Published: Saturday 6 September 2014

In order to inform the present, one must know the past. On the GOP's website they write about the party's history, claiming that the party “began in a little schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin, in 1854 [when] a small group of dedicated abolitionists gathered to fight the expansion of slavery, and they gave birth to a Party dedicated to freedom and equal opportunity.” Beyond the name of the party as “Republican” which was supposedly inspired by the Democratic-Republican Party which lasted from 1789 to 1825, and which conveyed “a commitment to the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” they write that the party was formally organized “by thousands of anti-slavery activists at a convention in Jackson, Michigan” and its convention happened two years later. From here, they give a rosy history, writing about the presidencies of Lincoln, McKinley, Grant, T. Roosevelt and Taft, Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush I and II, how the early women's right's movement was supposedly tied to the GOP, and declaring that “Republicans believe individuals, not government, make the best decisions; all people are entitled to equal rights; and decisions are best made close to home.” Beyond this view which obviously supports the GOP, it is important to question the roots of the party itself. Was it really organized by a small group of abolitionists? Or was there someone else there as well? These questions, among many others is what this this article attempts to answer.

 

The first book I turn to is John Nichols's book, titled The “S” Word, who even spoke about his book to a meeting of the Socialist Party South Central Wisconsin back in February 2012. This was also a book I vaguely remember ...

Published: Wednesday 9 October 2013

The Republican howling about 'Obamacare' continues with little change in emphasis, although their 'Obamacare'-driven government shutdown qualifies as a change in emphasis. Predictions of increased insurance premiums, one of the more strident and emotional outcries since the unveiling of the Affordable Care Act, have framed this concern in Republican terms. They've used a few methods, among them:

1. Lying by omission. GOP 'Obamacare' attacks fail to lay out the historical context of premium increases. It would maim their argument if they did. You will find an excellent graph of health cost data from 1999 through 2012 here. The display includes visually startling information about workers' wages, their contributions to their health insurance premiums, the path of their wages and overall inflation. The picture isn't pretty.

Note that premiums rose 172% in the 13 years from 1999 to the end of 2012. There was no abatement, and much of the increase was insurance company profitability. which has soared. The ACA addresses this through the

80/20 rule, which went into effect right after the Affordable Care Act became law. So right now all insurance companies must spend 80-85% of premium dollars on actual health care costs. Not administrative costs or paperwork, not fancy offices, not profits, not CEO compensation, not insurer agent commissions—actual health care. And if an insurance company fails to do so, it must send a rebate back to the consumers it overcharged, either in the form of a check or lower premiums.”[

Published: Monday 27 May 2013

Presently both the House of Representatives and the Senate command America’s attention for all the wrong reasons; and the cynicism of the GOP is astounding as they compare Obama to Nixon, the IRS and Benghazi scandals to Watergate, and are calling for the President’s impeachment.

By the way, this is the same party that impeached Bill Clinton (an exemplary leader) from the White House, and even Newt Gingrich, who was the leading advocate in the House for Clinton’s impeachment in 1998, acknowledges Congress's overreach in the process.

Anyway, drifting back to the present, they've been endless hearings on Benghazi as the GOP desperately tries to uncover any lapse in leadership within the Obama administration; and with a greater intent in targeting Hillary Clinton - who served as Obama’s Secretary of State during the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, and who is almost certain to be the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016.

Instead of the current blame-game the GOP is pushing in the political arena, why aren't they primarily concerned with ensuring greater safety for American diplomats stationed around the world? And why haven’t they dedicated their attention to finding the perpetrators in Benghazi and bringing them to justice?

Next considering the IRS scandal, we can safely accept it as another flamboyant display of GOP malarkey, as investigations in the House continue to pour more time and resources in attempts to tie this scandal to President Obama.

To begin with, 501(c) (4) tax exempt organizations are improperly defined under our current tax code, and if anything, Congress should implement clearer and stricter laws for anyone who abuses the system.

Published: Tuesday 26 February 2013

 

"Mr. Mica said of his House colleagues,

'They wouldn't vote on a Mother's Day resolution
if it had extra spending on it.'"

In August 2012, Mark Thoma, economist and Fellow at the American Century Foundation, commented on the incontrovertible need for U.S. infrastructure investment. He was stunned by Congress's inability to fund it, even though it would surely boost to the general economy, a supposed goal of the GOP:

"The first is infrastructure spending. We cannot afford to fall behind the rest of the world in terms of our infrastructure development, but that’s exactly what we are doing. At a time when interest rates are as low as we are likely to see, when labor and other costs are minimal due to lack of demand during the downturn, and when the need is so high, why aren’t we making a massive investment in infrastructure, which is ultimately an investment in our future? There are many, many public investments we could make where the benefits surely exceed the costs – these are things the private sector won’t do on its own even though they are highly valuable to society – so what are we waiting for?

Particularly confusing for Thoma - and for most of us - is the Republican blockade of infrastructure spending when, in fact, it betrays their own professed beliefs in supply side economics:

"If there’s any policy Republicans ought to be able to support, it’s infrastructure spending. It’s inherently a ...

Published: Monday 28 January 2013

 

While addressing the Republican National Committee (RNC) last Friday in Charlotte North Carolina, another "intellectual leader" of the Republican party, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, got lost in the woods of logic as he struggled foot by foot, forest path by forest path to escape the land called Wing Nut. He started out well enough, but paths he believed would lead to brighter vistas spiraled to the right leaving the poor governor pretty much where he started. In an auspicious start he tossed up an idea generally left unspoken at RNC gatherings:

"We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive. We are the party whose ideas will help the middle class, and help more folks join the middle class. We are a populist party and need to make that clear." (Full text here)

By the conclusion of his speech, however, that liberating sentiment turned out to be simply only a feint to the left soon abandoned for a path circling back to the right.

Another long quote from the same speech uncovered his particular problem - he doesn't understand that speaking of change doesn't fool anyone if in the very same speech you aggressively reiterate the very same GOP principles that most need reform and correction.That only leads you back to Wing Nut City.

Jindal:

"Now let me shift gears and speak to changes I believe we must make if we are to win elections. As I indicated before, I am not one of those who believe we should moderate, equivocate, or otherwise abandon our principles. This badly ...

Published: Tuesday 15 January 2013
In a pinch, the Treasury could issue IOUs to the nation’s creditors — guarantees they’ll be paid eventually. But there’s no indication that’s Obama’s game plan, either.

 

A week before his inaugural, President Obama says he won’t negotiate with Republicans over raising the debt limit. 

At an unexpected news conference on Monday he said he won’t trade cuts in government spending in exchange for raising the borrowing limit. 

“If the goal is to make sure that we are being responsible about our debt and our deficit - if that’s the conversation we’re having, I’m happy to have that conversation,” Obama said. “What I will not do is to have that negotiation with a gun at the head of the American people.”

Well and good. But what, exactly, is the President’s strategy when the debt ceiling has to be raised, if the GOP hasn’t relented?

READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 6 January 2013
Published: Thursday 3 January 2013
Published: Monday 31 December 2012
If we go over it, he and the Democrats in the next Congress that starts later this week can quickly offer legislation that grants a middle-class tax cut and restores most military spending.

The deal emerging from the Senate is a lousy one. Let me count the ways:

1. Republicans haven’t conceded anything on the debt ceiling, so over the next two months – as the Treasury runs out of tricks to avoid a default – Republicans are likely to do exactly what they did before, which is to hold their votes on raising the ceiling hostage to major cuts in programs for the poor and in Medicare and Social Security.

2. The deal makes tax cuts for the rich permanent (extending the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000 if filing singly and $450,000 if jointly) while extending refundable tax credits for the poor (child tax credit, enlarged EITC, and tuition tax credit) for only five years. There’s absolutely no justification for this asymmetry.

3. It doesn’t get nearly enough revenue from the wealthiest 2 percent — only $600 billion over the next decade, which is half of what the President called for, and a small fraction of the White House’s goal of more than $4 trillion in deficit reduction. That means more of the burden of tax hikes and spending cuts in future years will fall on the middle class and the poor.

4. It continues to exempt the first $5 million of inherited wealth from the estate tax (the exemption used to be $1 million). This is a huge gift to the heirs of the wealthy, perpetuating family dynasties of the idle rich.

Yes, the deal finally gets Republicans to accept a tax increase on the wealthy, but this is an inside-the-Beltway symbolic victory. If anyone believes this will make the GOP more amenable to future tax increases, they don’t know how rabidly extremist the GOP has become.

The deal also extends unemployment insurance for more than 2 million long-term unemployed. That’s important.

But I can’t help believe the President could have done better than this. After all, public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side. Republicans would have been ...

Published: Thursday 20 December 2012
Welcome to the ‘permanent campaign’.

 

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running radio and Web ads that target 21 vulnerable Republican House members for “holding the middle class hostage” during the fiscal cliff negotiations.

The campaign is a bit unusual — most parties prefer to run ads a bit nearer to an actual election.

“It’s not really common to see much Democratic or Republican congressional spending this soon after an election,” said Michael Franz of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks and analyzes campaign advertising. “The permanent campaign is really here.”

As part of its “GOP Hostage Takers” campaign, the DCCC is targeting U.S. representatives with radio and web ads called the “Holiday Cliff,” which look and sound like mock movie trailers, complete with a car hurtling off a winding mountain road.

“This holiday season, if you make only one phone call, if you send only one email, tell Congressman Chris Gibson — ...

Published: Sunday 16 December 2012
“The DGA and RGA have devised national strategies for collecting unlimited funds from unions, corporations, and wealthy individuals, and funneling the money into state races.”

Despite outraising its Democratic counterpart by a 2-to-1 margin, the Republican Governors Association won only four of 11 races in the 2012 election, a far cry from the success it enjoyed two years ago.

The Washington D.C.-based political organization raised almost $100 million, according to recently released Internal Revenue Service data. The group targeted six states it considered winnable, losing five of them. Overall, Democrats won seven of this year's 11 contests, but the GOP still managed to pick up one seat in North Carolina, long held by Democrats.

The top donors to the so-called “527” organization, which can accept unlimited contributions from billionaires, corporations and unions, are familiar Republican Party patrons — No. 1 is Bob Perry, a Texas homebuilder and perennial RGA supporter, who gave $3.25 million. That’s a little more than half of what he gave in 2010.

Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is No. 2, with $3 million in donations between him and his wife. According to the ...

Published: Thursday 13 December 2012
Why the Formerly Grand Old Party Needs to Change and Won’t

 

Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next.  Some Republicans -- and many Democrats -- now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo.  Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the U.S. heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party.  Others say: not so fast.

In the month since 51% of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I’ve spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators, and voters.  While the Party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.

Do any of their proposals exhibit a willingness to make the kind of changes the GOP will need to attract members of the growing groups that the GOP has spent years antagonizing like Hispanics, Asian Americans, unmarried women, secular whites, and others?  In a word: no.

Instead, from my informal survey, it looks to this observer (and former Republican) as if the party is betting all its money on cosmetic change.  Think of it as the Botox ...

Published: Thursday 13 December 2012
“Publicly, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) offered another deal to Obama on Tuesday night claiming to concede more than $800 billion in tax revenue - still without any tax increases.”

As the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire automatically in a few weeks, some Republicans are urging their leaders to accept President Obama’s deal to allow tax rates to rise for the top 2 percent of earners, while looking ahead to the next budget showdown. The US will hit its debt limit in early 2013, and the GOP sees an opportunity to once again use the threat of default to force Democrats to concede to devastating cuts to entitlement programs along with more tax cuts for the wealthy.

Publicly, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) offered another deal to Obama on Tuesday night claiming to concede more than $800 billion in tax revenue — still without any tax increases. As 

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
“Privatizing disaster relief has been proven to be its own disaster; federal agencies like FEMA, despite Rep. Scott Garrett’s (R-NJ) maligning, are far more efficient and more able to coordinate resources than private efforts.”

As New Jersey continues to suffer from extensive damage left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy at the end of October, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) is poised to veto $60 million in federal aid meant to help his own constituents recover and rebuild.

Sandy’s devastation of the New Jersey shoreline was estimated to cost the state at least $29.4 billion. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) said the proposed $60.4 million in federal aid would cover the state’s damages. Garrett, however, suggested to CNBC host and fellow New Jersey resident Jim Cramer that he might deny his home state these much-needed funds, claiming he is concerned about “accountability” for “wasteful spending.”

CRAMER: Our state has been hit by a storm that may be worse than Hurricane Andrew. It requires spending. Do you veto that spending on principle?

GARRETT: At this point in time, we just got the president’s proposal as to the 60 some odd billion dollars. The governor said they’re looking for more. [...] I think in those numbers, I think it’s appropriate for Congress to look at them, and to also look for what I was asking for, that we never got with Katrina, and that was some degree of accountability. You remember all the stories about the FEMA trailers, about the credit, debit cards, whatever ...

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
As Washington fiddles over the fiscal cliff, a larger battle over inequality is being waged all over America.

 

Washington has a way of focusing the nation’s attention on tactical games over partisan maneuvers that are symptoms of a few really big problems. But we almost never get to debate or even discuss the big problems because the tactical games overwhelm everything else.

The debate over the fiscal cliff, for example, is really about tactical maneuvers preceding a negotiation about how best to reduce the federal budget deficit. This, in turn, is a fragment of a bigger debate over whether we should be embracing austerity economics and reducing the budget deficit in the next few years or, alternatively, using public spending and investing to grow the economy and increase the number of jobs.

Even this larger debate is just one part of what should be the central debate of our time — why median wages continue to drop and poverty to increase at the same time income and wealth are becoming ever more concentrated at the top, and what should be done to counter the trend.

With a shrinking share of total income and wealth, the middle class and poor simply don’t have the purchasing power to get the economy back on solid footing. (The wealthy don’t spend enough of their income or assets to make up for this shortfall, and they invest their savings wherever around the world they can get the highest return).

As a result, consumer spending — fully 70 percent of economic activity — isn’t up to the task of keeping the economy going. This puts greater pressure on government to be purchaser of last resort.

The dilemma isn’t just economic. It’s also political. As money concentrates at the top, so does power. That concentrated power generates even more entrenched wealth at the top, and less for the middle class and the poor.

A case in point is what’s now happening in Michigan. In the state where the American labor movement was born – and where, because of labor unions, the ...

Published: Sunday 9 December 2012
Republican leadership continues to insist on extending tax cuts for all Americans, while President Obama said he would only sign legislation that would maintain reductions for individuals who earn $200,000 or less and couples who make $250,000 or less.

Earlier this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sought to overcome the GOP’s resistance to voting on a Senate-passed measure that would extend Bush-era tax cuts to middle class Americans by introducing a discharge petition that, if signed by 218 members, could force the House to take-up the measure. Some Republicans, weary of the overwhelming public support for raising rates on the richest two percent of Americans, have urged the GOP leadership to allow the vote, but have yet to formally sign Pelosi’s discharge. Republican leadership continues to insist on extending tax cuts for all Americans, while President Obama said he would only sign legislation that would maintain reductions for individuals who earn $200,000 or less and couples who make $250,000 or less.

But in a recent photo-op with constituents, Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) explained why Republicans are refusing to give in. The Tennessee Republican admitted that he won’t vote to extend tax cuts to 98 percent of Americans because doing so would cede control to Democrats:

CONSTITUENT 1: Are you going to sign the discharge petition?

DUNCAN: Ummm…Oh no, I’m not. No Ma’am. I’m ...

Published: Thursday 6 December 2012
Allowing the payroll tax cut to expire would result in $1,000 less take home pay for the average family.

The sticking point of the negotiations over the so-called “fiscal cliff” has been the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which Republicans insist must be extended and President Obama and the Democrats insist must end. (Both sides agree on maintaining tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans.)

 

Of course, the reason the fiscal cliff is looming in the first place is because of concerns over deficit spending, and the cliff represents a sudden and massive reduction in the size of the country’s budget hole. Not all the fiscal cliff’s policy changes arrive at once, but should all of them be enacted, the Congressional Budget Office predicts a new recession over the course of 2013.

The GOP’s fiscal cliff offer says nothing about retaining the payroll tax cut or emergency unemployment benefits (EUC), both of which end come January 1. But as the Economic Policy Institute found, extending EUC creates five times as many jobs per dollar of budget deficit as the Bush income tax cuts for the wealthy:

Extending just the upper-income Bush tax cuts would boost GDP growth by 0.1 percentage point, increasing nonfarm payroll employment in 2013 by only 102,000 jobs—far less than one-tenth the impact of continuing the temporary ad hoc stimulus measures. Continuing EUC would do three times as much in terms of GDP growth and support 300,000 to 400,000 jobs. In terms of jobs created per dollar of budget deficit, EUC is more than five times as effective as the Bush income tax cuts for the wealthy. Combine them with the Bush estate tax cuts and they are one-seventh as effective as EUC.

 

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Published: Thursday 6 December 2012
Yes, America does face a cliff — not a fiscal cliff but a set of precipices we’ll tumble over because the GOP’s obsession over government’s size and spending has obscured them.

 

The “fiscal cliff” is a a metaphor for a government that no longer responds to the biggest challenges we face because it’s paralyzed by intransigent Republicans, obsessed by the federal budget deficit, and overwhelmed by big money from corporations, Wall Street, and billionaires.

If we had a functional government America would address three “cliffs” posing far larger dangers to us than the fiscal one:

The child poverty cliff.

Between 2007 and 2011, the percentage of American school-age children living in poor households grew from 17 to 21%. Last year, according to the Agriculture Department, nearly 1 in 4 young children lived in a family that had difficulty affording sufficient food at some point in the year.

Yet federal programs to help children and lower-income families – food stamps, aid for poor school districts, Pell grants, child health care, child nutrition, pre- and post-natal care, and Medicaid – are being targeted by the Republican right. Over 60 percent of the cuts in the GOP’s most recent budget came out of these programs.

Even if these programs are preserved, they don’t go nearly far enough. But the Obama Administration doesn’t talk about reducing poverty in America. It talks only about preserving the middle class.

Yet unless we focus on better schools, better health, and improved conditions for these poor kids and their families, in a few years America will have a significant population of under-educated and desperate adults.

The baby-boomer healthcare cliff.

Healthcare costs are already 18% of GDP. Between now and 2030, when 76 million boomers join the ranks of the elderly,those costs will soar. This is the principal reason why the ...

Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
Published: Tuesday 4 December 2012
Published: Monday 3 December 2012
Published: Sunday 2 December 2012
Published: Sunday 2 December 2012
“These ideas are so radical that they have already been rejected on a bipartisan basis by Congress.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) ripped into President Obama’s opening offer on a package to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, during the GOP’s weekly address on Saturday, characterizing the proposal as “radical” and a “classic bait-and-switch.” “Maybe I missed it but I don’t recall him asking for any of that during the presidential campaign,” Hatch said. “These ideas are so radical that they have already been rejected on a bipartisan basis by Congress.”

Watch it:

Obama’s proposal — which includes $1.6 trillion in increased taxes on the rich over the next decade, $400 billion in savings in Medicare and other social programs, $50 billion in stimulus spending to begin next year, and an end to current debt ceiling rules — is not new or radical: it reflects the very same same policies Obama advanced for years and promoted extensively on the campaign trail.

For instance, Obama’s FY 2013 budget — released in February 2012 — raised “an additional $1.7 trillion in revenue” and proposed $360 billion in savings from entitlement programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. (Comparatively, Simpson-Bowles called for $2.7 trillion revenue over 10 years, more than what Obama requested). Obama advocated for additional stimulative spending throughout the campaign, calling for a path “forward” that will “continue investing in education and infrastructure.”

Republicans are feigning shock that Obama is proposing to implement the ...

Published: Thursday 29 November 2012
New GOP idea doesn’t let youth earn green cards, but marriage to Americans can result in exile.

 

While unveiling an alternative to the DREAM ACT — but with no route to citizenship — Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona suggested that illegal immigrants brought here as children can easily get on a path to citizenship if they marry U.S. citizens. 

However, Kyl’s assumption, expressed at a Capitol press conference Tuesday, is wrong in practical terms.  A recent Center for Public Integrity and KQED public radio report detailed how penalties adopted by Congress in 1996 are ousting undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens for at least a decade, sometimes longer, when they try to obtain legal status based on marriages. 

Thousands of undocumented spouses have already found out the hard way that they may actually be forbidden from living in the United States as the result of their American partners’ efforts to sponsor them for legal permanent residency.

To finish the residency visa process, ...

Published: Wednesday 28 November 2012
“The United States is not in wonderful shape and it needs to get back some of that spunk that it had when people were willing to talk very bluntly about harsh and tough measures.”

With the Republican Party in a state of turmoil following Mitt Romney’s loss three weeks ago, we begin today’s show with a guest who was once one of the most influential Republican strategists. In 1969 Kevin Phillips wrote the groundbreaking book, "The Emerging Republican Majority." Newsweek described the book as the “political bible of the Nixon administration.” After a series of best-selling books on the Bush family, Wall Street and the American theocracy, Phillips is looking back at the roots of the American Revolution in his new book, "1775: A Good Year for Revolution.” “What happened that set the United States in motion in the mid 1770s is still relevant in some ways because what it showed was that you sometimes have to have a lot of very disagreeable politics to make progress. That you don’t get anywhere by having all kinds of nice slogans and by trying to barter every difference with a cliche and pretend thats all’s well and the United States is in wonderful shape,” Phillips says. “The United States is not in wonderful shape and it needs to get back some of that spunk that it had when people were willing to talk very bluntly about harsh and tough measures.”

 

Transcript

NERMEEN SHAIKH: With the Republican Party and a ...

Published: Wednesday 28 November 2012
“What if they gave a war – and only one army showed up?”

Here’s my pro-government, Thanksgiving hurrah: federalism dodged another Florida 2000 election fiasco, a looming prospect were Gallup’s blunderbuss polls taken seriously. That calamity would have crowned an especially grinding, deception-laden campaign. Yet out of this alleged neck-and-neck tangle radiated a decisive victory and two noteworthy blessings: no violent insurrections erupted (just secession babble) and we affirmed majority rule, with a 50%+ winner. Voters old and young, light and dark, bright and dull, generated by the end of election eve nothing less than what would be a Christmas miracle for our Senate: a clear-cut decision about something important. 

  

Certainly, racist hostility of an extremist type bared its teeth across the multiple-state voter suppression attacks on democracy. Add in torrential reactionary payola and over-the-top House gerrymandering to complete a trifecta of abuse. Gerrymandering alone concocted the current 33-vote GOP House majority, though Democratic winners polled many more votes. What blatant suppression failed to do – neuter Obama Democrats – was nonetheless achieved by state-entrenched, district discrimination, awarding excess power to GOP voters based solely on residence. Echoing The Animal Farm, “all voters are equal, but some are more equal than others.” 

  

Despite the definitive election message – Feh! to Romney’s nightmarish vision for America – we search in vain to unearth any lessening of the core propaganda engine driving obstructionism – the war against government. Note Thomas Frank in a Salon interview: “To talk about government failure should not lead automatically to this Republican dogma that government fails because it ...

Published: Tuesday 27 November 2012
Published: Friday 23 November 2012
“According to Wade Goodwyn, the National Public Radio reporter who covered the GOP governors’ meeting, their post-election mood was not one of shock, but complacency.”

 

Hearing so much chatter about "change" in the Republican Party, the innocent voter might believe that the Republicans had learned important lessons from their stinging electoral defeat. On closer examination, however, the likelihood of real change appears nil because the party's leaders and thinkers can cite so many excuses to remain utterly the same.

At the Republican Governors Association conference last week, for instance, the favored explanation for the voting public's emphatic rejection of Mitt Romney had nothing to do with issues or ideology, but only with more effective Democratic Party organizing and communicating. According to Wade Goodwyn, the National Public Radio reporter who covered the GOP governors' meeting, their post-election mood was not one of shock, but complacency.

"It was widely agreed that nothing needed to be changed except perhaps the tone," he found. "For example, the idea that more than 70 percent of Hispanics voted for the president because of Republican positions on illegal immigration was rejected by the Republican governors."

That would be hard to believe if Goodwyn were not such an excellent and experienced journalist, because it is so stupid, so insulting and makes so little sense. Could it really be true that the nation's Republican governors — one of whom is quite likely to be the party's next presidential nominee — are so obtuse and so obstinate that they would reject change even on immigration?

Republican leaders also seem inclined to ignore voter sentiment on the issue of taxes, despite majorities of 70 percent or better that agree the rich should pay more (including many voters who identify with the GOP). Rep. Mike Pence, who will become the governor of Indiana next January, told the Republican governors that he remains firmly opposed any tax increase, especially on ...

Published: Wednesday 21 November 2012
“Aside from putting lipstick on a pig, where’s the miraculous (earthbound) agency that modernizes angry, resentful Tea Partiers whose outrage targeted the very diverse, younger, secular crowds now crowning the future?”

Stuck dancing with the sclerotic herd that bring you

Beyond rightwing foment and self-flagellation, epic dilemmas bedevil all Republican dreams of regaining a national majority:

  1. Fealty to manifestly discredited belief systems (cultural, economic, religious, and scientific);
  2. Fealty to disgraced, ideological leaders whose arteries are hardening, rhetorically-suicidal and/or slow to get demographic “death spirals;”
  3. Justified anxiety that “rebranding” different enough to engage newly-empowered centrists will alienate far more base zealots already feeling besieged from both sides.  
  4. Reactionary robber barons will keep afloat any “anti-business Obama” gang, whatever the setbacks, with plenty more billions to secure favorable permits, subsidies, laws, and deregulation.

In a nutshell, how does a party of insular, rigid true believers, thrusting warlike middle fingers towards modernity, talk itself into modernizing just because it lost one election? Aside from putting lipstick on a pig, where’s the miraculous (earthbound) agency that modernizes angry, resentful Tea Partiers whose outrage targeted the very diverse, younger, secular crowds now crowning the future?

GOP loyalty to losers

On point, unlike liberal losers who politely leave the stage (nearly all but Carter and Gore since 1980), Republican flops and misfits endure for decades, poisoning hate media and Sunday talk shows, even wreaking havoc across GOP primaries. That Newt Gingrich, or shameless, still illiterate Sarah Palin types get to harangue anyone beyond pets, testifies to the unholy resilience of party-wounding blowhards. In fact, Mitt Romney looks to be the exception by getting the quick boot, but then his staggeringly dumb remarks justify exile to the W. gulag. Dick Cheney gets more respect.

What ...

Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“The patriots have rejected the Republican establishment as governance sympathizers is no longer a concern of the Republican establishment. ”

The tea party now has its own news site. Based at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, the Tea Party News Network describes itself as "the only trusted news source." It focuses on such right-wing heroes as Michele Bachmann and Allen West, who just lost an election for a House seat in South Florida — though perhaps not on TPNN.

That the patriots have rejected the Republican establishment as governance sympathizers is no longer a concern of the Republican establishment. Many GOP leaders blame tea party antics for their recent electoral defeats.

Now they must deal with the "fiscal cliff" and are going to need all the reality-based supporters they can get. Better to have the patriots saying remarkable things far from the Fox News studios in New York and Washington.

The tea party is one reason we're at the fiscal cliff — a kind of witching hour on Jan. 1. It is when the Bush tax cuts are scheduled to expire, along with a payroll tax cut included in the 2009 stimulus bill. It is kick-off time for $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over 10 years. Taking that much money out of the economy so quickly could send America back into recession.

The spending cuts are a hangover from the debt-ceiling fiasco of a year ago. Recall from that time of national insanity the patriots threatening to send the United States into default on its debt. Recall their stopping so-called Republican leaders from making a deal that included any new tax revenues. Recall grownups from both parties — terrified of economic disaster in the event of a default — agreeing on the above radical spending cuts should a better plan not arrive in time.

The Republican Party 

A new Washington Post-Pew Research poll has 53 percent of Americans ready to blame Republicans if America actually goes over the edge and only 29 percent ...

Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“Why did voters, including huge majorities in the state’s two wealthiest counties, approve a tax on high-income earners to increase funding for public education?”

What’s the matter with California? It is a question once asked about Kansas when that state came to be viewed as a harbinger of a more conservative America. But now the trend is quite opposite, the right wing is in retreat and the Golden State is the progressive bellwether.

How is it that the state that incubated the presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan is now so deep blue Democrat that Mitt Romney hardly bothered to campaign there? Why did voters, including huge majorities in the state’s two wealthiest counties, approve a tax on high-income earners to increase funding for public education? 

The answer is that the shifting demographics of California, forerunners of an inevitable national trend, are producing an American electoral majority that is more culturally sophisticated, socially tolerant and supportive of a robust public sector than can be accommodated by the simplistic naysayers who now dominate the Republican Party.

The big news from the last election is that California, home to 12 percent of Americans and the world’s eighth-largest economy, is a model of rational political thought. Not only did President Obama garner almost 60 percent of the vote there, but the Democrats who already controlled all branches of the state’s government gained a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature, the first time one party has done so since 1933, when the Republicans were in power. The Democrats have not managed such a feat since 1883.

Instead of voters rewarding the state’s Republican Party for its obstructionist tactics on any measure requiring a two-thirds vote, they provided California’s Democratic leadership with the votes needed to trump limits on tax collection imposed by the infamous Proposition 13, which for 34 ...

Published: Friday 16 November 2012
“Americans recognize the danger of GOP-backed barriers to their right to vote, as Minnesotans showed by rejecting a constitutional amendment mandating photo voter IDs.”

 

Democracy has taken quite a beating over the past several years, with the blows raining down from an increasingly activist and obsessively pro-corporate Supreme Court, voter-ID promoting Republican governors and legislatures, and Karl Rove’s empire of influence. It was easy to imagine, going into the November 6 election, that the fix was in. But the people pushed back, giving President Obama a 3.4 million popular vote victory, a 332–206 Electoral College landslide, a Senate that is more Democratic and more progressive, and a House with considerably fewer Tea Party extremists. Reversing the pattern of the 2010 Republican wave, voters chose labor-backed Democrats in seven of eleven gubernatorial races and handed key legislative chambers in New York, Maine, New Hampshire and other states to Democrats. 

 

This has led some commentators to imagine that a template has been developed for defending the will of the people in the face of unprecedented financial and structural assaults on the democratic process. But that’s a naïve assumption. It obscures the fact that a combination of gerrymandering and right-wing Super PAC money prevented Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats from regaining control of the House, and that many state capitols are still dominated by anti-union die-hards like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio Governor John Kasich and their allies. And just because an incumbent president, reasonably well-funded Democrats, and fully mobilized labor, reproductive rights and civil rights activists were able in 2012 to push back against an unprecedented onslaught of right-wing Super PAC money does not mean they will be able to do so when more sophisticated and ever more abundantly financed conservatives return in 2014 or 2016—as they surely will. 

The better lesson to take from 2012 is that voters really do want a fair and functional democracy, and ...

Published: Friday 16 November 2012
“We’re not talking about digging up dirt in anyone’s personal lives, interviewing mistresses on TV or spending millions on attack ads.”

 

He was up in the polls against his prospective opponent, Carol Shea-Porter, whom he easily defeated in the GOP wave of 2010. He had a clear edge in fundraising and the support of his district’s media. But by November 6, Guinta’s constituents couldn’t wait to vote him out of office. He ended up losing to Shea-Porter by 4 points after beating her in 2010 by 12 points — a 16-point swing in just two years.

And here is the story of how that effective, negative, campaign-changing attention to unseat an extreme rightist came about:

Between April and November of 2012 in Manchester, a small ragtag group of Occupy activists teamed up with CREDO SuperPAC’s small ragtag organization, with its bare-bones funding and staff, and for seven months used a combination of direct action, narrative control and tried-and-true political organizing techniques to build a movement that turned a once-popular congressman’s name into a toxic brand even his supporters were reluctant to embrace.

In this three-part series, I will explain how we did this and lay out a plan so that others can do this in their local community, to their own congresspeople, in 2014. This model also can work for incumbent state legislators inside their own districts, and even against well-established corporate-funded Democrats in primary races.

It’s important to remember that this is not and should not ...

Published: Thursday 15 November 2012
The truth will soon be known, as Petraeus will now in fact be testifying under oath before the House Intelligence Committee’s closed-door hearings on Friday.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) thinks that the FBI may have been gathering information on former CIA Director David Petraeus to blackmail him so that he would testify favorably to the Obama administration’s position on the attack on Benghazi in September. “Hypothetically, of course,” as Gohmert put it.

 

Appearing on WMAL radio this morning, the outspoken Texas Congressman, known for his Tea Party-leanings, made clear that he wasn’t actually accusing the Obama White House of directing the FBI to investigate Petraeus for political reasons relating to his upcoming Benghazi testimony. Nor was he actually saying that the FBI was engaging in activities reminiscent of original FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to “blackmail” other government officials.

Instead, as Gohmert repeatedly made clear, he was only hypothetically spinning a story 

Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012
“Unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United edict allowing unlimited sums of cash in our elections, they spewed an ocean of money into efforts to enthrone Mitt Romney in the White House and turn the Senate into a GOP rubber stamp for totally corporatizing government.”

They came. They spent! Then, they limped home, tails between their legs. (OK, they didn't limp; they were flown home on their private Gulfstream jets. But still, their tails were tucked down in the defeat mode.)

"They" are the far-right corporate billionaire extremists who tried to become America's presidential kingmakers this year. Unleashed by the Supreme Court's Citizens United edict allowing unlimited sums of cash in our elections, they spewed an ocean of money into efforts to enthrone Mitt Romney in the White House and turn the Senate into a GOP rubber stamp for totally corporatizing government.

On election night, they gathered ...

Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012
“Overall, the Republican Tea Party was slammed not simply because Democrats ran terrific campaigns, but because so many core GOP contradictions imploded, then exploded, the huge price for living too long in deluded bubbles.”

Enough uplifting, all-purpose notions why Obama and Democrats prevailed, some pertinent (like demographics), many laughable: it was Sandy the storm, tons of “stuff” Obama promised, or Democratic voter repression (right!). “No, no,” shout disbelievers, “Mitt was too moderate, or too extreme, his V.P. too fixated.” Or Obama was simply superior on the stump. Below such media noise rumbles a larger tectonic, thus my nomination for what made this election significant: a gang of rightwing contradictions reared up, then crashed and burned.  


  
While this trend transcends any one folly, Romney was the ideal, fossilized Republican awash in a fantasy golden age when bountiful bosses generated jobs and pampered laborers. Likewise, what bizarre political deviance tabbed Paul Ryan as more than a shrill ideologue with zero national clout? For the first time, both misfits atop a ...

Published: Sunday 11 November 2012
“The flaws in our system allowed the theft of the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, and threatened to do it again this year.”

A mass grassroots election protection movement has been born. It's finally forced the issues of mass disenfranchisement and hackable electronic voting machines into the mainstream. 

 

And it's emerged from this election with a must-do list of things that need to be accomplished---soon---if we are to retain any shreds of American democracy. 

 

Meanwhile the flaws in our system allowed the theft of the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, and threatened to do it again this year. They've allowed the theft of countless other races for Congress, governorships, state offices, judgeships, referenda and more. 

 

This cuts to the core of our democracy process. But as we've seen so many times before, we can change all this. 

 

• Money out of politics: Corporations are not people, money is not speech. We cannot afford a system of "one dollar, one vote." Citizens United must be overturned and workable limits placed on campaign spending. This will require a Constitutional amendment. Move to Amend (www.movetoamend.org) is working on it, and needs our support. 

 

• The Electoral College: This useless anachronism was meant to empower slaveowners through the 3/5 bonus granted for their slaves. It has allowed the theft of elections in 1800, 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000. It's time the candidate who gets the most votes actually wins. It will require a Constitutional amendment. But the Electoral College has repeatedly flunked the test of time, and must be abolished. 

 

• A guaranteed right to vote: Nowhere in the Constitution does it say all American citizens are guaranteed the right to vote. It must. 

 

• Universal automatic ...

Published: Sunday 11 November 2012
“If you’re a rank-and-file conservative, you’re probably ready to acknowledge that ideologically friendly media didn’t accurately inform you about Election 2012.”

Observers in the media are declaring that Fox News' political activism has damaged the Republican Party in light of its losses in the 2012 elections. Fox figures have actively campaigned for Republican candidates over the past four years and instructed GOP officials on how to behave once they're elected.

After Republican Electoral Losses, Media See Fox's Involvement As Hurting The GOP

The Atlantic's Friedersdorf: Misinformation From Fox And Conservative Media Cost Romney The Election. Conor Friedersdorf wrote for The Atlantic that "right-leaning outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's show are far more intellectually closed than CNN or public radio. If you're a rank-and-file conservative, you're probably ready to acknowledge that ideologically friendly media didn't accurately inform you about Election 2012." Friedersdorf continued:

READ FULL POST 11 COMMENTS
Published: Saturday 10 November 2012
Organizations co-founded by the GOP’s most effective fundraiser spent more than $175 million only to see President Barack Obama win a second term and Democrats actually gain seats in the U.S. Senate.

If Karl Rove was an NFL coach and not a political strategist, he would probably be looking for a new job about now.

Organizations co-founded by the GOP’s most effective fundraiser spent more than $175 million only to see President Barack Obama win a second term and Democrats actually gain seats in the U.S. Senate.

According to a Center for Public Integrity review of spending records, Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads, went 3-10 during the 2012 election cycle, while Crossroads GPS, its nonprofit counterpart, went 7-17. The two groups, which were both active in a handful of contests, had a combined 9-21 record.

When asked by Fox News host Chris Wallace on Election Night if his groups’ spending was “worth it,” Rove was unapologetic: "Look, if groups like Crossroads were not active, this race would have been over a long time ago.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Collegio, the spokesman for the two Crossroads organizations, has maintained that “sub-optimal candidate quality” contributed to Republican losses in the Senate and that his groups will be a “permanent entity on the center-right.”

“By leveling the financial playing field, conservative super PACs kept this race close and winnable all the way until the end,” Collegio told the Center for Public Integrity. “Our ...

Published: Thursday 8 November 2012
“Twenty-two to 23 million Americans under 30 voted yesterday, with a turnout rate of at least 49 percent among eligible voters.”

Add this to the list of bad bets the GOP placed this year: that young Americans’ support for Barack Obama, and their interest in politics in general, was tenuous enough to break—and that it could be broken through discouragement and voter suppression, rather than by specific appeals to their concerns.

Twenty-two to 23 million Americans under 30 voted yesterday, with a turnout rate of at least 49 percent among eligible voters. That figure is comparable with the estimate at this time in 2008, which later rose to 52 percent as final results trickled in. Nearly a fifth of all voters were under 30 (19 percent, up from 18 percent in 2008), and they voted for Obama by a twenty-three-point margin, 60 to 37 percent.

The president could not have won without them. An analysis from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) suggests that eighty of Obama’s electoral votes  READ FULL POST 1 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Had any CEO -- especially a bold, venture capitalist and quarter-billionaire who hates high taxes -- plus a Mormon -- ever come closer to seizing the White House?”

Note: Professional ethics, if not bodily safety, entails keeping the source for this putative concession draft as secret as Mitt keeps his top bundlers (fundraisers), tax returns, offshore accounts, et al. Romney deviated from Barack Obama, George W. Bush and John McCain by refusing to identify his deepest pockets, sources so terrified of publicity the details of all meetings remain hush-hush.   

 

My true Americans:

 

Even if we fall short in the end, think what first-time, historic thresholds we've established: a self-made, self-effacing finance guy nearly dislodged Mr. Silver-tongued, Minority-loving, Incumbent Populist. One more week -- and one less darn super-storm -- and who knows?   Even Reagan might have lost if Carter had a hurricane behind him.

 

Of course, hats off it to any hustler who outscores my accomplished operation, even if one idiot advisor brought up Etch-a-Sketching. Heck, we'd have gotten plastered without being all things to all voters. So unselfishly, I agreed that neither my past nor principles would stand in the way of winning. I make no apology, however, for identifying that slothful 47% of yokels. I knew all along Obama only had to patch 3% liberals to the 47% losers to reach his gullible majority.  

 

But look how close we came, an outsider taking on huge odds and the two slickest incumbents to ever come down the pike, Obama and Bill Clinton. Had any CEO -- especially a bold, venture capitalist and quarter-billionaire who hates high taxes -- plus a Mormon -- ever come closer to seizing the White House? Never, and President Ryan in 2016 will acknowledge this breakthrough by naming me ambassador to France, or Treasury secretary, oh, Federal Reserve chiefdom would do.       

 

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Adelson was top backer of the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future super PAC, with $20 million in donations.”

Money can't buy happiness, nor can it buy an election, apparently.

The top donors to super PACs in 2012 did not fare well — casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the No. 1 super PAC contributor with more than $53 million in giving, backed eight losers at this writing.

Adelson was top backer of the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future super PAC, with $20 million in donations. Romney lost to President Barack Obama. In addition, Adelson's contributions to super PACs backing U.S. Senate candidates in Florida, Virginia and New Jersey were also for naught.

He was not the only conservative billionaire who had a bad night.

Contran Corp. CEO Harold Simmons, (No. 2), homebuilder Bob Perry (No. 3) and TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, (No.4), also bet on Romney. Collectively, the trio gave $13.4 million to Restore Our Future, and Ricketts’ super PAC, Ending Spending Action Fund, spent an additional $9.9 million helping Romney’s failed bid.

The super donor winner of the night was Newsweb Corp. CEO Fred Eychaner (No. 5). Eychaner gave $3.5 million to pro-Obama super PAC Priorities ...

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Campaign money can be difficult to track, since states set their own campaign finance laws, and money flows in and out of state and federal political parties, political action committees and non-profits and into campaigns and issue advocacy.”

Local and state campaigns have become a moneyed battleground this year for corporations and special interest groups hoping to sway the results of elections for local and state offices on Nov. 6.

From California to Texas to Florida, global businesses as well as ideological organizations and extremely wealthy groups have helped channel more than 1.6 billion dollars through political action committees and non-profit groups and into local campaigns and issues this year, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that analyses state campaign-spending reports.

Some of the cash went into campaigns of local lawmakers. Other amounts supported campaigns for judges, sheriffs and other offices. More than 6,000 legislators are running for election Tuesday, according to the National Council of State Legislators, with most relying on private funding.

Campaign money can be difficult to track, since states set their own campaign finance laws, and money flows in and out of state and federal political parties, political action committees and non-profits and into campaigns and issue advocacy.

“Money is access, and it definitely influences the outcomes of elections,” Judy Nadler, a government ethics expert at Santa Clara University in California, told IPS. In some states, “huge amounts of money [go] unreported and unregulated.”

This “outside spending” increased 38 percent between 2006 and 2010, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Spending by candidates increased 19 percent during that time, it found.

Large chunks of special interest ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
The challenge – not only for our president and representatives in Washington but for all of us – is to rediscover the public good.

The vitriol is worse is worse than I ever recall. Worse than the Palin-induced smarmy 2008. Worse than the swift-boat lies of 2004. Worse, even, than the anything-goes craziness of 2000 and its ensuing bitterness. 

It’s almost a civil war. I know families in which close relative are no longer speaking. A dating service says Democrats won’t even consider going out with Republicans, and vice-versa. My email and twitter feeds contain messages from strangers I wouldn’t share with my granddaughter. 

What’s going on? Yes, we’re divided over issues like the size of government and whether women should have control over their bodies. But these aren’t exactly new debates. We’ve been disagreeing over the size and role of government since Thomas Jefferson squared off with Alexander Hamilton, and over abortion rights since before Roe v. Wade, almost forty years ago. 

And we’ve had bigger disagreements in the past – over the Vietnam War, ...

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
GOP House Whip Kevin McCarthy, amnesty foe, defends California candidate

Pedro Rios was nine years old when he arrived to the United States, and now he’s a Republican candidate for California’s state legislature.

“I’m an immigrant, like many, who has worked to succeed and I’m living the American Dream,” the farmer, now 39, says in a Facebook post advertising his run at the 32nd Assembly District in the Bakersfield area. 

But what Rios consistently avoided saying — until late October — was that he started out as a young illegal immigrant who was smuggled as a child over the border from Mexico.

READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 5 November 2012
FreedomWorks’ super PAC has spent more than $19 million on political advertising including $1.7 million on Oct. 29 opposing Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat running for Congress in Illinois against tea party favorite Joe Walsh, a first-term incumbent.

 

The biggest corporate contributor in the 2012 election so far doesn’t appear to make anything — other than very large contributions to a conservative super PAC.

Specialty Group Inc., of Knoxville, Tenn., donated nearly $5.3 million between Oct. 1 and Oct. 11 to FreedomWorks for America, which is affiliated with former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

FreedomWorks’ super PAC has spent more than $19 million on political advertising including $1.7 million on Oct. 29 opposing Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat running for Congress in Illinois against tea party favorite Joe Walsh, a first-term incumbent.

The buy was more than four times greater than the group’s previous largest single expenditure.

Specialty was formed only a month ago. Its “principal office” is a private home in Knoxville. It has no website. And the only name associated with it is that of its registered agent, a lawyer whose phone number, listed in a legal directory, is disconnected.

Specialty is the biggest and most mysterious corporate donor to super PACs, but it is not unique.

A new analysis by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics shows that companies have contributed roughly $75 million to super PACs in the 2012 election cycle.

Super PACs, which were created in the wake of the controversial U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, can accept donations of ...

Published: Monday 5 November 2012
“The jobs trend is in the right direction. The President and Democrats can take some comfort.”

 

The two most important trends, confirmed in the jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are that (1) jobs slowly continue to return, and (2) those jobs are paying less and less.

The report showed 171,000 workers were added to payrolls in October, up from 148,000 in September. At the same time, unemployment rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent last month. The reason for the seeming disparity: As jobs have begun to return, more people have been entering the labor force seeking employment. The household survey, on which the unemployment percentage is based, counts as “unemployed” only people who are looking for work.

As I’ve said, you have to take a single month’s report with a grain of salt because the job reports bounce around a great deal, and are often revised. Last month the BLS announced that 114,000 new jobs were created in September. Today the BLS revised that September figure upward to 148,000.

Overall, the jobs trend is in the right direction. The President and Democrats can take some comfort.

The most disturbing aspect of today’s report is the continuing decline of wages. Average hourly earnings climbed 1.6 percent in October from the same time last year. That’s not enough to match the rate of inflation – meaning that hourly earnings continue to drop in real terms.

It’s also the smallest gain since comparable year-over-year records began in 2007, before the Great Recession. Earnings for production workers – about 80 percent of the workforce — rose only 1.1 percent in the 12 months to October. That’s way behind inflation, and the weakest wage growth since the BLS began keeping records on wages in 1965.

The biggest challenge ahead isn’t just to get jobs back. They’re coming back. It’s to raise the wages of most Americans.

Published: Sunday 4 November 2012
Americans for the Arts Action Fund, a part of the Americans for the Arts, an organization dedicated to highlighting the importance of art in our lives and creating an environment in America where the arts can thrive, has put together a comprehensive chart displaying each candidates stance on important topics for the preservation and continuation of the arts in America.

With the 2012 presidential election so near, it is important for Americans to understand where the candidates stand in respect to the arts. Americans for the Arts Action Fund, a part of the Americans for the Arts, an organization dedicated to highlighting the importance of art in our lives and creating an environment in America where the arts can thrive, has put together a comprehensive chart displaying each candidates stance on important topics for the preservation and continuation of the arts in America. That chart can be found here: 2012 Presidential Candidates Arts Positions

The most important and obvious observation that one can make after looking at the chart is that Romney is not concerned with the arts in America. What this means is that we could potentially elect a president who would hammer the nail into the proverbial coffin that American art lies in.

Art awareness and preservation is critical to the survival of American culture and for any culture for that matter. Art is a fundamental necessity of human life for creating community as well as communicating across cultural divide. The fact that the 2012 GOP platform has nothing to say on the preservation or continuation of support for the arts is highly disconcerting. That, combined with Romney's decision to destroy subsides for federal supported National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, is cause for serious concern. These topics should be examined by any American interested in the continuation and development of American culture as we've known it.

My goal here was to bring your attention to this wonderful resource provided by the Americans for the Arts and to ask that you spend ...

Published: Sunday 4 November 2012
“Was it really only two years ago that the tea party seized the national imagination and ran so far right they fell off the edge of their flat earth?”

Here’s what I was wondering, watching the debates, as Romney betrayed every position and promise he made to the GOP base in the most blatant, insincere attempt at political whitewashing in modern electoral history:

 

Was it really only two years ago that the tea party seized the national imagination and ran so far right they fell off the edge of their flat earth?

 

Romney sounded almost, dare I say it?  Like a liberal.  He out-doved Obama in foreign policy, he vowed to up the take-home pay of regular, working Americans, he method-acted as the guardian of such classic liberal programs as Medicare and Social Security.  He damn near got on his knees, standing up for the little guy.

 

At first, Obama seemed befuddled by the whole thing.  As if he’d been running against the Romney the Right Wing Avenger all these months, and now he’s supposed to debate Romney the Blow-up Pleasure Doll.

 

This was the same fellow who spent his summer firing up tea party rants, where you just know that somewhere in the crowd, off camera, a drooling fat dude was holding up a noose.

 

The fact that Romney had to run fast and furious to the center, even the left, to con the people into electing him is encouraging, is it not?

 

If America were the fundamentally conservative place the conservatives make it out to be, that wouldn’t work, would it?  If Romney tacked any harder left, he’d capsize.  But so far, it seems, he’s getting away with it.

 

Something about Obama rubs a lot of people wrong.  It’s like they voted for him in 2008 out of white guilt, and now they can’t wait to take it back.

 

There is no other way to explain how one, off-key debate appearance—against a guy who held his own by disowning every position he’d ever held—turned a blowout win ...

Published: Saturday 3 November 2012
“The overall lesson is simple, and Democrats used to know it. As Harry Truman put it in 1948, we need a government ‘that will work in the interests of the common people and not in the interests of the men who have all the money.’”

It’s not too early to draw some lessons. Regardless of what happens Tuesday, Democrats should have three big takeaways from the 2012 election.

Lesson One: Democrats Can Own the Future.

Latinos, African-Americans, young people, and women have become the major Democratic voting blocs. That’s good news for Democrats because the first three constitute a growing percentage of the voting population (young people eventually become the entire voting population), while women continue to gain economic ground.

The challenge for Democrats will be to hold these groups in the future. All have been attracted to the Democratic Party in recent years mainly because Republican policies have turned them off – policies like the GOP’s draconian responses to undocumented workers, its eagerness to slash Medicaid and food stamps, its misogynistic approach to abortion, and its demand ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
“Mitt Romney is apparently hoping that the citizens of this country won’t take their voting responsibility seriously, either - at least, not seriously enough to look up his record.”

Mitt Romney's campaign promoted the speech he gave today as his "closing argument." Underneath the fluff, that argument boils down to this: Give me the Presidency or your economy gets it.

The PuffBot 3000

Romney's speech was so weighted down with preprogrammed platitudes it could've been written by a computer: Just feed in the clichés and let 'er rip.

"If you believe we can do better, if you believe America should be on a better course, if you are tired of being tired, then I ask you to vote for real change."

You mean, "change we can believe in"?

"... our campaign has gathered the strength of a movement.  It’s not just the ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
“The Republicans can’t buy the election so they have to steal it.”

I’ll say it, since the Democrats aren’t. The Republicans have become a party of radical extremism and oppression. Election stealing? Check. Agenda to keep women second class citizens? Check. Religious lawmakers who reject science and reality? Check. Lying demagogue who will say anything to gain power? Check.

If we were located in a different part of the world, we might be invading us.

The Republicans can’t buy the election so they have to steal it. The champions of democracy – at home and abroad – have created a new era of “Jim Crow” laws. As they should have virtually limitless money, this may speak even more to their incompetence than corruption.  Killing the estate tax alone (something in the “Ryan budget” that Romney said he would sign) would bring $1 trillion to the rich and $30 billion to Walmart heirs. A tax holiday would give $350 billion to corporations; slashing regulations, billions more. Thus in flows the money.  Major supporters include the Koch brothers, whose company was responsible for "the largest compensatory damages judgment in a wrongful death case against a corporation in U.S. history" ($296 million), and Newt Gingrich fan Sheldon Adelson who was once the third richest American.

But apparently the big money isn’t enough to craft a credible message. The party of wealth needs to lie, cheat and steal like some Third World tyrant.  Voting ID laws passed in 18 states this election cycle. Laws requiring government-issued photo ID could disenfranchise ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
“Last month, Chevron made the single-largest corporate donation since Citizens United.”

 

Chevron, the second largest oil company in the United States and eighth largest in the world, earned $5.3 billion in profits in the third-quarter of 2012. This brings their total profits for the first nine months of this year to $19 billion.

Last month, Chevron made the single-largest corporate donation since Citizens United. The company dropped $2.5 million with the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC for House Republicans, after congressional GOP voted at least twice to protect Chevron’s $700 million tax breaks.

Below is a glimpse at what Chevron is spending its billions in profits:

  • Chevron paid a 19 percent effective federal tax rate in 2011, after making $26.9 billion profit.
  • Since 2011, Chevron has spent $16.6 million lobbying Congress to block pollution controls and safeguards for public health.
  • Chevron spent $3.7 million on campaign contributions this election, with 85 percent of contributions going to Republicans.  Chevron gave more than any of the other Big Five Companies.
  • Meanwhile, Chevron’s production has decreased by over 6 percent since this time last year, from 1.7 billion barrels of net liquids (oil + natural gas ...
Published: Friday 2 November 2012
This campaign season teaches us how little has changed since the early Cold War days when Republican stalwarts screamed, “Who lost China?”

 


Who lost Libya? Indeed, who lost the entire Middle East? Those are the questions lurking behind the endless stream of headlines about “Benghazi-gate.” Here’s the question we should really ask, though: How did a tragic but isolated incident at a U.S. consulate, in a place few Americans had ever heard of, get blown up into a pivotal issue in a too-close-to-call presidential contest?

My short answer: the enduring power of a foreign policy myth that will not die, the decades-old idea that America has an inalienable right to “own” the world and control every place in it. I mean, you can’t lose what you never had.

This campaign season teaches us how little has changed since the early Cold War days when Republican stalwarts screamed, “Who lost China?” More than six decades later, it’s still surprisingly easy to fill the political air with anxiety by charging that we’ve “lost” a country or, worse yet, a whole region that we were somehow supposed to “have.”

The “Who lost...?” formula is something like a magic trick.  There’s no way to grasp how it works until you take your eyes away from those who are shouting alarms and look at what’s going on behind the scenes.

Who’s in Charge Here?

The curious case of the incident in Benghazi was full of surprises from the beginning. It was the rare pundit who didn’t assure us that voters wouldn’t care a whit about foreign affairs this year. It was all going to be “the economy, stupid,” ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
As Scientific American reports, while no one weather event can be blamed on climate change, science now definitively “link(s) climate change directly to intense storms and other extreme weather events.”

 

In light of horrific wildfires, an historic drought and now the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy, the political understatement of the year has to be President Obama's recent comment to MTV. Asked about climate change's absence from all presidential debates for the first time in a generation, he said, "I am surprised it didn't come up."

Instead of "surprised" he should have said "appalled" - because that's what he and most Americans should be. As Scientific American reports, while no one weather event can be blamed on climate change, science now definitively "link(s) climate change directly to intense storms and other extreme weather events."

Of course, the reason the issue hasn't "come up" in a presidential campaign roiled by climate-related disasters is because many voters refuse to acknowledge that human-intensified climate change is real. Indeed, you can show people the data; you can show them photos of coastal devastation; you can even show them the ultraconservative insurance industry admitting "the footprints of climate change are around us" - and nonetheless, too many will still insist it is all just a liberal fantasy manufactured by Al Gore. That's because, in a country where self-image is defined by party allegiance, the GOP's fealty to fossil fuel companies and its corresponding rejection of climate science means many Republicans categorically ignore environmental truths.

This is why, just days before the national election, New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie is a potentially more important political figure than anyone running for the White House. Thanks to his fame, his credibility among conservatives and his ubiquitous media presence during the cataclysm, he has the rare chance to convince Republicans to discard their denialism and finally face reality.

Published: Thursday 1 November 2012
Far-right politicians like Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann are merely reading from a prepared script when they claim that deficit reduction is a moral issue.

 

Poll after poll has shown that the public rejects the millionaire-oriented, tax-cutting, government-slashing austerity plan known as “Simpson Bowles.” And yet politicians in both parties keep trying to force it through the legislative process under the banner of a “Grand Bargain.” Word is they're going to try again, either during the lame-duck session or when the new Congress convenes in January.

That plan was originally called “Bowles Simpson,” but its well-financed architects soon ran afoul of the “BS” acronym. But “BS” can stand for something else, too: “bait and switch.” That's exactly what they'll be doing if politicians force a “BS” austerity plan on the public after the votes have been counted.

For years voters didn't even consider the deficit a very important issue. They correctly considered job creation a much higher priority. Now, after years of media hype, some (though by no means all) of the polls say that this issue is a top READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2012
“Thanks to Romney, never again will the once-unelectable 1% be summarily excluded from running – now you can’t be too rich, with too many extremist billionaire backers, a past littered with shattered companies and outsourced workers, too low a personal tax, too many certified offshore accounts, and too many hidden tax returns.”

This election is already historic for, win or lose, Mitt Romney has shaken up the game by expanding the talent pool. With a surge that notched his credibility, Mitt gained no small victory against a skillful professional second in brand promotion only to Bill Clinton. Hell, the self-righteous Bishop could win, and that doubles down the damage. 

 

  
My question: is Romney a one-off outlier, or do the floodgates open for like-minded, ruthless, perhaps more charming members of his exclusive corporate club? If Mitt the besmirched “vulture capitalist,” a pedestrian campaigner at best, imperils a personally-popular incumbent, what office holder won’t shudder when better “outsiders” come forth, bristling with unlimited insider fortunes?

  
Though only the lead warrior, Mitt’s success thus expands the second stage of the Citizens United contagion: first gobs of money, now higher caliber, corporate generals taking the field. Why suffer dim bulb, merely elected prima donnas when business heavies may command power centers from which they’ve been exiled for a century? That makes this election a game-changer, even if Obama survives. Think smarter versions of Herman Cain who discover how to lock in our under-regulated, under-taxed, heavily subsidized capitalism.

 

Thanks to Romney, never again will the once-unelectable 1% be summarily excluded from running – now you can’t be too rich, with too many extremist billionaire backers, a past littered with shattered companies and outsourced workers, too low a personal tax, too many certified offshore accounts, and too many hidden tax returns. What astonishing resume reversals, all in one season!


  
Bets are Really Off

 

All bets, 10K or otherwise, are off, thanks to Romney-ization of Citizens ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
“This GOP snake-oil of making the elite wealthy ever richer – at the expense of everyone else and then taxing them less.”

 

It’s Snake-Oil – pure, unadulterated, illness-generating-, not illness-healing, snake-oil –  actually, simply slightly newly packaged snake-oil.  Romney might have polished up a renewed sales pitch with freshened up, re-ideologized, attention-misdirecting rhetoric (still amounting in its substance to ideological BS),   but what he’s still trying to peddle is the same old snake oil.  It’s sometimes known in its various forms as 1) voodoo economics, or 2) as an Ayn Rand, but actually a vulgarized Nietzschean ethic of our business and financial “wealthy elite” (as if our business and GOP “leaders” could ever really approximate to any extent genuine Nietzschean “Übermenschen,” and as if that were ethically worthwhile).  That is, the snake-oil is actually the ideologized politics and ethics of our supposed superiors – the richest people in the history of the world – supposedly needing greater “freedom” (their freedom actually amounts to irresponsible capriciousness) and supposedly deserving their inequitable earnings and inequitable tax breaks so that they can then allow their largesse to trickle down to the rest of us.

The tax cuts advocated by J.F.K. in 1964 reduced the top marginal rate from 91% to 70%.  As explicated by David Greenberg in 2004, the endeavor was mainly a demand-side tax cut and does not make any case for the later Reagan and Bush supply-side tax cuts (www.slate.com/articles /news_and_politics/history_lesson/2004/01/tax_cuts_in_camelot.single.html).  In 1981 Reagan’s tax cuts reduced the top marginal rate from 70% to 50% and in 1986 Reagan reduced that top rate further, from 50% to 28%.  Touting revenue increases and economic growth as being the result of those tax cuts is “like a rooster taking credit for the ...

Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
“Romney has created far more uncertainty. He offers a virtual question mark of an economy.”

 

As we close in on Election Day, the questions about what Mitt Romney would do if elected grow even larger. Rarely before in American history has a candidate for president campaigned on such a blank slate. 

Yet, paradoxically, not a day goes by that we don’t hear Romney, or some other exponent of the GOP, claim that businesses aren’t creating more jobs because they’re uncertain about the future. And the source of that uncertainty, they say, is President Obama — especially his Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank Act, and uncertainties surrounding Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy.

In fact, Romney has created far more uncertainty. He offers a virtual question mark of an economy

For example, Romney says if elected he’ll repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else. He promises he’ll provide health coverage to people with pre-existing medical problems but he doesn’t give a hint how he’d manage it. 

Insurance companies won’t pay the higher costs of insuring these people unless they have extra funds — which is why Obamacare requires that everyone, including healthy young people, buy insurance. Yet Romney doesn’t say where the extra money to fund insurers would come from. From taxpayers? Businesses? 

Talk about uncertainty.

Romney also promises to repeal Dodd-Frank, but here again he’s mum on what he’d replace with. Yet without some sort of new regulation of Wall Street we’re back to where we were before 2008 when Wall Street crashed and brought most of the rest of us down with it. 

Romney hasn’t provided a clue how he proposes to oversee the biggest banks absent Dodd-Frank, what kind of capital requirements he’d require of them, and what mechanism he’d use to put them ...

Published: Friday 26 October 2012
Published: Friday 26 October 2012
“The United States isn't immune from contagion if Romney and Ryan enact a full-blown austerity program.”

 

At last Monday's debate Mitt Romney said the United States is "heading toward Greece." That remark was filled with bitter ironies, not the least of which is the fact that the world's current economic miseries were triggered by financial speculators like Romney himself. And while Romney says his harsh economic policies are designed to reduce the national debt, we now have proof they'll have the opposite effect.

Austerity makes victims pay for other people's crimes. And the lesson of Europe confirms what we always suspected: It's not just morally wrong. It's self-defeating.

Nations like Greece aren't just wracked with sky-high unemployment, endangered by full-scale depression, and experiencing the first throes of social disintegration. They're also struggling with soaring debt. That why even the International Monetary Fund, hardly a bastion of leftist dissidence, has turned against Romney-style austerity.

The United States isn't immune from contagion if Romney and Ryan enact a full-blown austerity program. The riot-torn streets and malarial villages of Greece could become our nation's future.

Austerity Increases Debt

Two stories seemed to tell a contradictory story this week. One said that European countries like Greece were "closing their spending gap," while another said that their overall debt was soaring.

Here's how that happens: When a country's economy is collapsing from within, investors don't feel ...

Published: Wednesday 24 October 2012
“The real electoral fraud being perpetrated across our country is the GOP’s frantic claim that hordes of ineligible Democrats are voting illegally.”

 

Republican officials across the country are having a major problem with their widely ballyhooed claim that they must create new barriers to voting in order to ensure the "integrity" of the ballot. The problem is this: Their high-decibel effort is completely devoid of integrity.

The real electoral fraud being perpetrated across our country is the GOP's frantic claim that hordes of ineligible Democrats are voting illegally. It just isn't true. Indeed, despite all of their squawking, and despite deploying numerous dragnets to apprehend thousands of these election defrauders, they've produce practically no cases of illegal voting happening anywhere.

Nonetheless, what they have produced is a rash of intimidating, show-me-your-papers voter ID requirements. Thus, the GOP is tainting itself with a sleazy legacy of voter suppression, deliberately trying to diminish Democratic turnout by purging voter rolls and scaring off legitimate balloters.

Rather than meekly acquiescing to the suppression, however, the constituencies targeted by the GOP's hokey poll-integrity campaign (mainly going after darker-skinned voters, poor people, students and others inclined to vote for Dems) have been standing up for their rights and taking the self-serving suppressors to court. And, to the party's chagrin, the courts have been rejecting, setting aside or weakening every one of their repressive laws that have been challenged this year, including those in Florida, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.

In fairness, though, we must concede that fraud does lurk as a threat to our democratic process. Take Sugar Land, Texas, the hometown of Catherine Engelbrecht. A tea party zealot, she founded an outfit called True the Vote, which has run a nationwide witch-hunt to find and indict those imaginary hordes of Democrats casting illegal ballots. No luck there. But rather ...

Published: Monday 22 October 2012
Just outside Toledo, in a chance campaign encounter, then-candidate Barack Obama explained to Wurzelbacher — soon to become the celebrated “Joe the Plumber” — that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

 

Americans haven't heard much at all from Joe the Plumber this election cycle. A shame. Without his rants against sharing the wealth, no one's bothering to debate how desperately America really needs to be sharing. And how desperate has our maldistribution of wealth become? Typical families in more equal nations -- like Japan -- now have over three times more wealth than typical families in the United States, says new data from Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse.

Four years ago, a plumber by the name of Joe Wurzelbacher injected a bit of a debate over inequality right into the heart of the 2008 Presidential race.

Just outside Toledo, in a chance campaign encounter, then-candidate Barack Obama explained to Wurzelbacher — soon to become the celebrated “Joe the Plumber” — that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

GOP Presidential candidate John McCain almost immediately jumped on Obama’s remark, as if his rival had committed some horrible gaffe, and wealth redistribution suddenly became one of the campaign’s hottest issues.

Now four years later Joe the Plumber has largely faded from view. He’s running a lack luster campaign for Congress, as a conservative Republican. And the issue that gave Joe the Plumber celebrity status — wealth redistribution — has more or less totally disappeared.

Last week, the second Presidential debate of 2012 came and went without a single mention of the word “inequality” or America’s incredibly top-heavy ...

Published: Sunday 21 October 2012
“The show reported last week that Arthur Allen of ASG Software Solutions emailed his employees that they’d only have themselves to blame if they lose their jobs after Obama wins.”

growing number of CEOs are pressuring their employees to vote for Mitt Romney, whose tax cut plan could offer millionaires an $87,000 tax break. Now, MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes, has uncovered at least one executive who called on his employees to donate up to $2,500 to the GOP presidential candidate’s campaign.

The show reported last week that Arthur Allen of ASG Software Solutions emailed his employees that they’d only have themselves to blame if they lose their jobs after Obama wins. But Allen sent another email on the eve of the Republican convention soliciting donations for the former Massachusetts governor:

To all ASG domestic employees,

This coming Monday, Mitt Romney will be officially nominated as the Republican Presidential candidate. I am encouraging everyone to go to the Romney for President web site and contribute as much as you can to his campaign for President, up to the maximum of $2500.00 per person. I am also encouraging you to contact all of your friends and relatives and ask them to support Romney and to go to the polls and ...

Published: Sunday 21 October 2012
Corporations like Koch are legally allowed to pressure their workers to adopt their political views at the ballot box because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

 

A new exposé raises alarming questions about the ability of corporations to influence the voting decisions of their employees. In an article published by "In These Times" magazine, labor journalist Mike Elk examines the contents of a voter information packet that Koch Industries sent to tens of thousands of employees at its subsidiary, Georgia Pacific. The packet advised the employees on whom to vote for and warned them of the dire consequences to their families, their jobs and their country, should they choose to vote otherwise. Koch Industries is run by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. Corporations like Koch are legally allowed to pressure their workers to adopt their political views at the ballot box because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Elk joins us to discuss his In These Times article, "Koch Sends Pro-Romney Mailing to 45,000 Employees While Stifling Workplace Political Speech."

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re continuing our 100-city tour, back in New York. We’ll be covering the presidential debate tomorrow night at Hofstra and expanding the debate Wednesday morning on Democracy Now!, bringing third-party candidates in to respond to the very same questions that are put to the major-party candidates.

With about three weeks to go before the November election, we’re turning now to a new exposé that raises alarming questions about the ability of corporations to influence the voting decisions of their employees. In an article published by In These Times magazine, labor journalist Mike Elk examines the contents of a voter information packet that Koch Industries sent to tens of thousands of employees at its ...

Published: Saturday 20 October 2012
According to The Wall Street Journal, Singer has given more to support GOP candidates—$2.3 million—than anyone else on Wall Street this election season.

Mitt Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout has haunted him on the campaign trail, especially in Rust Belt states like Ohio. There, in September, the Obama campaign launched television ads blasting Romney’s November 2008 New York Times op-ed, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.” But Romney has done a good job of concealing, until now, the fact that he and his wife, Ann, personally gained at least $15.3 million from the bailout—and a few of Romney’s most important Wall Street donors made more than $4 billion. Their gains, and the Romneys’, were astronomical—more than 3,000 percent on their investment.

It all starts with Delphi Automotive, a former General Motors subsidiary whose auto parts remain essential to GM’s production lines. No bailout of GM—or Chrysler, for that matter—could have been successful without saving Delphi. So, in addition to making massive loans to automakers in 2009, the federal government sent, directly or indirectly, more than $12.9 billion to Delphi—and to the hedge funds that had gained control over it.

One of the hedge funds profiting from that bailout—
$1.28 billion so far—is Elliott Management, directed by 
Paul Singer. According to The Wall Street Journal, Singer has given more to support GOP candidates—$2.3 million—than anyone else on Wall Street this election season. His personal giving is matched by that of his colleagues at Elliott; collectively, they have donated $3.4 million to help elect Republicans this season, while giving only $1,650 to Democrats. And Singer is influential with the GOP presidential candidate; he’s not only an informal adviser but, according to the Journal, his support was critical in ...

Published: Saturday 20 October 2012
The 31-year-old man was charged with four counts of destruction of voter registration applications, eight counts of failing to disclose voter registration applications and one count of obstruction of justice.

 

Pennsylvania resident Colin Small was arrested Thursday after he was caught illegally destroying voter registration forms in Virginia. Smalls worked for a firm hired by the Republican Party of Virginia to register voters, but was spotted throwing away 8 voter registration forms in a dumpster on Monday, the deadline for registering to vote in Virginia.

The 31-year-old man was charged with four counts of destruction of voter registration applications, eight counts of failing to disclose voter registration applications and one count of obstruction of justice. Small was spotted by the owner of a store in Harrisonburg, Virginia, who became suspicious when he saw Small’s Pennsylvania license plate.

The Los Angeles Times has the details of the discarded forms:

Three of the voters turned out to be already registered, according to Donald Palmer, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections. The other five were not registered, and have since been added to the voter roll. Registration closed on Monday.

In Virginia, and other states, it’s a crime to accept a voter registration form and not turn it in. Small is charged with destroying voter registration applications and obstruction of justice.

“There is no indication this activity was widespread in our jurisdiction,” said a statement from the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation is continuing, the sheriff’s office said.

Small worked for Strategic Allied Consulting, a registration firm now being investigated for submitting fraudulent ...

Published: Wednesday 17 October 2012
The Post wrote that the “‘new math’” in Romney’s plan “doesn’t add up.” In awarding the claim four Pinocchios — the most untrue possible rating, the Post expressed incredulity at the fact Romney would personally stand behind such a flawed, baseless claim.

 

During the first presidential debate in Denver, Colorado Romney managed to tell 27 myths in his 38 minutes of speaking time. But at his second encounter with Obama in New York, the GOP presidential candidate — who has run a post-truth campaign from day one — outdid himself and crammed 31 myths in 41 minutes:

1) “I want to make sure we keep our Pell grant program growing. We’re also going to have our loan program, so that people are able to afford school.” Paul Ryan’s budget could cut Pell Grants for nearly 1 million college students and even Romney’s white paper on education, “A Chance for Every Child,” suggests that he “would reverse the growth in Pell Grant funding.” It says: “A Romney Administration will refocus Pell Grant dollars on the students that need them most and place the program on a responsible long-term path that avoids future funding cliffs and last-minute funding patches.”

2) “I put out a five-point plan that gets America 12 million new jobs in four years and rising take-home pay.” The Washington Post’s in-house fact checker tore Romney’s claim that he will create 12 million jobs to shreds. The Post wrote that the “‘new math’” in ...

Published: Monday 15 October 2012
“Although the ‘town meeting’ style debate in which you’ll be answering audience questions isn’t conducive to sharp give-and-take with Romney, look for every opportunity to nail him.”

 

To: POTUS

From: Robert Reich

RE: Upcoming debate

Your passive performance in the last debate was damaging because it reenforced the Republican claim that you’ve been too passive in getting jobs back and in responding to terrorism abroad.

That doesn’t mean you have to “come out swinging” this time. You need to be yourself, and one of your qualities that the public finds reassuring is your steadiness and authenticity, by contrast to Romney’s unsteady flip-flopping and apparent willingness to say and be anything. But you will need to be more energetic and passionate.

And although the “town meeting” style debate in which you’ll be answering audience questions isn’t conducive to sharp give-and-take with Romney, look for every opportunity to nail him. Indignance doesn’t come naturally to you, but you have every reason to be indignant on behalf of the American people. 

Emphasize these five points:

1. Not only is the economy is improving, but there’s no reason to trust Romney’s claim he would improve it more quickly. He’s given no specifics about how he’d pay for his massive tax cut for the wealthy, or what he’d replace ObamaCare with, or how he’d regulate Wall Street if he repeals Dodd-Frank. His record to date has flip-flopped on every major issue. Why should Americans trust his assertions?

 

2. Our problems require we pull together, but Romney and his party want to pull us apart. Romney has praised Arizona’s draconian anti-immigration law profiling Hispanics, and has called for “voluntary deportation” by making life intolerable for undocumented workers. He is against equal marriage rights. He wants to ban abortions, and his party and running mate want to ban them even in the case of rape or incest. He’s determined to ...

Published: Monday 15 October 2012
“How can Republican voters go on believing that the latest wave of voter ID laws is about fraud and that it’s the opposition to the laws that’s being partisan?”

 

Democrats are frustrated: Why can’t Republican voters see that Republicans pass voter ID laws to suppress voting, not fraud?

Democrats know who tends to lack ID.  They know that the threat of in-person voter fraud is wildly exaggerated.  Besides, Republican officials could hardly have been clearer about the real purpose behind these laws and courts keep striking them down as unconstitutional.  Still, Republican support remains sky high, with only one third of Republicans recognizing that they are primarily intended to boost the GOP's prospects.

How can Republican voters go on believing that the latest wave of voter ID laws is about fraud and that it’s the opposition to the laws that’s being partisan?

To help frustrated non-Republicans, I offer up my own experience as a case study.  I was a Republican for most of my life, and during those years I had no doubt that such laws were indeed truly about fraud.  Please join me on a tour of my old outlook on voter ID laws and what caused it to change.

Fraud on the Brain

I grew up in a wealthy Republican suburb of Chicago, where we worried about election fraud all the time.  Showing our IDs at the polls seemed like a minor act of ...

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
“Romney’s personal wealth came up, but many issues were missing, including poverty, global warming, immigration, gun control and the country’s staggering incarceration rates.”

Our "Expanding the Debate" special series continues as we open the discussion to include two third-party vice-presidential candidates who were excluded from the "official" debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan: Cheri Honkala of the Green Party and Luis Rodriguez of the Justice Party. With the general election just weeks away, Biden and Ryan squared off in their only debate Thursday night, aggressively challenging each other on foreign and domestic policy issues asked by moderator Martha Raddatz of ABCNews. Raddatz pressed them with questions on the deaths of Americans at the U.S. embassy in Libya, taxes, Medicare, Social Security, the budget deficit, terrorism and Afghanistan. Raddatz also asked each of the candidates, both of whom are Catholic, about how their personal beliefs affect their views on abortion. Romney’s personal wealth came up, but many issues were missing, including poverty, global warming, immigration, gun control and the country’s staggering incarceration rates. Democracy Now! poses many of these same questions today to Honkala and Rodriquez in order to bring new voices into the discussion. Democracy Now! first broke the sound barrier during the presidential debate on Oct. 3 by pausing after answers offered by President Obama and Mitt Romney to get real-time responses from Jill Stein of the Green Party and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.

Transcript:

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
However, critical as such short-term fact checking is, it misses the much bigger news embedded in all the subterfuge. In short, it misses the genuinely mind-boggling fact that a Republican nominee for president is now campaigning for president on a promise to not cut taxes on the wealthy.

When it comes to tax policy, Mitt Romney is not merely a spinner, an equivocator or a run-of-the-mill dissembler. He's a liar. Hyperbolic and overwrought as that label seems, it is, alas, the only accurate description for someone who would, in February, promote a proposal to cut taxes "on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent" and then appear at an October debate and insist that the very same proposal "will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."

For the most part, analyzing such hideous dishonesty is where political reporting has started and stopped. How big a liar is Romney? Was he lying in the first statement or the second one? These are, no doubt, important questions — and to answer but one of them, it's obvious Romney was lying in the most recent one. As the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reported, the Republican nominee's proposal, if enacted, would "result in a net tax cut for high-income tax payers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers."

However, critical as such short-term fact checking is, it misses the much bigger news embedded in all the subterfuge. In short, it misses the genuinely mind-boggling fact that a Republican nominee for president is now campaigning for president on a promise to not cut taxes on the wealthy.

READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
Officials there have criticized President Barack Obama’s “eagerness to speed our progression to a low-carbon economy” and argued that the administration is “regulating coal out of existence.”

 

“Environmentalists punish companies without protecting people” is the headline of a column that appeared on the website of the American Action Forum a year ago.

The group has called for increased domestic production of oil, coal and natural gas. Officials there have criticized President Barack Obama’s “eagerness to speed our progression to a low-carbon economy” and argued that the administration is “regulating coal out of existence.”

The American Action Forum is also connected with a nonprofit and a super PAC that have spent millions of dollars on ads backing anti-regulation Republican candidates since 2010.

So why did the Energy Foundation, a San Francisco-based organization that funds the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund and Earth justice give the conservative nonprofit a six-figure donation last year?

Records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show that the Energy Foundation, touted as the “leading funder of projects that address climate change,” awarded the American Action Forum a $125,000 grant in 2011 for “high-level outreach and communications around carbon policy.”

Jenny Coyle, a spokeswoman for the Energy Foundation, says her organization is “proud to fund a wide variety of organizations whether they are viewed as progressive or conservative.”

“Clean energy is not a partisan issue,” Coyle ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“Ryan is among 181 members of the House who received a score of zero, but of course Ryan stands out not only because he is the Republican Party’s vice presidential candidate but because he is the intellectual leader of that band of 181 members who never sided with the middle class on a significant vote during this congressional session.”

 

Don't be surprised if Republican Rep. Paul Ryan works hard at tonight's vice presidential debate to counter Vice President Joe Biden's Scranton, Pa. working-class roots with his own small-town roots in Janesville, Wis. But while both will invoke their middle-class roots, it is Ryan who in Congress has been in relentless opposition to the fundamental things that middle-class people want and need.

That opposition is reflected in Ryan's "zero" score in TheMiddleClass.org 2012 Voter Guide, released earlier this month. That voter guide looks at 10 votes during the 112th Congress that are symbolic of the kitchen-table concerns of middle-class and low-income families. Ryan is among 181 members of the House who received a score of zero, but of course Ryan stands out not only because he is the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate but because he is the intellectual leader of that band of 181 members who never sided with the middle class on a significant vote during this congressional session.

Arguably the most important vote we rate in the guide is on what has come to be known as the "Ryan budget," the fiscal 2013 budget resolution. It will—or at least certainly should be—the centerpiece of tonight's debate. TheMiddleClass.org offers a scathing critique of the budget resolution's impact on middle class households: "Supporters of this budget choose to be the tribunes of the 1 percent, willing to destroy basic elements of the American dream in service of that cause. ... [T]his legislation would dramatically lower taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while cutting programs vital to the security of middle-class families."

Published: Thursday 11 October 2012
But let’s consider the strange notion that Hispanic voter registration is falling because the illegal aliens on the voter rolls are running back over the border, back to Mexico.

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Greg Palast's new book: Billionaires & Ballot Bandits

It’s lookin’ bad for the old white guys. Eleven million Hispanic citizens remain unregistered, Americans all, and 15 million kids between the ages of 18 and 24 who can’t be pried away from Facebook long enough to register—at least so the tally of vote registries say.

Now, add to that 16 million ex-cons who can vote but think they can’t. (It’s only in three states in Old Dixie where those who’ve served felony sentences are barred from voting.)

All these un-voters, if they suddenly registered, could rock the planet.

You think the Old World Order hasn’t thought of that?

So, then, how do they stop Americans from taking over America? Easy: first, make registering voters a crime.

In a swing state like Florida with its huge new Hispanic population (no, not Cubans, Puerto Ricans), you make it illegal to register citizens at welfare offices, churches, or voter-registration drive meetings. (Suggestion: sneak voter registration forms into handgun barrels. Guns are allowed at all these locations.)

Second, make registering voters ...

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“September’s jobs report showed unemployment down to 7.8 percent for the first time in more than three years.”

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows Mitt Romney ahead of President Barack Obama among likely voters, 49% to  45%. But the latest Gallup poll shows the President Obama leading Romney among likely voters, 50% to 45%.

What gives? The Pew poll covered the days immediately following last Wednesday’s presidential debate. It didn’t include last weekend. The Gallup poll, by contrast, included the weekend — after September’s jobs report showed unemployment down to 7.8 percent for the first time in more than three years.

So it’s fair to conclude the bump the President received from the jobs report bump made up for the bump Romney got from the debate. No surprise that voters care more about jobs than they do about debate performance.

But don’t be misled. The race has tightened up.

Moreover, polls of “likely voters” are notoriously imprecise because they reflect everyone who says they’re likely to vote – including those who hope to but won’t, as well as those who won’t but don’t want to admit it. 

Remember: The biggest party in America is neither Democrats nor Republicans. It’s the party of non-voters — a group that outnumbers the other two. 

So the real question is which set of potential supporters is more motivated on Election Day (or via absentee ballot) to bother to vote.

The biggest motivator in this election isn’t enthusiasm about either of the candidates. The Republican base has never particularly liked Romney, and many Democrats have been disappointed in Obama.

The biggest motivator is fear of the other guy.

There’s clear reason for Democrats and Independents to fear Romney and Ryan — their reverse Robin-Hood budgets that take from the poor and middle class and reward the rich; their ...

Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
“With the election seemingly in the bag, Obama was tempted to run out the clock.”

We’ve all seen the first presidential debate.  Barack Obama was flat as a bug on Mitt Romney’s windshield.  But I don’t think it changed anything.  I’m going out on a very shaky limb and say Obama is still going to win.

 

For a day or two the commentators might feign surprise at how close the election got overnight.  I don’t believe it.  I think Mitt Romney has about as much chance of becoming president as Pussy Riot does of headlining the opening ceremonies at Sochi.

 

With the election seemingly in the bag, Obama was tempted to run out the clock.  He thought all he had to do in the debates was take a knee three times while Romney twisted himself into knots running away from all the extreme positions he was forced to take to get the nomination, and never really believed in anyway, insofar as that political polygamist believes in anything other than Mitt Romney.  But playing defense isn’t working.  Obama needs to make this election about something.

 

The next month is his opportunity.  I still believe the American people will say no to the thugs and extremists who have seized control of the Grand Old Party.  They’ll say no even when the face of that party is a bland white guy who’s about as scary as Liberace.

 

But what are they saying yes to?

 

I’m not privy to the workings of the big brains in Obama’s war room, but if they’re serious about winning, they need to spare a little bandwidth to come up with a few progressive ideas they intend to implement when they do.

 

I’m no wonk, but here are a couple of thoughts to get that conversation started. 

 

Mitt Romney said, ...

Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
“Here’s the most premeditated, studied, nearly content- and personality-free campaign that money can buy imploding because Mitt’s an epic fail at retail politics, a crashing, burning, non-stop, unforced gaffe machine.”

Fans of gallows humor must delight in the mounting farce that is Mitt Romney's campaign. Could his cavalcade of confusion blunder on, even get worse? Common manners might restrain gleeful cries when derision is this easy -- but have we celebrated a more appealing, richer punching bag in years? Recall that GOP power brokers once dreaded calamity from Perry, Santorum, Bachmann or Gingrich -- yet Romney, with marvelous irony, turns out to be the rank amateur.   

  

Here's the most premeditated, studied, nearly content- and personality-free campaign that money can buy imploding because Mitt's an epic fail at retail politics, a crashing, burning, non-stop, unforced gaffe machine. Imagine, squandering ten years and billions of even richer folks' money only to shoot yourself in the foot, with jaw-dropping repetition. This qualifies as neither melodrama nor tragedy but high farce, and I await Mitt's latest attempt at redemption: ham-fisted debate "zingers." Besieged, this second least charming GOP politician (after Donald Trump) has decided to polish up his comic timing. Oh, lord of misrule, let it be.   

  

Second, inadvertent comic narrative: Mr. Obama remains the luckiest politician in our history, undeterred by his endless quest for higher office (and luckless in only one imprudent House run). This master of retail politics (however deficient in vision, leadership or governance) looks to cruise home, as if all is forgiven. So the president had awful tunnel vision about economic dilemmas; delivered neither hope nor change, nor redirected addictions to endless wars and shameless defense spending; so there's little reform (even worsening) to the civil-legal-judicial abuses inherited from neo-con, anti-constitutional overkill. Obama as Bush III is no joke, but let that bide. 

  

Published: Sunday 7 October 2012
“The candidates in US debates address carefully selected journalists who rarely follow up on a question.”

What is the point of a presidential debate? In the context of American presidential elections, “debate” is something of a misnomer. When former French President Nicolas Sarkozy faced his Socialist challenger, François Hollande, that was a debate – addressing substantive issues and lasting more than two hours. By contrast, presidential debates in the United States are more like staged performances, where the answers to every possible question have been rehearsed endlessly with teams of coaches and advisers.

 

The candidates in US debates address carefully selected journalists who rarely follow up on a question. And the candidates’ performances are scrutinized less on the substance of their arguments than on their presentation, body language, facial tics, unguarded sighs, smiles, sneers, and inadvertent eye rolling. Does the candidate come across as a snob, or a friendly guy whom one can trust? Do the smiles look real or fake?

 

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Ian Buruma, click here.

 

These “optics” can be of great importance. After all, Richard Nixon’s race against John Kennedy in 1960 is said to have been lost on television: Kennedy looked cool and handsome, while Nixon scowled into the camera, with sweat trickling down his five o’clock shadow. In his debates with Ronald Reagan in 1980, Jimmy Carter came across as smug and humorless, and Reagan as a friendly old uncle. Carter lost.

In 2000, Al Gore, was unable to make up his mind about which role he wished to play in his debates with George W. Bush, so he ...

Published: Friday 5 October 2012
So why didn’t the President play this winning card last night? Why aren’t more Democrats using it? It’s as if they’ve all signed a secret pledge to appear fair and reasonable.

 

There's a lot of post-debate analysis going on -- some would say too much -- but not enough is being said about the ace in the Democrats' deck: defending Social Security and Medicare. That's not just a winning card for the candidates who play it.Seniors, young people, the disabled, the jobless: Everybody at the table wins.

Everybody, that is, except the Republican in the race.

So why didn't the President play this winning card last night? Why aren't more Democrats using it? It's as if they've all signed a secret pledge to appear fair and reasonable - by not admitting they hold a better hand.

One-Sided Argument

Jim Lehrer asked the President, "Do you see a major difference between the two of you on Social Security?" The answer: "You know, I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker -- Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But the basic structure is sound."

The President didn't mention the deeply unpopular Republican attempt to privatize Social Security, which was spearheaded by Romney's running mate and would have led to financial catastrophe for millions of people after the 2008 crisis. (Which, he might have added, was created by financiers not unlike Mitt Romney.)

The Reagan/O'Neill mention was also significant. It's been clear for a long time that the President almost venerates the Social Security agreement those two leaders made in the 1980s. But that agreement was striking because Reagan and O'Neill shared a characteristic which both the President and Mr. Romney lack: They were passionate and eloquent voices for their political philosophies.

The agreement between O'Neill and Reagan was remarkable, not because they weren't ...

Published: Wednesday 3 October 2012
“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for President Obama no matter what.”

The subject of so-called “entitlements” is sure to come up at tonight’s first presidential debate and so perhaps it makes sense to disabuse candidate Romney of his transfer payment fallacies and fantasies before he begins to speak. 

By now we’ve all seen the footage.  First publicized by Mother Jones in September, the infamous seven-minute clip depicts Mitt Romney openly excoriating the “47 percent” of parasitic “Americans dependent of government” at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton, Florida. (As an aside, the inflation-adjusted median household income for an American family is currently $50,054.)

I give you, Mitt, in his own words…

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for [P]resident [Obama] no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

Although Romney’s claim that “47 percent” of freeloading Americans don’t pay income tax is easy enough to disclaim, his remarks represent a more insidious worldview that many conservatives unwittingly embrace. Romney’s anomic “entitlement society” theory begs the question: Exactly who  do republicans think benefit most from programs like unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps (SNAP), and Medicaid?

Well, remember ...

Published: Sunday 30 September 2012
“The night before the nation received its latest bad news on unemployment, Christie told a cheering Republican crowd that the nation’s jobless were lazy examples of an entitlement mentality.”

It's one of the dumbest, most insulting, dismissive, and frequently heard bits of rhetoric spewed forth from the sneering mouths of conservative pundits and politicos. So, it stands to reason that congressional Republicans would like to make it the law of the land. Michelle Bachmann offered it as advice to Warren Buffet, and served up another version of the same during the GOP primary debates. But nobody put it more than that "heartless, smug, bullying embodiment of the Republican Party," READ FULL POST 8 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 30 September 2012
“Because it is a nonprofit, Americans for Job Security is not required to publicly disclose its donors.”

Americans for Job Security, a conservative nonprofit organized as a trade association, reported that its ad “Running” cost $8.2 million, a significant figure considering the group’s total take in its 2010 fiscal year was $12 million, according to its most recent tax filing.

“Running,” released Wednesday, is the group’s first reported presidential ad of the election. It shows a mother jogging down the street as she says in the voiceover that she’s “running to forget” the bad economy, her husband’s layoffs and the national debt.

“The future is getting worse under (President Barack) Obama,” she says.

The ad is airing in six swing states.

Americans for Job Security is run by president Stephen Demaura, the former director of the New Hampshire State Republican Committee, out of an Alexandria, Va., office shared with the Republican media buying firm Crossroads Media, the Los Angeles Times discovered.

Crossroads Media was co-founded by former Americans for Job Security president Michael Dubke. Dubke is also a partner at Black Rock Consultancy, a GOP consultancy he co-founded with Carl Forti, the political director of super PAC American Crossroads and nonprofit Crossroads GPS.

Forti was Republican presidential nominee Mitt ...

Published: Saturday 29 September 2012
Published: Saturday 29 September 2012
The firm’s founder, Nathan Sproul, is a longtime Republican strategist whose reputation was tarred by widespread accusations of voter registration fraud and attempts to suppress Democratic voter turnout.

 

The Republican National Committee is cutting ties to Strategic Allied Consulting, a voter registration firm under investigation for turning in fraudulent voter registration forms in Florida. The RNC hired the firm to do voter registration drives for $3.1 million this year.

The firm’s founder, Nathan Sproul, is a longtime Republican strategist whose reputation was tarred by widespread accusations of voter registration fraud and attempts to suppress Democratic voter turnout. George W. Bush’s campaign reportedly paid Sproul over $8 million for his work in the 2004 election. Sproul, now under new scrutiny, claims he started Strategic Allied Consulting because the RNC wanted to hide his past:

Sproul said he created Strategic Allied Consulting at the RNC’s request because the party wanted to avoid being publicly linked to the past allegations. The firm was set up at a Virginia address, and Sproul does not show up on the corporate paperwork.

“In order to be able to do the job that the state parties were hiring us to do, the [RNC] asked us to do it with a different company’s name, so as to not be a distraction from the false information put out in the Internet,” Sproul said.

The committee is now scrambling to distance itself from Sproul after Florida launched a criminal investigation into the company. Strategic Allied Consulting submitted 106 “questionable” ...

Published: Saturday 29 September 2012
“The latest signal of just how profitable a business politics remains is available on Sunlight’s Follow the Unlimited Money, which shows outside spending at nearly $465 million as of Sunday evening.”

 

With just over a month before election day, the problem of the current campaign finance system is really starting to take form. The Sunlight Foundation reports that:

The latest signal of just how profitable a business politics remains is available on Sunlight’s Follow the Unlimited Money, which shows outside spending at nearly $465 million as of Sunday evening. That’s more than the total for the entire 2010 campaign.

In the Congressional races this year, outside spending alone, not accounting for the spending by the candidates themselves, has eclipsed the total spending of PACs, candidates and their parties in 2010. Combined! And that’s just for Congressional races. Overall spending for the first 18 months just topped $4 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money enough to fund student pell grants for roughly two million students for a full year.

Barack Obama out-raised Mitt Romney for the first time in August, and he did so substantially. Obama broadened his grassroots base, taking in donations from over 3 million donors. However, this isn’t to say that the President’s pulling ahead in the funds race is strictly on “hard money.” The New York Times reports that:

The ...

Published: Friday 28 September 2012
The Sacramento Republican Party was found to have hired Momentum Political Services, a firm headed up by a woman described as a “professional con-artist”.

This article was originally posted at bradblog.com

The Republican Party of Florida's top recipient of 2012 expenditures, a firm by the name of Strategic Allied Consulting, was just fired on Tuesday night, after more than 100 apparently fraudulent voter registration forms were discovered to have been turned in by the group to the Palm Beach County, FL Supervisor of Elections.

The firm appears to be another shell company of Nathan Sproul, a longtime, notorious Republican operative, hired year after year by GOP Presidential campaigns, despite being accused of shredding Democratic voter registration forms in a number of states over several past elections.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Strategic Allied Consulting has been paid some $667,000 this year by the FL GOP, presumably to run its voter registration campaigns in the state. That number, however, does not account for another identical payment made in August. The Palm Beach Post is reporting tonight that the firm received "more than $1.3 million" from the Republican Party of Florida "to register new voters."

The firm is not only tied to the FL GOP, but also to the Mitt Romney Campaign, which hired Sproul as a political consultant late last year, despite years of fraud allegations against his organizations in multiple states.

Moreover, the firm is also reportedly operating similar voter registration operations on behalf of the Republican Party, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, in a number of key battleground states this year, including North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado. Strategic Allied has recently taken steps to hide their ownership by Sproul's notorious firm, Sproul & Associates.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Election Susan Bucher confirmed to The BRAD BLOG late this ...

Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“Our own supreme court denied our right to choose for ourselves. Shouldn’t our courts protect our rights to choose?”

Last week, the Florida GOP launched a campaign to remove three sitting state supreme court justices who previously ruled against Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL). If this campaign succeeds, Scott will be able to appoint three of the court’s seven justices, giving the Tea Party governor control over nearly half the court.

 

Today, the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity — which is chaired by GOP energy billionaire David Koch — joined this effort as well. The Koch group’s first ad attacks the three justices because they joined a 5-2 opinion blocking an unconstitutional ballot initiative seeking to nullify the Affordable Care Act:

Many states, like Ohio, gave their citizens the right to vote against [the Affordable Care Act]. But not Florida. Our own supreme court denied our right to choose for ourselves. Shouldn’t our courts protect our rights to choose?

 

 

Nineteenth century nullificationist Senator John C. Calhoun

Last week, the Florida GOP launched a campaign to remove three sitting state supreme court justices who previously ruled against Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL). If this campaign succeeds, Scott will be able to appoint three of the court’s seven justices, giving the Tea Party governor control over nearly half the court.

 

Today, the Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity ...

Published: Wednesday 26 September 2012
“Americans respect Islam as a religion of peace.”

First came the hullaballoo over the “Mosque at Ground Zero.”  Then there was Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, grabbing headlines as he promoted“International Burn-a-Koran Day.”  Most recently, we have an American posting a slanderous anti-Muslim video on the Internet with all the ensuing turmoil.

Throughout, the official U.S. position has remained fixed: the United States government condemns Islamophobia.  Americans respect Islam as a religion of peace.  Incidents suggesting otherwise are the work of a tiny minority -- whackos, hatemongers, and publicity-seekers.  Among Muslims from Benghazi to Islamabad, the argument has proven to be a tough sell.

And not without reason: although it might be comforting to dismiss anti-Islamic outbursts in the U.S. as the work of a few fanatics, the picture is actually far more complicated.  Those complications in turn help explain why religion, once considered a foreign policy asset, has in recent years become a net liability.

Let’s begin with a brief history lesson.  From the late 1940s to the late 1980s, when Communism provided the overarching ideological rationale for American globalism, religion figured prominently as a theme of U.S. foreign policy.  Communist antipathy toward religion helped invest the Cold War foreign policy consensus with its remarkable durability.  That Communists were godless sufficed to place them beyond the pale.  For many Americans, the Cold War derived its moral clarity from the conviction that here was a contest pitting the God-fearing ...

Published: Tuesday 25 September 2012
Romney’s failing isn’t that he’s a bad candidate. To the contrary, he’s giving this GOP exactly what it wants in a candidate.

I’ve spent the past few days debating right-wingers — among them, Grover Norquist and Ann Coulter. This isn’t my idea of fun. I do it because apparently many Americans find these people persuasive, and it seems important to try to show why they’re profoundly wrong. 

There are two major theories about why Romney is dropping in the polls. One is Romney is a lousy candidate, unable to connect with people or make his case.

The second is that Americans are finally beginning to see how radical the GOP has become, and are repudiating it. 



Many Republicans — including some of the right-wingers I’ve been debating — hold to the first view, for obvious reasons. If Romney fails to make a comeback this week, I expect even more complaints from this crowd about Romney’s personal failings, as well as the inadequacies of his campaign staff. 

But the second explanation strikes me as more compelling. The Republican primaries, and then the Republican convention, have shown America a party far removed from the “compassionate conservatism” the GOP tried to sell in 2000. Instead, we have a party that’s been taken over by Tea Partiers, nativists, social Darwinists, homophobes, right-wing evangelicals, and a few rich people whose only interest is to become even wealthier. 

These regressives were there in 2000, to be sure. They lurked in the GOP in the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich took over the House. They were there in the 1980s, too, although Ronald Reagan’s sunny disposition gave them cover. In truth, they’ve been part of the GOP for more than half a century — but never before have they held so much sway in the party, never before have they called the shots.

The second view about Romney’s decline also explains the “negative coat-tail” effect — why so many Republicans around the country in Senate and House races are ...

Published: Monday 24 September 2012
“Labor wants to repeal Gov. Rick Snyder’s landmark emergency manager law, which has been a bane to public sector unions, and to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution to stave off future attacks.”

 

After two bruising years for organized labor in the Midwest, the movement has managed to land two pro-union measures on the November ballot in Michigan.

Michigan locals and their national leaders now face an ad campaign by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and its friends, urging voters to resist “D.C. union bosses.” Unions, however, have far outraised their detractors, bringing in a quarter of the $30 million total raised for the state’s six ballot initiatives, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Labor wants to repeal Gov. Rick Snyder’s landmark emergency manager law, which has been a bane to public sector unions, and to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution to stave off future attacks.

Efforts to curtail union rights “really did spike” since the GOP swept into power in 20 more state legislative houses in 2010, said Jeanne Mejeur, labor expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “Last year we saw about 950 [labor-related] bills nationwide, compared to about 100 a year over the last 10 years.”

What happens in Michigan may be an even greater measure of the labor movement’s influence than its unsuccessful attempt to remove union-busting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker from office earlier this year.

“The eyes of the nation will be on Michigan in November,” said Chris Fleming, a national spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Washington, D.C. “If there’s a chance to enshrine collective bargaining in any state, we will be there to support it.”

Unions in the region, a traditional stronghold, can use the help. In just two years, labor has been battered by the failed ...

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“Can Democrats recapture the blue-collar hearts they began losing 60 years ago? Perhaps.”

Liberals strain to understand why so many blue-collar whites have made their home in the Republican Party. Yes, the GOP better connects with this group on social and lifestyle levels. Still, with working people under so much economic strain these days, it seems odd that they'd let a culture war centered on emotion trump their bread-and-butter concerns.

When did this all begin? A good answer is 60 years ago, when a Republican congressman named Richard Nixon gave the "Checkers speech."

The address "foreshadowed the emergence of a new conservative populism in America, emphasizing appeals to social and cultural 'identity' rather than economic interest," Lee Huebner, a speechwriter in the Nixon White House, writes. Later publisher of The International Herald Tribune, Huebner explains the power and historic significance of the Checkers speech in an article scheduled to appear on theAtlantic.com this weekend.

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“The worse the state of the economy, the higher the unemployment rate, the worse President Obama’s chances for reelection become.”

 

For a long time — basically ever since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell infamously stated that the Republican Party's #1 goal was to defeat President Obama — it has been plainly obvious that the Republican Party was committed to a strategy of economic sabotage to further their political ambitions.

The rationale is simple: The worse the state of the economy, the higher the unemployment rate, the worse President Obama's chances for reelection become. Thus their sabotage strategy: Make sure the economy doesn't recover. Make sure the unemployment rate stays high. Oppose all attempts to create jobs. Kill jobs that have already been created. Turn the public against Obama. Win back the White House and Congress.

Like I said, this has been their transparent plan from the very beginning. Anyone who doesn't think this is the game plan is either disingenuous or blind. And in case you had any doubts, the Romney campaign just laid this strategy out in the most blatant way possible.

READ FULL POST 15 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 21 September 2012
“With gas prices rising, corporate profits shrinking, most of Europe in recession, Japan still a basket case, and the Chinese economy slowing, the upcoming job reports are unlikely to be stellar.”

 

Can Romney possibly recover? A survey conducted between Sept. 12 and Sept. 16 by the Pew Research Center — before the “47 percent victim” video came to light – showed Obama ahead of Romney 51% to 43% among likely voters.

That’s the biggest margin in the September survey prior to a presidential election since Bill Clinton led Bob Dole, 50% to 38% in 1996.

And, remember, this recent poll was done before America watched Romney belittle almost half the nation.

For the last several days I’ve been deluged with calls from my inside-the-beltway friends telling me “Romney’s dead.”

Hold it. Rumors of Romney’s demise are premature for at least four reasons:

1.  Between now and Election Day come two jobs reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – October 5 and November 2. If they’re as bad as the last report, showing only 96,000 jobs added in August (125,000 are needed just to keep up with population growth) and the lowest percentage of employed adults since 1981, Romney’s claim the economy is off track becomes more credible, and Obama’s that it’s on the mend harder to defend.

With gas prices rising, corporate profits shrinking, most of Europe in recession, Japan still a basket case, and the Chinese economy slowing, the upcoming job reports are unlikely to be stellar.

2. Also between now and Election Day are three presidential debates, starting October 3. It’s commonly thought Obama will win them handily but that expectation may be very wrong – and could work against him. Yes, Romney is an automaton — but when ...

Published: Tuesday 18 September 2012
“Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) has previously indicated that he would not like to see Republicans bring up Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but his opposition may not be enough to stop Jordan and the Republican Study Committee.”

A leading House Republican wants to re-instate the military’s former ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy if his party takes control in November.

In an interview with ThinkProgress at the Values Voters Summit on Friday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said he “certainly” supports “going back to the previous policy” of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He left open the possibility that those service-members who have already come out of the closet, like Brig. General Tammy Smith, would be discharged from the military if Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is reinstated.

KEYES: Is [Don't Ask Don't Tell] something that you think the GOP will pursue reinstating starting in 2013 if they take control?

JORDAN: I wasn’t for making the change that was made last few years ago in the lame duck session. I was certainly opposed to that, the change that the Obama administration made. We’ll look at guidance from our military, but I’m certainly supportive of going back to the previous policy.

KEYES: What about those service-members who have already announced their sexual orientation? Are they going to get kicked out?

JORDAN: That’s a military question. I’d have to think about how that would work in practice.

Watch it:

READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS
Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“The media swallowed each spurious ingredient, helping push him forth as a tea party rock star and, now, a man who could be next in line for the presidency.”

 

To borrow from President Lyndon Johnson's colorful analysis of a Nixon speech, "I may not know much, but I know chicken [poop] from chicken salad."

Paul Ryan, the GOP's current vice-presidential nominee, has spent his career in government trying to blur the boundary between the two. Over the years, the ambitious right-wing politico has carefully assembled a stinking salad of positive adjectives to create his public persona: an earnest, straight-shooting, big thinker with integrity and deeply held conservative convictions.

The media swallowed each spurious ingredient, helping push him forth as a tea party rock star and, now, a man who could be next in line for the presidency.

But since hitting the national stage, the real Ryan has been revealed as a slippery, dissembling, fabricating, small-minded, political hack. His debut speech at the Republican National Convention was so filled with lies and chicken you-know-what that it even caused Fox TV's fawning commentators to gag. Since then, he has continued to stink up the campaign trail, establishing himself, in the words of one New York Times columnist, as "a veritable poster boy for hyperbole and hypocrisy."

Then, in a recent radio interview, Ryan really ripped it by demonstrating the dishonesty that resides in his innermost core. Bragging that he's a very fit fellow, the VP candidate claimed to have run a marathon in under three hours. Wow — that's championship stuff!

Only, it was just more chicken stuff. Runner's World magazine

Published: Monday 17 September 2012
“Instead of putting together the largest possible coalition of voters, they’re relying largely on one slice of America — middle-aged white men — and alienating just about everyone else.”

 

Unemployment is still above 8 percent, job gains aren’t even keeping up with population growth, the economy is barely moving forward. And yet, according to most polls, the Romney-Ryan ticket is falling further and further behind. How can this be?

Because Republicans are failing the central test of electability. Instead of putting together the largest possible coalition of voters, they’re relying largely on one slice of America — middle-aged white men — and alienating just about everyone else.

Start with Hispanics, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they become an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Obama over Romney-Ryan by a larger margin than they did six months ago.

Why? In last February’s Republican primary debate Romney dubbed Arizona’s controversial immigration policy – that authorized police to demand proof of citizenship from anyone looking Hispanic — a “model law” for the rest of the nation. 

Romney then attacked GOP rival Texas Governor Rick Perry for supporting in-state tuition at the University of Texas for children of undocumented immigrants. And Romney advocates what he calls “self-deportation” – making life so difficult for undocumented immigrants and their families that they choose to leave.

As if all this weren’t enough, the GOP has been pushing voter ID laws all over America, whose obvious aim is to intimidate Hispanic voters so they won’t come to the polls. But they may be having the opposite effect – emboldening the vast majority of ethnic Hispanics, who are American citizens, to vote in even greater numbers and lend even more support to Obama and other Democrats.

Or consider women – whose political and economic impact in America continues to grow (women ...

Published: Saturday 15 September 2012
“The House passed a watered down version on a mostly-party lines vote, leaving victims to wait for House action.”

 

House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) announced Friday that after next week, the House will stand in recess until November 13. His plan for a nearly two month vacation will undoubtedly allow more time for campaigning, but will leave several vital bills awaiting action.

Among the important legislation the House will likely not address before the November elections:

1. Violence Against Women Act re-authorization. Though a bipartisan Senate majority passed the a strong re-authorization bill in April, the Republican House leadership refused to allow a vote on the Senate version of the bill. The House passed a watered down version on a mostly-party lines vote, leaving victims to wait for House action.

2. The American Jobs Act. Republicans have been blocking President Obama’s jobs legislation for more than a year. Though House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) promised in 2010 that a GOP Congress would focus on job creation, he has blocked this bill’s immediate infrastructure investments, tax credits for working Americans and employers, and aid to state and local governments to prevent further layoffs of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other public safety officials.

3. Tax cuts for working families. In July, ...

Published: Friday 14 September 2012
“The Farm Bill serves as a mass funding mechanism for the USDA — it provides funding for roughly 90 percent of the Department’s operations, meaning those operations may have to shut down if the Farm Bill isn’t renewed.”

 

The 2012 Farm Bill is still languishing in the House, with GOP leadership in the chamber intentionally preventing action on the legislation for political reasons. According to the New York Times, “House leaders declined to take up either [the Senate or the House] version of the legislation. They are not eager to force their members to take a vote that would be difficult for some of them, nor would they wish to pass a measure largely with Democrats’ votes right before an election.”

But without a new five-year Farm Bill or at least a temporary extension of current legislation, the Department of Agriculture may be forced to shutter almost all of its operations.

The Farm Bill serves as a mass funding mechanism for the USDA — it provides funding for roughly 90 percent of the Department’s operations, meaning those operations may have to shut down if the Farm Bill isn’t renewed. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Commission, the effect of even a temporary shutdown could be long-lasting:

USDA would be forced to occupy a multiple-month holding pattern, temporarily stopping many services and programs. Program administration involves a certain amount of planning and preparation, stakeholder input, rule making, and outreach. Even if program opportunities aren’t announced until later in the year, the preparation work that leads up to announcements takes time and certainty. Programs can’t simply be “turned off” and then ...

Published: Friday 14 September 2012
“Conservative super PAC Prosperity First is bankrolled by wealthy hedge fund CEO Robert Mercer, whose firm has lobbied against the Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed in the wake of the 2008 collapse of the banking and real estate industries.”

 

A new super PAC, backed by a $500,000 contribution from a wealthy hedge fund manager, is aiming to knock off a Long Island congressman who doesn’t share the big donor’s views on reform of the finance industry.

Conservative super PAC Prosperity First is bankrolled by wealthy hedge fund CEO Robert Mercer, whose firm has lobbied against the Dodd-Frank financial reform law passed in the wake of the 2008 collapse of the banking and real estate industries.

Super PACs — which were made possible by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision — have played pivotal roles in high-profile national and statewide races, but have the potential to make a far greater impact on House contests.

“Outside spending can certainly have more impact in House races than in Senate or presidential contests,” said Viveca Novak, communications director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. “It takes less money to make an impression.”

Congressional districts are smaller, and candidates don’t collect anywhere near the amounts seen in statewide and nationwide elections, she added.

Prosperity First wants to oust Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop, whose 1st Congressional District is located in eastern Long Island. According to Federal Election Commission records, in less than a week, the super PAC has spent more than $294,000 on ads supporting wealthy Republican businessman Randy Altschuler and opposing Bishop.

Super donor Mercer, co-CEO of hedge fund giant Renaissance Technologies, gave Prosperity First $500,000 in April, accounting for nearly 80 percent of the $635,500 raised through June, according to the group's most recent filing. Mercer made the contribution three days after Prosperity First was ...

Published: Friday 14 September 2012
“The real-estate industry portrays any cross-eyed look at the loophole as a frontal assault on the American Dream.”

 

Letting homeowners deduct interest paid on their mortgages from taxable income makes no sense. It encourages taking on more debt, discriminates against renters, subsidizes one kind of spending over others and favors the upper incomes. It advances the questionable public goal of making more Americans into homeowners. And it costs the Treasury about $100 billion a year.

Although the mortgage-interest deduction is bad policy on numerous fronts, neither party seems keen to take it on. The real-estate industry portrays any cross-eyed look at the loophole as a frontal assault on the American Dream.

To their credit, Republicans baby-stepped in the right direction by trying to drop their usual support for the mortgage-interest deduction from their party platform. Candidate Mitt Romney has called for revenue-neutral tax reform that would lower federal income-tax rates while getting rid of loopholes — what is called "broadening the tax base." (He refuses to be specific on which ones he'd close.) By leaving out mention of the mortgage deduction, the platform would push the message along.

No sooner was that thought on paper than the real-estate industry went to work on the Republican Party. In its place was put a pledge to protect the mortgage deduction if tax reform doesn't happen. Still, progress.

Why offer a tax break for buying one product and few others? If you take out an auto loan, the interest you pay cannot be deducted from taxable income. If you buy a sofa on the installment plan, same no-deal. If you charge airline tickets on your credit card, again, the interest on your unpaid balance is not deductible.

The social-policy argument for the mortgage deduction is that it helps Americans buy homes, and that homeownership stabilizes communities. The first part is debatable. Canada does not allow for a mortgage-interest deduction, and ...

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
“For several years now, the Fed has hit its inflation target while utterly failing in its mandate to reduce unemployment, even as some members of the central bank have argued for the Fed to do more.”

The Federal Reserve Board will wrap up its latest meeting today and may announce a new round of efforts to boost sluggish job growth. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke estimates that the first two rounds of so-called quantitative easing increased employment by about two millions jobs.

Republicans have consistently criticized the Fed’s QE programs, claiming that the central bank would spark inflation (even though inflation has been near-nonexistent). Many GOP’ers, in fact, have said that the Fed should ignore its mandate to produce full employment entirely, and only monitor inflation. According to The Hill, some Republicans believe that the Fed should do nothing more to help create jobs, even as they admit that  READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
Exactly who is putting up the money for the Fund’s ads remain secret because it is a non-profit group that does not have to report donors.

New details have emerged about the Government Integrity Fund, a non-profit dark money group that has spent over $1 million on pro-GOP ads in the U.S. Senate race in Ohio.

As ProPublica first reported Friday, the chairman of the group is Tom Norris, a Columbus lobbyist who employs a former aide to Josh Mandel, the Republican challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown in the race.  The former aide, Joel Riter, also has an office in the same building as the Government Integrity Fund on East State Street in Columbus

Riter had declined to comment on any role with the Fund, telling us last week, “I’m not going to comment on any kind of involvement I have with anyone.”

But in a story published after our report, the Associated Press quoted William Todd, the lawyer for the Fund, as saying that Riter is “involved (with the nonprofit) a little bit here and there” — such as running errands. Norris, Riter, and ...

Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
I’m a reporter, and it’s not my job to preserve Democrats. But preserving democracy, with that fragile little d, that means something to me.

The following is an excerpt from Greg Palast's upcoming book "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits." Stay tuned to NationofChange for updates on the book's release.  

Why Obama Is Likely to Lose in 2012” is the title of a column Karl Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal in June 2011.

It’s not Rove’s prediction: this is his plan to make sure Obama will lose. That’s fine with me—if Rove prefers vanilla to chocolate, hey, it’s a free country. But how Rove plans to take Obama down is contained in the subhead, and it gives me the chills:

“even a small drop in the share of black voters would wipe out [Obama’s] winning margin in North Carolina.”

Here, Rove is not talking about winning by convincing black voters to vote Republican. The key to victory is preventing the black vote. Period. Rove suggests, with a wink and nudge, the Game Plan:

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Published: Thursday 13 September 2012
Perhaps he doesn't have any tax loopholes in mind. Or perhaps he does. What Romney truly believes is anybody’s guess.

 

What Mitt Romney truly believes is anybody's guess. Whether Romney as president would act on those beliefs is also a guess. And we can't rule out the possibility that he doesn't have any beliefs outside of religion and investment strategies. Why he's running for president remains unclear, though commander in chief looks impressive on a nametag.

Asked over the weekend whether by killing Obamacare he would let insurers again deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, Romney replied that there were parts of the health care reforms he likes, that being one of them. Coverage for pre-existing conditions would stay. Later in the day, his people said, actually, he would not support a federal ban on denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Still later, his campaign harkened to an earlier position in which he'd require coverage for pre-existing conditions, but only for those who already had insurance.

We get it. He likes the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act that cost money but not the unpopular parts that would pay for the popular parts. We speak of the individual mandate and a variety of fees.

Hey, anyone who likes having to pay for things, raise your hand. Anyone? Next, you who don't like writing checks but agree that we should pay for what we buy, raise your hand. ...

Published: Wednesday 12 September 2012
“In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.”

 

In a school with some of the poorest kids in Chicago, one English teacher–I won't use her name–who'd been cemented into the school system for over a decade, wouldn't do a damn thing to lift test scores, yet had an annual salary level of close to $70,000 a year.  Under Chicago's new rules holding teachers accountable and allowing charter schools to compete, this seniority-bloated teacher was finally fired by the principal.

 

In a nearby neighborhood, a charter school, part of the city system, had complete freedom to hire.  No teachers' union interference. The charter school was able to bring in an innovative English teacher with advanced degrees and a national reputation in her field - for $29,000 a year less than was paid to the fired teacher.

 

You've guessed it by now:  It's the same teacher.

 

It's Back to School Time!  Time for the ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“This is the story of how in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and later in Iraq, I discovered that what I believed to be the full spectrum of reality was just a small slice of it and how that discovery knocked down my Republican worldview.”

 

 

 

 

I used to be a serious Republican, moderate and business-oriented, who planned for a public-service career in Republican politics.  But I am a Republican no longer.

There’s an old joke we Republicans used to tell that goes something like this: “If you’re young and not a Democrat, you’re heartless. If you grow up and you’re not a Republican, you’re stupid.” These days, my old friends and associates no doubt consider me the butt of that joke. But I look on my “stupidity” somewhat differently.  After all, my real education only began when I was 30 years old.

This is the story of how in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and later in Iraq, I discovered that what I believed to be the full spectrum of reality was just a small slice of it and how that discovery knocked down my Republican worldview.

I always imagined that I was full of heart, but it turned out that I was oblivious.  Like so many Republicans, I had assumed that society’s “losers” had somehow earned their desserts.  As I came to recognize that poverty is not earned or chosen or deserved, and that our use of force is far less precise than I had believed, I realized with a shock that I had effectively viewed whole swaths of the country and the world as second-class people.

No longer oblivious, I couldn’t remain in today’s Republican Party, not unless I embraced an individualism that was even more heartless than the one I had previously accepted.  The more I learned about reality, the more I started to care about people as people, and my values shifted.  Had I always known what I know today, it would have been clear that there hasn’t been a place for me in the Republican Party since the Free Soil days of Abe Lincoln.

Where I Came From

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“This spring, the service directory Thumbtack.com and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation asked small business owners across the nation to rate how friendly their states—and particularly their states’ regulations—were to small businesses.”

 

If last week's Republican National Convention had a mythic protagonist (other than Mitt Romney, that is), it was the struggling small business owner. In speech after speech, we heard about the same basic person in the same basic dilemma: a small business owner overcome by the burden of government regulations.

This isn’t exactly a surprise; lashing out at regulations has become daily bread for the GOP lately, and the narrative has been eagerly parroted by the media (an April analysis by the Institute for Policy Integrity found that use of the phrase “job-killing regulations” by U.S. newspapers has increased by more than 17,000 percent since 2007).

Indeed, many small business owners report that regulations are their biggest obstacle to success. But are they really?

This spring, the service directory Thumbtack.com and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation asked small business owners across the nation to rate how friendly their states—and particularly their states’ regulations—were to small businesses. Their answers generally matched conventional analysis: Utah and Texas, with fewer and looser regulations, scored well, while states with more aggressive environmental and labor standards, such as Vermont, California, and New York, scored worst.

But researcher Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance noticed something odd: Comparatively speaking, many of the states with the best scores, and the loosest regulations, weren’t actually home to very many small businesses:

Vermont, for example, which earned an “F” in the ranking, in part because of its ...

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“Democrats staked out positions against secret election spending, big-money politics and the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision throughout the convention.”

President Barack Obama urged delegates at the Democratic National Convention to beware “the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election” in his acceptance speech Thursday night.

“If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election,” Obama said to a roaring crowd in the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.

The impassioned speech came the same week that the main pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, said it raised $10 million in August, a record for the group, and enlisted the aid of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s campaign co-chairman, to help it raise money.

Democrats staked out positions against secret election spending, big-money politics and the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens United decision throughout the convention.

The party is being seriously out raised by Republican super PACs and nonprofits, and its position is in stark contrast to Republicans, whose party platform opposes efforts to undo the high court’s decision.

The 2010 Citizens United ruling overturned an existing ban on corporate- and union-funded advertisements that advocate for the election or defeat of federal candidates.

It further said that independent political ads — even those funded with unlimited corporate cash — do not pose a threat of corruption. That’s a point that campaign finance reformers have disputed.

In other speeches, Democratic officials, including ...

Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“The platform, released Tuesday, leaves plenty of wiggle room for the administration, eschewing hard numbers or strategic decisions in favor of generalities — a practice typical in platforms released at convention time that are heavy on rhetoric but light on specifics.”

 

The Democratic party platform released this week suggests that national security officials in a second Obama administration will attempt to leave outdated military projects behind, to bolster the country’s international leadership, and to control nuclear weapons materials — policies that match some but not all of the preferences expressed by members of both political parties in a May survey organized by the Center for Public Integrity.

The platform, released Tuesday, leaves plenty of wiggle room for the administration, eschewing hard numbers or strategic decisions in favor of generalities — a practice typical in platforms released at convention time that are heavy on rhetoric but light on specifics.

The 2012 platform is even more general than the Democrats’ 2008 version, which contained highly specific pledges of new aid to Afghanistan ($1 billion) and Israel ($30 billion) and called for increasing “the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops.” Instead of looking forward, the focus of this year’s document is on what the Obama administration has already accomplished. 

But it still provides a starting point to consider how Obama and his team might handle national security issues if he wins a second term. (Our look at the GOP’s platform was published Aug. 30.) While the platform does not specifically call for defense cuts, it mirrors the strategic plan laid out by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who in January called for moving away from heavy land forces and restructuring how the military spends its ...

Published: Thursday 6 September 2012
“There are exclusive events underway that range from corporate-sponsored parties hosted by the powerful Democratic Governors Association to a Super-O-Rama party hosted by the the three top Democratic super PACs, where the recommended contribution starts at $25,000.”

The celebratory mood in Charlotte was on display Tuesday night as thousands of delegates kicked off the Democratic National Convention and millions watched on TV. But the political party continues beyond what the public sees on prime-time broadcasts or even inside the convention center. There are exclusive events underway that range from corporate-sponsored parties hosted by the powerful Democratic Governors Association to a Super-O-Rama party hosted by the the three top Democratic super PACs, where the recommended contribution starts at $25,000. We’re joined by the Sunlight Foundation’s Liz Bartolomeo, who has been keeping an eye on the hundreds of events reserved for big donors and powerful figures.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We are "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency," our two hours of daily coverage from here in Charlotte, North Carolina, on the second day of the Democratic National Convention. I’m Amy Goodman.

The celebratory mood here in Charlotte ...

Published: Thursday 6 September 2012
Pro-Obama super PAC raises $10 million.

 

Super PAC fundraiser Paul Begala climbed atop a table and told a roomful of VIP donors that “giving until it hurts” isn’t good enough.

“I want you to give until it feels good,” he said, because it will “really hurt” to wake up Nov. 7 with Republican Mitt Romney on his way to the White House.

The high-profile Democratic operative was addressing donors at a cocktail party in downtown Charlotte Tuesday, just blocks from the convention hall where Democrats unveiled a platform that condemns big-money politics.

If elected, Romney and his fellow Republicans will “repeal the 20th century,” Begala told the room.

Begala was one of President Bill Clinton’s chief strategists and is now a top adviser to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that is seeking to re-elect President Barack Obama.

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3 COMMENTS
Published: Wednesday 5 September 2012
The corporate sponsorship appears to fly in the face of the Democrats’ pledge to host a “people’s convention.”

While Democrats have touted their grassroots fundraising efforts for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, deep-pocketed corporate donors are helping underwrite the event.

Among the corporate sponsors at the Charlotte convention: AT&T Inc., Bank of America, Duke Energy, Time Warner Cable, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, UnitedHealth Group, Piedmont Natural Gas, US Airways and law and lobbying firm McGuire Woods.

The corporate sponsorship appears to fly in the face of the Democrats’ pledge to host a “people’s convention.”

The party’s 2012 “host committee” is not accepting contributions from corporations, lobbyists and political action committees. Democrats also capped how much money individuals can give at $100,000.

But the party is accepting in-kind donations from corporate firms. In addition, a second nonprofit, called “New American City” was established in May to “defray” administrative expenses and other costs. New American City does accept corporate money.

The exact levels of these companies’ financial support won’t be known until mid-October when filings will be submitted to the Federal Election Commission.

Like their GOP counterparts, the Democrats received about $18 million in public funding to finance their convention. And both parties raised tens of millions of additional dollars, funneled through nonprofit host committees that help facilitate the events.

Host committees have traditionally relied on corporate funders but top Democratic leaders — including President Barack Obama, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, DNC Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro — all penned ...

Published: Wednesday 5 September 2012
Published: Sunday 2 September 2012
“Admittedly, not all Republican hilarity is calculated, though it is predictable when they keep pushing buffoons forward to present policy babble.”

Will the unintended Republican comic opera play on? Enough surging tomfoolery, plus an anemic ticket, and President Obama may survive. Ah, the clandestine metric Romney dreams will carry him into the White House: entertainment verging on farce. Forget changing the status quo or new jobs or better times: that challenge needs going through the motions of proposing programs. Instead, why not amuse and divert: "Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh . . . They'll be standing in lines/ For those old honky-tonk monkeyshines"?

 

Admittedly, not all Republican hilarity is calculated, though it is predictable when they keep pushing buffoons forward to present policy babble. And I love the pre-convention chatter, spending millions to make the Etch-a-Sketch Changeling warmer, even a tad lovable. Fat chance. While Romney-Ryan curiosities come fast and furious, they aren't the only damaging blows to the New Extremism Party. There's Todd Akin, a crazed Lubbock county judge, and an oldie but goodie mortification from last summer reported this week. What! Sacrilege at a holy land-holy site by holier-than-thou House members, per this juicy Politico headline:

 

 Exclusive: FBI probed GOP trip with drinking, nudity in Israel
 

 

Ah hem, "The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff -- and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses."
 

 

Probed? What a ...

Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
“Groups in the network of David Koch, and his brother Charles, intend to spend nearly $400 million ahead of the 2012 election.”

When Mitt Romney walked down the aisle toward the stage Thursday night, among the people whose hands he shook was the conservative billionaire and major political donor David Koch. But it was a moment missed by the tens of millions of viewers at home. While Democracy Now! was there on the floor and captured the handshake on video, the networks cut away just before the handshake to show footage of two enthusiastic young women supporters and then an overhead shot of the convention center. Then, the shot came back to Romney shaking hands further down the aisle as he ascended the stage. Groups in the network of David Koch, and his brother Charles, intend to spend nearly $400 million ahead of the 2012 election.

Transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to that moment when Mitt Romney made his entrance on Thursday night. He walked down the aisle of the Republican convention, and as he was passing the New York delegation, he shook the hand of the state Republican Party chair, Ed Cox, and then he shook hands with David Koch, actually put his hand on his shoulder, pointed at him, and then shook his hand. While Democracy Now! was there on the floor, we captured the handshake on video. The ...

Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
Published: Saturday 1 September 2012
“In the wake of these two high-profile mass killings, the Republican Party nonetheless decided to include a line in their party platform demanding that access to high-capacity magazines be protected.”

 

Last month, James Eagan Holmes allegedly stood up in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire on the audience, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others. A year and a half earlier, a different gunman opened fire in a Safeway parking lot in Tuscon, Arizona, wounding then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), killing federal Judge John Roll, and wounding or killing sixteen others. Both shooters used high-capacity magazines to maximize their ability to kill as many people in as short of a time as possible.

In the wake of these two high-profile mass killings, the Republican Party nonetheless decided to include a line in their party platform demanding that access to high-capacity magazines be protected:

Gun ownership is responsible citizenship, enabling Americans to defend their homes and communities. We condemn frivolous lawsuits against gun manufacturers and oppose federal licensing or registration of law-abiding gun owners. We oppose legislation that is intended to restrict our Second Amendment rights by limiting the capacity of clips or magazines or otherwise restoring the ill-considered Clinton gun ban.

The GOP’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is questionable at best. Even Justice Scalia acknowledged in DC v. Heller that bans on “dangerous and unusual weapons” are permissible, and high-capacity magazines almost certainly qualify as ...

Published: Friday 31 August 2012
“A woman identified as Adelson’s daughter grabbed our video camera, tried to take it into a private suite and then threw the camera to the ground.”

When Democracy Now! senior producer Mike Burke attempted to interview billionaire casino magnate and Republican donor Sheldon Adelson inside the Republican National Convention, a woman identified as Adelson’s daughter grabbed our video camera, tried to take it into a private suite and then threw the camera to the ground. While Adelson’s daughter first accused Burke of hitting her, she later came out of the suite to apologize. The incident was caught on tape, shortly after Burke questioned another billionaire GOP donor, David Koch, as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele. Burke files a report and joins us to describe what happened.

 

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, "Breaking With Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency." We’re broadcasting from PBSstation WEDU here in Tampa, Florida, as we cover ...

Published: Friday 31 August 2012
The conservative Constitution Party, which seeks to “restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations,” has nominated Goode, a former congressman from Virginia, for president, potentially taking votes away from Romney in what has become a presidential swing state.

 

Dark-horse presidential candidates Gary Johnson and Virgil Goode may not be household names, but with a little help from super PACs, they could peel away precious support from Republican Mitt Romney and possibly even President Barack Obama in some key state races.

The conservative Constitution Party, which seeks to “restore American jurisprudence to its Biblical foundations,” has nominated Goode, a former congressman from Virginia, for president, potentially taking votes away from Romney in what has become a presidential swing state.

Meanwhile, Johnson, a former two-term GOP governor of New Mexico who failed to win the 2012 Republican presidential nod, has been nominated by the Libertarian Party — a perch from which he could throw a wrench in the plans of both Obama and Romney in several swing states.

Already, at least three pro-Libertarian super PACs have registered with the Federal Election Commission to support Johnson. And former Nixon administration operative Roger Stone, famous for sporting a tattoo of the disgraced president on his back, has touted a pro-Johnson super PAC.

Super PACs are allowed to collect unlimited contributions from individuals, unions and corporations to produce political advertisements that are not coordinated with any candidate. They were made possible in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

Goode, a staunch supporter of the 2nd Amendment and vocal opponent of abortion, served six terms in Congress — first as a Democrat, then as an independent and finally as a Republican, until he was unseated in 2008. Third-party candidates like Goode have no chance of winning the White House, but one only need look ...

Published: Friday 31 August 2012
“We support the review and examination of all federal agencies to eliminate wasteful spending, operational inefficiencies, or abuse of power to determine whether they are performing functions that are better performed by the States.”

 

Almost immediately after President Obama took office, many Republican politicians seized upon a distorted vision of the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment that would leave America nearly incapable of governing itself. Indeed, top Republicans — including U.S. Senators, governors and members of Congress — have claimed that everything from Social Security to Medicare to federal disaster relief to national child labor laws all violate the Constitution. A similarly erroneous vision of the Constitution has now infected the GOP’s party platform:

We support the review and examination of all federal agencies to eliminate wasteful spending, operational inefficiencies, or abuse of power to determine whether they are performing functions that are better performed by the States. These functions, as appropriate, should be returned to the States in accordance with the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We affirm that all legislation, rules, and regulations must conform and public servants must adhere to the U.S. Constitution, as originally intended by the Framers. . . . Scores of entrenched federal programs violate the constitutional mandates of federalism by taking money from the States, laundering it through various federal agencies, only to return to the States shrunken grants with mandates attached. We propose wherever feasible to leave resources where they originate: in the homes and neighborhoods of the taxpayers.

The GOP platform closely echoes a brief filed by GOP mega attorney Paul Clement on ...

Published: Friday 31 August 2012
“The ugly causes it supports include bribery (through its attacks on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act), child labor (through its promotion of Uzbek cotton sales and other goods), totalitarian Communist workforces (through its Shanghai and other chapters), and environmental destruction (through its defense against the authority of Ecuadorian courts).”

 

Their opponents shouldn't be too quick to call Republicans "crazy." It makes more sense to employ that time-honored investigative principle: Follow the money. Sure, they've said crazy things -- in their speeches and in their official platform. But crazy?

Like a fox.

Take that "we built it" theme. Sure, they're lying about a selectively-edited phrase for political advantage. But why this particular phrase? Because the President was defending government's role in building America's infrastructure, educating its children, and improving its technology.

They don't want those things anymore. The argument fell on deaf ears because GOP isn't really the "party of business." It's the the party of mega-business, of globalized multinational corporations. Those corporations don't need America any more. They don't need its roads, they don't need its technology, and they certainly don't need its educated middle-class workforce.

(See "An Old Industrial Era": GOP Platform Mocks Blue-Collar America, Declares It Dead.)

It's time to follow the money.

Money Source: Bankers

The rapid rise in the abuse of (c)(4) organization has allowed corporations and the mega-wealthy to inject hundreds of millions of dollars into election campaigns without revealing their identity. The Romney campaign has refused to follow Obama's lead by revealing the names of its "bundlers." But thanks to the efforts of the <>Sunlight Foundation, USA Today and others we know that 25 percent of them are Wall Street types who include:

Steve Schwarzman, who notoriously compared taxing bilionaire hedge funders like himself the same way we tax teachers or firefighters to Hitler's invasion of ...

Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
“Romney has made it clear that he intends to expand defense spending if elected in November, having already called for spending a minimum of four percent of the GDP on national defense.”

In May, the Center for Public Integrity and the Stimson Center unveiled the results of a major poll on defense spending. Our poll found wide consensus among the public and across party lines that the defense budget could use some trimming — around three-quarters of those polled thought there should be cuts for air power, ground forces, and naval forces, and over eighty percent said there is “a lot of waste” in the defense budget. In fact, respondents preferred far deeper cuts than those suggested by either the Obama administration or the Republicans.

During the conventions, we decided to take a look at what the party platforms say, and how that measures up to public opinion. First up: the GOP and presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Romney has made it clear that he intends to expand defense spending if elected in November, having already called for spending a minimum of four percent of the GDP on national defense.

But Tuesday afternoon, as Romney was being officially nominated at the Republican National Convention, his party unveiled the official GOP platform for 2012. Included in the party ...

Published: Thursday 30 August 2012
Don’t count on; the GOP to do it, but it’s time to hold accounting firms - you should forgive the choice of words -accountable.

The presence of scandal-ridden accounting firms on Mitt Romney's fundraising list got me to thinking: What do they expect to get for their money? And why does the accounting profession seem to be so riddled with corruption? And it reminded me of something that happened years ago.

I thought I'd seen it all. As a teenager in pre-punk rock and roll bands I'd been hustled by junkies and serenaded by drag queens from coast to coast. As a political activist I'd been beaten up by goons. As the housemate of a witness to the Patty Hearst kidnapping I'd been wiretapped.

But nothing had prepared me for the world of accountants gone wrong.

Bad Accountant

I was a financial analyst in my early thirties when I was suddenly confronted with a demand from a CEO known as "the meanest boss in America." His corporation's accounting firm, ...

Published: Wednesday 29 August 2012
“Like his buddy Todd, Ryan has sponsored many bills to deny abortion to victims of rape.”

While it's hard to fathom right-wing nuttiness, it's sure not hard to find these days.

We saw it bloom spectacularly recently, popping right out of the head of Todd Akin, the GOP's Senate candidate in Missouri. The learned congressman gave America a twisted tutorial on the imaginary science of "legitimate rape," including an astonishing assertion of his belief in medical mojo. Akin explained that raped women don't get pregnant because — according to his grasp of reproductive science — the female body has ways "to shut that whole thing down."

Whoa! Screamed Mitt Romney and the entire Republican hierarchy, as they rushed to declare Akin out-of-bounds, unacceptable and ... well, nutty.

But wait. Guess who's presently cosponsoring legislation with Akin to impose this theological witchcraft on America's women? Why it's Romney's choice to hold the second-highest office in our nation, VP nominee Paul Ryan. Like his buddy Todd, Ryan has sponsored many bills to deny abortion to victims of rape.

Now, guess which party has just fully embraced Akin's nuttiness by including his absolutist "no-abortion-even-in-the-case-of-rape" provision in its national platform? Yes, the Romney-Ryan Republicans. Yet, that same party's panicked Poobahs have pronounced Akin's views so extreme that he should withdraw from the Missouri Senate race. Excuse me, but — logically speaking — doesn't that mean Ryan should also withdraw from his race?

Of course, in the fantasy universe of the far right, logic is an alien intruder, barred from interfering with either approved doctrine or political expediency. Indeed, here's their idea of logic: Akin, a devout worshipper of junk science, is a member of the House Committee on Science. Go figure.

And if you find that surreal, let me add that his ...

Published: Wednesday 29 August 2012
Published: Tuesday 28 August 2012
Romney has repeatedly said he would veto the DREAM Act, which once had prominent GOP supporters.

 

Undocumented youths 15 to 30 years old certainly can’t vote. But they are a large group — estimated at 800,000 to 1.7 million — that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney doesn’t think he can write off completely.

Why? Conventional wisdom has it that Romney, to win, needs to peel off Latino votes from President Obama in key swing states such as Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado. Some Latino voters were once undocumented themselves, or know someone who was or is. They also tend to support the decade-old federal DREAM Act proposal — or something like it that would give youths a chance to earn full legal immigrant status, which isn’t possible within the current immigration system.Over the weekend, former GOP Florida Gov. Jeb Bush warned his party that it had to get with the nation’s changing demographics and heed the Latino vote — or get left behind. 

As Romney’s campaign prepares for the sprint to the finish, the GOP standard-bearer might consider the 2010 California gubernatorial campaign of Meg Whitman, a Romney supporter. In a blitz of Spanish-language TV and radio ads, Whitman simultaneously tried to woo Latino moms and dads by praising Latino schoolchildren as “the ...

Published: Tuesday 28 August 2012
The possible need for Christie's resignation arises from federal rules that forbid the employees of Wall Street firms from giving money to state officials running for federal office if the firms do business with that state.

 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's allies seemed to give a big old raspberry to presidential aspirant Mitt Romney on the front page of the New York Post today. Anonymous sources told the paper that Romney demanded Christie agree to resign the governorship if he was offered vice president on the GOP ticket. Christie was said to have declined since he didn't think Romney would win.

A spokesman for Christie said they were not commenting on the Post's report and suggested contacting the Romney campaign, which did not respond to emailed questions.

The possible need for Christie's resignation arises from federal rules that forbid the employees of Wall Street firms from giving money to state officials running for federal office if the firms do business with that state. The rules affect firms that underwrite municipal bonds or advise state pension systems on their investments. If the public official — in this case, the governor of New Jersey — has any influence, directly or indirectly, in selecting the pension investment advisers or bond underwriters, the firms can't give campaign contributions.

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Published: Monday 27 August 2012
“The U.S. Constitution is the law of the land. Judicial activism which includes reliance on foreign law or unratified treaties undermines American law.”

 

Last year, former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich delivered an authoritarian speech where he promised that if elected president he would ignore court decisions he disagrees with, wage a campaign of intimidation against judges, and even potentially impeach judges who interpret the Constitution in way he disapproves of. Gingrich lost the GOP primary, but his spirit lives on in the Republican Party’s draft platform:

Despite improvements as a result of Republican nominations to the judiciary, some judges in the federal courts remain far afield from their constitutional limitations. The U.S. Constitution is the law of the land. Judicial activism which includes reliance on foreign law or unratified treaties undermines American law. The sole solution, apart from impeachment, is the appointment of constitutionalist jurists, who will interpret the law as it was originally intended rather than make it. That is both a presidential responsibility, in selected judicial candidates, and a senatorial responsibility, in confirming them. We urge Republican Senators to do all in their power to prevent the elevation of additional leftist ideologues to the courts, particularly in the waning days of the current Administration.

There’s something quaint about Republicans expecting the nation to still believe they care about judicial activism after they spent the last two years pushing an attack on the Affordable Care Act ...

Published: Sunday 26 August 2012
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published a report Monday urging the U.S. government to oppose Shell’s drilling, citing concern, along with other green groups, about Shell’s inability to clean up and prevent oil spills.

By mid-September, the Royal Dutch Shell Oil (Shell) group hopes to begin exploratory oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of northern Alaska, provided it can secure federal permission from the U.S. government and overcome other logistical obstacles. But a prominent environmental group warns that drilling will do “irreparable damage” to the area.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published a report Monday urging the U.S. government to oppose Shell’s drilling, citing concern, along with other green groups, about Shell’s inability to clean up and prevent oil spills.

Pro-Shell groups and the Republican party criticize these organizations, however. They argue that oil found in the Arctic Ocean will lead to cheaper energy resources for more than a decade for the United States.

Shell has admitted that it cannot effectively clean up oil spills, and that its response barge, Arctic Challenger, may not be able to endure an Arctic storm.

Greenpeace Lead Arctic Campaigner Jackie Dragon was harsh in her criticism of Shell’s proposed venture.

“Shell can’t keep its drill rig under control in a protected harbor, so what will happen when it faces 20-foot swells and sea ice while drilling in the Arctic?” asked Dragon. “The company has admitted its drill rig can’t meet the standards required to avoid polluting Arctic air” and has “broken promises about its oil spill response plan and Arctic storm preparedness”.

“Shell cannot be trusted, and President Obama should not let its Arctic drilling program move forward,” said Dragon.

Shell, on the other hand, is hoping to make the most of a fast-shrinking summer drilling timeline. If the company begins ...

Published: Sunday 26 August 2012
“As even NPR pointed out this week, the Romney campaign is dredging up the welfare debate because, as a piece of political hot button–pushing, it works like magic.”

The sixteenth anniversary of TANF hit this week, and the Republican presidential candidate spent his time lying about the president’s position on it. President Obama, Mitt Romney insists, stripped the work requirements out of the temporary assistance program that replaced welfare for poor families under Bill Clinton in 1996.

Although every fact-check has shown he’s wrong, Romney and the Romney-phile propaganda groups keep pounding away at their message with ads like this one:

Unidentified male: “Under Obama’s plan you wouldn’t have to work and you wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.”

The president’s responded in typically Obaman fashion. Without wading into the welfare fray, he’s wagged his finger at Romney’s facts: “You just can’t make stuff up….” On the campaign trail this week, the Democrat beat the drum for “more popular” government programs, like those for seniors and students. He's closing all his rallies with Bruce Springsteen’s rousing paean to solidarity, “We Take Care of Our Own.”

Good as it is, a bit of the Boss won’t clear things up. As even NPR pointed out this week, the Romney campaign is dredging up the welfare debate because, as a piece of political hot button–pushing, it works like magic.

NPR’s Ari Shapiro spoke to Peggy Testa and her husband at a Paul Ryan rally outside Pittsburgh:

PEGGY TESTA: You know, we think that the fact that the work requirement has been taken out of welfare is the wrong thing to do.

SHAPIRO: I told her that’s not actually what happened.

Published: Saturday 25 August 2012
“While the U.S. senatorial candidate's grasp of reproductive science is shockingly lacking — he said real rape victims rarely get pregnant — his position that abortions be banned with no exception for rape happens to be in the new Republican Party platform.”

 

The political convulsion over Missouri Republican Todd Akin's bizarre talk of "legitimate rape" highlights an issue that the GOP had buried in its campaign.

While the U.S. senatorial candidate's grasp of reproductive science is shockingly lacking — he said real rape victims rarely get pregnant — his position that abortions be banned with no exception for rape happens to be in the new Republican Party platform. It is a stance that most Americans, including most registered Republicans, disagree with and probably didn't know was an official party position. Now they do.

Meanwhile, Republican leaders can't avoid the truth that Akin's call to do away with the rape exception is a principled "pro-life" position. If you believe that the cell cluster created when a sperm fertilizes an egg is a full a human being, then it shouldn't matter whether it was made through marital love or a violent crime. So holding that rape victims shouldn't be forced to have the child of their tormenters is a cop-out. When Missouri Right to Life says it supports Akin's "defense of the life of an innocent unborn child conceived by rape," it is being consistent.

I believe that abortions should be easy to obtain early in a pregnancy and progressively harder to get as time goes on. The issue isn't when life begins, but when "personhood" begins. Sperm, unfertilized eggs and fingernails are all life and human. The point of development at which the fertilized egg should be considered a full-fledged person is determined by theology or philosophy, not science. But those who say a day-old embryo is as much a person as a 3-year-old must explain why we freeze embryos and not toddlers. They should explain why fertility clinics are allowed to throw out many thousands of unused embryos every year.

On the matter of pregnancies ...

Published: Saturday 25 August 2012
While it may seem quaint that ladies fussed about lipstick and putting steak on the table by 5:30pm while the boys did the “real work,” there’s nothing cute about the full picture.

 

“When one door closes, another dress opens,” says an ad exec on HBO’s hit show Mad Men.  I admit it: lately I’ve been mad about Mad Men, scrambling through episodes with a strange intrigue of looking through a portal to a time when lady secretaries were totally subordinate to their suited bosses.  Gawking and groping women was par for the corporate course, and brandy and cigarettes were meeting staples—just another day at the office.  It’s a fascinating look into a foregone era, one most of my twenty-something colleagues never experienced and possibly can’t even imagine.

 

While it may seem quaint that ladies fussed about lipstick and putting steak on the table by 5:30pm while the boys did the “real work,” there’s nothing cute about the full picture: sexual harassment in the workplace, back-alley abortions, limited access to birth control for the privileged few, rampant homophobia and racism, glass ceilings that must have seemed shatter-proof. 

 

Now some fifty years later we can look back with an incredulous (and satirical) eye – yet some of the key things that set us apart from those bygone days seem to be reemerging.  This past year women’s reproductive rights have come under threat in an alarming way.  Heck, Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown couldn’t even say the word “vagina” without being censured by her conservative male colleagues.

 

The latest assault came last week when Republican Missouri Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin said that victims of “legitimate rape" don't get pregnant because "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."  Someone quickly posted a Facebook meme that said “‘Good news – your body shut down ...

Published: Thursday 23 August 2012
The Republican Party platform committee now includes a provision calling for a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, without an exception for rape or incest.

 

We’re witnessing the capture by fanatics of what was once a great and important American political party. 

The Republican Party platform committee now includes a provision calling for a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, without an exception for rape or incest. This is basically Missouri senatorial candidate Todd Akin’s position. (At least the GOP platform doesn’t assert that women’s bodies automatically reject “legitimate” rapists’ sperm.)

Paul Ryan, Romney’s selection for vice president, has co-sponsored 38 anti-abortion measures while in the House of Representatives, including several containing no exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. 

But the GOP’s fanaticism goes far beyond the its growing absolutism about abortion.

Ryan’s proposed budget, approved by almost all House Republicans, is also an exercise in fanaticism. It replaces Medicare with vouchers that won’t possibly keep up with rising healthcare costs — thereby shifting costs directly on to the elderly. 

That budget also harms the poor and rewards the rich, but does little or nothing to reduce the federal budget deficit. Over 60 percent of its spending cuts come out of programs for lower-income Americans. Its tax cuts for the rich reduce revenues by $4.6 trillion over the decade while saving the typical millionaire hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

The GOP’s looniness doesn’t even stop there. Republicans remain unwaivering in their support of state laws allowing or encouraging the profiling of Latinos. And unrelenting in their war against gay rights. 

It’s not just women, seniors, budget hawks, the poor, Latinos, and gays who are catching on to the Republicans’ extremism. Americans who don’t fall into one of these categories are becoming alarmed, too — as they should.

Published: Wednesday 22 August 2012
“The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, however, has tallied Ryan’s budgetary giveaways to the rich and take-backs from the middle-class and the poor.”

Let's talk budget! Yes, the wonky wonderland of the federal budget, with page after page of numbers — what fun, eh?

No. Most people would prefer a root canal to a budget discussion (indeed, I've heard that some dentists use a recording of budget numbers to anesthetize their root-canal patients — everything from the neck up quickly goes numb). But Paul Ryan is different.

The GOP's vice presidential nominee is touted as Mr. Budget, a guy who gets excited by running his fingers through fiscal things. That's why the Washington cognoscenti have declared him to be "serious," rather than just another political opportunist riding the right-wing wave of tea party ridiculousness.

Being branded as "serious" means never having to admit you're a flim-flam man. Thus, the widely ballyhooed Ryan Budget is called "honest" and "responsible" by insiders who obviously haven't run the numbers on it.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, however, has tallied Ryan's budgetary giveaways to the rich and take-backs from the middle-class and the poor. Far from balancing the federal budget, as the self-proclaimed deficit hawk claims, the analysts found that Ryan's plan increases the federal deficit. And not by a little, but by about $2.5 trillion! So, yes, he is serious — serious as a snakebite.

Then there was Ryan's explosive admission recently that the budget plan of his presidential partner, Mitt Romney, is also a con game. Despite Romney's repeated assertion that — by golly — his nifty plan will balance the federal budget in only eight years, Ryan confessed that they don't really know that, because "we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan."

Say what? What? Hello — a budget is nothing but numbers — numbers that have, ...

Published: Wednesday 22 August 2012
“Conservative super PAC American Crossroads brought in $7.1 million finishing the month with $29.5 million in the bank.”

Conservative super PACs dominated their Democratic rivals in the latest round of fundraising, according to reports from the Federal Election Commission filed Monday.

Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, brought in $7.5 million in July, finishing with an imposing $20.5 million in the bank. Top contributors include Texas homebuilder and super donor Bob Perry, who gave another $2 million.

Perry was already top donor to the group and the latest donation pushes his total to a whopping $8 million. Another major donor was the Renco Group, a family-owned investment company associated with billionaire investor Ira Rennert, which gave $1 million.

Conservative super PAC American Crossroads brought in $7.1 million finishing the month with $29.5 million in the bank. Texas mega-donor and billionaire Robert Rowling’s TRT Holdings, a private holding company that includes Omni Hotels and Gold’s Gym, gave $1 million. TRT also gave $1 million to American Crossroads in February. Rowling personally gave $1 million to the super PAC in May and another $1 million in July.

Meanwhile, the Democratic super PACs didn’t fare quite as well.

Published: Tuesday 21 August 2012
If they were honest with voters, their bumper sticker would read: “Ryan-Romney 2012.”

 

Poor Paul Ryan — he successfully rammed a budget bill through the U.S. House of Representatives that gutted Medicare, thus earning him the undying adulation of the far-right Republican fringe, whose unrestrained enthusiasm for him compelled Mitt Romney to name the Wisconsin Republican as his vice presidential nominee.

So far, so good — but, wham! — the Romney-Ryan ticket had barely debuted before Mitt started dumping on his newly anointed running mate's budget. Curiously, that's the exact same budget that Romney had gushed about during the Republican primary this spring, calling it a “bold and exciting effort” that is “very much needed.”

 

But that was when Mitt was trolling for votes in the shallow waters of the fringe. Now, however, Ryan's budget, the very bauble that got him to the GOP's No. 2 political slot, turns out to be so widely and wildly unpopular with voters in the deeper waters of the general election that it's already been trashed by the GOP's No. 1. "I have my own budget plan," Romney backpedaled the day after he knighted Sir Ryan, "and that's the budget plan we're going to run on."

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Published: Sunday 19 August 2012
“Just as unsustainable debts and freewheeling lending practices reduced the resilience of personal and national financial systems, so our mounting climate debt is warming the earth and reducing the resilience of our food, water and social systems.”

In the wake of the economic crash of 2008, the resilience of millions of Americans’ personal finances collapsed in the face of unexpected stresses — loss of a job, collapse of a home’s value, decline in stock prices, or a medical emergency. Personal bankruptcy filings accelerated from just under 600,000 in 2006 to over 1.5 million in 2010.

Sometimes the stresses piled on one another, as when the loss of a job deprived a family of medical insurance and then a medical emergency hit. The financial woes that led to the wave of bankruptcies took most of us by surprise, even though iconoclasts in the banking industry had been warning of looming disaster for months or even years. And in the wake of the bankruptcies came a wave of homelessness, suffering and anxiety.

In just the same way we were warned of the subprime mortgage bubble, we have been warned of climate change’s looming impact. And this summer is driving home the need to be concerned about looming climate bankruptcy.

Just as unsustainable debts and freewheeling lending practices reduced the resilience of personal and national financial systems, so our mounting climate debt is warming the earth and reducing the resilience of our food, water and social systems. Much like an overdrawn bank account, we are rapidly depleting the carbon storehouses of our forests, and the deposits of coal and fossil fuels underground. By releasing all this carbon dioxide into the air, we are tipping the atmosphere’s balance sheets into the red — too much carbon in the atmosphere for our forests and oceans to absorb it all. The more CO2 we pump into the atmosphere, the further in debt we go, and the more sacrifice we’ll need to make to balance our carbon budget in the future.

And this summer the impacts of our mounting climate debt became clear. July was the hottest month ...

Published: Sunday 19 August 2012
So, Romney settled on a superficially controversial pick (though knee-jerk compared to Palin) because of this most uncontroversial tactic: GOP moderates go hard right with V.P.’s to lock up the (white, evangelical, older) base.

Whether you responded with shock, surprise or delight to his V.P. pick, Mitt Romney delivered no bombshell with Paul Ryan. Au contraire. The briefest survey confirms "going hard right V.P." typifies the modern era for the Gruesome Old Party. That Romney the Null and Void would pick an extreme partisan to shore up his skeptical base was inevitable: lock up the sheeple who trust super-rich Mitt even less than they did Dole, Dubya or that old guy enamored with the Palin. 

  

That doesn't mean Ryan is a smart, election-winning pick (still anathema to moderates), just the least compromised ideologue eager to join the wobbly Mitt ship. Plus, Ryan would be positioned to pick up the pieces for 2016. One current thesis, that the extreme right, business cartel is prepping Ryan as favorite for the incumbent-less 2016, depends on a long-shot assumption: that another four years of hard times  doesn't block Ryan primary wins, considering the failed like-minded clones this year (Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum). Aligned to the Koch Bros., Ryan won't lack for funds but more four years of gridlock may make severe Ryan austerity untenable.       

  

Let's debunk other momentary flashes: Ryan is less about transient polling or Romney desperation (too early), nor is this some weird, double-reversal because "power brokers" favor Obama (for Romney, winning is everything, until the dire end). Nor is Romney keen for "big, bold ideas" and many predict his ticket sticks doggedly to vacuous, bromide-coated blarney (until that flops). Finally, Ryan's leverage to overcome Obama's Wisconsin lead looks dubious, at best. 

 

Drive the base turnout

  

So, Romney settled on a superficially controversial pick (though ...

Published: Friday 17 August 2012
Published: Friday 17 August 2012
More than 46 million U.S. citizens currently rely on the federally-funded food stamp program to help meet their nutritional needs – more than one in seven people. The average benefits amount to about 143 dollars a month, even as food prices continue to rise.

 

Food rights activists from around the world will descend on the coastal U.S. state of Florida next week to protest homelessness and hunger facing millions of people in the United States and across the globe.

The Aug. 20-26 protests in Tampa were organized to draw attention to the Republican Party’s aggressive stance on tax cuts for the rich and reductions in the social safety net for poor and working families.

The Republicans hold their national convention in Tampa on Aug. 17 to formally anoint Mitt Romney as the party’s candidate for the presidential election in November.

“I have seen people who did not eat for five days. This is happening in the world’s wealthiest country,” Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs and an organizer of next week’s protests, told IPS.

More than 46 million U.S. citizens currently rely on the federally-funded food stamp program to help meet their nutritional needs – more than one in seven people. The average benefits amount to about 143 dollars a month, even as food prices continue to rise.

“What’s going on with the poor here and abroad is economic manipulation,” said McHenry. “Access to food is a right, not a privilege, but our leaders don’t recognize that. That is why there are so many people in jails because they are poor.”

The United States leads the world in incarceration rates, with more than two million people living behind bars.

The Barack Obama administration intends to cut food stamps funding by about two percent, or 1.6 billion dollars, a year. Besides attacks on health-care, the Republicans are seeking much greater cuts to the program, whose funding in 2011 was 78 million dollars.

Beyond the U.S., millions across the world are mired in chronic conditions of hunger and starvation. ...

Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
“What do you give a government program that has everything ... except a secure future of its own?”

Today, August 14, is Social Security's 77th birthday. That presents us with a difficult challenge: What do you give a government program that has everything ... except a secure future of its own?

Let's take a look at the options for this year's celebration.

The Gift Pile

Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Look what Social Security can already list among its gifts. It's got:

Hundreds of millions of people who love it. Polls consistently show that Social Security, along with Medicare, is one of our most popular government programs.

The best balance sheet in the entire government. Despite all the scare talk (which we'll get to shortly), no program in U.S. history is on a firmer financial footing than Social Security. It's a stand-alone program which isn't allowed to contribute to the overall government deficit, and is absolutely solvent until the mid-2030s.

No other program can say that.

A great profile. There's no way to say this delicately, so we'll come right out with it: Social Security has the slimmest, sleekest look in Washington. We don't like to encourage our society's fixation on thinness as the ideal of beauty, but let's face it -- Social Security is so cost-effective in delivering its benefits that it's got the most streamlined chassis around.

The Social Security Administration beats every private benefits program in the country when it comes to low overhead and efficient administrative design. One of the main reasons for that is the fact that everybody who pays into the system receives its benefits at qualification time.

There's no "means testing," no gamesmanship, no trick—just trim, no-overhead service delivery.

Great polls. Time and time again, overwhelming majorities of Americans have made it clear that they don't want this program to be cut. That means a lot: Of all the gifts in the world, the best ...

Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
“What Romney didn’t say was that his running-mate’s budget — approved by House Republicans and by Romney himself — would cut Medicare by the same amount.”

 

Stumping in Florida today, Mitt Romney charged President Obama’s Affordable Care Act will “cut more than $700 billion” out of Medicare.

What Romney didn’t say was that his running-mate’s budget — approved by House Republicans and by Romney himself — would cut Medicare by the same amount.

The big difference, though, is the Affordable Care Act achieves these savings by reducing Medicare payments to drug companies, hospitals, and other providers rather than cutting payments to Medicare beneficiaries.

The Romney-Ryan plan, by contrast, achieves its savings by turning Medicare into a voucher whose value doesn’t keep up with expected increases in healthcare costs — thereby shifting the burden onto Medicare beneficiaries, who will have to pay an average of $6,500 a year more for their Medicare insurance, according an analysis of the Republican plan by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.

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Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
“The two nonprofits had outspent all other types of outside spending groups in this election cycle, including political parties, unions, trade associations and political action committees.”

 

Two conservative nonprofits, Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, have poured almost $60 million into TV ads to influence the presidential race so far, outgunning all super PACs put together, new spending estimates show.

These nonprofits, also known as 501(c)(4)s or c4s for their section of the tax code, don't have to disclose their donors to the public.

The two nonprofits had outspent all other types of outside spending groups in this election cycle, including political parties, unions, trade associations and political action committees, a ProPublica analysis of data provided by Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, or CMAG, found.

Super PACs, which do have to report their donors, spent an estimated $55.7 million on TV ads mentioning a presidential candidate, CMAG data shows. Parties spent $22.5 million.

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Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is in a dead heat with two other candidates in the state's GOP U.S. Senate primary.

For months, Republican Tommy Thompson, a former four-term Wisconsin governor, was the favorite to become the next U.S. senator from the state, filling the seat occupied by retiring Democrat Herb Kohl, and boosting GOP hopes of gaining control of Congress’ upper chamber.

But thanks to $3.4 million in spending by outside groups and an ongoing ideological divide within the Republican Party, Thompson may not even make it through Tuesday’s primary, much less win the general election.

Thompson’s main primary rivals are former Rep. Mark Neumann, the favored candidate of the increasingly influential super PAC Club for Growth Action, and businessman Eric Hovde, who has invested millions of dollars of his own money in his candidacy.

Club for Growth Action has spent $1.7 million on ads, more than any other non-candidate organization, with about $1.2 million going toward criticizing Neumann’s opponents.

As a super PAC, the organization can accept unlimited funds from corporations and individual donors and spend that money on advertising as long as it is not coordinated with candidates’ own ...

Published: Monday 13 August 2012
This is a crucial moment in the life of our nation, and it is absolutely vital that we select the right man to lead America back to prosperity and greatness.

 

As Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney names Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin as his vice presidential running mate, we speak with two Wisconsinites about the seven-term congressman's record, and how his views are influenced by the controversial philosopher, Ayn Rand. "This is not necessarily a foolish choice by Romney," says John Nichols, political writer for The Nation magazine. "It is an extreme choice and it does define the national Republican Party toward a place where the Wisconsin Republican Party is — which is very anti-labor, willing to make deep cuts in education, public services, and frankly, very combative on issues like voter ID and a host of other things that really go to the core question of how successful and how functional our democracy will be." Ryan is chairman of the House of Representatives Budget Committee and architect of a controversial budget plan to cut federal spending by more than $5 trillion over the next 10 years. "Ryan gets a lot of mileage for understanding so-called the budget and economics," says Matthew Rothschild, editor and publisher of The Progressive magazine. "But if you look closely, he doesn't really get it." Democrats argue Ryan's planned Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security reform would essentially dismantle key components of the social safety net.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with the latest news in the U.S. presidential race. On Saturday, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney announced Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin would be his vice-presidential running mate. Ryan, now 42, was elected to the House of Representatives at 28. He’s a Republican representative. He’s also chair of the House of Representatives Budget Committee. He spoke in Virginia right after his selection was made.

REP. PAUL RYAN: I’ve been ...

Published: Monday 13 August 2012
The Ryan-backed GOP budet maintains these cuts, but rather than using them to improve the Medicare program, it applies the savings to pay for massive tax cuts.

 

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are turning the GOP’s greatest political liability — a proposal to drastically restructure Medicare for seniors — into a sharp attack against President Obama, despite Republican efforts to cut more than a trillion from the program.

“There’s only one president that I know of in history that robbed Medicare, $716 billion to pay for a new risky program of his own that we call Obamacare,” Romney said during the ticket’s first interview together on CBS, honing in on a charge the pair has reiterated at every campaign stop since the two Republicans joined forces on Saturday:

What Paul Ryan and I have talked about is saving Medicare, is providing people greater choice in Medicare, making sure it’s there for current seniors. No changes, by the way, for current seniors, or those nearing retirement. But looking for young people down the road and saying, “We’re going to give you a bigger choice.” In America, the nature of this country has been giving people more freedom, more choices. That’s how we make Medicare work down the road.”

Watch it:

 

 

The $716 billion figure comes from the Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimate of the Republican proposal to repeal the law, though the office doesn’t back up the charge that Obama stole the money from the current Medicare budget. Rather, the savings slow the growth of Medicare over the next decade: eliminate ...

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
The ad features a former employee of a Bain-owned steel mill who says his wife put off visiting a doctor when she became ill because his family lost their health insurance following the closure of the plant where he worked.

Today, Priorities USA Action, a pro-President Barack Obama super PAC, released “Understands.” The minute-long ad takes aim at presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, condemning his actions when he was chairman and CEO of Bain Capital and linking the private equity firm's buyout of a steel company to a woman's death from cancer.

The ad features a former employee of a Bain-owned steel mill who says his wife put off visiting a doctor when she became ill because his family lost their health insurance following the closure of the plant where he worked. When the man’s wife finally went to the hospital, he says, it was too late — she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and died 22 days later.

“I don’t think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone,” he says. “And furthermore I do not think that Mitt Romney is concerned.”

Priorities USA Action reported spending almost $1.3 million on an anti-Romney television advertising buy in its most recent independent expenditure report to the Federal Election Commission. It is not certain whether or not the expenditure is tied directly to the ad.

Romney's campaign said "President Obama’s allies continue to use discredited and dishonest attacks in a contemptible effort to conceal the administration’s deplorable economic record," in response to the ad.

In other outside spending news:

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
The commission ruled in April that affiliates of CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox in the nation’s biggest markets must post their revenue from political ads online for the public to see.

Industry analysts are predicting that upwards of $3 billion will be spent on political advertisements in the 2012 election. This is an increase of more than $500 million from 2008. But who will benefit the most from this cash infusion? Not President Obama. Not even Mitt Romney. Rather, the National Association of Broadcasters, a lobbying group that proclaims itself “the voice for the nation’s radio and television broadcasters.”

A new FCC rule could provide the public with real-time data about who is profiting from the vast Super PAC spending. The commission ruled in April that affiliates of CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox in the nation’s biggest markets must post their revenue from political ads online for the public to see. While such records are currently made public, they are kept in paper form at each station, essentially making them inaccessible.

Although TV stations are required by law to offer discounted rates to candidates seeking airtime to run their advertisements, they are not required to offer discounted rates to the groups that are doing most of the spending, super PACs. As a free-market society would have it, competition breeds profit. With limited airtime available for campaign ads in an election year, many groups are vying for the position of having their ads reach the largest media markets in highly contested political races. Thus, as competition increases, the cost of advertising also increases, and it is no surprise that NAB supported this style of political campaigning. As Rolling Stone illustrates:

The more cash that chases limited airtime, the more the ads will cost, and the more politicians must lean on deep-pocketed patrons. In short, the dirtier the system, the better for the bottom-line at TV stations ...

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
“Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves.”

Paul Ryan is the reverse of Sarah Palin. She was all right-wing flash without much substance. He’s all right-wing substance without much flash.

Ryan is not a firebrand. He’s not smarmy. He doesn’t ooze contempt for opponents or ridicule those who disagree with him. In style and tone, he doesn’t even sound like an ideologue – until you listen to what he has to say.

It’s here — in Ryan’s views and policy judgments — we find the true ideologue. More than any other politician today, Paul Ryan exemplifies the social Darwinism at the core of today’s Republican Party: Reward the rich, penalize the poor, let everyone else fend for themselves. Dog eat dog.

Ryan’s views are crystallized in the budget he produced for House Republicans last March as chairman of the House Budget committee. That budget would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade. The biggest cuts would be in Medicaid, which provides healthcare for the nation’s poor – forcing states to drop coverage for an estimated 14 million to 28 million low-income people, according to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Ryan’s budget would also reduce food stamps for poor families by 17 percent ($135 billion) over the decade, leading to a significant increase in hunger – particularly among children. It would also reduce housing assistance, job training, and Pell grants for college tuition.

In all, 62 percent of the budget cuts proposed by Ryan would come from low-income programs.

The Ryan plan would also turn Medicare into vouchers whose value won’t possibly keep up with rising health-care costs – thereby shifting those costs on to seniors.

At the same time, Ryan would provide a substantial tax cut to the very rich – who are ...

Published: Sunday 12 August 2012
Is Mitt doing more than honoring our national legacy of shrewd thrift, plus fierce resistance to centralized authority? 

Full disclosure: rest assured nothing in this tax defense of the grievously-assaulted GOP entrant reflects my father’s 40 year CPA career. I did however, inherit, his honest tax credo: declare all income (certainly with paper trails), only deduct what's defensible by logic or statute, and hire the best tax wizards you can afford. Ask Mitt Romney, who’s mastered the art of spending a few hundred thousand dollars on good advice to save multimillions – perhaps all above board, as far as we know. Sure. I put aside whether fewer, highly-suspicious tax technicalities, even millions buried offshore, wouldn’t have better served Mitt’s thin presidential resume. No one's perfect and wealth outlasts losing.    

  

Nevertheless, let us not throw the not quite born candidate out with the tax water, as Harry Reid’s outlandish, obvious charade attempts. Is Mitt doing more than honoring our national legacy of shrewd thrift, plus fierce resistance to centralized authority?  That belief system arrived with our Pilgrim Parents, then cemented by that most frugal spendthrift-Founding Father, Ben Franklin. He codified that unquenchable Yankee credo: a hard-earned coin saved (that is, from gov’mint takeover) is twice as good as any money earned (especially if taxable).  

  

Tax Avoidance: Double Winner 

 

First, the owner freely spends it all, doubtlessly founding an array of job-creating enterprises. Second, that infamous carryover from prehistoric times, the government, can’t give it away fast enough to the wastrels, equal to tossing dollars down the toilet. If any of us committed that literal federal crime (destroying money), we’d not only have wet, grimy, sullied greenbacks in inaccessible piping, but a huge plumbing bill and screaming ...

Published: Saturday 11 August 2012
The GOP is counting on America’s notoriously short-term memory to blot out the last time the nation put a Republican into the Oval Office, on the reasonable assumption that such a memory might cause voters to avoid making the same mistake twice.

As Bill Clinton is resurrected by the Democrats, George W. Bush is being erased by the GOP — as if an entire eight years of American history hadn’t happened.

While Bill Clinton stumps for Obama, Romney has gone out of his way not to mention the name of the president who came after Clinton and before Obama.

Clinton will have a starring role at the Democratic National Convention. George W. Bush won’t even be at the Republican one – the first time a national party has not given the stage at its convention to its most recent occupant of the Oval Office who successfully ran for reelection.

The GOP is counting on America’s notoriously short-term memory to blot out the last time the nation put a Republican into the Oval Office, on the reasonable assumption that such a memory might cause voters to avoid making the same mistake twice. As whoever-it-was once said, “fool me once …” (and then mangled the rest).

Republicans want to obliterate any trace of the administration that told America there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and led us into a devastating war; turned a $5 trillion projected budget surplus into a $6 trillion deficit; gave the largest tax cut in a generation to the richest Americans in history; handed out a mountain of corporate welfare to the oil and gas industry, pharmaceutical companies, and military contractors like Halliburton (uniquely benefiting the vice president); whose officials turned a blind eye to Wall Street shenanigans that led to the worst financial calamity since the Great Crash of 1929 and then persuaded Congress to bail out the Street with the largest taxpayer-funded giveaway of all time.

Besides, the resemblances between George W. Bush and Mitt Romney are too close for comfort. Both were born into wealth, sons of prominent politicians who themselves ran for president; both are closely tied to ...

Published: Friday 10 August 2012
“Fast-forward to the present debate over impending budget cuts. Incredibly, the same Republican Party that once insisted the government can’t create jobs is now barnstorming the country telling us the government can, in fact, create jobs — lots of them.”

I'm confused by Republicans in Washington, and here's why: For most of President Obama's term, they have ignored the millions of jobs the Congressional Budget Office says the 2009 stimulus legislation created and instead argued that the government is incapable of boosting employment. Summing up the larger sentiment, Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) in 2011 said "government spending doesn't create jobs," and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) insisted in 2010 that "it's not the government that's going to create jobs in this country."

Fast-forward to the present debate over impending budget cuts. Incredibly, the same Republican Party that once insisted the government can't create jobs is now barnstorming the country telling us the government can, in fact, create jobs — lots of them.

This isn't an exaggeration. As The Hill newspaper reports, Republican senators — many of whom suggested government can't create jobs — are hosting town hall meetings to sound the alarm about how proposed defense spending reductions "would cause significant job losses" and therefore hurt the economy.

Ayotte's rhetorical paroxysms are especially illustrative — and perplexing. In a CNN interview to promote the events, the New Hampshire senator — the same lawmaker who said, "it's not the government that's going to create jobs" — implored Americans to "think about (the Pentagon cuts) in terms of jobs, 136,000 defense jobs in Virginia. They have to issue layoff notices before the election, so members of Congress need to come together on this."

So, as I said, I'm confused. Do Republicans believe government cannot create jobs? Or do Republicans believe the government is so good at creating jobs that we can't even minimally reduce the largest military budget in the world for fear of layoffs?

Because of the rhetorical backflips, ...

Published: Wednesday 8 August 2012
“The conventional wisdom is that Romney is weird, aloof, socially awkward, and removed from the lives of average Americans.”

While on The David Pakman Show yesterday, host David Pakman asked me why I thought Mitt Romney has proven to be such a bad candidate.

The conventional wisdom is that Romney is weird, aloof, socially awkward, and removed from the lives of average Americans. All that may be true, but it's also true of plenty of successful politicians. Politics is not the profession for the well-adjusted.

Instead, I noted that Romney is having such a hard time because of the fundamental incoherence of his and party's issue platform.

The Republican Party and the conservative movement simply have done no significant soul-searching following the debacle of the George W. Bush presidency. They have admitted no error, and in turn, have refused to make any adjustments to convince the public they are ready to return to power.

In Romney's case, he appears to have some basic understanding that he can't take Tea Party anti-government talking points and expect to win the middle of the country. But he also can't speak truth to the Tea Party either.

He won't offer policies that are any different from President Bush's, because to do so would require admitting that something out of the Conservative 101 playbook -- lower taxes on the rich, fewer rules on corporations -- didn't work.

Instead he dances around nearly every question on policy, and panders to every audience he sees, in hopes no ...

Published: Tuesday 7 August 2012
“With the pragmatic Republican establishment under ideological attack, its moderates may no longer feel free to be themselves.”

When traditional Republicans tell their tea party wing that they have to negotiate with Democrats, the radicals' frequent response is: No, they don't. One side has to win. But before that fistfight at the edge of the falls can take place, one side has to win within the Republican Party. Civil wars are not pretty.

The tea party movement has become the dead bad-luck bird hanging around the GOP establishment's neck. Its anger-fueled energy has forced moderate Republicans off ballots in places where moderates tend to win. It has burdened otherwise centrist Republicans with radical positions that don't go well with a general electorate. The Grand Old Party is being taken over by an ideological fringe with unclear motives, a loose grasp on reality and little interest in actually governing.

The most recent victim is Ohio Republican Steven LaTourette, who says that he's had it after 18 years in the House. The uncompromising partisanship drove him out. "Anybody that doesn't understand that in a split government, ...

Published: Monday 6 August 2012
“For the past two years the Republicans have obstructed proposals that would have helped most Americans.”

There are more than five, of course, and voting Democrat may not be much of an improvement, but attaching these adjectives to the comically contemptible GOP seems more than appropriate.

 



OBSTRUCTIONIST

 


In 2010 Mitch McConnell said: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." He didn't mention the economy, or education, or jobs, or the housing market. Instead, the goal is to beat Obama, whatever misery it might cause 200 million Americans.



For the past two years the Republicans have obstructed proposals that would have helped most Americans. They fought the middle-class tax cut because it would only apply to the first quarter-million of income. They killed a jobs bill that was supported by two-thirds of the public. They rejected a bill to disclose information about big campaign donors. They disrupted the routine process of increasing the debt ceiling, thus triggering the first-ever downgrading of the U.S. credit rating. Most recently they've obstructed efforts to provide mortgage debt relief to American homeowners.


Along the way they found time to obstruct other bills that conflicted with their 'austerity' mentality: a Pay Equity Bill that would have provided greater pay equality for women; a bill to limit student loan rates; a transportation bill that Senator Dick Durbin called one of the "easiest bills to do on Capitol Hill"; a demand for a $16 million cut in the FAA budget that led to a $25 million PER DAY shutdown.


Republicans in Congress, by relying on questionable filibuster rules and delay tactics, have built a "road to gridlock" in the halls of our government. They have been even less productive than the "do-nothing" Congress of Harry Truman. As observed by George Lakoff and Elisabeth Wehling, their recalcitrance ...

Published: Sunday 5 August 2012
“All Cheney did was affirm the incontrovertible national consensus: Sarah Palin is, was, and will always be demonstrably unqualified to be president.”

 

Mercifully brief, this week’s rousing Cheney-Palin-McCain food fight delivers more brash hijinks to liberals and Democrats than NBC’s controversial, jingoist Olympic coverage. Really, Dark Vader takes on the Tundra Hussy with pinwheel-loaded McCain pulling up the rear? Summertime, and the punditry’s easy. No doubt, after this merry episode in GOP dissension, we face months of Romney drudgery, slogging through a brittle convention, all the while deflecting Bain/tax/culture scandals until November. 

Beyond the pleasure of the inexhaustible Palin farce, why shouldn’t subtle ironists delight when the great demonic V.P. declares unfit, only four years later, a rogue V.P. pick fully ensconced on the trash heap? Ah, the grudge-filled Cheney gives Romney unsolicited V.P. advice while excoriating his arch-rival McCain.  Did Cheney forget, by impugning the perennial victim – Palin the growling pit bull – he’d foment not just McCain gurgling but fusillades of Tea Party frenzy against “the GOP establishment”? 

All Cheney did was affirm the incontrovertible national consensus: Sarah Palin is, was, and will always be demonstrably unqualified to be president. Or V.P. Or dogcatcher. How valuable: hindsight from the Dubya hindquarter now settles on the great ‘08 “mistake.” You think? Palin’s 17% “approval” last year barely topped BP’s showing (16% for nature’s nemesis-in-chief). But who cares when the rightwing fur flies? Mid-summer, news doldrums, and Mitt Romney veers between pathetic, deranged, and deadly dull, punctuated only by sparkling gaffes. 
  


Lame Leading the Lame 

And Sarah's ever defensive, poor-me victim’s response was to blame (presumably senile) Cheney getting suckered (at this last date?) by a false, ...

Published: Saturday 4 August 2012
“The Democrats hope a growing coalition of white college graduates and immigrants will deliver Colorado to Barack Obama. Recent polls show the president and Republican Mitt Romney tied.”

When the sun goes down, the new Mountain West comes out swinging. Denver's Larimer Square and LoDo (Lower Downtown) district turns into a multicultural Mixmaster of educated professionals, ordinary folk and tourists jamming bars, hamburger joints, steak palaces and French bistros. Meanwhile, armies of largely Spanish-speaking immigrants work the kitchens and vacuum the deserted offices. For all the legends of the spacious West, the region is one of the most urbanized.

And it is getting more so, which is why once-dependably Republican Colorado is in the "leaning who-knows-where" category in the upcoming election. Similar demographic trends are visiting Nevada and New Mexico. And although Arizona remains Republican, that could change, as well.

An influx of newcomers has "raised educational levels, replaced older with younger generations and powered the rise of metropolitan areas where the overwhelming majority of the Mountain West population now lives." So writes Ruy Teixeira in "America's New Swing Region: Changing Politics and Demographics in the Mountain West," published by the Brookings Institution.

The Democrats hope a growing coalition of white college graduates and immigrants will deliver Colorado to Barack Obama. Recent polls show the president and Republican Mitt Romney tied. For the record, registered voters in Colorado split evenly among Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The demographic changes are certainly a wind at the Democrats' back. From 2000 to 2010, minorities' share of eligible Colorado voters rose nearly 3 percent. Working-age college graduates gained 2 percent. In the same period, the portion of eligible white voters who did not graduate from college — a group generally favorable to Republicans — fell almost 6 percent.

The problem for Republicans here goes beyond the new arrivals' ...

Published: Friday 3 August 2012
“Eisenhower supported and signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which funded 41,000 miles of highway construction and imposed new taxes on fuel consumption to do it. At a total cost of $25 billion, it was the largest Federal project in history at the time.”

 

A well funded network of right-wing extremists wants to make it socially and politically impossible to express the ideals that made this country great. One of those extremists appeared on their billionaire-funded network this week to attack Elizabeth Warren, and anyone else who isn't on the far right, as a Communist.

How retro, you may be saying to yourself. They haven't pulled that trick since the Eisenhower era.

That's the strangest part of all this: They seem to think "Eisenhower era" is a euphemism for "Bolshevik control."

Mainstream vs. Extreme

Displaying her customary gravitas, here's what Sarah Palin had to say on the FOX News channel this week:

READ FULL POST 10 COMMENTS
Published: Friday 3 August 2012
“Solyndra, a California-based renewable energy firm and favorite of the Obama White House, received the administration’s first loan guarantee in 2009 and was held out as an example of the ‘promise of clean energy’ by the president.”

 

The Department of Energy knew its $535 million loan guarantee to solar-panel maker Solyndra Inc. was “a bad bet from the beginning” but was “determined to make Solyndra a stimulus success story at any cost,” the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee concluded in a report released Thursday.

Solyndra failed last year. The committee’s 154-page report follows its approval Wednesday of the No More Solyndras Act, which would disband the DOE loan guarantee program. The bill would also bar any guarantees for applications received after 2011 and require additional reviews by the Treasury Department and Congress for pending and existing loans.

Solyndra, a California-based renewable energy firm and favorite of the Obama White House, received the administration's first loan guarantee in 2009 and was held out as an example of the “promise of clean energy” by the president. Within two years, the company had filed for bankruptcy, firing 1,100 employees in the process.

The Center for Public Integrity and ABC News first reported on the Solyndra loan guarantee in May 2011, revealing that the DOE had rushed to back the firm without fully vetting its economic prospects. The investigation also noted that billionaire George Kaiser, one of Obama’s principal backers in the 2008 elections, was a major Solyndra shareholder.

The Energy and Commerce Committee report reflects an 18-month investigation into the DOE-Solyndra affair, presenting what it calls “a complete picture of the facts and circumstances” surrounding the White House, DOE, Solyndra, and investors like Kaiser.

“Solyndra will be ...

Published: Thursday 2 August 2012
“The Republican definition of what it means to be a liberal is false and fictitious but has now become so infused into the political vernacular and fixed in the public mind that simply setting the record state requires a Herculean effort.”

 

Democrats have allowed the Republican Party to brand liberals and liberalism as a radical ideology rather than a mainstream alternative to the extreme right-wing ideology that now passes for conservatism in this country. 

The Republican definition of what it means to be a liberal is false and fictitious but has now become so infused into the political vernacular and fixed in the public mind that simply setting the record state requires a Herculean effort.

As a first step, here is a short list of big lies about liberals.     

Big Lie #1:  Liberals are all alike – tree hugging clones who agree about everything from abortion and arms control to Zoloft and Zoroastrianism.

No, in fact that would be the new Republicans – the folks who watch FOX News religiously, follow the party line like lemmings, and are not in the least troubled by the tawdry methods that FOX uses to distort the words and views of those it opposes. 

One of the reasons why liberals are so astonishingly ineffectual at hammering home specific messages is precisely because, unlike today’s knee-jerk conservatives, liberals do not march in lockstep on much of anything, including the burning issues of the day. 

Unlike the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly, liberals tend to treat people of all hues and views with respect.  That respect, however, is put to the extreme test when we are constantly bombarded with toxic untruths extolling the trickle down theory (purporting to show how the extreme concentration of wealth in society benefits us all) or the dickish idea that greed is good – dickish as in Dick Cheney, Dick Armey, and Dick Tuck. 

Big Lie #2:  Liberals and progressives are wannabe European socialists (and as all “real Americans” know in their bones, that’s a bad ...

Published: Monday 30 July 2012
“Who is going to make out like bandits if the Republican bill becomes law? Mitt Romney and his five sons, of course.”

 

This week the House, like the Senate last week, is expected to vote on competing tax bills: a Democratic proposal that would allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to expire as scheduled while extending them for the middle-class, and a Republican proposal that will keep the Bush tax cut party going for America's millionaires.

The Republican bill is expected to not only extend the low income tax rates for the wealthy, but also the absurdly low estate tax rate where multi-millionaire heirs get their first $5 million tax-free.

Who is going to make out like bandits if the Republican bill becomes law? Mitt Romney and his five sons, of course.

Romney's wealthy is an estimated $230 million, not counting the $100 million trust he has set aside for his brood.

Of course, no one is going to pass the bill just to shovel more millions into Romney's Swiss bank account (cheap shot!).

But Romney is the personification of who the Republican Party believes should be blessed with low taxes.

He is one of the "job creators" whom we must provide the "incentive" to succeed, even if it makes it harder to cut our long-term budget deficits or pay for public infrastructure, teachers and clean energy.

If Romney had to pay higher income taxes, then he wouldn't bother investing in the innovative new ideas that grow the economy. If he can't give his children all of his ...

Published: Monday 30 July 2012
ALEC’s meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls “model bills.”

 

 

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt toEPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions,ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative "corporate bill mill" by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of theALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls "model bills." Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a "voice and a vote in shaping policy." In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

 

ALEC, though, isn't the only group singing this tune.

As it turns out, one of the "Other ALECs," or a group that operates in a similar manner toALEC, will ...

Published: Sunday 29 July 2012
“When did we ever nominate, let along elect a slippery, fabulously wealthy corporate raider? Not once.”

Great news this week for majority rule: CNN polling reported 63% polled think Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital triumphs make him more likely to “make good decisions handling” the economy over the next four years. What else matters to hardscrabble anguish in towns like Peoria, Illinois? Put in a tough, no-nonsense CEO tycoon to remake America as Bain remade venture capital – and no more feel-good stumbles into sentimental socialism.   

 

Moreover, six in ten honorable voters (CBS/NY Times) won’t let jaw-dropping Bain revelations “matter to their vote” (so much for predation, outsourcing, job demolition, and tax-avoidance sleaze). Finally, 54% (USA Today/Gallup) affirm Mitt’s “personality and leadership qualities” are what a “president should have.” Exactly what “qualities,” pray tell, other than deviant capitalism and gaffe-filled, policy-free campaigning that glorifies his zealous “elasticity”?

 

When did we ever nominate, let along elect a slippery, fabulously wealthy corporate raider? Not once.  So, why not worsen terrible times with more Reagan-Bush policies? Look, do we honor majorities or not, however they tilt to ruthlessness over familiarity, the economics of hard-knocks over mushy Obama rhetoric. Such early polling is all about the devil voters don't know well vs. the low-performing champion of podium popularism they know all too well.

 

Ruthlessness, devoid of “ruth”

 

Predictably with empty suits, other Romney assessments are less kind: NBC/WSJ folks confirm he’s the first GOP presidential nominee whose unfavorable ratings (40%) still surpass favorables (35%). ...

Published: Sunday 29 July 2012
“Analysis by the Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center shows that all of the $119 billion would flow to the heirs of the estates of the wealthiest three of every 1,000 people who die, since those are the only estates that would owe any estate tax under the 2009 rules.”

The Senate GOP plan to preserve the Bush tax cuts on incomes above $250,000 already amounts to a budget-busting tax cut for the rich, and in addition to it, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) also added another tax cut that benefits only the super-wealthy. The Hatch-McConnell plan effectively eliminates the estate tax, costing billions in revenue and giving a huge tax cut to the very wealthiest Americans, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes:

Specifically, the new Senate Republican proposal, which Senators Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch unveiled earlier this month, would:

Cost $119 billion more in forgone revenues over the next ten years than the Obama Administration proposal to reinstate the already generous 2009 estate-tax rules. Analysis by the Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center shows that all of the $119 billion would flow to the heirs of the estates of the wealthiest three of every 1,000 people who die, since those are the only estates that would owe any estate tax under the 2009 rules.

Give taxable estates an average of more than $1.1 million each in tax reductions, compared to the tax that would be owed under a reinstatement of the 2009 estate-tax rules. The bigger the estate, the more lavish the tax break would be. Estates worth more than $20 million would receive an average tax reduction of $4.2 million in 2013.

As CBPP notes, even President Obama’s estate tax plan is generous, allowing exemptions on millions of dollars of an estate’s value. The GOP’s plan would provide an even larger exemption, and though critics of the tax claim the estate has already been subject to taxation, in most instances it is not because the increase in value of the estate classifies as unrealized capital gains. If the ...

Published: Saturday 28 July 2012
Act 13 — pejoratively referred to as “the Nation's Worst Corporate Giveaway”

On July 26, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court** ruled PA Act 13 unconstitutional.*** The bill would have stripped away local zoning laws, eliminated the legal concept of a Home Rule Charter, limited private property rights, and in the process, completely disempowered town, city, municipal and county governments, particularly when it comes to shale gas development.

The Court ruled that Act 13 "...violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise."

Act 13 -- pejoratively referred to as "

Published: Saturday 28 July 2012
“The GOP bill would actually increase the average tax bill for 25 million households who earn less than $250,000.”

 

It's truly unbelievable: At no time in modern memory has the privileged class been richer, the middle class more endangered, or the number of people in poverty been so high. And yet the Republican Party, whose leaders are overwhelmingly wealthy themselves, is openly and shamelessly proposing to give more tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires - including heirs and heiresses who have done nothing to earn their riches - while actually raising taxes on millions of poor and middle class people.

There will be a time to engage in argument. But first let's take a moment to gaze in wonder at the nakedness of their greed.

Okay, moment's up. Now it's time for the argument.

In Plain Sight

Yesterday the Senate voted on a Democratic proposal to extend the Bush-era tax breaks for all income below $250,000 per year. Everybody would get that tax break, even billionaires. Taxes would go up for anything earned above that amount, and for some kinds of investment income. The bill would also preserve a number of tax breaks for middle class and lower-income working people.

Forty-eight Senators voted against the Democratic bill. Forty-four of them then promptly voted for the Republican proposal, which would keep the Bush tax cut for earnings above $250,000 - a cut which provides greater and greater tax breaks as you climb the earnings scale toward "millionaire" status and eventually ascend to the rarefied atmosphere of the billionaires' club.

They didn't even try to hide what they were doing. They didn't bury it in loopholes, or under pages of indecipherable legal language. They just ... put it all out there.

This is a stick-up.

The ...

Published: Friday 27 July 2012
“The Republican plan, which is focused on a program meant to ensure that beneficiaries are not overpaid, would cut more than $800 million below the level agreed to in the Budget Control Act, the spending agreement passed during last year’s debt limit negotiations.”

A House Republican plan to slash funding for a Social Security program would cost taxpayers far more than it would save, according to a letter from Social Security’s chief actuary. The Republican plan, which is focused on a program meant to ensure that beneficiaries are not overpaid, would cut more than $800 million below the level agreed to in the Budget Control Act, the spending agreement passed during last year’s debt limit negotiations.

According to Social Security chief actuary Stephen Goss, however, the cuts will cost taxpayers between $5 billion and $6 billion, Talking Points Memo reports:

In a Thursday letter responding to inquiring House Democrats, Social Security’s chief actuary Stephen C. Goss concludes that cuts will cost taxpayers “between $5 billion and $6 billion more over the lifetime of those who would not be reassessed due to the reduced funding.”

The cut would hamper the highly-effective program that roots out waste, fraud, and abuse in Social Security — according to Goss, such reviews produce between $6 and $9 in regained savings per dollar spent. While the analysis only covered the impact on the program this year, future cuts would likely have a similar impact on the program.

House leadership isn’t likely to give the Labor, Health, and Education appropriations package that contains the cuts a vote before the full House, but the plan keeps up the GOP’s disturbing trend of targeting social safety net programs that largely benefit the lower- and middle-classes.

Published: Wednesday 25 July 2012
“This grand testimonial of our citizens’ rights and liberties will begin with the Republicans in Tampa, Fla. Flags are being mounted, majestic music is arranged, uplifting speeches are being scripted — and, as has now become normal for these spectacles of democracy-in-action, heavily armed police repression of our cherished First Amendment rights is being ordered.”

Ah, it's almost August — time for another quadrennial flowering of America's glorious democratic process, otherwise known as the presidential nominating conventions!

This grand testimonial of our citizens' rights and liberties will begin with the Republicans in Tampa, Fla. Flags are being mounted, majestic music is arranged, uplifting speeches are being scripted — and, as has now become normal for these spectacles of democracy-in-action, heavily armed police repression of our cherished First Amendment rights is being ordered.

Of course, the delegates, candidates, lobbyists and billionaire funders inside the GOP's convention bunker will be perfectly free (as they should be) to gild the promises and lies that will frame their presidential campaign. They will not be bothered by the riot-geared police authorities deployed around Tampa. However, any citizens who come to practice the hallowed freedoms of public assembly and speech can expect to be welcomed by a thoroughly un-American, weeklong police state.

In May, at the behest of national Republican officials, Tampa's mayor and council passed a temporary ordinance to suspend our First Amendment and authorize a crackdown on protestors. Warning ominously that a few vandals might get out of control, the ordinance tries to force all citizen demonstrations into a few restricted parade routes and what amounts to "protest pens." Pre-emptive detainments, indiscriminate mass arrests and police infiltrations of peaceful protest groups can be expected. Ironically, that's the kind of autocratic excess that led to the American Revolution itself.

The city's top lawyer recently barked that "troublemakers ... will not be tolerated." But the real troublemakers are those inside the hall — and inside a police system that's being used to stomp on the very freedoms that America is supposed to ...

Published: Wednesday 25 July 2012
If people knew what Republicans were doing... but they don’t. In the 2010 election Repubicans spent hundreds of millions on ads telling the public that Democrats had “cut half a trillion from Medicare.”

Last week Republicans filibustered the Bring Jobs Home Act, when polls showdramatic support for ending tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas. Last week Republicans filibustered the DISCLOSE Act which would at least let us know who is pumping hundreds of millions into our election, when polls show overwhelming opposition to corporate purchases of politicians. That's two BIG ones, and that's just last week. You'd think that would clinch the election -- but the public doesn't know who to blame. In a democracy accountability is important but in a plutocracy impunity carries the day.

Campaigned Saying Dems Cut Medicare - Got Voted In And Eliminated Medicare

If people knew what Republicans were doing... but they don't. In the 2010 election Repubicans spent hundreds of millions on ads telling the public that Democrats had "cut half a trillion from Medicare." So the public "knew" that and Republicans took the senior vote for the first time, enabling them to gain a majority in the House. Except it wasn't true. And when Repubicans got into office they passed a budget that ... pretty much eliminates Medicare.

Eliminating Medicare Only The Beginning

That budget that eliminates Medicare is called the Ryan budget (more recently called the Romney-Ryan budget), and it was passed by House Repubicans. Here are just some of the things this budget -- already passed by House Republicans and endorsed by Mitt Romney -- does:

  • Raises taxes on wage earners who make between $50,000 to $100,000 by $1,300
  • Raises taxes on those who make between $100,000 to $200,000 by $2,600
  • Cuts taxes on those who make between $500,000 and $1 million by $35,000
  • Cuts taxes on those who make over a million dollars ...
Published: Saturday 21 July 2012
“Leveling the playing field between online merchants and the traditional shops would help states and localities in more ways than simply increasing sales tax revenues.”

 

A rebounding economy will not be enough to pull state governments out of their fiscal mess, says a new report from the State Budget Crisis Task Force. While health and other costs continue to grow, important sources of revenues are shrinking, the group led by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker and former New York Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch noted. One of those sources is sales taxes. Some states rely on them heavily for revenues. (Only four don't have sales taxes — Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.)

Sales tax revenues have been falling, thanks in part to a Congress that has meddled in states' ability to collect them. With a few noble exceptions, "conservatives" in Washington have worked hard to ban states from requiring online merchants to fork over the sales taxes that brick-and-mortar stores must charge. Online commerce is the fastest-growing sector in retailing. I put "conservatives" in quotes because real conservatives believe that local government, being closer to the people, is the best government. Deny it money, and you deny it power.

So what business did Washington politicos have denying local governments the tools to properly fund themselves? None, outside of irresponsible politicking. Telling states they could not tax the sale of a printer or tomato cage if it was bought online lets the lawmakers boast of their tax-cutting prowess while dumping the consequences on state and local governments. The notion that anything sold on the Internet should be tax-free was engraved in Republican ideology, making it hard for GOP governors to object to it.

But with their states strapped for funds, Republican governors are finally joining their Democratic colleagues in demanding the right to collect the same taxes from online merchants that they do from stores on Main Street or in the mall.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, ...

Published: Friday 20 July 2012
“The report explores the connection between stagnant —and falling — wages, and it’s central finding explodes the argument that raising the minimum wage will cause employers to stop hiring, and the hurt small businesses that opponents of a minimum wage increase (and of the idea of a minimum wage itself) claim are the primary employers of low-wage workers.”

 

Scratch the surface of just about any economic debate this election year, and you'll find one issue that goes all the way to the core: the yawning gap between the 1% and the rest of us, as skyrocketing income inequality. A new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), "Big Business, Corporate Profits, and the Minimum Wage," shows the extremes of that divide, and makes the case for raising the federal minimum wage as a means of closing that gap, and putting the national economy on the road to a real recovery.

The report explores the connection between stagnant —and falling — wages, and it's central finding explodes the argument that raising the minimum wage will cause employers to stop hiring, and the hurt small businesses that opponents of a minimum wage increase (and of the idea of a minimum wage itself) claim are the primary employers of low-wage workers. 

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Published: Friday 20 July 2012
“During this difficult economic period, the leading contribution of the United States of America to the global AIDS response remains strong.”

 

The U.N. yesterday released its most recent research on the global AIDS epidemic. While 34.2 million people are still living with HIV, the report has some positive news — the spread of the virus is slowing, and American assistance is playing a key role:

 

During this difficult economic period, the leading contribution of the United States of America to the global AIDS response remains strong. Through the individual compassion and collective commitment of the American people, the United States has saved millions of lives around the world over many years. In 2003, when only about 100 000 people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to treatment and the goal of extending HIV treatment to people in low- and middle-income countries seemed beyond reach, the United States launched the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Last year, with the support of PEPFAR and other international funding sources – including through the Global Fund and domestic programs – nearly 6.2 million people were receiving HIV treatment in Africa. In 2011, the United States continued to provide 48% of all international assistance for the global HIV response.

The PEPFAR program – a major initiative of the George W. Bush Administration – has been buoyed by a raft of favorable evidence, the U.N. being only the most recent. PEPFAR countries have seen significantly larger declines in death rates than similar non-PEPFAR states. The program “

Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
The Republicans’ political slogan has been to “repeal and replace” Obama's reform, but they’ve dropped the replace part, saying they can’t offer an alternative until they complete the repeal.

 

Here's some useful advice from an old country saying: Never try to teach table manners to a pig — it doesn't work, it'll wear you out, and it just annoys the pig.

The same advice goes for anyone who thinks they can teach even a bit of common sense to the preening political ideologues who've taken over the Republican Party and the U.S. House of Representatives. As we've seen in their incessant, pigheaded attacks on the health care reform law, their minds are not merely fogged up with extremist anti-government theories, they're impervious to rational thought.

They failed to defeat Obamacare in 2010, despite trying to scare old people with mindless lies about "death panels." Now they're trying to repeal the law by getting people to swallow their hogwash that it contains "a massive tax hike on the middle class."

Really? No. One, it's not massive; two, it's a payment for direct benefit that people will receive, namely decent health care coverage; three, very few people will have to pay the so-called "tax" at all; and four, many people and small business will get tax credits and federal assistance to offset the cost of coverage.

READ FULL POST 24 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 18 July 2012
Yesterday conservatives went on a full-scale right-wing “hissy-fit,” mocking the idea that government should invest in internal improvements like fixing roads and bridges, calling infrastructure maintenance and modernization just more “government spending.”

If our government just did the infrastructure work it has to do anyway eventually, much of the unemployment emergency would go away and the economy would get better. It's just that simple. But they won't.

Infrastructure = Internal Improvements That Support Business

Yesterday conservatives went on a full-scale right-wing "hissy-fit," mocking the idea that government should invest in internal improvements like fixing roads and bridges, calling infrastructure maintenance and modernization just more "government spending."

The fact is that business can't exist without government to build the support systems that enable the businesses to do business. This weird right-wing Ayn Randian, libertarian anti-government ideology that has taken hold in the Republican Party is funded by billionaires who want everything for themselves. But our refusal to keep our infrastructure up to date is hurting businesses, too.

Atrios writes,

I imagine I'll write a version of this post a million times, but the people in charge are failures. If, in January 2009, I given a rough outline of what would happen in policy, the economy, and the financial system over the next 3.5 years, people would have thought I was crazy. No one would have believed that the people in charge would tolerate such sustained high unemployment. And yet they have. It is indeed a choice. They can make things better but they have chosen not to.

Exactly. The DC elites have chosen not to fix the jobs emergency. Simple as that.

Here's my bet: If Romney ...

Published: Wednesday 18 July 2012
The Center-NPR investigation found that, after decades of decline, black lung is making a comeback, increasingly afflicting younger miners with a more severe, faster-progressing form of the disease.

House Republicans inserted language in a budget bill unveiled Tuesday that would kill a proposed rule to protect coal miners from dust that causes black lung.

Democrats on the House Committee on Appropriations objected, saying in a statement, “Recent reporting by NPR and the Center for Public Integrity has highlighted the need for more effective ‘black lung’ disease prevention efforts as there has been a resurgence of the disease among coal miners.”

The Center-NPR investigation found that, after decades of decline, black lung is making a comeback, increasingly afflicting younger miners with a more severe, faster-progressing form of the disease. The system for monitoring miners’ exposure to dust is riddled with loopholes, and regulators have sometimes failed to enforce even these rules. Mining companies have taken advantage of a self-policing system to manipulate dust sampling results for decades.

In 2010, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration proposed a rule that would close some loopholes, though it would still leave much of the sampling in the hands of mining companies. Last December, House Republicans inserted language in a previous budget bill that would have barred any money from being spent to implement the rule until the Government Accountability Office evaluated whether the proposal was necessary. That study is on track to be released in August.

The insertion of a paragraph into the new Labor Department’s budget bill goes further, barring the agency from using any money to continue developing the rule, issuing it or enforcing it.

Published: Tuesday 17 July 2012
“Some of the methods Sheldon Adelson used in Macau to save his company and help build a personal fortune estimated at $25 billion have come under expanding scrutiny by federal and Nevada investigators.”

This story was co-published with PBS' "Frontline."

A decade ago gambling magnate and leading Republican donor Sheldon Adelson looked at a desolate spit of land in Macau and imagined a glittering strip of casinos, hotels and malls.

Where competitors saw obstacles, including Macau's hostility to outsiders and historic links to Chinese organized crime, Adelson envisaged a chance to make billions.

Adelson pushed his chips to the center of the table, keeping his nerve even as his company teetered on the brink of bankruptcy in late 2008.

The Macau bet paid off, propelling Adelson into the ranks of the mega-rich and underwriting his role as the largest Republican donor in the 2012 campaign, providing tens of millions of dollars to Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and other GOP causes.

Published: Tuesday 17 July 2012
“Labeling would tell them that the group was designed and created by and for political backs from both parties, who scrupulously hide their funding sources but are associated with people like anti-Social Security billionaire Pete Peterson.”

 

The Jeff Daniels character from The Newsroom would know what to ask the operators of an allegedly “grass roots” group called “No Labels”:

“Why won't you publish your list of donors?” 

“What's wrong with having legislators debate the issues publicly? Isn't that how representative democracy works?“

“How can you call yourself 'centrist' when so many of your ideas are unpopular, and in fact are too conservative for most Tea Party members?”

He might have another question, too:

READ FULL POST 5 COMMENTS

Published: Sunday 15 July 2012
This week’s self-inflicted wounds reinforce a veritable emblem of the unfeeling, plutocratic, opportunistic hustler, repeatedly revealing his core belief system: the end (profit, fame, election) justifies any means. It’s not pretty.

On paper, Obama fans should be ecstatic, taking on a tin-ear, gaffe-prone, flip-flopping, bromide-driven, predatory casino capitalist who fudges, lies, and distorts the destructive downsides to his great business prowess. Here's a brash politician who shrinks from his single public office – recoiling from his most celebrated success, the horror of state health reform. Throw in his massive financial spoils, flush with secret, offshore holdings and tax dodges, and recollections of a personal reign of terror against his pet dog and one fellow student pinned down and victimized for seeming gay. Does this ultimate, fabricated Republican nominee not already pale next to the post-primary John McCain?

 

This week’s self-inflicted wounds reinforce a veritable emblem of the unfeeling, plutocratic, opportunistic hustler, repeatedly revealing his core belief system: the end (profit, fame, election) justifies any means. It’s not pretty. For once, why not trust the quip last year from that Irascible-Ideologue, Anne Coulter: if Romney gets the nomination, he “will lose to Obama”? So, why the gloom, Democrats, why the virtual polling dead heat in battlegrounds like FL, which Romney has to win but Obama can lose?  Why does a still “likeable” incumbent, with bragging rights from a half dozen arguable wins, look so vulnerable. Is there some national cognitive dissonance here, or what? Has the vast rightwing hate machine truly managed to poison the well?

 

Reason itself stands mute when under-employed, or prospect-less jobless millions, however socially conservative, embrace a quarter billionaire who can’t keep his stories, positions, staff comments or past on the same page. Will more sound-and-fury-driven politics (as in 2010) drive the fear-baited, rightwing masses to betray core job interests? Will enough voters violate logic and conclude recessions end sooner without government ...

Published: Saturday 14 July 2012
“We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a comparative few, but we cannot have both.”

 

Who’s buying our democracy? Wall Street financiers, the Koch brothers, and casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn. 

And they’re doing much of it in secret.

It’s a perfect storm:

The greatest concentration of wealth in more than a century — courtesy “trickle-down” economics, Reagan and Bush tax cuts, and the demise of organized labor.

Combined with…

Unlimited political contributions — courtesy of Republican-appointed Justices Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas, and Kennedy, in one of the dumbest decisions in Supreme Court history, “Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission,” along with lower-court rulings that have expanded it.

Combined with…

Complete secrecy about who’s contributing how much to whom — courtesy of a loophole in the tax laws that allows so-called non-profit “social welfare” organizations to accept the unlimited contributions for hard-hitting political ads.

Put them all together and our democracy is being sold down the drain.

With a more equitable and traditional distribution of wealth, far more Americans would have a fair chance of influencing politics. As the great jurist Louis Brandeis once said, “we can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a comparative few, but we cannot have both.”

Alternatively, inequality wouldn’t be as much of a problem if we had strict laws limiting political spending or, at the very least, disclosing who was contributing what. 

But we have an almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and unlimited political spending and secrecy. 

I’m not letting Democrats off the hook. Democratic candidates are still too dependent on Wall Street ...

Published: Monday 9 July 2012
When ‘W’ Bush took office we had a huge budget surplus and we were on track to pay off the entire national debt in just ten years.

 

Republicans have been holding to a no-tax pledge for decades as a strategy to undermine government. But more and more people are noticing that our schools, roads, police and fire departments, bridges, courts, food-safety system -- and everything else non-military that our government does -- are starting to fall apart. At the same time, Republican-created anti-deficit hysteria is starting to backfire on Republicans themselves. So are some Republicans starting to back off?

But First

Before any deficit discussion begins people should be reminded of one very important and relevant fact: When 'W' Bush took office we had a huge budget surplus and we were on track to pay off the entire national debt in just ten years. In other words, our country's debt would be entirely paid off by now, and there would be no emergency at all. But Bush changed some things, and said the return of budget deficits was "incredibly positive news," and now we have a huge deficit and ...

Published: Friday 6 July 2012
“The most liberal reforms in more than 40 years have been brought about because Mr. Obama views corporate power as a force to bargain with, not an enemy to vanquish.”

Recently my friend and colleague Bill Scher challenged progressive critics of President Obama's conciliatory approach toward corporations with a New York Times op-ed entitled "How Liberals Win." Far from being "business as usual," Bill writes, "the Supreme Court's upholding of Mr. Obama's health care law reminds us that the president's approach has achieved significant results."

Bill argues that, critics notwithstanding, ours is not "a system paralyzed by corporations." He adds: "The most liberal reforms in more than 40 years have been brought about because Mr. Obama views corporate power as a force to bargain with, not an enemy to vanquish."

Sorry, Bill. I'm with those who have concluded that the Obama White House has failed, both pragmatically and politically, on a number of key progressive issues. In my view, believing otherwise requires an almost ahistorical view of liberalism. We can't preemptively limit the definition of "liberal victory" to whatever corporate interests will allow.

Wherever the truth lies, the road ahead is clear: We can't allow the radical right to take power this year. But we need to fight for results, not politicians, by building a mobilized and truly independent citizens' movement.

Young and Estranged

This is an important discussion, especially in an election year in which liberals should be terrified. A Romney Presidency and increased Republican control on the Hill would endanger much they hold dear, including representative democracy, our social safety net, and workplace rights. And yet the outcome of this election may depend on the ability to mobilize precisely those voters who believe, not unreasonably, that the Obama Presidency represents "business as usual."

That may not be easy. ...

Published: Thursday 5 July 2012
“House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), in an effort to push food stamp reform that would have a fighting chance in the Senate, made sizable changes to SNAP in the House version of the farm bill.”

House Republicans have spent the years since the Great Recession clamoring for “reform” of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, cutting funding from the program in budgetafter budget. But now that a top House Republican has drafted a deal that would make the program’s basic requirements even more stringent than Texas — a state with notoriously strict eligibility standards — conservative Republicans are balking at the deal in favor of a requirement even they admit is “out of date.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), in an effort to push food stamp reform that would have a fighting chance in the Senate, made sizable changes to SNAP in the House version of the farm bill. Lucas’ draft reins in state eligibility requirements by ending what is known as “categorical ...

Published: Monday 2 July 2012
Stock prices in the for-profit hospital industry soared, rising 7 percent in heavy trading immediately after the Court ruling.

 

Was today's ruling a victory for justice over corporate power? Did Chief Justice John Roberts rise above partisan differences because that's where an honest reading of the law took him?

Nah. The majority on this Supreme Court is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corporate America. Call it SCOTUS™ Inc., and it's brought to you by the same fine folks that gave you Citizens United and Bush v. Gore. John Roberts is its CEO, not its Chief Justice.

The point isn't to reinforce anybody's cynicism. But you can't be idealistic in an effective way until you see things as they really are.

Roberts Rules

It was a shrewd move. Remember, as CEO of SCOTUS™ Inc., John Roberts is running the subsidiary of a large conglomerate. I've had that job myself, and trust me: you've got to please the parent or you're out of business.

By casting the decisive vote (who knows whether it really was the deciding vote, or whether the right-wing majority made it look that way) Roberts acted in the best interests of corporate conservatism, for-profit healthcare companies, and - most importantly of all - of the far-right political force which is today's Republican Party.

He had three options: Strike down a signature piece of Democratic legislation in its entirety, which would look highly partisan; strike down the individual mandate, which would look even worse since it was a conservative Republican idea; or uphold the law in a way that's designed to do maximum political damage to the Democrats and protect the Court's current corporate status.

Weighing the Options

Striking down the law would have cost the Court immeasurably in what corporate accountants call "good will."It would have widened and deepened the common (and accurate) perception ...

Published: Sunday 1 July 2012
The White House has criticized Mitt Romney for his years at the helm of Bain Capital, pointing to a deal that led to the bankruptcy of GS Technologies, a Bain investment in Kansas City that went belly up in 2001 at the cost of 750 jobs.

The election of 2012 raises two perplexing questions. The first is how the GOP could put up someone for president who so brazenly epitomizes the excesses of casino capitalism that have nearly destroyed the economy and overwhelmed our democracy. The second is why the Democrats have failed to point this out.

The White House has criticized Mitt Romney for his years at the helm of Bain Capital, pointing to a deal that led to the bankruptcy of GS Technologies, a Bain investment in Kansas City that went belly up in 2001 at the cost of 750 jobs. But the White House hasn’t connected Romney’s Bain to the larger scourge of casino capitalism. Not surprisingly, its criticism has quickly degenerated into a “he said, she said” feud over what proportion of the companies that Bain bought and loaded up with debt subsequently went broke (it’s about 20 percent), and how many people lost their jobs relative to how many jobs were added because of Bain’s financial maneuvers (that depends on when you start and stop the clock). And it has invited a Republican countercharge that the administration gambled away taxpayer money on its own bad bet, the Solyndra solar panel company.

But the real issue here isn’t Bain’s betting record. It’s that Romney’s Bain is part of the same system as Jamie Dimon’s JPMorgan Chase, Jon Corzine’s MF Global and Lloyd Blankfein’s Goldman Sachs—a system that has turned much of the economy into a betting parlor that nearly imploded in 2008, destroying millions of jobs and devastating household incomes. The winners in this system are top Wall Street executives and traders, private-equity managers and hedge-fund moguls,
and the losers are most of the rest of us. The system is largely responsible for the greatest concentration of the nation’s income and wealth at the very top since the Gilded Age of the nineteenth century, with the ...

Published: Friday 29 June 2012
“The Affordable Care Act’s [ACA] requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax.”

 

Initial reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court’s general upholding of the health care reform law Thursday ranged from the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) heralding the decision to conservative groups, such as the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, decrying it as “a victory for those who want the Federal government to micromanage your life and medical care.”

 

Buzzing beneath the first bluster of reactions, though, advocates for uninsured or underinsured Americans are raising concerns about the impact — if any — of limitations on the high court’s decision.

 

Chief Justice’s Surprise Swing Vote

 

First, here’s what the court decided: The 200-plus-page judgment breaks down into two major parts. In a 5-4 majority opinion written by conservative stalwart Chief Justice John Roberts, who became the surprise swing vote, the court upheld the law’s provision mandating that individuals have insurance or pay a penalty. 

 

The decision states, “The Affordable Care Act’s [ACA] requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax.” 

 

Roberts thus accepted the Obama administration’s secondary argument that compelling people to buy insurance or be penalized was not tantamount, as dissenting Justice Antonin Scalia argued, to compelling citizens to buy broccoli for their health. Instead, says the majority, the penalty for not purchasing health insurance is no different from any other federal tax permitted by the U.S. Constitution.

 

The Chief Justice, however, sided with his four conservative colleagues on the ...

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
“The ruling hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in approving the plan.”

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld virtually all of President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul, including the hotly debated core requirement that nearly every American have health insurance.

The 5-4 decision meant the huge overhaul, still taking effect, could proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years, affecting the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care.

The ruling hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in approving the plan. However, Republicans quickly indicated they will try to use the decision to rally their supporters against what they call "Obamacare," arguing that the ruling characterized the penalty against people who refuse to get insurance as a tax.

Breaking with the court's other conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts announced the judgment that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans. Roberts explained at length the court's view of the mandate as a valid exercise of Congress' authority to "lay and collect taxes." The administration estimates that roughly 4 million people will pay the penalty rather than buy insurance.

Even though Congress called it a penalty, not a tax, Roberts said, "The payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation."

Roberts also made plain the court's rejection of the administration's claim that Congress had the power under the Constitution's commerce clause to put the mandate in place. The power to regulate interstate commerce power, he said, "does not authorize the mandate. "

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney renewed his criticism of the overhaul, calling it "bad law" and promising to work to repeal it if elected in November.

Stocks of hospital companies rose sharply, and insurance companies ...

Published: Tuesday 26 June 2012
“Regressives in Congress have substituted partisanship for patriotism, placing party loyalty above loyalty to America.”

 

Recently I publicly debated a regressive Republican who said Arizona and every other state should use whatever means necessary to keep out illegal immigrants. He also wants English to be spoken in every classroom in the nation, and the pledge of allegiance recited every morning. “We have to preserve and protect America,” he said. “That’s the meaning of patriotism.”

To my debating partner and other regressives, patriotism is about securing the nation from outsiders eager to overrun us. That’s why they also want to restore every dollar of the $500 billion in defense cuts scheduled to start in January. 

Yet many of these same regressives have no interest in preserving or protecting our system of government. To the contrary, they show every sign of wanting to be rid of it.

In fact, regressives in Congress have substituted partisanship for patriotism, placing party loyalty above loyalty to America.

The GOP’s highest-ranking member of Congress has said his “number one aim” is to unseat President Obama. For more than three years congressional Republicans have marched in lockstep, determined to do just that. They have brooked no compromise. 

They couldn’t care less if they mangle our government in pursuit of their partisan aims. Senate Republicans have used the filibuster more frequently in this Congress than in any congress in history.

House Republicans have been willing to shut down the government and even risk the full faith and credit of the United States in order to get their way.

Regressives on the Supreme Court have opened the floodgates to unlimited money from billionaires and corporations overwhelming our democracy, on the bizarre theory that money is speech under the First Amendment and corporations are people.

Regressive Republicans in Congress won’t even support legislation requiring the sources of this money-gusher be ...

Published: Monday 25 June 2012
The four justices’ hard line challenge to the government’s position during oral arguments signaled that they leaned heavily toward scrapping the law.

 

President Obama and top Democrats have repeatedly exuded cautious confidence that the Supreme Court would uphold part or most of the Affordable Care Act. But beneath their strained optimism, the Obama administration almost certainly has known that politics, not law, will ram its way into the high court’s final decision. 

 

There was never much doubt that the health care reform law would face rough sledding from the court's four ultra conservatives. The tip-off came quickly. The four justices’ hard line challenge to the government’s position during oral arguments signaled that they leaned heavily toward scrapping the law. 

 

The ostensible hook that the conservatives latched onto to assail the law was that the individual mandate is an unlawful infringement on individual liberty. It allegedly forces Americans to buy insurance. Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution confer that power on Congress or the executive branch.

 

GOP’s War on Health Care Reform

 

That’s just the start. Polls show that a slender majority of Americans want to dump all or parts of the law. This includes some Democrats. 

 

Despite loud protests that they are not swayed by public opinion or ideological beliefs, the court’s conservatives have shown they are as much “judicial activists” for their political views as they accuse liberal jurists of being. And the polls give even more ammunition to them. 

 

But even without the polls, the GOP and ultra conservatives waged their own very public and relentless war on health care reform from the moment Obama proposed it—even though the White House structured the legislation along line Republicans had advocated for ...

Published: Friday 22 June 2012
We’re not going to make any headway on the issue of what to do with our border policy until we change the narrative that all undocumented visitors work digging ditches and undercutting the American worker.

This week president Obama made some drastic changes to the way we, as a nation, treat young immigrants. The new rules are by no means an easy way for illegal immigrants to gain permanent residency. There are quite a few restrictions based upon age, academic status, and other factors. I’m not writing this article to debate the finer points of the president’s new policy, I’m writing this article because of all the illegal immigrants I know who’ve contributed in a positive way to this country. I’m not ashamed to say I personally know and like several undocumented migrants and not a single one is poor, uneducated, or a criminal.

 

We’re not going to make any headway on the issue of what to do with our border policy until we change the narrative that all undocumented visitors work digging ditches and undercutting the American worker. I knew two men who came from Europe. They own a thriving restaurant, which employs nearly twenty Americans in a small town economy and they give back to local schools and civic organizations. They’ve been here illegally for over five years and even missed seeing their father on his deathbed because if they left the country they wouldn’t be allowed to return for a number of years. Their business would’ve fallen apart and left a gaping hole in their town’s economy. Americans would go jobless in hard times because of our immigration policies.

 

Another friend of mine was raised here in the states, but isn’t a citizen. Her parents split when she was out of high school and she decided to stay here instead of returning to one of two foreign countries she’s never known. Instead of being able to go to college and get a good job that allows her to contribute to this, the only country she’s experienced in 20 years, she has to take under the table waitressing positions to make ends meet. She lives scared of being deported, and ...

Published: Wednesday 20 June 2012
“In short, it functions just like the better-known super PACs but with a major distinction — it is not required to disclose its donors, despite the high court’s consistent support for disclosure rules.”

Alexi Giannoulias “can’t be trusted,” the 2010 election ad said. His family’s bank loaned money to mobsters, he accepted an illegal tax break and he even squandered money that families were saving for college.

If the charges were true, the U.S. Senate candidate from Illinois must have been a real creep. But they were bogus. Giannoulias, the Democratic candidate, lost anyway.

His accuser was not his opponent. It was an anonymously funded, pro-Republican nonprofit called Crossroads GPS, a “social welfare” organization that, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, can accept unlimited donations from corporations, wealthy individuals and unions, and run attack ads.

In short, it functions just like the better-known super PACs but with a major distinction — it is not required to disclose its donors, despite the high court’s consistent support for disclosure rules

In 2010, legislation introduced by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., would require nonprofits that buy political ads to disclose their donors. The bill — fought by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's most powerful business lobby — failed. A stripped-down version introduced this year has been blocked by Republicans in both the House and Senate.

The Chamber claims disclosure would “silence free speech.” Critics say its opposition is more about shielding the business association’s corporate donors from a potential public backlash.

Transparency means ‘informed decisions’

“Disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy ...

Published: Wednesday 20 June 2012
This is the first presidential election to be run under the rigged rules invented by the Court’s five-man corporatist majority, and we can see the effects of this ruling.

Leave it to Bill Moyers, one of America's most useful citizens, to sum up our country's present political plight in a succinct metaphor: "Our elections have replaced horse racing as the sport of kings. These kings are multibillionaire corporate moguls who by divine right — not of God, but (of the Supreme Court's) Citizens United decision — are now buying politicians like so much pricey horseflesh."

Pricey, indeed. In its disgraceful, democracy-crushing judicial edict of January 2010, the Court took the big advantage that America's corporate elite already had in politics — and super-sized it. This is the first presidential election to be run under the rigged rules invented by the Court's five-man corporatist majority, and we can see the effects of this ruling.

For instance, we saw in this year's Republican nominating contests that a new, supremely authorized critter not only arose, but instantly became the dominant force in the game, allowing a handful of extremely wealthy players to shove their selfish agenda ahead of all other interests in the election process: super PACs!

These are secretive money funnels that various political partisans have set up to take advantage of the court's implausible finding that the Constitution allows corporations and super-rich individuals to put unlimited sums of money into "independent" campaigns to elect or defeat whomever they choose. (I should note that the justices' ruling was a model of fairness in that it also allows poor people to put unlimited amounts of their money into super PACs.)

These new entities amassed and spent vastly more than the campaigns of the actual candidates. Nearly all of this super PAC cash was used to flood the airwaves with biblical levels of nauseatingly negative attack ads, further debasing our nation's democratic process. Thanks for that, Supremes.

The Court's surreal ...

Published: Wednesday 20 June 2012
If you’ve got doubts about whether or not to join us, here are twenty questions (and answers) that should help you make up your mind.

There's a march and demonstration taking place tomorrow (Wednesday, June 20) to protest money's corrupting influence in our political process. We'll be marching on the headquarters of Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS organization in Washington DC to protest the corrupting, debasing, and anti-democratic influence of money in politics.

I'll be there, and you should be too. Why?

I'm glad you asked.

Hey, I marched when I was in junior high school. Like many other people, I thought those days were over. Maybe you did did too. News flash: They're not. Maybe you're like me and rediscovered the power of protest by joining the Occupy movement. Or maybe you're still sitting on the fence.

If you've got doubts about whether or not to join us, here are twenty questions (and answers) that should help you make up your mind.

1. March? Really? On foot? That's so retro, so sixties! Weren't demonstrations just something that was fashionable when guys wore Nehru jackets and women wore granny skirts?

Actually, no. Public demonstrations for "redress of grievances" are as old as the Republic itself - older, in fact. Nonviolent demonstrations defeated the British Empire in India. They triggered the American Revolution. They gave working people their rights, created the middle class, and led to the greatest prosperity in our history during the 20th Century.

More recently, public demonstrations helped bring down the Iron Curtain and sparked the Arab Spring, a fight that's still underway but which has already changed the political landscape of the Middle East.

Protest marches are a pure form of democracy in action. That's something that never goes out of fashion.

2. But don't we do all ...

Published: Tuesday 19 June 2012
Evidently tired of reading about low-income or homeless individuals unable to access basic needs, Hovde expressed his disdain for such “sob stories.”

At a recent , Republican Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde said that he is exasperated with media coverage of “sad personal stories” about Americans who have been affected by the Great Recession. Evidently tired of reading about low-income or homeless individuals unable to access basic needs, Hovde expressed his disdain for such “sob stories,” while pointing to a reporter:

I see a reporter here. I just pray that you start writing about these issues. I just pray.Stop always writing about, ‘Oh, the person couldn’t get, you know, their food stamps or this or that.’ You know, I saw something the other day — it’s like, another sob story, and I’m like, ‘But what about what’s happening to the country and the country as a whole?’ That’s going to devastate everybody.

Watch it (relevant clip begins at 13:47):

According to Hovde, more important issues include lowering the corporate tax rate and the national deficit. Hovde’s comments come after a May 2011 study conducted by the National Journal, which reviewed how often the words “unemployment” or “deficit” appeared in the nation’s five largest newspapers. The findings clearly show that the deficit was covered significantly more than the unemployment in major American news outlets.

A Wisconsin hedge fund manager and businessman, ...

Published: Tuesday 19 June 2012
“Since their creation in 2010, the Center for Public Integrity and Center for Responsive Politics found that about 15 percent of super PAC spending has been done by groups that have reported receiving contributions from a 501(c)(4) or a 501(c)(6).”

 

While super PACs were cast as the big, bad wolves during the last election, the groups were outspent by “social welfare” organizations by a 3-2 margin, a trend that may continue amid reports that major donors are giving tens of millions of dollars to the secretive nonprofit groups.

A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for Responsive Politics has found that more than 100 nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code spent roughly $95 million on political expenditures in the 2010 election compared with $65 million by super PACs.

Nearly 90 percent of the spending by these nonprofits — more than $84 million — came from groups that never publicly disclosed their funders, the joint analysis of Federal Election Commission data found. Another $8 million came from groups that only partially revealed their donors.

Unlike the nonprofits, super PACs are required to release the names of their contributors.

In terms of party allegiance, ...

Published: Tuesday 19 June 2012
“In the upside-down world of regressive Republicanism, McConnell thinks proposed legislation requiring companies to disclose their campaign spending would stifle their free speech.”

Perhaps you’d expect no more from the Republican leader of the Senate who proclaimed three years ago that the GOP’s first priority was to get Obama out of the White House.

But Senator Mitch McConnell’s speech Friday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington is simply bonkers.

The only reason I bring it up is because it offers an inside look at how the  Republican goal of getting rid of Obama is inextricably linked to the Republican Supreme Court’s decision equating corporations with people under the First Amendment, and to the Republican’s current determination to keep Americans in the dark about which corporations contribute what. 

In the upside-down world of regressive Republicanism, McConnell thinks proposed legislation requiring companies to disclose their campaign spending would stifle their free speech.

He describes the current push to disclose the sources behind campaign contributions as a “political weapon,” used by the Democrats, “to expose its critics to harassment and intimidation.” 

Harassment and intimidation? It used to be called accountability to shareholders and consumers.

Five members of the Supreme Court think corporations are people. Mitt Romney agrees. And now the minority leader of the Senate – the highest-ranking Republican official in America – takes this logic to its absurd conclusion: If corporations are people, they must be capable of feeling harassed and intimidated if their shareholders or consumers don’t approve of their political expenditures.

Hell, they might even throw a tantrum. Or cry.

But what exactly are corporations anyway, separate and apart from their shareholders and consumers? Legal fictions, pieces of paper.

And whom do corporations exist for if not the people who legally own them and those who purchase the products and services they sell? 

Clearly, ...

Published: Sunday 17 June 2012
“Unlike Europe, America doesn’t have feudal traditions that in the last century spun into fascism and communism.”

Back from several days in Washington. The city still has all the disadvantages of being a one-industry town, with almost everyone working for the government or lobbying the government or reporting on the government or trying to influence the government or litigating on behalf of or against the government. It’s like LA and the entertainment industry, or downtown New York and finance. Everyone is in the same bubble, and every conversation sounds vaguely similar.

 

The only difference this time is Washington feels under siege, as if marauding bands are closing in on it. Unlike Europe, America doesn’t have feudal traditions that in the last century spun into fascism and communism. Our right and left are much closer to the center than are Europe’s. 

 

But the American right — whose roots are found in Jeffersonian libertarianism and the Jacksonian alliance of small southern farmers and northern white workers — is moving further right, and pulling the Republican Party with it. It’s fueled by economic fears combined with racism, anti-immigrant nativism, and southern white evangelical Christians.



The puzzle is why Wall Street and corporate America are going along with it when their interests are so different. The new Republican right is anti-Wall Street and protectionist. It doesn’t want to expand immigration. It distrusts big business and opposes the sorts of special tax cuts, subsidies, and big government contracts that big business has thrived on. The Obama administration has been far better to corporate America and Wall Street than the new Republican right would ever be.


I don’t get it, but the alliance between the energies of the new right and the money of big corporations and Wall Street is formidable, and in this early summer of our discontent Washington can already sense the barbarians at the gates.

Published: Sunday 17 June 2012
Although clean energy creates hundreds of thousands of better paying jobs, Republicans looking to gain ground in an election year have disparaged these jobs as less valuable.

Republicans have bullied the clean energy industry for months, pointing to flimsy evidence for why the government should slash funding for the industry, even as Big Oil subsidies continue.

On the heels of passing legislation that slashes clean energy funding 13 times, House Republicans are fulfilling the oil and coal industry’s wish list with next week’s Domestic Energy Production Act.

Although clean energy creates hundreds of thousands of better paying jobs, Republicans looking to gain ground in an election year have disparaged these jobs as less valuable. Mitt Romney’s former economic adviser said as much: “I am buying that they’re rooting against the economy somewhat because they think that the short-term pain of, you know, the next four months is much better than having additional four years of pain under Obama.”

Republicans have made green jobs a political target, at the behest of their oil and coal allies:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said the 1603 tax credit reimbursement program is a “Solyndra-style stimulus program.” This program has created thousands of jobs, 5,000 projects, and helped the industry grow during tough times. “Listen, the American people continue to ask the question, ‘Where are the jobs?’ They deserve answers, ...

Published: Saturday 16 June 2012
The Change In Immigration Policy Was An Exercise Of Prosecutorial DiscretionDHS Exercised Prosecutorial Discretion To Allow Young Immigrants To Remain In The U.S. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano authored and signed the memorandum that dictated the new policy changes to immigration enforcement.

Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion Is Different From Issuing An Executive Order

Following the Obama administration's announcement that it will grant certain undocumented immigrants the chance to be exempted from deportation, Fox News claimed President Obama had issued the decision as an executive order, implying he did so to circumvent Congress. In fact, the change is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion that is consistent with the current law and has decades of precedent.

Policy Change Will Allow Eligible Undocumented Immigrants To Remain In The U.S. And Legally Work

Department Of Homeland Security Issued Policy Change Affecting Some 800,000 Young Undocumented Immigrants. From a press release by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano:

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children,do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removalfrom the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

[...]

Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:

1.     Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;

2.     Have ...

Published: Saturday 16 June 2012
In the past, an independent entity attempting to influence an election — like Citizens for a Better Charleston — would have had to file disclosure paperwork as a “committee” with the state’s ethics agency, allowing a bit of sunlight to shine on its work.

 

Longtime Charleston Mayor Joe Riley had run a lot of high-minded races in this coastal city known for charm and manners, so nothing really prepared him for the bare-knuckle politics he faced in a re-election bid last fall. A shadowy group popped up seemingly out of nowhere and spent an untold amount of secret money to pummel Riley’s record in support of one of his rivals.

None of the mayor’s opponents declared allegiance to the anonymous group that funded TV ads, flyers and a slick website called “The Riley Files” that read like a private investigator's report. The website came complete with images of manila folders titled “Crony Capitalism” and “Misplaced Priorities” along with photos of the mayor paper-clipped to them.

No one ever found out who was behind the group calling itself Citizens for a Better Charleston. That's because new rules in South Carolina meant the group did not have to file paperwork with the state or disclose what it was doing, how much it was spending, where its money was coming from and who was bankrolling it.

The mayor won his re-election campaign, but the victory came with a few bruises — and a lesson: in the realm of money and politics, things had changed dramatically in the Palmetto State.

In the past, an independent entity attempting to influence an election — like Citizens for a Better Charleston — would have had to file disclosure paperwork as a “committee” with the state’s ethics agency, allowing a bit of sunlight to shine on its work. 

But not anymore.

In 2010, a little-noticed ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Terry Wooten in Florence, S.C., kicked the regulatory teeth out of a key statute in the state’s campaign finance laws and opened the ...

Published: Monday 11 June 2012
“Walker is the first governor in American history to win a recall election.”

 

The revelers watched in stunned disbelief, cocktails in hand, dressed for a night to remember. On the big-screen TV a headline screamed in crimson red: "Projected Winner: Scott Walker." It was 8:49 p.m. In parts of Milwaukee, people learned that news networks had declared Wisconsin’s governor the winner while still in line to cast their votes. At the election night party for Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, supporters talked and cried and ordered more drinks. Barrett soon took the stage to concede, then waded into the crowd where a distraught woman slapped him in the face.

Walker is the first governor in American history to win a recall election. His lieutenant governor, Rebecca Kleefisch, dispatched her recall challenger no less decisively. So, too, did three Republican state senators in their recall elections. Democrats avoided a GOP sweep with a win in the sixth and final senate recall vote of the season, in Wisconsin's southeastern 21st district, but that was small consolation. Put simply, Democrats and labor unions got rolled.

The results of Tuesday's elections are being heralded as the death of public-employee unions, if not the death of organized labor itself. Tuesday's results are also seen as the final chapter in the story of the populist uprising that burst into life last year in the state capital of Madison. The Cheddar Revolution, so the argument goes, was buried in a mountain of ballots.

But that burial ceremony may prove premature. Most of the conclusions of the last few days, left and right, are likely wrong.

The energy of the Wisconsin uprising was never electoral. The movement’s mistake: letting itself be channeled solely into traditional politics, into the usual box of uninspired candidates and the usual line-up of debates, ...

Published: Sunday 10 June 2012
Now, “the parties are more consistent in their programmatic and ideological views.”

These include some of the recent Congressional primary elections in states throughout the U.S.; the retirement of longtime senator Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican from Maine; and the decline of the Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats. 

 


A recent book, "The Last Great Senate" by Ira Shapiro, reminisces about decades past such as the 1970s and 1980s where Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate seemed better able to work together for the good of the country. 


"The pattern that has been present since the 1930s where you had a big conservative element in the Democratic Party and a big moderate element in the Republican Party, those days are pretty well gone," Randall Strahan, a professor of political science at Emory University, told IPS. 


Now, "the parties are more consistent in their programmatic and ideological views. It's unrealistic to think any time in the near future partisan conflict will go away," he said. 


But Strahan argues that it is not entirely a bad thing. 


"Some people say partisan conflict turns off voters. The evidence is just the opposite; hotly contested politics turns out voters. It (polarization) clarifies choices for voters. When you have a Democratic Party all over the map, conservative segregationists in the South and liberals in the North, it's very ambiguous when you vote for a Democrat what that means," he said. 


In fact, a highly polarized U.S. Congress has been typical throughout U.S. history, with the last several decades of moderation as the anomaly, Strahan said. 


The conservative Tea Party celebrated last month when Thomas Massie, a Tea Party-backed Republican candidate for U.S. House in Kentucky, won the Republican primary there. He is expected to win in November's general election. 


Massie was backed by U.S. Sen. ...

Published: Saturday 9 June 2012
“Anyone who can use Google can figure out that Wall Street is the only force in our country right now that is above the fray of party politics.”

 

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., former CFTC chair Brooksley Born and others are none too happy about the 2013 financial services appropriations bill. President Obama had requested $308 million for the Commodities and Futures Trade Commission, an amount that House Republicans had severely undercut to $180.4 million. Frank, Born, and industry leaders made their displeasure known during a Capitol Hill press conference this morning.

The U.S. Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) now regulates derivatives trading and speculation, thanks to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Reform Act. Those financial instruments played significant roles in bringing the financial system to its knees in 2008.

Frank, Born, and other House Democrats used a multitude of sports and animal analogies to insist that Wall Street donations to Republicans were undermining the potential for financial regulation.

“What we have is the confluence of money on steroids,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair John Larson, D-Conn. “Now we are throwing the American people to the wolves.”

“The fact that the Republican Party is lavishing money on weapons systems that the Pentagon does not want while reducing the necessary funds for the regulation of derivatives, is a textbook example of terrible priorities,” said Frank in a Tuesday statement.

Anyone who can use Google can figure out that Wall Street is the only force in our country right now that is above the fray of party politics. In fact, it may be their only saving grace.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top industry contributor to Frank’s campaign committee came from securities and investment. CFTC commissioner Gary Gensler, who was sworn in by a Democratic Senate, ...

Published: Saturday 9 June 2012
Romney’s honesty isn’t a new position for him or the GOP — he’s called for more government layoffs since the beginning of his campaign.

 

The last three years are the worst on record for public sector job loss, and the 700,000 government jobs that no longer exist remain a large drag on the American economy.

Today, New Jersey Gov. and Mitt Romney campaign surrogate Chris Christie (R) said that those losses meant the country was moving in “the right direction,” and Romney himself backed that statement up later, criticizing President Obama for calling for the hiring of more teachers, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent reports. From CNN’s report of the Romney event:

Romney said of Obama, “he wants another stimulus, he wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more fireman, more policeman, more teachers. Did he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.”

State and local governments have been forced to layoff mass amounts of teachers, firefighters, and police officers because budget crunches have led to school closures and the elimination of public safety departments. That has hurt the unemployment situation (which Romney also criticizes), considering the unemployment rate would be a full point lower without the 700,000 layoffs.

Romney’s honesty isn’t a new position for him or the GOP — he’s called for more government layoffs since the beginning of his campaign. But it’s yet another indication that Romney is more ...

Published: Thursday 7 June 2012
Published: Thursday 7 June 2012
“Here’s the truth: If the rich don’t pay their fair share, the rest of us have to pay higher taxes — or do without vital public services like Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, food stamps, child nutrition, federal aid to education, and more.”

 

I was on CNBC Tuesday when Bill Clinton gave an interview saying that, given the deadlock between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, it seemed likely the Bush tax cuts would be extended in 2013 along with all spending. When asked to comment, I said Clinton was probably correct.

But, of course, Republicans have twisted Clinton’s words into a pretzel. They say the former president came out in favor of extending the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy – in sharp contrast to President Obama’s position that they should not be.

It’s typical election-year politics, except for the fact that the Republican megaphone is larger this time around due to all the Super PAC and secret “social welfare” organization bribes, er, donations that are filling Republican coffers.

Here’s the truth. America has a huge budget deficit hanging over our heads. If the rich don’t pay their fair share, the rest of us have to pay higher taxes — or do without vital public services like Medicare, ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
In a piece claiming that "Wisconsin was a disaster for Democrats and President Obama," The Daily Caller claimed that Democrats and Labor spent millions to unseat Walker and on the entire recall effort, without offering any information related to how much Republicans and their allies spent.

 

Right-wing media are arguing that Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's victory in the Wisconsin recall election was a victory for the grassroots over unions and progressives. But, due to Citizens United and a loophole in Wisconsin campaign finance laws, the progressive message was swamped by conservative special interest money.

Following Walker's Victory In Wisconsin, Right-Wing Media Disappear Walker's Massive Spending Advantage

WSJ: WI Race "Shows That An Aroused Electorate Can Defeat A Furious And Well-Fed Special Interests." The Wall Street Journal in a June 5 editorial analyzed the results of the Wisconsin recall election, claiming:

READ FULL POST 1 COMMENTS
Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
Walker outspent his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, seven to one after raising millions of dollars from right-wing donors outside the state.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has survived a historic recall election more than a year after launching a controversial effort to roll back the bargaining rights of the state’s public workers. Walker outspent his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, seven to one after raising millions of dollars from right-wing donors outside the state. We’re joined by John Nichols, a correspondent for The Nation. "We always like to tell ourselves that if the people get organized enough, they can offset any amount of money," Nichols says. "But in Wisconsin, we got a pretty powerful lesson about this new era we’re entering into with unlimited cash ... It’s something we should be taking a good look at — not merely for Wisconsin, but for the whole country." Nichols also criticizes the Democratic National Committee and President Obama for mostly staying on the sidelines as Republicans nationwide rallied around Walker. "The comparison between tens of millions of dollars and an all-in effort by the RNC and by national Republicans [versus] a tweet from President Obama, I think, sums it up a little bit painfully," he says.

 

Transcript

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
“If massive civilian drone deaths get recorded with the precision of drone strikes, won't historians indict this program as state-sanctioned terrorism?”

Talk about starting your military career at the top, with guns blazing. On point, Obama's leaked, instantly notorious drone war represents the next costly surge against stealthy insurgents, perhaps a few genuine terrorists. But thanks to his high moral intentions, confirmed by the NY Times, these still qualify as “devoutly non-ideological" strikes. 

 

Otherwise, we might equate Obama with full-fledged GOP crusaders who broke international rules and went badly rogue in Iraq. Nevertheless, this warrior campaigner follows the Queen's Rules of Roguery: never retreat, just reload when gunning down home-grown, though unindicted, citizen evil-doers. Yet should we not worry that Obama's military legacy (pace G. Wallace) will blaze into history as "drones today, drones tomorrow, drones forever?" 

 

The rousing campaigner who once critiqued "dumb" militarism and Bush rights violations finishes his "Full Romney," flip-flopping on rights violations his campaign assailed by charging ahead as hands-on Drone Master. I tell you, change is getting painfully hard to believe in. Unprecedented White House Hit Squads, however, fuel the Obama bio-pic to come, chock-a-block with bin Laden contract, renditions, tribunals, secret prisons, even cyber-attacks on saber-rattlers. 

 

Think of the high drama, the biting irony of the Nobel Peace winner who embraces the Bush-McCain's Violence-First brigade, with musical motifs of "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran." Alas, the poignant tragedy of "The Unbearable Heaviness of Being Obama." Democratic fingers on the drone console displace nightmares of another secretive hawk running virtual cockpits, V.P. Richard Cheney. 

 

Oh no, not another war criminal

 

In retrospect, Bush's "Mission Accomplished" mock-up glimmers darkly as ...

Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012
“One way or the other, the outlook for Joe Blow, Barack Obama, and Uncle Sam is all gloom and doom.”

Recent news headlines are a clear intimation that the gods are not on our side.  “Our” in this case can be read as the U.S., the West, or the Planet we call Earth – all apply.  Here’s a sampling:

“Dismal Job Market Pushes Dow into 275-Point Plunge”
 (DailyFinance)

“Obama Ordered Cyber Attacks on Iran”
 (New York Times)

“American Nuns Fight Back Against Vatican Crackdown”
READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Monday 4 June 2012
Published: Friday 1 June 2012
Published: Wednesday 30 May 2012
“Anti-tax super PAC Club for Growth Action has spent $2.5 million on ads, mostly opposing Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor of Texas.”

Outside groups have spent more than $6.4 million in the Texas GOP primary for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, more than any other House or Senate race thus far in the primary season, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

The race pits establishment favorite David Dewhurst, a wealthy self-financing candidate, against the tea party-backed Ted Cruz.

Cruz himself has raised $6.4 million — a fraction of the $21.6 million raised by Dewhurst. Dewhurst’s sum, though, includes more than $15 million that he has contributed or loaned to his own campaign. (Cruz has given his campaign $470,000, according to FEC filings.)

Delayed since March due to redistricting issues, the Texas Republican primary is a chance for the tea party to build on its momentum after its candidate, Richard Mourdock, defeated long-time Sen. Richard Lugar in Indiana’s hotly contested Republican primary in early May.

Anti-tax super PAC Club for Growth Action has spent $2.5 million on ads, mostly opposing Dewhurst, the lieutenant governor of Texas. A pro-Dewhurst super PAC, Texas Conservatives Fund, fought back with $2.3 million in ads against Cruz, Texas’s former solicitor general.

“Moderate, tax-raising David Dewhurst,” is how one Club for Growth Action attack ad described him. This and other ads focused on his support of a state income tax and other “moderate” positions he has taken.

Club for Growth’s single biggest donor, Virginia James, is New Jersey-based investor who has been recognized for her contributions to right-wing organizations, many of which have ties to tea party funders Charles and David Koch.

Another major Club ...

Published: Monday 28 May 2012
“The U.S. military budget is six times that of China, and tops the next 17 highest-spending countries combined.”

 

Are you wondering where your tax dollars are going? Then take a look at the $642.5 billion stuffed into the National Defense Authorization Act, which the House of Representatives recently approved.

House Republicans may spout plenty of concern about the nation's budget deficit, but their version of the Pentagon's budget tops the spending levels they had agreed to a few months ago by $8 billion. It's also $4 billion above the total that President Barack Obama and the Pentagon requested.

These politicians are trying to fund Cold War-era weapons that our military doesn't want and that have been dismissed as outdated and unnecessary by the top brass — leaders like Gen. James Cartwright, the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of the country's nuclear forces.

The U.S. military budget is six times that of China, and tops the next 17 highest-spending countries combined.

Military spending has played a significant role in increasing the national debt. Over the last decade, the Pentagon's budget has nearly doubled.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have also contributed to this soaring increase in defense spending and to record deficits.

The drawdown of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq should mean the Pentagon will spend less. But giant military contractors have dumped a fortune into campaign contributions and lobbying, making sure that any and all anticipated savings are going to expensive weapons systems — all paid for by you through your taxes.

The 10 biggest government contractors are all military contractors. These companies each spend millions of dollars a year on political contributions and then millions more on lobbying campaigns. After the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns, these contractors are spending even more to win over lawmakers. And ...

Published: Thursday 24 May 2012
For Mitt Romney, the president's greatest vulnerability seems to be that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton — and he is seeking to exploit that perception in his public speeches attacking the incumbent.

 

For Mitt Romney, the president's greatest vulnerability seems to be that Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton — and he is seeking to exploit that perception in his public speeches attacking the incumbent. On Tuesday, the presumptive GOP nominee drew the contrast for an audience in Iowa, harking back to a famous Clinton speech in 1996.

“Almost a generation ago,” said Romney, “Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over. Even a former George McGovern campaign worker, like President Clinton, was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem. President READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
Published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
“Though it is unclear whether JP Morgan’s trade would have been subject to the rule, it is clear that the Volcker Rule as proposed was stronger than it is in its latest draft form.”

When JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon dropped a bomb on the financial world two weeks ago by announcing that the bank had lost at least $2 billion on a series of trades that went bad on a London-based investment desk, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R) was among the first lawmakers to call for investigations and hearings into the trade. Today, Corker got his first chance to get some answers, as the top regulators from the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission appeared before the Senate Banking Committee.

But it wasn’t JP Morgan’s losses that Corker seemed concerned with. Instead, with advocates for stronger financial rules (including President Obama himself) pushing for a re-examination of pending regulations instituted by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, Corker was worried that the JP Morgan losses would bolster the case for a stronger Volcker Rule — the yet-to-be-finalized regulation that would ban federally-insured banks from engaging in certain types of risky trading:

CORKER: I fear that you’re under pressure, that a lot of calls are being made, that the administration is concerned that the American people are going to wake up and look at the last three years as a bad dream. … This big Dodd-Frank bill really doesn’t address real-time issues. And what you’re going to do is cause this Volcker Rule to become something that it was never intended to be.

Watch it:

Regulators are indeed facing pressure to strengthen the Volcker Rule, and as I wrote yesterday,that pressure is legitimate. Though it is unclear whether JP Morgan’s trade would have been subject to the rule, it is ...

Published: Saturday 19 May 2012
“Essentially, conservatives are asserting that we cannot extend equal rights to all Americans and fix the economy.”

One of the most overused metaphors in a writer's arsenal is the one about "walking and chewing gum at the same time." As a hiker and Big League Chew enthusiast, I particularly hate this cliché. Nonetheless, I feel it is fitting right now because it so perfectly summarizes the argument being made by Republicans. They now insist that America cannot simultaneously walk the walk on equal rights and also chew economic gum.

In the last week, Colorado was the testing ground for this talking point. At the presidential level, Republican nominee Mitt Romney criticized a Denver television reporter for daring to ask about his position on, among other issues, same-sex marriage. Before restating his opposition, he scoffed at the question, asking: "Aren't there issues of significance that you'd like to talk about (like) the economy? The growth of jobs? The need to put people back to work?"

At the same time, Colorado's Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty twice blocked a vote on a bill to legalize civil unions. His rationale? "We should not be spending time on divisive social issues when unemployment remains far too high and (when) far too many Coloradans remain out of work," he said. Echoing that sentiment, the shadowy Republican front group Compass Colorado financed an automated telephone call telling thousands of voters that the push for civil unions was unacceptable because it is "promoting (a) divisive social agenda over Colorado job creation."

Published: Saturday 19 May 2012
“House Republicans, of course, have been following Financial Service Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus’ (R-AL) directive to “serve the banks” by helping them in their efforts to water down and dismantle Dodd-Frank.”

JP Morgan’s $2 billion trading loss has renewed interest in the Volcker Rule, part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law meant to prevent banks from engaging in risky trading with federally backed dollars. Wall Street banks have been lobbying to water down the rule. In fact, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon helped open up a loophole that would allow the sort of trading that cost the bank billions.

House Republicans, of course, have been following Financial Service Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus’ (R-AL) directive to “serve the banks” by helping them in their efforts to water down and dismantle Dodd-Frank. In addition to preventing financial regulators from having the budgets necessary to do their jobs, the House GOP has been chipping away at Dodd-Frank, voting to repeal several important provisions.

But in the wake of JP Morgan’s mess, that effort has stopped, at least temporarily:

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) announced Tuesday that his panel would be postponing a Thursday markup of the bills, which would have repealed or altered provisions of the financial overhaul.

Lucas directly cited the high-profile losses of the nation’s largest bank as the reason for the delay, saying he wanted to make sure the bills would not inadvertently encourage Wall Street to take on risk haphazardly.

“As always, Washington has ...

Published: Saturday 19 May 2012
“Romney creeps us out because he’s so much richer and more predatory, yet still the calculating striver, oblivious to others, rushing to conform to the latest and lowest rightwing denominator.”

Enough with that down-home, baseball glove moniker for Willard. Let’s identify Mitt the unfit with his most compelling doppelganger, that paragon of phoniness so fully satirized by Sinclair Lewis he's America's icon for narrow-mindedness: Babbitt. Indeed, tainted Babbitry today rules the GOP, uniting materialistic complacency with unthinking conformity – ever fostered by the God of Progress and sponsored by rabid, small-minded Boosterism. Thus, today's self-righteous spawn: deluded American Exceptionalism. 

 




Now that full public glare unzips what remains of Romney’s sanitized image, what emerges is a most disagreeable huckster, a Babbitt on steroids. Romney creeps us out because he’s so much richer and more predatory, yet still the calculating striver, oblivious to others, rushing to conform to the latest and lowest rightwing denominator. Exchange bank accounts and Protestant denominations, brother Romney tops Babbitt for hypocrisy and presumption, for the latter only idly dreamed of becoming a governor.


 

Equally devoted to Romney’s campaign slogan, “Believe in America,” Lewis’ smug Zenith booster also insists a hard-nosed businessman should run the federal government, like an efficient, unyielding machine. That echoes the most infamous paean to 1920’s capitalism from President Calvin Coolidge, the “chief business of the American people is business.” Nor would Babbitt nor Romney challenge this other, transcendent Coolidgism, “The man who builds a factory builds a temple. The man who works there worships there.” Yes, the religion of business, and vice versa.
 

 

Manipulators, not Makers

 


Does not Romney the unfeeling, buffoonish vulgarian exemplify Lewis' introduction to Babbitt, as middle-aged, middle-brow, mid-westerner who “made ...

Published: Thursday 10 May 2012
“Walker and Barrett will now square off in a recall election on June 5.”

Wisconsin Democratic primary voters have picked Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to face controversial Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election. Protests erupted across Wisconsin last year after Walker announced plans to eliminate almost all collective bargaining rights for most public workers, as well as slash their pay and benefits. Walker and Barrett will now square off in a recall election on June 5. We go to Madison to speak with Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine. Rothschild notes Walker’s bid to remain in office has been aided by massive contributions from rich donors nationwide. "Walker is the darling of the vicious business class in America. He’s a hero to every boss who wants to put [a] boot on the throat of labor," Rothschild says. "And these people ... have just been opening their wallets."

Transcript

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Wisconsin, where Democratic primary voters Tuesday picked Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to face controversial Republican Governor Scott Walker in a recall election next month. After being declared the winner, Barrett said in a statement, quote, "Wisconsin cannot afford to continue to suffer through Walker’s ideological civil war."

In 2010, Barrett lost the Wisconsin governor’s race to Walker by 5 percentage points. Since then, Wisconsin has been split by an ideological civil war driven by Walker’s attempts to crush union power in the state. Protests erupted across Wisconsin last year after Walker announced his plans to eliminate almost all collective bargaining rights for most public workers, as well as slash their pay and benefits. Thirty thousand teachers, students, and state and municipal workers took part at a rally at the Wisconsin Statehouse in Madison.

Published: Thursday 10 May 2012
“Romney has played up his pro-discrimination stand throughout this presidential campaign, boasting that he’d fought to take away marriage equality from same-sex couples.”

Ed Gillespie, senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, told Chuck Todd on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown that the campaign would make President Obama’s support for marriage equality an issue this November and that Romney will actively push for a constitutional amendment to take away the right of states to voluntarily extend marriage equality to same-sex couples.

Gillespie told Todd that same-sex marriage “will be another bright-line difference in this campaign.” He added that the GOP intends to campaign on the issue:

TODD: Will you guys campaign on this, campaign on this issue of marriage?

GILLESPIE: Sure. I think it’s an important issue for people and it engenders strong feelings on both sides. I think it’s important to be respectful in how we talk about our differences, but the fact is that’s a significant difference in November.

Later, Gillespie added that Romney believes a federal marriage constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage “should be enacted.” Watch the video:

 

Gillespie is no stranger to using same-sex couples as a wedge issue; he served as President George W. Bush’s Republican National Committee Chairman during the 2004 campaign. During that campaign, Republicans pushed for anti-LGBT state constitutional amendments to get out the conservative vote. They also wrote the following into the Party’s official platform: “We strongly support President Bush’s call for a Constitutional amendment that fully protects marriage, and we believe that neither federal nor state judges nor bureaucrats should force states to ...

Published: Wednesday 9 May 2012
“Mitt Romney and his campaign have been unsure, uncertain, or unwilling to articulate a clear stance on an important policy issue for fear of offending a particular political demographic.”

On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee’s National Hispanic Outreach Director claimed that Mitt Romney’s “still deciding what his position on immigration is,” kicking off a firestorm of criticism from reporters and bloggers wondering how the GOP’s presumptive nominee — a man who had been running for office for the last 18 years — had no defined view on immigration. The campaign walked back the remarks minutes later, linking to a page on the Romney campaign site touting his harsh immigration proposals.

But this episode is just the latest in a series of instances in which the candidate and his campaign have been unsure, uncertain, or unwilling to articulate a clear stance on an important policy issue for fear of offending a particular political demographic. It’s a careful dance that many politicians practice, but something in which Romney has engaged in with greater frequency than most:

– VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT: As Congress considers a re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act, Romney has claimed that he wasn’t “familiar with” the measure, said that he “supports it” and “hopes it can be reauthorized without turning it into a political football.” Conveniently, he has not specified if he supports ...

Published: Tuesday 8 May 2012
“A further 23 million would be affected by the repeal of the Social Services Block Grant, which helps fund child care and disability assistance to low-income Americans.”

Yesterday, House Republicans moved legislation forward aimed at preventing any reductions in military spending, even if that means cutting much needed programs for the nation’s poorest. The House Armed Services Committee’s bill provides $554 billion for the Pentagon — $29 billion more than DOD had requested — while the GOP-led Budget Committee packaged six bills that would “slice $261 billion from food stamps, Medicaid, social services and other programs for struggling Americans.”

Last night on Fox News, House Majoriy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) claimed that the Republicans were just trimming the fat from the budget and getting rid of wasteful spending:

VAN SUSTEREN: But these cuts — I mean, these cuts — I mean, some of the cuts, I mean, just — you know, there are — there’s money sitting in our government. There’s some fat that we can.. some of these cuts. I mean — the fat is incredible!

MCCARTHY: Then you would support what we’re doing. That’s we’re doing committee by committee!

Watch the clip:

So what do McCarthy and the GOP consider budget fat? The New York Times today offered some details:

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would push 1.8 ...

Published: Monday 7 May 2012
“Of all things, GOP lawmakers hacked $8 billion from next year’s food stamp funds — a well-run, widely popular, and effective program that helps millions of hard-hit American families stave off some of the pain of poverty.”

 

Maybe you thought the lowest possible point of Republican miserliness was reached when Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Agriculture proposed that ketchup be counted as a vegetable in the school lunch program. If so, you've not taken a peek at the GOP's astoundingly penurious budget proposal recently pasted together in a fit of ideological extremism by the party's budget guru, Rep. Paul Ryan.

Of all things, GOP lawmakers hacked $8 billion from next year's food stamp funds — a well-run, widely popular, and effective program that helps millions of hard-hit American families stave off some of the pain of poverty. Maybe so, concede Ryan & Company, but the program is out of control, having added some 13 million people in the last three years. Well, gosh, Paul, welcome to the real America — where joblessness is rampant, wages are down, and the middle class is tumbling into poverty. Food stamp use is supposed to increase in such times. It means the program is working.

Still, retorts a Ryan henchman, everyone must sacrifice to lower the deficit, so these cuts are merely "reflecting the budgetary times we're in." Really? Then why does your budget give an average of $265,000 a year in more tax benefits to millionaires? And why, in your demand for severe austerity in government, do you not cut a dime from the Pentagon's bloated budget — even handing it an increase?

Finally, Ryan asserts that his food stamp cuts are for poor people's own good. Citing his Catholic religion's doctrine of "social magisterium," Paul the Pious says he's preventing poor families from the moral horror of being "dependent on government."

Just imagine their gratitude! And imagine Ryan's embarrassment that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops dared to contradict his divine rationalization, bluntly calling the cuts "unjustified and wrong."

 

Published: Friday 27 April 2012
What the Citizens United decision and a lower court ruling have done is make household names out of a bunch of relatively unknown, very wealthy conservatives.

Contrary to expectations, the much-criticized court decisions that gave us “super PACs” have not led to a tsunami of contributions flowing from the treasuries of Fortune 500 corporations — at least not yet anyway.

What the Citizens United decision and a lower court ruling have done is make household names out of a bunch of relatively unknown, very wealthy conservatives. Of the top 10 donors to super PACs so far in the 2012 election cycle, seven are individuals — not corporations — and four of those individuals are billionaires.

The top 10 contributors gave more than a third, or $68 million of the nearly $202 million reported by the outside spending groups this election, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission records.

Rounding out the top 10 are two labor unions and a physicians’ medical malpractice insurance group.

The top donor list is mostly Republican, which is not surprising given the competitive GOP presidential primary season. Even so, Democrats have had less success in raising money for super PACs so far.

In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court and a lower court set the stage for the new super PACs.

Such organizations can accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals to spend on advertising supporting or opposing a candidate, but are not permitted to coordinate their spending with campaigns, though many employ former campaign operatives.

Top donors

No. 1 on the donor list by far is billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson and family, who gave $26.5 million. Nearly all of it was spent in a fruitless effort to elevate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to the GOP presidential nomination through donations to the pro-Gingrich super PAC “

Published: Thursday 26 April 2012
“All told, over 400 Republican bills are pending in state legislatures, attacking womens’ reproductive rights.”

What are the three demographic groups whose electoral impact is growing fastest? Hispanics, women, and young people. Who are Republicans pissing off the most? Latinos, women, and young people.

It’s almost as if the GOP can’t help itself.

Start with Hispanic voters, whose electoral heft keeps growing as they comprise an ever-larger portion of the electorate. Hispanics now favor President Obama over Romney by more than two to one, according to a recent Pew poll.

The movement of Hispanics into the Democratic camp has been going on for decades. What are Republicans doing to woo them back? Replicating California Republican Governor Pete Wilson’s disastrous support almost twenty years ago for Proposition 187 – which would have screened out undocumented immigrants from public schools, health care, and other social services, and required law-enforcement officials to report any “suspected” illegals. (Wilson, you may remember, lost that year’s election, and California’s Republican Party has never recovered.)

The Arizona law now before the Supreme Court – sponsored by Republicans in the state and copied by Republican legislators and governors in several others – would authorize police to stop anyone looking Hispanic and demand proof of citizenship. It’s nativism disguised as law enforcement.

Romney is trying to distance himself from that law, but it’s not working. That may be because he dubbed it a “model law” during February’s Republican primary debate in Arizona, and because its author (former state senator Russell Pearce, who was ousted in a special election last November largely by angry Hispanic voters) says he’s working closely with Romney advisers.

Hispanics are also reacting to ...

Published: Wednesday 25 April 2012
Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“The 2012 cycle appears to mark a shift in partisan bent as a whopping 60 percent of defense industry campaign dollars went to Republican campaigns.”

The defense industry is known as a major lobbying power in Congress but the industry’s sharp uptick in campaign contributions, the majority of which are designated to Republicans, in the 2012 political cycle indicates that defense contractors are making a strong rightward shift in their political giving.

Defense industry contributions to individual candidates and PACs reached nearly $13 million earlier this month. That number, only $11 million short of the $24 million contributed in the 2008 political cycle, suggests that the defense industry will contribute more in this political cycle than in any previous election. And the increase in funds is matched by a dramatic partisan shift in the industry’s contributions.

In 2008, 51 percent of contributions went to Democrats while 49 percent were designated for Republicans. In 2010, that trend continued with 53 percent going to Democrats and 47 percent to Republicans. But the 2012 cycle appears to mark a shift in partisan bent as a whopping 60 percent of defense industry campaign dollars went to Republican campaigns.

When contacted by Politico, General Dynamic spokesman Kendell Pease explained that the Republican majority in Congress could explain the shift in campaign dollars toward the GOP:

Those are the folks that are here. Those are the folks that are making decisions now, today, and it’s very easy to figure out where they stand on issues that we feel are most important. We continue to support those folks, both House and Senate, who support those issues that we feel are most important.

Indeed, supporting Republicans has paid off. A

Published: Tuesday 24 April 2012
“Personal injury firm major donor to Democrats.”

Former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist made his name in the Republican Party, but his new employer — a personal injury law firm — leans the other way, as evidenced by a $50,000 donation it made to the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action.

Orlando, Fla.-based law firm Morgan & Morgan, known for its slogan “representing the people, not the powerful” and its ubiquitous advertising, made the donation March 31. The gift was disclosed in documents filed Friday with the Federal Election Commission.

It is one of only a handful of companies to donate to the super PAC, which is allowed to accept unlimited amounts of money from individuals, unions and corporations thanks to legal changes in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and a federal court ruling called SpeechNow.org.

Crist, a Republican who served as the Sunshine State’s moderate governor until January 2011, joined Morgan & Morgan after placing second in Florida’s 2010 U.S. Senate race. He works in the firm’s Tampa office handling class action lawsuits.

He was defeated by tea party favorite Marco Rubio, who is now Florida’s junior senator. As Crist’s standing in the polls sank, he opted to forgo a GOP primary race against Rubio and run as an independent. In the three-way contest that also featured Democrat Kendrick Meek, Rubio prevailed with 49 percent of the vote compared to Crist’s 30 percent and Meeks’ 20 percent.

Crist collected more than $98,000 from individual employees of Morgan & Morgan during his campaign, according to

Published: Thursday 19 April 2012
“Although a new Gallup poll shows Romney with a small lead matched against Obama — indicating how close this election may ultimately become — voters consistently appear to disapprove of the presumptive Republican nominee.”

With the Republican primary contest over and the general election underway, Mitt Romney faces a voting public whose disdain for him has reached levels that pollsters describe as "historic." From his embittered opponents as well as from Romney and his campaign, Americans have learned that the former Massachusetts governor simply won't uphold any political position, issue or achievement he thinks might cost him votes. He doesn't seem to understand that his inconstancy forfeits more respect than any disagreeable opinion would.

No matter how carefully the former Massachusetts governor parses and prevaricates, many voters, including more than a few conservatives, evidently feel they've detected the inner Mitt: a man with utmost regard for himself and people like him — and a profound disregard for people like most of them. They've observed him straining to express concern for the unemployed, the poor and the powerless, while sounding sincerely resentful whenever the privileged are held accountable. They've perceived an attitude of entitlement, whether he is withholding tax returns, defending tax breaks for billionaires or spending vast amounts to defame opponents. And they don't like it, no matter what they may feel about Barack Obama.

Although a new Gallup poll shows Romney with a small lead matched against Obama — indicating how close this election may ultimately become — voters consistently appear to disapprove of the presumptive Republican nominee. As they have learned more about him over the past several years, his negative ratings have soared. Over the past five years, since he began to run for president, the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that negative views of Romney have roughly doubled, from about 24 percent to 47 percent, while his positive ratings have lagged (only 12 percent express "strongly" positive feelings about him).

More important, Romney polls 21 points ...

Published: Wednesday 18 April 2012
“Time, I say, to break America’s gridlock by enacting a National Stupidity Gauge, with electoral prizes going to the least culpable.”

 

"Circus" is too orderly a metaphor for today's unhinged politics. "Entertainment" overstates, considering so many labor to hear Obama finish a speech or Romney a sentence – before gagging. "Mayhem" underplays the massive right-serving payola that informs both party's texts and sub-texts. Deluged by witless untruths that affront even centrist Republicans, let's pose this thought experiment, "When do we get ‘stand our intellectual ground' shield laws against mental mugging?"  

 

Is there no safety net from bubbling, partisan concoctions but termination by vote or retirement?  If there's no penalty for the outrageous fabrications, why stop? In the meantime, we need new phrases to capture this concatenation of claptrap, say, the "deceptive dances of dunces." The vast, rightwing conspiracy against truth? Okay, southern-style confederacy of dunces?  Go for it.

 

And herein pops up a paradox: in response to this mountain of mendacity, at least for the literate, there exist insatiable, even robust engines of transparency.  Public stupidity is no orphan. True, a lie still travels "halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes" (M. Twain), but shoeless wrong-headedness wins headlines. Staying power varies, but which stirring gaffe and foul-up fails to garner publicity? Does not the mass media, bereft of courage or true ideas, glory in making dunces look bad?

 

Memory Takes Work

 

What now, the Romney Etch-a-Sketch meteor blazes across the sky, at least for a week. Such duration overcomes our severe cultural allergy to memory or the perspective necessary to unpack the latest gaucheries. Sure, there's a delay, but soon enough newsbreaks: we learn which reactionaries fund A.L.E.C. (especially when they run for cover) or what fringe ...

Published: Wednesday 18 April 2012
“The Buffett Rule, the GOP says, is a gimmick that doesn’t raise enough revenue to merit consideration and is simply a weapon of class warfare, not a means to bring about more equity in America’s tax structure.”

Senate Republicans last night successfully filibustered the Buffett Rule, a minimum tax on millionaires that the GOP has falsely claimed would actually hit small business owners and “job creators.” The Buffett Rule, the GOP says, is a gimmick that doesn’t raise enough revenue to merit consideration and is simply a weapon of class warfare, not a means to bring about more equity in America’s tax structure.

A new report from Innovation Ohio and the Center for American Progress, however, shows that the Buffett Rule is far from just a gimmick. According to the report, some of America’s wealthiest zip codes — ritzy communities like Fisher Island, Florida and Wyoming’s Teton Village ...

Published: Wednesday 18 April 2012
“A multimillionaire financier who was a top henchman in Bain Capital, Mitt Romney’s old outfit of corporate plunderers, Conard is currently riding with the small but fearsome Citizens United Gang, which has taken over presidential politics in our country.”

The Lone Ranger was a masked man who was out to bring bad guys to justice. Ed Conard is a masked man who is out to bring bad guys to power.

A multimillionaire financier who was a top henchman in Bain Capital, Mitt Romney's old outfit of corporate plunderers, Conard is currently riding with the small but fearsome Citizens United Gang, which has taken over presidential politics in our country.

Unlike the James Gang, the Dalton Boys, and other robbers of yore who stole from banks and railroads, these thieves are bankers and high-rolling railroaders. Thanks to the Supreme Court's edict in the infamous Citizens United case, they are now able to use unlimited amounts of their corporate wealth to create Super PACs, which are proving to be devastating weapons against democracy.

Conard is one of the gang of financial elites who've put a million dollars or more into Romney's super PAC, enabling it to whack his opponents and take the GOP nomination with an unprecedented barrage of venomously negative advertising. Conard is known as a masked robber because he tried to disguise his million-dollar involvement by using the fake name of "W Spann." Incredibly, that's not illegal — but it was so glaringly odd that Romney's campaign had to compel Conard to fess up his real name.

Speaking of names, the Romney Super PAC is called "Restore Our Future." Whose future does that mean? Not yours and mine, but theirs — the mega-donors'. This was candidly confessed by another member of the Citizens United Gang, hedge fund hustler Ken Griffin. He says he's in Romney's super PAC because, "I think (the ultra-wealthy) actually have insufficient influence (in Washington). Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system (must) protect the system."

Rarely do you see such altruism on behalf of the selfish few!

These privileged ones have wielded their enormous ...

Published: Monday 16 April 2012
“Like ugly on a hog, Romney just can’t hide the depth of his personal wealth.”

Not only is Mitt Romney the GOP's rich-man candidate for president, but his last name actually spells "money." Just drop the "R," move the "m" in front of the "o" — and there it is! In fact, put the "R" in parentheses and you've got "(Republican) Money."

But with Mitt, we really don't have to spell it out, because he keeps stumbling over his richness. With his money connections, his Super PAC quickly became the superest of them all. Not only has he spent more than every one of his rivals combined, but some of the cash has gone into ads portraying him as just a regular guy.

But, like ugly on a hog, he just can't hide the depth of his personal wealth. Most recently came news that he's doing a little "renovation" on his California home — a relatively modest place on the beach in La Jolla. It's one of three homes he owns, but he's decided that its 3,000 square feet of space is a bit cramped for him. So, he's having it bulldozed and replaced with a more Romneyesque $12-million, 8,600-square-foot McMansion-by-the-sea, complete with a basement larger than the existing house.

Aside from its size and cost, his re-do has a couple of features that "regular guys" couldn't even dream of having. First is a split-level, four-car garage with a special elevator to lift vehicles up and down, in and out. No word yet on whether the cars will have their own white-gloved elevator operator.

Second, the new digs come with an unusual built-in feature: a lobbyist. Romney has paid some $21,000 so far to hire one of San Diego's premier real estate lobbyists to wheel and deal at City Hall to get the permits and any exemptions needed to build Mr. Money's seaside castle.

It's hard to connect with average Joes when you've got a house with an attached lobbyist.

Published: Monday 16 April 2012
Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
“They can do pretty much anything they want with the money,” said Viveca Novak, communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “They can have a margarita party in the Bahamas.”

What can the people who run super PACs do with all the cash they have collected when their favorite candidate drops out of the race?

“They can do pretty much anything they want with the money,” said Viveca Novak, communications director at the Center for Responsive Politics. “They can have a margarita party in the Bahamas.”

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s decision to suspend his presidential campaign Tuesday means the “Red, White and Blue Fund” super PAC, which supported him, is without a candidate. The organization and its benefactors helped the under-funded Santorum stay in the game.

The group will continue to advocate for conservatives, but there’s no rule that says it has to.

“Pretty much any use of super PAC money — other than coordinating expenditures with candidates or contributing to candidates – would be a legal and permissible use,” said Paul Ryan, an attorney at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center.

Practical considerations would likely prevent super PAC operatives from doing something extravagant — like buying a yacht or taking a junket to the Caribbean. Such a purchase would be “career suicide,” Ryan said.

Red, White and Blue founder Nick Ryan said the PAC will work to defeat President Barack Obama, “strengthen the conservative majority in the House of Representatives” and “oust the liberal leadership in the Senate.”

Super PACs are permitted to collect unlimited sums from individuals, unions and corporations and spend the money on ads and other materials supporting or opposing a candidate. The only prohibition is that they cannot coordinate their expenditures with the candidates’ campaigns.

Through February, the Red, White and Blue Fund raised nearly $6 million, which provided Santorum with a significant boost. After a ...

Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
Tom Hayden, principal author of the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), which advocated for participatory democracy and helped launch the student movement of the 1960s.

We speak with Tom Hayden, principal author of the Port Huron Statement 50 years ago, the founding document of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The Statement advocated for participatory democracy and helped launch the student movement of the 1960s. Tens of thousands of copies of the 25,000-word document were printed in booklet form. "It must have been something in the air, something blowing in the wind, and we wanted to write an agenda for our generation," Hayden says. The youth-led movement changed the very language of politics, and its impact is still being felt today. "The logic of an occupation, I think, is if you feel voiceless about a burning issue of great, great importance, and the institutions have failed you, the only way to get leverage for your voice is to occupy their space in order to get their attention," Hayden says. "This goes way back to occupations of factories in the ’30s. ... Occupy Wall Street is only the latest stage."

Transcript: 

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, today we look at the birth of an earlier political movement, known by three short letters. This youth-led movement ...

Published: Sunday 15 April 2012
A perfect example of this political philosophy is the work of James E. O’Keefe III, a right wing, unsupervised, unaccountable, self-appointed and self-styled “investigative journalist” who has violated federal law, lied about his identity and deceitfully cut and pasted video to destroy what he perceives as liberal institutions.

A spring awash with Etch A Sketch conservatives, camera-wielding GOP con men and a bogus deficit reduction budget from House Republicans shows that for the right, wrong is justified when it achieves the desired results.

A perfect example of this political philosophy is the work of James E. O’Keefe III, a right wing, unsupervised, unaccountable, self-appointed and self-styled “investigative journalist” who has violated federal law, lied about his identity and deceitfully cut and pasted video to destroy what he perceives as liberal institutions.

Oddly for the party that claims conservative Christians as key constituents, O’Keefe’s misbehavior is celebrated by GOP talking heads — the likes of Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. That encourages copycats. The New York Times last week told the tale of one. John M. Howting, a bungling video scam man, sees himself as an O’Keefe apostle.

Honorable journalists abide by an ethics code forbidding lying to secure a story. For them, the end does not justify the means. By contrast, for O’Keefe and today’s Etch A Sketch conservatives, the end they want vindicates any scheme to secure it. Deliberate lying, cynical deceit, cut-and-paste deception – all of that is rationalized by conservatives to get their way. It’s a lovely escape clause they’ve written for themselves from that annoying Judeo-Christian thou-shalt-not-lie commandment.

O’Keefe wanna-be John M. Howting tried clumsily to trod in his disgraced mentor’s footsteps, lying about his name, who he represented and his intentions in a failed effort to discredit a couple of what he perceived to be liberal New York community groups.

O’Keefe had better luck. This right wing ...

Published: Saturday 14 April 2012
Morton’s super PAC will never be confused with the big guns that have attracted tens of millions of dollars, like the pro-Mitt RomneyRestore Our Future and Karl Rove’sAmerican Crossroads.

 

A former supporter of President Barack Obama, angered by Obama’s signature health insurance overhaul, wants to turn the election season into a horror movie with the aid of a super PAC.

Last week, Glenn Morton, a 41-year-old health insurance broker and failed congressional candidate who lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington, D.C., launched a low-budget super PAC called “Occupy Obama care.” The group’s nascent YouTube channel features “Dr. Obama care” wearing a zombie mask and carrying a scythe with a skull. (Dr. Obama care also has his own Twitter feed.)

Apparently, the Obama zombie is meant to be a physical manifestation of Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

In one video, Dr. Obama care appears in a dark tunnel and warns “If you don’t do as I prescribe, I’ll be extracting the maximum penalty” — before repeatedly slashing with his scythe.

In another, the zombie Dr. Obama care appears at a tea party rally wearing a bloody white coat and summons a bolt of lightning to strike down former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain as he urges the crowd to repeal the president’s health care plan.

“I’m going to run a whole campaign around this one law because I know I have a better solution,” Morton told iWatch News.

Morton’s super PAC will never be confused with the big guns that have attracted tens of millions of dollars, like the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads. So far, he hasn’t bought any advertising to feature his creation and he declined to say how much the group has raised. The videos are apparently largely self-financed.

But ...

Published: Friday 13 April 2012
“Christie’s bullying style was best illustrated when he insulted and abused another constituent when he asked a perfectly reasonable question about taxes. He demanded that a state trooper bring the man onstage, berated him at length, and then ordered him expelled from the room.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is the embodiment of today's Republican Party and everything it has come to represent. You name it, Christie's got it: Disingenuous, smug, nasty? Check. Robotic servant of the corporate class, foisting its lobbyists' prefabricated laws on an unsuspecting public? Check. Hostile toward women? Double-check.

And last night he proved his bona fides as a Republican by proving he meets his party's other criterion, which is an absolute contempt toward the ordinary men and women who have been victimized by its policies. The night before the nation received its latest bad news on unemployment, Christie told a cheering Republican crowd that the nation's jobless were lazy examples of an entitlement mentality.

Needless to say, Chris Christie is now considered a leading Vice Presidential contender.

Bully

Christie's blunt style seemed refreshing at first. Hey, I kinda liked the guy myself.

But "blunt" became "ugly" very quickly: Telling union officials to "cut the crap." Shouting down a right-wing millionaire who asked a blunt question at a Meg Whitman rallyInsulting a nonpartisan state agency for reaching a conclusion he didn't like. Rudely blowing off a constituent during a televised question-and-answer session. Telling Warren Buffett to "just write a check and shut up.'

His behavior ...

Published: Thursday 12 April 2012
A recent right-wing media study says the Health Care Law “Is Expected To Add At Least $340 Billion And As Much As $530 Billion To Federal Deficits.”

Right-wing media are touting a study claiming the health care reform law will not lower the deficit, but rather increase it by more than $300 billion. In fact, economic experts dismissed the study by conservative analyst Charles Blahous, saying it uses "discredited arguments."

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Study Claims Health Care Law Will Add More Than $300 Billion To Deficit

Study: Health Care Law "Is Expected To Add At Least $340 Billion And As Much As $530 Billion To Federal Deficits." According to a study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University:

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Published: Thursday 12 April 2012
“Ah, Rick and Newt, thanks for the entertainment.”

Even though some are out and some are in, the politicians that are/were in the GOP presidential race still are spreading their goofiness around for all the country to see.

Let's start with my state's gallivanting goober of a governor, Rick Perry. He's back in the news, with yet another "oops" moment!

This one is even stupider than Perry's failure to remember his own lines in a presidential debate. It has to do with his fierce opposition to spending taxpayers' money and his firm stand for rootie-toot-toot rugged individualism. But — oops — Rick keeps failing to remember these principles when it comes to spending taxpayers' money on his own individual desires.

For example, in his grandiose desire to be president, this tightfisted champion of taxpayers dipped liberally into the public till to have Texans subsidize his failed run. Perry essentially abandoned the state and his gubernatorial duties for about six months — but the no-show governor kept billing us for his $150,000-a-year paycheck. It turns out that he was also double-dipping, by taking another $90,000 a year in

Published: Wednesday 11 April 2012
“For workers struggling to raise children on poverty wages, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a vital lifeline.”

What the Republican budget proposal by Rep. Paul Ryan doesn't say is in many respects more ominous than what it says—and on taxes, perhaps more indicative of the truth. For while the Ryan slash-and-burn budget proposal doesn't come right out and say it, it could have some low-income and middle-class people paying higher taxes than they would under a more progressive proposal that is not tilted toward the wealthy.

There is practically no other way to make the numbers add up in a budget that would create or continue a total of $10 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations over 10 years while making cuts in government spending so deep that the economy would be slowed, resulting in 4.1 million fewer jobs created over 10 years.

The nice-sounding tax-cut sizzle in the Ryan Republican plan is a simplified tax structure on earned income, with 10 percent and 25 percent tax brackets, plus the lower capital gains rate of 15 percent. Ryan also promises the elimination of deductions and credits that he, in his "Road to Prosperity" budget manifesto, denounces because they direct "resources to politically favored uses, creating a drag on economic growth and job creation" and even "take taxes paid by hardworking Americans and issue government checks to individuals and corporations who do not owe any taxes at all"

But where one might expect to find the steak lurks a poisonous tax snake instead. A bulletin issued last week by the Coalition for Human Needs raised the relevant questions:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) asserts that the new tax cuts will be paid for by cuts to other tax expenditures—that is, the deductions and credits that make up so much of the tax code. But while the budget is fairly specific in recommending cuts to services, it is utterly silent on which ...

Published: Tuesday 10 April 2012
“The House GOP budget would either cut millions of Americans off of food assistance or would substantially reduce the already-modest amount each family receives.”

Congressional Republicans have targeted the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps, for budget cuts, and have attempted to paint it as a program rife with fraud and abuse that is on an unsustainable path. While their argument ignores a host of facts, including that food stamp fraud is at an all-time low, it also ignores the economic benefits that the program brings to millions of low-income families.

According to a new study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food stamps substantially reduced the poverty rate in 2009, the last year data is available, the New York Times reports:

The food stamp program…reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8 percent in 2009, the most recent year included in the study, a significant impact for a social program whose effects often go unnoticed by policy makers. [...]

The study, which examined nine years of data, tried to measure the program’s effects on people whose incomes remained below the poverty threshold. The program lifted the average poor person’s income up about six percent closer to the line over the length of the study, making poverty less severe. When the benefits were included in the income of families with children, the result was that children below the threshold moved about 11 percent closer to the line.

The USDA study aligns closely with a similar one released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which found that food stamps reduced the number of Americans living in extreme poverty in 2011 from 1.46 million to just over 800,000. SNAP’s effects on children are even bigger — the program cut the number living in extreme poverty

Published: Sunday 8 April 2012
“Instead of being enrolled in medicare when they turn 65, seniors to retire a decade from now would get a voucher that equals the cost of the second cheapest health care plan in their area.”

President Obama described the Republican budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as “laughable” during a speech at the Associated Press Luncheon on Tuesday and said that Ryan’s Medicare “premium support” plan would “end Medicare as we know it.” In a preview of his general election pitch, Obama argued that the GOP blueprint cuts essential government programs that help lower and middle class Americans in order to pay for tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich, before laying out his opposition to the party’s Medicare and Medicaid reforms.

“We’re told that Medicaid would simply be handed over to the states,” Obama explained. “But here’s the deal the states would be getting. They’d have to be running these programs in the face of the largest cut to Medicaid that has ever been proposed.” According to the Center on Budget and policy Priorities, the Ryan budget would reduce federal spending on Medicaid billion and would provide states with smaller “block grants” to run their health care programs. “A cut that according to one nonpartisan group would take away health care for about 19 million Americans,” Obama said, before turning to the GOP’s proposal to transform Medicare into a premium support structure:

OBAMA: Instead of being enrolled in Medicare when they turn 65, seniors to retire a decade from now would get a voucher that equals the cost of the second cheapest health care plan in their area. If Medicare is more expensive than at private plan, they will have to pay more if they want to enroll in traditional Medicare. If health care costs rise faster than the amount of the voucher, as, by the way, they have been doing for decades, that’s too bad. Seniors bear the risk. If the voucher is not enough to buy private plan with bit specific doctors and carry need, that’s too bad. Most experts will tell you the way this ...

Published: Friday 6 April 2012
Published: Friday 6 April 2012
“Imagine that the richest people in this country use some of their vast wealth to routinely bribe politicians.”

Imagine a country in which the very richest people get all the economic gains. They eventually accumulate so much of the nation’s total income and wealth that the middle class no longer has the purchasing power to keep the economy going full speed. Most of the middle class’s wages keep falling and their major asset – their home – keeps shrinking in value.

Imagine that the richest people in this country use some of their vast wealth to routinely bribe politicians. They get the politicians to cut their taxes so low there’s no money to finance important public investments that the middle class depends on – such as schools and roads, or safety nets such as health care for the elderly and poor.

Imagine further that among the richest of these rich are financiers. These financiers have so much power over the rest of the economy they get average taxpayers to bail them out when their bets in the casino called the stock market go bad. They have so much power they even shred regulations intended to limit their power. 

These financiers have so much power they force businesses to lay off millions of workers and to reduce the wages and benefits of millions of others, in order to maximize profits and raise share prices – all of which make the financiers even richer, because they own so many of shares of stock and run the casino. 

Now, imagine that among the richest of these financiers are people called private-equity managers who buy up companies in order to squeeze even more money out of them by loading them up with debt and firing even more of their employees, and then selling the companies for a fat profit.

Although these private-equity managers don’t even risk their own money – they round up investors to buy the target companies – they nonetheless pocket 20 percent of those fat profits.

And because of a loophole in the tax laws, which they created with their ...

Published: Friday 6 April 2012
“Romney is the quintessential Citizens United super PAC candidate, a man who has turned avarice into virtue and comes to us now as a once-moderate politician transformed into the ultimate prophet of imperial hubris, blaming everyone from the Chinese to laid-off American workers for our problems.”

The Republicans are a sick joke, and their narrow ideological stupidity has left rational voters no choice in the coming presidential election but Barack Obama. With Ron Paul out of it and warmongering hedge fund hustler Mitt Romney the likely Republican nominee, the GOP has defined itself indelibly as the party of moneyed greed and unfettered imperialism.

It is with chilling certainty that one can predict that a single Romney appointee to the Supreme Court would seal the coup of the 1 percent that already is well on its way toward purchasing the nation’s political soul. Romney is the quintessential Citizens United super PAC candidate, a man who has turned avarice into virtue and comes to us now as a once-moderate politician transformed into the ultimate prophet of imperial hubris, blaming everyone from the Chinese to laid-off American workers for our problems. Everyone, that is, except the Wall Street-dominated GOP, which midwifed the Great Recession under George W. Bush and now seeks to blame Obama for the enormous deficit spawned by the party’s wanton behavior.

Without a militarily sophisticated enemy anywhere on the planet, the United States, thanks to the Bush-bloated budget, now spends almost as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. Yet the GOP honchos dare claim they are for small government even as their chosen candidate champs at the bit to go to war with Iran.

They obviously learned nothing from the disasters of Bush the Second, who hijacked the tragedy of 9/11 to launch the most wasteful orgy of military spending in U.S. history in his failed effort to take out an al-Qaida enemy that had no significant military arsenal. That enemy was later eliminated by Obama, whom the Republicans still obstinately refuse to credit for accomplishing what Bush failed to. Can you imagine the explosion of preening self-congratulation that would have resulted if a GOP president had done the deed?

The red-ink deficits ...

Published: Wednesday 4 April 2012
“The Bush Doctrine distilled into unilateral pre-emptive perfidy, executed by Rumsfeld's dire “shock and awe,” then justified by Cheney’s One Per Cent Doctrine, was domesticated by this in-your-face mandate from a presumptive national leader”

Is there a more incendiary, compact, unapologetic cover for domestic vigilantes than "Don't Retreat, Reload"?  Though domestic terrorism occurred before and after Palin's pandering war cry, her loaded gun imagery decoying as political rhetoric, gave itchy-fingered zealots free passes when "feeling endangered." Overall, what the Bush Doctrine distilled into unilateral pre-emptive perfidy, executed by Rumsfeld's dire "shock and awe," then justified by Cheney's One Per Cent Doctrine, was domesticated by this in-your-face mandate from a presumptive national leader.  

 

With the Christian right playing the chorus, what our rogue government sustained endlessly "over there" has come home to roost, with literal vengeance, a slaughter of innocents. For if this "exceptional" nation has God's consent to smote foreigners any time because a few belligerents "feel endangered," even by fabricated enemies, why can't a Florida punk delude himself that one hooded black boy presents a mortal threat? What shouldn't our no retreat foreign policy inhabit, with poisonous payoffs, all sorts of abuse against the "other," whether minorities, immigrants, or a top dog with Kenyan anti-colonial biases?      

 

Forgive my focus on the Wasilla Witch, but few others, as ardently pro-life, so glorify hunting, guns, and domestic vigilantism, far more a threat to our streets than teens armed with snacks.  What we initiated far away now invades backyard Neighborhood Watchers. Scope aside, can we distinguish irate stalking, warned off by police, from hate crimes and/or domestic terrorism? Indeed, despite our 9/11 victimization by rogue fanatics, 26 state laws now legalize rogue retribution, unconscious or not, in the name of self-defense. That informs avoidable tragedies like the fleeing Trayvon Martin, plus blowing up tyrannical ...

Published: Tuesday 3 April 2012
“A brief look at history suggests how far to the right both the Republican Party and contemporary conservatism have moved.”

Right before our eyes, American conservatism is becoming something very different from what it once was. Yet this transformation is happening by stealth because moderates are too afraid to acknowledge what all their senses tell them.

Last week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on health care were the most dramatic example of how radical tea partyism has displaced mainstream conservative thinking. It’s not just that the law’s individual mandate was, until very recently, a conservative idea. Even conservative legal analysts were insisting it was impossible to imagine the court declaring the health-care mandate unconstitutional, given its past decisions.

So imagine the shock when conservative justices repeatedly spouted views closely resembling the tweets and talking points issued by organizations of the sort funded by the Koch brothers. Don’t take it from me. Charles Fried, solicitor general for Ronald Reagan, told The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein that it was absurd for conservatives to pretend that the mandate created a market in health care. “The whole thing is just a canard that’s been invented by the tea party . . .,” Fried said, “and I was astonished to hear it coming out of the mouths of the people on that bench.”

Staunchly conservative circuit judges Jeffrey Sutton and Laurence Silberman must have been equally astonished, since both argued that overturning the law would ...

Published: Sunday 1 April 2012
Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy, but they're feeling strained by rising gasoline prices, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

Americans are increasingly optimistic about the economy, but they're feeling strained by rising gasoline prices, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.

A slim plurality believes the worst of the nation's economic woes are over, more than a third expect their personal family finances to get better over the next year — the highest rate since June 2010 — and the number of Americans who believe the U.S. is now in a recession is at its lowest point since Marist began tracking the question in May 2008.

"Most of the indicators show a slow but clearly growing sense of optimism," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted the poll.

But, he added, the spike in gas prices threatens to derail some of the gains.

More than three out of four surveyed — 77 percent — said that the higher cost of gasoline had put at least a "moderate amount" of strain on their family budget. Thirty-seven percent said the costs had put a "great deal" of strain on family finances. And more than half — 53 percent — said that they had changed their driving habits as a result.

Miringoff noted that the numbers are reflected in the current political battle, with Republicans looking to blame President Barack Obama for the soaring cost of energy. Obama, whose political fortunes could be threatened by the prices at the pump, launched a two-day, four-state tour last week to tout his energy policy in the face of the GOP attacks.

"You can tell from the campaign back and forth what people are telling them," Miringoff said. "This is what the campaigns are seeing in their numbers."

But the poll suggests the discontent isn't as steep as it was in April 2008, when gas prices jumped to a then high of $3.50 a gallon. The Marist poll at the time found that 82 percent of respondents said that gas prices were putting ...

Published: Saturday 31 March 2012
With the election just two months away, outside spending groups are already scrambling to pour money into ads both for and against Walker.

 

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) could be out of a job soon as the Government Accountability Board ordered a recall election this week after more than 900,000 Wisconsinites submitted signatures to hold a recall election this summer. With the election just two months away, outside spending groups are already scrambling to pour money into ads both for and against Walker. However, because of a quirk in Wisconsin campaign law, these groups can spend unlimited funds without disclosing where their money is coming from.

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Published: Saturday 31 March 2012
The women, one white and one Latina, say flatly they don’t believe Zimmerman’s story of how Martin had suddenly attacked him, punched him in the face, broke his nose — and that when Zimmerman — larger than Martin — feels he's being overpowered, he pulls out the gun and shoots Martin through the chest.

Like most things that happen in America these days, the Trayvon Martin case is turning into yet another hearse trundling the Republican Party to its doom in November.

Here's a brief outline of the facts. It's Feb. 26. Trayvon Martin is a 17-year-old black kid watching a big basketball game in the home of his father's fiancée in Sanford, a small-town outlier of Orlando, Fla. Sanford has a population of 55,000, about a third black. The fiancée lives in a mixed-race, gated community. At halftime Martin goes to the corner store and buys an iced tea and a bag of Skittles.

It's raining, and Martin has his hood up over his head and is talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone. On his way back, he is spotted by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a cop wannabe, self-appointed neighborhood crime watcher. Apparently, he has pestered the police station for months with reports of "suspicious 12-year-olds" walking through the neighborhood. Zimmerman — white dad, Latina mother — is wearing a red jacket and blue jeans. In his pocket is a Kel-Tec 9 mm automatic pistol.

Zimmerman calls the local station and says he's following a suspicious character. He describes Martin as black and says he's acting strangely and could be on drugs. The teenager starts to run, Zimmerman says. A 911 dispatcher asks Zimmerman whether he's following Martin, and Zimmerman says he is. The dispatcher says clearly that Zimmerman doesn't need to do that.

There's a lull in the transmission, and you can hear Zimmerman mutter clearly to himself, "These assholes, they always get away." On the call between Zimmerman and the 911 dispatcher, he also says "fucking coons." CNN says the words are indistinct, which they aren't. CNN also says the case is "complicated," which it isn't.

Later, the Martin family lawyer relays Trayvon's girlfriend's account of her last call with him. She ...

Published: Friday 30 March 2012
Published: Thursday 29 March 2012
“Super PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited funds, but they are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns.”

For an example of the fluidity of campaign finance rules, as well as the tangled web of connections between candidates and super PACs, look no further than the digital consulting firm Targeted Victory.

So far, the firm’s hauled in $4.1 million working for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and American Crossroads, the super PAC launched by GOP strategist Karl Rove. Just down the hall, its neighbors in Arlington, Va., include an office housing four other companies working for Romney, American Crossroads or the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.

With the rise of super PACs, the jet-fueled political action committees that can take unlimited contributions, many campaign finance watchdogs have focused on the hundreds of millions of dollars being raised this presidential election cycle. But after the most recent campaign filings came in last week, ProPublica decided to track the other side of the equation: Where the money goes.

Our analysis found that more than $306 million has been spent so far by major super PACs and the five leading presidential candidates. In some cases, payees serve both candidates and the super PACs aligned with them, raising the specter that groups may be working together in ways that violate the rules, campaign finance experts said. We also found instances in which ...

Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012
“The Budget for All stands for progressive taxation. The Republican budget cuts taxes for the 1 percent and shifts economic burdens to the 99 percent.”

Later this week on the floor of the House of Representatives, several federal budget proposals embodying different approaches to our country's economic challenges will compete for attention. One of those, the Congressional Progressive Caucus's "Budget for All," offers the most dramatic contrast between the effort by House Republicans to double down on the failed conservative policies of the past and a contrasting approach that is our only real hope for rebuilding the middle class and getting the nation out from under the specter of crushing debt.

We all should be rallying behind the Budget for All as a counter to the Budget for the 1 Percent that the House Republicans have put forward under the leadership of Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Here are three reasons why.

The Budget for All will create jobs. The Republican Budget for the 1 Percent will kill them.

The Budget for All contains a long list of initiatives, more than $2 trillion worth, designed to put people to work doing jobs that need to be done, such as repairing schools, upgrading and expanding our transportation network, protecting our communities, providing health care and other services to those in need. The Republican budget would slash discretionary spending by $38 billion below the ...

Published: Wednesday 28 March 2012
Adelson, whose fortune is pegged at almost $25 billion by Forbes, is a prime example of the new breed of super donor who in the wake of court rulings in early 2010, can give unlimited amounts to outside spending groups supporting a candidate.

Multibillionaire Sheldon Adelson and his family, who have kept the flagging presidential candidacy of Newt Gingrich alive, seem poised to send millions to Republican-allied groups and possibly a super PAC backing frontrunner Mitt Romney, according to fundraisers with ties to the casino owner.

Adelson along with wife Miriam and other family members has garnered notice by donating a whopping $16.5 million to a super PAC backing Gingrich for president.

A private dinner Adelson hosted on March 22 at his home in Las Vegas drew Republican bigwigs from Washington, D.C., plus some of the GOP’s best-known fundraisers and donors. The diners were in Las Vegas early for a weekend summit of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), a nonprofit advocacy group that Adelson has backed heavily.

At the dinner, the Adelson family privately sent strong signals to some Romney allies that millions would flow from them to a ...

Published: Saturday 24 March 2012
Published: Thursday 22 March 2012
“Democrats have been painting the Republicans as having the ultimate cash advantage thanks to the free-spending super PACs, which Democrats have been hesitant to embrace at least until recently.”

A February increase in financial support for underdog Rick Santorum was too little and too late to slow the far-better financed Mitt Romney, who coasted to an easy victory in the Illinois Republican presidential primary Tuesday.

Santorum’s campaign raised $9 million in February compared with $4.5 million in January. The “Red, White and Blue Fund,” a super PAC supporting former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum, raised $3 million, 41 percent more than what it raised in January.

Romney’s campaign, meanwhile, raised $12 million in February, nearly doubling its January total, while the super PAC supporting the ex-Massachusetts Gov., “Restore Our Future,” brought in $6.4 million, $3 million of which came from Texas homebuilder and Republican super donor Bob Perry of Texas.

Romney drew 47 percent of the vote in Illinois, former Pennsylvania senator Santorum garnered 35 percent, and Texas congressman Ron Paul of Texas drew 9.3 percent while Gingrich lagged in fourth at 8 percent.

Santorum’s recent financial surge has been aided by Wyoming businessman Foster Friess, who donated $600,000 to the pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund in February, and retired Louisiana energy executive William Dore, who gave the group $500,000 last month.

The pro-Santorum PAC also received a $1 million contribution last month from Annette Simmons, wife of GOP mega-donor Harold Simmons, a billionaire investor who hails from Texas.

All told, the Simmons family donated to each of the top three GOP presidential candidates’ super PACs in February, with Harold giving $100,000 to Restore Our Future and another $100,000 to “Winning Our Future,” a super ...

Published: Wednesday 21 March 2012
“In his quest to remake the Senate Republican caucus in his own image, Tea Party kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has thrown some serious cash at a conservative super PAC that has attacked a Republican House member and other GOP candidates for office.”

In his quest to remake the Senate Republican caucus in his own image, Tea Party kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has thrown some serious cash at a conservative super PAC that has attacked a Republican House member and other GOP candidates for office.

 

Last month, DeMint’s campaign committee donated $500,000 to “Club for Growth Action,” a super PAC committed to electing pro-free market Republicans.  DeMint’s donation accounted for 28 percent of the $1.8 million that the super PAC collected in February, according to Federal Election Commission documents released Monday.


To date, Club for Growth Action has reported spending more than $560,000 on political advertisements, all of them negative.  The group has attacked House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), as well as U.S. Senate candidates Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, the state’s former GOP governor, and Republican David Dewhurst in Texas, the Lone Star State’s current lieutenant governor.


DeMint’s leadership PAC has already endorsed Thompson’s opponent in Wisconsin, Mark Neumann of Wisconsin, and Dewhurst’s opponent in Texas, Ted Cruz.  It has also endorsed Don Stenberg of Nebraska and Josh Mandel of Ohio — both of whom have also been endorsed by the Club for Growth.


“  Senator DeMint strongly supports several of the candidates the Club for Growth is backing this year, and this contribution will help the Club push them on to victory,” DeMint spokesman Matt Hoskins told iWatch News.


Both DeMint and the Club for Growth favor Republican candidates who favor limited government, lower taxes and pro-growth economic policies.  Their staunch support for “the right kind of Republicans,” as Hoskins calls it, has frequently led to infighting with GOP party leaders.


During the 2010 midterm ...

Published: Wednesday 21 March 2012
“The money would come out of programs for the elderly, lower-middle families, and the poor.”

In announcing the Republicans’ new budget and tax plan Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said “We are sharpening the contrast between the path that we’re proposing and the path of debt and decline the president has placed us upon.”

Ryan is right about sharpening the contrast. But the plan doesn’t do much to reduce the debt. Even by its own estimate the deficit would drop to $166 billion in 2018 and then begin growing again.

The real contrast is over what the plan does for the rich and what it does to everyone else. It reduces the top individual and corporate tax rates to 25 percent. This would give the wealthiest Americans an average tax cut of at least $150,000 a year.

The money would come out of programs for the elderly, lower-middle families, and the poor.

Seniors would get subsidies to buy private health insurance or Medicare – but the subsidies would be capped. So as medical costs increased, seniors would fall further and further behind.

Other cuts would come out of food stamps, Pell grants to offset the college tuition of kids from poor families, and scores of other programs that now help middle-income and the poor.

The plan also calls for repealing Obama’s health-care overhaul, thereby eliminating healthcare for 30 million Americans and allowing insurers to discriminate against (and drop from coverage) people with pre-existing conditions.

The plan would carve an additional $19 billion out of next year’s “discretionary” spending over and above what Democrats agreed to last year. Needless to say, discretionary spending includes most of programs for lower-income families.

Not surprisingly, the Pentagon would be spared.

So what’s the guiding principle here? Pure social Darwinism. Reward the rich and cut off the help to anyone who needs it.

Ryan says too many Americans rely on government benefits. “We ...

Published: Tuesday 20 March 2012
“So what are Republicans to do now? What they always do when they have nothing else to say. Call for a tax cut, of course.”

Republicans are desperate. They can’t attack Obama on jobs because the jobs picture is improving.

Their attack on the Administration’s rule requiring insurers to cover contraception has backfired, raising hackles even among many Republican women.

Their attack on Obama for raising gas prices has elicited scorn from economists of all persuasions who know oil prices are set in global markets and that demand in the United States has actually fallen.

Their presidential ambitions are being trampled in a furious fraternal war among Republican candidates.

Their Tea Party wing wants to reopen the budget deal forged with Democrats after Republicans got bloodied by threatening to block an increase in the debt limit.

So what are Republicans to do now? What they always do when they have nothing else to say.

Call for a tax cut, of course.

It doesn’t matter that their new “tax reform” plan (leaked to the Wall Street Journal late Monday, to be released Tuesday morning) has as much chance of being enacted as Herman Cain has of being elected president.

It doesn’t matter than the plan doesn’t detail how they plan to pay for the tax cuts. Or whether an even bigger whack would have to be taken out of Medicare than Paul Ryan’s original voucher plan – which would drowned many elderly under rising medical costs.

It doesn’t even matter that the plan would probably raise taxes on many lower-income Americans,

All that matters is the headlines.

“House Republican Budget to Propose Lower Income Tax Rates,” says Bloomberg Businessweek. “Republican Budget Plan Seeks to Play Up Tax Reform,” says Reuters. “GOP’s Budget Targets Taxes,” blares the Wall Street Journal.

Presto. Republicans have gotten what they wanted on the basis of saying absolutely nothing.

Published: Monday 19 March 2012
Published: Monday 19 March 2012
Published: Saturday 17 March 2012
“Romney must know that his flip-flops on positions affecting the Hispanic community are disconcerting and unsympathetic to the feelings of the great majority of Hispanics throughout the country.”

Surely the Republican Party knows that it will be most difficult to occupy the White House without a significant percentage of Hispanic votes. Why then are two of the leading candidates seeking the nomination taking such anti Hispanic positions, particularly front runner Mitt Romney?  Romney must know that his flip-flops on positions affecting the Hispanic community are disconcerting and unsympathetic to the feelings of the great majority of Hispanics throughout the country.

 


Surely he must read and hear the multitude of angry opinions voiced by the Hispanic community condemning his positions. The former Governor of Massachusetts is not deaf or dumb, so then why?  Can it be that he is under the impression that once getting the nomination he can again reverse his position and win over the Hispanic vote?  That is about the only nonsense that makes some kind of sense.

 


He may be figuring that the nomination must first be obtained and since a great number of Republican members are of the far and extreme right unmoving on the issue of immigration reform for the undocumented, pushing to deny education to their children; and ...

Published: Friday 16 March 2012
“Federal rules prohibit a person from giving more than $2,500 per candidate per election.”

As unlimited contributions flow into super PACs this year, one man is at the center of a new effort to allow people to donate more money, to more candidates, at the national stage.

“I don’t believe government is there to limit us,” Shaun McCutcheon told iWatch News.

McCutcheon is a 44-year-old general contractor in Alabama. He’s the owner, founder and president of Coalmont Electrical Development. He’s a member of the Republican Party who admits he may have a bit of a libertarian streak. And he’s also the treasurer of a super PAC called the “Conservative Action Fund.”

That's a group that spent more than $43,000 

Published: Thursday 15 March 2012
“The revolt of the right-wing masses means that Romney stands alone as the less than ideal representative of a relatively restrained brand of conservatism.”

Political revolutions leave chaos in their wake. Republicans cannot shut down their presidential nominating contest because the party is in the midst of an upheaval wrought by the growing dominance of its right wing, its unresolved attitudes toward George W. Bush’s presidency, and the terror that the GOP rank and file has stirred among the more moderately conservative politicians who once ran things.

When Pat Buchanan ran for president in the 1990s, the conservative commentator lovingly referred to his partisans as “peasants with pitchforks.” The pitchfork brigade now enjoys more power in Republican politics than even Buchanan thought possible.

Mitt Romney is still the Republican front-runner by virtue of the delegates he relentlessly piles up. But Romney keeps failing to bring this slugfest to a close. No matter how much he panders and grovels to the party’s right, its supporters will never see him as one of their own.

One senses that the conservative ultras are resigned to having to vote for Romney in November against President Obama. They are determined not to vote for him twice, using the primaries to give voice to their hearts and their guts. They will keep signaling their refusal to surrender to the Romney machine with its torrent of nasty advertisements and its continuing education courses in delegate math designed to prove that resistance is futile.

The more they are told this, the more they want to resist.

Rick Santorum is a superb vehicle for this cry of protest. He is articulate but

Published: Wednesday 14 March 2012
“President Obama partially blamed his Republican rivals, saying one reason for the increase is rumors of war with Iran.”

Looking at rising fuel costs, one of the major issues raised by the Republican contenders in the 2012 presidential campaign. Since the beginning of the year, the average of price of a gallon of regular gasoline has jumped 16 percent to more than $3.80. Earlier this week, President Obama partially blamed his Republican rivals, saying one reason for the increase is rumors of war with Iran. Meanwhile, Republican candidates have used the spike in gas prices to attack President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline and his stance on expanded domestic oil drilling. Michael Klare, says oil prices are destined to remain high for a long time to come because most of the remaining oil on the planet is no longer easily accessible. Klare's latest book; The Race for Whats Left: The Global Scramble for the Worlds Last Resources.

Published: Tuesday 13 March 2012
“Do you think it should be legal or illegal for these Super-PACS to operate?”

Independent expenditure-only “super PAC” committees have accounted for a stunning 91 percent of the television campaign advertising over the past month in Alabama and Mississippi — the two states holding their Republican primaries today. But while the more than $75 million already spent nationally by these groups has undoubtedly altered the dynamics of the presidential race, it has also annoyed the vast majority of Americans.

A new Washington Post-ABC poll shows that nearly 7 out of 10 adults don’t just dislike super PACs — groups that can accept unlimited individual and corporate donations to run ads to support or oppose political candidates; they want to see them to be banned entirely.

The survey question was:

Organizations known as Super-PACS can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates they support. (Supporters say this is a form of free speech) while (opponents say this allows groups or wealthy individuals to have unfair influence.) Do you think it should be legal or illegal for these Super-PACS to operate?

A whopping 69 percent of the more than 1,000 respondents said they believe it should be illegal for super PACs to operate. And 52 percent of those polled said they strongly support a ban. Just 25 percent said they believe super PACs should be allowed to operate in the U.S.
Even

Published: Monday 12 March 2012
In 2011 the super PAC Freedom Works for America received almost half of its $2.7 million from the nonprofit, a legal transfer that skirts disclosure requirements.

Super PACs are the perceived demons of the 2012 campaign, with the law allowing them to raise and spend unlimited amounts of dough. But a shadowy sideshow that's gone largely unnoticed is the set of nonprofits affiliated with them, which often provide money to the cash cows — and they don't have to publicly disclose their donors (as super PACs must).

"The undisclosed money is far more troubling for the system," says campaign finance lawyer Kenneth Gross.

Freedom Works for America is a case in point. The group, which has attacked GOP pols it finds insufficiently conservative, is located three blocks north of the Capitol. At the same address, sharing the same suite and even some staff, is the headquarters of the similarly named FreedomWorks Inc., a nonprofit (or 501[c][4] group).

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Published: Saturday 10 March 2012
“A recent poll run by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal discloses that 70 percent of all respondents used harsh language to describe the Republican presidential race.”

In the end, Mormon money and organization has stopped crusading papism in its tracks. In the crucial state of Ohio, millionaire Mitt Romney beat Rick Santorum. In the nine other Super Tuesday races, Romney won in Massachusetts, Idaho, Alabama, Virginia and Vermont; Santorum in Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota. Newt Gingrich swept his home state of Georgia.

The primaries run until the end of June, concluding in Utah, which will crown Romney's run. Barring an act of God — Santorum's or Gingrich's God in this instance — Romney will be the Republican nominee, however many complicated calculations about delegate counts we have to put up with in the interim and the eagerness of the press to spin the race out profitably for weeks.

Romney has slugged his way through but at serious cost. A recent poll run by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal discloses that 70 percent of all respondents used harsh language to describe the Republican presidential race.

Forty percent said the GOP contest so far had made them feel less favorable about the party, with only 12 percent saying they now have a more favorable impression. Fifty-five percent of respondents — including 35 percent of Republicans — think that the Democratic Party does a better job than the GOP in appealing to those who aren't hard-core supporters. Just 26 ...

Published: Saturday 10 March 2012
“If the American economy continues to produce jobs at the good rate it’s maintained over the last three months, averaging 245,000 per month, the backlog won’t be whittled down for another five years.”

February’s  227,000 net new jobs – the third month in a row of job gains well in excess of 200,000 – is good news for President Obama and bad news for Mitt Romney.

Jobs are coming back fast enough to blunt Republican attacks against Obama on the economy and to rob Romney of the issue he’d prefer to be talking about in his primary battle against social conservatives in the GOP.

But jobs aren’t coming back fast enough to significantly reduce the nation’s backlog of 10 million jobs. That backlog consists of 5.3 million lost during the recession and another 4.7 million that needed to have been added just to keep up with the growth of the working-age population since the recession began.

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Published: Friday 9 March 2012
“Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.”

 

Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.

No other conclusion can be drawn from parsing the candidates’ public remarks. Paul, of course, is basically an isolationist who believes it is none of our business if Iran wants to build nuclear weapons. He questions even the use of sanctions, such as those now in force. But Paul has about as much chance of winning the GOP nomination as I do.Mitt RomneyRick Santorum and Newt Gingrich have all sought to portrayPresident Obama READ FULL POST 17 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 9 March 2012
“There is mistrust of Wall Street-style finance that cuts across ideology, and Romney hasn’t done anything to overcome it.”

A pattern has emerged in the Republican primaries, Romney wins among Republican voters with six-figure incomes and loses among Republican voters with five-figure incomes.

We have a class war, and it's inside the Republican Party.

What has happened? What is it about Romney that has split Republicans along class lines? Does it mean Romney will struggle with working-class voters in November?

We can only conclude so much from exit polls and a few person-on-the-street quotes. Let's not forget that many pundits thought Barack Obama couldn't compete for working-class votes after his poor bowling outing preceded his drubbing in the 2008 Pennsylvania primary. Yet Obama won the Rust Belt in 2008, including Pennsylvania.

But there are two clear reasons why Romney is struggling now, and if those problems persisted, they not only portend trouble for Romney's candidacy, but for the future of conservatism.

1. Romney comes across like an out-of-touch Richie Rich.

You wouldn't think that being enormously wealthy, paying little in taxes and constantly saying insensitive things about his fortune and others' misfortune would be a problem in a Republican primary. But we are being reminded that not everyone Republican voter is in Romney's class.

Many conservatives recoiled when Newt Gingrich's Super PAC hammered Romney's track record running Bain Capital during the South Carolina primary. But those voters live 750 miles from Wall Street, and they voted for Newt.

There is mistrust of Wall Street-style finance that cuts across ideology, and Romney hasn't done anything to overcome it.

Obviously, working class people support wealthy politicians all the ...

Published: Wednesday 7 March 2012
“Limbaugh was losing his spotlight tan and needed a UV blast of attention.”

Too bad the Republican candidates had to comment on Rush Limbaugh's flaming attack on a female law student at Georgetown University. El Rushbo plays troubadour to the party's right wing from his home in its entertainment wing. The business of the entertainment wing is show business. That means making money off talk shows, books and TV appearances — and running the publicity machine at hysterical volume. It does not mean keeping the interests of the Republican Party foremost.

My take on Limbaugh is that he was losing his spotlight tan and needed a UV blast of attention. Thus the "conservative" radio personality called the self-possessed Sandra Fluke "a slut" and "a prostitute" for testifying in favor of requiring all employers to cover birth control. Elaborating further, he suggested that mandating coverage for contraceptives amounted to the public paying women to have sex. In return, the women should tape themselves in the act, he ventured, "and post the videos online so we can all watch." Attention he got.

President Obama called Fluke and said he'd stand by her, while his press secretary characterized the attacks as "reprehensible." But the Republican candidates — though already in hot water with many women voters — so feared Limbaugh's wrath that they issued mild responses. Mitt Romney squeaked out that "it's not the language I would have used." Rick Santorum offered that "an entertainer can be absurd." (Not just entertainers, Rick.)

Full disclosure: Limbaugh targets me on occasion. But though he's said such unflattering things as "she might be stupid," I don't mind much. She who dishes it out should be able to take it. In any case, my right-wing friends are so mightily impressed when the Great One finds me worthy of notice, they invite me to lunch and pick up the check.

I confess to a tiny soft spot for ...

Published: Saturday 3 March 2012
“Sen. Richard Shelby is losing tens of billions of dollars, hurting millions of middle-class homeowners, and stalling our economy recovery for one reason: to take the White House away from the Democrats.”

Republicans love to say that nothing's more important cutting the Federal deficit. So why is Sen. Richard Shelby wasting $28 billion of taxpayer money? Shelby's used parliamentary tricks to put more than half of the nation's mortgages under the rule of an unelected official who answers to no one - except apparently Richard Shelby - whose wasting money like it's going out of style.

Is Richard Shelby a closet Deficit Lover? In Washington that's called The Love That Dare Not Speaks Its Name.

But the real answer's much simpler. Richard Shelby is losing tens of billions of dollars, hurting millions of middle-class homeowners, and stalling our economy recovery for one reason: to take the White House away from the Democrats.

Shelby's following the path laid out by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said the number one priority of GOP Senators is to make Barack Obama a "

Published: Saturday 3 March 2012
The Republicans are hoping to blame this rise in the price of gas on President Obama’s environmentally friendly policies.

President Obama seems to be enjoying some good luck in that the economy appears to be picking up just in time for his re-election campaign. While the economy is still weak by almost any measure, growth is likely to be in the 2.5-3.0 percent range for 2012. This should lead to the creation of close to 2 million jobs and a modest drop in the unemployment rate.

That is not much to cheer about in an economy that is still down close to 10 million jobs from its trend level; however, compared with the recent past, this is good news. And research shows that voters tend to focus primarily on the direction of change. This means that if the unemployment rate is falling and the economy is creating jobs at a respectable pace throughout the year, President Obama stands a very good chance of being re-elected in November.

This explains the decision of the Republican Party to focus on the price of gas. The price of gas has long played a pivotal role in U.S. politics. High gas prices will be forever a symbol of the economic malaise of the Carter presidency in the late 70s. The drop in gas prices under President Reagan was associated with a resurgence of America’s political and economic power.

The fact that both the rise in the price of oil in the 70s and the subsequent decline in the 80s had little to do with domestic policy decisions and much more with international politics (e.g. the Iranian revolution in 1979) mattered little. President Carter got the blame for ...

Published: Friday 2 March 2012
“Republicans win by stressing their superior ability in standing tall and defending the United States against its enemies. They don't win campaigns on social issues such as contraception or abortion.”

A week ago, Rick Santorum looked as though he might give Mitt Romney a thrashing in the Michigan primary, which would have unleashed a wave of grim assessments of the Mormon's prospects: his failure to lock up the race for the Republican nomination, his inability to connect with the common man or woman, the looming possibility of a brokered convention.

Romney's put such a fate behind him, at least till the next time he falters, which could be in the Washington state caucuses on March 3, Saturday, or in any of the 10 states having primaries or caucuses a week from today.

So Romney's a survivor. He recovered from a defeat at the hands of Newt Gingrich in South Carolina in time to win Florida; he routed Santorum last night. But each comeback has come with a huge price tag. Not just the millions Romney had to pour into negative ads against Santorum in Michigan but in the whole character of his battle with Santorum.

What nearly sank Romney in Michigan was his refusal to concede that he was totally wrong four years ago in opposing bailouts — initiated by Bush and carried through by Obama — for General Motors and Chrysler. Both companies were thrown life belts of government loans and are now doing well, giving jobs to thousands of autoworkers and suppliers in Michigan and Ohio. At the convention of the United Auto Workers last week, Obama had rare sport with Romney on this issue, eliciting howls of merriment and derision for Romney from his blue-collar audience. They could easily pull both Michigan and Ohio into the Democratic column next November. No Republican has ever won the White House without prevailing in Ohio.

If Romney is to have a decent chance of defeating Barack Obama in the fall, he has to make a strong general showing among Hispanics, women and middle-of-the-roaders. The growing Hispanic vote in states such as California and Texas is one of the core truths of politics in the coming era. In the early ...

Published: Tuesday 28 February 2012
“As we’re seeing, a loony fringe can take over an entire party — and that party will inevitably take over some part of our federal, state, and local governments.”

My father was a Republican for the first 78 years of his life. For the last twenty, he’s been a Democrat (he just celebrated his 98th.) What happened? “They lost me,” he says.

They’re losing even more Americans now, as the four remaining GOP candidates seek to out-do one another in their race for the votes of the loony right that’s taken over the Grand Old Party.

But the rest of us have reason to worry.

A party of birthers, creationists, theocrats, climate-change deniers, nativists, gay-bashers, anti-abortionists, media paranoids, anti-intellectuals, and out-of-touch country clubbers cannot govern America.

Yet even if they lose the presidency on Election Day they’re still likely to be in charge of at least one house of Congress as well as several state legislators and governorships. That’s a problem for the nation.

The GOP’s drift toward loopyness started in 1993 when Bill Clinton became the first Democrat in the White House in a dozen years – and promptly allowed gays in the military, pushed through the Brady handgun act, had the audacity to staff his administration with strong women and African-Americans, and gave Hillary the task of crafting a national health bill. Bill and Hillary were secular boomers with Ivy League credentials who thought government had a positive role to play in peoples’ lives.

This was enough to stir right-wing evangelicals in the South, social conservatives in the Midwest and on the Great Plains, and stop-at-nothing extremists in Washington and the media who hounded Bill Clinton for eight years, then stole the 2000 election from Al Gore, and Swift-boated John Kerry in 2004.

They were not pleased to have a Democrat back in the White House in 2008, let alone a black one. They rose up in the 2010 election cycle as “tea partiers” and have by now pushed the GOP further right than it has been in more than eighty years. Even ...

Published: Monday 27 February 2012
“Republicans, now aware that they are on a losing track, may begin to engineer a series of course changes.”

If the election were held right now, President Obama would likely win by about the same margin that propelled him into office in 2008. But how fragile are his current advantages?

The biggest concern for the Democrats (and the best hope for the GOP) is that the president’s lead is far from overwhelming, even though Republicans — and particularly Mitt Romney — have been badly weakened by their nomination battle and Obama has been left largely unmolested by the conservative super PACs.

Democrats are certainly disappointed by the apparent fading of Rick Santorum in the final week before the Michigan primary and his surprisingly disjointed performance in last week’s debate. It’s not as clear to me as it is to others that Santorum would be less competitive than Romney as Obama’s opponent. What’s plain is that Democrats have an interest in the Republican contest going on indefinitely. Romney victories in Tuesday’s Michigan and Arizona primaries would likely shorten the process, and ending the nomination battle quickly is the precondition for a Republican counteroffensive.

They need one. Up to now, the Republican battle has played entirely into Democratic hands. The Democrats need upscale voters to cast ballots on the basis of social issues and a general revulsion over the Republicans’ lurch rightward. They need working-class whites to look past social issues and focus on economic inequality and the GOP’s continued insistence on cutting the taxes of rich people.

That’s exactly what’s happening. Obama won in 2008 even though he ran 18 points behind in the white working class. Until recently, he was drifting far lower than that, and Democrats were shellacked in House ...

Published: Sunday 26 February 2012
“The Democrats’ activist-supporter ideology gap is more than twice that of Republicans.”

Far more Americans favor Democrats over Republicans. For decades, the number of Americans identifying as Democrats or calling themselves independent but leaning Democratic has far exceeded the share of Republicans and Republican leaners. That gap has persisted, even in landslide Republican years like 1984 and 1994.

So why don’t Democrats perform better in national elections? Why have Democrats won only four of 10 presidential races since 1972?

A new report for Third Way, the moderate Democratic group, posits an answer: the ideological disconnect between liberal party activists and moderate party voters. In “Family Feud: Democratic Activists v. Democratic Voters,” Todd Eberly, a political scientist at St. Mary’s College in Maryland, examined data from the American National Election Studies and focused on the striking divide among Democrats.

In the 10 presidential elections since 1972, Democratic activists — those who attended a ...

Published: Friday 24 February 2012
“The billionaires backing the GOP’s super PAC’s may have placed their bets more wisely than anyone else knows.”

Make it stop. Please, just make it stop. That's the short version of my reaction to GOP primary debate #20. Maybe it was too soon. Maybe I need more time to recover from my two days at CPAC. (After the debate, I felt the same odd sensation that I swear I felt after finally fleeing CPAC — that tingling sensation one usually feels when an arm or leg that's "fallen asleep" wakes up. Except it was it was my brain coming back to life, after going numb.)

As a progressive, it really shouldn't bother me. After all, in many ways the biggest winner of the Republican debates is President Obama, while the biggest losers are (a) the candidates and (b) the Republican party. Plus, the debates have supplied an entertaining string of awkward momentsThis one had its moments, too. But it's getting painful to watch and listen to these guys. It's like ...

Published: Thursday 23 February 2012
“Upon unveiling the plan, Romney claimed that it would actually force the richest Americans to pay their fair share.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released his latest tax reform plan today in Arizona and highlighted specifically the fact that it provided a 20-percent across-the-board cut in marginal tax rates for all Americans.

Upon unveiling the plan, Romney claimed that it would actually force the richest Americans to pay their fair share. Speaking of tax exemptions and deductions, Romney said, “For the high-income folks, we’re going to cut back on that, so that we make sure that the top 1 percent keeps paying the current share they’re paying or more.”

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Published: Thursday 23 February 2012
“In a Where’s Waldo moment, it turned out that the dreaded nukes were not in Iraq, and the leading Republican presidential candidates are convinced that Iran now has such weapons and they need to be taken out.”

Here we go again. With the economy showing faint signs of life and their positions on the social issues alienating most moderates, the leading Republican candidates, with the exception of Ron Paul, have returned to the elixir of warmongering to once again sway the gullible masses. The race to the bottom has been set by Newt Gingrich, the most desperate of the lot, who on Tuesday charged that “The President wants to unilaterally weaken the United States,” because his administration has dared question the wisdom of Israel attacking Iran and proposes a slight reduction in the bloated defense budget. 

Let the good times roll with a beefed-up military budget justified by plans to invade yet another Muslim country. As Paul warned during the South Carolina primary debate as his presidential rivals threatened war with Iran: “I’m afraid what’s going on right now is similar to the war propaganda that went on against Iraq.” Indeed, the shouting match over which of the other GOP candidates most wants a war with Iran is in sync with the last Republican president’s 2003 invasion.

It was an invasion that removed Saddam Hussein, once the U.S. ally in confronting Iran, from power and replaced him with a Shite leadership long beholden to the ayatollahs of Iran. Of course, as Bush lied, this was not about nation-building aimed at imposing a democracy in our image, but rather, as is the claim now, about preventing radical Muslims from getting their hands on a nuclear weapon. ...

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012
“Huge donations may raise ethical issues.”

Thanks to a small number of wealthy individuals, the outside spending groups known as “super PACs” that are working to put the four leading GOP candidates in the White House collectively raised more than the candidates themselves in January.

Candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul raised a combined $21.1 million for the month, according to Federal Election Commission records, while the four primary super PACs backing them raised $22.1 million.

Donors to candidates number in the thousands, but they may only give $2,500 per candidate, per election. Super PAC donors, thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision and a lower-cour ruling, can give unlimited amounts. The funds can come from billionaires, corporations and labor unions. So far this election, the funds have been spent overwhelmingly on advertising disparaging competing candidates.

Super PACs are prohibited from coordinating their activities with the candidates.

The average donation to a super PAC filing in January was $63,000, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of FEC data.

Two of the super PACs — “Winning Our Future,” supporting Newt Gingrich and “Endorse Liberty,” supporting Ron Paul — are dominated by a single donor.

Of the $11 million Winning Our Future raised in January, $10 million — about 90 percent of the total for the month — came from ...

Published: Wednesday 22 February 2012
“Bottom line: Whoever emerges as the GOP standard-bearer will be deeply indebted to a handful of people, each of whom will expect a good return on their investment.”

Have you heard of William Dore, Foster Friess, Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons, Peter Thiel, or Bruce Kovner? If not, let me introduce them to you. They’re running for the Republican nomination for president.

I know, I know. You think Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney are running. They are – but only because the people listed in the first paragraph have given them huge sums of money to do so. In a sense, Santorum, Gingrich, Paul, and Romney are the fronts. Dore et al. are the real investors.

According to January’s Federal Election Commission report, William Dore and Foster Friess supplied more than three-fourths of the $2.1 million raked in by Rick Santorum’s super PAC in January. Dore, president of the Dore Energy Corporation in Lake Charles, Louisiana, gave $1 million; Freis, a fund manager based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, gave $669,000 ...

Published: Tuesday 21 February 2012
“Sheldon Adelson and family contribute $11 million”

Casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his family have pumped $11 million into the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC “Winning Our Future,” about 84 percent of the $13.1 million the group has raised so far.

And that doesn’t include the additional $10 million sources say the multibillionaire is expected to kick in to help his political ally and friend Gingrich become competitive again. Gingrich has fallen behind the two frontrunners, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, in national polls.

The PAC’s new filing with the Federal Election Commission shows two separate $5 million donations were made last month by Adelson and wife Miriam, an Israeli-born physician with dual citizenship. Another $1 million was donated in December to the super PAC by three relatives of the Adelsons, bringing the total family contribution to $11 million.

Without the Adelsons’ largesse, the PAC has raised $2.1 million.

The PAC’s latest filing shows the next largest donation in January came from Texas mega-GOP donor Harold Simmons, who gave $500,000, bringing his total contributions to the super PAC to $1 million.

Together, the Adelson family donations have been the largest publicly reported thus far this election cycle. They have been used to pay for a mix of negative television advertisements against Romney and positive ads to promote Gingrich.

Those donations, respectively, helped to fund hard-hitting and expensive advertising drives before the South Carolina primary — which Gingrich won — and the Florida primary, which he lost, and where he was badly outspent by the ...

Published: Tuesday 21 February 2012
“Oil prices are rising for three reasons — none of which has to do with offshore drilling or the XL pipeline.”

Nothing drives voter sentiment like the price of gas – now averaging $3.56 a gallon, up 30 cents from the start of the year. It’s already hit $4 in some places. The last time gas topped $4 was 2008.

And nothing energizes Republicans like rising energy prices. Last week House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans to take advantage of voters’ looming anger over prices at the pump. On Thursday House Republicans passed a bill to expand offshore drilling and force the White House to issue a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. The tumult prompted the Interior Department to announce on Friday expanded oil exploration in the Arctic.

If prices at the pump continue to rise,  expect more gas wars.

In fact, oil prices are rising for three reasons — none of which has to do with offshore drilling or the XL pipeline.

The first, on the supply side, is Iran’s decision to cut in oil exports to Britain and France in retaliation for sanctions put in place by the EU and United States. Iran’s threat to do this has been pushing up crude oil prices for weeks.

The second, on the demand side, is rising hopes for a global economic recovery – which would mean increased oil consumption. The American economy is showing faint signs of a recovery. Europe’s debt crisis appears to be easing. Greece’s pending bailout deal is calming financial nerves on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Bank of England and European Central Bank are keeping rates low. At the same time, China has decided to boost its money supply to spur growth there.

Neither of these would have much effect were it not for the third reason — overwhelming bets of hedge funds and other money managers that oil prices will rise on the basis of the first two reasons.

Speculators have pushed crude oil to $105.28 per barrel, up 35 percent since September. Brent crude, Europe’s benchmark, is now $120.37 a barrel ...

Published: Monday 20 February 2012
“For him, the right to privacy doesn’t exist.”