Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Leftists should take credit for bringing down Democrats," says Ian Welsh


Word is that Master Rahm's departure from the White House to attempt to inflict himself on the good people of Chicago will become official tomorrow. He leaves behind a hornet's nest of right-wing "centrists" set to continue the war on the Left. Ian Welsh says we should embrace our putative power.

"Look, if the left is so powerful that is is responsible for Democratic fortunes, well, that’s not something we should shrink from. . . . Don’t run from this, embrace it, wrap yourself in it. You are part of the left, and the left is capable of destroying governments which don’t do what it wants."

by Ken

Contemplating the prospective, or should I say impending, political convulsions of November 2, I'm still where I was the last time I talked about it.

I recognize the argument that if we go on supporting these lame-ass closet-right-wing "centrists," we lose -- win or lose. Assuming the Democratic losses are as bad as the worst forecasts ("worse than 1994"), the Village and its fellow travelers in the land of conventional wisdom will take it as proof that those martyred souls paid the price for the Democratic government's wild lurch to the left.

We on the Left know, of course, that there has been no such lurch, just an uneven but very modest reining in of the Bush regime's crazy rocket-propelled missile launch to the right. But reality doesn't seem to figure prominently in the conventional wisdom. And of course if the rout should be less severe than currently projected, the purveyors of conventional wisdom will chalk it up to a miracle "save" by the hard-charging forces of do-little "centrism."

Meanwhile the battle rages on, at least in the organs of Village chatter and the blogosphere, regarding the culpability of us left-wingers for the precarious position of the administration and the endangered congressional Democrats. This despite official Dems' almost unbroken two-year run of what is now picturesquely known as "hippie punching," showing unbridled disregaard, even contempt, for the progressive cohorts who did so much to put them in office.

Our friend Ian Welsh has an elegant response to "what many see as the attempt by the White House to portray left wingers as responsible for Democratic losses."

Look, if the left is so powerful that is is esponsible for Democratic fortunes, well, that’s not something we should shrink from. We should say, “Yes, we can destroy Democratic prospects. If you don’t do what we want, we WILL do so.”

Powerful groups get what they want, weak groups don’t. If the White House wants to portray us as that powerful, we should embrace that description, because it is a blade which cuts both ways.

And there is an argument for it. While certainly the economy is factor one, the people whom left-wing bloggers reach are the sort of folks who traditionally don’t just vote, they volunteer, they give money and they are themselves influentials, who convince others to be enthusiastic, vote, volunteer and give. When, last year, I felt parts of the blogosphere lose their patience with Obama, I knew it would cost him, and it has.

Don’t run from this, embrace it, wrap yourself in it. You are part of the left, and the left is capable of destroying governments which don’t do what it wants. And this is good, because objectively Obama has not fixed the economy, has presided over further destruction of civil rights, has reduced access to abortion, and so on.

Powerful people and interests give away nothing they don’t want to unless they are forced to by others with power. The left is either powerful and willing to use that power or it is nothing.

I like it! Until now the right-wing Dem "centrists" have acted on the assumption that we can be abused with impunity.

Meanwhile, I wish I had the courage to say, "To hell with them," and hunker down to live with the dreadfulness it's safe to say will come with the sweeping out of the Democratic weasels, while contemplating the work that will be needed to try to build a viable alternative to the Republican death spiral.

The one thing I can continue to urge on all kindred souls is to work like the dickens and contribute to the max to elect good new Dems, and to save the good ones like Russ Feingold and Barbara Boxer and Alan Grayson who face the possibility of being swept up in the flooding of the swamp. You know, the people Howie has been writing about here, and that he and our friends Digby and John Amato have made official Blue America endorsees.

In this brave new world, we can at last face them down, in the name of sanity, the way the loonies of the Right have been doing for decades now, in the name of craziness and indecency, to Republican mandarins. Let's say it all together:

“Yes, we can destroy Democratic prospects. If you don’t do what we want, we WILL do so.”

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So... Who's Serious About Protecting Social Security-- Like For Real?


A few weeks ago we shared the letter Raúl Grijalva, Mary Jo Kilroy and Alan Grayson sent to Speaker Pelosi about protecting Republican attempts to start dismantling Social Security. As of today there were 102 names on it, mostly Congressional Progressive Caucus members, but some moderates and even a few conservatives and Blue Dogs as well. The list is sure to rise but it may go down as well. In fact we hear that Ohio Blue Dog Zach Space is considering having his name removed. Why? Heath Shuler is whipping Blue Dog caucus members against the letter!

Blue Dogs... we'd be so much better off without them!

Here's the list of signers as it stands now:

Michael Arcuri (Blue Dog-NY)
Joe Baca (Blue Dog-CA)
Robert Brady (D-PA)
Corrine Brown (D-FL)
Lois Capps (D-CA)
Mike Capuano (D-MA)
Andre Carson (D-IN)
Betty Castor (D-FL)
Yvette Clarke (D-NY)
Lacy Clay (D-MO)
John Conyers (D-MI)
Joe Courtney (D-CT)
Jerry Costello (D-IL)
Mark Critz (D-PA)
Joseph Crowley (D-NY) 
Elijah Cummings (D-MD)
Danny Davis (D-IL)
Peter DeFazio (D-OR)
Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
William Delahunt (D-MA)
Ted Deutch (D-FL)
John Dingell (D-MI)
Mike Doyle (D-PA)
Donna Edwards (D-MD)
Keith Ellison – 9/14/10
Eliot Engel (D-NY)
Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
Sam Farr (D-CA)
Bob Filner (D-CA)
Barney Frank (D-MA)
Marcia Fudge (D-OH)
John Garamendi (D-CA)
Alan Grayson (D-FL)
Al Green (D-TX)
Raúl Grijalva(D-AZ)
36.  Gutierrez – 9/21/10
John Hall (D-NY)
Debbie Halvorson (D-IL)
Phil Hare (D-IL)
Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
Brian Higgins (D-NY)
Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)
Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX)
Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
Mike Honda (D-CA)
Jesse Jackson (D-IL)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX)
Steve Kagen (D-WI)
Marcy Kaptur (D-OH)
Dale Kildee (D-MI)
Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-MI)
Mary Jo Kilroy (D-OH)
Larry Kissell (D-NC)
Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA)
Nita Lowey (D-NY)
Betty McCollum (D-MN) 
Dan Maffei (D-NY)
Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
Doris Matsui (D-CA)
Jim McDermott (D-WA)
Kendrick Meek (D-FL)
Mike Michaud (Blue Dog-ME)
George Miller (D-CA)
Jerry Nadler (D-NY)
Grace Napolitano (D-CA)
Richard Neal (D-MA)
Ealanor Norton (D-DC)
Jim Oberstar (D-MN)
John Olver (D-MA)
Frank Pallone (D-NJ)
Ed Pastor (D-AZ)
Donald Payne (D-NJ)
Chellie Pingree (D-ME)
Nick Rahall (D-WV)
Charlie Rangel (D-NY)
Laura Richardson (D-CA)
Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX)
Steve Rothman (D-NJ)
Bobby Rush (D-IL)
Tim Ryan (D-OH)
Mark Schauer (D-MI)
John Salazar (Blue Dog-CO)   
José Serrano (D-NY)
Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)
Albio Sires (D-NJ)
Louise Slaughter(D-NY)
Zach Space (Blue Dog-OH)- watch this space
Pete Stark (D-CA)
Betty Sutton (D-OH)
Bennie Thompson (D-MS)
John Tierney (D-MA)
Paul Tonko (D-NY)
Ed Towns (D-NY)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Anthony Wiener (D-NY)
Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
David Wu (D-OR)

A bunch of progressives from the House and Senate-- no match for the effective conservative coalition that always rules the Senate and often the House-- got together today to wave their fists at Obama's Cat Food Commission and tell them not to dare hurt Social Security.
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform "should keep their paws off" Social Security, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said on a phone call with reporters, calling for "no benefit cuts, no raising the retirement age, no privatization."

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said explicitly that the purpose of the call was to warn the commission not to include recommendations to cut Social Security. "If you do we'll vote it down, and do everything we can to see it defeated," he said.

Sanders and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have introduced a resolution to express Senate opposition to Social Security cuts, which has 12 cosponsors. More than 100 lawmakers have also signed a letter to be sent to Mr. Obama opposing such cuts.

Liberals fear that the commission will recommend cuts to Social Security in part because of co-chair Alan Simpson's suggestion that the program is "a milk cow with 310 million tits." The National Organization for Women (NOW) delivered 1,500 baby bottle tops (meant to represent the "tits") to Simpson yesterday as part of their push to have him removed from the commission.

For the commission's recommendations to go forward, they must be agreed on by 14 out of 18 commissioners, at which point Congress can move to consider them. (House leaders have vowed to do so.) The commission is charged with reducing the deficit to three percent of the economy by 2015.

Sanders pointed to a report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the program can pay full benefits through 2039 if Congress does nothing, and can continue to pay reduced benefits afterward.

Brown said that while raising the retirement age may not seem like a big deal to white collar workers, it would be devastating for people who work on their feet, such as a waitress or a carpenter. The current retirement age is 67, and House Minority Leader John Boehner has raised the possibility of raising it to 70. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn have also invoked the possibility of raising the retirement age.

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Steny Hoyer Leads House Democrats Down The Toilet-- Blocks Bid To Vote On Middle Class Tax Cuts


With polls showing overwhelming support for extending the Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, while ending them for the wealthy, progressive Members of the House were eager to go into the election with a vote on the issue. Ironically, so were Republicans, who wanted to once again show their fealty to the rich in the Class War they are waging against ordinary American families. The Senate's vote on Tuesday showing which senators support outsourcing and off-shoring American jobs and which senators oppose it was helpful. That conservatives filibustered that bill to death will prove helpful to Democratic incumbents as well as Democratic challengers. Both Kentucky GOP senators, retiring Jim Bunning and Miss McConnell (who was just pushed aside by Jim DeMint as de facto leader of the Republican caucus), voted to continue the filibuster, which is also strongly supported by the Republican extremist running for Bunning's open seat, Rand Paul. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democrat running for that seat, has made ending off-shoring U.S. jobs a major part of his election platform, immediately came out swinging on behalf of the thousands of Kentucky workers who have lost good jobs to outsourcing schemes. "Rand Paul," he told us right after the vote, "wants tax breaks for companies that ship jobs from Kentucky overseas. I believe that's wrong, and I'll work to create jobs in Kentucky, not overseas."

North Carolina's Secretary of State, Elaine Marshall, a candidate for the seat currently occupied by reactionary corporate shill Richard Burr, had the same reaction as Conway. "Richard Burr is still confused," she told us an hour after he voted in favor of outsourcing. "The jobs bill he supports creates jobs in China. He consistently opposes efforts to put Americans back to work."

[This might be a good time to remind anyone interested that Blue America has a special page for the best Senate challengers this year and, needless to say, both Jack Conway and Elaine Marshall are on that page. If you'd like to contribute to either of their campaigns, you can do so right here.]

It was smart of Reid to schedule the vote that helps Americans understand the difference between conservatives and progressives, between senators who are working for Big Business and senators who are working for the well-being of ordinary families, workers and consumers. Steny Hoyer, is no one's dummy, but he's very conflicted because his rise to power was underwritten by the same Special Interests who have helped corrupt Republicans like Boehner, Cantor, Ryan and Pence. And that explains why the House did not vote on the legislation to give tax breaks to the middle class, a vote that was sure to help most Democrats, though could hurt a handful of Blue Dog incumbents who take their cues from Boehner and would have voted against middle class tax cuts.
The White House wants Congress to make the tax cuts permanent for individuals earning less than $200,000 annually and married couples with incomes below $250,000. But Republicans and many centrist Democrats want to extend the cuts for all income groups at least for a year or two.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner , R-Ohio, said Wednesday, “I believe there’s a bipartisan majority in both the House and Senate, who want to extend all of the current tax rates. If the Democrat leaders leave town, without stopping these tax increases, they are turning their backs on the American people.”

Boehner brushed aside questions about why Republicans don’t try to force a floor vote through a discharge petition, saying that rarely used procedure would take too long. “As you know, a discharge petition has to sit around for 30 legislative days. And I don’t think the American people want to wait that long. The reason they are not bringing this up is because we have the votes in the House and Senate to extend all of the current tax rates,” Boehner said.

He added, “It’s irresponsible for them to leave town without giving us a fair up or down vote... This is no way to run the people’s House.”

Hoyer and his faction managed to play right into Republican hands, taking away the Democrats' best issue for the midterms while somehow making the Republicans look vaguely plausible. Sometimes I wonder if Hoyer isn't doing this more than design and not just because of incompetence. It's a shame Rahm can't take his former junior partner with him to Chicago when he oozes his way out of Washington.

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Across America, Just Like In California, The DCCC Has Its Priorities Ass Backwards-- And Is Giving Away The Democratic House Majority


A few days ago I took a look at the 8 California congressional districts with both Republican incumbents and a majority of 2008 voters who went for Obama-- and how the DCCC is blowing the opportunity to win the seats by focusing all their resources on Blue Dog types in red districts outside of California. The DCCC is spending money-- ineptly-- on candidates like Blue Dog Frank Kratovil who have voted against the entire Democratic agenda, from protecting a woman's right to choice, to the healthcare reform bill to equality for all citizens. In fact, Kratovil, whose Progressive Punch score is an abysmal 35.54, has voted more frequently with John Boehner against his own party than all but 4 Democrats! Another Blue Dog, Bobby Bright of Alabama is also a recipient of massive amounts of DCCC aid and not only did he vote more frequently with Boehner than any other Democrat, he actually voted more frequently with Boehner than two conservative Republicans! In fact, when asked if he would vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker if he winds up being reelected, he demurred. “I would prefer a conservative Democrat, a Blue Dog Democrat like myself. If that doesn’t happen, then I will vote for who I think will allow me to represent my constituents the best.”

Another Blue Dog, North Dakota's Earl Pomeroy, is so desperate that he's actually running TV ads touting his close relationship with the President... President Bush!

If you're contributing to the DCCC you're contributing to anti-Choice zealots, any-gay bigots, and Blue Dogs who put Big Business before middle class families, just the way the Republicans do. The alternative to donating to the DCCC is to donate directly to the campaigns of progressive incumbents, like Alan Grayson-- who the DCCC adamantly refuses to help-- or to fiery and unapolgetically progressive challengers like Bill Hedrick and Beth Krom in California, Ann Kuster in New Hampshire, Billy Kennedy in North Carolina, Ed Potosnak in New Jersey, and Justin Coussoule in Ohio. All of them are on the Blue America ActBlue page.

Back to Bobby Bright for a moment. His case-- like so many Blue Dogs'-- is the very opposite of the 8 California Republicans in districts Obama won. Bright's Alabama district isn't too partial to Democrats to begin with... and African-American Democrats? McCain took 63% of the vote in AL-02. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if ole Bobby got this ad-- which comes on top of his jokes about Nancy Pelosi dying and his promise to vote against her for Speaker in January-- approved in advance by the DCCC-- which is either directly or indirectly subsidizing it. Yes, my friends, the DCCC can't find money to help a progressive like Justin Coussoule campaign against John Boehner because they're, in effect, paying for an ad to extol the wonderfulness of John Boehner. Yesterday they dropped another $176,002.00 into this race with a TV ad attacking Bright's opponent, allowing Bright to run his own spots, like the one below. Watch this-- and if you're donated a nickel to the DCCC in the last 4 years, hang your head in shame:

Blue Dog after Blue Dog is trying to hold onto deeply red districts, mostly in the South, where McCain racked up tremendous wins against Obama, like Mike Ross (AR), where McCain scored 58%, Travis Childers (MS), which gave McCain 62% of its vote, and the 3 conservative Arizona so-called Democrats, Harry Mitchell, Ann Kirkpatrick and Gabby Giffords. These and more like them in states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Tennessee are the battleground states for the DCCC, while they all but ignore-- mostly ignore-- three dozen districts where Obama beat McCain.

In Wisconsin, for example, there are two districts where Obama bested McCain, the 1st and the 6th, Ryan's and Petri's. In the 1st, the DCCC drove a viable candidate out of the race and replaced her with a sadly nonviable one, who, of course, they are studiously ignoring, despite the fact that Ryan is widely recognized as one of the 3 or 4 most dangerous Republicans in the House-- and the only one in a vulnerable district. His opponent is John Heckenlively, who has raised so little money that he hasn't been required to file an FEC report. He somehow managed to take in $885 through ActBlue (as opposed to Ryan's $2,613,651 haul this year). And that's actually better than what Petri's opponent, Joe Kallas, has taken in (zero on ActBlue and, again, too little to file an FEC report overall). And we're talking about a district that voted for Obama, not for McCain, just 2 years ago. Chris Van Hollen and Debbie Wasserman Schultz are looking forward to big promotions for the great job they've both been doing.

And there are Republican incumbents, basically unchallenged, sitting in seats Obama won, from Frank Wolf and Randy Forbes in Virginia, four in Michigan (Dave Camp, Fred Upton, Thaddeus McCotter and the detestable Mike Rogers and 3 in Illinois (Peter Roskam, Judy Biggert and Don Manzullo) to two each in Florida (Bill Young and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) and New Jersey (Frank LoBiondo and Leonard Lance). Actually in Lance's district, there is a very vigorous neck-and-neck challenge from Blue America-endorsed Ed Potosnak, who would probably win if not for the studied indifference of the DCCC.

The DCCC has made no acknowledgment the Democrats even have a candidate running against the corrupt GOP hack, Lance. Instead of helping solid progressive Ed Potosnak win a race polling within the margin of error (in a district where McCain only managed to take 48% of the vote, the DCCC is pouring money into hopeless races by worthless, cowardly conservatives like Suzanne Kosmas (FL), Frank Kratovil (MD) and Glenn Nye (VA).
In Florida's 24th district Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D) trailed state Rep. Sandy Adams by 10 points, according to an NRCC poll that was in the field Sept. 22 and 23. Adams led 49 percent to 39 percent in the survey of 400 likely voters. The poll was conducted by the GOP firm Fabrizio Mclaughlin & Associates and had a 4.9 point margin of error.

...In the Eastern Shore-based 1st district, Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) trailed state Sen. Andy Harris (R) 39 percent to 43 percent, with 3 percent going to third party candidates. The survey of 400 likely voters was conducted by the Republican firm OnMessage Inc. and was in the field Sept. 20 and 21. It had a 4.9 point margin of error.

...In Virginia's 2nd district, Rep. Glenn Nye (D) trailed car dealer Scott Rigell (R) by 5 points. The Congressman took 40 percent to Rigell's 45 percent. Independent Kenny Golden, a former Republican, took 7 percent. The survey of 400 likely voters was conducted by the GOP firm Ayres McHenry & Associates Sept 23 to 26 and had a 4.9 point margin of error.

The DCCC will probably wind up wasting over $2,000,000 trying, unsuccessfully, to save the three seats of three incumbents who aren't worth a bucket of spit and whose default position is to always cross the aisle and vote with Boehner, Cantor and Pence. Their ProgressivePunch scores are startling low-- Nye 30.58, Kratovil 35.54, and Kosmas 50.41. One tenth of that money would probably win the New Jersey seat for Potosnak, who would be a sharp, tireless crusader for the values and principles that motivate Democrats (not Inside the Beltway careerist Democrats, real Democrats in America). The D-Trip ain't gonna do squat; Ed is progressive, independent-minded, openly gay and incorruptible-- not exactly traits admired by the Insiders. If you'd like to help, he's the newest endorsed candidate by Blue America.

I just got off the phone with Alliea Phipps, campaign manager for Justin Coussoule. She told me how the Hillary Clinton Legacy PAC, which has endorsed one Democratic House challenger in Ohio-- Justin-- and has fielded a field operation to get out the vote for him, went to the DCCC for some funding. The DCCC turned them down flat, saying they have their own way of defeating Boehner. From what I can tell, their way is to reelect lots of Blue Dogs who support the same conservative ideas Boehner supports. But that will at least keep the Capitol Hill corner offices and best parking spots in Democrat hands. Alliea made a good point-- cloistered away Inside the Beltway, these folks don't know anything about the district. They probably think everyone is a wealthy, tanned golfer 'cause that's all they know about OH-8. But people there are soybean farmers and blue collar workers. "I am extremely frustrated with the DCCC's shortsighted take on beating Boehner," she told me. "For the first time since I can remember, having actively worked in politics since I was about 7 (and I'm nearly 46 now), I can honestly say it defies logic. The 8th District is so removed from John Boehner, golf and his country club lifestyle that it really would not require much effort to take this seat from him if they backed the Army Vet running on their own ticket. What the fuck are they waiting on? An engraved invitation to beat him where it really matters most?"

Unless the engraved invitation came with a stack of hundred dollar bills, I don't think it would do much good. The DCCC isn't looking for progressives and it isn't looking for independent minded champions of working families. And, more than anything, it isn't looking for idealistic Americans who are impervious to the kinds of corruption that make Steny Hoyer's, John Boehner's, Debbie Wasserman Schultz's and Eric Cantor's world go round and round and round. Justin Coussoule and Ed Potosnak aren't the kinds of candidates who will do what they're told by political hacks working for Special Interests. They want to represent their neighbors, not Steny Hoyer's donors. So... when you go over to donate to Ed, think about Justin too!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

House Passes The Currency Reform For Fair Trade Act-- GOP Splits Apart


Earlier today the House tackled a wide array of bills. The Republicans-- along with some sleazy corporate Blue Dogs-- voted as a bloc to try to derail everything by opposing an early morning resolution to allow consideration of the bills, which included Mary Jo Kilroy's Medical Debt Relief Act, prohibiting a consumer reporting agency from making any report containing information related to a fully paid or settled medical debt that had been characterized as debt in collection for credit reporting purposes (splitting the GOP almost evenly down the middle among supporters and opponents); Carolyn Maloney's 9/11 Health and Compensation Act for World Trade Center first responders-- only 17 Republicans voting in favor; and Tim Ryan's Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, which is the one I want to go into in a little more depth. (Mary Jo will be the Blue America live blogging guest on Saturday and we can talk with her about her legislation then and why it's so important for so many families across the country.)

Ryan's bill seeks to deter China from manipulating its currency by putting in place a mechanism to determine whether the exchange rate of the currency of an exporting country (i.e.- China) is fundamentally and actionably undervalued or overvalued (misaligned) against the U.S. dollar for an 18-month period which would then lead to "certain actions under a countervailing duty or antidumping duty proceeding to offset such misalignment in cases of an affirmative determination." The bill passed 348-79, with the Republican caucus torn apart by "free" fanatics and ideologues led by the architect of GOP trade policy, John Boehner. Most of his own caucus deserted him, although the right-wing kooks most in thrall to Big Business' money machine-- Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, David Dreier, Pete Sessions and Eric Cantor (as well as the lunatic fringe types like Paul Broun, Steve King, Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert)-- stuck with Boehner.

Ironically, few states have been as disastrously hit by these conservative trade policies as Boehner's home state of Ohio, where thousands of good middle class manufacturing jobs have gone right to China, decimating Ohio businesses and Ohio families. Right after the vote Scott Paul, Executive Director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), expressed tremendous optimism. "Today, the House of Representatives sent a clear message to Beijing: Stop your cheating. America's workers and businesses deserve a level playing field, and passing this bipartisan bill is a significant step in that direction... Voters are mad and Congress is finally responding." Boehner, of course, dug his heels in and refused to budge.

Justin Coussoule, who is running on a platform that includes replacing misnamed "free" trade with FAIR TRADE and with bringing middle class jobs back to southwest Ohio, has been an avid supporter of Tim Ryan's legislation. This evening he told us that "Tim's bill is long overdue and I know he's been working hard, in a bipartisan way to pass it. It says a lot about this issue that more Republicans voted with the Democrats than with John Boehner. Congressman Boehner hasn't even seen fit to come to a single candidate's forum in any county in the district and he's consistently refusing to debate any issues. He's taking the district for granted and that's what he did today by voting against his own constituents and just sticking with the Wall Street bankers and Big Business instead of with workers, small businesspeople and ordinary Ohio families who are sick and tired of watching China cheat us year after year after year. Over 2.4 million jobs have been lost, across the country, since 2001 because of the trade deficit with China and Chinese currency manipulation has been a policy they have pursued with vigor. It's time for the 8th district to have a congressman who's going to be looking out for regular folks here, not just the Special Interests who write the big political campaign contribution checks."

Justin's campaign against Boehner is a strictly grassroots effort and Blue America is lending a hand by running some independent media... the billboards and cable TV ads. Can you give us a hand with the effort? Believe me, the last thing you want to see the morning after election day is a Speaker with an eery orange glow. Here's a page dedicated to Justin's campaign and the Blue America ads in Ohio's 8th CD.

Every Ohio Democrat voted for Ryan's bill, of course. And, interestingly Boehner lost the three senior Ohio Republicans-- Steve LaTourette, Pat Tiberi and Michael Turner-- plus Steve Austria. The only Ohio Congressmembers the would-be Speaker managed to hang on to were pathetic backbenchers, newcomers with no influence-- and all dependent on Boehner's goodwill for their campaign financing: Jim Jordan, Bob Latta and Mean Jean Schmidt.

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The carefully orchestrated environment of hatred and intolerance claims another victim


The northern New Jersey newspaper The Record today republished this file photo of Tyler Clementi "performing with the Ridgewood High School Orchestra at a benefit dinner in 2009," noting that he "was a member of the Ridgewood Symphony Orchestra 2010-2011 season and had been awarded several awards and a scholarship for his skills as a violinist."

by Ken

In the national condition of cretin-based militia-like rage, we've known for some time that there were going to be real, live victims, or maybe not-so-live victims.

Concerned parents and activists all over the country have been trying for years now to focus attention on the apparently worsening problem of bullying in the schools, and there have been sporadic gains reported in some localities in establishing legal inhibitions, though even more sporadic reports of meaningful enforcement of either new or old laws. It's hardly surprising that in the climate of hatred and intolerance fomented by our noisiest and most irresponsible sociopaths, doing their best to make verbal assaults on anyone who is different in any way from their diseased version of rigid social orthodoxy -- aided and abetted by the corporate interests use the sociopaths to create an atmosphere of terror and blind obedience which they deem beneficial to those interests -- we've been hearing more and more frequent accounts of both violence inflicted on victims of bullying and, utterly intolerably, of suicides and suicide attempts by those victims.

A week ago today, a freshman at Rutgers University (New Jersey's most prestigious state university), jumped off the George Washington Bridge, which joins the states of New Jersey and New York. Today, it was reported by law-enforcement officials and a lawyer for the family of the student, Tyler Clementi of Ridgewood, NJ, that, as reported by The Record's Evonne Coutros, Nick Clunn, and Stephanie Akin, he "did so after he was secretly recorded having a sexual encounter in his Rutgers University dorm room that was broadcast live on the Internet."
The New York City Police Department said a body has been found at the Broadway Bridge, which spans Manhattan and the Bronx just east of the confluence of the Manhattan and Hudson rivers. The bridge is located about two miles north of the George Washington Bridge.

Police have yet to identify the body.

At least two people spotted a man believed to be Tyler Clementi standing on the south walk of the bridge near the New York side at 8:50 p.m. last Wednesday, authorities said.

When police responded to the walk, the man was gone, but they found a wallet belonging Clementi, authorities said.

"He was quiet,” said Johanna Nahrwold of Bayonne who lives in Clementi’s dormitory. “He kept to himself. And on campus everyone is just shocked. Nobody really knew him or spoke to him. Nothing."

Two Rutgers University students have been charged with illegally taping Clementi having sex and posting the images on the Internet.

Rutgers police have charged Dharun Ravi of Plainsboro and Molly W. Wei of Princeton with two counts each of invasion of privacy for using the camera to view and transmit a live image of an 18-year-old student on Sept. 19, the Middlesex County prosecutor and Rutgers police said.

Ravi, Clementi’s roommate, faces two additional counts for attempting to view and transmit another encounter involving the same student on Sept. 21, authorities said. . . .

Diane Wade, a violinist who sat beside Clementi in the Ridgewood Symphony, which he joined as a second violinist but was quickly promoted to the firsts (the orchestra's second-violin principal, Rob Rubin, "said he quickly realized that Clementi was one of the most talented violinists in the orchestra"), told The Record:
He was so incredibly talented -– I could not believe how good he was for such a young boy. Such a nice kid all the way around. . . . As a parent, he was the way you want your kids to be -– polite, courteous, serious about the work he was doing and a hard worker.

A statement issued by Steven Goldstein, chair of the New Jersey LGBT activist organization Garden State Equality, said in part (emphasis added):
There are no words sufficient to express our range of feelings today. We are outraged at the perpetrators. We are heartbroken over the tragic loss of a young man who, by all accounts, was brilliant, talented and kind. And we are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport. As this case makes its way through the legal system, we can only hope the alleged perpetrators receive the maximum possible sentence.

That the victim's roommate was also a freshman, just months out of high school, demonstrates once again that our high schools are not doing enough to educate their students that harassment, intimidation and bullying of other students is unacceptable in every instance. It is grotesque to think that people such as these alleged perpetrators went onto college without, apparently, ever having been taught basic life lessons of decency -- and that they made their way through the educational system before allegedly committing this unconscionable act.

Garden State Equality is currently working on a new anti-school bullying bill that if enacted, would be the nation's strongest such law. It would follow the three anti-bullying laws the state has enacted since 2002, all of which include bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. . . .

We are sickened.

The highlighted paragraph seems to me to deserve sustained attention. We have networks of "opinion leaders" in this country, many of them princelings of the national plague of Crap Christianity, who profess to espouse "family values." They need to be exposed for what they really are: hate-mongering charlatans and liars and, yes, murderers.

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Is It Fair For Liberals To Call Him "Taliban Dan?"


I had a call today from a trustworthy ally asking me why we're not supporting the reelection of the most endangered Democratic House incumbent, Tom Perriello, someone we helped get elected in 2008. I don't want to go into this in any great detail-- since I have before-- other than to say he got Blue America to endorse him by specifically and unambiguously lying to us about protecting women's right to choice. That's a bright red line in the sand-- bright blue line?-- that progressives just cannot get around. If women don't have control over their own bodies, there is no chance for Democracy to thrive. And that's exactly what conservative patriarchal ideologues are aiming for. And that brings us to... Taliban Dan down in Orlando. Digby has been writing quite a lot about him, just today, in fact, here and here. (Actually that second "here" refers to Taliban Dan's dangerous and radical mentor, Bill Gothard and we'll get to him very soon.)

Group Think Inside-the-Beltway among "liberal" pundits and would-be Broders-- quotations around liberal because, of course, a blue team shirt doesn't really mean "liberal" anywhere but... Inside-the-Beltway-- tell us that protecting Perriello (who lied and betrayed women by voting for the Stupak Amendment and who boasts an overall ProgressPunch score of a very dismal 47.11, just fractionally above Blue Dog elder Gene Taylor, the Mississippi Dixiecrat who called for the ouster of Nancy Pelosi as Speak this week) is a "must." And this same Group Think is mortified, just mortified, that Alan Grayson called out Taliban Dan for his extremist views on women's rights, views that would be more at home in the most backwards reaches of Afghanistan than in Orlando-- or even Kabul! "Women's issues" don't seem to mean much to these fellas. Never does.

But they sure are worked up that, a tenuous source of "truth" in the best of times, attacked Grayson's Taliban Dan ad as less than factual. Let's start with a powerful rebuttal from a far more trustworthy and authoritative source, Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, and an associate editor of Religion Dispatches. She points out that FactCheck's point was that the Taliban Dan quotes in Grayson's ad were taken out of context. But FactCheck botched it.
Grayson's campaign argued that Webster seemed to be supporting submission in his comments to an audience of conservative men, whom he directed to pray that they would better fulfill their biblical duty to love their wives, and leave prayers about women's submission to their wives. However, the emphasis of these remarks, as those familiar with Christian rhetoric could recognize, is not on the optional nature of wives' submission. Wifely submission is part of an often-unbalanced equation to Christians who subscribe to "complementarian" or "patriarchal" marriage roles, where men must "love" and women "obey." Saying that a woman should pray for God's guidance in submission, if she wants to, is not leniency, but rather standard evangelical language that emphasizes individuals must obey biblical mandates regardless of how others around them behave. So, Webster is saying, men must be accountable to God for their responsibility to love their wives regardless of whether she submits-- that they must pray to do right, even if she doesn't. 

However, the much more relevant application of this principle on following God's orders despite your circumstances is on women. Submission is a contentious and tricky issue even within conservative evangelical churches. Most churches promoting submission make certain to couple demands for submissive wives with those for loving, servant-leader husbands. But at the end of the day, it's women who bear the brunt of the principle; their obligations are to God, not to a husband who may or may not keep his end of the contract. Accordingly, the message is impressed by countless women's ministries and leaders that women must continue submitting even when their husband doesn't show love, because they owe their obedience, above all, to God. In circles that take submission seriously-- as does any organization associated with Bill Gothard-- that's what wives' options really look like.

What's more, fails in a much broader context to describe what the IBLP is really about, describing it as a "non-denominational Christian organization that runs programs and training sessions."

Sounds sweet, doesn't it? It isn't, as Time reported way back in 1974 in a feature, Religion: Obey Thy Husband:
It is a metaphor that infuriates both liberated women and spirited youth. God holds in his hands a hammer (symbolizing a husband). The husband/hammer bangs a chisel (representing the obedient wife) that "chips away the rough edges" to turn a diamond in the rough (a teenager) into a gem.

God to husband to wife to child. That is "God's chain of command," the most controversial of the "universal, underlying, nonoptional principles" of family life that are being proclaimed by the Rev. Bill Gothard, 39, to mass audiences in two dozen cities from Seattle to Philadelphia... Children must be totally obedient. A religious teenager, for example, should not attend a church college if atheistic parents order him not to. As for a man's wife, she "has to realize that God accomplishes his ultimate will through the decisions of the husband, even when the husband is wrong." Citing I Thessalonians 5:18 ("In every thing give thanks"), Gothard even advises a wife whose husband chastises her to say, "God, thank you for this beating."

...Besides following the chain of command in the family, Christians should also be obedient to their employers and their government, Gothard asserts. Only if an order from a parent, the state or a boss conflicts with God's explicit commandments may it be disobeyed. But first the Christian is supposed to follow six complex steps, beginning with an examination of his own bad attitudes.

Taliban Dan has every right in the world to his own peculiar, primitive religious beliefs. But he's running for the U.S. Congress. When he was in the Florida legislature he attempted to pass a bizarre and arcane Bible-inspired bill that would prevent women from divorcing abuse husbands. It failed, of course, but Taliban Dan is even more extreme now than he was back then. He has been on record as wanting to put his literal interpretation of the Bible into actual practice-- just the way the Taliban does in the areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan where they've managed to gain a foothold. Taliban Dan has admitted to the St. Petersburg Times that Gothard is "a major part of my life... What he has said I believe to be the truth."

But even if you're a Beltway Boy and would-be David Broder manly man aspirant, there's a reason you don't want Taliban Dan and other Republican fanatics like him getting a foothold in our government. You see, it isn't just women they hate. They also hate working people. Here are a couple of Bronze Age passages they take quite literally and think should be part of the American legal system:
Peter 2:18 "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."

Ephesians 6:5 "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ."

It explains why so many religious fanatics in our country, like Taliban Dan, hate labor unions with such intensity and such vehemence. Daniel Webster has a long history of narrow-minded extremism and religious fanaticism, as well as a record of palling around with like minded Christian Reconstructionists, the very definition of the American Taliban.

For the political right to demonize Obama with racist slurs, compare him to Hitler, claim he's illegitimate, call him a Muslim, a socialist, a fascist and a communist-- and have it echoed 24/7 on Fox and by Hate Talk Radio... well, that's fine. But for a fighting Democrat to give them a tiny taste of their own medicine? Oh, Mabel, get my smelling salts. Taliban Dan claims he's getting a flood of American Taliban dollars this week from religious fanatics all over the country. This might be a good time to let Grayson that we admire what he's doing... and that we have his back. Please, if you can, contribute to America's best congressman here.

UPDATE: Oh... And Taliban Dan's Guru Wants To Stone Astrologers... And People Who Have Sex Before Marriage

Digby just put up the whole horrifying revelation. "Another expert on the Religious Right, Bruce W. Wilson who writes at Talk2Action, has delved into Daniel Webster's ties to Christian Reconstructionists and writes this fascinating piece for Alternet. He notes Webster's continuing association with Bill Gothard, (at whose Institute Webster was recorded making his remarks about women submitting to their husbands in 2009):"
As an August 5, 1996 article in the Gainesville Sun quoted Webster, ‘I respect (Bill Gothard) as much as anybody...

Bill Gothard, in turn, was a close ally of R.J. Rushdoony, considered the father of Christian Reconstructionism and founder of the movement’s flagship institution, the Chalcedon Institute.

As Vice President of the Chalcedon Institute Martin Selbrede stated in the Institute’s March/April 2010 issue of Faith For All Of Life, the only reason Bill Gothard didn’t agree to use Chalcedon founder R.J. Rushdoony’s monumental Institutes of Biblical Law tome in Gothard’s sprawling evangelical empire is that the two couldn’t agree on divorce. Rushdoony’s Institutes was a template for instituting Biblical law in government... [W]while Gothard was categorically opposed to divorce, Rushdoony, a virulently racist Holocaust denier who espoused Geocentrism, was a little more liberal on divorce. In other words, the two men were otherwise in substantial agreement-- except for the sticking point of divorce, they both agreed that Rushdoony’s vision for Biblical law should be imposed upon America.

That vision included instituting stoning as a form of capital punishment for rape, kidnapping, murder, heresy, blasphemy, witchcraft, astrology, adultery, “sodomy or homosexuality,” incest, striking a parent, extreme juvenile delinquency, and “unchastity before marriage.”

Daniel Webster’s association with Bill Gothard’s Institute For Basic Life Training has continued into the present, and a speech Webster made at a Nashville IBLP conference in 2009 has now become a source of controversy due to a new Alan Grayson campaign ad. Grayson is currently taking a media drubbing because of a campaign ad that calls Grayson’s political opponent, Republican Daniel Webster, “Taliban Dan.”

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So Who Really Supports Offshoring American Jobs? The Senate Voted Yesterday-- And Offshoring Won


Not funny... not at all

The effective conservative ruling coalition has spoken-- for their corporate masters, masters who seem determined to drive U.S. wages down so that the middle class utterly disappears, and most Americans end up in a state of penury and so that no one will be able to afford anything. Good these corporate geniuses are so far-sighted and concerned about what's good for the society. Of course that's not their job. Their job is their own companies' immediate bottom line. Our elected representatives are supposed to worry about the well-being of society. So what happens when the corporations are so powerful that they own an entire politician party (100% of it) and enough of the other party so that they call the shots? Glad you asked. It was apparent in the Senate (again) yesterday.

Harry Reid called for a cloture vote to end the Republican filibuster of Dick Durbin's S.3816, the Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act. Despite how the American people feel about offshoring their jobs, and despite a looming election, the vote to end the filibuster went down 53-45. In other words, the majority wanted to end the offshoring but, not a big enough majority (60 votes) to end the filibuster. Durbin's bill is co-sponsored by 8 Democrats: Barbara Boxer (CA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Byron Dorgan (ND), Patrick Leahy (VT), Harry Reid (NV), Bernie Sanders (VT), Chuck Schumer (NY) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), 7 economic populists + Schumer. The bill seeks to amend "the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) exempt from employment taxes for a 24-month period employers who hire a employee who replaces another employee who is not a citizen or permanent resident of the United States and who performs similar duties overseas; (2) deny any tax deduction, deduction for loss, or tax credit for the cost of an American jobs offshoring transaction (defined as any transaction in which a taxpayer reduces or eliminates the operation of a trade or business in connection with the startup or expansion of such trade or business outside the United States); and (3) eliminate the deferral of tax on income of a controlled foreign corporation attributable to property imported into the United States by such corporation or a related person, except for property exported before substantial use in the United States and for agricultural commodities not grown in the United States in commercially marketable quantities."

Joining every single Republican-- including fake "moderates" Susan Collins, Scott Brown and Olympia Snowe-- were conservative, corporate-oriented Democrats Max Baucus (MT), Ben Nelson (NE), Jon Tester (MT), Mark Warner (VA) and Connecticut For Lieberman Party Senator Joe Lieberman. Blanche was out looking for a new job on K Street and didn't bother showing up for the vote. Her pals at the U.S. Chamber were hysterically opposed to the bill:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on lawmakers to oppose the bill, saying it would hurt the economy and lead to job cuts. Instead, the group urged lawmakers to extend all of the Bush tax cuts set to expire on Dec. 31-- an issue Congress is unlikely to resolve until after congressional elections on Nov. 2.

The debate over outsourcing comes as Congress is under pressure to stimulate jobs, with the nation's unemployment rate holding near 10%... The Creating American Jobs and Ending Offshoring Act would give U.S. employers a two-year break from payroll taxes on wages paid to new U.S. workers performing services in the United States, according to a summary of the legislation.

To be eligible, businesses would have to certify that the U.S. employee is replacing an employee who had been performing similar duties overseas.

The goal is to encourage multinationals to hire American workers for jobs that would have otherwise been outsourced to countries with lower labor costs.

Bernie Sanders spoke the most eloquently on the need to battle conservative predators on the issue. Here he was with Ed Schultz on Monday:

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What Is The GOP? Forget The Teabagging Idiots And The American Taliban For A Moment And Let's Focus on Paul Ryan & Jim DeMint


No... worse than Vitter

Ryan's a spoiled, pampered Big Business crybaby and DeMint's the obnoxious class bully who no one ever slapped down. Together they're what the Republican Party is all about. Let's take a look at the pathetic Wall Street shill from Wisconsin first. Thanks to the DCCC, Ryan doesn't have to worry about being reelected, even though he "represents" a district Obama won in 2008, a district that is chock full of local Democratic legislative leaders. So instead of campaigning for reelection, he's running around with his massive warchest, supplied by his grateful pals on Wall Street, and making mischief everywhere. But that isn't why the "wild" Young Gun missed the unveiling of the silly GOP Pledge last week. As Talk radio host John Batchelor reported at the Daily Beast, Ryan was peeved... and pouting. Ryan, who Wall Street has fingered as a future President (of the United States) "is supposed to be the gifted ingénue who spent these last years in the minority bent over his spread sheets while he tweaked his grindingly wonkish genius of 2008, 'A Roadmap for America’s Future'.”
Ryan’s flacks claim his absence was a scheduling problem, which is a deliberately uncreative excuse. Ryan’s allies say he skipped the event because he’s genuinely stumped about why the leadership ignored his celebrated “Roadmap” that lays out a utopia in which America would solve health care, Social Security, taxes and jobs with Leprechaun dust and diligence. Nothing of Ryan’s years of homework is to be found in the “Pledge,” and the absence is so obvious that the whispering is that Ryan is either in fresh disfavor or worse, self-exile.

“He’s been very coy,” says an ally. “He’s not talked in about a month. He’s caught in the middle. He doesn’t know what to do. They ignored his Roadmap.”

Another ally is more mocking: “His scene got left on the cutting room floor.”

Says another observer: “Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy didn’t think as much of his ‘Roadmap’ as the (Wall Street) Journal does. (They think) it’s a ‘Roadmap’ to the minority.”

One critic says of Ryan’s relationship with Boehner, “He wants more love from Daddy.”

Ryan has cause to believe he has fallen in stature in the Republican Conference. John Boehner not only did not ask for Ryan’s help on the “Pledge,” but also Boehner’s flacks claim that the boss correctly handed the construction of the “Pledge to America” to a member who pulled off the pretentious gimmick of “Listening to America”-- the two-term California back-slapper Kevin McCarthy, a man not known for policy cogitation of any sort. In fact, the general suspicion is that the document was cooked by a Boehner flack named Brian Wild, whose mission was to heat the stew-- “we go forward now with optimism”-- until it disappeared into instantly inedible, forgettable jargon.

The “Pledge” stunt is not Ryan’s only problem with Boehner and the Republican team. There is also the fiasco of the recent vanity publication, “Young Guns,” co-authored with the same schmoozer McCarthy and the big money man in the leadership, Whip Eric Cantor. The book is a sluggish presentation of the innocuous and the inane. Sipping what we are told are Diet Cokes and bottled water, Cantor says to Ryan, “We’ve got to reconnect and inspire the American people.” Ryan replies to Cantor, “The American people still love the American idea.” McCarthy contributes the factoid, “We have four million more government jobs in America than manufacturing jobs.” Several dozens of these heart-stopping exchanges create the impression that a colloquy of congressional stars is not unlike the Jonas Brothers discussing what they got each other for their birthdays.

Not surprisingly, Paul Ryan is said to be in deep despair over the fact, suddenly revealed, that “Young Guns” is hack work and that, in the videos and still photos, he has been exposed as a trivial faceman.
“Ryan is embarrassed by the whole thing,” reports a close observer, not a foe. “He shouldn’t have done that. He made a mistake. He did Greta (Greta van Sustern show on Fox News Channel) to put a happy face on this thing.”

“He caved on TARP, he caved on the Roadmap, poor Paul Ryan,” measures a conservative Republican, summarizing correctly that Ryan voted with Boehner and Cantor on the infamous and Mark-of-Cain TARP of 2008; and that Ryan’s “Roadmap” is an irritation to the Conference, the tedious work of an acolyte who tries to outshine his professor as if politics is a spelling-bee. “The book (Young Guns) was Cantor’s and McCarthy’s idea. Ryan is ashamed.”

There is yet a deeper problem for Ryan, and it may also be pushing him into this unusual sullenness. Many Republican wags, such as David Frum and Erik Ericson, are already onto the Boehner paint-by-numbers game of the “Pledge.” The document is worse than hollow, because it illustrates that the Republican ambitions are not anything about policy or philosophy or even passion. They are about conquest on K Street and dividing up the plunder of majority...

Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin where Ryan doesn't have a care in the world. A former candidate for his seat told me in confidence that his protector inside the Democratic caucus has always been... (no one knows this; you're reading it first here) Rep. David Obey! I was startled too. But the ex-candidate won't go any further so... instead let's skip to a post at One Wisconsin Now where they're offering the audio to this remark the pouty Ryan made Monday night:
So, the mistake we made-- the Republicans-- was we committed the greatest sin in politics: the sin of hypocrisy. When you run as fiscal conservatives, when you run on the principles of economic liberty and you don't govern that way, that's hypocrisy. That's what happened to the republicans. Republicans, a lot of us, fought the earmark culture and all those other things, but we lost. Because, the more senior, you know, uh, power guys, they kind of had this belief: we can take this Democratic machine and make it a Republican machine. And what happened was our principles atrophied. We've got to get that back.

Yes... atrophied. And then there's Jim DeMint, the new arbiter of all things senatorial. Apparently McConnell, Kyl, Cornyn and the GOP caucus just doesn't care that DeMint and his teabagger coalition have now taken over.
Sen. Jim DeMint warned his colleagues Monday night that he would place a hold on all legislation that has not been “hot-lined” by the chamber or has not been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday. Although the South Carolina Republican has objected for years to the hot-lining of legislation until his staff at the Republican Steering Committee has reviewed it, DeMint’s threat to essentially shut down legislation in the chamber is remarkable. [...]

[I]n a terse e-mail sent to all 100 Senate chiefs of staff Monday evening, Steering Committee Chief of Staff Bret Bernhardt warned that DeMint would place a hold on any legislation that had not been hot-lined or been cleared by his office before the close of business Tuesday. [...]

Democratic and Republican aides alike were stunned, arguing that DeMint had essentially made a unilateral decision to end legislative activity in the Senate.

Arlen Specter went even further yesterday in what is likely to be one of his last-ever Senate speeches, making an unambiguous attack on DeMint's fanaticism in a body where they normally all refer to each other as distinguished colleagues: "Mainstream Americans must march to the polls this November to express themselves forcefully to stop extremists financed by undisclosed contributors from stifling our democracy.

“Within days of the start of the Obama administration, before the ink was dry on his oath of office, Republicans openly bragged about plans to ‘break him and engineer his Waterloo.' Announcing that ideological purity was more important than obtaining a majority, the prevailing Republican motto was, ‘We’d rather have 30 Marco Rubios in the Senate than 50 Arlen Specters.’”

Yes, I'm afraid it's the unserious face of today's Republican Party

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Will Obama Be Any Better Without Rahm Emanuel Hanging Around, Poisoning The Atmosphere?


I was never satisfied with anything less than an A when I was in school-- or any time since. And I was willing to work as hard as I could to achieve that. It's why I wound up at the top of my industry and why I was able to retire from business at a young age. And all my life I've wanted my country to have a government that could be graded A as well. JFK? Maybe but we never got to find out because he was murdered-- probably by people who were afraid he would be an A. And regardless of how Jimmy Carter grades himself... well, he probably was better than anyone since but, he never quite lived up to his potential. We've had a lot of very mediocre and very flawed presidents in my lifetime-- Nixon, Reagan, both horrid Bushes, Clinton... And Obama? His political record was clear that he was going to be... well, more symbolic than wonderful. His voting record in the Senate was a lot closer to senators like Blanche Lincoln, Max Baucus, Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman than it was like Dick Durbin's, Sheldon Whitehouse's or Bernie Sander's. And then his post-election appointments? Well, anyone harboring any hopes that we were going to get an A presidency had those hopes dashed when he replaced Howard Dean with Tim Kaine and gave the keys to the White House to Rahm Emanuel.

And today, in a preview of Ari Berman's new book, Herding Donkeys, Sam Stein, in fact, related a quote from the very same Howard Dean: "I'm not looking to pick another fight with Rahm Emanuel, but the contempt with which he held the progressive wing of the party was devastating and incredibly demoralizing. That's basically saying to your own people-- you got us here, now FU." And now, thank God, Rahm Emanuel is leaving the White House. Will it signal a better day for the Obama Administration? I don't know; it would be hard to believe. Will he ever be an A? I doubt it. Maybe a B? Maybe, but I doubt that too. But you know what? I can't think of one Republican since Eisenhower who wasn't a pure F and all of the current crop are substantially worse. Yep... lesser of two evils. Well, maybe not evil... oh, the GOP is evil, as evil as can be. Obama? I don't want to believe it and I'm willing to put my loud musings about it on hold until after November's midterms. I liked the president's Rolling Stone cover story today. You should read it. Here are a couple of excerpts:
When you came into office, you felt you would be able to work with the other side. When did you realize that the Republicans had abandoned any real effort to work with you and create bipartisan policy?

Well, I'll tell you that given the state of the economy during my transition, between my election and being sworn in, our working assumption was that everybody was going to want to pull together, because there was a sizable chance that we could have a financial meltdown and the entire country could plunge into a depression. So we had to work very rapidly to try to create a combination of measures that would stop the free-fall and cauterize the job loss.

The recovery package we shaped was put together on the theory that we shouldn't exclude any ideas on the basis of ideological predispositions, and so a third of the Recovery Act were tax cuts. Now, they happened to be the most progressive tax cuts in history, very much geared toward middle-class families. There was not only a fairness rationale to that, but also an economic rationale — those were the folks who were most likely to spend the money and, hence, prop up demand at a time when the economy was really freezing up.

I still remember going over to the Republican caucus to meet with them and present our ideas, and to solicit ideas from them before we presented the final package. And on the way over, the caucus essentially released a statement that said, "We're going to all vote 'No' as a caucus." And this was before we'd even had the conversation. At that point, we realized that we weren't going to get the kind of cooperation we'd anticipated. The strategy the Republicans were going to pursue was one of sitting on the sidelines, trying to gum up the works, based on the assumption that given the scope and size of the recovery, the economy probably wouldn't be very good, even in 2010, and that they were better off being able to assign the blame to us than work with us to try to solve the problem.

How do you feel about the fact that day after day, there's this really destructive attack on whatever you propose? Does that bother you? Has it shocked you?

I don't think it's a shock. I had served in the United States Senate; I had seen how the filibuster had become a routine tool to slow things down, as opposed to what it used to be, which was a selective tool-- although often a very destructive one, because it was typically targeted at civil rights and the aspirations of African-Americans who were trying to be freed up from Jim Crow. But I'd been in the Senate long enough to know that the machinery there was breaking down.

What I was surprised somewhat by, and disappointed by, although I've got to give some grudging admiration for just how effective it's been, was the degree to which [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell was able to keep his caucus together on a lot of issues. Eventually, we were able to wear them down, so that we were able to finally get really important laws passed, some of which haven't gotten a lot of attention-- the credit-card reform bill, or the anti-tobacco legislation, or preventing housing and mortgage fraud. We'd be able to pick off two or three Republicans who wanted to do the right thing.
But the delays, the cloture votes, the unprecedented obstruction that has taken place in the Senate took its toll. Even if you eventually got something done, it would take so long and it would be so contentious, that it sent a message to the public that "Gosh, Obama said he was going to come in and change Washington, and it's exactly the same, it's more contentious than ever." Everything just seems to drag on-- even what should be routine activities, like appointments, aren't happening. So it created an atmosphere in which a public that is already very skeptical of government, but was maybe feeling hopeful right after my election, felt deflated and sort of felt, "We're just seeing more of the same."

What do you think the Republican Party stands for today?

Well, on the economic front, their only agenda seems to be tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. If you ask their leadership what their agenda will be going into next year to bring about growth and improve the job numbers out there, what they will say is, "We just want these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which will cost us $700 billion and which we're not going to pay for."

Now what they'll also say is, "We're going to control spending." But of course, when you say you're going to borrow $700 billion to give an average $100,000-a-year tax break to people making a million dollars a year, or more, and you're not going to pay for it; when Mitch McConnell's overall tax package that he just announced recently was priced at about $4 trillion; when you, as a caucus, reject a bipartisan idea for a fiscal commission that originated from Judd Gregg, Republican budget chair, and Kent Conrad, Democratic budget chair, so that I had to end up putting the thing together administratively because we couldn't get any support-- you don't get a sense that they're actually serious on the deficit side.

What do you think of the Tea Party and the people behind it?

I think the Tea Party is an amalgam, a mixed bag of a lot of different strains in American politics that have been there for a long time. There are some strong and sincere libertarians who are in the Tea Party who generally don't believe in government intervention in the market or socially. There are some social conservatives in the Tea Party who are rejecting me the same way they rejected Bill Clinton, the same way they would reject any Democratic president as being too liberal or too progressive. There are strains in the Tea Party that are troubled by what they saw as a series of instances in which the middle-class and working-class people have been abused or hurt by special interests and Washington, but their anger is misdirected.

And then there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as the president. So I think it's hard to characterize the Tea Party as a whole, and I think it's still defining itself.

...You've passed more progressive legislation than any president since Lyndon Johnson. Yet your base does not seem nearly as fired up as the opposition, and you don't seem to be getting the credit for those legislative victories. There was talk that you were going to mobilize your grass-roots volunteers and use them to pressure Congress, but you decided for whatever reason not to involve the public directly and not to force a filibuster on issues like health care. What do you say to those people who have developed a sense of frustration-- your base-- who feel that you need to fight harder?

That's a bunch of different questions, so let me see if I can kind of knock them out one by one.
One of the healthy things about the Democratic Party is that it is diverse and opinionated. We have big arguments within the party because we got a big tent, and that tent grew during my election and in the midterm election previously. So making everybody happy within the Democratic Party is always going to be tough.

Some of it, also, has to do with-- and I joke about it-- that there's a turn of mind among Democrats and progressives where a lot of times we see the glass as half-empty. It's like, "Well, gosh, we've got this historic health care legislation that we've been trying to get for 100 years, but it didn't have every bell and whistle that we wanted right now, so let's focus on what we didn't get instead of what we got." That self-critical element of the progressive mind is probably a healthy thing, but it can also be debilitating.

When I talk to Democrats around the country, I tell them, "Guys, wake up here. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances imaginable." I came in and had to prevent a Great Depression, restore the financial system so that it functions, and manage two wars. In the midst of all that, I ended one of those wars, at least in terms of combat operations. We passed historic health care legislation, historic financial regulatory reform and a huge number of legislative victories that people don't even notice. We wrestled away billions of dollars of profit that were going to the banks and middlemen through the student-loan program, and now we have tens of billions of dollars that are going directly to students to help them pay for college. We expanded national service more than we ever have before.

The Recovery Act alone represented the largest investment in research and development in our history, the largest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower, the largest investment in education-- and that was combined, by the way, with the kind of education reform that we hadn't seen in this country in 30 years-- and the largest investment in clean energy in our history.

You look at all this, and you say, "Folks, that's what you elected me to do." I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we've probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do-- and by the way, I've got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum. So I think that it is very important for Democrats to take pride in what we've accomplished.

All that has taken place against a backdrop in which, because of the financial crisis, we've seen an increase in poverty, and an increase in unemployment, and people's wages and incomes have stagnated. So it's not surprising that a lot of folks out there don't feel like these victories have had an impact. What is also true is our two biggest pieces of legislation, health care and financial regulatory reform, won't take effect right away, so ordinary folks won't see the impact of a lot of these things for another couple of years. It is very important for progressives to understand that just on the domestic side, we've accomplished a huge amount.

When you look at what we've been able to do internationally-- resetting our relations with Russia and potentially having a new START treaty by the end of the year, reinvigorating the Middle East peace talks, ending the combat mission in Iraq, promoting a G-20 structure that has drained away a lot of the sense of north versus south, east versus west, so that now the whole world looks to America for leadership, and changing world opinion in terms of how we operate on issues like human rights and torture around the world-- all those things have had an impact as well.

What is true, and this is part of what can frustrate folks, is that over the past 20 months, we made a series of decisions that were focused on governance, and sometimes there was a conflict between governance and politics. So there were some areas where we could have picked a fight with Republicans that might have gotten our base feeling good, but would have resulted in us not getting legislation done.
I could have had a knock-down, drag-out fight on the public option that might have energized you and the Huffington Post, and we would not have health care legislation now. I could have taken certain positions on aspects of the financial regulatory bill, where we got 90 percent of what we set out to get, and I could have held out for that last 10 percent, and we wouldn't have a bill. You've got to make a set of decisions in terms of "What are we trying to do here? Are we trying to just keep everybody ginned up for the next election, or at some point do you try to win elections because you're actually trying to govern?" I made a decision early on in my presidency that if I had an opportunity to do things that would make a difference for years to come, I'm going to go ahead and take it.

I just made the announcement about Elizabeth Warren setting up our Consumer Finance Protection Bureau out in the Rose Garden, right before you came in. Here's an agency that has the potential to save consumers billions of dollars over the next 20 to 30 years-- simple stuff like making sure that folks don't jack up your credit cards without you knowing about it, making sure that mortgage companies don't steer you to higher-rate mortgages because they're getting a kickback, making sure that payday loans aren't preying on poor people in ways that these folks don't understand. And you know what? That's what we say we stand for as progressives. If we can't take pleasure and satisfaction in concretely helping middle-class families and working-class families save money, get a college education, get health care-- if that's not what we're about, then we shouldn't be in the business of politics. Then we're no better than the other side, because all we're thinking about is whether or not we're in power.

Let me ask you about financial reform. Despite all the things like consumer protection that you did get accomplished, the regulation of Wall Street-- especially the closing down of all the derivatives trading that was really at the heart of the financial meltdown-- seems to have been eviscerated.

I've got to disagree with that. If you take a look at it, what we've essentially said is that the vast majority of derivatives are now going to be sold through a clearinghouse. And if you ask the experts what was the best way to make sure the derivative markets didn't bring down the economy again, it's transparency, so that everybody understands who the counterparties are, everybody understands what the deal is, what the risks are-- it's all aboveboard, it's all in the light of day.

People have legitimate concerns that if the rules drafted by all these various agencies in charge of implementing financial reform wind up with exceptions that are so big you can drive a truck through them, and suddenly you can have these specially tailored derivatives that are sold outside of the clearinghouse, then you could end up with an inadequate regulatory structure.

But if the rules are written properly-- and I have confidence that the people I appointed to these agencies intend to apply them properly -- it’s going to make a difference. Is it going to solve every potential problem in Wall Street in a multi-trillion-dollar, worldwide, capital market? Probably not. There could end up being new schemes, new loopholes that folks are going to try to exploit. The special interests are already ginning up to try to influence the rulemaking process in all these issues, so we have to remain vigilant. But to say that we did not significantly improve oversight of the derivatives market, it just isn’t true.

There's a lot more... worth reading. You don't have to read much into this demonstration of enthusiasm in Madison, Wisconsin today. Good speech too:

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The easiest answer to the economic mess? "There are no easy answers." But is it true?


"I've been looking at what self-proclaimed experts were saying about unemployment during the Great Depression; it was almost identical to what Very Serious People are saying now. Unemployment cannot be brought down rapidly, declared one 1935 analysis, because the work force is 'unadaptable and untrained. It cannot respond to the opportunities which industry may offer.'"
-- Paul Krugman, in his NYT column yesterday,

by Ken

I'm infinitely grateful that Howie keeps tabs on what the corporate Republicans and the teabaggers and the "centrist" right-wing Democrats are, for want of a better word, "thinking" about the economic mess we're in, and their "prescriptions," such as they are, for what ails us. If I had to try to take any of that rubbish seriously, I would have to dragged away kicking and screaming. Many of those prescribers are too stupid to know better, and many are too dishonest to acknowledge that they're spewing what they know to be nonsense. I become increasingly less certain that it matters to distinguish.

On the subject of unemployment, it turns out to be convenient for alibi-desperate mainstream Dems to throw up their hands in a chorus of the old refrain, "There are no easy answers."

Yesterday Paul Krugman posed the question: "What can be done about mass unemployment?"
All the wise heads agree: there are no quick or easy answers. There is work to be done, but workers aren't ready to do it -- they're in the wrong places, or they have the wrong skills. Our problems are "structural," and will take many years to solve.

But don't bother asking for evidence that justifies this bleak view. There isn't any. On the contrary, all the facts suggest that high unemployment in America is the result of inadequate demand -- full stop. Saying that there are no easy answers sounds wise, but it's actually foolish: our unemployment crisis could be cured very quickly if we had the intellectual clarity and political will to act.

In other words, structural unemployment is a fake problem, which mainly serves as an excuse for not pursuing real solutions.

And so, says Mr. K, we have Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the famously conservative Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, claiming, "Firms have jobs, but can't find appropriate workers. The workers want to work, but can't find appropriate jobs," and insisting, "It is hard to see how the Fed can do much to cure this problem." But we also have Bill Clinton telling an interviewer that unemployment remains high because "people don't have the job skills for the jobs that are open."

Krugman directs them to reports issued recently by the Roosevelt Institute and the Economic Policy Institute, which failed to find evidence of any such thing. The labor shortages that should exist -- somewhere -- because of the unfillability of those jobs for which too few candidates have suitable skills ("major industries that are trying to expand but are having trouble hiring, major classes of workers who find their skills in great demand, major parts of the country with low unemployment even as the rest of the nation suffers") are nowhere to be found, and for that matter no trace can be found of these businesses starved for qualified candidates. (Based on what small businesses are telling canvassers from the National Federation of Independent Business, "the percentage citing problems with labor quality is now at an all-time low, reflecting the reality that these days even highly skilled workers are desperate for employment.")

Why then, Mr. K wonders, is the claim that the problem is structural unemployment so common?
Part of the answer is that this is what always happens during periods of high unemployment — in part because pundits and analysts believe that declaring the problem deeply rooted, with no easy answers, makes them sound serious.
I've been looking at what self-proclaimed experts were saying about unemployment during the Great Depression; it was almost identical to what Very Serious People are saying now. Unemployment cannot be brought down rapidly, declared one 1935 analysis, because the work force is "unadaptable and untrained. It cannot respond to the opportunities which industry may offer." A few years later, a large defense buildup finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy's needs -- and suddenly industry was eager to employ those "unadaptable and untrained" workers.

But now, as then, powerful forces are ideologically opposed to the whole idea of government action on a sufficient scale to jump-start the economy. And that, fundamentally, is why claims that we face huge structural problems have been proliferating: they offer a reason to do nothing about the mass unemployment that is crippling our economy and our society.

"So what you need to know," he concludes, "is that there is no evidence whatsoever to back these claims."
We aren't suffering from a shortage of needed skills; we're suffering from a lack of policy resolve. As I said, structural unemployment isn't a real problem, it's an excuse -- a reason not to act on America's problems at a time when action is desperately needed.

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David Dreier's Constituent Service-- A Horrifying Report From A Parent Of Two Kidnapped Children


The other day I had a call from an old friend, Russ Warner, who I know as a family man and as a father as well as the progressive Democrat running for the seat in a neighboring district currently held by David Dreier, aggressively not a family man. Russ introduced me to Andrew Ko, a neighbor and distraught father whose two 10-year old twin sons, Christopher and William, were abducted to Singapore by his ex-wife. Once his sons were spirited out of the country Andrew went to David Dreier, his congressman. Dreier was unhelpful... even insulting, sending him a letter address to Dear "Mr. Yo" and telling him to "have a nice day." Andrew wound up taking out an ad (left) in the L.A. Times. He also talked with Russ who personally delivered his paperwork to Senator Boxer, who is now working on the case. I asked Andrew to write a guest post to explain what he's been through. I mean, he's actually a Republican and that ad must have cost him a few thousand dollars.
My ex-wife, Yuxin Mei Wang, is a Singaporean. She violated the July 2008 Custody Order and disappeared with the boys on August 31, 2009.  A “Find and Retrieve Order” was issued by the Los Angeles County Superior Court on September 4, 2009, just over a year ago. 
Yuxin Mei Wang was able to obtain new Singapore passports for the children from the Singapore Consulate in San Francisco without my authorization or knowledge.  When the children first disappeared, I contacted the Singapore Consulate.  A consular officer, Lea Chan, told me in no uncertain terms that they DID NOT issue passports for the children. She will have to check with the authorities in Singapore to see if the passports were issued from Singapore. 5 days later, she called and said San Francisco actually issued the passports. So much for record keeping.
There is a 4-count felony arrest warrant from the State of California and an FBI warrant. An Interpol Red Notice was diffused on November 25, 2009 and Singapore is a member of Interpol. A former Singapore Police Commissioner, Khoo Boon Hwee, is current president of Interpol. Repeated inquiries by the Los Angeles County District Attorney on the status of the Red Notice for arrest of the abducting parent continues to go unanswered.
I bring you back to the case of American teenager Michael Fay who was sentenced to 5 strokes of the cane in Singapore back in 1994 for vandalism. 24 US Senators and President Clinton appealed to the Singapore Government to spare Fay, claiming the punishment does not fit the crime.  Here is a link to a few Singapore newspaper articles about this case. The response is that the U.S. does not have to agree with Singapore laws, the U.S. only has to respect them.

The Interpol Red Notice was issued because the abducting parent broke U.S. laws.  No one is saying she broke Singapore laws. Singapore does not have to agree with U.S. laws, Singapore only has to respect them.
In April of this year, the Singapore Foreign Ministry released this statement regarding a Romanian diplomat involved in a car accident. Singapore requested Interpol to issue a Red Notice for the arrest of the Romanian diplomat. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, George Yeo, said Romania has a "clear moral obligation" to persuade the diplomat to return to Singapore to stand trial.  Why is it when Singapore wants to arrest someone, the country providing safe haven has a "clear moral obligation" to return the fugitive; but when the U.S. wants to arrest a Singaporean wanted for crimes in the U.S. Singaproe tells the U.S. to go "pound salt."
At the 78th General Assembly of Interpol held in Singapore in October 2009, Singapore Minister of Law Mr. K. Shanmugam gave a speech commending the progress made by member countries of Interpol. He highlighted the apprehension of Singaporean fugitive lawyer Tan Cheng Yew by the German authorities after Singapore Police issued an Interpol Red Notice.
When the U.S. issues an Interpol Red Notice, Singapore ignores it completely and offers safe-haven to a wanted fugitive.
The U.S. trains the Singapore Air Force at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Mountain High Air Force Base in Idaho. The Luke AFB training costs $325 million dollars and... who pays for this??

Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-4) has a bill in Congress HR 3240 that will put pressure on countries to prevent child abduction and facilitate the children's return.  Let's amend this bill to say that countries like Singapore, Japan, and Philippines who knowingly ignore valid US requests to return the children will have military and economic assistance suspended until the children are returned. If you want to benefit from the relationship with the U.S., you have to respect our laws whether you agree with them or not.
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has written to the Singapore Ambassador but the response was not encouraging. Sen. Leahy then wrote to Secretary of State Clinton. My Congressman, David Dreier, has not done much except to forward my letters to a few parties. Singapore's response is that they did not know. They did not know because they did not check and ask some basic questions when a single parent is applying for passports for minor children.
The Department of Justice refuses to issue a formal extradition request to  Singapore citing different "interpretation" of the extradition by Singapore. Treaties are not subject to re-interpretation after they are signed according to the Vienna Convention.
Another interesting response is from the Singapore Ministry of Education.  They refuse to provide me information regarding the children.  The latest letter asks for a court order. My name is on the birth certificate and the Ministry of Education accepted this as an enrollment document but refuses to provide me information on my children. My lawyer in Singapore has now gone back to the Education Ministry to ask what aspect of law are they basing the requirement that a parent needs a court order before obtaining information on their children. Is this a requirement for all parents or just the left behind parent when their children have been abducted to Singapore? 
None of the elected officials I contacted called me regarding my case. I ran the ad above on the 1 year anniversary of the abduction on August 31, 2010 in the L.A. Times.  I even wrote the People's Republic of China Ambassador in Washington DC and their Consulate in Los Angeles asking if they might be able to help as they have a good relationship with Singapore. Guess what? I received a call from a consular officer, Mr. Yang from Los Angeles, within 10 days of my letters. He listened and offered some advice. But at least someone from the Chinese Consulate called; unlike my own elected officials.

Another compelling reason to Dump David Dreier, whose too busy working for Special Interests and galavanting around the globe with his lover/chief of staff to give proper assistance to an American citizen/constituent. Interpol Red Notice:

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