Joe Conason writes for Salon.com: "Wearily familiar as he is with the 'vast right-wing conspiracy,' Bill Clinton says the network that sought to destroy him and his wife, Hillary, remains malignant as ever, yet lacks the might of a decade ago. 'It's not as strong as it was, because America's changed,' he told David Gregory on Meet the Press. 'But it's as virulent as it was.' Whether Clinton is correct about the current condition of his old adversaries can best be measured by the passage or wreckage of healthcare reform and the outcome of next year's congressional midterm elections -- the same early milestones that marked the beginning of Clinton's tumultuous White House tenure. Perhaps Barack Obama will be saved by political demography and decent intentions, as the former president tried to assure Gregory; perhaps he and his administration will prove less vulnerable to intrigue and propaganda and less flawed than their predecessors."
5 Crazy Right-Wing Freak-Outs in Just One Glorious Week
Brad Reed writes for AlterNet: "For reasons that I don’t understand -- perhaps it’s subconscious karmic payback for murdering children in a past life -- I feel compelled to read a lot of right-wing blogs. The wonderful thing about them is the window they offer into the pulsing id of the conservative movement -- up close and personal and without the filters of focus groups or dog whistles. For instance, do you think that Glenn Beck is insane? Oh puh-lease. Beck has precisely nothing on your typical Red State diarist or NewsMax columnist, each of whom is likely to support abolishing women’s suffrage or launching a military coup against Obama at any given time."
Follow the Money
Matt Bivens writes for Tom Dispatch: "With up to 61% of Americans, according to a recent poll, convinced that things are going badly indeed in Afghanistan and an official 9.8% of Americans unemployed, Congress is set to respond. This week, it's slated to pass a $636 billion appropriations bill for the Pentagon that will include another $128 billion for our Afghan and Iraq Wars. Meanwhile, the president and his advisors are about to consider the latest plan by our Afghan War commander, General Stanley McChrystal, to gainfully employ up to 40,000 more Americans in Afghanistan."
Unemployment Rate Is Highest in 26 Years
Dean Baker Writes for The Center for Economic and Policy Research: "The data in this report indicates that a turnaround in the labor market is not imminent. Continuing losses of jobs and declines in hours, coupled with stagnant or declining real wages, means that workers’ purchasing power is still falling. There are no further tax breaks scheduled to boost demand and state and local governments are cutting back and raising taxes to address budget shortfalls. The immediate future does not look good."
Firms are Getting Billions, But Homeowners Still in Trouble
Chris Adams reports for McClatchy Newspapers: "The federal government is engaged in a massive mortgage modification program that's on track to send billions in tax dollars to many of the very companies that judges or regulators have cited in recent years for abusive mortgage practices. The firms, called mortgage servicers, have been cited for badgering, manipulating or lying to their customers; sticking them with bogus fees, or improperly foreclosing on them. Mortgage servicers are the middlemen between homeowners and the investors that hold their mortgages, collecting homeowners' checks and disbursing payments for the mortgages, property tax and insurance. They're a necessary player for any modification.
Frustrated Homeowners Turn to Media, Courts
Alexandra Andrews reports for ProPublica: "Qualified homeowners are being routinely denied loan modifications through the Obama administration's Making Home Affordable plan, but they have little recourse to correct the mistaken denials, housing advocates say. In the absence of an effective appeals process, some borrowers have improvised their own solutions: They turn to journalists or congressmen - or take Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to court."
Flush with Cash From Bank Lobbyists, Conservative Dems Are Killing the Consumer Protection We All Need
Zach Carter writes for AlterNet: "The House Financial Services Committee is full of loudmouthed conservative ideologues and right-wing eccentrics. Just about every time the panel meets, you can expect to hear a long sermon about anything from the price of gold to the sanctity of Wall Street CEOs' obscene paydays. Earlier this year, the top Republican on the panel, Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, made a public embarrassment of himself when he went around boasting to reporters about the secret list of congressional "socialists" he had compiled."
Film Review: Capitalism Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry
Peter Scheer reviews Michael Moore's new film Capitalism: A Love Story for Truthdig: "Michael Moore’s latest look at what’s wrong (and right) with America is a lot better—and a lot more radical—than some of the brie-eaters reviewing it think. It’s a cry from the soul of a man who sees the whole country turning into his hometown hell of Flint, Mich. That seems like egomania to some. David Denby of The New Yorker writes that Moore is 'mesmerized by Flint’s tragedies.' But Moore is right. This recession, with its rampant foreclosures, imploding auto industry, greedy fat cats and dazed and desperate commoners, has been highly reminiscent of the director’s first film, the classic Roger and Me.
Unions in a Rut
Gary Engler writes for Counter Punch: "Unions are stuck in a rut that seems to be getting deeper every day. We are losing members to layoffs, plant shutdowns and to bankruptcies that are the result of a worldwide financial crisis. Our membership and influence are shrinking at exactly the moment when union power is needed to protect millions of workers from wage rollbacks, outsourcing, unemployment and the devastation of entire communities dependent on single industries."
Afghanistan - The Black Hole
Lauren Drablier comments for Nieman Watch: "Talk of the ghost of Vietnam, the possible disintegration of NATO, waning public support and an ever expanding theater of war has the international press asking the question as to whether the war in Afghanistan can ever be won, and what actually, winning would mean. Many argue that the situation is only getting worse in a place that has never shown mercy on invaders. Afghanistan, now dubbed the ‘black hole’, is looking less like a victory over ‘hearts and minds’ and more like a very expensive failure for everyone involved."
Obama 'Furious' at General Stanley McChrystal Speech on Afghanistan
Alex Spillius reports for the Telegraph UK: "According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week. The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago's unsuccessful Olympic bid."
Bizarro World: Karl Rove Blasts Obama for "Outsourcing Afghanistan"
Jeremy Scahill writes for RebelReports: "Rove blasting anyone for outsourcing anything is like David Vitter lecturing the losers exiting a strip club about the evils of prostitution. Now this just simply could not be made up in that Frankenstein laboratory where the cuckoos on the right wing cook up their witches brew of batshit crazy allegations to levy against Barack Obama."
Sakena Yacoobi's Vision for Afghanistan
Marcia G. Yerman writes for The Women's Media Center: "Sakena Yacoobi is on a mission. Her goal is to bring education to Afghanistan, a country that has a 70 percent illiteracy rate. Her main focus is girls and women. She believes education can ameliorate the ravages of 35 years—and counting—of war. She speaks with an urgency that emanates from that core conviction. To 'build a better future for Afghanistan,' she founded the Afghan Institute of Learning in 1995. “Empowerment” is the key word in all of her NGO’s literature. Yacoobi, who serves as the chief executive of A.I.L., was one of 1,000 women to be nominated as a joint recipient of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. She is featured in Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl DuWunn’s new book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunities for Women Worldwide."
What Really Behind Conservative Columnist George Will's Call for a Total Withdrawal from Afghanistan?
Byard Duncan writes for AlterNet: "On Sept. 1, conservative columnist George Will published a seemingly out-of-nowhere, eye-popping op-ed for the Washington Post titled, "Time to Get out of Afghanistan." The piece, which called for "a comprehensively revised policy" involving drastic troop reductions, prompted a battery of rebuttals from right-wing pundits."
Getting Sick, Dying Quickly
Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, and Zaid Jilani write for The Progress Report at Think Progress: "It's my duty and pride tonight to be able to announce exactly what the Republicans plan to do for health care in America," announced Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) on the House floor Wednesday night. Taking out a chart, he continued, "Here it is. The Republican health care plan for America: 'don't get sick.' If you have insurance don't get sick, if you don't have insurance, don't get sick; if you're sick, don't get sick. ... If you do get sick America, the Republican health care plan is this: 'die quickly.'" The speech generated instant controversy as offended Republicans accused him of degrading "the integrity and proceedings of the House" (even though GOP lawmakers have been making absurdly false claims on the floor about Democratic plans for months). While Grayson later admitted that his hyperbole was "tongue-in-cheek," he stood by his statement and refused to apologize...to the GOP. "I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner," Grayson said, referring to the thousands of Americans who have died because they lacked health insurance. Grayson's comments highlighted a sad truth: Too many Americans get sick and face crippling medical debt as a result of either having no health insurance or having to pay high premiums charged by private insurers. Unfortunately, the Republican solution is to keep the status quo or make the situation even worse."
Making Tragedy out of Farce
Maric Cocco writes for Truthdig: "The Full Employment for Filmmaker Michael Moore Act is coming soon to a theater near you. Well, not exactly. But by exquisite coincidence, Michael Moore was in Washington this week promoting his latest comedic exposé of greed, corporate malfeasance and our government’s complicity in the unbridled assault on working America that led us into the Great Recession. “Capitalism: A Love Story” fortuitously previewed to select audiences just as the Senate Finance Committee was amending the proposed America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009. The panel obligingly provided hours of potential footage for Moore’s next cinematic assault on the system."
Climate Change: Food Supply Hangs in the Balance
Stephen Leahy reports for Inter Press Service: "Rocketing food prices and hundreds of millions more starving people will be part of humanity's grim future without concerted action on climate change and new investments in agriculture, experts reported this week. The current devastating drought in East Africa, where millions of people are on the brink of starvation, is a window on our future, suggests a new study looking at the impacts of climate change. 'Twenty-five million more children will be malnourished in 2050 due to effects of climate change,' such as decreased crop yields, crop failures and higher food prices, concluded the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study."
Pentagon Airs Criticism of 'Don't Ask'
Bryan Bender reports for the Boston Globe: "An article in the Pentagon’s top scholarly journal calls in unambiguous terms for lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the armed forces, arguing that the military is essentially forcing thousands of gay men and women to lead dishonest lives in an organization that emphasizes integrity as a fundamental tenet."
Ugliness on the Right
Ruth Conniff writes for The Progressive: "Republicans and the conservative media should think twice about the frantic irrationality they are courting with their attacks on Obama and the Democrats. From the 'birthers' who question the president's US citizenship to the town-hall-meeting shouters stirred up about creeping 'socialism' in health care reform, we now arrive at the wingnut suggestion on Newsmax of a possible military coup."
Another Fox News Witch Hunt: "Safe Schools Czar" Kevin Jennings
Ellen writes for News Hounds: "Channeling Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity has been on his own McCarthy-like witch hunts against the Obama administration. Hannity’s special target du jour last night (and not for the first time) was “safe schools czar,” Kevin Jennings. Hannity is not the only Fox News host targeting Jennings and Jennings is not Hannity’s only target. But like Van Jones before him, Hannity and Fox News guests and contributors have relied not on anything Jennings has done on the job but have dredged up old quotes from him and used them to taint him as unsuitable now. Not so coincidentally, they never fail to extend the taint to President Obama for hiring such a person. Joseph McCarthy would have been so proud."
Many Americans Remain Distrusting of News Media
Gallup Polls reports: "Less than half of Americans (45%) say they have a great deal or fair amount of confidence in the media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly -- on par with last year's record-low 43%. About 2 in 10 Americans (18%) have no confidence in the media at all -- which is also among the worst grades Gallup has recorded."
NPR Launches New Online Local Journalism Venture with CPB and Knight Foundation Funding
The John S and James L Knight Foundation announces: "NPR will launch a new journalism project to develop in-depth, local coverage on topics critical to communities and the nation, in a new effort funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the groups announced today. The new funding – $2 million from CPB and $1 million from Knight Foundation – provides a pilot group of NPR stations with the resources to expand original reporting, and to curate, distribute and share online content about high-interest, specialized subjects. It is the first time that CPB and Knight Foundation have jointly funded a project of this type. The two-year pilot will help a dozen stations establish themselves as definitive sources of news on a topic selected by each one as most relevant to its community, such as city politics, the changing economy, healthcare, immigration or education. These online reports will help fill the growing gap in local news offerings."