Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GOP Predators Find Themselves A Useful Idiot: Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)


Couple of douche bags

If you want to make believe the Republicans in Congress aren't fighting a vicious and concerted class war against working families on behalf of Big Business, Wall Street and the 1%, you can work with them towards bipartisan solutions. But then you'd have to be an idiot since, through words and deeds, the Republicans in Congress have shown, indisputably shown, that "bipartisan" always means the same thing for them: support the dogmatic right-wing approach/strategy. Former DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen ought to know better; maybe he does.

Van Hollen teamed up with Paul Ryan-- Ryan acting on behalf of Eric Cantor-- to push through the Expedited Line-Item Veto and Rescissions Act of 2011. Ryan and Van Hollen, both members of the Budget Committee are kind of palsy-walsy, in a ruling class kind of way. Yesterday they introduced a bill to give the president a line item veto, something the Supreme Court has already struck down as unconstitutional. I wonder if Ryan gave Van Hollen a boxed edition of the collected works of Ayn Rand as a thank you.

At least one Democrat noticed. In a press release, Ryan's opponent, Rob Zerban, doesn't call out Van Hollen by name but...
Unconstitutional Attack on the Middle Class

After proposing the unpopular budget to slash Social Security and Medicare, Paul Ryan is continuing his direct attack on the funding our middle class depends on. Ryan has recently proposed reinstituting the line-item veto. This type of legislation was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1998 because it is an unconstitutional attempt to give the President unilateral powers “to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes,” and this cannot be passed through the standard legislative process.

Instead of dealing with the many problems in our economy, both Congress and now the Supercommittee have come up short. Led by Paul Ryan, this Congress continues to propose measures designed to slash funding for the middle class.

While I am not surprised these sorts of ideas would be proposed by Paul Ryan, I am deeply disappointed by some Democrats who have not shown the willingness to fight. We cannot give in to pressure to downsize our middle class. That is not the way forward.

We must deal with our nation’s problems in Congress instead of outsourcing responsibility to President Obama. This is just one more example of this Congress’s failure to lead on budgetary issues. It is no surprise that this Congress is one of the least popular in history.

I always like a Democrat willing o stand up for the 99%-- even if that means standing up to the craven power structure inside of his own party. People in Wisconsin are pretty independent-minded. I hope they realize that Zerban is standing up for them against two very powerful servants of the 1%, one from each party establishment. If you'd like to help Zerban's campaign, we have a Stop Paul Ryan ActBlue page-- and it's open 24/7.

Meanwhile, across the aisle, wasn't it nice of Ron Paul's campaign this evening to help Republican primary voters remember just who Newt Gingrich has always been? The Mittster must be kvelling!

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The "perfect cartoon"? PLUS: More of "The 25 Least Influential People Alive"


Bob Mankoff says that this offering by
Chon Day is, for him, the perfect cartoon.

by Ken

This is once again ripped straight "From the Desk of Bob Mankoff" -- the New Yorker cartoon editor's always-entertaining weekly newsletter-slash-blogpost. Bob is of course an important New Yorker cartoonist in his own right, and his newsletter is still the best thing that comes into my e-mailbox regularly. (Once again you can sign up for it -- free! -- by going to the magazine's homepage and scrolling down the right side till you come to the box with the tab for "NEWSLETTERS.")

This week's edition, "The Perfect Cartoon," which follows a blogless week, presumably owing to the holiday, finds Bob pursuing a quest I have to say it would probably never have occurred to me to undertake.
Last time [in Bob's November 16 post, "The Best Is the Enemy of the Food," keyed to the magazine's annual Food Issue, November 21 -- Ed.], I made the case that the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of perfection are mutually exclusive. I could use psychological literature to support this point, but, instead, I ask you to imagine a person you know who is a perfectionist. Are they smiling?

Neither am I, because I’ve been searching for the perfect New Yorker cartoon. There are tens of thousands to choose from -- more than enough to find myself in the muddle known as the paradox of choice. Perhaps that’s what’s happened to the woman in this cartoon by Chon Day.

"Or perhaps," Bob says of the woman in this cartoon, which we've already seen at the top of this post, "she's just a perfectionist. She certainly isn't smiling." But he's smiling, because, he says, he's found the perfect cartoon.
First of all, consider the degree of difficulty. Single-panel cartoons without any words are the hardest to come up with. Fewer than five percent of the submissions I see as cartoon editor are captionless, and most of those are more whimsical than outright funny.

Then there’s longevity. This cartoon from 1946 still gets laughs by letting us indulge our aggressive, even violent impulses without any guilt.

"To do this," Bob says, "Day has created his characters with great economy to engage both our empathy and antipathy."
The woman is a cold, imperious, impossible-to-please dowager for whom we have no compassion. The salesman’s back is turned to us, his features obscured and intentionally nondescript so that we can project ourselves on to his suffering.

I think you'll want to read Bob's description of the cartoon's "graphic machinery." (Here's the onsite link again.) He even gives us a version of the cartoon with an arrow drawn in tracing the arc of the viewer's gaze. I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't really get it on my own. Hint: Assuming your eye winds up on the object the salesman is drawing out of the shoebox, make sure you identify it. Once Bob pointed it out, I couldn't disagree with his conclusion: "On the level of human dynamics and the psychology of perception, this is a perfect cartoon."

By the way, Bob invites readres to go to the New Yorker's "new, improved Cartoon Bank" to pick out our own perfect cartoon "and tell us why."


In last night's post, I shared some of the "Least Influential People Alive" from GQ's December roster of "The 25 Least Influential People Alive," as compiled by Drew Magary, who explained that this is "that other category of famous people":
the ones who took up more than their fair share of oxygen and offered zero value in return, whose deeds did nothing to change lives of billions worldwide. Their one contribution to society? They make you, Mr. Everyday American, feel indispensable by comparison.

From this year's "particularly rich crop" of "useless bastards" I quickly plucked out No. 1, Tim Pawlenty (voicing my amazement that T-Paw's juggernaut-that-wasn't presidential campaign, which already seems such a distant historical memory, actually happened in this electoral cycle) and No. 5, Team Spider-Man (Bono, the Edge, and Julie Taymor) (hey, as you may recall, I actually saw the show during its uncounted years of previews), but then couldn't choose between Nos. 24 and 25, John Boehner ("a politician who was elected specifically to not give a shit") and President Obama (who, instead of being "the most transformational figure of the century," as "he promised to be," "let everyone in Washington stick a boot in his ass" and wound up "wield[ing] all the power of a substitute teacher at night school"), so I tossed them both in.

It was tough to whittle the remaining 21 honorees down to a group of three more, and I can't not mention: No. 6, Hank Williams Jr. ("Exactly what the fuck did he get "fired" from? . . . Welfare recipients have fifty times the annual workload of this man"); No. 7, "Tiger Mother" Amy Chua ("If anything, I'm gonna be an even lazier parent thanks to you"); No. 11, Family Radio president and now three-time Apocalypse predictor Harold Camping (who merely "provid[es] hipsters with a chance to make ironic jokes about the end of the world on Twitter"); No. 14, Arnold Schwarzenegger ("At least Anthony Weiner had the courtesy to be disgraced while still in power"); No. 15, former HP CEO Léo Apotheker ("the exact opposite of Steve Jobs . . . 2000 years from now, anthropologists will dig up a TouchPad and marvel, 'Jesus, this thing looks like a piece of crap' "); No. 17, Tina Brown (who "spent 2011 transforming Newsweek from a magazine no one reads into a magazine no one reads but everyone despises"); No. 19, Dr. Marcus Bachmann (whose "beard wife" is of course Rep. Michele "Crazy Crazy Crazy" Bachmann).

But here are my next three favorites -- for widely varied reasons, which I hope will be apparent:
2. Princess Beatrice
Wasn't the royal wedding splendid? Was Kate Middleton not utterly radiant in her Sarah Burton gown? In a world of conflict, this joyous occasion proved to be an inspiring and hopeful beacon of... HOLY SHIT, WHO INVITED THE RACCOON WITH THE VAGINA HAT? Take note, Americans: The British have just as many embarrassing hillbilly cousins as we do.

9. Hosni Mubarak
This was the year of inept Middle Eastern dictatorships, and Mubarak became the gold standard by falling after a mere eighteen days of protests. Eighteen days! The Chinese government laughs at your lack of fortitude, Hosni. Egypt's president for the past thirty years went from "I'm not going anywhere" to "Okay, I won't run for reelection" to "Okay, I'm leaving" to "Okay, I might be in a coma" in virtually no time. Kind of awesome, when you think about it.

21. Bobby Bonilla
Bonilla retired in 2001, but in July 2011, the New York Mets began shelling out for a deferred portion of the former slugger's contract that will pay him $1.2 million annually for the next twenty-five years. See, the Mets originally thought this payout was a shrewd move, because it allowed them to take Bonilla's deferred money and potentially outearn its value by investing it in a firm run by, you guessed it, Bernie Madoff. And so Bonilla, who is now 48, will earn $30 million over the next three decades, until he turns 72. For doing absolutely nothing.


How Is Right-Wing Extremist Allen West Working Towards A Win In A Blue District?


A crop of unique and extraordinarily unqualified men and women were elected to Congress last year. It's the ultimate damage the Koch-funded Tea Party did to America. And a case can be made that there was no worse outcome than the defeat of moderate Florida technocrat Ron Klein by raging right-wing extremist and proven sociopath Allen West. Disappointed Democrats and left-leaning independents in Broward and Palm Beach counties didn't bother coming out to vote. In the mid-term before (2006), 43,746 Broward voters gave Klein a 51-47% victory over longtime Republican incumbent Clay Shaw. In Palm Beach County is was 63,611- 59,120 for another 51-47% win for the challenger. Last year it turned around... badly. Klein only managed 39,654 votes in Broward (to West's 46,146) and 60,150 in West Palm (to West's 72,744). In both counties, the GOP vote went up and the Democratic votes... just evaporated. The 22nd CD had been steadily supporting Democratic presidential candidates in recent times. Gore beat Bush 52-48%. Kerry beat Bush 52-48% and in 2008, Obama beat McCain 52-48%.

That brings us to 2012... well first to 2011. The Republican legislature, in strengthening several endangered neighboring Republican districts (Webster's and Rivera's particularly), gerrymandered the area in such away that clearly threw West under the bus. McCain's 48% in 2008 would have been a 44% in the new boundaries... very bad news for West, who doesn't even live in the district.

Ironically, the crazed and clownish West, who will probably get a Fox TV show in 2013, leads all GOP freshmen in fundraising through Sept. 30, bringing in $4.2 million and managing to raise more than half, $2.3 million, in amounts of $200 or less. Two years ago, he’d collected only $543,808 in the same period. The kooks and nuts across the country identify with his sick Jack Bauer persona.

There are two Democrats running for the nomination to take on West, former West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy, a rich young businessman with suspicious credentials as a Democrat. In fact, until last January he was a registered Republican, something the DCCC never lets stand in the way of recruiting. They LOVE rich, conservative candidates, regardless of politics.
Miami Dade Supervisor of Elections records shows that Murphy was a registered Republican in Miami-Dade county from 2004 up until January of 2011 and he cast his vote in the 2010 elections as a registered Republican.  Murphy changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat mere months ago- on January 10, 2011, according to the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections... [W]hat’s most revealing about Murphy’s party switch is that given its proximity to the announcement of his candidacy for Congress, it appears that it was done much more for political expediency than for any other possible motive.

Like Frankel, Murphy has raised more than $1 million, although, unlike hers, which comes primarily from small donors, he's getting larger sums from suspicious, wealthy sources.

Before buying his way into the Democratic Establishment's good graces by giving "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel, the corrupt and reactionary head of the DCCC, $2000 in March (plus $2,400 to Florida's Democratic Senator Ben Nelson in January, $2,500 to Obama and $4,800 each to Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Ted Deutsch this year), Murphy had been a GOP donor and had been contributing thousands of dollars to Charlie Crist (that's them together below) and Mitt Romney.

Something about Murphy stinks. I'm wondering if he's not part of a Republican scheme to give Allen West an easy time. Is it possible that he was recruited by the GOP to run against Frankel in the primary so that she spends all her money and isn't prepared to fight off West's millions in teabaggy and corporate cash?

Murphy sent an email to supporters, claiming he's "proud to stand with the 99 percent" and denounced West's name-calling comments identifying the Occupy protesters as "communists," "Marxist," "Stalinist," and "socialist" in the same sentence and adding that they're just a bunch of "gangs." But what does this rich Republican Mitt Romney donor know about OccupyWallStreet?

This is smelling more and more like a typical Republican trick, where the GOP incumbent recruits his own weak "Democratic opponent." DWT uncovered this type of scheme in 2006 when California's most crooked congressman, Jerry Lewis, manufactured his own make-believe opponent, Louie Contreras, who completely disappeared after winning the primary. Since then we've seen other Republicans trying the same trick. It's the second best thing to not having any opponent. We're going to have to dig a little deeper into Murphy and see what's really there.

UPDATE: More West Antics Roil Florida Politics

Although yesterday's biggest news regarding West was his call for Herman Cain to drop out of the presidential race/book campaign because of his philandering, a bit of West news is exploding inside Florida political circles. After the new maps came out he supposedly decided to try to switch districts by challenging Tom Rooney. West never lived in the 22nd CD anyway and now it's way bluer than it was when he managed to pull off his win last year. He lives in Debbie Wasserman Schultz's district but he doesn't have the guts to challenge her; he's always been a big mouthed coward. So he's going after Rooney, a befuddled GOP backbencher in way over his head.
"Allen's strongly considering making a move," said a highly placed source affiliated with West's camp. "It's not a big move, just a few miles away."

West's best move-- running for U.S. Senate-- still appears to be off the table. But West gave it a second thought recently, another source said. And he could jump in that race, though it's less likely.

All this talk is both premature and potentially too late. On one hand, the Legislature has yet to meet to sign off on the plans. And the Florida House hasn't even proposed its own version. But, sources in the Legislature tell us that the House is more inclined to adopt major portions of the Senate's Congressional map. So West needs to start making noise now, in part because legislators will have to decide whether to help him. Rooney has a key connection in the Legislature: uber-lobbyist and political fundraiser Brian Ballard, who has represented the gambling interests of the representative's family for years.

Regardless of what West and Rooney work out between themselves, DWT is supporting school teacher and progressive Democratic activist Dave Lutrin for the seat he should have won-- if not for interference from Rahm Emanuel-- in 2006. Lutrin filed for the 16th yesterday. You can contribute to his campaign here. Between Grayson, Ruiz, Frankel and Lutrin, Florida Democrats may be fielding one of the most progressive batch of House candidates in the country!

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Conservatives Working For Big Business Want To Dismantle Regulations For Their Predator Allies... What Else Is New?


The whole GOP clown car claiming to be running for president vows to end regulations near and far. So do Boehner, Cantor, Issa, Ryan and the rest of the Ayn Rand acolytes in the House. Tomorrow they'll even waste part of the day voting against a regulation that doesn't exist!
“Now, here comes my favorite of the crazy regulatory acts. The EPA is now proposing rules to regulate dust,” Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, said on the House floor. He said Texas was full of dusty roads: “The EPA is now saying you can be fined for driving home every night on your gravel road.”

There was just one flaw in this argument. It was not true.

The EPA’s new dust rule did not exist. It never did.

Still, the specter of this rule has spurred three bills to prevent it, one of which will be voted on Thursday in a House subcommittee. It sparked a late-night battle on the Senate floor. GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain cited it in a debate as a reason to eliminate the EPA.

The hubbub over this phantom rule, surely one of the most controversial regulations that never was, involved a slow-moving federal agency and a Republican Party with the EPA in its crosshairs.

“I do believe that the EPA does have the ability to change its mind,” said Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., sponsor of the bill to be voted on Thursday. The EPA has now confirmed that it does not intend to strengthen standards on farm dust. But Noem is still pushing a bill to go further and weaken the EPA’s power to set these rules in the future.

“This EPA has been very hard on business in this country, and this EPA has been very hard on agriculture,” Noem said. “I think it’s time we pushed back.”

...For Republicans the EPA’s new dust rule was an ideal talking point for this agenda. Even though the EPA had still not proposed any new EPA dust rule.

“We’ll stop excessive federal regulations that inhibit jobs in areas as varied as cement and farm dust,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told the Economic Club of Washington in September. Boehner’s deputy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post decrying “EPA’s proposed regulations” on subjects including farm dust.

On the House floor, other legislators sketched out an even more detailed picture.

“Say Bessie the cow kicks up too much dust running over to your pickup truck at feeding time,” warned Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas. “The EPA is going to fine you for Bessie’s misconduct.”

We pay these people. Did you read William Golding's 1954 classic, Lord of the Flies? Here's a 10 minute cartoon version, that makes the point. Notice this line about the Republican Party:
Now we see another problem on the island. At least one of the boys is a sociopath by nature. And since there are no adults to enforce rules, it's only a matter of time, or circumstances, before Roger realizes he can kill.

Boehner weeps too. (See above) And the Republican mania to destroy regulations on behalf of their wealthy donors is as sociopathic as it gets... and can (and does) kill. I've been re-reading Vance Packard's classic from 1960, The Waste Makers and last night I came across a chapter-full of descriptions of what happens when Big Business corrupts politicians into weakened or abolishing regulations that protect consumers. There were dozens of great examples but I pulled out one to share is related to a face legal battle Cheff v Mathes, a seminal 1964 corporate law case. Four years before the case, Packard, writing about the entire concept of "planned obsolescence," set the stage:
The most flagrant attempt to promote a throwaway mood was that of the Holland Furnace Company of Holland, Michigan. This company is the largest seller of replacement furnaces in the nation, with five hundred retail branches. In 1958, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Holland to stop the strategy that had been used by some of its salesmen to frighten furnace owners into replacing existing furnaces with new Holland equipment. What follows in the next two paragraphs is taken from reports of the commission.

The salesmen involved, according to the Federal Trade Commission, sometimes posed as government or utility inspectors in order to get into the homes. And some misrepresented themselves as "heating engineers." A householder in the St. Louis area testified that two young men came to her house and said, "We are from the government inspecting furnaces," and asked for admission to the house. She refused them permission and called the police. When the men were picked up by the police and questioned, they identified themselves as Holland salesmen. They denied telling her they were government officers but admitted they had told her they were working with the "government fuel-inspection program."

Once the Holland canvassers gained access to a house-- either by pretext or in response to invitations resulting from company advertisements offering cleaning service or free inspections-- "in many instances" they dismantled furnaces without the owners' permission. In some cases, the Federal Trade Commission asserted, "they then refuse to reassemble them when requested, misrepresenting that this would involve grave danger of fire, gas, and explosion." In other cases, it said, they declared that the existing furnaces were beyond economical repair or that companies making them were out of business. "Some of the furnaces condemned by these agents," the Federal Trade Commission order 4 asserted, "were to be either in safe condition or safely repairable."

The Federal Trade Commission order upheld its examiner's ruling that Holland's "false claims and improper business methods had caused many owners to discard competitive furnaces prematurely in fear of grave danger from continued use of this 'condemned' equipment." The company denied or minimized the various accusations and turned to the federal courts for relief. At this writing-- two years and three court decisions later-- the matter is still under litigation.

In light of the trillions pillaged by Wall Street fighting over furnaces seems almost quaint. So let's go right to a hot off the presses report from Pat Garofalo at Think Progress. And, as so often is the case, it's not just a slimy Republican undermining public safety, but an equally slimy Democrat. That there are no Republicans slimier or more corrupt that New Jersey far right fanatic Scott Garrett says something very scary-- something that must be dealt with-- about New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney.
For months, Republicans have been trying to undermine the Dodd-Frank financial reform law-- passed in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis-- by cutting budgets for market regulators, obstructing nominees, and advancing bills that would weaken the law’s key provisions. But sometimes efforts to dismantle the law take on a more bipartisan flavor.

One of the key sections of the Dodd-Frank law has to do with swaps, the complex financial instruments that felled, among others, insurance giant American International Group. Before the 2008 financial crisis, the swaps market was totally opaque, giving neither customers nor regulators any sense of what the instruments actually cost or how much risk was building up in the financial system.

Dodd-Frank brings transparency to this market by forcing swap trades onto open exchanges-- where they can be seen by everyone-- rather than allowing backroom wheeling and dealing in the instruments to continue. But a bill authored by Reps. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), as the New York Times’ Gretchen Morgensen explained, would take these bits of the bill out at the knees:
Representative Scott Garrett, a New Jersey Republican, has teamed up with Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat, to introduce the Swap Execution Facility Clarification Act. It would bar the Securities and Exchange Commission and the C.F.T.C. from requiring swap execution facilities to have a minimum number of participants or mandating displays of prices. Both mechanisms promote transparency.

Mr. Garrett said the bill directed regulators “to provide market participants with the flexibility” they need to obtain price discovery. This means maintaining the old system that can keep prices in the shadows.

On Nov. 15, a House subcommittee approved the bill by a voice vote.

As Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Gary Gensler-- whose agency is charged with regulating swaps under Dodd-Frank-- explained, “economists for decades have shown that transparency lowers margins, leads to greater liquidity and more competition in the marketplace.” “Transparent pricing is also a critical feature of lowering the risk at the banks, and at the derivatives clearinghouses as well,” he said.

As David Min and I explained back in April, 2010, opacity in the swaps market “means that no one-- regulators, investors, or even the dealers themselves-- has a good handle on the systemic risk these instruments pose, or who is bearing the risk. This prevents regulators from being able to take steps to reduce systemic risk and creates the conditions for financial panics.” Dodd-Frank did a lot to deal with this problem, but Congress now seems to be aiming to undo that progress.

It's not just that Maloney doesn't want another scare from a Wall Street whore like hedge fund attorney Resma Saujani, she would like to knock Maxine Waters out of contention and become top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. That must never happen. And, by the way, since arriving in Congress, Maloney has taken $3,717,221 in legalistic bribes from the financial industry she's supposed to be helping to regulate. Let's find a progressive to take her on this time. Know anyone who lives here?

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Gingrich Proves To South Carolina Voters He's Willing To Contort Himself In Flip Flops As Often As Even Romney


Yesterday, in a slam against serial flip flopper Mitt Romney, Gingrich told listeners to WSC-FM in South Carolina the following:
"I wouldn't lie to the American people, I wouldn't switch my positions for political reasons… It's wrong to go around and adopt radically different positions based on your need of any one election, then people will have to ask themselves, 'What will you tell me next time?’"

Newt's an historian who knows that voters don't remember any history-- especially Republican primary voters who have been shown to be more ignorant than normal people, primarily because they tend to watch Fox News and listen to Hate Talk radio more than normal people. In any case, he seemed to switch a major position for political reasons yesterday and adopting a radically different position on the GOP Know Nothing base's top priority, immigration.

In the last debate, Newt slipped up and insinuated that no one who opposed the corporate approach to immigration reform-- to allow workers to stay in the U.S. as second class citizens-- is "serious." That wasn't as bad as Perry having said they're heartless for similar reasons. but the kooks and freaks who vote in GOP primaries don't like being told they're not serious. So Newt, true to form, gave them what they wanted at his first opportunity.
Seeking to preserve his GOP frontrunner status amid charges from some Republicans that he's too soft on immigration, Newt Gingrich expressed support on Monday for South Carolina's controversial law aiming to stop illegal immigration in the Palmetto State.

The South Carolina law-- which has prompted a Justice Department lawsuit joined by 16 nations-- would require law officers who make traffic stops to call federal immigration officials if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. Opponents say the measure would encourage racial profiling.

"South Carolinians have actually passed a law that I think is a pretty reasonable law-- that basically says if you pull somebody over for legitimate reasons, you can ask them whether or not they're a citizen," Gingrich said in a town hall at the College of Charleston. "This is the opposite of sanctuary states. Think of it as enforcement society rather than a sanctuary society."

At last week's Republican presidential debate, Gingrich drew fire when he voiced support for allowing long-term illegal immigrants to stay in the country-- a proposal that presidential rivals Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann were quick to characterize as amnesty. He has said in response that he considers it the only "humane" option and that the charge he backs amnesty is "totally false."

The former House speaker also laid out his immigration plan, which includes completing a border fence with Mexico by January 2014, making English the official language of government and emphasizing an understanding of U.S. history as a requirement of citizenship. He also said he would seek to loosen deportation requirements, particularly in cases involving gang members and criminals.

But in typical Gingrich fashion, he proposed a quirky innovation-- having credit card companies such as American Express and Visa handle immigration visa applications. Calling the idea "quite serious," he said it would reduce fraud.

And in case South Carolina rednecks and fascists still didn't get the idea that Gingrich will do whatever they want if they give him the nomination, he endorsed torture, denounced the ACLU and flip-flopped completely on his long-standing support for environmental protections and for action against Global Warming. He hasn't reiterated his attack on Paul Ryan's anti-Medicare budget-- he called it, correctly "right-wing social engineering"-- and in general he's danced around all his old positions to cater to whatever the right-wing talk show hosts are spewing out as the official GOP policies of the day. Republican voters, especially in backward states like Iowa and South Carolina are demonstrably too stupid to remember this historic ad-- at least 2 or 3 years old:

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Alan Grayson Was Right About The Bankster Bailout After All


Remember when we thought anyone yowling about "the Fed" was some kind of a crackpot like Ron Paul? We were supposed to think that. Wall Street invested a lot of money into making sure we would think that. Then along came Alan Grayson, who was both a Harvard-trained economist and lawyer, and he got progressive Democrats to pay attention. In the end he worked with Ron Paul and they passed legislation to audit the Fed. Some said it was too late; the great heist had already happened. But no one from Wall Street has been tried or imprisoned for their crimes and none of their DC accomplices have been inconvenienced. And now the media is starting to catch up, a little, with where Grayson was 3 years ago. Bloomberg did a good job exposing even bigger giveaways to the banksters than we feared. Last night Grayson was on Keith Olbermann's show talking about the contours of a bankster bailout that Boehner, Cantor and Ryan forced through Congress for Bush, Paulson and, most important, the Wall Street crooks who have financed their political careers and their consolidation of power.

You'll never hear about it on Fox, but it was the ability of Boehner, Cantor, Ryan and some of their cronies-- well-bribed cronies-- to twist enough Republican arms into blatantly switching votes from NO to YES that allowed TARP to pass a few days after it had failed.

Right, there wasn't one vote in the House on TARP; there were two. After Bush sent the bill that his financial team insisted on over to the House, the first vote came on September 29, and it failed, 228 against to 205 in favor. 95 Democrats and 133 Republicans just said NO to the gigantic ripoff. These NO votes came from across the political spectrum. Progressive Democrats like Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Carol Shea-Porter (D-VT), John Lewis (D-GA), John Conyers (D-MI), Hilda Solis (D-CA, now Secretary of Labor), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) and Donna Edwards (D-MD) made common cause not just with Blue Dogs like Jim Matheson (UT), Collin Peterson (MN) and Gabby Giffords (AZ) but with Republicans, also from across their political spectrum-- from radical right fanatics like Bachmann, Franks, Foxx, Garrett, Mean Jean Schmidt, Pence and Hensarling to mainstream conservatives like Dent, Biggert and Walter Jones.

All hell broke lose when it failed, the Bush Treasury Department screeching that the world would end, never mentioning that by "the world" they meant their personal investment portfolios and those of all their wealthy friends. They went into high gear-- and it was all fear and fear and scare and scare until the House voted again, on an even worse bill. They put together a small team of top Wall Street-oriented Republicans who favored the bailout and told them to crack heads, twist arms, hand out Wall Street and K Street promissory notes and $150 billion in pork projects and get that bill passed. Their heroes (with the amount of legalistic bribes from the financial sector in brackets next to their names) were:
John Boehner (R-OH- $5,432,255), rewarded with the Speakership
Eric Cantor (R-VA- $5,636,715), rewarded with the Republican Majority Leadership
Paul Ryan (R-WI- $2,525,572), rewarded with the House Budget chair and a national spotlight
Roy Blunt (R-MO- $4,815,944), rewarded with a Senate seat
Spencer Bachus (R-AL- $5,076,674), rewarded with the House Financial Services Committee chair

That one was voted on a few days later, on October 3, and it passed, 263-171. There were no longer 133 Republicans voting NO. After Boehner, Cantor, Bachus, Blunt and Ryan got through with them, 25 changed their minds. Charlie Dent (R-PA) was one of them. Watch:

So which other "fiscally conservative" Republicans seeking reelection again next year voted for the TARP bailout in 2008? Here's a partial list, mostly Republicans who might be vulnerable if their constituents figured out that they voted for the bailouts while posing as opponents to them. The creeps in bold are the ones who voted NO the first time, then switched their vote under pressure from Boehner's goon squad.
Judy Biggert (R-IL)
Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)
Vern Buchanan (R-FL)
Ken Calvert (R-CA)
Dave Camp (R-MI)
John Campbell (R-CA)
David Dreier (R-CA)
Vern Ehlers (R-MI)
Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)
Jim Gerlach (R-PA)
Wally Herger (R-CA)
Pete Hoekstra (R-MI)- running for Senate now
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Peter King (R-NY)
John Kline (R-MN)
Dan Lungren (R-CA)
Buck McKeon (R-CA)
Gary Miller (R-CA)
Sue Myrick (R-NC)
Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH)
Pete Sessions (R-TX)
Chris Shays (R-CT)- running for Senate now
John Sullivan (R-OK)
Mac Thornberry (R-TX)
Pat Tiberi (R-OH)
Fred Upton (R-MI)
Frank Wolf (R-VA)

Aapparently we as a society haven't learned a hell of a lot. If you'd like to help Grayson get back into Congress, you can do that here at the Blue America ActBlue page. With Barney leaving the House Financial Services Committee, we need Grayson back in there more than ever.

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Now that Jeff Madrick's new robber barons have voided Robert Reich's "basic bargain" . . . ah heck, let's look at GQ's Least Influential People Alive


"In other words," says Jeff Madrick, "Occupy Wall Street’s
claim that 'We are the 99 percent' is dead on right."

"[C]orporate profits now constitute the largest share of the economy since 1929.

"1929, by the way, was the year of the Great Crash that ushered in the Great Depression."

-- Robert Reich, in his op-ed "Restore the Basic Bargain"

[T]he Robber Barons may have kept money due to monopoly advantages and their power over workers. All the while they were adding to GDP by building oil and steel giants, railroads, and mass production companies from chewing gum to cars.

"Today’s people at the top exploit workers in somewhat different ways. . . . Wall Street helps creates a culture in which it is considered okay for a company to fire workers while giving its CEO a giant raise. . . . [M]uch else of what happens on Wall Street has nothing to do with the real economy, except to waste hundreds of billions of misdirected savings that are plowed back into useless speculation and casino-like gambling by the very rich on trades among themselves."

-- Jeff Madrick, in the New York Review of Books
"America's New Robber Barons"

by Ken

I had wanted to take a close look at these two terrific pieces, and admire the way they interlock. Well, the way they interlock is pretty obvious, I think, and rather than have me summarize and paraphrase the pieces, I'm sure you'd rather read them yourself.

In case it's not obvious what Robert Reich means by "the basic bargain":
For most of the last century, the basic bargain at the heart of the American economy was that employers paid their workers enough to buy what American employers were selling.

That basic bargain created a virtuous cycle of higher living standards, more jobs, and better wages.

Back in 1914, Henry Ford announced he was paying workers on his Model T assembly line $5 a day – three times what the typical factory employee earned at the time. The Wall Street Journal termed his action “an economic crime.”

But Ford knew it was a cunning business move. The higher wage turned Ford’s auto workers into customers who could afford to buy Model T’s. In two years Ford’s profits more than doubled.

That was then. Now, Ford Motor Company is paying its new hires half what it paid new employees a few years ago.

The basic bargain is over – not only at Ford but all over the American economy.

Meanwhile, I think of Jeff Madrick as a writer on economics who almost always guides us to the crux of matters, and you should really check out the way he zeroes in on the group we're calling the 1% ("In other words, Occupy Wall Street’s claim that 'We are the 99 percent' is dead on right.") -- or, really, the .1%, as we know -- in support of his basic proposition:
Though the situation is often described as a problem of inequality, this is not quite the real concern. The issue is runaway incomes at the very top—people earning a million and a half dollars or more according to the most recent data. And much of that runaway income comes from financial investments, stock options, and other special financial benefits available to the exceptionally rich—much of which is taxed at very low capital gains rates. Meanwhile, there has been something closer to stagnation for almost everyone else—including even for many people in the top 20 percent of earners.

But his more important point is that these latter-day "Robber Baron equivalents," as he describes them, are way worse than the old ones, who at least built something, produced dramatic increases in the GDP, whereas the .1%, while enriching themselves with their Wall Street-based games, simply suck wealth out of the economy.

Or, as Robert Reich would put it, they've smashed the former basic bargain, and in its place put . . . well, nothing.


Well, a few samples anyway. As writer Drew Magary explains: "For every Steve Jobs and every Warren Buffett, there's an equal and opposite nitwit who spent 2011 devouring attention and contributing nothing to productive society. We salute the great artisans of utter uselessness with the one celebratory year-end list you don't want to be on."

1. Tim Pawlenty
Every election season produces a number of hilariously pointless candidates who have no chance of winning. Some of them have value as novelty items. Look! It's Alan Keyes, the token black Republican! And over there! It's David Duke! He's a racist! These are the fun, fringy candidates. The Sharpton Sector, if you will. Then there are folks like Pawlenty, who fail to register even as novelties. T-Paw (as he calls himself) spent much of 2011 as a six-foot-tall paperweight, an aggressively forgettable fellow perfectly suited to the role of debate filler. The $1 million he spent to lose the Iowa straw poll might as well have been burned in front of a group of orphans.

[Editor's note: OMG, was that in this election cycle that T-Paw thought he was a force-to-be-reckoned-with candidate?]

5. Team Spider-Man (Bono, the Edge, and Julie Taymor)
Here's an amazing idea. Let's spend $65 million on a musical about Spider-Man, because kids who like Spider-Man and old Jewish tourists who like to go to Broadway shows are totally the same demographic. Now, we're going to need a batch of forgettable U2 B sides and a harness system designed by Lyle Lanley from The Simpsons' monorail episode. And let's make sure there's a shoe-shopping number! Who's with me? It can't possibly fail!

24. John Boehner
There once was a time when politicians openly courted the wingnut fringe of their respective parties to get their votes, then had the good sense to ignore those imbeciles once they took office. Those days are over. Boehner, who always looks like someone made him stay at work much longer than he wanted to, represents the self-fulfilling prophecy of open cynicism toward the U.S. government: a politician who was elected specifically to not give a shit.

25. President Obama
Okay, so we're cheating a bit with this one. He did order the raid that wiped Osama bin Laden off the face of the earth. But then he used that surplus of political capital to let everyone in Washington stick a boot in his ass. This is a man who should be the most transformational figure of the century. Hell, he promised to be that. Instead he wields all the power of a substitute teacher at night school.

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Grandma Knows Best... About Latkes-- Not About Health Care Though


Growing up, my grandparents were the most important people in my life. When my parents would piss me off, I'd run away from home by packing up my stuff in a paper bag and taking the bus all the way across Brooklyn from Kings Highway to Bensonhurst. My grandfather, was a small businessman and a Socialist Party activist. He taught me about politics and about the entrepreneurial spirit. His spirit still informs my entire life. My grandmother was even more important in giving me a spiritual foundation. She was so pro-American though. Everything was better in America. And since she came from Europe, I figured she knew what she was talking about. It was tough for me during the War Against Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement because I was really beginning to question America. My grandmother was against the war to, and against Nixon and for equal rights. But she insisted-- and I never questioned-- that no country did health care like America.

Years later I came to understand that because she came from a rural shetl in Ukraine when she was 3 years old, she didn't really know about health care anywhere else and her opinion... well, it wasn't really a well-informed opinion. It was just based on her love of America and maybe on the fact that there was health care, or at least more advanced health care than was available in the shetl.

But back then, didn't everyone think everything was better in America? Doctors, for sure... and everything we made. Now we don't make much anymore... and I can tell you, most of the doctors I've gone to don't know shit. And health care-- it costs the most of anywhere in the world and doesn't get the best results. I lived overseas for around 7 years and later had an office in London and spent a lot of time in Europe. I started noticing health care was not just free, but also, over all, better.

Of course if you're part of the 1%, health care can work pretty well for you in America. Still not great-- but way better than for the 99%... not to mention the increasing number of people falling out of the middle class. Republicans, who don't seem to consider anyone not part of the 1% in any policies they formulate, still insist American health care is the best. And if it isn't, it's because of Romneycare Obamacare, which has barely kicked in yet, except in Massachusetts, where health care is actually better than in more backwards places, like, say, the Old Confederacy. Former insurance executive Wendell Potter shed some light on this yesterday.
A little more than a year ago, on the day after the GOP regained control of the House of Representatives, Speaker-to-be John Boehner said one of the first orders of business after he took charge would be the repeal of health care reform.

"I believe that the health care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world, and bankrupt our country," Boehner said at a press conference. "That means we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with common sense reforms to bring down the cost of health care.”

Boehner is not the first nor the only Republican to try to make us believe that the U.S. has the world’s best health care system and that we’re bound to lose that distinction because of Obamacare. I’ve heard GOP candidates for president say the same thing in recent months, charging that we need to get rid of a President who clearly is trying to fix something that doesn’t need fixing, something that isn’t broken in the first place.

Well, those guys need to get out more. Out of the country, in fact. They need to travel to at least one of the many countries that are doing a much better job of delivering high quality care at much lower costs than the good old USA.

If they’re not interested in a fact-finding mission abroad, then perhaps they might take a look at two recent reports before they make any other statements about the quality of American health care.

Last week, the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD) released the results of its most recent study of the health care systems in its member countries, including the U.S., plus six others, for a total of 40. And those results are illuminating.

If Boehner and his fellow Republicans had characterized the U.S. system as the most expensive in the world, they would have been right on target. But they would have been way off base by calling it the best.

The OECD report is just the most recent evidence that Americans are not getting nearly as much bang for the health care buck as citizens of most other developed countries-- and even some countries in the developing world.

The OECD found that the United States spends two-and-a-half times more on health care per person than the OECD average. The U.S. even spends more than twice as much as France, which many experts contend has one of the best health care systems on the planet.

The average expenditure per person in the U.S. is $7,960, a third more than in Norway, the second highest. The OECD average, by comparison, is just $3,233. (It is $3,873 in France.)

Here are some reasons why: Hospital spending is 60 percent higher than the average of five other relatively expensive countries (Switzerland, Canada, Germany, France and Japan); spending on pharmaceuticals and medical goods is much higher here than any of the other countries; and administrative costs are more than two-and-a-half times the average of the others.

It was not all bad news for us. We’re number one in the five-year breast cancer survival rate and number two (behind Japan) in the five-year colorectal cancer survival rate. We’re also number one in costly knee replacements and number two (again behind Japan) in the number of MRI units per million people.

But we rank 29th in the number of hospital beds per person and 29th in the average length of a stay in the hospital. And we have high rates of avoidable hospital admissions for people with asthma, lung disease, diabetes, hypertension and other common illnesses.

When it comes to access to physicians, we’re also near the bottom of the pack. We rank 26th in the number of physicians, especially primary care or family doctors, per 1,000 people.

In terms of life expectancy, we rank 28th, just behind Chile. The average age of death in the U.S. is 78.2, well below the average of 79.5 years in the other OCED countries.

The OECD study backs up the results of a report released by the Commonwealth Fund in October, which showed that the U.S. is actually losing ground to other countries in assuring that its citizens have equal access to affordable, efficient care.

The Commonwealth Fund “scorecard” found that the U.S. is failing to keep up with gains in health outcomes made by other nations. We now rank last out of 16 countries in the Commonwealth Fund study when it comes to deaths that could have been prevented by timely and effective medical care.

A big reason for the dismal results is the fact that more and more Americans are falling into the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured. As of last year, according to the Commonwealth Fund, 81 million adults in the U.S.-- 44 percent of all adults under age 65-- were either uninsured or underinsured at some point during the year, up from 61 million as recently as 2003.

So the next time you hear a politician claim that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world, be aware that he or she is trying to get you to believe something that is demonstrably not true, undoubtedly for no reason other than to advance their political agenda. We deserve better-- in both rhetoric and results.

Alas, that isn't why Republicans keep pointing to Chile as a model though.

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Mitt Romney = Thurston Howell III-- How Will That Go Over In Euro-Zone?


If you're too young to remember Gilligan's Island don't worry. It doesn't matter and anyone who reads DWT already knows Mitt Romney was born into the 1% and has made himself an icon of that set. But the video above will give you a little idea about ole Thurston; too bad he wasn't named Willard. But this is a serious post and I'm going to stop clowning around... right now!

With the Euro-- if not the whole Eurozone-- circling the toilet, Obama, at least for domestic consumption, says "we're" not bailing their banksters out. We'll see who underwrites the IMF.
The annual meeting between U.S. and European Union officials came amid growing fears over the future of the euro. Experts say that without drastic action, the euro could be days away from collapsing, a scenario that could cause more financial damage to the already shaky American economy.

While Obama offered no specifics on how the U.S. may be willing to assist Europe, he said failing to resolve the continent's debt crisis could damage a U.S. economy saddled with slow growth and 9 percent unemployment.

"If Europe is contracting, or if Europe is having difficulties, then it's much more difficult for us to create good here jobs at home," Obama said at the conclusion of the day-long summit.

While Obama has offered support to his European peers, the U.S. believes the Europeans have the financial capacity to solve the debt crisis on their own.

Sounds fishy and it's inconceivable that U.S. taxpayers won't be called upon to shoulder part of this burden-- a burden entirely created by... Wall Street, the same gang of well-dressed crooks and thugs that has gone unpunished for preying on Americans the same way they've preyed on the rest of the world. The Germans are being told to man up and save Europe-- something than can bring it's own peculiar set of problems for people who like their own national identity and stuff like democracy. Germany has already nixed democratic participation for Greece and Italy in exchange for some quick, grudging cash.
Germany is the only country in Europe that can act to save the eurozone and the wider European Union from “a crisis of apocalyptic proportions,” the Polish foreign minister warned on Monday in a passionate call for more drastic action to prevent the collapse of the European monetary union.

...Yet their calls were met by a stubborn insistence in Berlin that only EU treaty change to forge a “stability union” in the eurozone would revive confidence in the markets.

Wolfgang Schäuble, German finance minister, rejected calls for the European Central Bank to act as a “lender of last resort” in the eurozone, and for the introduction of jointly guaranteed eurozone bonds to relieve the pressure on the most debt-strapped members of the common currency such as Greece and Italy.

Germany was not big enough to support the rest of the eurozone on its own, Mr Schäuble told foreign correspondents in Berlin. The way to win back the confidence of the markets was to complete monetary union with a “stability union” based on strict budget discipline enshrined in the treaties of the EU.

In a startling comment for a senior Polish minister, Mr Sikorski declared that the biggest threat to his nation’s security was not terrorism, or German tanks, or even Russian missiles, but “the collapse of the eurozone."

“I demand of Germany that, for your own sake and for ours, you help it survive and prosper,” he said. “You know full well that nobody else can do it. I will probably be the first Polish foreign minister in history to say so, but here it is: I fear German power less than I am beginning to fear German inactivity. You have become Europe’s indispensable nation.”

Yet he backed Germany’s drive for deeper integration in the EU and the eurozone. The member states faced a stark choice between “deeper integration or collapse,” he warned, challenging the UK government to support reform, or “risk a partial dismantling” of the union. “We would prefer you in, but if you cannot join, please allow us to forge ahead,” he said.

His call for the EU member states to decide whether they wanted to become “a proper federation” is in line with the German government’s insistence that only much closer political integration is essential to underpin the existing rules of the eurozone.

So how is this Wall Street's fault. Good question. And let's turn to a real expert to help answer it-- Professor David Korten, an economist whose new book, Agenda For A New Economy actually has the answer... many answers. In 2005, he cites Forbes as reporting that the world has 691 billionaires. Just three years later that number had risen to 1,250-- with a combined net worth at $4.4 trillion. According to a United Nations University study, the richest 2% of world’s people now own 51% of all the world’s assets. The poorest 50% own only 1%.
An extreme and growing concentration of privatized wealth and power divides the world between the profligate and the desperate, intensifies competition for Earth's resources, undermines the legitimacy of our institutions [Europe's too-- big time], drives an unraveling of the social fabric of mutual trust and caring, and fuels the forces of terrorism, crime, and environmental destruction.

...As Wall Street exported its modernization plan to the world, the wealth gap widened almost everywhere. The export process began with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund [IMF] encouraging poor countries to fund their development with foreign borrowing. Local elites loved the access to cheap credit and the opportunity to skim off fees and bribes. Foreign contractors got lucrative contracts for large loan-funded projects. And big banks had new customers for loans. It was a win-win all around-- except for the poor who only got the bill.

After the borrowing countries were loaded up with loans far beyond their ability to repay, the World Bank and IMF stepped in as debt collectors and told them:
Sorry, but since you can't repay, we are here to restructure your economies so we can get back the money you owe us. Eliminate social spending. Cut taxes on the rich to attract foreign investment. Sell your natural resources to foreign corporations. Privatize your public assets and services. Gear your agriculture and manufacturing to production for export to subsidize consumption in rich countries. [Of course they didn't use the term subsidize. They probably talked about comparative advantage.] And open your borders to foreign imports...

Almost every element of the “structural adjustment” worked to the favor of global corporations.

Eventually the Wall Street players realized they could use multilateral trade agreements to circumvent democracy and restructure everyone's economy at the same time. It worked brilliantly.

Korten wrote that last year. It's actually working-- if not "brilliantly," depending on perspective of course-- right now. This week... today. Teabaggers and Republicans "warn" they don't want to see the U.S. turn into another Greece. But that's exactly what the hidden-- and not so hidden-- string pullers have always been aiming for... and the useful idiots are still shouting their mass-market researched slogans for them on the mass media outlets the 1% entirely own. Go Thurston! Go Willard! Remember Charles Pierce's fantastic book, Idiot America a few years back? More recently he's been trying to figure out what's up with all this Romney-hatred in the GOP. And he's an expert. He gave Esquire the scoop.
I've cast my memory back as far as I can, and I cannot recall a major politician of either party who causes so many members of his party to spit (metaphorically, one hopes) at the simple mention of his name. And this is not a recent phenomenon. One of the few insights worthy of anyone's time in that horrible Game Change book was the fact that, by the end of the 2008 presidential cycle, all of the other Republican candidates had come to despise Willard. (John McCain was apoplectic on the subject, even by McCain's standards, which are considerable.) This now has seemed to transfer itself to the Republican electorate in general. Nobody likes this guy. To hell with drinking a beer with him. If they'd got stuck in a bar with Willard, the only way they'd drink hemlock with the man is if he let them go first.

On the surface, this elemental loathing seems disproportionate, even if you take into account how much of the GOP's Jesus-jammin' base distrusts the extended coven into which Romney was born. As governor of Massachusetts, Willard was relatively unobjectionable. He wasn't as much fun as Bill Weld and his amber-colored liquids, or Paul Cellucci and his love of the track, to name only two of his immediate elected Republican predecessors. But nobody much minded him, especially when he sort of gave up on the job midway through his one term. Now, it is true that Willard is something of a foof who spends all his time falling a few yards short of sincerity. He speaks a form of trust-fund English that can be off-putting. He is as utterly unprincipled as a politician can be, and he's about as trustworthy as a puff adder. None of these are an automatic disqualification for a presidential candidate. Even taken together, they add up to little more than Newt Gingrich with a silver spoon in his jowls. There has to be something more at work here.

As I've said, I've thought long and hard about this. Obviously, people in one party can work up a good hate for candidates in the other party. But, as far as hating one of their own the way so many Republicans hate Willard, and in the way they hate him, I can't come up with a relevant parallel. Bill Clinton was pretty slick, and some Democrats distrusted him for it, but, when Newt and the impeachers made a federal case out of Clinton's penis, Democrats largely rallied around it, and him. There was a lot of anger aimed at George H.W. Bush, when he helped save the economy by going back on his 1988 acceptance speech, thereby making Peggy Noonan out to be a liar, but I never got the sense that it was as personal as the anger at Romney is. (The elder Bush, it should be noted, was sufficiently patrician to make Romney sound like a member of P-Funk, but I digress.) Republicans didn't like Nixon much, but then, it should be said, nobody really did, which was half the problem. (Dislike was the white noise of Richard Nixon's entire life.) A lot of Democrats really, really hated LBJ, but it took an entire bloody war to do that. All Romney's done is change his position on a whole host of issues, and talk like the guy who's come to repossess the family farm.

Public Policy Polling released this morning seems to back up the assertions that almost everyone hates Romney and that that trend is growing the more voters get to know him. His net favorability among Republican primary voters-- sure they're mostly insane, but they're the deciders for now-- is plummeting.
On average Romney's favorability with primary voters was 54/25 in these 13 places at the begininng of the year. Now it's only 50/35. His problem is partially that his positives have gone down but more than that it's that as his name recognition has increased, most folks moving off the fence have gone into the negative column.

What's most remarkable about the decline in Romney's popularity is how uniform it's been-- he's less popular now than he was at the start of the year in all 13 places where there are polls to compare. And in 11 out of the 13 places that decline in his net favorability has been at least 14 points-- the only places with more modest declines are Maine and North Carolina.

This is why as Donald Trump and Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry and Herman Cain have risen and fallen Romney hasn't seen any increase in his support-- GOP voters just simply aren't warming up to him at all-- in fact they're going in the other direction.

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Willard vs Mitt-- The Story Of 2 Men Trapped In One Body


This week sure started off badly for Mitt Romney-- not as badly as today started for the British Embassy in Tehran... but badly. Aside from the two ads-- the one up top and the one below-- released by Democrats about his character, or lack of character, Republicans started attacking him as well. It's as though the Union Leader endorsement of Gingrich this weekend opened the floodgates-- at least for anti-Romney Republicans desperate enough to wound the Republican who will eventually they'll be supporting (even if with reluctance and distaste) against Obama. Yesterday Gingrich was in air in South Carolina rubbing it in: “I don’t claim to be the perfect candidate, I just claim to be a lot more conservative than Mitt Romney and a lot more electable than anybody else." Could anyone who thinks Romney is unfit because of his character and flip flops possibly get behind... Newt Gingrich? Huntsman was even meaner to his co-religionist. "Anyone who is in the hip pocket of Wall Street because of all the donations they are picking up, like Mr. Romney, is in these days not going to be the change agent who is going to fix the too-big-to-fail banking system," he told an audience in New Hampshire.

The Erick Erickson diary at Red State just further inflamed the rightists among the GOP activist base who already distrust, or even hate, Romney: Why Mitt Romney Will Be A terrible Nominee. He ran this video:

Erickson: "[M]y interpretation of this hit is pretty straight forward. The DNC is gambling that Romney will be the nominee, but they also know there is a lot of angst with the GOP. By hitting Romney now they can potentially drag out the pain of the Republican Primary before doing what every Democrat and Beltway Pundit in America thinks-- settling for Romney, a guy they will have already defined as a flip-flopper."

And, as Greg Sargent pointed out at the Washington Post Democrats are pounding Romney on his "multiple choice Mitt" deportation flip flops.
As I suspected, Mitt Romney’s denunciation of Newt Gingrich’s sensible and humane suggestion that we shouldn’t deport long-time illegal residents of the United States is quickly emerging as a flashpoint in the campaign.

The Obama campaign quickly convened a conference call to hammer Mitt Romney over the issue, and linked it to other Romney positions that that the campaign hopes will alienate Latino voters. It’s a sign that the Obama campaign is aggressively moving to gain a head start in energizing Latinos, whose engagement in next year’s election remains uncertain.

“He is the most right wing presidential candidate on this issue in recent presidential history,” Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said on the conference call. “He attacked Speaker Gingrich for saying we should have a humane immigration policy. He’s now opposed to comprehensive immigration reform. He’s opposed to the DREAM act. He wants to roll back the investments we made in Pell Grants that have [given] hundreds of thousands of Hispanic children the opportunity for a higher education. He wants to roll back the Affordable Care Act and their health care benefits.”

...“Gov. Romney is somebody who once claimed to support comprehensive immigration reform,” LaBolt said. “But now he’s a candidate that’s absolutely demagogued the issue of immigration in a politically craven way because he believes that it serves his political interests.”

Between this and yesterday’s false Romney ad attacking Obama on the economy-- and the massive Dem pushback to it-- it’s hard to avoid a sense that we’re approaching something like full general election engagement between the two campaigns, even though the GOP primary voting hasn’t even started.

So who's the polar opposite of Mitt Romney? Obama? We wish! Go further back in the history of the universal human experience and you'll come up with... Jesus, the not-Romney, a much better not-Romney than Newt or Perry or the Hermanator-- an even better not-Romney than Bachmann. Rev. Howard Bess asks-- and answers-- a question all Christians, all Americans, should be asking themselves: would Jesus have joined the OccupyWallStreet Movement? You bet! It's worth hitting that link directly above and reading the whole thing, but I'll give away the ending:
Christians should thank the current Occupy Wall Street protesters for their message and their activism. They are doing our justice work for us. The current crop of national bank leaders are being shown to be just as corrupt as the Temple bankers were in Jesus’s day.

If Jesus were present among us today, he would be moving from Portland, to Los Angeles, to Kansas City, to Dallas, up to Chicago and on to Wall Street in New York City. He would join the protest in every city. He would be demanding an overhaul of our financial and banking system. He would be standing with the poor and their allies-- and against the rich and their protectors.

When Jesus pursued the corruption of his own day, the representatives of the religious and political status quo killed him. And Jesus said to his followers “take up your cross and follow me.”

Romney is still the darling of the 1% of course. He was born into that and understands and fully embraces their perspective. Creepy multi-billionaire, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, for example, fresh off comparing raising taxes on the rich to the Nazis invading Poland, is raising big bucks for Romney. Romney's campaign is already just plain sleazy-- something that doesn't bother money-obsessed greed hogs and vampires like Schwarzman. Watch this: "The leading Republican candidate is failing the trust test."

UPDATE: Empty Suit

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen got to the heart of what Romney is all about this morning:
Mitt Romney runs for president with the eye of a venture capitalist. He sees the profit in certain positions, discards those that are no longer profitable and moves on. He was pro-choice when it did him some good, instituted a health insurance plan that he now denounces and once supported amnesty for some illegal immigrants. Richard III offered his kingdom for a horse. Romney offers his principles for some votes in Iowa.

Amnesty for undocumented immigrants has become a GOP pariah and a matter of some passion among Iowa Republican caucus-goers-- about 0.05 percent of the national electorate. Reasonable men-- even unreasonable ones -- have been hurt by the issue. John McCain spent much of the 2008 campaign backing away from an amnesty plan he had supported, and it is conceivable that he chose Sarah Palin for his ticket just so people would talk about something else. No other explanation comes to mind.

...As a venture capitalist, Romney created jobs and he destroyed them. It was all the same to him. Only profit mattered-- the end, not the means. But a shrinking middle class is going to exacerbate ethnic and racial tensions, and America is no exception to the ugly verities of human nature. Gingrich acknowledged this, saying that America would never give 11 million people the boot. Romney, provided the chance to agree, just looked the other way, his eye as always on the bottom line. In the short term, there’s no profit in moderation.

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Why Does The Domestic Fascist Movement In America Want to Destroy Social Security?


Vermont's Independent Senator Bernie Sanders explains it-- along with the Koch Bros echo chamber that is shoving fascism down American's throats. Does your senator or congresscritter ever talk about this? That's why Bernie is the senator, not just for Vermont, but for the 99%. He sure has his work cut out for him. If you'd like to help him stay in the Senate-- and add two women to that body who will be helping him fight the Kochs... please consider contributing here. Watch the film first. Watch it twice... send it to your friends.

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Santa joins the Austerity Corps: "Hey, look, Johnny, you ain't getting all that"


And that includes that job for Daddy you
were whining about, you little snot

Santas-in-training at the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Midland, MI, learn how to size up families in need of having the big guy lower the boom on the kiddies' expectations.

"Santas -- including the 115 of them in this year’s graduating class of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School -- must learn to swiftly size up families' financial circumstances, gently scale back children's Christmas gift requests and even how to answer the wish some say they have been hearing with more frequency -- 'Can you bring my parent a job?' "

by Ken

CONFIDENTIAL TO VIRGINIA: Yeah, sweetheart, there's a Santa Claus, in fact a million of 'em. But those lazy, ungrateful elves have been slacking off (damn unions!), so don't get your hopes up for this Christmas -- or, while you're lowering your expectations, probably for any Christmas in the near future. Ho-ho-ho to you!

"Here, at the nation's oldest, most celebrated, school for would-be Santa Clauses," the NYT's Davey reports from the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Howland, Michigan, "much has stayed exactly the same over its nearly 75 years."
A proper Claus ought to have pleasant breath, his beard curled just so and a hearty laugh that rumbles not from the throat but from deep below the diaphragm.

Yet this year, from the holiday parades, to the cheery carols piping from Main Street loudspeakers, to the "this way to Santa" lines at shopping centers, something more sobering has cast its shadow: the economic slump.

The result is a Christmas season in which Santas -- including the 115 of them in this year's graduating class of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School -- must learn to swiftly size up families' financial circumstances, gently scale back children's Christmas gift requests and even how to answer the wish some say they have been hearing with more frequency -- "Can you bring my parent a job?"

Santas in Howland "tell of children who appear on their laps with lists that include the latest, most expensive toys" while their parents, "standing off to the side, stealthily but imploringly shak[e] their heads no." Then again --
some, like Fred Honerkamp, have been visited by children whose expectations seem to have sunk to match the gloom; not long ago, a boy asked him for only one item -- a pair of sneakers that actually fit.

But lowered expectations are by no means the rule, even in these dire times, and --
Some Santas say they now feel a larger obligation to speak up in the face of giant, expensive wish lists, an obligation to lower expectations in a way that only Santas (not parents) can get away with. At least one Santa, Gary Christie, had devised a specific routine for talking children out of their demand for an iPod or the like.

Another, Rick Parris, said, "When kids start asking for the world now, I just say, ‘Hey, look, Johnny, you ain't getting all that.' " The former Alabama state trooper added, "I just make sure to let them know that Santa seldom brings everything on a list."

Even with the economic downturn, not all the Christmas lists have grown shorter. Some children show up with elaborate printouts, cross-referenced spread sheets and clippings from catalogs. "I try to guide the children into not so unrealistic things, and I do tell them that Santa's been cutting back too," said Tom Ruperd, of Caro, Mich., who added that parents often silently signal their appreciation.

"In the end," says Fred Honerkamp, the Howard school grad-turned-lecturer who observed those diminished juvenile expectations, "Santas have to be sure to never promise anything."

The article will tell you most everything you've wanted to know about being a professional Santa, if not more. For one thing, it appears that many members of this year's record-size class at the Charles W. Howard school, founded in 1937 in Albion, New York, by a former Macy's Santa of that name with a view to professionalizing the Santa gig (the move to Michigan was made in 1986 when another veteran Santa, Thomas Valent, took over the operation), look at it as something of a last-resort jobs program.
"I'm trying it," said Joe Stolte, who, at 28, was decades younger than most of the bearded, portly, jarringly similar-looking men in rows all around him. "There are no jobs out there -- it's ridiculous," he said, adding that he had been surviving by doing odd jobs and cutting lawns in Saginaw and that his mother had helped him come up with the tuition ($400 for first-timers, $350 for others). "I like being Santa Claus. And I figure it comes once a year. It's a thing that's going to be there."

It's surprising that none of the GOP presidential "candidates" are featuring this as a centerpiece of their economic "programs." Really now, Paul Ryan, where are you when your country's crackpots need you?

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