Saturday, March 31, 2012

Is The Situation In San Diego Salvageable For Progressives? A Guest Post By John Brooks


When dedicated southern California progressive icon, Bob Filner, decided not to seek reelection to Congress and try for the San Diego mayor's job instead, Sacramento Democrats, eager to get hideously conservative and corrupt Insurance Industry shill Sen. Juan Vargas out of their hair, largely backed Vargas' bid for the House seat. They don't seem to care that they would be responsible for sending one of the worst possible Democrats in California politics to take part in an important legislative process. As Filner himself pointed out a few years ago:
"While Juan has not yet been convicted of a crime, virtually everyone closest to him has been found guilty of something. Juan's former Chief-of Staff and handpicked successor on the San Diego City Council is now a convicted felon. Another of Juan's political cronies made millions off the poorest people in National City as a slumlord and recently, Juan's chief campaign consultant was convicted of a felony for misusing public money... If Juan truly didn't have any knowledge of the crimes his close associates have committed then he may well be the most clueless man in America."

We asked John Brooks, who is offering a real alternative to the sleazy corporate pay-for-play politics Vargas represents, to tell us more about himself and why he's decided on this almost quixotic endeavor. Please take a look and consider if you'd like to help John beat back the cynicism and corruption of the corrupt Democratic Party machine in a district where whomever gets elected is likely to have a job for life.

Why I am running for Congress

-by John Brooks

Public and community service is a tradition in my family. My father was a Korean War Veteran and when he returned home he became an Oakland Police Officer. I come from a family of Veterans and Union Workers. I was taught from an early age to take pride in community service. My grandfather was a card carrying NAACP member from the early 1950s and worked as a Union Welder. I was raised to serve and support the community, which is why I am running for office now.

I have always served my country proudly. I spent 30 years in the United States Department of the Interior, retiring as a Special Agent. I worked both nationally and internationally to protect wildlife from trafficking and extinction. After 9/11, I volunteered to serve as an Air Marshall so that I could do my part and help people feel safe flying again.

In Congressional District 51, chronic unemployment runs rampant while our children are being denied the basic education needed to be successful. While career politicians are busy arguing over their own personal interests, we are ignored.

I grew up in Oakland during the '60s and '70s and I can tell you right now I had more opportunity back then, with all that was going on, than children have today in this District.

A majority of students in the 51st District are underserved Latino and low income students who face big disparities in school and future outcomes. San Diego and Imperial Counties have some of the lowest test scores and biggest achievement gaps in California; which means we are failing a majority of our students. This isn’t a “teacher” or a “being poor” problem, this is a leadership problem.

My opponents are the same Elected Officials who have been representing the 51st Congressional District in one seat or another for the last 15 years. Maybe their experience is the problem.

I am not running for Congress to play “politics.” I am running to give the people of the 51st District responsive representation and the opportunities they deserve.


Improving the economy and creating jobs starts with fixing Education and making it priority number one from day one. NCLB must be ended. Teachers must be given the proper pay, support and in-career training to further their craft of teaching our children. This will help us attract the best teachers and retain them. Schools should be transformed into community centers. Year after year voters have approved bond measures that fix, maintain, and build new schools and yet most of the community has never stepped foot in these buildings. Schools need to be open all day and night offering classes to adults and senior citizens.

Education is the focus of my campaign. California’s education system is in trouble and 51st Congressional District is in crisis. The achievement gap is crippling the futures of South San Diego and Imperial County. A majority of students in the 51st District fall into achievement gap groups such as Latino and Low Income. San Diego and Imperial Counties have some of the worst achievement gap test scores in California; which means we are failing a majority of our students.

One of the major indicators in achievement gap groups is that the parents have not gone to college and large percentages have not finished High School. Involving parents and creating opportunities for career training and adult education in the schools at night gives the children a model of participation and importance that they begin to emulate. Bring in the idea that while the adults are in class that children can take elective courses such as art and music, or further support classes; it begins to close the gap. Also add in transitional education and senior classes for the elderly you have engaged the entire community.

These schools have phenomenal resources built in to be community service centers where we can also create programs like preventive health care clinics, nutritional education and exercise classes. These programs have the added benefit of also putting teachers back to work.

Another area of major importance will be to institute Financial and Civic literacy programs for children and adults. Poverty is cyclical for a reason. An engaged and educated community is an empowered community that votes more often and engages in local and national discussions.

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Is there any point in answering back to Justice Nino's broccoli blithering? Paul Krugman seems to think so


Justice Nino's got broccoli on the brain.

"[T]he second day of hearings suggested that the justices most hostile to the law don't understand, or choose not to understand, how insurance works. And the third day was, in a way, even worse, as anti-reform justices appeared to embrace any argument, no matter how flimsy, that they could use to kill reform."
-- Paul Krugman, on the Supreme Court's health care oral arguments, in the NYT column "Of Broccoli and Bad Faith"

The other day I declined to attempt to parse the shockingly ignorant and irresponsible questioning of the thug-justices during the Supreme Court's oral arguments on the new health-care law. My thinking was that (a) at this point it was no longer necessary and (b) there isn't much point.

After all the Supremes aren't answerable to anyone, and the worst perpetrator, Justice Nino, has been doing it for decades and will undoubtedly continue to do so until his bloated carcass is dragged out of the Court's chambers. For a man always claimed to have one of the great legal minds in, say, the history of Western civilization, the stuff that comes out of his mouth would generally be embarrassing spoken by a backward high school freshman. When he goes into his sarcastic mode, as I observed in (apparently) an earlier draft of that post, he is one of the most loathsome life forces in the known universe.

Dittor for "Mini-Nino," Justice "Sammy the Hammer" Alito, who seems to share the original Nino's fondness for applying what he regards as "common sense" to matters of judicial dispute. It's very much of a piece with the Frothing Right's standard argument that the job of Supreme Court justices, indeed of any judges, is "simply to apply the law (or the Constitution)," end of conversation.

Some of the people who say this are simple-minded enough to believe that such a thing is possible, but you wouldn't think that the opinion of people this profoundly, cosmicaly, cripplingly stupid would be of any consequence. Then there are lots of people who know how stupid the "simply apply the law (or the Constitution)" idea is. They say it because they believe they're lying sacks of doody, who probably believe that right-wingers have an uncontested right to law anytime it's convenient, because they're in possession of, you know, higher truths.

It really doesn't matter who's motivated by which. I think Justice Nino and Sammy the Hammer are smart enough to know they're lying, although in Sammy's case, it's possible that his belief that he by God pulled himself up by his bootstraps means that anyone can and therefore there's no reason why he shouldn't continue to see the job of the courts as protecting the rich and powerful against the inconsiderate, ungrateful importuning of the poor and powerless. Rather self-evidently, then, Justice Sammy's judicial hammer blows aren't based so much on "simply applying the law" as fondly self-regarding reflection on his own life story -- this by one of the most aggressively unreflective humans in public life.

(I do sometimes think that "swing" thug-justice "Slow Anthony" Kennedy really is doing his best to understand legal mattes that come before him and his best just isn't very good. How scary is it that more and more we hear of lawyers framing legal arguments, and even judges writing opinions, in such a way as to conform to the convoluted reasoning of Slow Anthony's recorded opinions, in presumed hope of his having their backs if their cases reach him for deliberation. The mind reels.)

To get back to the health care oral arguments, I think perhaps Paul Krugman is right to insist on pushing back. First, I guess it really is important to have the obvious answers to nonsense like Justice Nino's broccoli blitherings on the record. And second, over the long haul, in some sense Supreme Court justices are answerable to public opinion. It happens ever so slowly and imperfectly, but most justices really do have a level of concern for what they perceive as what "the people" think.

One obvious way in which the "simply apply the law (or the Constitution)" motif dissolves is that if the Court is going to rule on the federal government's constitutional limits in regulating interstate commerce, it has to have a set of understandings about what "commerce" is. Let's go back to Krugman.
Let's start with the already famous exchange in which Justice Antonin Scalia compared the purchase of health insurance to the purchase of broccoli, with the implication that if the government can compel you to do the former, it can also compel you to do the latter. That comparison horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli.

Why? When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don't make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don't buy health insurance until they get sick -- which is what happens in the absence of a mandate -- the worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn't work, and never has.

Of course at this point Nino thinks he has struck to the heart of the matter with his penetrating wit. Or maybe he thinks he's dumped a powerful enough load of bullshit to end a discussion he doesn't see any reason to have, not because of the law or the Constitution but because it doesn't accord with the Law According to Justice Nino.

Professor Krugman insists on having some of that discussion anyway. He knows the thugs of the Roberts Court 5 aren't listening, but maybe he thinks smarter and less dishonest people may be.
There are at least two ways to address this reality -- which is, by the way, very much an issue involving interstate commerce, and hence a valid federal concern. One is to tax everyone -- healthy and sick alike -- and use the money raised to provide health coverage. That's what Medicare and Medicaid do. The other is to require that everyone buy insurance, while aiding those for whom this is a financial hardship.

Are these fundamentally different approaches? Is requiring that people pay a tax that finances health coverage OK, while requiring that they purchase insurance is unconstitutional? It's hard to see why -- and it's not just those of us without legal training who find the distinction strange. Here's what Charles Fried -- who was Ronald Reagan's solicitor general -- said in a recent interview with The Washington Post: "I've never understood why regulating by making people go buy something is somehow more intrusive than regulating by making them pay taxes and then giving it to them."

Indeed, conservatives used to like the idea of required purchases as an alternative to taxes, which is why the idea for the mandate originally came not from liberals but from the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation. (By the way, another pet conservative project -- private accounts to replace Social Security -- relies on, yes, mandatory contributions from individuals.)

Krugman notes that Charles Fried doesn't believe there's actually been a change in legal thinking. "Mr. Fried thinks that it's just politics -- and other discussions in the hearings strongly support that perception."
I was struck, in particular, by the argument over whether requiring state governments to participate in an expansion of Medicaid -- an expansion, by the way, for which they would foot only a small fraction of the bill -- constituted unacceptable "coercion." One would have thought that this claim was self-evidently absurd. After all, states are free to opt out of Medicaid if they choose; Medicaid's "coercive" power comes only from the fact that the federal government provides aid to states that are willing to follow the program's guidelines. If you offer to give me a lot of money, but only if I perform certain tasks, is that servitude?

Yet several of the conservative justices seemed to defend the proposition that a federally funded expansion of a program in which states choose to participate because they receive federal aid represents an abuse of power merely because states have become dependent on that aid.

Justice Sotomayor seems to have had here a moment of epiphany as to what the kind of legal minds she's signed on to co-adjudicate with.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor seemed boggled by this claim: "We're going to say to the federal government, the bigger the problem, the less your powers are. Because once you give that much money, you can't structure the program the way you want." And she was right: It's a claim that makes no sense -- not unless your goal is to kill health reform using any argument at hand.

As I said, we don't know how this will go. But it's hard not to feel a sense of foreboding -- and to worry that the nation's already badly damaged faith in the Supreme Court's ability to stand above politics is about to take another severe hit.

I think Krugman's response is intellectually much more satisfying than mine -- i.e., throwing up my hands and saying "what's the use?" Whether his response will accomplish any more remains to be seen. I suppose it might be used as part of a campaign to educate the screamingly uneducated body politic of America. But I wouldn't hold my breath.

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Can The World Bank Be Turned Into A Force For Good Instead Of Evil?


Who wasn't relieved that President Obama passed on the temptation to put Wall Street-friendly hack Lawrence Summers into the presidency of the World Bank? (Aside from Summers crony Lant Pritchett.) Feels like the whole world dodged a bullet. And then this week I saw that his actual nominee, Jim Yong Kim, was running into criticism from the right for wanting to put brakes on predatory corporatism. The hubbub comes from the introduction to a book he edited in 2000, Dying For Growth: Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor. He wrote: "The studies in this book present evidence that the quest for growth in GDP and corporate profits has in fact worsened the lives of millions of women and men." And the Ayn Rand types blew their collective tops. An Op-Ed behind the Financial Times firewall came out this week that gives us an idea about what Kim hopes to accomplish as World Bank president.

My Call for an Open, Inclusive World Bank

By Dr. Jim Yong Kim

We live in a time of historic opportunity. Today more people live in fast-growing economies than at any time in history, and development can take root anywhere – regardless of whether a country is landlocked, just emerging from conflict or oppression, large or small. If we build on this, we can imagine a world in which billions of people in developing countries enjoy increases in their incomes and living standards. Given our collective experiences, successes and resources, it’s clear that we can eradicate global poverty and achieve in our lifetimes what for generations has been a distant dream.
My own life and work have led me to believe that inclusive development-- investing in human beings-- is an economic and moral imperative. I was born in South Korea when it was still recovering from war, with unpaved roads and low levels of literacy. I have seen how integration with the global economy can transform a poor country into one of the most dynamic and prosperous economies in the world. I have seen how investment in infrastructure, schools and health clinics can change lives. And I recognise that economic growth is vital to generate resources for investment in health, education and public goods.
Every country must follow its own path to growth, but our collective mission must be to ensure that a new generation of low and middle-income countries enjoys sustainable economic growth that generates opportunities for all citizens.
As co-founder of Partners in Health and director of the World Health Organisation’s initiative to treat HIV/Aids, I will bring practical experience to the World Bank. I have confronted the forces that keep more than 1bn people trapped in poverty. I have worked in villages where fewer than 1 in 10 adults could read or write, where preventable diseases cut lives short and where lack of infrastructure and capital held back entrepreneurs. In all those villages, the local people knew where improvement was needed.
But for change to happen, we need partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society to build systems that can deliver sustainable, scalable solutions. And as we work for global prosperity, we must draw on ideas and experience from around the globe.
My message is simple: an era of extraordinary opportunity requires an extraordinary global institution. I want to hear from developing countries, as well as those that provide a big share of the resources to development, about how we can together build a more inclusive, responsive and open World Bank.
A more inclusive World Bank will have the resources to advance its core mission of poverty reduction. It will have a governance structure that provides legitimacy and fosters trust and confidence. The Bank has recently achieved a historic capital increase and begun an ambitious programme to modernise its operations. It has also taken important steps to increase the voting power and participation of developing countries. If I am entrusted with the responsibility of leading the World Bank, I shall ensure this continues. If the World Bank is to promote inclusive development, it must give developing nations a greater voice.
A more responsive World Bank must meet the challenges of the moment but also foresee those of the future. The World Bank serves all countries. My focus will be to ensure that it provides a rapid, effective response to their needs. I will come with an open mind and apply my medical and social-science training to take an evidence-based approach.
Finally, a more open World Bank must recognise it does not have all the answers and listen closely to its clients and stakeholders. I have led a world-renowned higher education institution and I will ensure that the World Bank provides a platform for the exchange of ideas. It is already working more closely with a diverse array of partners and it can build on these changes. The Bank has taken significant steps to become more transparent and accountable: it must continue on this path of openness.
Opportunity is nothing without action. In the coming weeks, I look forward to hearing the views of the World Bank’s constituents-- clients, donors, governments, citizens and civil society-- as we forge a common vision to build an even stronger institution, prepared to meet the world’s needs in the 21st century.


Today's The Last Day Of The FEC Fundraising Quarter-- Have You Thought About Norman Solomon's Campaign?


This week Glenn Greenwald made the case for 3 of the most spectacular candidates running for Congress, anywhere, Franke Wilmer (MT), Cecil Bothwell (NC) and Norman Solomon (CA). If you're a DWT reader you already know all three and if you've been on the Blue America page this year, you've probably noticed that Blue America was the first national political action group to endorse each one of them and raise money for all three. Today, the last day of their fundraising quarter, would be a great day to contribute to 3 candidates who could make a substantial difference in the festering and dangerous cesspool that Washington, DC has become.

While other candidates have been sending out fluffy DCCC-penned donation letters asking for contributions, these 3 have taken seriously the idea of communicating ideas to voters in their districts. It's what makes them different from so many other candidates for Congress and what ties them together-- hopefully as part of the future leadership of the progressive movement. Let me concentrate on Norman today. Here are excerpts from two letters he sent northern California voters this week. The first was about the so-called "Patriot Act."
In a letter to the U.S. attorney general two weeks ago, Democratic Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall declared: "We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted section 215 of the Patriot Act. As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows."

I refuse to believe that Uncle Sam should be Big Brother.

...There's a lot of talk about how members of Congress should learn to compromise. But I will not compromise when the Bill of Rights is at stake.

On the campaign trail, I continue to denounce the National Defense Authorization Act. Signed into law three months ago, it violates precious civil liberties such as habeas corpus, due process and the right to legal representation.

I know the difference between appropriate compromise and odious capitulation.

...Civil liberties are at the core of American society. I will stand up for them no matter who is president.

This is absolutely not the messaging the DCCC is using to pasteurize and homogenize Democratic candidates across the country. Civil liberties is not an issue in their universe. They want "their" candidates to talk about jobs and Medicare and the Ryan Budget-- but not the way Norman does. This is what he sent voters in Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties Thursday.
For three days this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about the new healthcare law. Much of the legal and media debate focused on the merits of requiring Americans to obtain health insurance.

But healthcare is a human right. And as long as profit-driven insurance companies are at the center of healthcare, that right will remain unfulfilled-- while the cost curve keeps bending upward, and while countless patients and their families suffer needlessly.

That's why so many of us have marched, rallied, petitioned and lobbied for single-payer -- also known as enhanced Medicare for all-- the only healthcare solution.

For several years, I've co-chaired the national Healthcare Not Warfare campaign with Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association and Congressman John Conyers, the main sponsor of the single-payer bill H.R. 676.

One of the reasons U.S. Rep. Conyers has endorsed me in this race for Congress is that he knows the depth of my commitment to guaranteed, high-quality healthcare for all-- and he wants to work with me in the House of Representatives to achieve that goal.

Easy to see why progressive leaders like Conyers, Raul Grijalva, Dolores Huerta and Phil Donahue are urging Californians to elect Norman-- as are groups like DFA, SEIU, PDA and, of course, Blue America-- nor why party bosses in Washington are very nervous about it. And that brings us back to Greenwald's post at Salon, in which he flatly states that Norman "is about as close to a perfect Congressional candidate as it gets." No matter how enthusiastic someone or other is about any of his opponents, no one, except maybe their children, are going to say that about any of them.
Solomon demands diplomacy, not threats of military force, to resolve the current disputes with Iran. He decries the lack of criminal prosecutions for Wall Street defrauders and Bush torturers as a violation of the rule of law: “I thoroughly reject the convenient notion that we can’t look forward if we are also looking back to prosecute official crimes committed in the previous administration. On the contrary, our nation cannot move forward unless we address the crimes and abuses of the past.” He supports the legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage,”significant” military cuts, and vocally opposed the Wall Street bailout before it happened. Simply on principle, he has refused to take a dime of corporate PAC money or accept contributions from lobbyists.

When it comes to Congressional candidates, it just doesn’t get any better than Norman Solomon. If you have any residual doubt, just look at this remarkable 2007 TV appearance [below] he did on CNN with Glenn Beck, which he wrote about here, when he used the opportunity to detail and denounce the effect of corporate ownership of America’s establishment media (including CNN). He’s been doing this for 30 years and there’s zero chance he will change or compromise any of it if he wins. I can’t even imagine what it’d be like to have Norman Solomon in Congress, but I’d certainly like to see it.

Once again, here's the Blue America page where you can contribute to Norman, as well as Franke Wilmer, Cecil Bothwell and a whole ticket of awesome candidates.

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The Inside-The-Beltway Party Committees-- Where Conservatism And Corruption Meet


The DCCC isn't clearing the field for Chris Donovan

This post was so long that I broke it in two and the second half, which is more general will be up at 10am (PT). This one we're going to devote entirely to the race in Connecticut's 5th CD, where current Congressman Chris Murphy is leaving to run for retiring Joe Lieberman's Senate seat. Blue America endorsed Connecticut Assembly Speaker, Chris Donovan, an exemplary and accomplished progressive leader, last year. He has two primary opponents, Elizabeth Esty a very wealthy ex-state Rep who's being run by EMILY's List and Dan Roberti, another one percenter, a p.r. guy who's dad is a well-connected DC lobbyist. The DCCC claims to be neutral in primaries-- unless they don't want to be. And they don't want to be when they can get a corrupt corporate conservative nominated instead of a progressive, especially the kind of progressive they hate most-- independent minded ones. Nothing frightens cowering party leaders like Steny Hoyer, Steve Israel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Joe Crowley more than independent-minded Democrats.

Chris Donovan must scare the crap out of them. A former SEIU organizer, he got himself elected to the Assembly, organized the progressive caucus, took over the whole thing and started passing all the legislation progressives had hopes Barack Obama would get behind in 2008. Donovan's not just a progressive; he's a progressive who gets things done.

Two DCCC surrogates, James Carville and EMILY's List (which was once an outstanding independent operation and is now, in effect, just a flaccid and pathetic appendage of the Democratic Beltway committees brimming with cash but nothing else) sent out similarly disingenuous letters for, respectively Roberti and Esty this week.
From: "James Carville "
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2012 10:01:35 -0400
Subject: The Time is NOW!

Dear Mike,

You know me – I’m a straight shooter. So I’m just going to cut to the chase. 

We have just 3 days left before the first, and arguably the most critical, Federal Election Commission fund-raising reporting deadline of 2012.  My friend Dan Roberti is running for Congress in Connecticut’s 5th District, and he needs your help now. March 31st is the last deadline before the state party’s convention.

Contribute now before the deadline. 

That means Dan needs to have the strongest showing possible.  The media, the pundits and our opponents will use Dan’s fund-raising totals as a measure of his momentum going into the convention.

We have set an aggressive goal to raise $25K more before March 31st – but we can’t do it without you.  Will you chip in to help my friend Dan? 

Contribute now before the deadline. Even just $5, $10, or $25 can make a difference. 

Dan has the momentum to win in November, but he needs you now.  Chip in $5, $10, $25 or more – any drop in the bucket can help us reach our goal.

Thanks for your help.


And... from EMILY's List, a letter trying to "bundle" with Elizabeth Warren and Betty Sutton, two women who fight for working families, not with a record of fighting against them.

So, who are these two candidates for whom the DCCC is "staying neutral?" Dan Roberti is, basically just a spolied rich kid with nothing going for him but a dad with big-time DCCC cronies he calls friends. That's it. The father is a sleazy lobbyist, Vincent Roberti, and a major bundler for Democratic Party insiders. He's on the DCCC Speaker's Cabinet and the DSCC finance committee. And he's given over half a million dollars, personally, to DCCC and DSCC candidates. You can imagine why worms like Crowley and Israel don't want to piss him off by telling his kid to take a hike. And Dan's given almost $100,000 himself-- all while being a student living in New York.

Don't get me wrong; I don't doubt freaks like Israel and Crowley genuinely like Vincent Roberti. He's very much like them in the most basic ways, in fact. He narrowly escaped prison on an arson rap-- gotten off by the skin of his teeth by former State Democratic Party Chair, and huge Lieberman supporter, John Droney. And it's not like he was an angel before that-- not by a long shot. In his 1978 race for the Assembly, his opponent found 130 of his campaign signs in the rear seat of Vinnie Roberti's car and three years later he was suspected of firebombing two cars owned by his opponent, the sitting mayor. A few years later he was arrested for beating up a college kid outside of a bar, although he was later able to "persuade" the kid to drop the charges. Vinnie's nickname in the legislature while he was serving was "Dirty Roberti" and he was routinely voted one of the worst legislators in the General Assembly by his colleagues. How could sleaze-bags like Israel and Crowley not love him?

Think anyone besides me noticed this is illegal?

The kid has no experience doing anything in Connecticut to speak of, so his campaign has been largely funded by his family (tons of Robertis have maxed out) and his dad's connections. For example, in the Q4 2011 filing, $50,000 was raised from just two NJ families that run the Midtown Operating Corp., a yellow cab company in NYC ($37,500 from the Shermans and $12,500 from the Tiffenbergs. As you can see, his donors come almost exclusively from his pop's D.C. power set. You want more crap like that in Congress? Isn't that's what's wrong with Congress?

As for Esty, the EMILY's List candidate, in her one term at the state house, during the fight over the budget with Republican Gov. Rell, Esty and other conservative Democrats sent a letter calling on the legislature to agree to Rell's budget cuts instead of raising taxes on millionaires. Among other things, Rell's cuts would have decimated Medicare and S-CHIP, cut funds to education and libraries, closed senior centers... you know, the whole Paul Ryan routine. She also proposed an alternative budget and crows about it on her campaign website but it also would have cut health care spending, Medicare, s-chip, schools, nutrition programs for pregnant women and infants.

Compared the Roberti family, at least she's relatively honest. But just relatively. Her campaign took $2,000 from four Northeastern Utilities (owner of Connecticut Light and Power) executives one month before her husband, Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (with oversight of NU) controversially stepped in and made the unprecedented move of asking a regulatory agency to rescind a draft opinion denying Northeast Utilities multi-million dollar request to instal smart meters on all it's customers in CT and pass the cost on to the customers by levying new fees. He then came under fire because NU was not on his recusal list, despite taking more than $200k from them in consulting fees over an eight year period that ended in 2005. His given excuse was that he hadn't worked with NU in 5 years, and all of the executives that he had previously worked with were no longer at NU-- but the Esty campaign took money from CURRENT executives. It seems that the particular execs may have had more than a passing familiarity with the smart meter plan D. Esty stepped in to save.

Today's the last day of the FEC quarter. Help Blue America make sure Chris Murphy is replaced by an outstanding legislator, not some shady self-entitled one-percenter. If you can, please contribute to Chris Donovan's campaign here on the Blue America ActBlue page.

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Sunday Classics preview: From song to symphony -- the journey of Mahler's lonely wayfarer


Thomas Allen sings the second song, "Ging heut' Morgen übers Feld," from Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer, in a 1991 performance conducted by Václav Neumann. (See below for German and English texts.)

by Ken

As we've already established, Mahler's early symphonies -- through, say, No. 4 -- were intertwined with his song-writing of the period, especially drawing on the folk-poetry collection Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The Youth's Magic Horn). The poems that became his first great song cycle, the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), sound like Wunderhorn poems, but they're not -- they're actually the composer's own.

Mahler's First Symphony took shape by an almost indescribably convoluted process -- in other words, pretty much the way all the later symphonies did. And when the dust settled, some of the Wayfarer Songs had found their way into the symphony, most conspicuously the second, "Ging heut' Morgen übers Feld" ("Went this morning across the field"). And here is more or less how that transformation sounds, allowing for the fact that we're skipping a step. By the time the song was pressed into service to provide the exposition of the first movement of the First Symphony, Mahler had already produced an orchestral version of the originally piano-accompanied Wayfarer Songs.

We're going to hear the orchestral version of "Ging heut' Morgen" in the click-through, along with the complete first movement of the First Symphony. For now let's just hear the piano-accompanied version of the song and the incorporation of the song as the symphonic movement's exposition.

MAHLER: Songs of a Wayfarer:
No. 2, "Ging heut' Morgen übers Feld"
("Went this morning across the field")

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Leonard Bernstein, piano. CBS/Sony, recorded in New York, Nov. 4, 1968

MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D:
1st movement exposition

New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein, cond. CBS/Sony, recorded Oct. 4 and 22, 1966

Leonard Bernstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in this October 1974 performance of the first half of the first movement of Mahler's First Symphony. (The rest of the movement is here. The later movements are also posted.)


Read more »

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Is Keith O running out of kids willing to play with him? Plus: Right-wingers turn their attention from "teh gay" to the economy


by Ken

It appears that finally the remaining shoe has dropped. From the NYT "Media Decoder" blog:
Current TV Dismisses Keith Olbermann


6:10 p.m. | Updated Current TV said Friday afternoon that it had terminated the contract of its lead anchor, Keith Olbermann, scarcely a year after he was hired to reboot the fledgling channel in his progressive political image.

The cable channel indicated that he had failed to honor the terms of his five-year, $50 million contract, giving the channel the right to terminate it. Starting Friday night, the former New York Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer will take over Mr. Olbermann’s 8 p.m. time slot.

In a stream of Twitter messages, Mr. Olbermann responded to Current’s announcement by stating that “the claims against me in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently.”

Current executives declined interview requests about the termination, apparently due to the expected legal action. But in a letter to viewers, the channel’s founders, Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, wrote: “We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before. Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.” . . .

There's more detail in the report, and clearly there are legal issues that have to be thrashed out, possibly in courrt. Meanwhile:

(1) Is anyone surprised? I didn't think so. Given the mounting acrimony since . . . well, almost since Keith started the Current gig, it seemed just a matter of time.

(2) I love Keith to death (perhaps because I don't have to deal with him?), but even in the event that he prevails on the legal issues, he clearly has no future at Current, leaving the question whether he's going to be able to find anyone else -- in the TV world or elsewhere -- interested in working with him. He's not that hot a talent, is he?


"[Moray eels] will attack humans - but only when disturbed or provoked and they can be quite vicious. (Although, they actually can be quite friendly once they are used to you - and you are used to them. Careful when you feed them as their teeth are indeed razor sharp and they might lurch at offered food, and offering fingers, very rapidly.)"
-- from the website

To be clear, although Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston is a celebrated nincompoop, it's not clear whether he spoke or wrote to the reporters, so we can't tell who imagined the "sexual morays" that appeared in the original posting of this piece:
"In one decade, what's shocking on TV is accepted as commonplace in the other. It's the same with sexual morays all over that if you look at campuses and universities, they have a lot of gay pride clubs and so there has been a deliberate and effective outreach to the younger generation about being more accepting of same-sex relationships."
-- Rep. "Crazy Jack" Kingston (R-GA), in the original posting
of Politico's
"Republicans retreat on gay marriage"

In the Politico article, by Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, these, er, thoughts are introduced following this paragraph:
It’s not like the GOP has become a bastion of progressiveness on gay rights, but there has been an evolution in the political approach - and an acknowledgment of a cultural shift in the country. Same-sex relationships are more prominent and accepted. There are more gay public figures -- including politicians -- and it’s likely that many Washington Republicans have gay friends and coworkers. Just as important -- there’s also a libertarian streak of acceptance on people’s sexuality coursing through the House Republican Conference.

This context makes it even tough to puzzle out what Crazy Jack is saying, but I for one don't hear "acceptance" so much as the suggestion that those satanic gay pride clubs are now the leading edge of the long-storied gay recruitment operation, the mission now expanded beyond the recruitment of, you know, new recruits to the brainwashing of nongay civilians -- lurking there among the sexual morays -- into becoming more "accepting."

That said, the piece is worth checking out, even now that the sexual morays have been exiled.
The economy has displaced moral issues in today’s politics. Ask most House Republicans today if they have deep convictions about gay relationships, and it hardly registers.
And some of the great minds of the House GOP majority, DWT faves all, are quoted (wait for it!):

* Allen West of Florida: "I personally have deep convictions about my children having a financially stable country that they can live in,” Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said in an interview. “I want my daughters to have the opportunities that I had, and that’s what concerns me. That’s what keeps me up awake at night, not worrying about who’s sleeping with who."

* Hal Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the Appropriations Committee: "I don’t hear it discussed much."

* Louie Gohmert of Texas, described by the Politico scribes conservatively as a "die-hard social conservative": "I don't hear it discussed much."

The Senate, Sherman and Palmer note, "also has undergone a shift. When Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) held the first hearing on the Defense of Marriage Act since it became law, few Republicans showed up and those who were there didn't use it as an opportunity for fire-and-brimstone speeches on same-sex unions."

You have to guess that many of these exceedingly dim bulbs have gradually figured out that their orgy of ideological crackpottery isn't what got them elected -- and there's another election coming up. Of course they haven't exactly been neglecting the economy; after all, they've spent these two years do everything in their power to make sure that any sensible ideas President Obama may have thrown out would die a painful death.


Meanwhile, the economic predators who were salivating over the inroads into economic sanity that could be championed by the new Republican House majority seem to be discovering that it's not necessarily a piece of cake dealing with a pack of mental defectives -- see Jonathan Weisman's NYT report "Business Bets on the G.O.P. May Be Backfiring." Here's a sample:
Big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars in 2010 to elect Republican candidates running for the House. The return on investment has not always met expectations.

Even though money for major road and bridge projects is set to run out this weekend, House Republican leaders have struggled all week to round up the votes from recalcitrant conservatives simply to extend it for 90 or even 60 days. A longer-term transportation bill that contractors and the chamber say is vital to the recovery of the construction industry appears hopelessly stalled over costs.

At the same time, House conservatives are pressing to allow the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which has financed exports since the Depression, to run out of lending authority within weeks. The bank faces the possibility of shutting its doors completely by the end of May, when its legal authorization expires.

And a host of routine business tax breaks — from wind energy subsidies to research and development tax credits — cannot be passed because of Republican insistence that they be paid for with spending cuts.

Business groups that worked hard to install a Republican majority in the House equated Republican control with a business-friendly environment. But the majority is first and foremost a conservative political force, and on key issues, its ideology is not always aligned with commercial interests that helped finance election victories.

“Free market is not always the same as pro-business,” said Barney Keller, spokesman for the conservative political action committee Club for Growth.

There could be real-world consequences to the conservative rebellion. The 90-day extension of the highway trust fund that House Republican leaders say they will pass this week in lieu of a broad highway bill would keep existing projects moving for now. But business groups say few new government-funded infrastructure projects can get under way without longer-range certainty about federal backing. . . .

The moral: Just 'cause the peeps are stupid and crazy doesn't mean they're the right kind of stupid and crazy. In politics as in other matters, let the buyer beware.

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The Republican Congressional Election Platform Is Now Set In Cement


And it's simple: wage a war on women while destroying Medicare and drastically reducing social services in order to spend billions subsidizing the wealthy Oil and Gas companies that finance the political careers of conservative politicians. And it all came together Thursday when Boehner blundered into one albatross-like vote that will hang around GOP necks from now 'til November, the Ryan Budget, and then Harry Reid made the Republicans go on the record in favor of subsidies for Big Oil. Let look at the votes first.

Senate was simple. S.2204 was meant to repeal big oil tax subsidies. The Republicans filibustered it and when Reid called for a cloture vote he got a majority but not the 60 he needed. It failed 51-47, the only Republicans crossing the aisle to vote with the Democrats, Mainers Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. (I hope Massachusetts voters are paying attention to who's being paid off by Big Oil. We'll get to that in a moment.) 4 oily Democrats-- Mark Begich (AK), Mary Landrieu (LA), Ben Nelson (NE), and Jim Webb (VA)-- crossed in the other direction and voted with the GOP and Big Oil Interests. These are Big Oil's 10 most heavily bribed senators in the current election cycle:

And career-long the ten still serving senators who accepted the most bribery from Big Oil and Gas:
John McCain (R-AZ)- $2,870,491
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)- $2,223,271
John Cornyn (R-TX)- $1,877,550
James Inhofe (R-OK)- $1,367,523
Miss McConnell (R-KY)- $1,154,011
David Vitter (R-LA)- $1,018,685
Mary Landrieu (D-LA)- $891,574
Roy Blunt (R-MO)- $760,598
John Thune (R-SD)- $649,462
Tom Coburn (R-OK)- $552,163

They give to both parties, but not in a balanced way. And the Democrats who are in on the take are overwhelmingly extremely corrupt conservatives. This has been the Big Oil bribery budget so far this cycle:

And this what they've doled out since 1990:

Now truck over to the House and you'll see a similarly unbalanced vote. All but 10 Republicans voted for Ryan's insane and destructive new budget. Not one Democrat voted for it. It passed 228-191. Three hours earlier the House voted on the Progressive Caucus' Budget For All. The corporate shills who are on the Big Business payroll-- from both parties-- fled from this one. There were only 78 affirmative votes. All 239 Republicans and 107 Democratic Party corporate whores voted against it. (And for those in Michigan trying to decide in the incumbent vs incumbent race between Hansen Clarke and Gary Peters, Clarke voted for working families and Peters, alas, voted for Big Business.) Strange reaction in light of a new study that evaluates the job creation measures of the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Budget for All compared to the Republican budget. Their conclusions: the Republican Budget would destroy 4.1 million jobs in 2 years, while the Budget for All would create 3.3 million jobs.

Now let's take a look at what these votes mean. Senate vote for Oil subsidies first. President Obama, just before the vote:
Today, members of Congress have a simple choice to make: They can stand with the big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people. 
Right now, the biggest oil companies are raking in record profit –- profits that go up every time folks pull up into a gas station. But on top of these record profits, oil companies are also getting billions a year-- billions a year in taxpayer subsidies-– a subsidy that they’ve enjoyed year after year for the last century.
Think about that. It’s like hitting the American people twice. You’re already paying a premium at the pump right now. And on top of that, Congress, up until this point, has thought it was a good idea to send billions of dollars more in tax dollars to the oil industry.
It’s not as if these companies can’t stand on their own. Last year, the three biggest U.S. oil companies took home more than $80 billion in profits. Exxon pocketed nearly $4.7 million every hour. And when the price of oil goes up, prices at the pump go up, and so do these companies’ profits. In fact, one analysis shows that every time gas goes up by a penny, these companies usually pocket another $200 million in quarterly profits. Meanwhile, these companies pay a lower tax rate than most other companies on their investments, partly because we’re giving them billions in tax giveaways every year.
Now, I want to make clear, we all know that drilling for oil has to be a key part of our overall energy strategy. We want U.S. oil companies to be doing well. We want them to succeed. That’s why under my administration, we’ve opened up millions of acres of federal lands and waters to oil and gas production. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating oil rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough oil and gas pipeline to circle the Earth and then some. And just yesterday, we announced the next step for potential new oil and gas exploration in the Atlantic.
So the fact is, we’re producing more oil right now than we have in eight years, and we’re importing less of it as well. For two years in a row, America has bought less oil from other countries than we produce here at home-– for the first time in over a decade. 
So American oil is booming. The oil industry is doing just fine. With record profits and rising production, I’m not worried about the big oil companies. With high oil prices around the world, they’ve got more than enough incentive to produce even more oil. That’s why I think it’s time they got by without more help from taxpayers who are already having a tough enough time paying the bills and filling up their gas tank. And I think it’s curious that some folks in Congress, who are the first to belittle investments in new sources of energy, are the ones that are fighting the hardest to maintain these giveaways for the oil companies.
Instead of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been more profitable, we should be using that money to double-down on investments in clean energy technologies that have never been more promising-- investments in wind power and solar power and biofuels; investments in fuel-efficient cars and trucks, and energy-efficient homes and buildings. That’s the future. That’s the only way we're going to break this cycle of high gas prices that happen year after year after year. As the economy is growing, the only time you start seeing lower gas prices is when the economy is doing badly. That’s not the kind of pattern that we want to be in. We want the economy doing well, and people to be able to afford their energy costs.
And keep in mind, we can’t just drill our way out of this problem. As I said, oil production here in the United States is doing very well, and it's been doing well even as gas prices are going up. Well, the reason is because we use more than 20 percent of the world’s oil but we only have 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. And that means we could drill every drop of American oil tomorrow but we’d still have to buy oil from other countries to make up the difference. We’d still have to depend on other countries to meet our energy needs. And because it’s a world market, the fact that we’re doing more here in the United States doesn’t necessarily help us because even U.S. oil companies they’re selling that oil on a worldwide market. They’re not keeping it just for us. And that means that if there’s rising demand around the world then the prices are going to up.
That’s not the future that I want for America. I don’t want folks like these back here and the folks in front of me to have to pay more at the pump every time that there’s some unrest in the Middle East and oil speculators get nervous about whether there’s going to be enough supply. I don’t want our kids to be held hostage to events on the other side of the world. 
I want us to control our own destiny. I want us to forge our own future. And that’s why, as long as I’m President, America is going to pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy, which means we will continue developing our oil and gas resources in a robust and responsible way. But it also means that we’re going to keep developing more advanced homegrown biofuels, the kinds that are already powering truck fleets across America. 
We’re going to keep investing in clean energy like the wind power and solar power that’s already lighting thousands of homes and creating thousands of jobs. We’re going to keep manufacturing more cars and trucks to get more miles to the gallon so that you can fill up once every two weeks instead of every week. We’re going to keep building more homes and businesses that waste less energy so that you’re in charge of your own energy bills. 
We’re going to do all of this by harnessing our most inexhaustible resource: American ingenuity and American imagination. That’s what we need to keep going. That’s what’s at stake right now.  That’s the choice that we face. And that’s the choice that’s facing Congress today. They can either vote to spend billions of dollars more in oil subsidies that keep us trapped in the past, or they can vote to end these taxpayer subsidies that aren’t needed to boost oil production so that we can invest in the future. It’s that simple. 
And as long as I’m President, I’m betting on the future. And as the people I’ve talked to around the country, including the people who are behind me here today, they put their faith in the future as well. That’s what we do as Americans. That’s who we are. We innovate. We discover. We seek new solutions to some of our biggest challenges. And, ultimately, because we stick with it, we succeed.  And I believe that we’re going to do that again. Today, the American people are going to be watching Congress to see if they have that same faith.

And Americans who were watching saw the crassest form of political corruption in action. We watchged out senators-- or at least our corrupt conservative senators, the ones who are bought-and-paid-for shills of big oil-- refuse to eliminate $24 billion annually in uneeded tax subsidies to the 5 biggest oil giants, companies that made $137 billion in profits in 2011-- up 75% in the last year. Cool chart by Think Progress, huh?

In the House there's as much corruption per square inch as there is in the Senate; it's just mixed in with more parochial and degenerate insanity of an explosive sociopathic nature. Ryan's budget is sheer madness. If this toxic proposal ever did become law-- impossible that it would ever get by the Senate let alone be signed by the President-- it would be catastrophic for older Americans, for working class families, for students, all of whom are sacrificed on an alter of cutting another quarter million dollars off the taxes of the multimillionaires who already pay far, far, far too little in taxes. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) couldn't have been surprised but he was still pissed off when he spoke against Ryan's nonsense of the House floor Thursday:
“Last year, the Republicans moved a slash-and-burn budget proposal that would have eliminated Medicare and substituted for it a private voucher system, and would have implemented devastating cuts to Medicaid, education programs, medical research, and transportation, among other things. You name it, they wanted to devastate it.

“Now we turn to this year’s Republican budget proposal and, as one famous New Yorker would say: It’s déjà vu all over again.

“First, the Republican budget calls for a staggering $10 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations over 10 years. They claim to pay for this giveaway by closing unspecified tax loopholes. But this is a fraud. For loophole closing of this magnitude, the Republicans would have to get rid of all the tax breaks the middle class depends on-- ‘loopholes’ like the mortgage interest deduction, tax exclusions for employer-sponsored health insurance, and charitable donations. This won’t happen-- which is why the Republicans won’t name any of their ‘loophole-closings.’

“So this would make the budget deficit $10 trillion larger-- which is why they do not anticipate balancing the budget until 2040.  But they make devastating spending cuts-- not to balance the budget, but to pay for their tax cuts for the wealthy. What priorities!

“The Republican budget seeks even deeper spending cuts than last year’s proposal. It proposes $5.3 trillion in non-defense discretionary spending cuts-- $1.2 trillion (22%) beyond the cuts agreed to in last year’s Debt Ceiling deal. More than 60% of these cuts would come on the backs of middle- and low-income families.

“For example, the Republican budget would slash $860 billion (34%) from the Medicaid program while turning it into an unguaranteed block grant. These severe cuts would shift the cost burden to the states, who would have to decide between investing even more of their own money, cutting benefits, shifting the cost onto beneficiaries, doctors, and hospitals, throwing people out of the program, or all of these. The Urban Institute estimated that the Republican plan would result in between 14 and 27 million people being dropped from Medicaid by 2021.

“Additionally, the Ryan budget would reduce food stamps by $134 billion, knocking 8 to 10 million people from the program and leaving them to go hungry. WIC, which provides nutritional assistance to women and children, would also be cut, taking food out of the mouths of 700,000 pregnant women, new moms and their kids. Over the next decade, nearly two million women and children would be left without access to critical food. What kind of cruel and heartless country do the Republicans want us to live in?

“Seniors on Medicare don’t fare much better. First, Republicans would raise the eligibility age to 67, leaving seniors aged 65 and 66 out in the cold. They would force seniors to go it alone in negotiating with private insurance companies for coverage. Seniors would receive vouchers to offset the cost of private insurance-- vouchers whose value would increase much more slowly than the cost of buying medical insurance. CBO estimates that within ten years seniors would have to pay $6,000 more out of pocket for medical care annually. All this, mind you, while promising to do away with all of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act, like medical ratio requirements, which actually help to stem the cost of private insurance.

“Don’t look to the Republican plan for investments in infrastructure, medical research, or education-- primary or collegiate, for students or for teachers-- because they are not there.
“And the Republican budget would greatly increase unemployment. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Republican spending cuts would result in the loss of 1.3 million jobs next year and an additional 2.8 million jobs the year after that. That’s 4.1 million jobs lost in just two years, thereby eviscerating all the jobs added to the economy in the last 23 months and then some.
“Mr. Speaker, the sheer gravity of the cuts proposed by the Republican budget is staggering and disastrous.  While no budget it perfect, any of the Democratic proposals under consideration today is head and shoulders better for America, and for Americans, than the Ryan Budget Against America: Part Two.

“While we may disagree on how to continue to support and grow our economy, let’s stop using the working poor, the middle-class, women, kids, and seniors as pawns. I urge my colleagues to vote no on the Ryan budget.”

228 of his crazy colleagues ignored his urgings. And the White House statement after the vote wasn't any more gentle about this kind of hateful, selfish behavior by the Republicans.
House Republicans today banded together to shower millionaires and billionaires with a massive tax cut paid for by ending Medicare as we know it and making extremely deep cuts to critical programs needed to create jobs and strengthen the middle class. The Ryan Republican budget would give every millionaire an average tax cut of at least $150,000, while preserving taxpayer giveaways to oil companies and breaks for Wall Street hedge fund managers.
Today’s vote stands as another example of the Republican establishment grasping onto the same failed economic policies that stacked the deck against the middle class and created the worst financial crisis in decades. If the Ryan Republican budget is made a reality and the radical discretionary cuts fall across the board, by 2014, more than nine million students would see their Pell Grants fall by as much as $1100, and about 900,000 would lose their grants altogether. Clean energy programs would be cut nearly 20 percent, Head Start would offer 200,000 fewer slots per year, and critical medical research and science programs would see drastic cuts. 
The President has put forward a balanced plan that would reduce our deficit by over $4 trillion by asking the wealthiest to pay their fair share, enacting responsible spending cuts and achieving significant health savings while still investing in the programs we need to grow our economy and bring economic security back to the middle class and seniors. Any serious attempt at tackling our deficits must be balanced, fair and demand shared responsibility. The Ryan Republican budget clearly fails that test.

Ryan's rival for Wisconsin's 1st congressional district, progressive Democrat Rob Zerban, is exploiting the growing anger in Wisconsin with the class war Republicans-- and Ryan in particular-- are waging against ordinary working families. "Ryan’s budget," he said just before the vote, "does nothing except destroy programs that Americans of all ages depend upon. It ends Medicare as we know it, turning the program into a voucher system designed to benefit only the insurance companies who cherry pick which seniors to cover. It reduces Pell Grants for struggling students to a distant memory and purposely makes a college education more difficult to attain. And it reduces benefits for our brave veterans to an unacceptable level, in the ultimate slap in the face to everyone who has served our nation in uniform... cutting funding by $11 billion. It is appalling to me... Our veterans deserve better!"

And Rob isn't the only congressional candidate concerned that Ryan's budget is devastating to veterans. Here's in California, in a southern California district chock full of veterans-- whose concerns are largely ignored by incumbent Buck McKeon anyway, Dr. Lee Rogers studied the Ryan budget carefully. "We already know," he told me this morning, "how much Medicare beneficiaries will suffer under the Ryan budget plan, but there's another group that's going to take it square on the chin... our veterans! The GOP budget cuts $11 billion from veterans spending which is about 13% less than what President Obama requested. When our troops take off our nations uniform for the last time, our obligations to them don't end, they become renewed. We have 45,000 veterans who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan that will need care here at home in our VA system. My opponent, Rep. Howard 'Buck' McKeon, has come out fully supporting the Ryan budget plan because it increases defense spending. Now that's a lack of commitment to the sacrifices our brave men and women have made. McKeon and Ryan's plan: Increase defense spending to support more wars, but as soon as the troops come home, forget about them."

Next door to Rob Zerban's Wisconsin 1st district, in the 2nd CD, state Rep. Mark Pocan seemed to be wishing he was running against Ryan too. "Ryan's so called Path to Prosperity manages to ask less of the wealthiest Americans while leading this Country's seniors and middle class families down a deeper hole of financial insecurity. It's astounding that Republican leadership wants to give the average millionaire a $150,000 tax break and ask our seniors to pay for it with measures like re-opening the prescription drug coverage donut hole. This budget means literally billions more in costs for seniors and trillions less in taxes for the extremely wealthy. How can they expect Americans to unite to get through tough times with a plan that treats them so differently?" 

Ann Kuster, who's running against one of Ryan's cronies over in New Hampshire, corporate shill Charlie Bass, put the GOP actions in the Senate and the House together and rallied her supporters with a clear explanation of what the Republicans are up to:
“Rather than stand with the thousands of New Hampshire voters who have called on Congressman Bass to stand up for Medicare and vote against this budget, Rep. Bass sent an unmistakable message that he will protect millionaires over Medicare at every instance. Bass’ priorities are no longer the priorities of this district: asking seniors to pay more for their health care, while giving additional tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and to Big Oil companies who are taking in record profits. I pledge to fight for Medicare and to cut spending the right way, not balance the budget on the backs of seniors and the middle class.”

And, despite Ryan's budget and the hateful GOP talking points repeated ad nauseum on corporate media and Hate Talk Radio, women are not an interest group. Here's President Obama's message to Planned Parenthood:

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An Antidote To Wisconsin's Sheriff Of Nottingham, Paul Ryan


Blue America is cooking up something fun in Wisconsin's first CD. But outrage over Paul Ryan's attempts to dismantle Medicare and-- in reality-- a civil society in this country, is coming from all directions. Even before Ryan stumbled into endorsing Mitt Romney this morning (kiss of death?), I met Iris Vander Pluym who has a unique way of helping Rob Zerban replace Ryan. Every time the DCCC or one of the other ineffectual Inside-the-Beltway Democratic Committees e-mails her with a request to fund their corporate candidates (or, really any of their approved, pasteurized candidates), she contributes that amount to Rob's campaign. This was her own explanation at her blog, Perry Street Palace.
Robin Hood For Rob

-by Iris Vander Pluym

The facts are these.

Paul Ryan is an odious sack of human excrement.

Paul Ryan’s agenda is twofold:  first, destroy decades of progress, including Social Security, Medicare, education funding, veterans’ benefits, food stamps, and pretty much every single program that has ever helped anyone poor or middle class; and second, give enormous tax breaks to the wealthy individuals and big corporations he so loyally serves.

Dick Cheney said: “I worship the ground that Paul Ryan walks on,” thereby confirming that Paul Ryan is actually Satan.

Rob Zerban is a Wisconsin progressive running against Paul Ryan.

Rob Zerban said of Paul Ryan’s budget, “This isn’t smart economic policy, this is Robin Hood in reverse!”

Rob Zerban is the kind of d00d who, whenever I email him a question about his position on this or that issue, emails me back or calls me personally to answer it-- and it’s always the right answer.

Rob Zerban is not Satan:  he cannot possibly be Satan, because as we know Paul Ryan is Satan.  (Also, Rob Zerban cannot possibly be Satan because there is no actual Satan-- although Paul Ryan is certainly a close enough approximation.)

Blue America supports Rob Zerban.

Russ Feingold, who is freaking awesome, endorses him

Joan Jett, who is also freaking awesome, supports him.

Paul Ryan features prominently as a right-wing boogeyman in DCCC messaging intended to scare us with Ryan’s radical right-wing agenda in order to raise money, while the DCCC simultaneously funds conservative corporate shills in their own party who vote like Ryan and serve the same interests. Like these d00ds:
The DCCC is wasting their time and resources again this year bolstering reactionary Blue Dogs like Mike McIntyre (NC), Tim Holden (PA), John Barrow (GA), Jim Matheson (UT) Ben Chandler (KY), Nick Lampson (TX), Clark Hall (AR). Rob Wallace (OK), and Leonard Bembry (FL).

…in exactly the same way that  the “Republican” War on Women features prominently in DCCC messaging intended to scare us with the “Republican” radical right-wing assault on women’s rights in order to raise money, while the DCCC simultaneously funds conservative anti-choice Democrats. Like these @$$holes:
Jason Altmire (PA-4); Dan Boren (OK-2); Jerry F. Costello (IL-12); Mark Critz (PA-12); Henry Cuellar (TX-28); Joe Donnelly (IN-2); Tim Holden (PA-17); Marcy Kaptur (OH-9); Dale E. Kildee (MI-5); Daniel Lipinski (IL-3); Jim Matheson (UT-2); Mike McIntyre (NC-7); Collin C. Peterson (MN-7); Nick J. Rahall II (WV-3); Mike Ross (AR-4); and Heath Shuler (NC-11).

This is because Steve Israel, who heads the DCCC, and most of the Democratic Party leadership are conservatives.

DownWIthTyranny has a standing offer to the DCCC: it will match $5,000 if the DCCC will give than amount to Rob Zerban’s campaign. To date the DCCC has not given him a dime.

The DCCC is facing an end-of-the month and end-of-the-quarter fundraising deadline Saturday, so naturally the Palace inbox is flooded with missives from the Democratic leadership imploring us to deplete the Palace Treasury in order to help stop the menace that is Paul Ryan and end the “Republican” War on Women.

Rob Zerban is also facing an end-of-the month and end-of-the-quarter fundraising deadline Saturday.

For every cynical, hypocritical request for money that the Palace receives from Democrats this week (“Can you chip in $5 to hold Republicans accountable?”), the Palace will donate the exact amount requested directly to Rob Zerban’s campaign.  A sort of reverse-reverse-Robin Hood, if you will. Or, you know, just Robin Hood. We’re up to $25 $36 so far.

We are not interested in electing Democrats.  We are interested in electing better Democrats. Please join us

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Were You Invited To Tim Holden's Big Party Saturday?


Tim, Pennsylvania's own Frackenstein Monster

I'm still laughing that clueless Blue Dog Tim Holden sent out a frantic press release to every media outlet in Pennsylvania's 17th congressional district-- most of whom he was contacting for the first time since less than 30% of the district was part of his former district. In the press release he claimed, among other preposterous paranoid nonsense, that Blue America is a "SuperPac." Actually we're the opposite-- a good government, grassroots, completely independent political action committee whose average donor has given a little less than 45 dollars. As I've said before, Holden is a notorious corporate whore who will do anything for anyone who pays him enough. He takes a fortune from sleazy DC lobbyists-- and was one of the only Democrats who was bribed by Abramoff-- and he's taken $5,875,215 from PACs (and that doesn't count all the cash he's been vacuuming up since December). That's 59% of everything that's been contributed to his campaigns. Isn't that... Super?

Anyway, one of the most notoriously sleazy lobbyists in Washington-- one of the congressional paymasters for AT&T, J. Michael Schweder-- threw Holden a big fundraiser. Schweder first started funneling money into Holden's smarmy career in 2002 but he gives widely-- to anyone he thinks is corruptible-- like the Republican Party of New Jersey, which he gave $1,500 last year. Holden spent Saturday evening raising campaign cash with Schweder at a fundraiser. Consider yourself cleaner if you weren't invited. AT&T has doled out $48,239,446 in bribes to Congress-- most of it to Republicans-- since 1989. And they spent $134,989,336 lobbying Congress in that same time period. And, of course, they've been involved in several controversial incidents involving privacy and pricing. Throughout his career, Holden has accepted $114,800 from PACs controlled by communications and technology companies like AT&T.

After passage of Bush's grotesque legislation, the so-called “Patriot Act,” which Holden supported, AT&T was repeatedly accused of allowing the National Security Agency to tap into circuits carrying customer's phone calls and e-mails. A recent case involving GPS technology in smartphones has also called into question whether AT&T allows the government access to their systems to track the movements of U.S. citizens without legal authority.

In an attempt to seek immunity from violations of federal law, AT&T successfully secured special legislation from its friends in Congress. Tim Holden supported the exception for AT&T. Holden always supports exemptions for corporation who write him big enough checks. It's what he's known for.

As for Schweder-- no one could have been a better fundraiser for someone as corrupt as Holden. Schweder was also a contributor to Mike Veon, Brett Feese, Robert Mellow, John Perzel and Vincent Fumo... all of whom have been convicted of the same kinds of government corruption Holden specializes in-- and each of them either has served time, is serving time or is awaiting sentencing.

Goal Thermometer Holder likes to style himself "the Dean of the Pennsylvania Delegation." Well, Dean Holden is whistling a happy tune and cashing checks from corporations who have backed corrupt political insiders. Every single one of those checks comes with strings attached-- and Tim "Quid Pro Quo" Holden knows it well. Conservative voters in Berks, Dauphin, Lebanon, and Perry counties may not care about being ripped off by politicians but Holden is about to meet voters in places he's never run in before-- far more enlightened parts of Pennsylvania like Lackawanna. Monroe, Luzerne, and Northampton counties where people are disgusted with this "politics as usual" attitude. This kind of greasy money corrupts and Holden is cozying up to a lobbyist and mega-corporation that routinely backs corrupt politicians.

The Blue America campaign in PA-17 has been about Holden's role as Dr. Frackenstein and his quid pro quos regarding the cash he's taken from fracking-related companies and lobbyists in return for getting the Halliburton Loophole passed. But we wouldn't want anyone to get the impression that that's the only thing wrong with Holden. It's just all our "SuperPAC" could afford. Have you ever contributed to a SuperPAC-- or, I should say, a "SuperPAC." Try it here-- and help us make Pennsylvania one Blue Dog cleaner.

No One Is Accusing Holden Of Blowing Up The Gas Compressor Near Scranton, But...

This wouldn't have happened yesterday if Holden didn't take massive bribes from fracking-related companies to push through the hideous Halliburton Loophole.
The incident in the Lathrop compressor station off Route 29 in Springville Twp. drew emergency responders from nearby counties and shook homes as far as a half-mile from the compressor complex.

...The Lathrop station pressurizes gas from Marcellus Shale wells in the county for transport through pipelines. It was sold to Williams by Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. as part of a deal announced in 2010 that also included a second compressor station and 75 miles of the natural gas drilling company's gathering pipelines.

Something tells me "Concerned Mom" isn't going to be voting for Tim Holden-- or Tom Corbett-- any time soon. And she isn't the only one concerned about Corbett and Holden selling out the state to the frackers. Let the law suits begin!
A group including seven municipalities Thursday sued the state of Pennsylvania over its new law regulating the rapidly growth of natural gas exploration, saying among other things that it unconstitutionally takes away the power to control property from towns and landowners for the benefit of the oil and gas industry.

The approximately 120-page lawsuit was filed in state Commonwealth Court and includes Robinson, Peters, Cecil and Mount Pleasant townships in Washington County; South Fayette Township in Allegheny County; and Nockamixon Township and Yardley Borough in Bucks County.

Among the provisions cited by the lawsuit are requirements that drilling, waste pits and pipelines be allowed in every zoning district, including residential districts, as long as certain buffers are observed.

"As municipalities can expect hundreds of wells, numerous impoundments, miles of pipelines, several compressor and processing plants, all within (their) borders, they will be left to plan around rather than plan for orderly growth," the lawsuit said.

The industry began descending on Pennsylvania in 2008 in earnest to tap into the Marcellus Shale, a natural gas formation deep underground that is considered the nation's largest-known reservoir.

Opponents of the sweeping, six-week-old law say it prevents municipalities from protecting homes or businesses, and possibly even schools or parks, from drilling activity that could damage a community's quality of life and property values.

Several land-use lawyers have said the new law seemed unprecedented for its detail in limiting what a municipality can require when it comes to exploration of the Marcellus Shale. However, none said they viewed it as unconstitutional.

No wonder Dr. Frackenstein flipped out when he saw our billboards!

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