President HopeyChangey gave a State of the Union Address again. It wasn't a Real State of the Union, but that's no surprise. I didn't listen to it, and I figured to expect even less than promised when I found out White House hack David Axelrod is running around saying "There are millions of jobs that are available and others that are emerging that require skills that people don't have now and if they had them they could fill those jobs." Everyone knows by now that this is a lie, of course. Mostly people are talking about what Obama didn't say.
"What Obama Ignored About The 'Lowest Unemployment Rate In Over 5 Years' [...] That's because a large part of the most recent decline in December was the result of 347,000 people giving up the search for work entirely and dropping out of the labor force. Such a decision helps the unemployment rate look better on paper, since it pushes those people out of the unemployment picture altogether. But in reality, it is not a great sign for the millions struggling to find work. [...] Old-fashioned job creation does account for some of the drop in the unemployment rate, but many of those jobs aren't great. In fact, 75 percent of the jobs created roughly midway through 2013 were part-time, and half of the jobs created in the past three years have been of the low-wage variety." Complete with scary graph of labor participation.
RJ Eskow, "On Wall Street, Sounds of Silence From the President [...] "Here are some of the words and phrases that did not appear in President Obama's speech: 'Wall Street,' 'bank,' 'regulation,' 'fraud,' 'settlement,' 'investigation,' 'too big to fail,' and 'Glass-Steagall.' He didn't mention the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the Dodd/Frank financial reform bill. He didn't discuss the cynical attempts to roll back financial reform in Congress - attempts that are supported by members of both parties - much less insist that those attempts be defeated."
Bill Moyers discuss the matter with David Simon, who said, "The horror show is we are going to be slaves to profit. Some of us are going to be higher on the pyramid and we'll count ourselves lucky and many many more will be marginalized and destroyed." (Find the Matt Miller piece mentioned, "The real state of the union is inescapable", here.)
I saw people complaining that Obama didn't talk about the TPP, which seemed odd because I thought everyone already knew Obama was doing his damnedest to keep the whole thing off the public radar. Be that as it may, he apparently (note I still haven't been able to bring myself to read the stupid speech) did say something, because Yves says: "Obama made yet another pitch in State of the Union Address for his gimmies to multinationals known as the TransPacific Partnership and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Today that idea went down in flames, at least as far as getting the deals done this year are concerned." Because, amazingly, Harry Reid appears to be digging in his heels about it. Of course, this is Harry Reid, whose backbone I never had much faith in, but he does seem to be looking at electoral odds lately. And Ron Wyden, who was supposed to be one of its backers, seems to be switching sides, too: "And although it received much less media coverage, matters for Obama got even worse because Ron Wyden signaled he's not on board either. This matters because Wyden is taking over as the chairman of the Finance Services Committee when Max Bacus becomes Ambassador to China."
Also at Naked Capitalism, Lambert on How Tom Perkins Transgressed the Unwritten Law - If you've noticed the kerfluffle of the poor, harried rich guy who complained in The Wall Street Journal that criticisms of the wealthy amount to a "progressive Kristallnacht", and how he suddenly got in trouble with some of his own people, Lambert explains why: He acknowledged class.
CMike found this rather astonishing debate, "What's Next in the Snowden Saga?", in which Fred Kaplan makes no sense whatsoever. He transcribed a bit of it in comments.
Meanwhile, Digby and Scott Lemieux on "The Big Chill" imposed by mass surveillance.
Thomas B. Edsall reviews a book: "Thomas Piketty's new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, described by one French newspaper as a 'a political and theoretical bulldozer,' defies left and right orthodoxy by arguing that worsening inequality is an inevitable outcome of free market capitalism. Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, does not stop there. He contends that capitalism's inherent dynamic propels powerful forces that threaten democratic societies. Capitalism, according to Piketty, confronts both modern and modernizing countries with a dilemma: entrepreneurs become increasingly dominant over those who own only their own labor. In Piketty's view, while emerging economies can defeat this logic in the near term, in the long run, 'when pay setters set their own pay, there's no limit,' unless 'confiscatory tax rates' are imposed."
"James Clapper Suggests Journalists Could Be Edward Snowden's 'Accomplices' [...] Snowden claims that he's won and that his mission is accomplished," Clapper said, according to a transcript from the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, posted by the Washington Post. "If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents that have not yet been exposed, to prevent even more damage to U.S. security."
I don't think de Blasio is sounding much like who people thought they were voting for: "New York Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a heartfelt speech praising Israel at a private gala event hosted by AIPAC at the Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan Thursday night, the local website Capital New York reported. According to an edited audio recording obtained by the site (below), de Blasio said that 'part of his job description is to defend Israel' and that it is 'elemental to being an American, because there is no greater ally on earth, and that's something we can say proudly.'
- "Debtors prison in PA [...] Wodarski and a half-dozen other defendants contacted said they were sent to jail for costs they didn't have the money to pay. This is illegal, according to Vic Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania. 'What is perfectly clear under both the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure is that you cannot send someone to jail if they cannot afford to pay the fine,' Waldzak said, 'because that's the equivalent of having a debtor's prison - of putting someone in jail simply because they're poor.'
- What a fracking company did to one activist: You have to see this to believe it"
David Atkins notices that the plutocrats seem to have lost Politico with their whining and night terrors: "No kidding. They should be worried. All but the worst of the Objectivist Randroids know at some level that they're being compensated wildly out of proportion to their contributions to the economy. Some, myself included, would even argue that much of the modern financial industry is directly counterproductive to broader economic health. They also understand that their obscene wealth isn't the anodyne result of growing the pie, but constitutes a direct theft of the pie at the expense of everyone else. And most of them have enough experience of history to know that when things get unequal enough in a society with a big enough middle class, the results range from broad progressive economic reforms to bloody revolution."
Coyote vs. Acme, Plaintiff's Opening Statement: "My client, Mr. Wile E. Coyote, a resident of Arizona and contiguous states, does hearby bring suit for damages against the Acme Company, manufacturer and retail distributor of assorted merchandise, incorporated in Delaware and doing business in every state, district, and territory. Mr. Coyote seeks compensation for personal injuries, loss of business income, and mental suffering caused as a direct result of the actions and/or gross negligence of said company, under Title 15 of the United States Code Chapter 47, section 2072, subsection (a), relating to product liability."
D. tells me in comments that " Speaking of CSNY, Graham Nash did some talking at the Commonwealth Club; there's a podcast. Robert Reich also spoke there on inequality." (I especially liked the Everly Brothers stories, but the kids singing made me cry.)
I just discovered Clyde McCoy's "Sugar Blues". I had never heard of Clyde McCoy, but now that I have, I'm planning to make his work my soundtrack for a while.
PSA: Due to spammers, I'm now blocking posts by "Anonymous". Make up a screen name, for chrissakes.
It's hard to avoid making little connections like this, but on the occasion of what would have been my father's 100th birthday, Pete Seeger died, and both of these men were more special to me than I feel able to say. I learned the news on Facebook, where a couple of my friends (the real-life flesh kind) briefly reminisced. The first one I saw was from Dave Hartwell:
The greatest living American folk musician has died. His music and performances meant more to me than I can easily articulate, even before I knew his name and heard the Weavers on the radio as a child. Once, at the Hudson River Revival he asked permission to sit on the ground next to me to listen to Ani DiFranco. He politely called me "sir." I was honored. He had more charisma on stage than anyone I ever saw in person, and somehow less ego. He respected the music of others and performed it as well as his own. He was publicly generous to others. I feel lucky to have had him alive for so much of my life.Steve Simels has a little guest memorial from his "old college roommate" Peter Eisenstadter over at PowerPop.
Susie posted Bruce Springsteen's tribute from Seeger's 90th birthday, and this.
Of course, "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" was one of the first songs I ever learned to play, and then "If I Had A Hammer", and eventually his musical rendition of Ecclesiastes 3, "Turn! Turn! Turn!".
People keep playing Pete Seeger's performance of "This Land is Your Land" - and yes, I did once hear him perform it live - but we all know that's a Woody Guthrie song, right? (Just to show you how much things have changed, we learned this song in school, although admittedly they skipped some verses when they taught it to us.)
Pete Seeger believed it was always time to organize, to inspire, to do the work, and he kept doing it right up until the end.