fresh voices from the front lines of change







Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to affect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.

Kagan Nomination Announcement Expected At 10 AM ET

NYT summarizes WH strategy on Kagan nomination: "...Mr. Obama was not looking for a liberal firebrand as much as a persuasive leader who could attract the swing vote of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and counter what the president sees as the rightward direction of the court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr."

Lawyers, Guns' and Money's Paul Campos laments lack of record detailing constitutional views: "...a lifetime appointment to the Court should require more than having lots of friends in high places. Meriting such a position should involve clearing a very high evidentiary bar."

Salon's James Doty counters arguing, "Evidence is not entirely absent.": "There are, for example, indications that Kagan would join Anthony Kennedy and the court’s left-leaning members in stringently reviewing the president’s terrorism-related actions. In 2005, for example, she and three other law school deans (including Harold Koh) sent a sweeping letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee repeatedly and forcefully denouncing unreviewable executive power ... The richest source of clues about Kagan’s ideology is her First Amendment scholarship, which, along with Kagan’s other writings, suggests that her views mirror those of the court’s left-leaning members."

Bank lobbyists fret over tough derivatives reform. NYT: "Bankers and Congressional aides say the provision is likely to be weakened or removed, in part because the Obama administration and leading Democrats are concerned that it would diminish oversight of the derivatives marketplace. But the bankers and aides also agree that the focus on derivatives has increased the chances that other controversial proposals will pass, including a ban on 'proprietary trading,' or trading in their own accounts ... Opponents of the Lincoln [derivatives] provisions still must persuade senators to vote for a change that could be portrayed as softening the financial legislation. Only Republicans have expressed public opposition."

Small biz exemption from consumer protection agency likely to pass. Politico: "To qualify, the business must extend credit only for nonfinancial goods or services, qualify as a small business under current law and not securitize its credit. The credit must stay on its books or be sold to a collection agency. Snowe worked with Dodd and Treasury Department officials on the amendment. And it lines up with much of what the National Federation of Independent Business is pushing for."

Sens. Levin and Merkely plan amendment to ban banks betting against clients. WSJ: "[The senators are] drafting legislation to prevent conflicts of interest by 'prohibiting companies from taking the opposite side of the deal for their own account,' at least when they are marketing investments they have created themselves ... Thomas Hazen, a University of North Carolina law professor who has written a treatise on securities law, predicted there would be opposition from investment bankers to such a far-reaching change. ... 'This seems to be a reasonable way to get at the most problematic aspects of the conflict situation, but it depends on how they define being on the other side,' Mr. Hazen said. If the provision isn't carefully drafted it could be possible for bankers to sidestep the prohibition by using multiple transactions, he said."

Broad consensus for Sanders-Dodd fed audit compromise. NYT: "The chief proponent, Senator Bernard Sanders, an independent from Vermont, agreed to insulate the Fed’s decision-making on interest rates from official second-guessing. But the Fed would be compelled by Dec. 1 to divulge the names of all the companies that benefited from the emergency lending programs. The consensus seems to be generating sufficient bipartisan support to win approval. The White House, the Treasury Department and the Fed have signaled that the amendment is acceptable to them."

Alternet's Les Leopold says financial reform should not cater to Warren Buffet: "He's taken to defending the biggest shysters in the country — and argues that his own questionable derivatives should be shielded from government regulators."

Climate Bill Expected Wed., As Oil Still Gushes In Guld

CQ reports Sens. Kerry and Lieberman will unveil climate compromise, but oil drilling issue and other details still unresolved: "Lieberman said he and Kerry have yet to work out how to rewrite the drilling title in a way that can win GOP votes without driving off liberal Democrats ... Lieberman said he hopes some [key industry] people will appear with him and Kerry this week. But a spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute said the group has not seen legislative text. A spokesman for [T. Boone] Pickens said a scheduling conflict will keep him away. And it seems unlikely that BP, which helped write much of the bill’s oil title, will be in a position to help the senators promote legislation this time around ... They said they would send the bill to the EPA for an economic analysis [but an EPA] spokeswoman said it was not clear whether the language included enough detail to run economic models."

BP PR/lobby blitz not persuading drilling skeptics in Congress. Bloomberg: "For now, BP’s efforts haven’t prevented lawmakers of both parties from saying a March 31 proposal from the White House to expand offshore drilling is all but dead. Also, at least five congressional panels plan to hold hearings. Tomorrow, Lamar McKay, chairman of BP America Inc., will answer questions from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the environment and public works panel."

No clear plan to stop leak. McClatchy: "...a 78-ton steel and concrete box known as a cofferdam that took two weeks to build, rested useless on the seafloor [leaving] an outpouring of oil that will go on for perhaps three more months before a relief well can intercept the leaking one and seal it."

NYT's Paul Krugman blames anti-government attitude for weak drilling regulation: "...there is a common thread running through Katrina and the gulf spill — namely, the collapse in government competence and effectiveness that took place during the Bush years ... it’s already obvious both that BP failed to take adequate precautions, and that federal regulators made no effort to ensure that such precautions were taken."

Dean Baker notes there was government action, in favor of oil companies: "The problem was a government policy that effectively expropriated property rights from the people in the region and gave BP and other would be polluters the right to do damage without providing compensation."

Climate Progress pinpoints the "underlying causes" of the oil disaster:: "Hubris, recklessness, and arrogance ... if BP turns out to be guilty of malfeasance, too — violating its federal permit — as the NYT suggested — then you’d have the Four Horsemen of Oilpocalypse."

Third Way Is The Wrong Way's Roger Hickey corrects Third Way op-ed that charged progressives with fiscal irresponsibility: "There is one thought in the Kim-Cowan op ed that every progressive completely agrees with: they say we can deal with growing deficits 'only if we generate the kind of supercharged economic growth we had in the 1950s and mid-¹60s.' Exactly. But how do these Third Way Democrats propose to achieve that kind of growth? Their program is austerity for the paycheck class (cutting spending on vital domestic investments) and tax cuts for business and the wealthy ... there is nothing pro-growth about tax cuts that further enrich the wealthy but starve our schools and allow our infrastructure to crumble."

Pete Peterson's hysterical deficit projections challenged by UMass-Boston prof Tom Ferguson in The Real News: "All these guys' deficit projections, they begin to get scary decades out. And by simply varying the growth rate, you can produce almost any set of numbers you want." (via Naked Capitalism)

Defense Sec. begins squeeze on military spending. Politico: "To maintain the size and health of the services, Gates is recommending a $10 billion cut in overhead costs for fiscal year 2012 that would upend how the Pentagon does business –reducing the number of general officers it promotes, consolidating agencies, and increasing military health care premiums. And he’s continuing to tell the military it needs to change the way it thinks about weapons systems."

William Rivers Pitt argues we can end the recession by ditching a $31 billion program for non-functional military helicopters: "Just dumping the Osprey program would have given us enough money to pay for the disasters in Tennessee and the Gulf, with a whole lot left over to help those affected by the recession and the Wall Street thievery."

New American Media's Linnie Frank Bailey says America's senior citizens need a second stimulus: "Out of the $787 billion in stimulus money, just $120 million, or less than 0.01 percent, went to senior employment, although older Americans are returning to work in greater numbers. The Recovery Act did provide $100 million for nutritional programs for older Americans, and SSI recipients got an extra one-time check for $250 as part of the stimulus. While that might have paid a few bills, [ National Indian Coalition on Aging's Anthony] Bell says, $250 is a 'a mere pittance to seniors who are struggling with job and housing issues.'"

Health Care Implementation Update

Sen. Rockefeller sees insurers trying to illegally pocket premiums instead of spending on health care. Politico: "Under the new health care reform laws, 85 percent of subscriber premiums must be spent on medical costs in the group insurance market and 80 percent in individual plans ... Rockefeller, alongside consumer advocacy groups, worry that insurers will re-categorize administrative spending as medical, so as to inflate their numbers without spending more on medical costs of consumers ... Rockefeller recommends requiring insurers to 'demonstrate that these expenses will improve health care quality as the term is currently defined and understood by a consensus of groups that…establish health care quality standards.'"

NYT edit board urges crackdown on unnecessary increases in premiums, after attempt by Anthem Blue Cross: "This hodgepodge of controls over premiums needs to be backstopped by a national law that would allow the federal government to block unjustified rate increases where state officials lack the authority to do so ... There is no evidence that Anthem deliberately cooked the books [but it] is daunting how much effort was required to dig out these discrepancies, and it’s revealing that it required a truly independent review to find them."

Definition of "grandfather" in law hotly debated. McClatchy: "Under the law, existing, or 'grandfathered' health plans are exempt from several consumer protections, including a requirement that beginning as early as September prohibits health plans from charging co-payments and other cost-sharing for certain preventive health services such as immunizations and cancer screenings. The issue has touched off a debate over how grandfathering is defined ... Consumer groups say that if the definition is too lenient, many Americans won't get the full benefit of the law ... some business groups say that if their plans have to forfeit their grandfather status, they'll be subject to all the new rules that raise costs and premiums."

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