HomeUncategorizedNovember 4-6 News Roundup and Open Thread

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wi65orlbucfanpolarbear4Paul ADKBenny Recent comment authors

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Paul ADK

The only solution here is a two state solution. That should remove any justification for attacking Israel. Not that I think it would stop attacks, but then that would be an incident between nations, and Israel would then be more justified in crushing the offender.

But crush, now, when Israel has instigated the conflict but continuing to expand settlement into occupied territory and the world will ultimately judge Israel rather harshly. Especially since Netanyahu has been making fascist moves on the judiciary and what’s left of democracy in Israel in general.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating any kind of crushing. I say life is too short, live and let live. But that’s not going to change a thing.

orlbucfan

+270!

Benny

Bernie Sanders says Senate should use aid package to force Israel to change

Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday the United States should use aid to Israel as leverage to force its government to change its approach.

“If you want this money, you got to change your military strategy, Sanders (I-Vt.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked about a possible aid package for Israel to be considered by the Senate.

But the two senators who followed Sanders on that program were much more concerned about what Iran might be up to than what Israel is doing.

Sanders condemned both Hamas (“an awful terrorist organization”) and the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (whom he hopes will be voted out), calling for a two-state solution to the intractable crisis but not specifying how to create a path forward without Hamas, Netanyahu or war.

Saying “Hamas has got to go,” Sanders said Israel needed to “go after Hamas but do not kill innocent men, women and children.”

He emphasized: “We’ve got to stop the bombing now.”

When pressed by host Dana Bash on how it was possible to destroy Hamas without inflicting some level of civilian casualties, Sanders said military experts would be needed to explain that.

Sanders supported former President Barack Obama’s recent statements about how the situation in the Middle East required introspection and nuanced analysis. “If you want to solve the problem, then you have to take in the whole truth. And you then have to admit nobody’s hands are clean, that all of us are complicit to some degree,” Obama said in a recent interview.

Sanders backed Obama’s characterization of the situation as “a very complex issue.”

While decrying empty slogans on both sides of the conflict, Sanders also declined to endorse or condemn Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-Mich.) criticism of President Joe Biden — she accused him of supporting “genocide” — even as he said attention needed to be paid to the rhetoric of Republicans on the subject, citing former President Donald Trump.

“If anyone thinks that Trump is going to be better than Biden on this issue or any other issue, for that matter, I think they are sorely mistaken,” he said.

The two senators who followed Sanders on “State of the Union” were much more supportive of Israel and offered a different legislative priority, a resolution designed to deter Hezbollah attacks on Israel from Lebanon by threatening Iran, Hezbollah’s chief backer.

“It basically says,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said of the resolution to be introduced, “if the war expands, if Hezbollah opens up a second front in the north against Israel in a substantial way, to overwhelm the Iron Dome, then we should hit the Islamic republic of Iran. There is no Hamas without the Ayatollah’s support. There’s no Hezbollah without the Ayatollah’s support.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said of the resolution: “It’s aggressive, but it’s absolutely necessary.”

Graham rejected criticism of Israel for its conduct of the war, equating it to the way the United States conducted World War II after being attacked by Japan.

“One thing I want to say for sure is Israel is not engaged in genocide,” Graham said.

For his part, Blumenthal encouraged a humanitarian pause in the fighting, citing not only the need to help the citizenry of Gaza but also the release of the more than 200 Israeli captives.

He also said a visit to Israel after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on civilians in southern Israel, which launched the current fighting, had been eye-opening.

“What we heard and saw was harrowing to us,” Blumenthal said.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) also assailed Hamas but said there could be benefits to working directly with the Palestinian people.

“What we have to do is not speak to Hamas, they are intolerant,” he said. “We have to speak to the Palestinian people. We have to give them hope. We have to give them an aspiration so that they will break with Hamas.”

I’m not surprised at all that Bernie would clarify his remarks and works by leverage. He’s right of course.

Benny

orlbucfan

Kudos to Bernie’s Byedone comment, but I still won’t vote for SloMoBrain.

orlbucfan

Well, Graham is an idiot, we all know that one. I recall mag’s comment that Blumenthal could be a bit of a boob. Both Bernie and Reed are correct. I can hear the two FL Senate yahoos right now: nuke the Palestinians. 🙁

polarbear4
polarbear4

i hope this video is brian berletic–i recommended him for ukraine, but this time he discusses how hamas was created, with citations. interesting.

this second link is aljazeera explaining the balfour declaration establishing isreal. very interesting. lots of violence and broken promises. I’m having some internet trouble, so i can’t scroll, but i think it was around then that the nakba happened.

https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2018/11/2/more-than-a-century-on-the-balfour-declaration-explained#:~:text=What%20is%20the%20Balfour%20Declaration,the%20Jewish%20people%E2%80%9D%20in%20Palestine.

i don’t support what hamas did, and i completely don’t support what isreal has been doing for years and is now doing. am also reading your posts re this. even if don’t rec.

mostly i’m just busy. this year i’m with a very autistic 6 year old whom i love and who keeps me completely occupied except for a small time with a kinder girl, as well.

add in health, family (my son and i had a successful mediation-yay! lots still to go, if he continues to want this….in coos bay so a trip for us both), keeping up with the international news from my sources, and it doesn’t leave time to really hang out here. love you all.

orlbucfan

Will check out your links, pb4!!! It is ABsolutely FABulous to hear from you!!!!!!!! 🙂

orlbucfan

T and R x 3, jcb!! 🙂 Thanks for hosting our Nest. Has winter hit your area yet? I’m starting to see the good news on the NHC site: “Tropical activity is not expected in the next 48 hours.” That’s weather geek for the storm season is finally starting to wind down. Hip-Hip-Hooray!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Benny

Ghost of Reuther Past

Both prior to and then during the UAW’s strike against the Big Three auto companies, union president Shawn Fain all but summoned the ghost of his legendary predecessor, Walter Reuther, to inspire his members with tales (historically accurate tales, at that) of the union’s heroic past. As the leader of a slate of officers that had only recently ousted much of the incumbent regime, Fain’s invocations of the Reutherites helped to root his members’ and the public’s perception of his crew of insurgents not as malcontented rookies but as students of past victories, working to renew them on a very different terrain.

The UAW’s current victory is of a scale and scope that merits comparison with the victories that Reuther’s team won in the quarter-century that followed World War II. First, it’s important to note that both the Reutherites and Fain and his colleagues were upstarts who had to oust an opposing faction to win control of the union, and then deliver substantial gains to the members to justify their victory.

The core of the Reuther crew was comprised of socialists and social democrats, who for several years in the 1940s battled an incumbent regime that was backed by members of the Communist Party. (There being a very finite number of socialists and communists in the union, each was in coalition with numerous activists, secondary leaders, and so on who were neither.)

As the union’s vice president in charge of its General Motors division at the end of World War II, Reuther staked his claim to leadership during the 1945-1946 strike he led against GM, which featured some of the most radical demands an American union has ever made. GM, he argued, could raise wages (which had been held in check by law during World War II) by 30 percent without raising the price of its cars. When GM said it couldn’t afford that, Reuther demanded that the company open its books for public inspection, and even successfully prodded the Truman administration to do its own assessment. The UAW members at GM—more than 300,000 of them; GM was then the nation’s largest employer—stayed out for more than 100 days before accepting a wage hike just below the figure that Truman’s commission said wouldn’t cause prices to rise.

Reuther argued that there was a way to avoid future disruptions: reconstitute corporate boards so that they contained not just representatives of the shareholders, but also of workers, consumers, and the government. This was one helluva bridge too far for GM and American business, of course, though Reuther never fully abandoned it in theory if not in practice (it was never presented at any subsequent negotiations).

Building on the momentum of the GM strike, however, Reuther won the UAW presidency a few months after it had ended, though the board remained in control of the opposition faction. Following a year of brutal infighting between the two camps, Reuther’s legions swept the board elections at the following year’s convention. Then, in 1948 and 1950, the union won historic victories that set the standard for American labor for the next 30 years, with wage increases, cost-of-living adjustments (which were proposed by GM to forestall more sweeping union proposals), health insurance, additional annual wage increases keyed to increases in national productivity, and defined-benefit pensions.

The UAW’s current victory is of a scale and scope that merits comparison with the victories that Reuther’s team won in the quarter-century that followed World War II.
Like the Reutherites, Fain and his cohorts had to wrest control of the UAW from an incumbent regime, though the lines of this conflict did not, at first glance, seem to be drawn around political concerns. After a several-year period during which a number of UAW leaders, including two former presidents, were convicted of misappropriating funds (and in some cases, taking bribes from management), a reform movement called Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) took shape. UAWD saw their chance to elect a clean slate (in both senses) of officers when, as the result of a deal that federal prosecutors reached with the union, rank-and-file members, rather than convention delegates, would elect their leaders for the first time in UAW history. But the UAWD didn’t confine itself to demands for fiscal probity; it also became a force to reverse the downward spiral of wages and benefits that the union had failed to arrest for many years.

Just as the Reutherites had schooled themselves in Socialist Party conclaves and the militant working-class perspectives of Brookwood Labor College, the cadre in the UAWD and on Fain’s staff once he was elected had apprenticed at such institutions as Labor Notes publishing and gatherings and the Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigns (a direct echo of Walter Reuther’s 1936 work on socialist Norman Thomas’s presidential campaign). Both of these cadres encountered some skeptical receptions as ostensibly exotic growths in the ranks of American labor, but both brought a level of militance and savvy that the labor movement of their respective times badly needed. Then, and more so now, a number of unions have had talented radicals on their staffs. But the number of unions with new regimes having to prove themselves in the manner of the 1947 and 2023 UAW is never very large. (In 1948, the sociologist C. Wright Mills actually wrote a book largely about Reuther’s newly installed socialist cadre at the UAW, called The New Men of Power.)

Some of the gains the UAW has made over the past two weeks simply restore Reuther-era gains that had been lost in recent times, like the COLA. Some eliminate concessions the union agreed to in the depths of the Great Recession, like the establishment of a lower-paid tier of workers. Some extend the scope of the contracts to include workers at new facilities, such as EV and battery factories. (The contracts in Reuther’s day included all new GM, Ford, and Chrysler factories; the companies hadn’t yet tried to weasel out under the cover of joint ventures, which didn’t exist at the time.)

The UAW’s contract with Stellantis even includes language affecting some of the company’s investment decisions, a goal that Reuther favored but never fulfilled through his proposed recomposition of corporate boards. In the proposed contract (on which the rank and file will vote, as they will on the contracts with GM and Ford), Stellantis commits to reopening its shuttered factory in Belvidere, Illinois, and to investing in new EV facilities that will be covered under the contract.

In the wake of such victories, Fain has vowed to roll the union on: to organize the “transplant” auto factories of German and Japanese automakers in the South, and the Tesla factories in California, Nevada, and Texas. During Reuther’s lifetime (he was killed in a plane crash in 1970), there were virtually no non-union auto plants in the U.S., but he was a constant advocate for organizing workers in any and all industries in the non-union South. That was one reason why he so irked AFL-CIO President George Meany, who viewed organizing, given labor’s strength at the time, as a waste of union resources.

I don’t mean to equate Reuther and Fain as such. When he talks to his members, Fain sounds a little more like the first UAW president, the Baptist minister Homer Martin, than he does like socialist autodidact Reuther. But there are some broader parallels between the climate in which Reuther worked and the climate today. For one, the early UAW benefited from support by the Roosevelt administration, which didn’t send in troops, as its predecessors would have, to break their foundational sit-in strikes of 1937. Today, if the UAW is to overcome the immense hurdles posed by the half-century of eviscerating workers’ protections under labor law, it will be partly due to the Biden administration’s efforts to revive those protections.

Moreover, as in the 1930s and ’40s, so it is today that the public’s support for unions is at a very high level. The yawning gap between the rich and the rest of us, which was so apparent in pre–New Deal America and so politically salient during the New Deal years, has again become an issue of public—not just labor and academic—concern at least as far back as 2011’s Occupy Wall Street movement. Like Reuther in the 1930s and ’40s, Fain uses the language of class war; like Reuther, he uses it at a time when it resonates with a hefty share of the American people. Like Reuther, he knows when the iron is hot, and the UAW will do what it can to keep it burning.

Benny

Dave Dayen

Student Debt Relief’s Narrow Path

The Biden administration promised not to give up on debt cancellation after the Supreme Court rejected their first attempt. They promised that a new system of income-driven repayment (IDR) would mitigate the return of student loan payments.

We’re now several weeks into both of those projects, enough time to make some early assessments. The scope for debt cancellation has narrowed, and the savior that IDR was supposed to become has thus far not delivered as advertised. Still, the Education Department is cobbling together a framework for student loans that would be a real improvement, if it follows things through to their logical conclusion.

A week ago, the Education Department released a draft set of rules for student debt relief, arising out of the negotiated rulemaking process under the Higher Education Act. That process, which seeks consensus from a range of stakeholders, continues today as a second round of meetings begin.

The department has proposed four different provisions of debt relief. Borrowers who have federal student loan balances that are higher than the original principal amount because of compounded interest would have them reset to that principal threshold. Borrowers who have been paying for 25 years or more would have their balances fully forgiven. Borrowers whose loans were for career training programs at schools that did not deliver gainful employment would have their balances waived. And those who were eligible for debt forgiveness through existing programs, but never signed up for that relief, would be granted access to that forgiveness.

If you think of this as a system, these elements make a lot of sense, if applied on an ongoing basis. That would mean that student loans would have a 25-year term, that borrowers would effectively be automatically enrolled in forgiveness programs, that balances could not exceed the original principal as long as all payments were made, and that nobody would have to pay for enrolling in a worthless education program.

One of the draft rules, the one about waiving balances for career training that did not deliver, is envisioned as permanent. It would be an extension of the gainful employment rule released this September, which sets minimum thresholds for a successful career training program (at least half of graduates must earn more than a typical high school graduate in their state who never sought postsecondary education). This mainly cracks down on for-profit colleges that churn out diplomas without benefiting graduates. Colleges that fail the gainful employment standard twice in a three-year period lose access to student loans; students in those colleges would get debt relief.

But two of the other rules are one-offs, intended to help prior borrowers while assuming that changes to the system will prevent new borrowers from slipping through the cracks again. That’s an optimistic assumption.

For borrowers whose balances have increased beyond the initial level, the Education Department wants to reset them down to the level of what was borrowed as a one-time intervention. The administration didn’t make this an ongoing provision because they already established the new SAVE program, which has a cap on interest to prevent debt from ballooning over time. That makes sense if everyone is enrolled in SAVE, but so far that hasn’t happened. In September, the Education Department touted four million new enrollees in SAVE, but more than three million of them were carried over from previous income-driven repayment plans. The millions of borrowers remaining in ordinary payment programs can still see interest accumulate, putting them in the same position the administration wants to prevent.

The automatic-enrollment provision suggests a recognition that private student loan servicers are simply unequipped to handle the transfer of mass numbers of borrowers into more favorable programs.
Similarly, forgiveness for those with over 25 years of payment history is a one-time offer, again because the administration expects everyone to enroll in SAVE, which forgives balances after 25 years at most. This actually works together with the provision that makes borrowers who never signed up for forgiveness programs eligible for forgiveness; in theory, that should protect everyone.

But there is a hard cliff in the current proposed 25-year rule. Per the language, if a borrower has reached 300 months of payment as of July 2025, they are eligible for full forgiveness; if they’re at 299 payments at that point, they get nothing. Advocates are sure to argue that an artificial cliff is unworkable and unfair, to get the White House to rethink it.

The Education Department could do a lot with the automatic enrollment in forgiveness programs rule, like using public data matches to identify those eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. But the framework raises three important, and related, points.

First, it’s clear that the Education Department trimmed its sails on mass debt relief in the wake of the first Court ruling. The new plan, which will affect substantially fewer borrowers than the initial plan did, covers what the administration believes are its strongest defenses from the Supreme Court rejecting debt relief again. “These are all about fixing legacy problems with the system, and making sure that borrowers who are not able to navigate this mess have the ability to cancel debt,” said Mike Pierce of the Student Borrower Protection Center.

The Biden administration has already canceled $127 billion in debt for more than 3.5 million borrowers. That massive amount of low-hanging fruit was all based on existing forgiveness programs that haven’t been challenged in court. In his opinion in Biden v. Nebraska, Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged that the Education Department can cancel or reduce loans “in certain limited circumstances and to a particular extent”; we’ll see if he deems the new plan among the allowable options.

Second, the automatic-enrollment provision in particular suggests a recognition that private student loan servicers are simply unequipped to handle the transfer of mass numbers of borrowers into more favorable programs. It doesn’t seem that they’re able to handle the resumption of payments, either. Last week, the Education Department withheld scheduled October payments from MOHELA, one of the more notorious servicers, after it sent billing statements to borrowers too late, causing over 800,000 delinquencies. All of those borrowers were placed in forbearance (meaning they do not have to pay their loans for a certain period) until the matter is resolved, and those months in forbearance will still count as active months for loan forgiveness programs.

The Education Department also found incorrect billing statements from MOHELA, and other borrowers with pending forgiveness actions being placed back into repayment. But withholding a contractor payment that will inevitably be paid is hardly a major punishment. And the MOHELA mess reveals what has been obvious for months: The servicers have no economic incentives to properly service these loans. In fact, the incentives run in the other direction, toward reducing labor costs, weakening customer service, and papering over serious errors that harm borrowers.

How to deal with this brings us to the third point—the mysterious fifth group of debtors. In its release last week, the Education Department identified a separate group of borrowers who could be eligible for debt relief: “those who are experiencing financial hardship that the current student loan system does not currently adequately address.” It’s unclear what would be offered for this group or how big it would be, as “financial hardship” is pretty nebulous. Maybe it means restoring the right for student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. Maybe it’s something else.

But it’s clear that the longer someone stays in the student loan system, the more exposed they are to potential servicing errors, meaning that their hardships couldn’t be addressed. And the only way out of that would be either freedom from private servicers, or from the student loan system itself. After all, a 25-year term loan, without accumulated interest, with automatic enrollment in the most favorable plan and extinguishment if the college is predatory, sounds good, or at least better than how things work today. But it’s only as good as the private company administering the program.

This too will affect the Gen X and potentially Gen Z voters for next year.

orlbucfan

What a mess! I’m glad my college loan days are far, far in the past.