Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Soylent Mitt-- The One Percent Will Eat The Poor, And Other Prophecies By Hal Crowther

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Unless you live in western North Carolina, you probably only know Cecil Bothwell as a progressive Blue America candidate who the Blue Dogs and DCCC screwed out of a chance to win the state's 11th CD. But Cecil is also an author-- Whale Falls: An exploration of belief and its consequences, Finding Your Way In Asheville: 2009 and The Prince of War: Billy Graham's Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire-- a songwriter and owner of Asheville's Brave Ulysses Books. This week he sent me an essay by Hal Crowther, who lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina. He's expressing, with great eloquence, what so many progressives-- especially in swing states like North Carolina-- are feeling this week as the election cycle comes to a miserable grinding halt. Have you decided whether or not to bother voting yet?
I've successfully immunized myself to the horse-race fever of presidential elections: the relentless polls and fundraising totals, the endorsements and lame speeches and could-be-fatal gaffes, worst of all the dim psychoanalysis and fanzine micro-dissection of candidates who always looked much alike to me. I was inoculated against most of this when I was fairly young, thanks in part to reading the convention reporting of H.L. Mencken, who took American democracy like a recreational drug and relished every hysterical high.

The political animal at his most ridiculous never amused me as much as he amused Mencken. His excesses can still reduce me to tears, even though I'm old enough to remember presidential candidates with actual convictions and commitments, instead of pollsters, bundlers and message-masseurs. It always catches me by surprise when the media resume their election coverage as if they'd learned nothing whatsoever from all the elections that came before. Are the media themselves now under such a state of siege, is the public's attention span now so brief that four years is enough to erase every scrap of residual wisdom? It looked that way to me when I read a news-service "think piece" in my local daily, an essay explaining "the stark philosophical differences" that separate Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

I groaned so audibly that my wife asked me if I was having chest pains. This writer, I thought, is he 12 years old? First of all, no one mentions philosophy in the presence of Romney, who embraces any philosophy his ambition finds convenient and will, before his race is run, embrace as many more as his handlers recommend. And Obama, vilified on right-wing radio as a cross between Jomo Kenyatta and Malcolm X, between Rap Brown and Toussaint L'Ouverture? This is a white woman's son with a rich white man's education, a cautious, pragmatic man of the middle, like most Republicans used to be—like Mitt Romney before the White House bug bit him, like his father, George Romney, before him. Obama is a mild-mannered white attorney with a slight genetic handicap. He loves golf. In every way except that inappropriate pigmentation, he's a country-club Republican (vintage, not current) like Mitt.

In another climate, another decade, another turn of the wheel of fortune, they could have been comfortable running mates—if the fastidious Obama could have put up with an awkward fumbler like Romney. Philosophy? Romney has no philosophy, Obama only as much as he needs from week to week. The American political system seems designed to feed celebrity-addled media, which focus on the forgettable faces and generic utterances of the latest candidates, never on the forces that produce them or the deeper issues that tear this country in two.

Rep. Paul Ryan, Romney's running mate, was featured in another front-page story presenting his intellectual pedigree. His infatuation with Ayn Rand was enough to convince me that he's an arrested adolescent, but there in bold letters on Ryan's list of mentors was my old schoolmate Bill Bennett. Sometimes we literally don't know whether to laugh or cry.

I chose to laugh. We will see these faces 10,000 times before Nov. 6. (I'd never stoop to the face game myself, but is Ryan actually Eddie Munster grown up and Nautilus-hardened?) Yet the only faces that matter in this election are the faces of the founders and dead presidents printed on America's folding currency. The U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens Uniteddecision is the Rough Beast whose hour has come round at last, unleashing evil billionaires and subterranean oceans of corporate cash, tidal waves of it, under which the American democracy may vanish like lost Atlantis.

We are in deep water, in deep trouble here. It matters not at all that Romney is a Mormon or that he was mean to his dog, not at all that Obama is a Protestant with a jump shot and a wholesome marriage. It does matter, though only symbolically, that Romney was what Rick Perry calls "a vulture capitalist" and that Obama is not white-- not white according to the old slave-state standard, which established that there's no such thing as half-white (or three-quarters or seven-eighths).

Who they are, or what they say or believe is beside the point; everything in this critical election rests on what they represent. Just because I choose to ignore the conventions, the debates, the PAC-paid TV commercials and the hurricane of expensive spin doesn't mean I think this election is meaningless. Quite the opposite. It is, in contention only with 1968, the most significant presidential election of my not inconsiderable lifetime. And I remember Ike's first victory over Stevenson very well.

This is one we can't afford to lose. If you're not sure who "we" might be, I hope to make it clear. Amid all the inanities and distractions of an election that parliamentary countries dismiss as a wasteful "beauty contest"-- though few beauties compete-- it's still possible to recognize certain omens, subtle signs that lead us toward the reality of America at a turning point. All summer the signposts kept appearing. One was the first anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement, less visible now and no longer a media staple, but historic for its forceful assertion that economic inequality is the fatal malignancy that politics as usual will not cure.

The One Percent, remember? Between the bursts of assault-rifle fire that punctuated the summer season's motiveless massacres, beneath the mindless thunder of huge PACs colliding, behind the mind-numbing slapstick of Republican congressmen reinventing gynecology and skinny-dipping in the Sea of Galilee, a populist anthem seemed to be playing softly, for anyone who would pause to listen.

July 14, Bastille Day, marked the 100th birthday of the Dust Bowl troubadour Woody Guthrie, who wrote "This Land Is Your Land" to warn the One Percent of his day that other people lived in this country, people who might not stand idly by while the plutocracy bought up our birthright and fenced it off. Woody's heroically subversive verse, "I saw a sign, it said 'No Trespassin', but on the other side, it didn't say nothin', that side was made for you and me," is a political and spiritual touchstone that divides Americans, and probably the human race, into two irreconcilable camps.

Who did I mean by the "we" who can't afford to lose this election? I meant all of us grinning, instead of scowling, when we hear that verse of Guthrie's. But the One Percent of 2012 owns a far greater percentage of America's wealth-- four times more-- than it owned when Woody rode the rails during the Great Depression. Gated communities, rare in his day, wall off whole counties in ours. And Lawrence Downes writes in the New York Times that Woody's son Arlo, the wistful hippy of Alice's Restaurant, is now a Republican. Say it ain't so, Arlo.

In August, Liveright published the collected diaries of Guthrie's British contemporary George Orwell, an equally eloquent champion of the eternal underdog. It seems unlikely, though not impossible, that they knew each other's work. In an entry dated June 3, 1940, reacting to some twit's lament that the war would deprive the rich of their cooks, Orwell wrote a line that would make a fine epitaph for Romney's candidacy: "Apparently nothing will ever teach these people that the other 99 percent of the population exist."

But the coincidence that grabbed me most forcefully was the death in August of the science-fiction writer Harry Harrison, whose 1966 novel Make Room, Make Room became the 1973 film Soylent Green, with Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson. If you could call Soylent Green a cult film, surely the cult is very small. But I'm one old-timer who remembers it well. It's set in the New York City of a distant future-- 2022-- when the world is so hopelessly polluted and overpopulated that the rich have retreated to fortified barbed-wire compounds with armed guards, where they continue to lead the good life, somewhat circumscribed. The poor-- the rest-- mill about the streets in homeless herds, squat in abandoned buildings and subsist on government-issued crackers known as "soylent green."

A grisly twist the filmmakers added to Harrison's plot was that the crackers were actually the processed corpses of the poor, who could escape their misery in Ethical Suicide Parlors where they died peacefully amid video images of all the beauty and pleasure their lives had not included. Heston plays a police detective who lives in a wretched tenement with his decrepit partner (Robinson). Crimes among the rich occasionally enable him to enter their fortified apartments, where in one scene he steals a spoonful of strawberry jam, for him an unimaginable luxury. He also steals a single leaf of fresh lettuce and takes it home with him, where he and Robinson marvel over such a windfall before they divide and reverently devour it.

Most of you reading this are not arugula-deprived-- perhaps you have more salad greens wilting in the crisper at this moment than the average third-world omnivore has ever seen. One of the year's most depressing statistics is that obese America now wastes 40 percent of its food-- $165 billion worth annually-- while hundreds of millions of human beings suffer from chronic hunger.

Necrophagia is still rare, even in depressed and primitive red states, though the tea party (like the Donner Party) endorses it in cases of "legitimate" starvation. But poverty is spreading rapidly in America. It's increased by nearly 3 percent since the beginning of the 2008 recession and now engulfs one in six (47 million) citizens, its highest level since 1965. Among children the rate is much higher, 22 percent in 2010. And there's still a 10-year countdown to 2022, when Harry Harrison calculated that overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans and global warming due to the greenhouse effect would have created the terminal dystopia of Soylent Green. Once dismissed as science fiction, in 2012 it's beginning to look more and more like prophecy.

Those of you with a weakness for New Age eschatology may be anticipating the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012, a calculation based on the 5,125-year cycle of the Mayan Calendar. But it's Nov. 6 that frightens me. The first giant step toward Harrison's dystopia was total corporate control-- absorption-- of all forms of government. Soylent Green, manufacturer of the ghastly crackers, is also a huge international conglomerate. In Harrison's scenario, corporate feudalism has long since succeeded in disenfranchising and degrading everyone without financial leverage. If the Republicans win the White House and both houses of Congress and press forward with a Rand-Ryan-Koch brothers blueprint for America, we'll be right on schedule for something much like Soylent Green by 2022. The Hard Right, without apology, opposes unions, federal arbitration and regulation of the workplace. Are there people who actually hold jobs, or seek them, who haven't realized that this is a program to reduce them from employees to serfs to slaves?

You have to give the Republican high command some credit for the purity, the transparency of its purpose. When it chose Ryan, Randist ideologue and far-right budget wonk, to run with Romney, quarter-billionaire and gilded veteran of the vulture markets, the corporate plutocracy asserted its control of the Republican Party and the urgency of its desire. No more ego-clowns like Newt Gingrich or Herman Cain, medieval theo-geeks like Rick Santorum or dizzy morons like Michele Bachmann, whose agendas only get in the way of the hunger of the One Percent.

What does it want, the big One? Everything. Everything. This micro-minority of the very rich now holds nearly 40 percent of all the private wealth in this country, a share that's tripled since 1980. The one-tenth of one percent, the obscenely rich, have tripled their annual income in that 30-year period, to an average of $5 million, while the inflation-adjusted income of the "bottom" 90 percent-- the American people-- has actually declined by 5 percent.

Numbers are numbing, but there are volumes of them, many more shocking than these, to attest to the metastasizing inequality that shames and cripples us. And the response of the very rich who now control the Republican Party? Well, they resent taxation, environmental policy and government itself if it threatens to interfere with the flow of profits and the steady stream of America's wealth into the deep, deep pockets of the greediest people who ever lived. We own nearly everything, the One Percent declares when it presents the populist-crushing ticket of Romney and Ryan, but we won't be satisfied until we get the rest.

If you find this level of selfishness and cupidity astonishing, you probably haven't read the novels of Ayn Rand that inspired Rep. Ryan to seek public office, as he has testified. A fair example of Randian philosophy in action: New Orleans is devastated by a hurricane, as it was in 2005 and might have been again during the recent Republican Convention, and there's only one emergency helicopter available. If you're a faithful Randian, you land it on the roof of the Exxon-Mobil headquarters, to make sure no top executives are endangered, even though hundreds of plebeians may be drowning or screaming from their rooftops.

No exaggeration. A less dramatic but equally effective exercise in social Darwinism is Paul Ryan's magic budget. It guts Medicaid, food stamp and low-cost housing programs by an estimated $3.3 trillion over 10 years, while tossing the very rich yet another tax cut. Rand's is a merciless philosophy, an intellectualization of the Law of the Jungle that says, essentially, screw the weak and the meek and make way for the bold and the greedy. If you have nothing, it declares, you deserve nothing-- not even a chance to protest that you never had a chance.

The gospel of Ayn Rand is the perfect contradiction of everything ever preached by Jesus Christ. It's much to their credit that several Roman Catholic groups, nuns and Jesuits, have chastised the Catholic Ryan for his attachment to the atheist Rand. Her appeal is limited to young people, usually male, who are arrested in the infantile stage Freud describes as pure id-- the "Gimme!" stage-- and who tend to overrate themselves as potential supermen.

Not all of them outgrow it. Ryan's Randian economics, which celebrate avarice and sneer at conscience, are a made-to-order framework for the Last Grasp, a daring bid for absolute power by the Republican One Percent. (Every millionaire with a murmur of conscience now votes Democratic.) How, you might ask if you don't understand America, could such a tiny minority control an election, with a program that seems to benefit so few and harm so many? The best answer is that the extremely greedy are not the only extremists in this country, and the Republican Party has built a formidable new power base by cynical appeals to every extreme.

A Big Tent the GOP may not be-- it's nearly 90 percent white and weighted heavily toward older males-- but a wild and colorful tent-full it is, more like a carnival sideshow than a circus big top. The gluttons share their stage with racists, nativists, misogynists, homophobes, gun freaks, religious fundamentalists and fanatics of all denominations, and gonzo libertarians who hope to restore the gold standard. Along, of course, with a healthy harvest of dimwits-- the extremely stupid-- and a fair sprinkling of apparent mental patients. In the last group I'm obliged to include birthers, deniers of climate change, EPA-eliminators and everyone who thinks a private citizen should be able to acquire 6,000 rounds of ammunition for an automatic weapon.

If you'll eagerly cut your own throat-- and your childrens' and your neighbors'-- to express Caucasian solidarity or preserve your right to an AK-47, you're just what they're looking for. In a nation where most people think clearly and behave generously, a party like the current Republicans would be impossible. The entire unruly menagerie, still bloody from its raw-meat primaries, hopes to coast to victory behind a squeaky-clean Mormon mega-millionaire, a reformed moderate who tries to hide his tax returns and his intimate history with Goldman Sachs.

When you describe this GOP contraption, it sounds like a vehicle that would never start, far less lap the field. But there are at least two compelling reasons why it could win. One is the horrible effect of the Citizens Uniteddecision, that triumph of corporate personhood that has unleashed the great PACs and multiplied the scandalous influence of money in American elections.

The gross, florid face of the new reality-- pandemic top-dollar "democracy"-- is the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the human embodiment of Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Adelson is worth roughly $25 billion, which means that if he were a dollar, the embarrassingly rich Romney would be a Lincoln penny. He has vowed to spend at least $100 million to defeat President Obama, and since that announcement Republican candidates have followed him around like hungry puppies. Romney virtually carried Adelson's suitcase on his recent tour of Israel; the moment Ryan was chosen as Romney's running mate, he hastened to Vegas to kiss Adelson's ... ring.

Dirtier money than Adelson's would be hard to find. Is it a sane legal system that lets marijuana dealers rot in prison while casino owners, who exploit the far more destructive human weakness, can live like sultans? Among the many unsavory things about Adelson are his casinos in Macau and Singapore, where reporters have been exploring rumors of bribed Chinese officials and prostitution, and his ultra-right newspaper in Israel, which supports the immediate bombing of Iran and whichever wars that might precipitate.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Adelson's Macau operation for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Daily Mail of London accused him of "despicable business practices" and charged that he had "habitually and corruptly bought political favour." The paper was consequently sued into silence. Unlimited legal intimidation is one of the great prerogatives of billionaires.

Adelson's lone virtue is a certain feral honesty. A former Democrat, he admits he became a Republican when he tried to crush his employees' unions and realized the Democrats wouldn't help him. He never tries to hide the fact that he uses his money to shape legislation to his own advantage, as well as Israel's. His billions in overseas income are currently taxed at the shamefully low rate of 9.8 percent, and no doubt Mitt Romney has promised him another tax break.

Can you swallow that? Monstrously wealthy international pirates like Adelson, with agendas that contain no benefits for America or Americans, are the tragic dead end of our political system unless we can overturnCitizens United and put Big Money back in its box. Along with the largesse of the heinous Koch brothers, who bankrolled the tea party and launched the outrageous crusade against climate science solely to protect their energy investments, Adelson's millions are now evident in the flood of televised ads disparaging Obama's health care reforms. According to Paul Krugman of the Times, hardly neutral but a Nobel laureate in economics, every one of these ads is a gross distortion and many are impudent lies. But in the field of political advertising, unlimited resources often overpower limited intelligence by repetition alone.

Yet Adelson and the Kochs aren't even the best cards in Romney's hand. The recidivist South, where the electoral map is now colored solid red by the most optimistic Democrats, is no longer worth pursuing by a president who isn't colored solid white. I don't know exactly what the tea party represents in Wisconsin, where it's in love with Ryan, but I'm pretty sure what it represents in the South. For years now we've watched surly old white men of modest means raging about "Obamacare," using silly words like "socialist" and "fascist," when it seemed clear that the president's well-intentioned but inadequate overhaul of the health care system could only work to their advantage.

Health care issues have nothing to do with their hatred of Obama. But it's still considered bad form (though less so of late) to say flatly "I want that black man out of the White House." I'll bet my ranch that 80 percent of the Southern tea party's active members voted for Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, and no doubt George Wallace before them. Most of them are old enough to have their roots buried deep in Jim Crow. And so here we go again, with progressive Southerners hanging our heads in shame.

Down here they don't fool us, the geezers in the leather vests and Johnny Tremain hats. Obama reanimated a generation of dormant racists, and they're determined to take back Air Force One. Of course the One Percent, who for the most part are not racist-- or anti-abortion, or gun-loving, or homophobic, or religious, either-- are delighted to play the race card and hope the Southern Sickness can defeat Obama. Once in office, the Wall Street Republicans are likely to ignore this unsavory constituency that elected them. Most ominously, only the NRA and Adelson's Israel lobby have the money and muscle to make a Republican president keep his promises.

Adelson-Romney-Ryan is quite a triumvirate. A colossus spewing rancid money, The Face-- handsome, impossibly rich and remote, no fixed identity-- and The Brain, dispensing phony theories to justify them all. It's cynical and improbable, but it's working well enough. This election is not at all about voting for a candidate you admire, or a party platform that echoes your ideals. It's about trying to defeat what you have every reason to loathe and fear.

Obama has not been the president I hoped he would be, and the Democratic Party, to which I've never belonged, may be a poor vehicle for anyone's passions. But the truth is that the bad people, the worst Americans, were once divided fairly evenly between the two parties. Not all Republicans were grasping and reactionary, not all Democrats (read the Dixiecrat, segregationist South) were broad-minded and compassionate. Since the GOP Southern strategy converted the Old Confederacy, however, most of the bad people are Republicans-- bad as in prejudice, predatory self-interest and social irresponsibility.

Incredibly, the GOP has convinced most of its blue-collar foot soldiers that government is their enemy and that corporations-- job creators?-- are their friends. This is possibly the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the ignorant. To a predatory capitalist, government is merely another factor, an impediment or a useful tool in his pursuit of carte blanche, the wide-open hogs-at-the-trough marketplace of his dreams. To the rest of us, elected government-- the result of our votes-- is our only leverage, the only weapon we have left in a "democracy" where clamorous dollars drown out human voices.

And those jobs? Campaign candy, free-market myth. If you're unemployed and broke and seeking salvation by voting Republican, let me assure you that the Soylent suicide parlor is an equally promising choice. The London-based Tax Justice Network recently reported that the world's super-rich-- a third of them Americans-- have cached between $21 million and $32trillion in offshore tax havens. Just pick a middle number, notes Al Lewis in the Wall Street Journal, and it's a sum that exceeds the annual gross domestic product of the U.S., China and Japan combined. That's right: Pirates have looted this country of wealth beyond our comprehension, and buried most of the treasure they're alleged to be reinvesting.

Though they dominate our world and covet all that's in it, Mitt and his mega-rich live in a world all their own. Very often they sound like it. As he dropped a nickel, a mere million, in Romney's cup and endorsed him, the North Carolina billionaire Julian Robertson explained that America needs a successful businessman to rebuild its economy. Excuse my condescension to my eminent fellow Tar Heel, but someone should tell Robertson that the U.S.A. is not a business, not a profit-seeking entity. A nation is a cooperative-- a commonwealth-- whose elected officials are charged with managing common resources for the common good. Do even Princeton graduates and hedge-fund wizards recycle Fox News clichés?

This coalition of wealthy vultures, Kool-Aid drinkers and political neanderthals is not the Republican Party of even 20 years ago, as Bob Dole and Dan Quayle, of all people, have protested in their recent warnings against extremists. The most intelligent Republicans are no longer well-intentioned, and the most well-intentioned are not intelligent. The party we saw in Tampa has strayed so far from an honest account of itself that almost nothing it says makes sense or rings true. It's true that the U.S. economy is still disappointing, but Republicans promise to heal it with the same Republican policies that made it sick: tax cuts, military misadventures, and lax regulation of markets and banks.

Their favorite word is freedom, yet they frown on every form of freedom I can think of-- civil rights, reproductive rights, workplace rights, gay rights, even the right to clean air and water. The only rights they defend are the right to make or steal as much money as possible and squirrel it away, and of course the sacred right to arm ourselves like third-world terrorists.

If they prevail decisively in these elections, and I'm not betting against them, it probably spells the end of the U.S.A. as a viable political experiment. Our cannibal capitalism will have killed us; the One Percent, having devoured the 99 percent, will be suffering indigestion. Give us just eight years of increasingly obscene inequality, environmental devastation, unchecked global warming, belligerent foreign policy, a shredding social safety net and a powerless proletariat, and the prophet Harrison's Soylent Green will be right here, friends, and right on time.

Cracker, anyone?

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The thing to remember about kooky clerics is that there are doody-brained people who LISTEN to them

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Now that the crackpot lying-filth-spewing rabbis are chiming in, the religionist hate-mongering imbecility has officially gone ecumenical.

by Ken

Just the other day ThinkProgress's Zack Ford reported ("Anti-Gay Preacher Blames Hurricane Sandy On Homosexuality And Marriage Equality," links onsite):
A Christian religious leader has already claimed that Hurricane Sandy is further proof that "God is systematically destroying America" as political judgment for the "homosexual agenda." John McTernan [right] previously made similar allusions about Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Isaac (2012), which he reiterated in his urgent call to prayer posted Sunday evening (via Gay Star News):
Just last August, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans seven years later, on the exact day of Hurricane Katrina. Both hit during the week of the homosexual event called Southern Decadence in New Orleans!
McTernan believes that it is noteworthy that Hurricane Sandy is hitting 21 years after the "Perfect Storm," because 3 is a "significant number with God":
Twenty-one years breaks down to 7 x 3, which is a significant number with God. Three is perfection as the Godhead is three in one while seven is perfection.

It appears that God gave America 21 years to repent of interfering with His prophetic plan for Israel; however, it has gotten worse under all the presidents and especially Obama. Obama is 100 percent behind the Muslim Brotherhood which has vowed to destroy Israel and take Jerusalem. Both candidates are pro-homosexual and are behind the homosexual agenda. America is under political judgment and the church does not know it!
Religious spokespeople have frequently tried to draw bizarre connections between natural disasters and the LGBT community. Last year, the American Family Association’s Buster Wilson similarly claimed that Hurricane Isaac was punishment for the Southern Decadence LGBT festival. Rick Joyner had the same to say about Hurricane Katrina, claiming that "[God]'s not gonna put up with perversion anymore." Pat Robertson has long believed that acceptance of homosexuality could result in hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, terrorist bombs, and "possibly a meteor."
A friend of mine points out that the crackpot pastors can't compete for eloquence with the crackpot rabbis, and now they're being heard from, spewing the expected psychotic mélange of savage lies. Today Brian Tashman reports on Right Wing Watch (links onsite):

Religious Right Rabbi Blames Hurricane Sandy on Gays, Marriage Equality

SUBMITTED BY Brian Tashman on Wednesday, 10/31/2012 1:25 pm

Rabbi Noson Leiter of Torah Jews for Decency is blaming Hurricane Sandy on gays and lesbians, calling it “divine justice” for New York’s new marriage equality law. Torah Jews for Decency campaigned against marriage equality in New York and New Jersey, worked with Liberty Counsel and New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms in an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn New York’s marriage law, and has joined with various other Religious Right groups on anti-gay campaigns.

Yesterday, Leiter appeared on Crosstalk, the flagship program of Vic Eliason’s Voice of Christian Youth America, alongside Neil DiCarlo, a candidate for New York State Senate, to discuss New York’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

Leiter asserted that the “the Great Flood in the time of Noah was triggered by the recognition of same-gender marriages,” adding that there are similar “messages in this particular storm for us.” “The Lord will not bring another flood to destroy the entire world but He could punish particular areas with a flood, and if we look at the same-gender marriage recognition movement that’s occurring, that certainly is a message for us to learn,” he said. “We have to learn that the Lord does watch what we do and if we don’t shape up He will deliver divine justice.” Leiter also suggested that God flooded Lower Manhattan because it is “one of the national centers of homosexuality.”
"Later in the program," Brian Tashman reports, "Leiter argued that the 'LGBT radical homosexualist movement' threatens the survival of society and religious freedom and will even increase child abuse by giving molesters a 'license to victimize' children and even 'a certain degree of diplomatic immunity.'" Brian has both an audio clip and a transcript.

STEVEN GOLDSTEIN OF GARDEN STATE EQUALITY
OFFERS AN ADDENDUM TO BRIAN TASHMAN'S REPORT


Steven Goldstein is chair and CEO of the tireless and highly effective New Jersey LGBT-rights activist group Garden State Equality, and is himself an observant Jew. On an LGBT activist listserv he added this personal note to Brian Tashman's report, and graciously consented to having it shared:
Rabbi Leiter comes to Trenton for every legislative vote on LGBT bills and stalks me. He is incensed that I wear a yarmulke, talk about a progressive God, and am on leave from rabbinical school. During our marriage equality, transgender equality and anti-school bullying campaigns -- it's not just about marriage -- he and the other Chasidim beside him screamed "Hitler" at me through the halls of the State House. It was the one thing in all my years of activism that broke me down into sobs.
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Blue America-- What We Do

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You made that

Are you a "member" of Blue America? All you have to do is contribute any amount to any of our candidates or campaigns. These are the ones we have going right now:

Our main page is for progressive candidates running for the House this year.

Our Senate page has slots to contribute to the 3 candidates running this year who we felt were good enough to contribute to.

Our Independent Expenditure Committee allows us to run TV, newspaper and radio ads, billboard campaigns, GOTV efforts, etc and they work independently of the candidates. That's the one where there are no limits on the amount you can contribute.

Our page for candidates backing the alternative to Austerity we call Americans For Real Prosperity.

We have one contest still running; it's for a Frank Sinatra platinum award and the contributions go to benefit Lee Rogers' struggle against super-corrupt House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon.

We have a page specifically geared towards replacing Congress' most vicious anti-LGBT bigots-- the worst of the worst.

We have a page up specifically to send a message to the corrupt Democratic insiders in Washington.

We have individual pages up for Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Patsy Keever (D-NC). And there's one devoted exclusively to Stopping Paul Ryan before he can do more harm to the country.

And we have one to collect contributions for the next generation of congressional leaders-- outstanding state legislators.

This past weekend Digby sent all the Blue America members a summary about what the PAC has been up to. If you didn't get it, here's your opportunity to give it a glance through and see if it's something you'd be willing to be a part of.
Thanks to you, Blue America has managed to raise over a half a million dollars for our candidates and campaigns this cycle-- which ain't half bad for a bunch of small donors (and a couple of very generous, good friends .) It occurred to us the other day that we should give everyone a little update on what we're doing around the country in these final weeks of the campaign.

One of the most successful fundraising ideas we've had so far is the Rock and Roll Memorabilia drawings. These have garnered attention far and wide and resulted in bringing in some big bucks for our candidates. Lucky donors have received a guitar signed by Joan Jett and an RIAA Depeche Mode platinum award to benefit Paul Ryan's opponent Rob Zerban in Wisconsin, an autographed Green Day guitar to benefit Alan Grayson, rare platinum awards from BBKing and Eric Clapton for Patsy Keever in North Carolina and a B52s multi-platinum award on behalf of Zerban and Lee Rogers in California (which we did in partnership with Progressive Democrats of America.) Our current drawing is in concert with Peace Action Now-- a Frank Sinatra platinum award to benefit Rogers.

Howie, John and I had quite a laugh the other day when the Romney campaign stole our idea and announced that they were holding a contest for a guitar signed by Kid Rock and Paul Ryan. (We hear they're auctioning off one of Meatloaf's sweaty handkerchiefs and a couple of Ted Nugent's spent bullets next.)

Right now we are running either Blue America Independent Expenditure campaigns or Blue America PAC campaigns in several districts. Corrupt Republican Buck Mckeon is *not* enjoying the radio ads we are sponsoring with The Buck Stops Now, which are currently blanketing his district in both English and Spanish. And the TV ad we're running in his district has him no less agitated. (If you can help us keep it going, the link to our Independent Expenditure committee is here.)

And Republicans really hate our mobile billboards. We've got one chasing Old Buck all over his district and driving back and forth in front of his office all day long. And there's another one we're running in PA-16 for Aryanna Strader, who's challenging one of the most cretinous, anti-woman throwbacks in the House, Congressman Joe Pitts.

Voters in Paul Ryan's district are seeing ads in all the local papers calling him a liar about Medicare. Which he is. And we've got an independent expenditure "Burma Shave"  style billboard campaign going all over the rural byways of Wisconsin.

The vast majority of the money we collect from you goes to the candidates we endorse and to whom you donate directly through our Act Blue page. Only about five percent of regular donations go to the PAC and we use that money for these campaigns in the districts. (There are a few larger donors who contributed to our IE, for which we're extremely grateful.)

It's a purely volunteer effort-- we don't have the money to employ anyone and we don't take a penny for ourselves-- so these are all shoestring campaigns. But we feel strongly about doing the best we can to support progressives who are doing the truly difficult work of campaigning and who need to know that there are people who support their causes even when the political professionals can't be bothered. There are campaigns out there that are winnable, if they only had enough money to compete. The Party bigwigs are convinced of the conventional wisdom that progressives can never win and that "independent" automatically means "centrist" and so they ignore these races and put their money in quixotic campaigns where it's right wing New Dem against Republican wingnut. They are going to lose those races and that money will have been thrown away.

But nonetheless, next month it's very likely there are going to be some new (and returning) progressives in the House and in the Senate. And they all know who their friends are. You. Because when the chips were down and the Party panicked after 2010, these candidates turned to the grassroots and the Netroots to help them keep their campaigns alive long enough to get some traction. In this polarized political world, the neanderthal Blue Dogs have gone extinct. The progressives, on the other hand, are getting stronger.

This campaign has been a lot of fun and hugely rewarding, even the painful losses. We saw progressive candidates coming together after primaries, working their networks on each others behalf for the very first time. Progressive incumbents are making themselves available for consultation and support. Netroots/grassroots groups are working together in many different ways. Little by little, this ship is turning.

If you would care to help these candidates get over the hump, you can donate here to our House page and here to our Senate page. And if you'd like to help us pay for these billboards, ads and radio spots, this is the place. It's all in a good cause.

And none of it could have happened without you. Thank You.
We'd like to do one more thing to help Lee Rogers beat Buck McKeon-- this ad below. If you can help out, we'll close the last few days with this ad on Santa Clarita TV:



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Climate Change-- Much Scarier Than Halloween

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No serious Climate Change action from this crew


Given the nature of conservatism, the political right will not wake up to the realities of Climate Change until long after its possible to do anything about it. Just as much as Fox News and Hate Talk Radio, the greed-obsessed oil giants have helped create a dysfunctional version of democracy. I voted for Obama in 2008, despite his mediocre record in the Senate and his tendency to bend over backwards for the corporate criminals and Wall Street hucksters who finance the entire Republican Party and most of the Democratic Party-- the whole stinking corrupt Inside the Beltway Establishment. Obama knows how urgent this is and knows how important it is but hasn't invested the political capital required to move the country. Will he do it in a second term? God knows Mitt Romney won't.

A friend asserted the other day that we can thank the lobbyists for the American Petroleum Institute for the lack of progress on Climate Change issues. Look, if someone suggested we could line up every corporate lobbyist on K Street and shoot them in the head, I'd feel vindicated for my opposition to the end of the death penalty. But there's another part of the elite far, far more culpable than the American Petroleum Institute lobbyists (who spent $3,440,000 this year alone on persuading Members of Congress that Climate Change is a figment of some hippies' imaginations). The lobbyists, after all, are doing what they're paid to do. When their PAC spent $196,227 on direct legalistic bribes to Members of Congress this year, the were doing what sleazy, slimy lobbyists are expected to do, no?

But the people who accepted the bribes and fell under the spell of the lobbying efforts... those people are supposed to be working for us. But they're not. 81% of the bribes went to Republicans and 19% went to Democrats, primarily corrupt Blue Dogs and New Dems who are always happy to sell themselves to Big Business interests. Here were the biggest recipients in the House of American Petroleum Institute bribes in the 2011-'12 cycle:
Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)
Tom Reed (R-NY)
Doc Hastings (R-WA)
John Barrow (Blue Dog-GA)
Bill Flores (R-TX)
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Dan Benishek (R-MI)
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT)
Ed Whitfield (R-KY)
And overall Oil and Gas interests have forked out far more to congressmen willing to sell out the future of the planet and future generations to finance their grubby little careers and lifestyles. 88 Oil and Gas PACs have contributed $10,501,129 this year alone-- $9,159,460 (87%) to Republicans and $1,336,669 (13%) to Democrats, again, almost totally Blue Dogs and New Dems. The 3 biggest oily criminal operations to systematically bribe Members of Congress this cycle were Koch Industries ($1,337,500), Exxon Mobil ($1,192,500) and Chevron ($584,000). And the industry itself-- beyond PACs-- gave $26,815,355 this year, $23,507,700 to congressional Republicans and $3,290,905 to congressional Democrats. Here are the half dozen worst offenders this year-- in terms of taking cash for Big Oil and rubber-stamping their toxic agenda in return:



It isn't until you get to the 32nd worst whore that you finally find a Democratic briber-taker, Blue Dog co-chairman and serial climate denier John Barrow ($91,900). On June 26, 2009, the House narrowly approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454), a weak baby step in the right direction. 219 Members of Congress voted for it (211 Democrats and 8 Republicans) and 212 opposed it. Fully 44 Democrats crossed the aisle and voted with the GOP.

Pete Stark, Eric Massa, Pete DeFazio and Dennis Kucinich voted against the bill because they felt it was too weak and failed to address the most crucial dangers of Global Warming effectively. Most of the Democrats who voted against the bill were beaten the next year-- swept away by Democratic voters' antipathy in the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010. The Democrats who took bribes from the oil industry and voted against the bill:
Justin Altmire (Blue Dog/New Dem-PA)- defeated in 2012 primary
Mike Arcuri (New Dem-NY)- defeated in 2010
John Barrow (Blue Dog/New Dem-GA)- likely to be defeated in 6 days
Marion Berry (Blue Dog-AR)- forced into retirement in 2010
Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK)- retiring this year
Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL)- defeated in 2010
Chris Carney (Blue Dog/New Dem-PA)- defeated in 2010
Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS)- defeated in 2010
Jim Costa (Blue Dog-CA)
Jerry Costello (IL)- retiring this year
Kathy Dahlkemper (New Dem-PA)- defeated in 2010
Artur Davis (New Dem-AL)- defeated in 2010
Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN)- likely to be defeated Tuesday
Chet Edwards (TX)- defeated in 2010
Brad Ellsworth (Blue Dog-IN)- defeated in 2010
Bill Foster (IL)- defeated in 2010
Parker Griffith (Blue Dog-AL)- switched to GOP and defeated in 2010
Stepanie Herseth Sandlin (Blue Dog-SD)- defeated in 2010
Tim Holden (Blue Dog-PA)- defeated in a primary this year
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ)- defeated in 2010
Larry Kissell (Blue Dog-NC)- likely to be defeated next week
Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA)- defeated in 2010
Jim Matheson (Blue Dog/New Dem-UT)
Mike McIntyre (Blue Dog/New Dem-NC)
Charlie Melancon (Blue Dog-LA)- defeated in 2010
Walt Minnick (Blue Dog-ID)- defeated in 2010
Harry Mitchell (Blue Dog-AZ)- defeated in 2010
Alan Mollohan (WV)- defeated in 2010 primary
Glenn Nye (Blue Dog-VA)- defeated in 2010
 Solomon Ortiz (TX)- defeated in 2010
Earl Pomeroy (Blue Dog-ND)- defeated in 2010
Nick Rahall (WV)
Ciro Rodriguez (TX)- defeated in 2010
Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR)- retiring this year
John Salazar (Blue Dog-CO)- defeated in 2010
John Tanner (Blue Dog-TN)- forced to retire in 2010
Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS)- defeated in 2010
Pete Visclosky (New Dem-IN)
Charlie Wilson (Blue Dog/New Dem-OH)- defeated in 2010
DCCC Chair, a "former" Blue Dog and New Dem himself, has been actively recruiting and pushing many of these corrupt Climate Change deniers and the Democrats will fail to retake the majority in the House next week primarily because of Israel's efforts to restock the Democratic caucus with corrupt and reactionary troglodytes that progressives will not support.

Problems like Climate Change, which can't be solved without cutting into the profit margins of gigantically powerful corporations can't be solved with the kind of rampant corruption that is a hallmark of Inside the Beltway governance. That's why I was so happy to see Blue America-endorsed Lee Rogers come up with another proposal for dialing back the egregious corruption that defines Washington-- and that his opponent, Buck McKeon, is more guilty of than almost anyone else in Congress.

On the heels of Lee Fang's scathing report last week in The Nation that highlighted how McKeon has “milked his political connections for personal financial gain,” Rogers announced on KHTS radio that, if elected, he plans to introduce the Enhance the Honesty and Integrity in Congress and Staff (ETHICS) Act. The ETHICS Act will ban payments to family members working on campaigns and prohibit Members of Congress and staff from receiving preferential treatment from entities like banks, auto dealerships, and jewelry stores as recommended by the Darrell Issa Countrywide Report that singled McKeon out as a bribe-taker. Rogers' proposal-- likely to be opposed by corrupt Members on both sides of the aisle-- would also require that Congress and staff notify parties of significant financial transactions that they must not receive discounts under penalty of law.

Rogers hasn't even been elected yet and he's already going to bring the two sides of the aisle together! Nothing unifies certain Dems and Republicans than the urge to protect their turf from reformers. “We cannot trust lawmakers to represent us when they’re taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from industries they’re supposed to be regulating and passing some of that money into their personal bank accounts,” said Rogers. From his press release:
During the Rogers-McKeon debate on October 10, 2012, Rogers accused McKeon of “funneling more than $600,000 into the pockets of his family members,” including his wife. Research shows the Congressman’s wife, who acts as his Treasurer, has received $617,956 over the past 10 years. His son, David O. McKeon, has received $60,951 since 2009 through three different shell corporations based in Las Vegas, bringing the 10-year family total to $678,907.

  Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) recently published their 2012 All in the Family report on campaign nepotism, finding that over the 2008 and 2010 election cycles McKeon’s payments to his wife were among the five largest payments to family members in all of Congress.

  Current law bans nepotism in the Congressional office, but campaigns can hire family members if they are providing a bona fide service to the campaign and are paid fair market value. Patricia McKeon’s salary is far above the average for a sample of Members of Congress who would be McKeon’s equivalents. She made nearly double over the same period as what House Speaker John Boehner paid his treasurer and three different compliance firms.

Patricia McKeon’s work as Treasurer appears not to meet the standard of the other treasurers. She was recently found to have violated campaign finance law and fined $4,600 for filing a late report.  Patricia McKeon has also filed many more amendments to her reports than the sample of other treasurers. The average treasurer filed 4.7 amendments for 17 quarterly reports from 2009 to 2012. McKeon had to amend every report at least once, filing a total of 24 amendments for 17 reports.
And, yes, of course McKeon is both a virulent Climate Change denier and is always more than happy to accept a bribe from Big Oil ($31,200 so far). But did I mention that the lobbyists were able to round up enough corrupt senators to kill the bill that the House had passed so narrowly?





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A President Romney Would Be Plotting To Sell Off Central Park To Real Estate Developers This Morning

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was all over TV Tuesday praising President Obama for his hands-on engagement in leading the response to Sandy. Monday we asked the question here whether or not Romney would handle the crisis any different. There was a great response to the vision Stephen Goldstein created in his book about a Romney/Ryan America, Atlas Drugged which deals primarily with a press conference in the aftermath of a monster double hurricane in Florida by a Romney character (President Ham Cooper) and a Governor Rick Scott character (Cris Cott). Goldstein then takes us into the private confines of the Cooper administration where the plutocrats who rule America see the potential of the devastation and misery... for themselves.
MONDAY, AUGUST 8, 10 A.M.: THE WHITE HOUSE CABINET ROOM. President Cooper and Florida Governor Cott are meeting with the executive committee of the Corporate Council. Cooper is beaming. For the first time, he appears jubilant after the monumental embarrassment of the July 4th gala. He slowly looks around the room, shoots both arms over his head like an Olympian winning a gold medal, fists clenched, and proclaims, “Gentlemen, we’re here to carve up a pie called Florida. It’s huge and each one of you can get in on the ground floor. There’s no limit to how much money you can make. This is pure Free-for-All economics. The recent sweeping disaster is nothing less than the windfall we’ve all been waiting for, but could never have imagined or engineered. It’s a godsend, my fellow patriots. The storm hit mostly the richest areas of the state. Those people have got insurance. Plus, they’ll personally pay extra and do anything to get their property rebuilt. You’re all going to have a whole state to privatize. It could become a model for the rest of the country. I don’t mean to get carried away, but I’m sure all of you can see where this is going. If you play your cards right, you’ll make profits you could never have dreamed of. Governor Cott, please share your thoughts with us.”

“First, I’d like to ditto President Cooper’s reading of the situation and the enormous, unprecedented riches that await you,” says Cott. “We’re here to transform the state of Florida into Florida, Inc. As the president said, if we play our cards right, and I see no reason why we wouldn’t, we can wipe away the last vestiges of state government that have stood in our way of creating a pure corporate state.”

“Governor Cott and I would now like to hear your thoughts on how we might proceed to create Florida, Inc. Feel free to speak up and share your ideas. Be bold. This is a unique time in our history and we should let our imaginations run wild. With the right strategy what happens in Florida won’t stay in Florida, but it will set the pace for the rest of the CSA. That’s forty-nine other ways for you to reap trillions of dollars. Yes, you heard me. That’s trillions with a T!”

“Gentlemen, I’m Jonathan Smythe of Consolidated Industries. First, let me say that I totally agree with you that we have an historic opportunity to achieve John Galt’s vision. I’ve been imagining a corporate-takeover scenario for years. I suggest that we turn Florida into seven profit centers individually owned and operated.” He moves to the front of the room holding a map of the state. “I’ve drawn a line up the middle of the peninsula, then one east to west from just south of Fort Pierce to Sarasota, and another from just below Daytona Beach past Ocala to the west coast. I’ve also drawn a north-south line east of Tallahassee, creating a zone from the capital to the Alabama border. In my proposal, those seven profit centers would be for sale to the highest bidder-- members of the Corporate Council, of course. Corporations could own one or more-- or all seven. What used to be called government would become Florida, Inc., a board of directors made up of the owners of the zones.”

“I love the overall concept, Jonathan,” Cott says, “but how do we take over existing government assets and the property and other assets of existing individuals and businesses?”

“Governor, I told you I’ve been running various scripts in my mind for years, including how we could sell the idea to the public. You could issue an executive order, declaring the entire state a disaster. You could call it something like ‘The Florida Humanitarian Relief and Restoration Initiative.’ In due time, you can get the legislature to approve establishing Florida, Inc., a holding company, retroactively, to tie it up neatly in a bow. Under the Initiative, you would first declare the existing state bankrupt because it is self-insured and without the money to rebuild the physical structures it owns and to provide the services it has in the past. That would open up the door to sweeping privatization.

“In addition, private individuals and businesses would be given sixty days to establish their claims to real property. That’s all we really care about because, with control of the land, we control everything.

Under powers of eminent domain granted to you in the Initiative, in the public interest, you would confiscate all undocumented property in the name of the state. Documented rights to property would be compensated at ten cents on the dollar out of state funds, less whatever insurance companies pay out. Then, you could open up the zones, like Smythe suggests, to the highest bidder.”

Harold Klein of International Networks gets up to speak: “Mr. President, Governor, my fellow investors, what I’ve heard so far is encouraging, but let me remind you that we’ve got to keep our eye on the ball. We need to be practical and strategic or we’ll get creamed. Before we talk about which way to carve the lines of the profit zones, we’ve got to be absolutely clear that we can create a clean, swift, permanent basis upon which to confiscate everything in the name of Florida, Inc. There can’t be any backtracking. If we show any sign of weakness, the whole project will come tumbling down. After that, we can do whatever we wish. Our success will depend upon public relations, which have not gone all that well for us, may I remind you: The Adam case! We need an ironclad message that ‘the people’ will swallow.”

“I agree with everything that’s been said already,” says Aristotle Khouris, “and I’d like to remind you that, as I emphasized when we last met, my investors have already put trillions of dollars on the table. Let me repeat, trillions, not billions, banking on the three-country European strategy that I’ve been putting together for the last three years. I am confident that we can add upwards of $500 billion to the Florida project. We’ve already run the preliminary numbers on what it would mean to our bottom line, especially because we can use some of the same tactics we’ve used in Europe in signing on to Florida, Inc. As you may recall, after the November election, the Worldwide Investment Trust is ready to force countries A, B, and C-- you all know who they are-- into default by calling loans they have no chance of repaying.

“In addition to everything that’s been suggested, we can get the banks to do the same thing to property owners in Florida. Then, we can seize them and open the bidding to privatize all public services and resources. Just like we’re doing overseas, we can auction off power companies, seaports, airports, national lotteries, state-owned media, national banks, railway systems, and airports. Everything will be sold at fire-sale prices. If there are any protests from state and private company workers who’ll lose their jobs or who have to take a pay cut, they won’t have a leg to stand on.”

Mortimer Gayle, of Gayle’s Department Stores, rises: “Gentlemen, gentlemen, you know that, in general, I support everything you’re saying-- and why you’re saying it. You’re talking about a grand scheme, but I’ve got an immediate problem. Twenty of my department stores in Florida were completely destroyed, leveled, scattered like pick-up sticks. From the way you’re talking, you’re gonna put me out of business. I’m already losing millions.”

“Mortimer,” Governor Cott says, smiling. “Mortimer, you know we always take care of our friends. Gayle’s Department Stores will be eligible for millions in corporate incentive grants, which you’ll never have to repay. Just tell us how much you want and we’ll open the spigot. In addition, choose the ideal locations where you’d like to relocate your stores and we’ll see to it that they are turned over to you. As you know, we have our ways. You don’t have to be limited to the places where you used to operate. Remember: the state will be a clean slate. It belongs to us-- to you, to everyone in this room. You’re in on the ground floor.”

President Cooper then says, “Mortimer, of course I echo the governor. In addition to getting rid of all the regulations that have hindered development in recent years, Washington is declaring a moratorium on any and all existing rules that in any way would stand in the way of your free rein to build and rebuild. I am signing an executive order to that effect this afternoon. Consider Florida yours for the taking.”

“Within ten days,” says Governor Cott, “you’ll be receiving a VIP copy of the auction catalog listing all resources and assets within Florida so you can bid on them. In addition, based upon the suggestions you’ve made today, as well as those we’ve already received, we will be issuing a draft plan of Florida, Inc.”

“Governor Cott,” Franklin Reynolds of Continental Health System calls out, as he rises to speak, “there are literally millions of Floridians who remain stranded throughout the state. Daily, we’re hearing reports of illnesses that could become epidemics, if they haven’t already. What is being done or what do you plan to do to help those in such dire need?”

Governor Cott, shaking his head and pursing his lips in disbelief: “You have just uttered the most despicable word in the English language--‘help’. I’d like to outlaw it. We don’t help people. People help themselves. If you haven’t understood that concept, if it doesn’t already run through your veins, I don’t understand what you’re doing here.”

“But, governor,” Reynolds says, interrupting him. “This is a public relations problem. If you don’t do something to make it look as though you have a strategy to help people-- sorry if you don’t like the word-- it could come back to haunt you as you implement Florida, Inc. There are things you can do-- window-dressing-- to stop any backlash that might hamper your efforts.”

“I couldn’t give a shit about threats of backlash,” says Cott, “and window-dressing is for department stores. No offense, Mortimer. I came into office to continue and expand Free-for-All economic policies-- and not to give an inch. This is no time to back down. I’m not going to waste time listing all the accomplishments I’ve had since I became state CEO. But I’d like to remind you, in case any of you have forgotten, that I have made Florida the most corporate-friendly state in the nation. Now, I’m ready to take it to the next step by making it a pure corporate state. I’m delivering it to you on a silver platter, now that it’s dropped into our laps. Miss this opportunity and there’s no telling when another one may come our way.

“This is no time to back down. We’ve got total control of the Florida peninsula-- and I don’t have to kowtow to anyone. Mr. Reynolds, the real story you should know is that the marketplace is already working precisely as it should throughout devastated Florida, without ‘the government’ needing to intervene. Private helicopter services are flying in supplies and selling water, tents, generators, and other essential equipment. At competitive rates, they are also evacuating people who prefer, and have the means to pay, to leave. Amphibious craft are landing along the Florida coasts, bringing earth-moving and other heavy equipment to clear areas for people who are willing to begin the reconstruction process. Many are willing to pay, even before their insurance companies do an assessment.

“So, I hope you realize that the simple answer-- the only answer to your question-- is that Florida is helping those who can help themselves, which means we help no one. Those who can’t afford to pay the price have only themselves to blame. None of us was put on this earth to pick up every deadbeat and fall for every hard luck story. End of story. I’m amazed that we have to keep repeating the first principle of John Galt’s Restoration, but I guess that’s just the cross those of us in leadership positions have to bear. Now, if you’ll excuse the president and me, we’ve got some serious planning to do to maximize your bottom lines.”

As they leave, Aristotle Khouris runs up to Governor Cott and says, “I’ve got a blank check for you from my international consortium as soon as you’re ready to deal.”
If you don't think that Romney and his cronies would be sitting around and secretly gaming out how to sell off Central Park, Prospect Park and every bridge, tunnel and public service, you haven't been paying attention to what candidate Romney, who repeatedly attacked President Obama for financing the hiring of more firemen and policemen, has been saying all along. "Every time you have an occasion," he asserted cheerfully in a televised GOP debate this past summer, "to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better." And that's exactly what he intends to do-- not just with FEMA, but with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as well. As for an adult response to Climate Change? The world's single most existential problem is not part of the Romney/Ryan agenda-- unless suppressing any talk of it is an agenda.



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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Protecting Women's Health Stands Above Politics

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Women are not an interest group. There are two ways to look at it though. The Democratic way (above) and the Republican way (below). "Yes, We Plan" features Julianne Moore, Mary J. Blige and Q-Tip. We've got to keep moving forward!


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Looking for a hot time in Kabul? Al Kamen to the rescue

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Secretary of State Clinton with those mad rockers the Backsheesh Boys

by Ken

I've already tried using the storm as an excuse not to think about the elections and vice versa, so I'm grateful to our WaPo "In the Loop" pal Al Kamen for offering this helpful hint for what to do the next time you find yourself with a free evening in rocking Kabul.

Rock on, envoys!

You won’t read about it in Rolling Stone, but there’s a rockin’ music scene in an unlikely corner of the world: the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Seems State Department employees there like to blow off steam from stressful jobs by picking up an ax — or a mike. The latest issue of State magazine, the agency’s monthly in-house glossy, profiles a few bands that have sprung up at the post.

There’s the Mission Essential Jazz Band, which performs all the standards and has wowed crowds at events including the embassy’s Spring Fling Ball and July 4th celebration. The ensemble has also entertained at the British and Russian embassies.

Playing more modern tunes are the Spin Boldaks (named after a particularly dangerous town in Kandahar province), an acoustic-guitar band that covered alternative classics and dance grooves, including Madonna’s “Holiday.” Alas, like most great bands, they eventually broke up (the members scattered to different assignments around the globe), but the magazine notes that fans can still see photos on the band’s Facebook page (dig the ironic 1980s getups — leopard pants, skinny ties).

But the current darlings of the Kabul embassy scene are the Backsheesh Boys (the name is a Persian-language riff on the now-defunct boy band the Backstreet Boys), who started out playing mostly Southern rock but whose repertoire now includes classic rock. The band has appeared at hot spots such as the embassy’s old Duck and Cover Bar, the Red Tent (which the magazine describes as “infamous”), the Clamshell at Camp Eggers, and the International Security Assistance Force’s Club 37.
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Do You Find It Odd That Labor Unions Contribue Huge Sums of Money To Republicans?

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Lately we've looked at how the plutocrats behind the Republican Party have worked to destroy unions and the union movement and at these same plutocrats' disregard for even the lives of workers and their families. So why do unions contribute so many millions of dollars to Republican candidates for Congress? Does that shock you? It shouldn't-- and if you've been reading DWT regularly, it wouldn't. In June we looked out how the AFL-CIO's building trades unions were spending more money to help Republican House candidates than they were on helping Democratic House candidates. And just a week ago we saw how even virulently anti-union sociopaths like Peter Roskam (R-IL) have been able to sound on support from labor unions year after year.

The other day an AFL-CIO spokesperson attacked Blue America for backing a Democratic candidate who appears to be too far to the left for some unions. I know when I participated in a Beltway "veal pen" group over the course of the congressional campaign this year, we never once endorsed a single candidate-- not even ONE-- mostly (though not exclusively) because of vetoes from the AFL-CIO. I noticed that more serious unions like the Steel Workers and UAW stopped participating once it became clear that the AFL-CIO was bound by the vetoes of the Building Trades unions. The AFL-CIO itself wasn't necessarily opposed to the candidates; but their right-wing leaning building trades unions were always concerned about money they could get from anti-environmental Republicans and corrupt, conservative Democrats.

Here's the list of congressional candidates the AFL-CIO's building trades unions have given to so far this cycle. Keep in mind as you read it that every Republican elected to Congress helps maintain the virulently anti-labor/anti-working families Boehner and Cantor in their positions running the House. Overall, our friends in the Building Trades have given $147,525 to Democratic House candidates and, slightly less, $134,500, to Republican House candidates. But we should look at these numbers a little more closely.

First of all 13 of 76 Democrats who got contributions are reactionaries who vote frequently with the Republicans, including Blue Dogs Dan Boren (Oklahoma), Sanford Bishop (GA), Leonard Boswell (IA), David Crooks (IN), Gary McDowell (MI), Brendan Mullen (IN), Sal Pace (CO), and Kurt Shrader (OR). And these are the 4 biggest recipients of Building Trades largesse this cycle:
Steve LaTourette (R-OH)- $8,000
Jon Runyan (R-NJ)- $7,500
Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ)- $7,500
Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (R-Gambino)- $6,500
I also noticed on the list that the Building Trades Unions are funding right-wing, anti-union Republicans against pro-union progressive Democrats. These are the worst instances:
  • Chip Cravaack (R-MN) vs Rick Nolan
  • Michael Fitzpatrick vs Kathy Bookvar

  Jim Gerlach vs Manan Trivedi

  Nan Hayworth vs Sean Patrick Maloney

  Mike Kelly (R-PA) vs Missa Eaton

  Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) vs Wanda Rohl

  David McKinley (R-WV) vs Sue Thorn

  • David Rivera (R-FL) vs Joe Garcia

  Steve Stivers (R-OH) vs Pat Lang

  Fred Upton (R-MI) vs Mike O'Brien
And one dishonorable mention-- the Building Trades bosses decided to give deadbeat dad and right-wing sociopath Joe Walsh (R-IL) $3,500 in his battle against Tammy Duckworth, a moderate Democrat who is demonstrably pro-union. In way of contrast, let me point to the SEIU which has contributed $733,603 to House Democratic candidates this cycle and $250 to a sole Republican (Steve LaTourette). Or how about the savviest union I've run across-- the United Steelworkers. The contributed $469,250 to 66 Democrats running for the House. And they gave the exact amount of dollar to the exact number of Republicans who deserve it. Zero dollars/zero Republicans.

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The Homestead Strike Of 1892-- Unionbusting Then And Now

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I mentioned a few days ago that I've been watching the History Channel series, The Men Who Built America. It's very slanted towards a capitalist view of history-- with idiotic interruptions commentary by modern day robber barons and financial predators "job creators" like Donald Trump, Steve Case and Jack Walsh. And the History Channel has blocked YouTube and Vimeo embedding. The episode about the pathology of Randian capitalism can only be watched on their site, here.

Thursday, also in regard to that episode, we looked specifically at how spoiled, self-entitled billionaire robber barons caused thousands of deaths in the Johnstown Flood of 1889 and how none were ever held accountable. The main culprit there, Henry Frick-- America's most hated plutocrat, the Koch brother of his day-- soon after hired a private militia to murder striking steelworkers he had locked out of Andrew Carnegie's Homestead Steel Works near Pittsburgh. Frick started by trying to break the union with scabs and then hired the Pinkertons, a fascist militia-for-hire specializing in murdering union workers. The Pinkertons fired randomly into the workers and killed and wounded dozens.

Widespread public support for the strikers evaporated when an anarchist with no relation to the union whatsoever, tried to assassinate Frick-- who he managed to shoot and stab but, alas, not kill. The union was broken and Carnegie Steel remained a non-union bastion for 40 years. So why bring this up again-- aside from the fact it's on TV? Robert Reich explains in a video that, unfortunately, is not on TV:



This election, he argues, is "not merely Republicans versus Democrats, or conservatives versus liberals. The larger battle is between regressives and progressives." And the regressives, having completely taken over the Republican Party and having made gigantic inroads in the corrupt Democratic Party Establishment, sense now is their time-- that they can win the whole ball of wax by electing Romney-Ryan, capturing the Senate and holding the House.
Regressives want to take this nation backward-- to before Social Security, unemployment insurance, and Medicare; before civil rights and voting rights; before regulations designed to protect the environment, workers, consumers, and investors. They want to sabotage much of what this nation has achieved over the last century. And they’re out to do it by making the rich far richer, turning Americans against one another in competition for a smaller and smaller slice of the pie, substituting private morality for public morality, and opening the floodgates to big money in politics.

Progressives are determined to take this nation forward-- toward equal opportunity, tolerance and openness, adequate protection against corporate and Wall Street abuses, and an economy and democracy that are working for all of us.
Unions aren't always progressive-- to put it mildly-- and some are absolutely on the regressive side of the battlelines, especially the building trades unions. But there's no way forward for democracy or for a progressive vision of America without unions. And that's why Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the GOP, no less than Henry Frick, are trying to exterminate them. In his essential book, The Fifteen Biggest Lies About The Economy, Joshua Holland spends a lot of time talking about why unions are crucial and how Republicans are still trying to eliminate them.
In 2005, Harvard economist Richard Freeman found that more U.S. workers wanted to join a union than ever before-- 53 percent. It’s their right, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, but even as the number of wage earners who want to bargain collectively with their bosses has increased, the labor movement’s steep decline has continued apace.

Corporate America has been fighting labor through lobbying and regulation, by shipping a disproportionate number of union jobs overseas and by dumping union positions in a steady wave of corporate mergers. Perhaps most important, they’ve also achieved it through a concerted campaign to convince America that despite the fact that joining a union results in an almost 30 percent boost in one’s wages and benefits, unions are in fact harmful to workers.

Companies that rely on cheap labor finance a broad network of innocuous sounding front-groups such as the Capital Research Center, the Public Service Research Foundation, and the Alliance for Worker Freedom that advocate for workers’ “right” to labor unencumbered by the extra pay and benefits that come with union membership. According to the pro-labor group American Rights at Work, the oldest of these, the National Right to Work Foundation, “employs over 200 staff to lobby, fundraise, distribute propaganda, and interfere with workers’ union organizing efforts, and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation employs nearly 50 staff for its litigation efforts.”


Arguably the most active of these propaganda shops, the Center for Union Facts, is a newcomer established in 2006 by lobbyist Richard Berman. Berman, who is reportedly proud of his nickname, “Doctor Death,” is an infamous right-wing corporate frontman with a long career muddying the waters of our public discourse for the sake of his well-heeled clientele. According to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, “Using his lobbying and consulting firm, Berman and Company, as a revenue vehicle for his activities, Berman runs at least 23 industry-funded projects,” such as the Employment Policy Institute, the Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute, and the Employee Freedom Action Committee. Through these, Berman, a veteran of the tobacco wars-- he was funded by Philip Morris in the 1990s-- fough against drunken driving laws on behalf of the alcoholic beverage industry, against consumer and health protections on behalf of the food industry, and even against efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of mercury for the fishing industry.

The Center for Union Facts is positively Orwellian in its spin. In one instance, Berman cited a Department of Labor report to claim that unions had racked up “$400 million in labor racketeering fines and civil restitution in the last five years.” Nate Newman, an expert on labor relations, dug into the report, only to find that “almost all of the big money associated with the $400 million figure in labor racketeering was committed by private industry against unions, not by union officials.”

Newman added, “But that’s how you lie with statistics.”

Throw around a word like “labor racketeering” while only talking about union officials and leave the impression that the crime only involves acts by unions, not acts where unions and their members are the victims.

That is the central message coming from the Corporate Right: unions are corrupt, perhaps even mobbed up, and their work helps only union bosses and their political patrons, while screwing over workers. The overarching strategic goal is to shift working America’s focus from what unions do-- negotiate with management on behalf of their dues-paying workers and advocate for stronger labor protections in Washington-- to the most dubious negative stereotypes about who labor activists are.

The reality, of course, is that the labor movement is not untarnished; it has its share of real-world problems. But while there was a time when corrupt organizers could easily get fat off workers’ dues, [the way Ronald Reagan did was he was a unionist who sold out to the bosses] today’s union activities are very closely regulated by the government. The thirty-year trend of loosening oversight of corporate America has been turned on end in the labor movement.

In 2005, the Financial Times reported that because union-sponsored campaigns against firms such as Wal-Mart were “a thorn in the side of big business,” George W. Bush’s Department of Labor was “turning the tables on these critics, using little-known powers to act as a regulator for the union movement.” Labor unions began to face “greater scrutiny of spending and hiring practices,” and audits of individual unions “increase[d] sharply.” According to the Hartford Courant, “virtually every dollar spent” by labor unions “and the time allocated by much of the staff, must find its way onto an expanded U.S. Department of Labor form-- and it must be placed in a category according to what type of activity it represents.” Union organizers told the Times that the efforts were “motivated by pressure from Corporate America to weaken the lobbying influence and financial power of organized labor.”

The justification for these onerous rules was corruption. The Right had seized on the story of a union-owned insurer, Ullico, that got caught in a stock-trading scandal that netted a few of its executives $6 million. Conservatives compared the scandal to the $60 billion that Enron stole through market manipulation, but as Nathan Newman told journalist David Sirota, “Out of the hundreds of billions of dollars invested by various union officials in different funds all over the country,” the best that conservatives could come up with were a couple of small but much-hyped scandals. “If anything,” he added, “the fact that [a few officials at] Ullico couldn’t even get away with stealing these relatively petty amounts speaks pretty well to union corporate accountability controls, controls obviously far better than the corporations plunged into bankruptcy because of money gone and unrecoverable.”

Rick Berman and his ilk set the public stage for the Corporate Right’s war on organized labor, but comprehensive, company-by-company union busting is what ultimately keeps many U.S. workplaces union-free, despite the fact that a majority of working people want to join up.

Having lobbied hard for sweeping changes in U.S. labor law-- and the enforcement of those laws-- corporate America has raised union busting to a high art form in the United States. Companies no longer need thugs and gun-toting Pinkertons to keep workers from exercising their legal right to organize; now they have high-priced, Armani-wearing lawyers to do the job.

According to American Rights at Work, the majority of companies that face a union vote hire a “union avoidance firm” to fight for a “no” vote, but most workers don’t know it, because modern union busters prefer to operate under the radar.
Unionbusters often provide material and instructions behind the scenes while the employer’s management and middle-management/supervisory staff carry out the actual communications with workers. In this way, the unionbuster does not deal directly with employees and, as a result, may avoid having to disclose financial reports about such activity to the U.S. Department of Labor. The unionbuster’s name or firm is not used or referenced in the anti-union materials distributed to employees, further masking the unionbuster’s involvement in orchestrating the anti-organizing campaign. More importantly, the anti-union company is rarely called on to divulge that it hired a unionbuster or reveal the specifics of such expenditures. Therefore, without a paper trail, unionbusters are hard to detect, underreported, and not in the public eye.
According to journalist Art Levine, union busting has “become a multibillion-dollar industry encompassing more than 2,500 lawyers and consultants offering their services.” Levine went undercover to attend a seminar conducted by one of the leaders in the field, the Jackson Lewis law firm, where two attorneys warned prospective clients that organized labor would “attempt to destroy you, no matter how good you are.” Levine recalled some of the questions the attendees posed to the union busters:
What if we simply wanted to fire union organizers? That was possible to do, said [Michael] Stief, as long as you were careful to do so for other reasons. “Union sympathizers aren’t entitled to any more protection than other workers,” he explained. But the firing could not be linked to their union activity.

What if we felt like saying a lot of anti-union stuff to our workers? Lotito introduced a segment called “You Can Say It.” Could we tell our workers, for instance, that a union had held a strike at a nearby facility only to find that all the strikers had been replaced-- and that the same could happen to the employees here? Sure, said [Michael] Lotito. “It’s lawful.” He added, “What happens if this statement is a lie? They didn’t have another strike, there were no replacements? It’s still lawful: The labor board doesn’t really care if people are lying.”
The tactics they employ are as pervasive as they are insidious. A study by Cornell University labor scholar Kate Bronfenbrenner found that nine in ten employers facing a union campaign force employees to attend closed-door meetings to hear antiunion propaganda; 80 percent train supervisors on how to attack unions and require them to deliver antiunion messages to workers they oversee; half of employers threaten to shut down the plant if workers organize; and three out of four hire outside consultants to run antiunion campaigns, “often based on mass psychology and distorting the law.”

Increasingly, cunning forms of intimidation are enough to produce a “no” vote. If organizers manage to win a vote among workers, management can dispute the results, a process that can drag on for years. While it’s pending, pro-union workers lose their jobs; a study published by economists John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer found that “almost one in five union organizers or activists can expect to be fired as a result of their activities in a union election campaign.”

That’s illegal, but since the Reagan administration, U.S. labor protections have been thoroughly gutted, and companies that cross the line pay only modest penalties that can be written off as part of the cost of emaining union-free.

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