentucky, though those are rated long shots.
In Georgia, Michelle Nunn announced (7/22) that she would run as a Democrat for the seat Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) is giving up after two terms. Nunn, 46, is the daughter of Sam Nunn, who held that seat before Chambliss. Otherwise Michelle Nunn is a first-time political candidate who founded the Points of Light Foundation, inspired by former President George H.W. Bush to promote volunteerism, and has built the foundation up to employ 130.
Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal Constitution noted (7/22) that Republicans hold every statewide office in Georgia, but understand that the state’s rapidly changing demographics threaten that hold. “To Democrats, the Georgia contest represents one of only two potential Senate pick-ups in 2014. The other is Kentucky. The race [in Georgia] could determine whether Democrats retain control of the chamber,” he said.
Another Democrat, Branko Radulovacki, an Atlanta physician, also is planning to run while former state Sen. Steen Miles of DeKalb County is also considering a run in the Democratic primary, Galloway wrote. “But Nunn, with a last name that bespeaks Georgia centrism, is the candidate most Democrats with money will bet on.” Four Republicans already in the contest include Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, Haren Handel and Jack Kingston.
In Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) faces a tea-party challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin in the Republican primary. A group of 15 local tea party groups criticized McConnell’s “Progressive Liberal voting record, his absolute iron-fisted rule over the Republican Party in Kentucky and his willingness to roll over and cede power to President Obama and the Liberals in Washington.” Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is running as a Democrat and ought to be able to run a competitive general election campaign.
GLOBAL WARMING COULD RAISE SEA LEVEL 65 FEET. A study published in Nature Geoscience (nature.com/ngeo) by researchers from Imperial College London and their academic partners shows that 3 to 5 million years ago in the Pliocene era, the last time it was as hot as it is going to be in this century, arctic ice shelf melting caused a sea level rise of as much as 20 meters (65 feet). At 65 feet sea level rise, Juan Cole noted at JuanCole.com, an interactive map shows “we basically lose Louisiana and most of Florida” (or at least the coastal and low-lying areas, including the Mississippi Valley past Natchez, Miss., and nearly to Monroe, La.), as Beaumont, Houston and Corpus Christi, Texas, to the west and Mobile, Ala., and Panama City, Fla., to the east. Dispatches is pleased that Austin will remain well above sea level, but there’s no telling what sort of superstorms the elevated temperatures will brew.
NEW LEVEL OF HYPOCRISY FOR GOP REPS. Fourteen House Republicans received farm subsidies but supported a GOP effort to strip food assistance for the poor from the farm bill. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) reported (7/22). The GOP lawmakers received a total of $7.2 mln in farm subsidies since 2004, but all voted for an amendment that would kill the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps), Miller noted.
The farm bill originally included funding for SNAP, but when it failed to get enough votes in the House in June, Republicans stripped food stamp funding from the bill to gain enough GOP support for passage. In July, on a partisan vote, the farm bill passed without nutrition assistance for 47 mln Americans.
Only one of the 14 members listed in the report, Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), voted against the bill when it included SNAP benefits but for it once SNAP was removed, Ginger Gibson noted at Politico.com (7/22).
Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.) has received a total of $3.5 mln in farm subsidies, according to the Environmental Working Group. According to his congressional filings, his net worth is between $204,995 and $1.1 mln. And 22% of the residents of Fincher’s home county receive food stamps.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) received $1.7 mln in farm subsidies and resides in a county in which 11% of the population receives SNAP benefits.
Other Republicans who received farm subsidies but voted against food stamps included Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), Rep. Stephen Fincher (R_TN), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Rep. John Kline (R-MN), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA), Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Rep Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Rep. David Valadao (R-CA).
The typical household receiving food assistance has a gross monthly income of only $744, and their average monthly SNAP benefit is just $281, Miller noted.
STUDENTS WILL PAY MORE UNDER LOAN COMPROMISE. The Senate passed a compromise bill that would link student loan interest rates to the financial markets (7/24). The vote was 81-18. Students taking out federal loans this year will have a 3.86% interest rate, slightly higher than the 3.4% rate a majority of Democrats voted to preserve, but was blocked by a Republican filibuster, Joan McCarter noted at DailyKos.com. Under the deal negotiated with Republicans, the rate can increase as high as 8.25% for undergraduates, 9.5% for graduate students and 10.5% for PLUS loans available to parents as the economy improves.
An amendment offered by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to cap the rates at 6.8% for undergraduate Stafford loans and 7.9% for graduate and PLUS loans failed 46-53. Another amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would have sunsetted the new interest rates after two years was defeated 34-65.
“At a time when the average student is graduating from a four-year college $27,000 in debt, when hundreds of thousands of capable young people no longer see college as an option because of high costs and when the US is falling further and further behind our economic competitors in terms of the percentage of young people graduating from college, this legislation will make college even less affordable than it is today,” Sanders said.
Sanders also cited a Congressional Budget Office report that the revenue raised from the steeper loan rates will mean “huge profits” for the federal government of some $184 bln over the next decade. CBO estimated the bill would reduce the deficit by $715 bln over the next decade.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said it was the best deal Democrats could reach with Republicans; otherwise the rate would stay at 6.8%. “This is not a bad deal for students,” he told AP. “If we don’t pass this, students will pay 6.8% on their loans. With this bill, they’ll pay 3.86%. You tell me which is the better deal.”
KING SEES BAD DREAMERS. The tea party’s point man in the House immigration debate, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), warned that Republicans should not fall for the argument that the US should go easy on DREAMers — immigrants brought to the US as children.
“Some of them are valedictorians, and their parents brought them in,” King told Newsmax in an interview (7/18). “It wasn’t their fault. It’s true in some cases, but they aren’t all valedictorians. They weren’t all brought in by their parents.”
“For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” he continued. “Those people would be legalized with the same act.”
King added, “There isn’t anyone that can fairly characterize me as anti-immigrant. That’s a label that the open-borders people have tossed around. They’re conflating the terms anti-illegal immigrant and anti-immigrant as if it were the terms healthcare and health insurance.”
Republican leaders distanced themselves from King’s remarks (7/24), with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) calling them “hateful language.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) “strongly disagreed” with King’s “inexcusable” comments. Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said King’s comments were “irresponsible and reprehensible.”
But Cantor and Labrador were among 221 Republicans who voted in support of King’s amendment (6/6) that would reverse the Obama administration’s decision to suspend deportations of DREAMers. It passed 224-201. (Boehner, as speaker, didn’t vote.)
OBAMACARE DRIVES N.Y. INSURANCE COSTS DOWN. Health care premiums on the individual market will tumble by at least 50% as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the New York Times reported (7/17). The state joins Oregon, Montana, California, and Louisiana in reporting lower than expected rates in the law’s new health care marketplaces.
Economists expected the law to significantly decrease premiums in the Empire State, which in 1993 prohibited insurers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions, required carriers to charge “all consumers the exact same rate,” but did not compel young and healthy people to enroll in coverage. As a result, insurers dramatically increased prices and enrollment in the individual market “steadily diminished.” Today, just 17,000 New Yorkers “buy insurance on their own.”
Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower, as state officials estimate as many as 615,000 individuals will buy health insurance on their own in the first few years the health law is in effect. About three-quarters of those people will be eligible for the subsidies available to lower-income individuals, the Times reported.
The exchanges are creating “a very different dynamic” for insurance companies, Sabrina Corlette, a professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reform, told the Times. “[I]t’s prodding them to be more aggressive and competitive in their pricing.”
The White House also noted that 8.5 mln Americans are going to get a check from their insurance company this summer as a rebate for overcharging on their premiums. Under Obamacare, at least 80% of your payment has to go to your care. If your insurance company doesn't meet that goal, they have to send you a rebate for the difference. In 2012, 8.5 mln consumers received $504 mln in refunds, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported. Moreover, 77.8 mln consumers saved $3.4 bln on premiums as insurance companies operated more efficiently compared with 2011.
SENATE REVIEWS BANK COMMODITY PLAYS. In 2003, the Federal Reserve decided to temporarily allow banks to purchase commodities directly. That means oil, electricity, copper, aluminum, etc. That regulatory relaxation is set to expire in September, and if it does, a big chunk of Wall Street’s business will expire with it, Linette Lopez wrote at BusinessInsider.com (7/23). Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said at a Senate Banking Committee hearing that she wants Wall Street’s role in the global commodities business majorly diminished.
“I share the concern of many of my colleagues about asset managers at huge Wall Street banks exercising control of key parts of America’s infrastructure,” Warren said. She decried the idea that banks would use “other people’s money” in pension and retirement savings “to pave the way for big banks to be able to control an electric plant or an oil refinery.”
A few days earlier, the New York Times reported (7/21) that Goldman Sachs has allegedly been using its aluminum warehouses to manipulate the price of the metal.
Additionally, JP Morgan is in negotiations with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, a federal energy regulator, to settle charges that its traders manipulated energy markets in the western US; they could pay up to $410 mln.
The committee heard from witnesses including Saule Omarova, associate professor of Law at the University of North Carolina, who cautioned against renewing the Fed’s 2003 decision. Omarava said that when Congress separated banking from commerce in 1956, they sought to prevent markets like the one we’re in.
“In this ... over-the-counter derivative oil market I suspect Goldman Sachs can actually manipulate price,” said Omarava. “They could also affect the price of physical oil if they own tankers ... I’m all for the DOJ launching an anti-trust investigation into these matters ... If this is the market where JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are playing, it makes me very uncomfortable as a banking attorney.”
Charles Pierce wrote at Esquire.com, “I follow this stuff fairly closely, and I had no real idea that, for example, Goldman Sachs has gone into the aluminum siding business. I expect to see Lloyd Blankfein on my front porch, sweating through his gabardine, and telling me of the advantages in never having to paint my house again.”
OHIO GOV. WANTS MORE TAX BREAKS FOR RICH. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) wants to get the top income tax rate below 5% a few weeks after he signed a budget that cut income taxes 10% for top earners while increasing sales taxes that disproportionately impact the poor by 4.5%. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy analyzed the budget and found that it cuts the overall tax burden of the top 1% of Ohio earners — those making more than $335,000 annually — by $6,083 per year. Folks in the middle of the state’s spectrum — $33,000 to $51,000 earnings — will see just a $9 tax cut. But for the poorest fifth who earn less than $18,000 per year taxes will go up by $12.
Kasich proposed to expand Medicaid eligibility to the working poor. The Republican legislature stripped the expansion out of the measure, replacing it with language that would prevent such an expansion, but Kasich used his line-item veto to strike that restriction, leaving the possibility of broadening the health care safety net in the state when the legislature comes back into session.
NEW PURDUE PREZ TRIED TO BAN ZINN. Mitch Daniels pledged to promote academic freedom, not stifle it, when he became president of Purdue University in January. But when he was governor of Indiana in 2010, Daniels celebrated the death of liberal historian Howard Zinn and demanded that Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States,” one of the country’s most widely read history books, be banned from Indiana classrooms and sought a cleanup of college courses he called “propaganda,” the Associated Press reported (7/16). Daniels also talked about cutting funding to a program run by a critic, Charles Little, an Indiana university professor.
In an email sent (2/10/10) to top state education officials, including then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett, Daniels wrote, “This terrible anti-American academic has finally passed away,” referring to Zinn’s death on 1/27/10. “The obits and commentaries mentioned his book ‘A People’s History of the United States’ is the ‘textbook of choice in high schools and colleges around the country.’ It is a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”
When an aide found the book was used at an Indiana University course for teachers on the civil rights, feminist and labor movements, Daniels approved a proposal to “Disqualify propaganda and highlight (if there is any) the more useful offerings.”
In a separate round of emails, AP noted, Daniels called for an audit of Little, who teaches at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Little was highly critical of Daniels’ education overhaul in internal emails and often critiqued the governor’s performance at public meetings.
Zinn was a bombardier in World War II who attended New York University on the GI Bill and received his Ph.D. in history with a minor in political science from Columbia University in 1958. After teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta and participating in the Civil Rights movement, he took a position at Boston University in 1964 and retired in 1988 as professor of political science. (Daniels got his B.A. from Princeton University in 1971 and a law degree from Georgetown University in 1979. His main claim to fame was his two years as George W. Bush’s budget director from January 2001 to June 2003, when he helped turn a $236 bln federal budget surplus to a $400 bln deficit.)
Juan Cole, who teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, noted that many historians have problems with Zinn’s text. “But the way to deal with them is to teach it against critiques or alternative points of view. Banning books or arguments on merely ideological grounds, which is what Daniels apparently wanted to do, is the opposite of a liberal arts education. Where an argument is wrong or pernicious, scholars should debate it and learn how to show what is faulty in it. Daniels’ attitude is a mirror image of that of the apparatchiks in the old Soviet Union on the look-out in books like Doctor Zhivago for bias toward the business classes.”
FARMERS OBJECT TO CHINESE TAKEOVER OF SMITHFIELD. The National Farmers Union is opposing the proposed acquisition of Smithfield Foods, a leading pork processor, by Shuanghui International, a Chinese firm. “The proposed buyout of Smithfield by a Chinese interest is extremely alarming to NFU members across the country,” NFU President Roger Johnson wrote in a letter to US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew (7/19). “Uncompetitive markets in the pork and beef industries have had a dampening effect on the ability of family farmers and ranchers to stay in business.”
In 1980, there were 660,000 hog farms in the US. Today there are only 67,000. In 2011 alone, approximately 2,300 hog producers went out of business, the NFU said.
“The costs of the acquisition far outweigh the benefits to Americans, and the security of our domestic food system is threatened by foreign control,” said Johnson. “ I urge [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, which Lew chairs] to set a bold precedent – that the administration values our farms, our food, and our rural economies so much that the federal government will stand up to a takeover of a large swath of our agriculture industry.”
If the sale is permitted to move forward, Shuanghui would take control of a very large portion of the US pork industry. Smithfield currently controls 15% of domestic pork production and 26% of pork processing in the US.
BLUMENTHAL JOINS TV CONSUMER FREEDOM ACT. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced (7/23) that he will join Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) as a co-sponsor of the Television Consumer Freedom Act (S 912), which would allow customers the option of selecting and paying for only the channels they want, instead of being forced to pay for channels they never watch. The bill would not prohibit bundling as an option for customers. It would also create competition by giving programmers an incentive to sell their channels to new online distributors, and it would give distributors more incentives to compete outside of their traditional markets.
Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement: “Sen. Blumenthal is standing up for millions of cable customers by co-sponsoring the Television Consumer Freedom Act. This bill would help consumers everywhere who are paying high prices for dozens — sometimes hundreds — of channels they don’t want and will never watch. We look forward to working with Sens. Blumenthal and McCain to bring real competition and real choices to cable subscribers.”
SUPER PACs READY FOR 2016. Long before any candidates announce their presidential bids, the next race for the White House is unofficially underway. Political operatives for two independent groups — American Bridge 21st Century on the left and America Rising on the right — are already tracking potential contenders, aiming to build robust research files that can be used against the opposition, Matea Gold reported in the Washington Post (7/22). The organizations are part of a wave of super PACs, advocacy groups and even for-profit corporations that are poised to play their biggest role yet in national politics. They are launching opposition research projects, mobilizing volunteers and even helping to recruit candidates — further eroding the primacy of the official party hierarchies in the process.
NO EASY SOLUTIONS IN EGYPT. The US was blamed by all sides in Egypt as the opposing factions appear to be settling in for the long haul, as the Muslim Brotherhood mounted large demonstrations in Cairo and several other cities (7/19) demanding the reinstatement of deposed Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi.
“Those who are happy to see him gone, including millions of youth of the Rebellion Movement, Coptic Christians, working-class people hurt by his economic policies, and Mubarak regime leftovers, have less reason to demonstrate, since they have what the want,” Juan Cole noted at JuanCole.com (7/20). “Still, some came out to Tahrir Square in Cairo to show support for the transition to a new, elected government. In some provincial cities, there were clashes between the two groups, and a few deaths were reported.
“At one point, thousands of Muslim Brothers surged toward the barracks of the Republic Guard, where Morsi is rumored to be held, but their path was blocked by the Egyptian military.
“Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has been pressing the interim Egyptian government for answers as to why Dr. Morsi is being imprisoned and whether he will be charged and tried.
“One of the most troubling aspects of the movement that overthrew Morsi was that it eventuated in a military coup (not what the youth were demanding) rather than in a recall election. That is, the Rebellion/Tamarrud Movement just wanted a new election in which Morsi had to defend his right to the presidency, after a year in which he acted arrogantly and high-handedly. The military in turn has arrested a number of Muslim Brother leaders and is holding them without charge and without any early prospect of being charged or tried. All this extra-legal detention is likely intended to put pressure on the Brotherhood to accept what I have called the ‘revocouption’ with grace. But it is also weakening the rule of law in Egypt, which needs to be restored.
“The huge crowds on Friday were intended to signal that the Brotherhood has no intention of accepting the change in government.”
Cole added, “There is no reason to think that the Muslim Brotherhood will cease demonstrating any time soon, though to be fair, the interim authorities say they do not have a problem with that if it remains peaceful. If Egypt really goes back to having elections for serious candidates, it seems clear that the Brotherhood can only remain relevant by swallowing their pride and contesting. Egypt can only go forward by allowig that peaceful contestation.”
Another casualty of the revocouption was the reputation of Al-Jazeera Arabic, from which 22 Egyptian journalists in Cairo resigned (7/10) in protest against its Fox-News-like biases in reporting on recent events.
“Aljazeera English usually still does a good job, having a different editorial line and generally good reporters, often former BBC or ABC reporters,” Cole noted (7/11). But their publication of a frankly brain dead feature article purporting to show US support for anti-Morsi political forces is sheer conspiracy theory and very bad, unbalanced journalism.
“All the piece shows is that the US State Department program in ‘democracy assistance’ granted small amounts of funding to … surprise! democracy activists in Egypt. Many of the instances of such grants that the article mentioned actually occurred in the Hosni Mubarak period, and Mubarak often punished the pro-democracy groups that received such funding.” Cole added, “if it weren’t for US mutual relations with youth groups like April 6, the 2011 revolution might have been opposed by Washington and Morsi would never have escaped Mubarak’s prison at Wadi Natroun in the first place.”
Egypt’s elite, including both the army and the Muslim Brotherhood, is so xenophobic and so conspiracy-minded that they even passed a law against perfectly innocent foreign funding of non-governmental organizations and jailed people who were involved in it, Cole noted.
He also noted that Morsi was overthrown by the Rebellion or Tamarrud Movement, which was founded in late April by networked youth who apparently had nothing to do with the United States.
US Ambassador Anne Patterson was denounced by the youth activists as pro-Muslim Brotherhood when she called on Rebellion to cancel their planned June 30 demonstration, and the Obama administration lobbied Gen. al-Sisi not to make a coup, and argued for Morsi’s democratic legitimacy.
From The Progressive Populist, August 15, 2013
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