Thursday, May 31, 2012

Is The U.S. #1 In Insider Trading? Egypt Makes A Move


Romania beats us out for the worst hunger among children, but just barely

We all want this country to be great-- although over on the plutocratic right, they define "this country" in more exclusionary terms than normal people do. I don't think rightists, for example-- and particularly not the Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand variety-- give two hoots that the U.S. now ranks second worst in childhood poverty of any countries in the developed world. And they count Romania-- the one we beat-- as part of the "developed world," which is kind of spurious to begin with. Even economic "basketcases" like Greece, Spain, Portugal, Poland and Ireland are doing better, in fact much better, than we are. (At least "we" in the inclusive meaning. I'm sure they're not doing as well as the Romney family and the families of Romney donors.)
Out of the 35 wealthiest countries analyzed by UNICEF, only one, Romania, had a child poverty rate above the 23 percent rate recorded in the U.S. The rate is based on the definition of relative poverty used by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which states a child is living in poverty if he or she is growing up in a household where disposable income, when adjusted for family size and compensation, is less than 50 percent of the median disposable income for the country in question.

Over in the U.K., which is also doing quite a bit better than the U.S. in this area, The Independent pointed out that "The Government's spending cuts will have a 'catastrophic' effect on British children... endangering their future health, education and employment."

I could be wrong about this-- I could be looking at it through the lens of youthful idealism-- but when I was a kid, one place where the U.S. seemed to have excelled beyond most other countries was in its abhorrence of corruption. And when I was a kid, I started tramping around the world. I remember marveling at how incredibly corrupt day to day life was in Asia. You even had to bargain with the stamp seller at post offices in India! Later I realized the corruption in the Third World was more up front and out in the open. Here it is more hidden and quasi-subtle, or, at least, less in your face. I've always said the richer someone is the more likely they are to be a grasping, avaricious crook. So why not rich countries too? Is that what we're #1 in? Corruption?

Let's take a very easy-to-understand aspect of corruption: insider trading. Here's how the SEC defines it (officially):
Illegal insider trading refers generally to buying or selling a security, in breach of a fiduciary duty or other relationship of trust and confidence, while in possession of material, nonpublic information about the security. Insider trading violations may also include "tipping" such information, securities trading by the person "tipped," and securities trading by those who misappropriate such information.
Examples of insider trading cases that have been brought by the SEC are cases against:

• Corporate officers, directors, and employees who traded the corporation's securities after learning of significant, confidential corporate developments;

• Friends, business associates, family members, and other "tippees" of such officers, directors, and employees, who traded the securities after receiving such information;

• Employees of law, banking, brokerage and printing firms who were given such information to provide services to the corporation whose securities they traded;

• Government employees who learned of such information because of their employment by the government; and

• Other persons who misappropriated, and took advantage of, confidential information from their employers.

Because insider trading undermines investor confidence in the fairness and integrity of the securities markets, the SEC has treated the detection and prosecution of insider trading violations as one of its enforcement priorities.

Members of Congress, for example, shouldn't be doing it, especially not Members who are on Committees dealing with non-public information. But that's exactly what House Financial Services Committee Chairman Spencer Bachus was routinely doing until he was called out on it-- he won reelection is a backward. low-info Alabama district anyway-- and that's exactly what House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon has been doing. McKeon isn't representing a backward Alabama district, however, and he's likely to be defeated in his reelection bid in November. The news on Insider Trading this week didn't come from corrupt congressmen like Bachus and McKeon. Bachus's case is still pending before the House Ethics Committee-- and McKeon is also up on charges in front of that committee, although most likely on other unrelated corruption charges involved with bribe-taking from Countrywide. The big news on insider trading came from Egypt, where it's become convenient for the ruling elite to crack down on two of Hosni Mubarek's sons.
Prosecutors charged Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, the imprisoned sons of former President Hosni Mubarak, with insider stock trading on Wednesday, just two days before both men are expected to hear the verdict in a criminal trial charging them with corruption during their father’s three decades of rule.

State television reported that the Mubarak brothers and seven other men, including the co-chief executives of Egypt’s most prominent investment bank, were charged with obtaining over $400 million through corrupt practices in relation to the 2007 sale of Al Watany Bank. Gamal and Alaa have been in prison since last spring.

The new charges against Mr. Mubarak’s children, once untouchable jet-setters, are another episode in the former ruling family’s fall from grace. Gamal Mubarak, 48, was once widely expected to inherit the presidency after his father’s death. Alaa, 49, is a once-prominent businessman who kept a low public profile.

And when will it become convenient from the ruling elite here to prosecute such crimes? Never... well, never unless the current ruling elite is replaced and it can happen before a new ruling elite is corrupted and gets ossified.

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How dare Mayor Mike decide that NY-ers will have to guzzle their liquid sugar in mere 16-oz. gulps?


"Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States public health officials are wringing their hands, saying, 'Oh, this is terrible!' New York City is not about wringing your hands. It's about doing something. I think that's what the public wants the mayor to do."
-- NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, in a NYT interview yesterday

by Ken

Okay, I chuckled at the cartoon too. It's kind of cute. It's all the kind of reflexive reaction -- "unencumbered by the thought process," in the familiar Car Talk phrase -- that plagues public discourse.

My first inclination was to say something like "that increasingly plagues public discourse," and I do think this has become a keener problem over the last several decades of right-wing propaganda manipulation. (I don't believe that right-wingers have always been this implacably hostile to the thought process, but they clearly are now, no doubt because it makes their pronouncements and actions look imbecilic and thuggish.) But I've also been working my way gradually through NPR media maven Brooke Gladstone's remarkable "graphic not-a-novel" The Influencing Machine: Brooke Gladstone on the Media, and I imagine that Brooke would by now have jumped in to point out how utterly characteristic it is historically for public discourse to be unencumbered by the thought process.

Eventually I'll have to figure out how to write about The Influencing Machine, which is chock full of crucial illuminating information and perspective about the relationship between the citizenry and our media, but for now I'm just going to reference one body of information that I'm embarrassed to say I truly wasn't familiar with.

First, we should establish exactly what it is that Mayor Bloomberg has proposed -- and apparently will get, since the way his people analyze the rule-making process involved, they seem quite persuaded that the proposal doesn't need outsiders' approval -- unlike, say, the proposal supported by the mayor for a tax on sodas, which died a quiet death in the NYS legislature. As NYT reporter Michael Grynbaum notes (in the NYT article that includes the interview with Mayor Mike from which I've quoted above):
Mayoral aides say they are confident that they have the legal authority to restrict soda sales, based on the city’s jurisdiction over local eating establishments, the same oversight that allows for the health department’s letter-grade cleanliness rating system for restaurants.

The mayor's people are confident that all they need in the way of nonmayoral approval is a thumbs-up from the city's Board of Health, which "is considered likely," says reporter Grynbaum, "because the members are all appointed by him, and the board's chairman is the city's health commissioner, who joined the mayor in supporting the measure on Wednesday."
Now, as to what exactly the mayor is proposing, here's Grynbaum's summary:
New York City plans to enact a far-reaching ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks at restaurants, movie theaters and street carts, in the most ambitious effort yet by the Bloomberg administration to combat rising obesity.

The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces -- about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle -- would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March.

The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores. . . .

The ban would not apply to drinks with fewer than 25 calories per 8-ounce serving, like zero-calorie Vitamin Waters and unsweetened iced teas, as well as diet sodas.

Restaurants, delis, movie theater and ballpark concessions would be affected, because they are regulated by the health department. Carts on sidewalks and in Central Park would also be included, but not vending machines or newsstands that serve only a smattering of fresh food items.

At fast-food chains, where sodas are often dispersed at self-serve fountains, restaurants would be required to hand out cup sizes of 16 ounces or less, regardless of whether a customer opts for a diet drink. But free refills -- and additional drink purchases -- would be allowed.

Corner stores and bodegas would be affected if they are defined by the city as "food service establishments." Those stores can most easily be identified by the health department letter grades they are required to display in their windows.

Shocking, isn't it? Instead of happily guzzling on their 48-oz. or 64-oz. containers, consumers of liquid-sugar products are going to be required to keep going back to the counter for additional 16-oz. fixes of their poison!
I suppose many people's knee-jerk reaction wil be like that of our cartoonist above. How dare the dagnab gummint interfere with my God-given right to pour liquid sugar down my gullet?

Sure enough, the expectable suspects are already being heard from.
A spokesman for the New York City Beverage Association, an arm of the soda industry's national trade group, criticized the city's proposal on Wednesday. The industry has clashed repeatedly with the city's health department, saying it has unfairly singled out soda; industry groups have bought subway advertisements promoting their cause.

"The New York City health department's unhealthy obsession with attacking soft drinks is again pushing them over the top," the industry spokesman, Stefan Friedman, said. "It's time for serious health professionals to move on and seek solutions that are going to actually curb obesity. These zealous proposals just distract from the hard work that needs to be done on this front."

Of course it's not the liquid-sugar merchants' responsibility to do any of that "hard work that needs to be done on this front." I suppose we should be grateful that they're not saying, "Obesity problem? What obesity problem?" You know, in the grand tradition of the tobacco industry (and its government-regulation-hating allies in the Big Money elites), which spent decades brazenly denying that there was any demonstrable link between their beloved products and adverse health results. (Eventually we found out that they weren't merely being stupid or disingenuous, they were flat-out lying, because their own research was already demonstrating unquestionable links.)

Of course the beverage industry is in an easier position than the tobacco people were, in that their liquid-sugar products are merely one source of the fuel feeding the obesity epidemic. Never mind that horrific numbers that show what a large -- and nutritionally void -- component of that epidemic their products are. They are unquestionably right that they're not unique contributors to this national nightmare. (And if you don't think it's a national nightmare, have you looked around lately and noted the, er, shape of your fellow Americans?)

The mayor insists, by the way, that he's not taking anything away from anyone.
"Your argument, I guess, could be that it's a little less convenient to have to carry two 16-ounce drinks to your seat in the movie theater rather than one 32 ounce,” Mr. Bloomberg said in a sarcastic tone. “I don’t think you can make the case that we’re taking things away."

Now you have to think that that "sarcastic tone" isn't really isn't necessary and really doesn't help the cause, just as the people responsible for administering those restaurant-cleanliness letter grades really do themselves no favor by denying indignantly that there could be any problems with the administration of the new system, when it seems pretty clear that there are lots of problems. The unwillingness to acknowledge -- and correct -- those problems only detracts from the considerable success and widespread acceptance of the restaurant-cleanliness rating system.

It seems clear to me that this is an area in which Mayor Mike has most successfully distinguished himself from the garden-variety pol who lives in terror of offending entrenched commercial interests. Here's Michael Grynbaum again:
Mr. Bloomberg has made public health one of the top priorities of his lengthy tenure, and has championed a series of aggressive regulations, including bans on smoking in restaurants and parks, a prohibition against artificial trans fat in restaurant food and a requirement for health inspection grades to be posted in restaurant windows.

The measures have led to occasional derision of the mayor as Nanny Bloomberg, by those who view the restrictions as infringements on personal freedom. But many of the measures adopted in New York have become models for other cities, including restrictions on smoking and trans fats, as well as the use of graphic advertising to combat smoking and soda consumption, and the demand that chain restaurants post calorie contents next to prices.


"Nanny state" is the common phrase. How dare the government try to protect people from themselves? There are, after all, people who still insist that people who want to smoke shouldn't have their right to smoke interfered with. Even here, though, you don't find that many people as outraged as the tobacco industry and its death-merchant apologists once were about the government's imposition of health warnings on cigarette packages and limited restrictions on cigarette sales. I think it's worth remembering the extent to which those innovations were once denounced as an unjustifiable assault on Americans' freedom.

Personally, it still outrages me that the people who made fortunes knowingly selling crippling disease ande death to their customers were never properly held to account for what they were: murderers. In the same way that it outrages me that that broad coalition of right-wing destroyers will never be held to account for their decades of lying obstruction of attempts to reverse the human assault on our one and only planet.

Which brings me to the case that stopped me cold in Brooke Gladstone's book: a moment when our government took it upon itself, as a matter of rigidly and ruthlessly enforced policy, to deny unequivocally, and to the maximum of its ability, what would turn out to be one of the momentous truths of the 20th or any other century in human experience. It's an episode in U.S. history that every schoolchild should know about, to appreciate the scale on which our government is capable of lying.

It's too big a subject to simply tack onto this post, so I'm going to come back to it tomorrow, simply noting for now that if we as a society weren't so broadly unencumbered by the thought process, knowledge of this event would help us understand all sorts of subsequent disasters that have happened in part because we had no opportunity to learn the deadly peril of government lying about scientific realities, and we might have some appreciation for Mayor Mike's attempts to acknowledge some such realities and attempt corrective action.

I honestly don't know how I feel about the mayor's plan. But I know I feel a lot closer to what he's trying to do than I do to the attitude of the people who will reflexively respond, "How dare he?" Those people scare me.

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Voters Are Getting Sick Of Political Corruption-- As Buck McKeon Is About To Discover


Can corrupt incumbents, heavily financed by lobbyists and the industries they're supposed to regulate, be defeated? Historically, the answer would have to be, "almost never." This year, though, something is changing. Pennsylvania Blue Dog Tim Holden's defeat at the hands of political newcomer Matt Cartwright was nothing short of stunning for the corrupt Beltway establishment. Tuesday night we saw an almost identical phenomenon in El Paso, when a young and energetic reformer, Beto O'Rourke, vanquished one of the worst Military Industrial Complex shills in Washington, Silvestre Reyes. Reyes was elected in 1996 and Holden was elected in 1992. Both are likely to cross the real DC aisle and become lobbyists themselves. Yesterday's win for Beto O'Rourke in El Paso was surely the best news for progressives but it wasn't the only good news. Kenneth Sanders beat a fake Democrat, Brianna Hinojosa-Flores, in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex district currently held by Big Oil's most prominent congressional whore, Joe Barton. Sanders won big and he won early and now he has to go up against the biggest recipient of Big Oil cash in DC. Sanders, Tuesday night after his victory: "It took a lot of passion and energy to get to this moment, but I have a lot more commitment and drive to offer in the upcoming general election." He'll need it.

the 10 biggest congressional Oil briber-takers since 1989

He took the moment as an opportunity to remind his supporters that Barton is not the candidate for District 6, but the candidate for Washington lobbyists.

“I am a strong democrat who stands for democratic values. Unlike Joe Barton, I’m not a leader in the “Party of NO.” I am going to work for the people of District 6, not the Washington lobbyists who are out of touch with our needs,” Sanders said.

Sanders continued, “I am prepared to fight for healthcare and Medicare, to create jobs, and to improve schools. I’m prepared to stand up for every resident in District 6, not just the wealthy. I know this district, and unlike Barton, I’m ready to fight for its needs.” He ended his speech by asking for continued support throughout the rest of election season and reminding everyone it’s not going to be easy, but he is prepared.

“We’ve just completed one part of the race, but the last leg is the hardest. I’m fired up, and I hope you are too,” Sanders said.

Sanders will have a very rough time. The old 6th CD gave Bush 66% against Gore and 66% against Kerry. And in 2008 it gave McCain 60%. Under the new boundaries, McCain would have won with 57%. Big Oil isn't likely to lose their most dedicated congressional servant this time around-- but, of course, "no one" though Holden or Reyes could possibly lose either. Still, a far better bet for cautious insiders would be Lee Rogers' race against another corrupt incumbent, Buck McKeon, in the northeast corner of Los Angeles County, the last Republican left in a primarily L.A. district. Obama won the old district 49-48% and he would have won under the new boundaries by the same percent. But the Republican civil war in CA-25 makes it nearly impossible for McKeon to win-- to the point where Republicans are already endorsing Rogers against him-- even before a primary with 3 Republicans in it!

McKeon's corruption, much like Reyes' and Holden's is perfectly normal in DC. It's what makes the system work. Let me repeat how Jack Abramoff-- and if anyone understands Beltway corruption it's him-- defined bribery in his book Capitol Punishmen:
[C]ontributions from parties with an interest in legislation are really nothing but bribes. Sure, it's legal for the most part. Sure, everyone in Washington does it. Sure it's the way the system works. It's one of Washington's dirty little secrets-- but it's bribery just the same...

But the voters back home are stunned when they find out. They were in PA-17 and they were in TX-16. TX-6, Barton's district, might be a stretch, but in CA-25, where McKeon is sinking in a swamp of scandal after scandal, voters are taking note. And now, even DC is starting to notice. (Not the DCCC, of course. They'll notice after the Cook Report does and that will be the first Wednesday of November. But yesterday one of the big DC think tanks took note that there's a bad guy in California taking a lot of bribes from the Military Industrial Complex. Here are the ten biggest bribe takers from the war industry so far this cycle; and it includes both houses of Congress:

And here's Eli Clifton's report, Defense Industry Campaign Contributions Create Incentive For 'Pentagon Pork' from Think Progress. No mention of Lee Rogers, but at least they spelled McKeon's name correctly.
Earlier this month, House lawmakers passed a $643 billion defense budget draft, $4 billion more than the president’s defense budget request and $8 billion more than the cap set on defense spending Congress last year. The bill’s passage brought criticisms from House Democrats and Pentagon officials-- including Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey-- and stood in striking contrast to recent polling data showing that 65 percent of Americans would support cuts to military spending. But generous campaign contributions from the defense industry, and related industries that benefit from other Defense Department contracts, may explain the willingness of House Republicans to ignore the preferences of the American public and the military’s leadership.

An investigation for by defense budgeting expert Winslow Wheeler into “Pentagon pork” found that “the money being added for ‘Restoration & Modernization of Facilities’ was being added without any meaningful guidance, none whatsoever.” Funding for “Restoration & Modernization of Facilities,” which Wheeler characterizes as a having “the distinct odor of being a slush fund,” totals $594.7 million.

But the House Armed Services Committee members who passed the oversized defense budget draft may have other interests in mind. Four of the top-ten industry campaign donors to House Armed Services Committee members, as categorized by, would appear to benefit from this “slush fund.” “Defense Aerospace,” “Real Estate,” “Misc Defense,” and “Building Trade Unions,” already contributed a total of $4.89 million to House Armed Services Committee members in the 2012 election cycle. The majority of that went to Republicans.

And House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and his leadership PAC are the top congressional recipients of defense industry campaign dollars.

...The apparent contradiction of House Armed Services Committee members passing an oversized defense budget which exceeds that requested by the military and defies the U.S. public’s preference for a reduction in defense spending makes more sense when viewed in the context of defense industry, and industries which benefit directly and indirectly from defense related appropriations, contributions to committee member’s campaign committees and leadership PACs. Indeed, the contributions offer a monetary incentive for committee members to advocate for additional budget items-- such as an East Coast missile defense system which Gen. Demspsey said was unnecessary-- and create “Pentagon pork.”

The Antelope Valley, which is filled with defense industries is not sympathetic to McKeon's reelection bid. A recent poll showed him being slaughtered by Rogers, 46.25-25.0% in a 4-way jungle primary. His morning Rogers told us that he supports a strong national defense program, strong and smart and effective. "But Buck McKeon's idea of a strong defense is overfunding the Pentagon beyond what they need or even want," Rogers told us. "Where will that extra funding go? To his campaign contributors, of course. His budget violates the Budget Control Act of 2011, which he voted for. But as the spending caps on defense and domestic spending become a reality for him, he's resorted to hysterics. He's all of a sudden discovered Keynesian economics and now believes that government spending will lead to more jobs and prevent an economic downturn, but only if that spending is on defense. People in our district want their Congressman to be responsible with our tax dollars and be responsive to the needs of the district. He's failed at both tasks."

Matt Cartwright and Beto O'Rourke won without any money from the DCCC or the corrupt DC Establishment. Lee Rogers will win the same way. Will you help him, the way so many of us helped Matt and Beto? You can do it here at the Blue America ActBlue page. The more candidates elected who are not supported by the corrupt DCCC-- and who owe them nothing-- the better off for progressives and the better off for American working families. Let's say NO to corruption. That's what the GOP is for & that's one place we don't need any bipartisanship.

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Artur Davis, Always The Skin-Crawling Opportunist, Makes It Official: He's Gone From ConservaDem To Republican


Artur Davis had one of the safest Democratic districts in the South. When he was the congressman from the 7th CD, gerrymandering had packed as many African-Americans into it as they could. It was a 61.7% African-American district with a Democratic PVI of +17. Gore won with 66%, Kerry with 64% and Obama with 72%. And yet Davis, a Harvard graduate on the way somewhere, was always voting as though he had to worry about something. He ran against a populist Democratic incumbent who had-- like Cynthia McKinney-- angered Zionists outside the district and they funded Davis' campaigns. He won on his second try, in 2002, and turned out to be a consistently conservative Members of Congress.

But Davis wasn't voting like a Republican because he was afraid of his constituents. He was voting like a Republican because he wasn't afraid of them and was willing to betray their interests for his own-- his own ambition. He was always told he was meant to be something more than "just" a congressman-- a governor, a senator... maybe more. So his every vote was geared towards pleasing Alabama voters outside the 7th CD, much the way another creepy-crawly Democrat in a similar situation, Harold Ford, Jr., was playing the game in Memphis. But both failed. Davis lost the Democratic primary-- and lost badly, including in his own district-- when he ran for governor. He had moved from a moderate 70.82 ProgressivePunch lifetime voting score to a dismal and reactionary 31.58 from the time Obama became President and, more importantly, since he started his campaign for governor.
His vote against the health care reform bill was probably the last straw for his congressional constituents, who gave Ron Sparks majorities in 10 of the 12 counties that make up AL-07, Davis' own congressional district! Statewide, Sparks took 199,190 votes (62.4%) to Davis' 119,908 votes (37.6%). Davis' strategy-- one long encouraged by Rahm Emanuel and the DCCC-- to move to the political right backfired... very badly. It's a losing strategy; when conservatives vote, they tend to prefer to vote for real conservatives, not Democrats playing the role.

But Davis has long passed "playing" the role to being the role. Last October we asked when Davis would make it official and join the GOP. This week he finally made the move official, both that he's abandoned Alabama for Virginia and the conservative end of the Democratic Party for the Republicans. Forget "I have no interest in running for political office again". He never really meant that anyway, other than in the sense Nixon did.
I should say something about the various stories regarding my political future in Virginia, the state that has been my primary home since late December 2010. The short of it is this: I don’t know and am nowhere near deciding. If I were to run, it would be as a Republican. And I am in the process of changing my voter registration from Alabama to Virginia, a development which likely does represent a closing of one chapter and perhaps the opening of another.

As to the horse-race question that animated parts of the blogosphere, it is true that people whose judgment I value have asked me to weigh the prospect of running in one of the Northern Virginia congressional districts in 2014 or 2016, or alternatively, for a seat in the Virginia legislature in 2015. If that sounds imprecise, it’s a function of how uncertain political opportunities can be-- and if that sounds expedient, never lose sight of the fact that politics is not wishfulness, it’s the execution of a long, draining process to win votes and help and relationships while your adversaries are working just as hard to tear down the ground you build.

...[P]arties change. As I told a reporter last week, this is not Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party (and he knows that even if he can’t say it). If you have read this blog, and taken the time to look for a theme in the thousands of words (or free opposition research) contained in it, you see the imperfect musings of a voter who describes growth as a deeper problem than exaggerated inequality; who wants to radically reform the way we educate our children; who despises identity politics and the practice of speaking for groups and not one national interest; who knows that our current course on entitlements will eventually break our solvency and cause us to break promises to our most vulnerable-- that is, if we don’t start the hard work of fixing it.

On the specifics, I have regularly criticized an agenda that would punish businesses and job creators with more taxes just as they are trying to thrive again. I have taken issue with an administration that has lapsed into a bloc by bloc appeal to group grievances when the country is already too fractured: frankly, the symbolism of Barack Obama winning has not given us the substance of a united country. You have also seen me write that faith institutions should not be compelled to violate their teachings because faith is a freedom, too. You’ve read that in my view, the law can’t continue to favor one race over another in offering hard-earned slots in colleges: America has changed, and we are now diverse enough that we don’t need to accommodate a racial spoils system. And you know from these pages that I still think the way we have gone about mending the flaws in our healthcare system is the wrong way-- it goes further than we need and costs more than we can bear.

Taken together, these are hardly the enthusiasms of a Democrat circa 2012, and they wouldn’t be defensible in a Democratic primary. But they are the thoughts and values of ten years of learning, and seeing things I once thought were true fall into disarray. So, if I were to leave the sidelines, it would be as a member of the Republican Party that is fighting the drift in this country in a way that comes closest to my way of thinking: wearing a Democratic label no longer matches what I know about my country and its possibilities.

USAToday, with a straight face, referred to Davis as an Obama ally and the Washington Post emphasizes his intentions of running as a Virginia Republican-- probably against Jim Moran or Gerald Connolly. But, has no one considered the possibility that he just wants a job on Fox?

As for the DCCC... just look at their Red-to-Blue page. They've recruited dozens of clueless conservatives just like Davis who are bound to vote with Republicans if any of them get the chance and, eventually, to become Republicans, just like he did. The DCCC is spending virtually all the money they've allocated for challengers on conservatives, many to the right of Davis, like Blue Dogs and New Dems:
Shelley Adler (New Dem-NJ)
Ron Barber (New Dem-AZ, who's already announced he won't commit to voting for Pelosi for Speaker)
Leonard Bembray (Blue Dog-FL)
Andrei Cherny (New Dem-AZ)
David Crooks (Blue Dog-IN)
John Delaney (New Dem-MD)
Suzan DelBene (New Dem-WA)
Val Demings (New Dem-FL)
Bill Foster (New Dem-FL)
Pam Gulleson (Blue Dog-ND)
Clark Hall (Blue Dog/KKK-AR)
Denny Heck (New Dem-WA)
Paul Hirschbiel (New Dem-VA)
Nick Lampson (Blue Dog-TX)
Dan Maffei (New Dem-NY)
Gary McDowell (Blue Dog-MI)
Brendon Mullen (Blue Dog-IN)
Patrick Murphy (New Dem-FL)
Scott Peters (New Dem-CA)
Hayden Rogers (Blue Dog-NC)
Brad Schneider (New Dem-IL)
Julian Schreibman (New Dem-NY)
Juan Vargas (New Dem-CA)
Rob Wallace (Blue Dog-OK)
Charlie Wilson (Blue Dog/New Dem-OH)

It's a long list of losers, a long list of candidates "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel wants you to waste your money on. Here's a list of well-vetted progressives you might want to consider as an alternative. None of them will ever switch to the GOP the way DCCC candidates tend to do.

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Guest Post From Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH)


The latest polling shows Carol Shea-Porter reclaiming New Hampshire's first district congressional seat from teabagger Frank Guinta. Guinta's one hope-- to swamp her with corporate cash the same way he did in 2010. The DCCC doesn't help progressives-- only Blue Dogs and other corrupt conservatives-- so Shea-Porter will be depending on grassroots support to keep her competitive and overcome Guinta's massive financial advantage. Please take a look at Carol's latest OpEd and consider contributing to here campaign at the Blue America ActBlue page.

Cleaning Up Campaigns

-by Carol Shea Porter (D-NH)

What if the United States held an election season and no Super PAC money or other hard to trace or totally hidden special interest money showed up on our television or radio, or in print ads? Would voters think they were better off without that money in local, state, and federal elections? Do they think this money is unduly influencing our democratic process, and are they right? The answer to these questions is yes, and citizens want politicians to clean this mess up now.
Super PACs and other secretive funding groups known as “advocacy organizations” have changed campaigns, and not for the better. The New York Times wrote in an article entitled, “Super PACs Let Strategists Off the Leash,” that campaigns can now last longer. Candidates have a few very rich people who want to keep up, and are willing to pay for, extended attacks on opponents. And there is an added benefit-- no regular people involved. The article quotes Bob Schuman, who ran a super PAC, Americans for Rick Perry. The quote should make us all sit up and take notice. He said, “You don’t have kitchen cabinets made up of well-intentioned friends and neighbors who don’t know what they’re doing but eat up a lot of your time.” And, “Super PACs don’t have spouses.” These Super PAC funders and managers like the idea that just a few people can be heard over those annoying candidates, their spouses, and friends and neighbors, and that their special interests get special attention, even if they do not share the same interests as those annoying citizens.  

 Recently, a Super PAC’s plan to run racially divisive ads against President Obama came to light before it was implemented, and everyone involved ran away from the idea, claiming they were shocked at this vicious plan. But there are more than 500 Super PACs now registered with the Federal Election Commission, and most of us understand why they are there. Ever since the Supreme Court’s misguided 2010 decision in Citizens United, Super PACs and other “advocacy” groups can accept unlimited money in a race. This is just wrong. Individuals can only contribute $2,500 in a primary and an additional $2,500 in the general campaign, and there are strict rules about identifying the donors. Traditional PACs, such as the National Education Association, which donates to me, and ExxonMobil, which donates to Congressman Frank Guinta, can only give $10,000. But now, they and others can give an unlimited amount of money to a Super PAC to attack or support either of us, as long as they don’t coordinate with us. Super PACs can easily hide the money because it is extremely difficult to identify who owns private equity firms, and the “advocacy” organizations are not required to identify donors.
The Montana Supreme Court upheld a 100-year old state law last year that restricted corporate campaign funding. Even a hundred years ago, voters understood that Montana could be “especially vulnerable” to corporate control, because Montana’s state politics were controlled by mining and agricultural interests. Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, agree with the 22 states and the District of Columbia who are trying to keep the US Supreme Court Citizens United decision from stopping Montana’s state laws that restrict corporate campaign money.
The Citizens United decision is outrageous, and I hope that the Court does review and overturn its decision. But unless and until the United States Supreme Court acts, there are steps citizens and politicians can take.
First, Congress can pass a law requiring full disclosure. This simply means that if you donate money, you have to disclose who you are. I cosponsored that bill when I was in Congress. Second, require companies to give shareholders a vote on political spending. Shareholders do not have the freedom of speech to say “no” to the corporate managers right now. Third, adopt public financing. The Fair Elections Now Act, which I also cosponsored, would give candidates public money if they demonstrated voter financial support for their candidacies. This would free the candidates from dialing for private dollars all the time, and reduce donor influence on members of Congress.
Polls show that the majority of voters want campaign finance reform. I have asked Congressman Frank Guinta to join me and ask Super PACs and other outside groups who have secret money to stay out of our race. He has refused, but I will keep asking, because we have to start somewhere and we have to start now.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Me And Madonna


I was a punk rock guy. My KSAN radio show in San Francisco was the first commercial all-punk show on a commercial station anywhere in America. My partner from that show, Chris Knab, and I started one of the first all-punk indie labels in the country too, 415 Records. So it made some sense when Seymour Stein hired me to run his label, Sire Records. Seymour had signed the Ramones, the Dead Boys, Richard Hell, the Talking Heads, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Smiths, The Replacements, Madness, The Cure, Ministry, Throwing Muses, The Saints, The Undertones...It was a label dedicated to the music I loved. But, basically, all the profit came from another artist, Madonna. Back in San Francisco, I had a radio promo for my show that claimed it was the one place on the dial where you would be 100% safe from ever hearing a Madonna song. I wasn't a fan.

So, soon after I got to Sire as General Manager and vice president, Seymour called a meeting of the whole staff to divide up the responsibilities for all the artists. After hours of back and forth he finally said, "Look, ultimately, I'll take Madonna and The Cult and Howie's going to be responsible for everyone else." A few minutes later he changed his mind and said I'd have The Cult too.

A couple months later, he insisted I come with him to a Madonna concert. I refused; I was too busy working on breaking Depeche Mode. He offered me $200 in cash if I came with him to meet her backstage at a Madison Square Garden concert. I had always dreamed that one of "my" bands would play Madison Square Garden. It was the ultimate for me. He never coughed up the $200, but I went with him to the show. Backstage, Madonna was about as interested in me as I was in her, but something happened that shocked me. There was no press, no p.r. agents, just Madonna and a small handful of her people and me and Seymour. And some guy from an AIDS organization. It was still early in the AIDS story. I didn't know for sure what it was except that it was something shameful that was killing gay people. Madonna gave the guy her paycheck from that night's show, a million dollars. It never made it to the newspapers. It was just something she could afford to do and something she wanted to do.

I started listening to her music, something I had never done before. I found songs I liked. I even suggested that one of the cutting-edge German industrial bands I was working with, Bi-God 20, cover "Like A Prayer." I encouraged John Wesley Harding to do the same song. What a great tune! And whenever I appealed to the artists on our roster to help out with a song for a charity record, Madonna was usually first or one of the first. Of course Seymour still was the guy who coordinated all things Madonna and my involvement in her career was, at best, minimal. Generously, when Madonna's records went gold and platinum and multi-platinum, they included me on the list of people who were given award plaques.

I've long since retired from the music business and right now I'm trying to help a young candidate in Michigan, Trevor Thomas, win a congressional seat held by a Tea Party Republican, Justin Amash. The district is winnable for a Democrat and Amash is very vulnerable. Unfortunately, a very conservative Democratic establishment has its own candidate for that seat as well. Before Trevor can take on Amash, he has to beat a wealthy anti-Choice Democrat. "Anti-Choice Democrat?" They still exist? Not many, but Steve Pestka was in the state legislature and not only did he always vote against women's right to Choice, he even joined the Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood! Trevor, meanwhile, a former staffer for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has endorsed his campaign, was working tirelessly-- and successfully-- to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." He is a staunch defender of equality under the law for all Americans and, of course, for women's health issues and women's choice.

What does that have to do with Madonna?

Well, a lot actually-- and not just that they're both proud Michiganders with hearts of gold. When Madonna's record "Vogue" sold two million copies the RIAA certified it double platinum and Warner Brothers issued an award disc. Very few were made and, of course, this wasn't something that was ever sold to anyone-- for any amount. I was given one, and after I met Trevor and we talked about what he'd like to accomplish in Congress, I offered to use it to help raise money for his campaign. That resulted in this ActBlue page,, which went public yesterday. Every person who makes a contribution through that page for Trevor's campaign will be entered in a random drawing to win that double platinum award for "Vogue" as a "thank you" from Blue America. Everyone has the same shot, whether you contribute one dollar or 1,000 dollars-- or even if you just send us a note to PO Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027.

Progressives almost never have the kind of money wealthy conservatives like Steve Pestka can use to try to buy congressional races-- let along the fortunes odious anti-democracy fanatics like the Koch brothers pour into politics. But progressives still manage to win House races, usually by motivating grassroots support. That's what Trevor is trying to do. He needs some money for that-- not a fortune but enough to be competitive. Please consider helping him, especially if you have anyone on your Christmas list who you think might enjoy the Madonna plaque. There's a picture of it on the ActBlue page. And in case you forgot:

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Um, Jay, who exactly lost money in WHICH Obama economic plan?


Who wouldn't like to see Jay Leno someday introduce occasional touches of "humor" to his jokes? But it's more important that he try to cut back on the lies.

"The Center for Responsive Politics reports that President Obama has become the first politician in history to raise $1 billion in his political career. Imagine how much more he could have raised if people had't lost it all in his economic plan."
-- a Jay Leno "joke" on The Tonight Show

by Ken

It's something right-wingers never understand. Or, to be fair, a certain number of non-right-wingers either. What I have in mind is people who are officially Democrats, including many who aren't necessarily not-right-wingers. But even many Democrats who insist that they're committed progressives believe it's impermissible to make fun of people they support -- such as, to pick a wild example, the president -- no matter how ridiculously they may behave.

In case it isn't obvious from the preceding, what I mean by the "it" that right-wingers never understand is the principle that pols of all persuasions are fair game for earned ridicule -- that in fact it's important to the health of the republic to call ridiculousness to account in our public servants. Okay, it's true that, as this presidential primary season demonstrated, right-wingers have lost their former compunctions about savaging doctrinally diverse wingnuts, but does anyone expect that to carry over into an inter-party race, let alone a Republican-controlled federal government?

These are, after all, people from whom hardly a peep was heard during the reign of terrifying insanity and ineptitude that constituted the Bush regime, those eight unimaginable years during which the office of president of the United States was misappropriated by a shell of a humanoid creature without even minimal qualifications for any known category of non-figurehead employment except perhaps "boozing gladhander." And for a good part of that same period both houses of Congress were controlled by sociopaths who again would have deserved to be the butt of daily scorched-earth ridicule if their actions hadn't been so singlemindedly aimed at turning the country into a festering doodyhole for everyone except the rich and their fellating stooges. (Many of them, it's true, also earned decades-long prison sentences that they didn't get, a closely related story but not the one we're pursuing just now.)

The switch of parties in the Oval office had the effect of switching an on-off switch for both the character assassins and the would-be humorizers of the Right. By contrast, any Democrats who expected, say, Jon Stewart to play nice with the new administration clearly wasn't paying attention. The rule is not only fair but important to our political health: When you earn ridicule, you have to get it.

Just today, Newt Gingrich, in defending the Indefensible Willard for his handling of the psychotic ravings of converted Willard booster "The" Donald Trump, explained that birther foolishness isn't the cause of President Obama's. "I think that Obama creates very powerful emotions about him largely because of the radicalism of his views. I think that that's the key." And nobody, to my knowledge, has asked him, "Are you speaking as an insane person, an imbecile, or just a pathological liar?"

Really, it would have been understandable if everyone present had just burst into hysterics pointing wildly at the grotesque turd, maybe muttering, "What an incredible colossal dickwad!" Obama, maybe the least radical pol in the history of the republic, being branded as "radical" by a man who holds so many off-the-chart ultra-zealot crackpot views that it's hard to imagine how he walks the streets free of the loony bin. But of course a country whose citizens have been so unrelentingly subjected to miseducation and lies -- citizens who often seem happy only when they're being lied to by right-wing filth-mongers -- manages to believe this utter lunacy, and the perpetrators walk free.

So Obama jokes are absolutely fair game for Jay. Lies, however -- not so much. The president is, again, accountable for what he has failed to do for the economy, or more accurately failed to try to do, because his political haters would surely have roused themselves to the utmost to prevent him from doing anything that would have helped the country and in so doing been to his political advantage.

But the closest thing to an "economic plan" which might fit the mold of the joke Jay was trying to make is the economic policies of the Bush regime, the policies of commission and omission which paved the way for the economic meltdown. Jay is either so stupid that he doesn't know this, in which case he ought to be encouraged to keep his trap shut about stuff he knows nothing about, or else he's happy to be locking in the right-wing lie about who made the economy go boom.

In which case he ought to come out of the closet as a right-wing propagandist. (The occasional funny joke would be an upgrade to his comedy product too, but that's yet another story.)

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Unless You're A Bankster You've Probably Never Heard Of Ed Royce (R-CA), But We Have An Opportunity To End His Disgraceful Career Now


It’s a great year for California Congressional races. When Californians voted to take redistricting out of the hands of politicians and placed it in the hands of a nonpartisan citizens commission, the Democratic Party squealed bloody murder. But the commission did what the Democratic establishment couldn’t do themselves: put several new seats in play based on demographics, not politics. One of these seats is Southern California’s 39th District, where businessman, school board member and Navy Reserve intelligence officer Jay Chen now has an excellent opportunity to retire Ed Royce, one of the worst of the faux-teabagger bunch.

Royce has long been Wall Street’s lapdog and has collected millions from the financial services and insurance industries he passionately deregulates. In fact, no California Representative has received more campaign contributions from the financial services industry than Royce, and bankers are getting what they paid for. Royce was Sarah Palin’s choice for Chair of the House Financial Services committee, and as a ranking member, he championed the deregulation and risk-taking that allowed bankers to plunge our country into the Second Great Depression. Even with egg still fresh on his face, he voted against regulating the subprime mortgage industry, voted against taxing the bonuses of TARP recipients, and he still opposes the Volcker rule despite J.P. Morgan’s $2 billion debacle.

Who got the biggest payoffs from the banksters for working to weaken the Volcker Rule?

Luckily for us, redistricting has put Royce in a precarious position, and Democrat Jay Chen is incredibly positioned to give him a final push into obscurity. While Royce used to represent the deepest, reddest portions of Orange County, his district has now shifted north to span Democratic Los Angeles County and San Bernardino. Only 30% of his old district is in the new one, and the district has become majority minority, with 60% of the population being Asian and Latino. While there is still a Republican registration advantage, it is mitigated by the fact that Asians are swing voters and Asian Republicans will vote for a qualified Asian Democrat over a Tea Party Republican who advocates English-only and once called multiculturalism “odious” at an anti-Muslim hate rally. Did I mention that he also voted against the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and wants to overturn the 14th Amendment?

Ed Royce knows he is vulnerable as well, which is why he has gone full force in the Chinese-language press (ironic, since he supports English-only) to soften his anti-immigrant image and backpedal his extremist rhetoric. According to the most recent FEC reports, Royce has already spent over $2,000,000 in this cycle (the second-most in California behind Republican Kevin McCarthy), and he has conducted his own poll. Not exactly the actions of a confident incumbent. We wonder what his polling revealed.

It probably said the same thing that Jay Chen’s poll said: we could see a momentous flip of this seat in 2012. Jay is the perfect candidate for this swing seat. He was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to immigrant parents from Taiwan. He speaks fluent Mandarin and Spanish and went to public schools in Hacienda Heights before attending Harvard University. After Harvard he worked in management consulting (yes, at Bain Consulting!), then started his own real estate business in Los Angeles.

Five years ago he decided to run for a seat on his local school board, in the same district that he graduated from. He won with the top vote and since then has implemented some remarkable new ideas, including free SAT classes, free college application workshops, edible school gardens, and Mandarin language immersion classes. Test scores have gone up each year, and his district is one of the few in California that has not furloughed or laid off any K-12 teaching staff. As if he wasn’t busy enough, he also earned a direct commission as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Republicans will respond well to Jay’s business experience (some Republican standard-bearers have worked at the same firm) and Navy background. Democrats can rest assured that he is as progressive as they come, having won Democrat of the Year in 2011 for his Assembly District and having served as a delegate for President Obama in 2008. Jay also organized over 100 Californians to campaign for Obama in the swing state of Nevada and was a visible and vocal opponent of California’s bigoted Proposition 8. Independents will appreciate the success he has achieved on his local school board. And practically everyone will cheer the fact that this isn’t the first time that Jay has taken on the Tea Party.

Two years ago when Jay voted for the Mandarin language immersion program, the local wingnuts went ballistic, claiming that teaching Chinese meant you were teaching Communism. Hilarity ensued, with Jay being labeled a “Communist Emperor” and facing a recall over his attempt to “brainwash” local children into becoming slaves for the Chinese government. The Daily Show captured the non-controversy perfectly in its segment "Socialism Studies," and Jay remains one of the few elected officials to appear on The Daily Show and not get shredded to bits. For that reason alone he deserves our support!

Jay’s priorities for Congress include modernizing elementary and middle school curriculum with computer science and engineering classes, making higher education more affordable, and creating a green economy that creates new manufacturing jobs and makes us energy-independent. He will also protect our promises to veterans and retirees, and ensure that women control their bodies, not politicians. We think Jay is right for the 39th District and right for America. To quote Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, “Jay Chen is a rising star in the Democratic Party and represents the next generation of leadership our country needs."

This is a winnable race, but the DCCC establishment is naturally too busy to notice. President Obama won 49% of this district in 2008 and Republicans have only become more unpopular since then. Jay’s trilingual ability will allow him to reach voters who have been ignored until now. And Royce’s own actions and spending indicate that he knows his number could be up. Jay has raised a sizable $400,000 so far, but he’ll need more to fight the next Republican Chair of the House Financial Services Committee. Every contribution you make will shake this race up even more. Let’s get things stirring here on our ActBlue page.

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Voter Fraud-- Republican Style: Meet Thaddeus McCotter... Again


These days when you mention election fraud, everyone immediately thinks of the shenanigans underway in Florida, as Rick Scott tries putting an anti-democracy infrastructure in place to steal the 2012 election in November. But Florida isn't the only state-- just the worst-- where Republicans who took over state governments in 2010 are trying to rig the system. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich have, along with the incredibly unpopular Rick Scott, been most notorious. And Rick Snyder, the crook who slipped into the Michigan governor's chair. In fact, Michigan is a well when it comes to all the little ALEC schemes to undermine democracy. And that brings us to our old friend-- and pathetic mama's boy-- Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia, Michigan. The 11th district, in the Oakland and Wayne county suburbs north and west of Detroit, is a classic swing district. Bush won it with 51 and 53% and then Obama came in with 54% in 2008. In 2008 McCotter almost lost to a poorly-funded, virtually unknown candidate with just 51% of the vote.

So this year McCotter turned in hundreds of illegitimate signatures to get on the ballot. Michigan requires 1,000 but only 244 of McCotter's were valid! He was disqualified, although now he wants to run as a write-in candidate. He has a GOP primary challenger and two Democratic challengers, progressive physician Syed Taj and Bill Roberts, a deranged LaRouche freak who McCotter seems to have put up to the task of disrupting the Democratic process. And, possibly even more of a problem for McCotter is that the state's Attorney General, Bill Schuette (a right-wing Republican), is looking into what everyone thinks is an egregious case of election fraud.
While campaigns will often have some signatures invalidated, the sheer number of signatures that were thrown out suggests that people who collected them may have engaged in fraud.
A Detroit News review of the signatures found some of the pages were photocopied once or twice and attached to the name of a different signature gatherer.

McCotter wrote a column Tuesday in the Detroit News saying he will press on with a write-in bid and urging the state attorney general’s office to investigate.

“In honoring my vow to put my official responsibilities before politics, I delegated the same team that gathered signatures for me during the past decade to do so again, and I had no reason to doubt the competence or credibility of our petition gatherers’ assessment,” McCotter said, adding: “Now I feel like George Bailey after Uncle Billy admitted he lost the money. Like George, knowing my misplaced trust has negatively impacted so many people is heartrending. Unlike George, I am not tempted to jump off a bridge. Instead, I remember my late father’s rule: ‘You clean up your own mess.’”(Give McCotter this: He’s retained his legendarily wry sense of humor.)

McCotter expounded on that column in an interview on The Frank Beckmann Show this morning in which he suggested that a staff member had lied to him.

“At some point, for something like this to happen, I do feel like someone … lied to me,” McCotter said, according to the Detroit News.

There is one candidate on the GOP primary ballot: teacher Kerry Bentivolio. But McCotter’s biggest obstacle to re-nomination may be his name, which may be tough for some voters to spell.

The Oakland County Republican Party is in a total state of disunity-- and pissed as hell at McCotter. This is a real disaster for them and they're contemplating losing what they thought was a relatively safe seat (safe because they know how inept and disconnected the DCCC is). Michigan's director of elections, Chris Thomas, called the mess McCotter turned in, which included signatures from his 2010 petitions, "unheard of... "It's amazing when you sit and look, and it starts to dwell on you what they've done." The Secretary of State's office has turned over its findings to Schuette for what should be a criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, Public Policy Polling reported yesterday, that Michigan-- one of Romney's home state's-- is looking bright blue for November. And if Romney adds Gov. Snyder as VP-- his losing margin actually increases! Michiganders have grown sick of the anti-democracy move the GOP has been trying to institute in their state.
Barack Obama won't have to worry too much about holding Michigan for the Democrats this fall- he leads Mitt Romney 53-39 there, a lead little changed from PPP's last poll of the state in February when his advantage was 54-38.

Romney just doesn't have much of a home field advantage in the state. Only 24% of voters consider him to be a Michigander to 65% who do not. And only 35% have a favorable opinion of him to 57% with a negative view.

It's not just Romney's unpopularity helping Obama in Michigan though. Obama's own approval rating is at a record high in our polling of the state with 53% of voters giving him good marks to 41% who disapprove, including a 50/43 standing with independents.

Obama's crushing Romney on what will doubtless be one of the biggest issues in the campaign in Michigan- 55% think that he's been better for the automotive industry in the state to only 31% who say Romney wins out on that front.

Going inside the numbers Obama's winning over 13% of Republican voters while losing just 7% of Democrats, and he also has a double digit advantage with independents at 48-36. Obama's winning women by a 58-34 margin and significantly has a 10 point lead with white voters at 50-40.

There's been some talk about Rick Snyder as a potential running mate but he wouldn't help the ticket any- with him as the VP pick Obama's lead actually expands slightly to 53-38. That's because Snyder continues to be an unpopular Governor with only 37% of voters approving of him to 52% who disapprove. That's a regression for Snyder compared to February when he was at 40/47, largely because he's seen a drop with independents.

And that's good news for Dr. Taj-- and for other progressive challengers across the state, like Lance Enderle and Trevor Thomas. You can help Dr. Taj beat the LaRouche freak and the McCotter freak here on our ActBlue page.

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Establishment Hacks Lose Another One As El Paso Dems Dump Reyes-- Next Stop Buck McKeon?


All the pundits and bloviating Beltway politicos ignored Beto O'Rourke's race against painfully long-term incumbent, Silvestre Reyes and said the young upstart had no chance. Even the commercialized progressive groups completely ignored his contest. But early voting went drastically in his direction and, despite Reyes, last minute, heavily funded (by the Military Industrial Complex) smear campaign, O'Rourke put him away nice and easy. Even as the votes were coming in, the most unctuous shills of the DC Establishment were hoping out loud that Beto would lose. This isn't about ideology, this is just about Establishment dick suckers sucking Establishment dick, which is what they get paid to do-- to the point where they become what they do. By the end they were publicly praying for a run-off or even a Republican victory in November. The Establishment and it's miserable foot soldiers are very threatened by insurgents... and victorious insurgents make them want to kill themselves.

Beltway hacks are in misery with outright win by Beto O'Rourke

Congratulations to the Campaign for Primary Accountability for putting almost $200,000 into helping make Congress less institutionally corrupt-- and for, once again, making a complete laughing stock out of the ridiculous Cook Report, Washington's most clueless and utterly out-of-touch prognosticators. Here's official statement from the Campaign For Primary Accountability:
The Campaign for Primary Accountability achieved its goal of helping voters hold elected officials accountable through competitive elections.

We congratulate the voters who participated in today’s primary election. They are the real winners.

Nearly 11,000 more voters in the 16th Congressional District this year cast a ballot than in 2010. The increased turnout is a clear victory for the voters, for American representative democracy and a vindication of CPA’s efforts. Greater voter participation means greater accountability. Greater accountability means a better Congress. 

Rep. Reyes had all the benefits of incumbency. Beltway lobbyists showered money on their long-time friend while Washington party leaders with marquee names tried to lend him their stature.

The voters exercised their franchise and chose Beto O’Rourke.

We congratulate Beto O’Rourke. Most importantly, we congratulate all the voters of the Sixteenth Congressional District who participated in greater numbers to have their voices heard.

This is one Super PAC that is quite unpopular Inside-the-Beltway. The Beltway hacks are clueless about America Outside-the-Beltway. They only talk with each other and constantly reinforce each other's prejudices. We see a similar situation out here in L.A., where the Beltway idiots are clueless about the Lee Rogers-Buck McKeon race in the northeast corner of the county. Do you think Steve Israel or Debbie Wasserman Schultz has set a slippered foot down in the Antelope Valley-- or even heard of it? Have any of the Monday morning quarterbacks from the Cook Report? I doubt it. The DCCC would do well to listen to Henry Waxman who understands a little something about Los Angeles electoral politics and who has come out swinging for Lee Rogers and understands it's a race Democrats can and should win-- unlike the foolish and wasteful Blue Dog endeavors Israel is using all the DCCC's money up on that will never even come close. Take a look at this Rogers' video that doesn't figure into DCCC/Cook Report computations. It explains why Rogers is on his way to a victory in a race that the Beltway will never understand. Remember-- since they don't-- all politics is local:

Help us put Lee over the top here at the Blue America ActBlue page. The Establishment didn't want to face reality when corrupt Blue Dog Tim Holden was going down to an historic ass-whooping, a landslide at the hands of some-guy-they-never-heard-of. And they didn't want to pay any attention to Beto's challenge to old-and-in-the-way Reyes, even after the biggest newspaper in El Paso endorsed the challenger and explained in plain English why he would Reyes' time was past. And now they don't want to realize that corrupt California incumbents like Buck McKeon and Ed Royce, despite the Cook Clowns, can be beaten. Beyond conventional, anti-visionary, Steve Israel may well proven to be the worst mistake of Nancy Pelosi's entire political career.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Where Was Joe McCarthy From Again? And What About All Those Congressmen Who Were Pro-Nazi During The Run-up To World War II?


My dad was an FBI agent when World War II started. He was a Nazi-hunter-- stationed in Milwaukee. Just outside of Milwaukee, in Ozaukee County, there was a Nazi training camp (or "summer camp"), Camp Hindenburg in Grafton. Wisconsin was crawling with Nazi sympathizers and fascism has always been considered a viable alternative to democracy in certain circles. Joe McCarthy was a hero and so are anti-democracy moles Scott Walker and Paul Ryan. This weekend the New York Times Magazine asked how Wisconsin has become the most politically divisive place in America, but didn't add "again." Dan Kaufman points out that, "according to recent polling, Wisconsin, once known for progressive policy and upper-Midwestern civility, is now the most politically polarized state in the nation." But progressive policy and upper-Midwestern civility isn't all the state has been known for-- not by a long shot.

The fight to turn Wisconsin into a bastion of neo-fascist plutocracy didn't just begin with Scott Walker's anti-democracy jihad and his plans to eliminate collective-bargaining rights for a the state’s public-employee unions. As the Times makes clear, Walker's "move to end collective bargaining placed him at the forefront of a national conservative strategy. His attack on public-employee unions was lauded by Mitt Romney, John Boehner and Karl Rove, and he has received significant financial support from the billionaire conservative donors Charles and David Koch." He told his cabinet he wanted "to change the course of history." This phase of reintroducing fascism to Wisconsin was a counterrevolution and the revolution it was countering was the American Revolution.
After signing Act 10, Governor Walker told a reporter for The Associated Press that the bill was “innovative” and “progressive” — words chosen perhaps because they resonate with the enduring pride many Wisconsin citizens still feel about their state’s pioneering political history. The current Wisconsin Blue Book contains a 68-page essay extolling the achievements of the 1911 Legislature, which included the establishment of the first workmen’s-compensation program, laws limiting labor for women and children and the passage of a forest-conservation act. President Theodore Roosevelt described Wisconsin as a “laboratory for wise, experimental legislation to secure the social and political betterment of the people as a whole.” Native icons like the populist senator and governor Robert (Fighting Bob) La Follette and the conservationist Aldo Leopold still loom in the state’s collective consciousness and legislative record. More recently, Senator Russ Feingold cast the lone vote against the U.S.A. Patriot Act in 2001.

The law that Act 10 overturned had been in place since 1959, when Wisconsin became the first state to recognize collective-bargaining rights for municipal employees. Senator Fred Risser, who began his legislative career in 1956, is the country’s longest-serving state legislator, and he was on the committee that introduced that measure. “That bill was bipartisan, or it would have never gotten through in the first place,” he said. In 1967, collective bargaining was expanded under the Republican governor Warren P. Knowles to include state employees. The Senate voted 31-0 in favor of the expansion. “For 50 years we had relative labor peace,” Risser said. “Not in 50 years was there ever a partisan vote on those contracts. They were almost always unanimously accepted.”

Some Republicans also lamented the end of the long bipartisan consensus on labor rights. Dick Spanbauer, a former Marine and self-described “pro-life, pro-family Christian,” was one of four Republican Assemblymen to vote against Act 10. “The leadership told me, ‘Dick, we don’t need unions anymore,’ ” he told me. “Really? What’s changed? Is a company going to say you don’t need to work 12 hours?” Spanbauer, like his father, had worked much of his adult life in factories in Oshkosh. “They don’t understand anything about the working class,” he said about his Republican colleagues. “They thought you could just go crush somebody’s voice and get away with it.” Spanbauer is retiring this year.

By this time next week, Wisconsin will probably have finished counting the votes in the recall. Scott Walker will have spent over $25 million, much of it from the same kinds of wealthy self-styled aristocrats who were never tried for treason after organizing a coup against FDR. His Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, will have spent about a million. Walker isn't really campaigning; he's just spending... and spending... and spending. And hoping a few more than half the voters in the state are just clueless enough to vote for him-- and against themselves. All that money has bought him the slimmest of leads. One poll showed likely voters breaking for Walker 50-45% and another showed him up 50-42%. That's all $25 million could buy? Maybe it would have helped if DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz hadn't dragged her ass for so long, refusing to spend a nickel until it looked like it was too late-- just as she had done at the DCCC several years ago when, working for her financial patrons, the Fanjul sugar barons, she refused to endorse 3 Democrats running against 3 GOP incumbents, effectively sabotaging their campaigns and ceding the 3 winnable seats to the Republicans.

Public Policy Polling should have a new poll out this week. Their last-- in early March before the tidal wave of outside fascist money hit the state-- showed that the state wanted the Democrats to take control of the Senate, which would, in effect, stop Walker's agenda dead in its tracks.
A new poll by Public Policy Polling finds that Wisconsin voters would prefer that Democrats control the State Senate rather than Republicans, 48%-41%.  Nearly all Democratic and Republican voters want their own party to control the chamber, but the scales are tipped by independent voters who say they would rather Democrats run the State Senate by a 45%-31% margin.

As controversy continues to swirl around a possible upcoming recall election of Governor Scott Walker, voters say that in general, they think Wisconsin should have recall elections by a 53%-41% margin.  Democrats support the idea of recall elections 86%-9%, Republicans oppose recall elections 16%-78%, and independents support them 56%-37%.

“Recall elections have become a polarizing issue in Wisconsin politics, but a majority of independent voters side with Democrats in having the option to use them,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling.

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Remember Victor, Gus Fring's faithful overseer in the "Breaking Bad" meth lab?


If you can survive the full half-minute commercial, you'll see the principals of last season's Breaking Bad opener --- Bryan Cranston (Walter), Aaron Paul (Jesse), the unforgettable Giancarlo Esposito (Gus), and one of the executive producers, Michelle MacLaren -- talk about the events leading up to the shocking moment that's discussed at length in a new AMC interview with Jeremiah Bitsui, who played Gus's unfortunate lackey Victor.

by Ken

It's almost June, which means it's nearly almost July, and July 15 is when we get the premiere of Season 5 of AMC's Breaking Bad. The word is that this final season is going to be shown in two eight-episode arcs. Sixteen episode should be plenty of time for Walter and Jesse to get themselves and their loved ones into more -- and more gruesome -- trouble than any mere mortal should be able to imagine.

It's presumably thoughts of a Season 5 opener that set the wonderful gremlins at the AMC blog (often saluted here) to looking back to the Season 4 opener. When I saw this new interview with Jeremiah Bitsui, who played Gus's henchman Victor, I confess I didn't at first remember who the heck Victor was. As I read the interview, it came flooding back. And then with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation, I watched the clip thoughtfully provided. Ooh, poor Victor!
"You know, up until that point I'd never died in anything before. As a viewer, the first time I watched it was the premiere in L.A. Everyone was shocked and freaked out. It was a little eerie, the tone in the room." Jeremiah also reveals places he's most often recognized: Albuquerque, New York, and . . . well, you'll see.

Q&A -- Jeremiah Bitsui (Victor)

Actor Jeremiah Bitsui who plays Gus's erstwhile henchman Victor on AMC's Breaking Bad, talks to about what it's like to get killed on set and why he gets recognized in unlikely places.

Q: The box cutter! What was it like getting your throat slit in the Season 4 premiere?

A: They brought me into a special effects house in North Hollywood and fitted me with the prosthetic that went around my neck. We practiced the choreography and we did a bunch of tests to see how the squirting was. I would get a little sponge bath in between takes but still there was blood on everything. There was so much blood shooting it that day that by the end of it my underwear was soaked. I've never done anything like that before.

Q: Were you bummed that your time on the show was over?

A: I was originally going to be in only one episode in Season 2, so when I found out that I was in Season 3 I was amazed. Everyone would look at me like I was a dead man walking because most bad guys hadn't lived that long up to that point. I was just thankful to have died that way rather than in a big gunfight and just been randomly shot.

Q: That scene inspired a lot of strong reactions, was it hard for you to watch as a viewer?

A: Yeah, you know, up until that point I'd never died in anything before. As a viewer, the first time I watched it was the premiere in L.A. Everyone was shocked and freaked out. It was a little eerie, the tone in the room.

Q: We don't learn much about Victor outside of his work for Gus. What did you imagine him to be like?

A: I didn't see him as a thug. I thought of him maybe as just a younger guy with a military background. Maybe he knew a lot about arms, explosives and warfare. I thought of him being comfortable with being a utility or tool, but of course later you realize that Victor does want to be higher up in the food chain. I grew up in and out of Albuquerque and I knew a lot of no-nonsense guys from somewhat shady backgrounds, so I had a wealth of people and characters to draw on.

Q: How did you land the role as Victor? Were there any other roles you auditioned for?

A: When I first read for Breaking Bad, it was actually a different role. This girl got it and I met her in the audition, but I had wanted that role. When I left the audition the casting director ran out -- and this was a signature thing for her -- and she grabbed me and was like, "We want you to read for another role." She gave me this cold read for the character that became Victor.

Q: Does anybody ask you about what it was like to play a bad guy on Breaking Bad?

A: Victor never really did anything horrible -- he wasn't like a gross character -- but what was amazing was a lot of people would come up and be like, "Oh, you were so bad, you were so mean." And I was like, "I never did anything or killed anybody!" When I create a character that is considered kind of a bad guy, I always try to find their redeeming qualities.

Q: You've acted in a bunch of big productions like Natural Born Killers. Has your role as Victor given you the most visibility?

A: Yeah, you know. I was really blessed enough to have been a part of Natural Born Killers, but Breaking Bad was awesome. The amount of times I'll get recognized in the rest room is really funny. Some guy this weekend was like, "Yo, Vincent!" and I was like "um," and he was like "Oh, Victor!" The three places I'm most recognized are Albuquerque, New York, and the rest room for some reason.


In it he revealed that Breaking Bad's imaginary chicken franchise, Los Pollos Hermanos, was actualy an Albuquerque Twisters ("a great chicken joint"): "We fry up the chicken in there and I do my favorite recipes back there behind the fryer along with the prop people. I love being there because the smell of that fried chicken really gets me going."

Asked if he "ever feel[s] like Gus carries over into your life off set," Giancarlo replied:
I was walking in New York going to meet a friend the other day and I started laughing to myself because I realized my posture was completely Gus-like. I said to myself, "Who is this right now? Is Gus taking over my spirit completely?" [Laughs] I've done my best to sort of grow my hair a little bit after playing Gus to sort of release him and let him go for awhile.

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What To Look For Tonight Coming Out Of Texas


In today's Texas primaries there are lots of really horrible politicians running... on both sides of the aisle. Most of the candidates are human garbage in nice clothing. But not all of them... and there's one race in particular we should all be watching as the results roll in from El Paso tonight. We've covered Beto O'Rourke's challenge to corrupt Democratic incumbent Silvestre Reyes before. If Beto wins tonight-- and he's been leading substantially in early voting-- it will be yet another race where an outsider overthrows a favored Establishment old timer, not unlike Matt Cartwright's win over Tim Holden.

TX-16 is a solid Democratic district. Under the new boundaries Obama would have beaten McCain 64-35%. He won the old district 66-34%. Basically, whoever wins tonight will be the next congressman from this district that basically is the westernmost tip of Texas, the city of El Paso and it's suburbs. Gore and Kerry both beat former Texas governor George Bush in this district where the population is close to 80% Hispanic.

Early voting has been record-breaking as younger and more forward-looking voters mobilize to rid their community of someone who has definitely overstayed his time and whose tawdry behavior is an embarrassment to a city proud of recent achievements, achievements associated with O'Rourke and his service on the City Council, rather than with a remote congressman who specializes in nepotism, corruption and coddling the Military-Industrial Complex.

El Paso is the only city in Texas in the Mountain Time Zone. When polls close tonight at 7pm local time, it'll be 6pm on the West Coast and 9pm on the East Coast. Local media has been covering the election almost breathlessly and with a n air of great excitement. The El Paso Times, biggest newspaper in the region, endorsed Beto 2 weeks ago flatly stating that "sending Beto O'Rourke to Congress is an important next step in choosing leadership that positions El Paso to be a leading international city in the 21st century... [I]t's time for a change. And O'Rourke brings the background and passion that El Paso needs." The Times asserts that Reyes, who first won the seat in 1996, has "a mixed record."
[H]e has often lacked focus at home, not paying enough attention to critical issues such as international crossings. And he largely ceased holding town-hall meetings with constituents. Also, Reyes' congressional office has not engaged effectively with other El Paso-area governments. He has stood on the sidelines as decisions have been made or, worse, jumped in at the last minute without consulting other leaders.

O'Rourke, on the other hand, has served effectively on City Council for six years as a key player in a team of progressive new leaders who put city government on a solid path. He has never hid from a challenge, and has sought out conversation with those citizens who disagree with his positions. He is a good listener, a rare commodity in politics.

O'Rourke has focused his campaign on improving El Paso's economy. A key part of that involves improving the flow of goods across the international border. O'Rourke has proposed a number of smaller steps to improve bridge-crossing times, steps that seem achievable even given Congress's current state of inaction.

He also recognizes the importance of building on the recent gains at Fort Bliss. There is admittedly some risk in removing a veteran congressional incumbent at a time when the military will have to look at downsizing. But we believe that O'Rourke, working with other community and state leaders, will be able to protect the vital role Fort Bliss plays in our national security.

...El Paso is at a crossroads. The improved performance in recent years of Commissioners Court and City Council show that passionate, dedicated young leadership can reshape a community and help move it in the right direction.

O'Rourke has been an important part of that change. He can continue that work if we elect him to the House of Representatives. He is the right choice in the Democratic primary, and will be the right choice for the community in November.

Reyes is a moderate, garden variety Democrat-- except in matters of war when he's really a Republican-- but his campaign has, oddly, tried to paint the progressive O'Rourke as a Republican. He claims that O'Rourke wants to "change" Social Security. And it's true; O'Rourke does-- in the same way that all progressives want to change it-- shoring it up by raising the income cap so that the wealthy pay their fair share. Beto, now 39, was the guitarist and singer in El Paso-based Foss, a popular local EMO/grunge band. In 2006 he was voted "Best Elected Official" in El Paso's weekly paper, What's Up, with the mayor coming in second and Reyes coming in third. O'Rourke will make a great replacement for Reyes, whose best days as a public official are long passed.

The Texas-based Campaign for Primary Accountability, which has the strongest track-record this cycle for helping challengers beat entrenched incumbents has pumped almost $200,000 into the campaign against Reyes, evening up the odds a bit in a case where all the slimy armaments makers and military contractors are pouring cash into Reyes' campaign. This was their first ad:

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