"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
-- Sinclair Lewis
Thursday, April 30, 2009
A New Republican Star Is Born-- Carrie Prejean Goes On An Anti-Gay Jihad
Remember a couple weeks ago a little tempest in a teacup when Miss California wasn't picked to be Miss America and she tried claiming it was because she was perceived as a bigot? She even threatened to sue. Well, after lawyers told her there was no case there, she found an even better way to cash in on her notoriety. She's now shilling for anti-gay groups and getting a cut of whatever money she can bring in for them. Here's a video one of the Republican Party hate groups has started running:
I bet Trump is pissed off he bought Prejean new breast implants. The Miss America pageant doesn't go for this divisive kind of stuff she's dragged the pageant into with her religious jihad against gays.
The organization paid for Carrie’s breast enhancement prior to her competing in the Miss USA pageant, which was held in Las Vegas, almost two weeks ago.
“It was something that we all spoke about together,” Shanna said referring to herself, Carrie and Keith Lewis, Shanna's co-executive director. “It was an option and she wanted it. And we supported that decision.”
Shanna, a former Miss USA herself, defended the Miss California Organization’s decision to pay for the elective surgery.
“Breast implants in pageants is not a rarity. It’s definitely not taboo. It’s very common. Breast implants today among young women today is very common. I don’t personally have them, but you know-- they are,” she added.
Shanna supported Carrie’s plastic surgery, however, she had a hard time standing behind Carrie’s opinion against gay marriage in her answer to a question from Perez Hilton during the Q&A portion of the Miss USA competition.
While the Miss California organization is trying to figure out if they want to fire her or not, Prejean has run off to DC to help launch a campaign against same sex marriage for the Republicans. Some want her on the townhall tour McCain, Romney and Jeb Bush are launching in their quest for new ideas.
The 21-year-old says that marriage is "something that is very dear to my heart" and she's in Washington to help save it.
Congress Exposed! Which Members Are Owned By The Banksters?
Early this morning we started the conversation about how pathetic it is that Harry Reid can't pass any legislation to protect consumers from predatory banksters. Obama was good on TV today denouncing the sleazy speculators who forced Chrysler into bankruptcy but someone has to get putative Democratic senators to remember that they work for their constituents, not their campaign donors. Before we get into the cramdown foreclosure catastrophe that went down in the Senate today, let's take a look at the votes in the House on Carolyn Maloney's Credit Card Bill of Rights. In the end, it passed 357-70, 105 Republicans joining every Democrat but South Dakota bribe-taking Blue Dog Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (who was also the only Democrat to vote "no" last year). On the Republican side, only the worst of the obstructionists and briber takers voted against the bill, 70 of them. The dozen ring-leaders who worked the hardest to sabotage the bill and would rather see Americans screwed by unscrupulous credit card companies than save their own constituents from predators are all owned lock, stock and barrel by the banksters:
Spencer Bachus (R-AL- $3,789,474) Eric Cantor (R-VA- $3,121,188) John Boehner (R-OH- $3,045,809) Pete Sessions (R-TX- $2,730,126 David Dreier (R-CA- $2,118,538) Jeb Hensarling (R-TX- $2,111,371) Ron Paul (R-TX- $1,686,375) Paul Ryan (R-WI- $1,555,321) Randy Neugebauer (R-TX- $1,253,775) Scott Garrett (R-NJ- $1,156,599) Tom Price (R-TX- $901,849) Gresham Barrett (R-SC- $786,873)
Yes, the amounts in parenthesis are the legalized bribes each of these members has taken from the banksters directly (not counting lobbying). Earlier there was an attempt to kill the bill (a motion to recommit) by the Republicans and it failed 164-263, only 16 Republicans voting with the Democrats-- and 5 Chamber of Commerce Democrats voting with the GOP.
Tom Perriello (D-VA) explained why this was such an important vote for him and his constituents in central and southern Virginia: “The movement for accountability scored a victory today against the tricks, traps and usurious greed in the credit card industry. If they can't sell the product without using traps, that's a good time for consumer protection. This bill and my amendment put in place commonsense regulations that will protect all consumers, but especially college students who are disproportionately targeted.”
If-- and this is a BIG if-- the bill passes the Senate, it would ban retroactive interest rate hikes on existing balances (except when payments are more than 30 days late), ban double-cycle billing, and ban due-date gimmicks. Specifically, it protects cardholders against arbitrary interest rate increases, and empowers them to set limits on their credit and requires card companies to fairly credit and allocate payments. It also prohibits charging fees just to pay a bill by phone, charging over-the-limit fees unless a consumer opts-in in advance or issuing credits cards to minors.
Good job, Nancy Pelosi and her team for getting this through with flying colors. Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter. As Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) explained yesterday, too many senators are so beholden to the banksters that they will never make a move against them-- not even if millions of their constituents are starving and homeless. The Democrats' poor excuse for a leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) moaned and groaned about the de facto "Republican filibuster," but it was a handful of his own reactionary and bribe-besotted members who killed the bill that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to intervene with intransigent banksters and keep families in their homes. It seems beyond belief to me that any Democrat would vote against this, except, of course, a fake Democrat like Arlen Specter, who so far is still voting with his right-wing colleagues on the other side of the aisle. But Specter was hardly the only Democrat on that side of the aisle for this vote (just the one who's taken the most bribes from the banksters: $5,753,310-- which failed 45-51.
Of course every single Republican voted against consumers and for their bankster buddies. The Democrats who joined them were a motley array of anti-family conservatives (in order of corruptness):
Max Baucus (MT- $4,633,243) Tim Johnson (SD- $3,020,966) Ben Nelson (NE- $2,667,406) Mary Landrieu (LA- $2,399,134) Tom Carper (DE- $2,160,628) Blanche Lincoln (WalMart- $1,671,292) Mark Pryor (AR- $1,321,948) Byron Dorgan (ND- $1,102,184) Jon Tester (MT- $473,226) Robert Byrd (WV- $420,830) Michael Bennet, the appointed one-term Colorado reactionary who belongs on the other side of the chamber.
Dick Durbin lectures his corrupt, shameless colleagues: "At some point, the senators in this chamber will decide the bankers shouldn't write the agenda for the United States Senate. At some point the people in this chamber will decide the people we represent are not the folks working in the big banks but the folks working to make a living and struggling to keep a decent home." Watch:
Republican Party Has A Message For Democratic Voters In Pennsylvania-- And It's A Very Strong One
Democrats Inside-the-Beltway are all excited because they feel like they won a little great big partisan game-- stealing a key player from the other team-- but Specter will probably prove to be far more trouble than he's worth. And while Democratic partisan hacks are whooping it up over their "coup," Republicans have taken it upon themselves to go directly to Pennsylvania Democrats and tell them something Reid and the DSCC are hoping voters will develop amnesia over: Specter's excellent relationship with George Bush. Here's the message the NRSC sent out today to Democrats in the Keystone State:
And as for the Republican Party's desperate rebranding efforts today, Bob Fertig has a great idea: think Raelian.
The Limbaugh wing-- pretty much all that's left-- is demanding a grand purge of any mainstream conservatives left in the power structure. They're celebrating the departure of Specter and grousing they're "stuck with" John McCain, Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and looking askance at George Voinovich, Dick Lugar, Mike Castle, Frank LoBiondo, Vernon Ehlers, Chris Smith, Tim Johnson, Fred Upton, Walter Jones, Mark Kirk... and having second thoughts about having welcomed former Democrats Rodney Alexander and Ralph Hall into the party.
Just about the only thing all Republicans can agree on-- at least behind closed doors-- is that "the party is in its worst political position in recent memory." Why is another story. An internal poll that leaked to AP shows that the public regards them as basically incompetent-- on everything. Some say the reason for their hard times is because the party has strayed too far to the right. Others say it hasn't gone nearly far enough. Some seem to want to blame the entire catastrophe of the Bush years-- 8 years marked by 100% rubber stamp subservience on the part of Republican congressmen-- on... Arlen Specter!
Chris Chocola was a two-term wingnut congressman from northern Indiana who was so universally disliked by his colleagues that his defeat in 2006 was the occasion for discreet merriment in the Republican caucus. Now he's the head of the far right front group, Club for Growth, a purity monitor disliked and mistrusted by mainstream conservatives. “We strayed from our principles of limited government, individual responsibility and economic freedom," he hectored. "We have to adhere to those principles to rebuild the party. Those are the brand of the Republican Party, and people feel that we betrayed the brand.” Chocola is set to be a major scapegoat if Specter wins his Senate seat as a Democrat next year, which looks extremely likely.
The Inside-the-Beltway GOP Establishment isn't interested in purity, only in power and they all know elections are won in the middle and decided by moderates. The lust for right-wing purity has sent moderates fleeing from the GOP in great numbers, not just in Pennsylvania where there are now 1.2 million more registered Democrats than registered Republicans, but even in states like Virginia, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa and New Mexico. Even a hard core rightist like Texas Senator John Cornyn says the party will die as a national entity if they don't show some flexibility. The problem the Republicans have is that when they try enlarging the teeny weeny pup tent into something resembling a national party, they wake up to the shrieking and wailing of the Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks and Ann Coulters, the Hannitys and O'Reillys and all the kooks and loons who have become the voice of modern Republicanism to the unwashed masses-- the base.
Many Republican electeds-- perhaps most-- just don't want to deal with it, don't want to get down in the trenches and fight a civil war. They'd rather do what they can to sabotage Obama, hope he fails and gets blamed for the Depression they caused, and that somehow that will wind up getting them voted back into power.
But with few in the GOP establishment with the stomach to take on Limbaugh and the teabaggers, it can only be rumors and wishful thinking that the NRSC is going to slap down Chocola now and abandon Pat Toomey and replace him as the GOP nominee with a mainstream conservative. Still, the source is NRSC Vice-Chairman Orrin Hatch. Speaking about Toomey he said "I don’t think there is anybody in the world who believes he can get elected senator there" and when prodded about the NRSC getting behind Toomey's candidacy, as the far right-roots are shrilly demanding, he said the GOP needed to find “someone who can win there" (like Tom Ridge, who is beloved of Pennsylvania Republicans and detested by the radical right who see him as pro-choice and pro-tax and pro-government).
There were already frantic tom toms beating late into the night yesterday as the lunatic fringe started to realize the Establishment might try to undo what they see as their coup in getting rid of Specter. One of the heroes of the extremists, South Carolina Know Nothing Jim DeMint doesn't represent too many Republican electeds when he says “I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs.” (Bob Menendez is rooting for DeMint's point of view to prevail.) The nuts like DeMint are convinced that the GOP has lost so badly in the last two election cycles-- and seems poised for worse losses to come-- because they abandoned right-wing purity so they could enjoy the fruits of power. They've convinced themselves that they need to be more extreme to have a broader appeal. Lindsey Graham and others in the Senate think this is absolutely delusional.
“We are not losing blue states and shrinking as a party because we are not conservative enough. If we pursue a party that has no place for someone who agrees with me 70 percent of the time, that is based on an ideological purity test rather than a coalition test, then we are going to keep losing... Do you really believe that we lost 18-to-34-year-olds by 19 percent, or we lost Hispanic voters, because we are not conservative enough? No. This is a ridiculous line of thought. The truth is we lost young people because our Republican brand is tainted.”
The more realistic among them are now admitting they have no ideas and that there are basically no reasons to vote for a Republican other than the real primal stuff: racism, xenophobia, homophobia-- stuff even they are starting to get nervous about-- and the greed thing. So they put their best minds together (staffers for Bush's brother, Willard and McCain) and came up with an idea! Really. It's in this morning's Washington Post. They're going to go around the country and ask people in country clubs what to do about issues they never cared about while they controlled the government, like health care and education-- you know, the stuff rich people never realized was a problem. They did have one good idea though: "A letter announcing the group's creation does not specifically say that it is separate from the Republican National Committee, but controversial RNC chair Michael Steele is not involved in the effort." (Also conspicuously not invited are bomb-throwing trouble-makers like Newt Gingrich, the Republican party's foremost historian Michele Bachmann, and McCain's former VP pick, Sarah Palin.)
Do The Democrats Have What It Takes To Pass Tough Legislation The Banksters Oppose?
Today is D-day on H.R. 627, Carolyn Maloney's Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2009 which seeks "to amend the Truth in Lending Act to establish fair and transparent practices relating to the extension of credit under an open end consumer credit plan." There are 127 co-sponsors, from across the ideological spectrum from the worst slimy, corrupt Blue Dogs (Gene Taylor and John Barrow) to the most outstanding champions of working families (Donna Edwards, Barney Frank, Jerrold Nadler, Jan Schakowsky and Gary Peters); there's even a Republican (one), Walter Jones.
Last week we looked at how systematic rip offs of consumers, using confusing techniques like overdraft "protection," help banksters steal $17.5 billion every year. Last year the House passed Maloney's Credit Card Bill of Rights Act, by a huge margin, 312-112 but it died in the Senate, like most good ideas.
Yesterday the DCCC went on the attack against Republicans, like Don Young (R-AK) who they feel will vote against the bill today. Young is a strange target since he was one of the 84 Republicans to cross the aisle and vote with the Democrats in 2008 on this. (Funny enough, a better target would be Blue Dog Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD) who crossed the aisle in the other direction and voted with the GOP. South Dakota has a huge credit card industry and I suppose the thinking goes that if they steal from the rest of us, it'll trickle down to Herseth Sandlin's constituents-- or at least to her campaign donors. (Yes, she raked in a startling $629,895 from the banksters since being elected to the House in 2004.) Don Young, considered one of the most corrupt members of Congress, did get slightly more out of the banksters than Herseth Sandlin did-- $689,522-- but he's been serving their interests since just after the Civil War 1973! I'm sure the DCCC knows what they're doing.
In this economy, we all know someone who has faced excessive credit card fees or an unfair interest rate hike. Tomorrow, Representative Don Young has an opportunity to show he is listening to hardworking Americans and side with consumers, rather than big credit card companies, during these tough economic times. Congress will vote on the Credit Card Holders’ Bill of Rights which protects people who work hard and play by the rules from facing unfair interest rate increases and excessive fees.
“In these tough economic times, when responsible consumers play by the rules, their credit card company should not be allowed to drive them deeper into debt with excessive fees and unfair interest rate hikes. The question is whether Representative Don Young has finally heard his constituents’ demands and will protect responsible families against unfair credit card fees,” said Jennifer Crider, Communications Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Representative Young should stand with families trying to dig out of debt during these tough times, not credit card companies charging responsible customers excessive fees and sky-high interest rates."
The DCCC makes the valid point that H.R. 627 will protect consumers in several ways:
• Protecting against unfair interest rate increases
• Prohibiting excessive fees
• Allowing customers to set their own fixed credit limit and prohibit fees for exceeding that limit.
• Requiring card companies to mail billing statements 21 calendar days before the due date (up from the current 14 days) to allow enough time to pay the bill without incurring late fees.
• Requiring companies to credit as “on time” any payment made by 5pm local time on the due date.
Come back later today and we'll see who voted for and who voted against this bill.
More important, we'll keep an eye on the Senate, which killed this vote last time and will be voting on it today. Presumably, now there are enough Democrats in the Senate to pass it, if you count corruptionists and reactionaries like Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Evan Bayh (and the rest of his anti-Obama Bloc), Blanche Lincoln and Arlen Specter as Democrats. It sounds like Harry Reid is already making excuses-- blaming Republicans-- for not passing important economic and financial legislation. I bet you've been following the "cramdown bill" that the Senate is about to take up.
Reid's #2, Dick Durbin, must have felt pushed to the very edge to have blown the whistle on his bribe-taking colleagues. "The banks own the Senate," he told a radio audience. Watch him yesterday on Ed Schultz on MSNBC yesterday:
The banksters have spent $2.2 billion in direct payoff since 1990 on buying "influence" in Congress, plus approximately an equal amount in lobbying. There are an awful lot of senators who don't want to kiss their biggest donors off. Yesterday Ryan Grim interviewed both Reid and Pelosi for the HuffPo and he came away shaking his head in despair. Reid told him he's not sure the bill has the votes "to overcome a GOP filibuster and that its key provision-- cramdown-- may have to come out." Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu and Jon Tester have already said they plan to help the Republicans filibuster this. I guess there's a chance Reid will show us he's a leader-- but I wouldn't want to have to depend on that to keep from being evicted from my home.
UPDATE: Michael Steele Explains Who's To Blame For The Banking Crisis
Short version: "Let's do the my bad and move forward."
At 11:39 this morning the House voted-- along party lines-- for the enabling legislation on the Truth In Lending Act. It passed 249-175, every Republican opposing Truth, as usual. They were joined by one mangy Blue Dog, Baron Hill (IN), who has sucked up $856,791 in bribes from the banksters since first being elected-- then defeated, then elected again. Time for another spin of the wheel? Or does every Hoosier south of Bloomington like the idea of being hosed by their credit card companies while their congressmen gets paid off to allow it?
Meanwhile, the Senate Dems' non-leader announced that both the credt card reform and the foreclosure protection bills will probably fail. Too many members take bribes from the banksters-- way too many, and on both sides of the aisle. Every member who votes against these consumer-friendly bills, regardless of political party, should be defeated at the polls next year.
New Hampshire State Senate Votes For Same Sex Marriage But... Virginia Foxx Is Still Taking Up Space In Congress
No clown makeup needed
New Hampshire took another giant step forward in joining New England neighbors in Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut, plus the state of Iowa, in decriminalizing marraige for gay people. The state Senate voted 13-11 for a slightly amended version of the bill the House had already passed. Although most New Hampshire voters support same sex marriage, the state's conservative Democratic governor, John Lynch, hasn't announced if he would sign the law or veto it. New York and Maine are considering similar legislation. In Maine the House Judiciary Committee voted 11-2-1 Tuesday in favor of marriage equality.
Leaders of evangelical Christian organizations — the most vocal opponents of gay marriage as the issue polarized the electorate for much of this decade — now face a similar divide in their own ranks. In a survey last fall by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc., 58 percent of white evangelicals ages 18 to 29 said they support either civil unions or gay marriage; support dropped to 46 percent among white evangelicals who were older than that. (Asked about gay marriage exclusively, the support figures were 26 percent for the younger group and 9 percent for the older group.)
“The data do show a growing divide between younger and older evangelicals. There clearly is a generational difference,” said Amy E. Black, a political scientist at Wheaton College, an evangelical liberal arts school in Illinois. She characterizes the thinking among many younger evangelicals as, “What big deal is civil unions, really? What I care about is the environment, or what I care about is human rights.”
But it's far from a rose-strewn path for the gay community in their quest for equal rights. The only prominent Republican elected official with the courage to abandon the narrow-minded hate-based approach of the past has been Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who would like to run for president. And Huntsman has been slammed for his position-- not even for same sex marriage, just for civil unions! A a local Michigan Republican club (Kent County) dis-invited Huntsman to speak to them because of his position on ccivil unions. The crazed bigot who leads the local party, Joanne Voorhees wrote in the local newspaper that "The voters want and expect us to stand on principle and return to our roots. Unfortunately, by holding an event with Governor Huntsman, we would be doing the exact opposite."
And Voorhees isn't the only Republican off the rails over this. Earlier today North Carolina's worst member of Congress-- now that is no mean feat-- was on the floor of the House bellowing against the Hate Crimes bill and denigrating the memory of Matthew Shepard. As usual, Virginia Foxx is too demented and disgusting to even write about without puking. Watch her in action:
Earlier today I was on the phone with Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, the Democratic candidate for Congress in CA-45. Steve and his partner adopted adorable twins, a brother and sister who he was talking to me about potty training while we got into the fine points of the Employee Free Choice Act. I couldn't help but think of Steve and his family when a few minutes later a friend sent me this column from today's Chicago Sun-Times about how demented bigots relate to gay families.
The more I reflect upon the practice of society allowing gay "civil unions" but not "marriages"-- the latter term being reserved for heterosexual couples who wed, the argument goes, as God intended-- the more I wonder why those who insist upon the distinction stop there.
What about the children of gay couples? (And yes, they have children, sometimes, just like heterosexual people do.) I'm surprised we don't hear the argument that saying these children are "born" somehow undermines the value of heterosexual couples giving birth to their children. Does it not cast a pall over their joyous event, touched as it is with religious significance?
How much longer will they allow gays to press their agenda by claiming their children are "born" when of course, by entering the world as part of these lesser civil unions, they could easily be relegated to a similarly lesser state?
Perhaps mainstream America would be happier if couples that can form unions but not marry would have children that are "birthed," or "whelped" or "emerge." Instead of a "birth certificate" the couples could be issued a "document of existence."
Sure, we naysayers might point out that doing so would cause discomfort for the affected children, who, when asked where they were born, would have to answer, "Well, I wasn't technically 'born,' but I 'came into existence' in Evanston.'' But since opposition to gay marriage considers neither the feelings of children nor the concerns of their gay parents, it's a little late to start caring about them now.
This afternoon the House voted on the Hate Crimes bill, H.R. 1913, although first they voted on enabling legislation which was opposed by all 175 obstructionist Republicans-- including both closet cases like Adrian Smith (R-NE), Patty McHenry (R-NC), David Dreier (R-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Aaron Schock (R-IL), etc and the Republican phonies who pretend to be friends of the gay community because of big gay constituencies they're afraid to offend-- like Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Anh Cao (R-LA), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL). Although the resolution passed 234-190 they were joined by 15 homophobic Democratic bigots. When the real vote came, 18 Republicans crossed the aisle to voted with the Democrats (7 less than last year)-- and 17 Democrats crossed in the other direction to declare their bigotry, 3 more than in 2007. The Democrats in today's Hall of Shame:
Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL) Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK) Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA) who still hasn't learned his lesson Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS) Lincoln Davis (Blue Dog-TN) Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN) Brad Ellsworth(Blue Dog-IN) Bart Gordon (Blue Dog-TN) Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC), whose younger brother is gay Charlie Melancon (Blue Dog-LA) Collin Peterson (Blue Dog-MN) Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR) Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC) John Tanner (Blue Dog-TN)- abstained in 2007 Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS)
(Bolded names are members who voted against hate crimes in 2007)
Isn't that a coincidence! Every single bigot is a Blue Dog! And they call themselves a fiscally conservative caucus; they never tell anyone they're also a hate group because then people will know if you join you get cooties. I'd also like to take this opportunity to point out that Debbie Wasserman Schultz's job at the DCCC is to get these hate-mongers re-elected. If you make a donation to the DCCC, you are making a donation to re-elect sick and demented bigots who are not a bit better than a Republican when it comes to homophobia. A piece of every cent that gets contributed to the DCCC goes directly to help re-elect committed homophobes who are part of Wasserman Schultz's Front Line program: Chris Carney, Travis Childers, Parker Griffith and Bobby Bright. Swear off supporting homophobia and bigotry by swearing off the DCCC. If you want to donate to a better Congress-- to better Democrats-- please consider making a donation to Blue America, which-- since our encounter with Carney-- always makes certain that the candidates we back are supportive of equality.
Despite the most vicious and persistent attacks on a newly elected president since the South reacted to the election of Abraham Lincoln, every poll shows that Americans approve of President Obama more and more each day. Only 21% of Americans call themselves Republicans now and they are mostly concentrated in the same backwards parts of the country that reacted so violently against President Lincoln! Today Diageo/Hotline released a poll that shows very clearly that Obama is popular, that he's doing a good job and that the overwhelming majority of Americans feel he's living up to expectations. Last week Pew Research showed that most Americans feel that Fox isn't being fair to Obama. On the other hand, most Americans now see right through Fox as a propaganda tool for the GOP and other right-wing interests.
In case you don't expose yourself to far right extremist propaganda, you can catch up here at a look back at 100 days of "Fair and Balanced":
Obama's Budget Passes With No GOP Votes-- And No Heed To Arlen Specter's Warnings
GOP prospects in PA: The Pitts
Earlier this morning we looked at how members of Congress make it onto the dipshitdickwad list. We saw how a small handful of reactionary Democrats voted with every single Republican against even debating President Obama's budget. They lost, of course, and this morning the House approved the Conference Report on the Budget that would align the Senate's version and the House's version. A nice 100 days present for Obama-- 233-193. Having learned nothing from what Arlen Specter told them yesterday about the dangers of extremism and mindless intransigent obstructionism, every single Republican voted no. They were joined by the 16 worst Democratic reactionaries in the House (+ anti-war Dennis Kucinich):
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA) Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK) Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL) Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS) Bill Foster (IL) Parker Griffith (Blue Dog-AL) Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD) Betsy Markey (CO) Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA) Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT) Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog-NC) Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID) Harry Mitchell (Blue Dog-AZ) Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA) Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS) Harry Teague (NM)
And along with the real lunatic fringe of the GOP-- from historian Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Paul Broun (R-GA) to the especially abhorrent flock of imbecile freshmen like Tom Clintock (R-CA) Bill Posey (R-FL) and Pete Olson (R-TX)-- every Pennsylvania Republican, even the ones who try portraying themselves as moderates at election time, voted against President Obama's budget, the blueprint for change so many of their constituents favor. They should have paid closer attention to what Snarlin' Arlen said yesterday and to what mainstream conservatives are saying today.
Joe Pitts has been the Republican congressman from Pennsylvania Ditch Country in the southeastern part of the state centered on Lancaster since 1996. In 2004 Bush swept the district with 61%. Last year PA-16 only narrowly went for McCain (51%) and Pitts' 57% share of the vote-- against an unknown and un-financed Democrat-- was his lowest ever. The district's PVI has dropped from R+11 to R+8, the same as the PVI in PA-10, IN-08, and AR-01, where Democratic Congressmen Carney, Ellsworth and Berry were all re-elected with substantial margins, Berry not even drawing a Republican opponent!
Are Pitts and other Republican congressmen in Pennsylvania frightened that their party's most senior elected official just joined the opposition? Well, despite the brave (crazy)talk from Club For Growth president Chris Chocola, a former radical right congressman defeated for re-election ("Sen. Specter has confirmed what we already knew-- he's a liberal devoted to more spending, more bailouts and less economic freedom"), I'd say the 7 Republicans left in the Pennsylvania delegation are shaking in their boots. This morning Pitts talked to the NY Times: "I am deeply disappointed that Sen. Specter would choose to align himself with so many of the irresponsible policies we are seeing the Democrats attempting to implement in Washington."
In the past two election cycles, Pennsylvania Republicans have seen the loss of an extreme right wing senator, Rick Santorum (59-41%) and 5 House seats previously held by Curt Weldon, Phil English, Melissa Hart, Mike Fitzpatrick, and Don Sherwood. Neither Charlie Dent nor Jim Gerlach is likely to survive another re-election bid-- although in their moderate districts having Specter on the ballot would have been a big plus. Toomey at the top of the ticket will be a tremendous drag, especially in districts like Dent's (where Toomey was once a congressman) and Gerlach's-- and perhaps even in Pitts'. The prognosis for the Pennsylvania Republican Party is pretty grim-- a fate not unlike the state of the GOP in states where it once ruled, like Massachusetts, Maryland and New York. There are over a million more registered Democrats than Republicans in Pennsylvania and Obama crushed McCain in Gerlach's district and in Dent's district.
Eric Massa's congressional district along New York's Southern Tier, has a long border with Pennsylvania and is very similar economically and culturally to the northern Pennsylvania districts. Eric enthusiastically supported Obama's budget and summed up some of the accomplishments by pointing out how it would:
· Cut taxes for 95% of working Americans; · Cut the deficit by 2/3 by 2013; · Cut non-defense discretionary spending; · Strategically invest in areas that will grow the economy; · Increase Veterans' health care funding by 11.7%
This afternoon he explained to his constituents that the "budget makes the hard choices. I came to Congress to help take this Nation in a new and better direction and by shifting our priorities to areas like health care, education, green job creation, and tax cuts for 95% of working Americans, we are doing just that. Additionally, I am proud to support a budget which does not short change our area's small family farmers. I fought very hard to make this critical change to the budget and to protect farmers and our local agricultural economy and I am proud to vote for this budget."
Many, though not all, of the Blue Dog scum who voted against the budget represent districts that McCain won. McCain also beat Obama in NY-29, Massa's district. Massa, unlike the Blue Dog scum, is a leader and a communicator. While pandering Republican-lite Blue Dogs such as Tim Mahoney (FL), Nick Lampson (TX) and Don Cazayoux (LA) were defeated by real Republicans, strong, proud Democratic leaders like Eric Massa show everyday how to win in traditionally Republican districts. Chet Edwards had no problem voting for the budget. McCain's 67% share of the vote last year in TX-17 was more daunting to confront than any of the treacherous Democrats who crossed the aisle this morning to essentially expose themselves as Republicans. The only traitor with a more Republican-leaning district is Gene Taylor's backward hellhole in Mississippi-- and even there McCain only had one percent more than he did in Edwards' district.
UPDATE: And In The Senate...
Early this evening the Senate got together and accepted the Conference Report, approving Obama's budget, 53-43. All Republicans, including Arlen Specter, voted against it and 3 Democrats from Evan Bayh's anti-Obama Bloc, cross the aisle to vote with their ideological brothers in the GOP-- Bayh himself, of course, plus Robert Byrd and Ben Nelson.
Ken Lewis, the chief bankster at Bank of America, was fired as chairman by share holders today. This was a great-- and rare-- moment in corporate democracy. Unfortunately, he'll be staying on as president.
Spokesmen for the sore loser/obstructionist end of the GOP-- Newt Gingrich, William Kristol, Michael Steele (who called Specter "left wing"), and party pacesetters Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, who suggested Specter take the entire McCain family with him, are positively celebratory in their hysteria about the loss of one of their best known senators, Arlen Specter. These really are the voices that have helped push the GOP to a place where only 21% of Americans identify themselves as Republicans. What a shame Cheney has chimed in yet! As crazy and entertaining as he is, there are times when Michael Steele just is not enough.
The more practical-minded Miss McConnell (R-KY) sees Specter's defection in more apocalyptic terms. After someone had given him some smelling salts, and his first attempt at spin-- "this is not a national story" proved to be the dud of the day, he tried pushing the line that it posed "a threat to the country," since it basically endangers the Senate Republicans' detested strategy-- which he leads-- of lockstep obstructionism. This morning's Washington Post got reactions, to balance Gingrich's forced glee, from Republicans who see Specter's departure as part of the Republican Party death spiral. Yesterday we heard from mainstream conservatives who serve with Specter in the Senate, like Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME), that this should be a wake-up call for a party that has drifted way too far to the right and whose agenda is being set by crazed mass media entertainers like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Bill O'Reilly trolling for ratings points in segmented media markets that are utterly unrelated to national politics. Snowe suggested that the loss of Specter should be the occasion for "serious soul-searching," not the uncorking of champagne bottles as Limbaugh and Steele insist.
Like Specter, ex-Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) was basically forced out of the GOP by far right extremists-- the Club For Growth-- and he sees these bizarre reactions on the right as a "celebration of ideological purity at the cost of winning elections."
After the '06 Senate losses-- of myself in Rhode Island, Mike DeWine in Ohio, Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, Conrad Burns in Montana, George Allen in Virginia and Jim Talent in Missouri-- put the Republicans in the minority, there was no introspection or strategy change to stop the hemorrhaging. Indeed, in '08, it was another debacle: Sununu in New Hampshire, Smith in Oregon, Dole in North Carolina, Stevens in Alaska, Coleman in Minnesota.
After the election, it was reported that some Republicans were happy to be free of the "wobbly-kneed Republicans." Happy in their 41-seat minority! I assume that Sen. Specter told the right-wing fundraising juggernaut, "If you fund my primary opponent, I'll switch parties." The likely response? "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
That attitude signals the demise of the Republican Party as a viable national party.
Ed Rogers never ran for office but he helped run two White Houses-- Ronald Reagan's and George H.W. Bush's. He's a little more clear-eyed than Republican clowns like Limbaugh, Steele and Gingrich: "Arlen Specter changing parties is good for the Democrats and President Obama and bad for us. If you think otherwise, put down the Ann Coulter book and go get some fresh air... Specter didn't want to be a Democrat. The party deteriorated to the point where there was no place for him."
Former Iowa Congress-man Jim Leach is working as a professor at Princeton now, not exactly in the cards for the kooks and loons like Jim Bunning, Jim Inhofe and Jim DeMint if they ever have to look for another job. He wonders how the GOP went from being a party of individual rights that fought to abolish slavery, fought for women's suffrage, fought to break up dangerous corporate monopolies, fought for a clean environment to a party that is all about being against Choice, against sane gun controls in urban areas, unwilling to consider anything that jeopardizes unending tax cuts for the very wealthy and bizarre "pandering in Texas and Alaska to irrational secessionist anger. Arlen Specter didn't fit" and Leach points out that there are plenty of traditional Republicans who don't either.
The challenge for Republicans is thus not to obsess about the loss of one seat in one state at one moment in time but to reflect about the progressive values that made the party great. The question cannot be ducked: Is an uplifting correction overdue?
I suspect there isn't much on the uplifting side coming down the pike from Republicanville anytime soon. Instead, we're going to see mainstream Republican voters, the few that are left, looking at Specter-- they've heard of him; they never heard of Jim Inhofe unless they caught the punchline of a joke about climate change on late night TV-- and wondering if the GOP hasn't become too extreme for them too. What isn't a joke, though, is that the real result of Specter's defection is that it will make both political establishments more conservative. The Inside-the-Beltway Republicans have lost one of its last respected mainstream voices while the Inside-the-Beltway Democrats will have another voice pushing it away from serving the interests of ordinary working families and towards the reactionary goals of the Evan Bayh anti-Obama Bloc of Conservadems. Thia morning's National Journal featured a roundup of opinions from bloggers across the spectrum on the meaning of Specter's label switch.
I made this little clip when McConnell and Cornyn started pushing Jim Bunning out of the GOP-- not because he wasn't ideologically pre enough, but because they think he's too senile to win in 2010. I wanted to re-do it in honor of Snarlin' Arlen but... can you just use your imagination instead?
Although Harry Reid and Joe Biden, likely with Obama's approval, "guaranteed" Specter that he'd have no primary opponent if he jumped the fence, real Democrats in Pennsylvania feel otherwise. Joe Sestak said he'd give Specter a few weeks to show he's a Democrat and if he doesn't, he'd be open to entering a primary against him.
Jeff Merkley Introduces Two Bills To Outlaw Abusive Mortgage Practices
One of the many outstanding attributes that attracted Blue America to Jeff Merkley was his absolute and unswerving dedication to the interests of ordinary working families. It's why we endorsed him, why we raised campaign money for him and it's why we feel he was our best ever Senate pick-- kind of the polar opposite of Alaska sell-out Mark Begich who took our contributions and ran right to the Bayh anti-Obama bloc and has now amassed voting record way at the bottom of the barrel, right down there with arch-reactionaries Ben Nelson (NE), Kay Hagan (NC), Max Baucus (MT), Michael Bennet (CO) and Mary Landrieu, one of the half dozen Democrats who crosses the aisle to vote with the Republicans on special interest legislation most frequently.
Merkley, on the other hand, currently has the second most progressive voting record in the Senate (after placeholder Ed Kaufman)-- right up there with Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jack Reed (D-RI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-IL) and Dick Durban (D-IL), the senators most willing to take on the special interests and battle on behalf of working families. On crucial votes Merkley scored a 96.67. Begich has an embarrassing 63.33.
Anyway, one of the aspects of Merkely's approach we particularly liked was how dogged he was all through the campaign about reforming the abusive mortgage lending industry. And now that he's in a position to do something about it, he's been working hard towards those ends. A vociferous backer of Durbin's legislation to allow bankruptcy judges to alter mortgage agreements to keep families in their homes, yesterday Merkley introduced two solid bills that are a clear vision of what a progressive perspective is when it comes to fairness in the country's housing policies and agenda. The bills seek to ban abusive practices that have led to millions of foreclosures: secret steering payments to brokers who lead homeowners into deceptive mortgages that they can't afford and prepayment penalties designed to prevent homeowners from refinancing into more affordable loans. Jeff:
“Irresponsible lending practices like secret steering payments and prepayment penalties have turned home mortgages into a scam. These deceptive practices have had devastating consequences. Approximately 20,000 Oregon families will lose their homes to foreclosure this year and millions more foreclosures are expected across the country. The bills I am introducing today will help families feel confident they are receiving a fair deal when applying for a mortgage... Instead of fulfilling a dream and contributing to a secure financial future, home mortgages have become a vehicle for stripping wealth from working Americans. This new legislation will restore transparency to the mortgage lending process and help make home ownership a stable investment for families once again.”
The problem is that these deceptive lending practices, which have created a ripple effect that has created an economic meltdown, are extremely profitable. And those who are profiting most are sharing their ill-gotten gains with many of Merkley's colleagues. The finance/insurance/real estate sector has put more money into lobbying and direct payoff to members of Congress than any other sector-- $2.2 billion into direct payoffs in the form of campaign "contributions" since 1990 and another $3,557,011,255 in lobbying, just since 1998! It's no coincidence that some of the most insistent defenders of the banksters are among that senators who have profited most generously from the sector. Merkley can expect major opposition led by half a dozen of the most corrupt members of the Senate including the newest "Democrat," Arlen Specter who has pocketed $5,753,310. And every bit as determine d to protect the banksters as Specter are obstructionist fanatics Mitch McConnell (R-KY- $5,013,778), Lamar Alexander (R-TN- $4,847,225), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX- $4,685,238), Max Baucus (D-MT- $4,633,243) and Richard Shelby (R-AL- $4,384,492). These six are walking, talking advertisements for serious campaign finance reform. Every lobbyist in Washington knows these are among the most corrupt members of the Senate whose votes are always for sale, regardless of how badly they hurt their constituents-- for whom they have no respect and no regard.
Under their current rules, mortgage lenders have been allowed to purposefully steer families into bad loans, even when they qualify for loans under affordable terms. This practice has significantly contributed to the current mortgage crisis. A study for the Wall Street Journal found that 61% of the subprime loans originated in 2006 went to families who qualified for normal prime loans. Nationwide, an estimated 2 million families will lose their homes this year and up to 10 million over the next four years.
While Congress tries to pass new legislation to address the mortgage crisis, like the bills Merkley and Durbin have introduced, the Obama Administration is moving ahead with its own plans. Yesterday they unveiled an expansion of their $75 billion foreclosure prevention plan that will provide new subsidies to mortgage lenders and investors in order to stem the rising tide of foreclosures.
Under the expanded plan, some homeowners could see their payments fall significantly and the interest rate on their second mortgage pushed down to 1 percent. The announcement comes nearly two months after the administration launched the housing program, called Making Home Affordable. While officials said some borrowers have already received help, the foreclosure rate is rising and it could be months before the program begins to have an impact.
The new efforts address, in part, criticisms from consumer advocates that the administration's housing plan did not go far enough and that borrowers still face too many barriers to receiving help.
"Ensuring that responsible homeowners can afford to stay in their homes is critical to stabilizing the housing market, which is in turn critical to stabilizing our financial system overall. Every step we take forward is done with that imperative in mind," Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in a statement.
The administration's housing plan pays lenders to help borrowers stay in their homes by modifying their mortgages to an affordable level. But, the plan as first announced in February applied only to primary mortgages. Now, lenders will be eligible for payments when they modify the terms of a second mortgage, including a home-equity line.
About 50 percent of at-risk borrowers have a second mortgage, which can make it difficult for them to afford their homes even after payments are cut on their primary mortgages. Second mortgages were popular during the housing boom for buyers who could not afford big down payments.
John Amato always tells me it's not right to call members of Congress "dickwads," even when they are. He's been blogging for a lot longer than I have and I trusted him and stopped calling them dickwads (except in the most extreme circumstances). But now I find out that Amato had a plan; he's going to be one of them! No, not a dickwad-- a member of Congress! He'd be a lot better than Jane Harman, who currently represents his district. Anyway, now that I understand his ulterior motive for pushing the "no dickwads" line, I now feel free to point out as many instances of congressional dickwaddery as comes to mind.
Let's take Monday evening's vote on H.R.1746, Jim Oberstar's successful attempt to amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to reauthorize FEMA's pre-disaster mitigation program. Oberstar's purpose was very straight forward-- to increase the amount guaranteed to each state under the pre-disaster mitigation program; to require the President to award financial assistance under the program on a competitive basis; and, most important, to eliminate the current termination date of September 30, 2009 for the program.
Among the co-sponsors were two very conservative Republicans from Florida, where they understand what a well-run (non-Bush era Banana Republican) FEMA does to make citizens' lives safer. It passed by a landslide, 339-56, all 232 Democrats plus 107 Republicans voting for it. Only 56 crazed anti-government extremists and obstructionists voted against the bill. These are the ones I mean by dickwads-- your Michele Bachmenn (R-MN), Eric Cantors (R-VA), Patty McHenrys (R-NC), Lynn Westmorelands (R-GA), and John Boehners (R-OH).
These are the kooks who simply do not belief government has a legitimate function outside of enriching Republican campaign contributors. Even in a state threatened with earthquakes, we find 5 California extremists-- Tom McClintock, Darrell Issa, Ed Royce, John Campbell and George Radanovich (don't lose faith in the lunacy of Dreier and Rohrabacher; they were out diddling each other in the rest room when the vote was taken... or doing something that kept them off the floor)-- voting against FEMA! Virtually all the lunatic fringe Republicans in the Texas delegation voted no-- I hope you've watched the short film that explains their behavior-- but how do you explain Florida's craziest extremists, Jeff Miller, whose oceanfront Panhandle district is somewhat vulnerable to the kinds of problems FEMA can handle, and Cliff Stearns!
So what makes the 56 lunatic fringe Republicans-- the kind who Arlen Specter said had ruined the GOP when he pulled up stakes and crossed the aisle, permanently, yesterday-- dickwads? Well, I went to Oberstar's House floor speech to see if I could find what these jerks objected to.
• The Pre-Disaster Mitigation program provides technical and financial assistance to state and local governments to reduce injuries, loss of life, and damage to property caused by natural hazards. Examples of mitigation activities include the seismic strengthening of buildings, acquiring repetitively flooded homes, installing shutters and shatter-resistant windows in hurricane-prone areas, and building "safe rooms" in houses and buildings to protect people from high winds.
• Action on this bill today is crucial because, under current law, the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program will sunset on September 30, 2009. Therefore, Congress must take quick action to continue this vital program.
• The PDM program reduces the risk of natural hazards, which is where the preponderance of risk is in our country. The devastating ice storms that struck the middle of the United States (including Missouri, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kentucky) earlier this year and the floods currently on the Red River in the Midwest are examples of the tragic, real impact of natural disasters that occur in our nation every year. Over the last decade, natural disasters have cost our nation an average of nearly $30 billion per year.
• Mitigation has been proven to save money. Studies by the Congressional Budget Office and National Institute of Building Sciences show that for every dollar spent on pre-disaster mitigation projects, future losses are reduced by three to four dollars. In 2005, the Mutihazard Mitigation Council, an advisory body of the National Institute of Building Sciences, found "that a dollar spent on mitigation saves society an average of $4." The Council found that flood mitigation measures yield even greater savings. According to a September 2007 CBO report on the reduction in Federal disaster assistance that is likely to result from the PDM program, "on average, future losses are reduced by about $3 (measured in discounted present value) for each $1 spent on those projects, including both federal and nonfederal spending."
• While empirical data is critical, perhaps more telling are real-life mitigation "success stories." One of the best examples of mitigation is the town of Valmeyer, Illinois. The town was devastated by the great flood of 1993. With $45 million in Federal, state, and local funding, the town relocated to bluffs 400 feet above the site of the former town. When faced with floods last year, the residents of that town were out of harm's way, as the Chicago Tribune reported in a story aptly titled "Valmeyer Illinois--Soaked in '93, Town now High and Dry." The June 19, 2008 story quotes an 86-year old resident named Elenora Anderson. Her home was destroyed by the 1993 flood but as she said, "I'm sure glad I don't have to worry now that we're high enough here on the hill."
• This month, we have seen the communities of North Dakota and my home state of Minnesota damaged by floods. Many of these same communities were devastated by floods in 1997. However, because of mitigation after the 1997 floods, the communities face far less risk. Even before this year's floods, mitigation investments had paid off. For example, in Grand Forks, after the 1997 floods, FEMA spent $23 million to acquire vulnerable homes in the flood plain. In 2006, a flood came within two feet of the 1997 flood level, and according to FEMA, the 1997 mitigation investment saved $24.6 million. That investment represents a return of 107 percent after just one flood.
• Another success story comes from Story County, Iowa. There, six homes that had been flooded in 1990, 1993, and 1996 were bought out with $549,662 in FEMA mitigation grants. In 1998 when a flood struck again, FEMA estimates that $541,900 in damages to the homes was avoided. This mitigation project paid for itself in just one flood, and the estimated savings do not include the costs of warning, rescue, or evacuation.
• Mitigation is an investment. It is an investment that not only benefits the Federal Government, but state and local governments as well. Projects funded by the PDM program reduce the damage that would be paid for by the Federal Government and state and local governments in a Major Disaster under the Stafford Act. However, mitigation also reduces the risks from smaller, more frequent, events that state and local governments face every day, as not every storm, fire, or flood warrants the assistance of the Federal Government.
• The Pre-Disaster Mitigation program, through property improvements, takes citizens out of harm's way, by elevating a house, or making sure a hospital can survive a hurricane or earthquake. In doing so, it allows first responders to focus on what is unpredictable in a disaster rather than on what is foreseeable and predictable.
Ahh... that explains why Todd Akin (MO), Marsha Blackburn (TN), John Duncan (TN), John Kline (MN), John Sullivan (OK), and Donald Manzullo (IL) voted "no"; they hate their constituents and want them to suffer!
But, alas, it isn't only Republicans who are dickwads. Just last night before going to collect their daily bribes from lobbyists, Congress voted 234-185 to consider approving the conference report for the budget resolution. Needless to say every single Republican, each having crossed his heart and hoped to die, voted to continue obstructing everything President Obama is trying to do to clean up the mess they caused by rubber stamping Bush's toxic agenda. But the dickwads last night were the 10 Democrats who joined them (Kucinich also voted no, but that's because the budget includes war funding that he opposes... so he doesn't get a dickwad label):
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA) Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS) Frank Kratovil (Blue Dog-MD) Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA) Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT) Michael Michaud (Blue Dog-ME) Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID) Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA) Heath Shuler (Blue Dog-NC) Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS)
Kathleen Sebelius Confirmed As Secretary of Health and Human Services
Republicans have been coming under increasing pressure to stop their frivolous and useless sandbagging of President Obama's nomination of Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services, particularly in the midst of the swine flu epidemic. Late today Reid called for a vote and she was confirmed 65-31, five votes more than was needed in the toxic, obstructionist atmosphere the Republican Party has created in the formerly collegial Senate. Republicans were whining because she's pro-choice and because they oppose health care reform. They view her as too much on the side of consumers and not deferential enough to their campaign contributors at the big insurance companies and HMOs.
In his first vote as a Democrat, Arlen Specter voted to confirm, as did Swine Flu Sue (R-ME), Kit Bond (R-MO), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and George Voinovich (R-OH). The rest of the GOP extremists and obstructionists voted no, as they do on everything. Sebelius was the last cabinet member who the Senate Republicans were holding hostage to their sore loser insanity.
California Democrat Russ Warner Announces Another Bid For Congress
With everyone preoccupied with Arlen Specter's label switch, I imagined that the only big news out of California today would be the appropriately stiff sentence for former Republican Party crown prince, "America's Sheriff," Mike Carona. One of the most overtly crooked politicians in California history got a stern lecture, a $125,000 fine and five and a half years in prison, of which he'll have to serve a minimum of 4 years and seven months. But an announcement of far greater significance for California progressives just came down the transom.
One of Blue America's hardest working candidates from last year, Russ Warner, just announced what grassroots and progressive Democrats were hoping against hope he would do: Russ has decided to finish the job he started and he'll be running against David Dreier again. First a little background. Obama won the suburban L.A. area district 51-47%. Ironically, Russ-- while bringing Dreier's 2006 winning number (57%) down to the incumbent danger zone (53%)-- didn't win largely because of a massive Mormon turn out for the bigoted Prop 8 their church was pushing. I say "ironic," because few of those anti-gay Mormon voters understood that by pulling the lever for Dreier, they were voting for one of Washington's most notorious and hypocritical closet queens.
At the California Democratic Party Convention Saturday, Howard Dean presented Russ with the Ron Platt Courage Award on behalf of the Red to Blue Coalition and Russ told the participants he would run again next year. It's official now! And Russ is already out there swinging. "Don't be fooled," says Russ Warner. In announcing he would take on Dreier, who spent $2,919,351 last year told hold onto his seat (Russ spent $1,261,171), Russ reminded Democratic activists that "This is the same David Dreier who voted against the best interests of this district and stuck with House Republicans in an effort to block President Barack Obama's $787 billion economy recovery package in February. It's high time Dreier stop playing party politics and start looking out for the needs of the people he was elected to represent."
The former chair of the House Rules Committee, and now ranking member, Dreier has routinely voted for every single special interest bill the banksters and crooked realtors have asked for. He's been a fanatic deregulation extremist. And, what a coincidence, he's taken $367,750 from the finance/insurance/real estate sector in "donations," far more than the average corrupt member of Congress. The banksters are delighted that they always get what they pay for from Dreier, who even voted against allowing bankruptcy judges to re-adjust mortgages on families being threatened with foreclosure, despite the fact that CA-26 is one of the three-dozen hardest hit districts in the country by the foreclosure blight. (It is estimated that 13,487 families have been kicked out of their houses in the district, something that has had a devastating impact on property values.) Dreier, who lives in DC and Kansas City doesn't have much contact with the district and knows nothing at all about the strains on area homeowners.
Anyway, please help me welcome Russ back into electoral politics with a donation to his campaign. He's going to need all the help he can get if he's going to finally retire Dreier. Volunteers are welcome and can sign up at his website.
Florida Republicans Turn Down Stimulus Money For Unemployment
Dan Gelber, the progressive candidate for the U.S. Senate
This morning several of my friends were aghast about the Florida state Senate passing a bill to put crucifixes on license plates. And it was a bipartisan bill!
Because why worry about a budget impasse or property insurance when you can spend more than an hour talking about Jesus, the devil and license plates?
But, truthfully, there was something even more disturbing that came out of the Florida legislature today. The Republicans, who still control the state legislature, are turning down the stimulus money that their own party's Governor is so eager to get. Florida is, after all, one of the hardest hit states in the country.
Days from the end of the legislative session, Florida lawmakers have refused to move a bill to expand unemployment eligibility in order to accept $444 million in federal stimulus aid.
While the Republican-controlled Legislature plans to use as much as $5 billion from the stimulus package to balance the budget, lawmakers balked at moving the unemployment insurance bill out of committee.
Senator Anthony C. Hill Sr., Democrat of Jacksonville, conceded that the bill was dead for the annual session, which is supposed to end on Friday, although a budget stalemate may force legislators to extend the session by a few days.
State Senator Dan Gelber is still trying to run one last amendment to try to save the situation for distressed working families whose breadwinner has been thrown out of work but he told DWT this morning that he isn't optimistic. "Florida already has one of the stingiest unemployment compensation systems in the nation, and is shedding jobs faster than any other state. By refusing to modernize they are leaving behind over $400 million our citizens desperately need... [A]t a time when Florida is on the verge of double-digit unemployment and Florida workers are facing hard times, it is unthinkable that the legislature would leave hundreds of millions on the table, money designed to help the workers who need it the most."
Gelber has been using Twitter to keep ordinary Florida families apprised of every development during the current session. With the state government paralyzed and in an apparent meltdown, he's been holding nightly conference calls with state bloggers and activists to brief them on the hard to believe current session. The Republican Speaker of the House is on his way to prison and there's virtually no one to re-write the universally disdained and worthless budget they got from Crist (which he knew would be dead on arrival when he sent it over). The power void has prevented them from getting anything useful done-- which is problematic since the state is about to go bankrupt. The special interests are taking full advantage of the chaos, pushing for offshore drilling, and getting through an insurance bill written by Allstate to screw their policy holders.
And in the midst of all this mess, establishment Democrats in DC are relentless pushing the candidacy of an inept, untested, corrupt and confused Democrat, Kendrick Meek, to run for the open U.S. Senate seat. Meek has no chance to win any kind of statewide race against any of the likely Republicans. He doesn't stand for anything and has a well-earned reputation as a play-for-play crook who wants to get along with everyone and not offend anyone.
Gelber stands up for working families every single day. Meek is the go-along-to-get-along special interests dupe. Please consider donating even $5 or $10 to Gelber's grassroots campaign for the U.S. Senate. Otherwise we'll get stuck with either a special interests Republican or a special interests Democrat, pretty much the same crap as always.
Arlen Specter Jumps The Fence To Save His Miserable Career
Not much will change
By now you know-- if just from the headline-- that Republican Senator Arlen Specter is switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. He had no choice if he wanted to run for the Senate again since the severely shrunken Pennsylvania Republican Party has virtually no more moderates or even mainstream conservatives, just radical right haters and bigots. In his announcement, Specter made it clear he would just be changing party affiliation, not his Republican mindset:
My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.
The Inside the Beltway Democratic Establishment was overjoyed-- as were hard core rightists in the GOP, like Gingrich and Limbaugh, who suggested Collins, Snowe and McCain join him-- but aside from caucusing with the Democrats, this is probably better news for the Bayh anti-Obama Bloc than for actual Democrats who believe in the values and principles of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Although this will be a blow to rightists-- when Franken is finally seated Democrats will now have at least a theoretical filibuster-proof majority-- it won't do much for progressives. Remember, as awful as Ben Nelson (NE), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Blanche Lincoln (AR) have been on core issues-- lately joined by reactionary freshmen Kay Hagen (NC), Mark Begich (AK) and Michael Bennet (CO)-- all of them, except Nelson, are significantly better than Specter. This year Nelson and Specter has each scored a 33.33 on the progressive scale when it comes to tough partisan votes that split the parties. And when it comes to selling out to vested interests, few members of the Senate are as corrupt as Specter. For example, the only current members of the Senate who have taken more legalized bribe money from the finance/insurance/real estate sector than Specter ($5,753,310) are former presidential candidates McCain ($32,423,813), Kerry ($19,196,427), Dodd ($13,238,806) plus egregiously corrupt handmaidens of the banksters like Schumer ($12,834,746) and Lieberman ($9,981,924). Specter even beat out the most ethicless Republican in the Senate, Miss McConnell ($5,013,778). Specter is still likely to play up to Pennsylvania conservatives but this still looks bad to ordinary news consumers who will just be thinking that the Republican Party is falling apart and has moved so far to the right that they can't even hold on to mainstream conservatives like Specter. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), another mainstream conservative being pressured by the extreme right, isn't happy: "...[P]olitical diversity makes a party stronger and ultimately we are heading to having the smallest political tent in history for any political party the way things are unfolding.” Yep, it's pretty much the Limbaugh/Secession Party now-- and that is one really small, stinky tent.
Even Lindsey Graham-- safe from the wrath of South Carolina teabaggers for another 5 years-- blamed the extreme right wing loons (like his SC colleague, perhaps?) for the way the GOP is shrinking into a small, narrowly ideological and regional party. "I don't want to be a member of the Club for Growth,” he wept. “I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country-- and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective. As Republicans we got a problem.” Yeah, but they decided to roll the dice on Limbaugh. Soon their vote will be exactly equal to his market share.
President Obama visited the National Academy of Sciences yesterday. Had the 8 years we just went through not happened, his remarks wouldn't be that noteworthy. But because there was a George W. Bush... in the White House, what Obama had to say was worth paying attention to-- and savoring:
The very founding of this institution stands as a testament to the restless curiosity, the boundless hope so essential not just to the scientific enterprise, but to this experiment we call America.
A few months after a devastating defeat at Fredericksburg, before Gettysburg would be won, before Richmond would fall, before the fate of the Union would be at all certain, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act creating the National Academy of Sciences -- in the midst of civil war.
Lincoln refused to accept that our nation's sole purpose was mere survival. He created this academy, founded the land grant colleges, and began the work of the transcontinental railroad, believing that we must add -- and I quote -- "the fuel of interest to the fire of genius in the discovery... of new and useful things."
This is America's story. Even in the hardest times, against the toughest odds, we've never given in to pessimism; we've never surrendered our fates to chance; we have endured; we have worked hard; we sought out new frontiers.
Today, of course, we face more complex challenges than we have ever faced before: a medical system that holds the promise of unlocking new cures and treatments -- attached to a health care system that holds the potential for bankruptcy to families and businesses; a system of energy that powers our economy, but simultaneously endangers our planet; threats to our security that seek to exploit the very interconnectedness and openness so essential to our prosperity; and challenges in a global marketplace which links the derivative trader on Wall Street to the homeowner on Main Street, the office worker in America to the factory worker in China -- a marketplace in which we all share in opportunity, but also in crisis.
At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science, that support for research is somehow a luxury at moments defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree. Science is more essential for our prosperity, our security, our health, our environment, and our quality of life than it has ever been before.
And if there was ever a day that reminded us of our shared stake in science and research, it's today. We are closely monitoring the emerging cases of swine flu in the United States. And this is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert. But it's not a cause for alarm. The Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively. And I'm getting regular updates on the situation from the responsible agencies. And the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control will be offering regular updates to the American people. And Secretary Napolitano will be offering regular updates to the American people, as well, so that they know what steps are being taken and what steps they may need to take.
But one thing is clear -- our capacity to deal with a public health challenge of this sort rests heavily on the work of our scientific and medical community. And this is one more example of why we can't allow our nation to fall behind.
Unfortunately, that's exactly what's happened.
Federal funding in the physical sciences as a portion of our gross domestic product has fallen by nearly half over the past quarter century. Time and again we've allowed the research and experimentation tax credit, which helps businesses grow and innovate, to lapse.
Our schools continue to trail other developed countries and, in some cases, developing countries. Our students are outperformed in math and science by their peers in Singapore, Japan, England, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, and Korea, among others. Another assessment shows American 15-year-olds ranked 25th in math and 21st in science when compared to nations around the world. And we have watched as scientific integrity has been undermined and scientific research politicized in an effort to advance predetermined ideological agendas.
We know that our country is better than this. A half century ago, this nation made a commitment to lead the world in scientific and technological innovation; to invest in education, in research, in engineering; to set a goal of reaching space and engaging every citizen in that historic mission. That was the high water mark of America's investment in research and development. And since then our investments have steadily declined as a share of our national income. As a result, other countries are now beginning to pull ahead in the pursuit of this generation's great discoveries.
I believe it is not in our character, the American character, to follow. It's our character to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. So I'm here today to set this goal: We will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development. We will not just meet, but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race, through policies that invest in basic and applied research, create new incentives for private innovation, promote breakthroughs in energy and medicine, and improve education in math and science.
...[W]e are restoring science to its rightful place. On March 9th, I signed an executive memorandum with a clear message: Under my administration, the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over. Our progress as a nation–- and our values as a nation–- are rooted in free and open inquiry. To undermine scientific integrity is to undermine our democracy. It is contrary to our way of life.
The whole speech is long-- and very much worth reading, which is why I suggest you go back to the top and click on the link. The opposite of science and enlightenment is fear and ignorance breeding bigotry and superstition-- teabaggery instead of a National Academy of Sciences. Meanwhile I want to correct amend something Ken and I both covered in the last couple of days about how shithead Republicans voted down epidemic preparedness. We pointed to Maine's callow senator, Susan Collins, as the spokesperson and poster girl for that disgrace. Turns out there were some shithead Democrats on the same team. Like this one: