Friday, January 31, 2014

Crash! Boom! Thud! Is that the the sound of the earth opening as NJ Fats's other massive clodhopper falls to the ground?


by Ken

I had it in mind this evening to do a quick progress report on the unraveling of the idiotic lies of NJ Gov. Kris KrispyKreme, ex-VA Gov. "Handsome Bob" MicDonnell, and our newest celebrity thug-liar, NY Rep. "Mikey Suits' Grimm, but I decided to go instead with my latest Super Bowl City update. And now it appears that the sky may be falling down around the carcass of the World's Largest Lying Tub of Shit, NJ Fats, aka the Krispyman.

The development concerning the Krispyman's Reign of Terror and Lies had to do with the apparent backup gathering for Hoboken Mayor Kim Zimmer in her accusation that the KrispyKreme held her city's desperately needed Sandy relief hostage to its greed-and-selfishness development scheming. Of course, did anyone really think there was any chance that what Mayor Zimmer said was anything less than 100 percent true and every word uttered by every demon connected to the KrispyKreme gang was 100 percent scum-sucking lie?

Meanwhile, however, it appears that NJ Fats's lie about knowing nothing about his KrispyKronies' bridge-closing hi jinks is unraveling, as it seemed pretty likely it would. After all, how likely was it that all the Kronies would jump under the bus to protect a toxic tub of filth like Krispyman?

JANUARY 31, 2014


TRENTON (The Borowitz Report) -- Responding to fresh charges that he knew about the controversial lane closures on the George Washington Bridge last fall, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today asked for the public's patience while he makes up a new story.

"Today you have heard some allegations that are shocking and explosive," he told reporters at a hastily called press conference. "All I ask is that the people of the great state of New Jersey give me sufficient time to invent a new story that explains my way out of this."

Governor Christie said that he had spent the past few hours in closed-door meetings trying to come up with a new narrative that absolves him of any guilt in the bridge scandal, but while he was definitely denying the allegations, "so far, we don't have a winner."

"We've been tossing around everything from my not remembering events correctly to my having a bad reaction to medication," he said. "We even floated the idea of my being under too much pressure and having to ‘blow off steam.' As I said, we don't have a winner yet. But I want to reassure the people of New Jersey that I am working very hard on this."

The Governor said he understood that "things don't look very good for me right now," but he urged the public against rushing to judgment, adding, "I will get back to you with a well-crafted and plausible story as soon as possible."


I mean saying under oath that he knew nada about the GWB lane closings as retribution against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich? That seems important, to lay the groundwork for a perjury prosecution. I know there won't be much jail time, but it's a start, while prosecutors finally begin taking a close look at, well, everything he's done since he began his Reign of Loathing and Horror.


There will be a preview this week, tomorrow at 6pm PT/9pm ET.

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Today's Update from Super Bowl City: What to do if if turns out your Super Bowl tickets are fake


What, you thought you could just walk into MetLife Stadium for the Super Bowl on Sunday? You sad dreamer! If you're already in East Rutherford, NJ (and we won't ask why you're in East Rutherford, NJ), you have to make the long march to Secaucus, NJ (by the time you're making the schlepp from East Rutherford to Secaucus, you should have a strong hint that your life hasn't turned out quite the way you hoped), and then take the NJ Transit train. But you'll have to show your game ticket to board the stadium train.

"New York, New York, it's a hell of a town.
The Bronx is up, and the Battery's down."

-- Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist Paper No. [inaudible]

by Ken

We continue our series of service features on Coping with Super Bowl XLVIII. Yesterday, you'll recall, we warned you that all $100 bills in the Greater NY-NJ Metropolitan Area have been replaced with counterfeits. If you're caught trying to pass fake C-notes, you'll . . . um, I have to admit that I didn't read the report all that carefully. I believe it said that if you're caught with the hot bills, the Secret Service will send you to New Haven. But I should probably check this out further.

Some locals think they can get around by carrying their walking-around money in 50s (or 1000s). However, this still requires you to place a heap of faith in purported U.S. currency, and our information is that more prudent Super Bowl attendees are carrying their spending money in rolls of nickels.

Moving on to today's "So You're Going to the Super Bowl" Tip, No. 312:

If you've got tickets for the game, they're probably fake.

Bronx Man Caught with Over $100K in Fake Super Bowl Tickets: Authorities

By Ben Fractenberg on January 30, 2014 7:55pm

THE BRONX -- A Soundview man's "dream crushing" counterfeit Super Bowl ticket operation was shut down Thursday, Bronx prosecutors said.

Police arrested Kevin Walker, 42, after finding 124 fake tickets worth $113,900 in his Croes Avenue apartment and in a van owned by his housemate, according to the Bronx District Attorney's Office. [Huh? The fake tickets were worth $113,900? To whom? -- Ed.]

“The sale of these tickets would have potentially deprived fans of their hard earned dollars and crushed the dreams of young and old expecting to attend the much anticipated annual climax to the football season," Bronx DA Robert Johnson said in a statement.

Investigators working with the National Football League saw Walker leaving his apartment Wednesday about 6:30 p.m. with a shoebox, which he placed in a van parked outside.

Bronx prosecutors did not say why they zeroed in on Walker.

Police got a warrant to enter the apartment he was sharing with a woman and found the tickets, holographic paper, gold leaf paper, laminate glue, two packages of 4-by-6 photo paper, a cutter and hot press, according to the DA's Office.

Two other men were arrested Monday for allegedly selling counterfeit tickets, parking passes and Super Bowl events around the city. . . .
If you procured your tickets from a legitimate oligarchical source (who should have shown you his "Certified 1%" license), you're probably OK. Otherwise you should head out for the long journey to MetLife Stadium in beautiful East Rutherford, NJ, with a backup plan in case your tickets turn out to be counterfeit.

Final official data on the quantity of ticket counterfeiting for Super Bowl XLVIII and its ranking among other Super Bowls won't be available until Monday at the earliest, but the NY-NJ Super Bowl XLVIII Host Committee was guardedly confident that their event will be at the very least strongly competitive. Said Host Committee spokesman Victor Schlemenko: "You have to remember, our ticket counterfeiters are selling fake tickets for a game in a freezing cold stadium in the wilds of New Jersey in the dead of winter. It's not like Hawaii or Bali or someplace."


Even if your tickets are fake, there's a good chance that you'll be able to get at least to if not actually in the stadium under the security system set up for access to the facility. As you probably know, you can't just sashay into the stadium. While limited convoys of armored Lexuses bearing 1%-ers may be allowed on the grounds, other attendees are required to take a NJ Transit train to Secaucus, where they may be able to transfer to the train to the stadium, via a system closely modeled on the German railroads' plan for transporting new arrivals to Auschwitz and the other Nazi death camps.

According to the website:
How to get to the first outdoor, cold weather Super Bowl.
On February 2, MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey will be home to the National Football League’s Super Bowl XLVIII. If you have a ticket, the only way to reach the stadium is by public transportation, either a pre-arranged hotel shuttle bus, or NJTRANSIT train from Secaucus. No private vehicles will be allowed to approach the stadium without prior arrangement. Fortunately, public transportation options abound See our Regional Transit Diagram (PDF), which also shows the location of other Super Bowl events the week of the game. . . .

To reach the stadium on game day:
NJTRANSIT provides rail service directly to the stadium via Secaucus Junction. From the city, take any NJTRANSIT train from Penn Station one stop to Secaucus, then change to a stadium-bound shuttle train. Round-trip fare from Penn Station New York is $10.50. Only fans with Super Bowl tickets will be allowed to board the stadium-bound trains at Secaucus. Please be prepared to show your train ticket and game ticket. Travel time including the transfer is about 30 minutes. See for details.
So you see, there's a good chance that your counterfeit tickets may be good enough to get you onto the stadium train. It seems likely, however, that a holding facility will be available onsite for holding phony-ticket detainees, until they can be, um . . . transferred to New Haven?

Probably you should bring a book, and maybe some chips or something to nosh on, and of course a beverage. Dress warmly.

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Forget "Getting To Know A District"-- Bill Maher Wants To Flip One!


Back in 2006, Stephen Colbert was regularly skewering Members of Congress. His Lynn Westmoreland episode (above), for example, is probably better known, certainly nationally, than anything else about the reactionary Westmoreland. But the hilarious show was comedy for the sake of comedy. No one in their right mind could have possibly thought the Colbert appearance would have wrecked Westmoreland's career, even to the extent that the video went viral. GA-08 had a PVI of R+21 at the time. Today, after another round of redistricting, Westmoreland's west central Georgia district southwest of Atlanta still has a forbidding PVI of R+19. Democrats didn't even bother to put up a candidate last year-- and don't have one lined up this year either-- and Westmoreland has never been reelected with less than a 2/3s landslide.

Another TV comedian, Bill Maher, wants to take it further. He's talking about using his popular HBO show to actually defeat a real life congressman.
Bill Maher makes little effort to hide his own contempt for many politicians, most of them Republicans. Now, he wants to take it to the next level: finding one he might be able to help oust from office.

On his weekly HBO talk show, Real Time With Bill Maher, on Friday night, Mr. Maher and his staff plan to ask viewers to make a case for their individual representatives in the House to be selected as the worst in the country.

After some culling and analysis, one member of Congress will be selected, and the show will follow up through November with examples of what it considers terrible work by that representative. Mr. Maher will make occasional visits to that member’s district to perform stand-up and generally stir up hostile feelings toward the show’s target.

“This year, we are going to be entering into the exciting world of outright meddling with the political process,” Mr. Maher said in an email message.

The project-- which the show is calling the “flip the district” campaign-- is intended to get real results, said Scott Carter, the show’s executive producer. Among the criteria for selecting a representative, other than some degree of outrageousness in statements or voting record, is that the member be in a truly competitive race. Those running unopposed will not be selected, no matter how egregious the show’s fans may claim them to be.

“We want the chance to win,” Mr. Carter said. The choice may be a Republican or a Democrat, though he acknowledged, “with our viewers voting, I imagine it is much more likely we will pick a Republican.”

Mr. Maher has been a frequent critic of conservatives-- and a target for them. “There are a lot of terrible, entrenched congressmen out there,” Mr. Maher said. “We’re going to choose one of them, throw him or her into the national spotlight, and see if we can’t send him or her scuttling under the refrigerator on election night.”

Before beginning its campaign, Mr. Carter said, the show would make sure that the challenger in the race would not be harmed by Mr. Maher’s presence. “We will suss out whether or not the challenger might think there was reason why our participation in the effort to unseat the incumbent would not be welcomed,” he said.

He acknowledged the possibility that the incumbent will play the famed “outside agitators” card and accuse “Hollywood liberals” of interfering where they don’t belong.

“We do not want to do harm,” Mr. Carter said, but he suggested that many people might welcome “Hollywood types” adding a little pizazz to a local race.

Of course, getting laughs out of the effort will also be a goal. “We think there will be no shortage of nominations of incumbents who are ludicrous, who are ridiculous for one reason or another,” Mr. Carter said, “and we think there is no lack of entertainment value among sitting members of Congress.”
Maher could do something amazing and unexpected-- like going after a corrupt, entrenched Democrat like DCCC Chairman Steve Israel himself. The NRCC doesn't campaign against Israel as part of a deal that keeps the DCCC from targeting vulnerable senior Republicans. Israel is in one of only 8 districts nationwide that has a PVI that is exactly EVEN. The other 7 districts are the most competitive in the country, with Democrats giving all they've got to oust Republicans and Republicans doing the same in the 5 that have Democratic incumbents. Except Israel. He has immunity. The NRCC could easily beat him if they tried. They target MUCH more difficult districts than Long Island's NY-03. But if they did, then Israel would unleash the dogs of war against senior Republicans in vulnerable districts, like these half dozen right-wing galoots, who the DCCC doesn't even try too defeat:
Fred Upton (MI-06)- R+1
Peter King (NY-02)- R+1
Dave Reichert (WA-08)- R+1
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27)- R+2
Mike Rogers (MI-08)- R+2
Paul Ryan (WI-01)- R+3
The DCCC is hands off on all three districts, despite the fact that Obama won each in 2008 and/or 2012 and despite the fact that all of them are far more vulnerable than many of the absurd targets Israel is going after that are just money-pits that will never be won but where he prefers conservative candidates he recruited like anti-Choice, antigay, anti-environment gun-nut Jennifer Garrison in OH-06, a district with a PVI of R+8 and where Obama lost in 2008 (45%) and 2012 (43%).

But a better fit for Maher would be to go after the very powerful-- and vulnerable-- Boehner-and-Israel buddy, Fred Upton, an heir to the Whirlpool fortune and Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. A former member of Israel's Center Aisle Caucus, he is probably the #1 most vulnerable Republican in America who Israel prevents the DCCC from targeting. There's a good grassroots progressive running, Paul Clements, and the DCCC won't help him but with a push against Upton-- who richly deserves that push-- Clements could win. Maher cares about climate change, right? There is no Member of Congress who has been worse on that issue-- and more destructive-- than Upton. If you agree, let Bill Maher know-- and contribute what you can to Clements' campaign.

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Guest Post From A Steve Israel Constituent


There are no words to describe the contempt I feel after reading an op-ed by my Congressman, Steve Israel, entitled The State of Our Middle Class. How pretentious that the same man whose mortgage obligation was forgiven by "friendly" banksters would opine on the struggles of the middle class. People all across Long Island are struggling under the weight of upside down mortgages, and most could never get the sweetheart deal that Congressman Israel obtained.

It is therefore rather shocking that Steve Israel is the current Congressman in our district. He and his second former wife are guilty of using their positions and political connections to get a sweetheart deal and walk away from their mortgages in an ill-begotten short sale without any penalties or repercussions; something that any of us with their level of income could never have obtained. Perhaps the populous were not made aware of this in time to affect the previous election. When one uses their political position for personal gain at the expense of the people, it is unethical, to say the least.

  Enumerated here are the facts and documented financial transactions regarding the Dix Hills house purchased, mortgaged, financed, and refinanced by Steve Israel and his then wife, Marlene Budd:

Deed Date:  June 29, 2004 Purchase Dix Hills house for $580,000.

After numerous financial machinations including several mortgages, refinances, and home equity loans from July 2004 through October 2006 from the following lenders: Homebridge Mortgage Bankers Corp., National City Bank, Greenpoint Mortgage Funding, CIT Group Consumer Finance Inc., and JP Morgan Chase Bank NA, the total debt on their Dix Hills house in October 2006 was $676,500. Based on closed real estate transactions in the area, their Dix Hills home was never worth the amount of the total mortgages on it.

In addition, Steve Israel and Marlene Budd purchased an apartment in Washington, D.C. in February 2006 for $377,785 and obtained a first mortgage in the amount of $302,228 and a second mortgage in the amount of $56,667 both from Wachovia Bank; mortgage debt on this purchase totals $358,895.

Total Mortgage Debt on their two homes in October 2006 was approximately $ 1,035,395. Their debt to equity ratio was obviously far greater than the norms allowable for a conventional mortgage.

Point of fact: anytime a lender forgives (writes-down) their borrower's debt to accommodate a settlement, they are required to report the amount of the write-down to the IRS and it can be considered income to the borrower. Treated as income, the written-down amount becomes taxable and would need to be reported on the borrower's income tax return. Therefore, if a person obtains debt forgiveness, they must pay taxes on it.  Did they? NO.

Congressman Steve Israel, in 2007, voted for the Mortgage Debt Relief Act (HR3648, 110th congress) which prevents mortgage debt forgiveness from being taxed. The law was extended through 2012 by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of  2008 for which Congressman Israel voted. Right before the law was to expire, the Congressman completed a short sale on his home. Congressman Israel benefited from the law which he voted for and; therefore, he did NOT have to pay taxes on the approximately $ 100,000 debt forgiveness and further, he will NOT pay his "fair share" to the U.S. Treasury.

Requirements for a short sale are that the home's value is less than the mortgage amount owed AND the homeowners (borrowers) MUST have documented Financial Hardship. Does anyone believe that these two people; one a Congressman and the other a Judge, who also own another residence in Washington, D.C., have "no assets" and are in financial hardship? Their salaries and their ownership of an additional residence would seem to preclude them from meeting the "no assets" qualifying requirement. In addition, the combined salaries of Steve Israel and his wife would indicate a stable cash flow that could meet any requirement by the lender to pay back the difference between the sale price and the amount owed. The particulars of the short sale of their Dix Hills house are: contract on February 10, 2012 and closed on October 5, 2012 in the amount of $460,000.

Please note the extension date of the "law" for which Congressman Israel voted and the transaction dates for the sale of their Dix Hills home.

The information offered here has been obtained thorough research of Public Records and County Clerk websites in Suffolk County and Washington, D.C. As a professional financial analyst with over 25 years experience, I have extensive knowledge and the ability to research all aspects of real property transactions to determine market values, analyze financial documentation and accurately evaluate properties and their appropriate loan to value ratios. The statements and conclusions drawn reflect a summary analysis based on the irrefutable data obtained, combined with many years of experience. There are numerous issues here which seem to present questions as to the ethics and legality of Congressman Israel's and his wife's financial dealings. It is stunning that there appears to be no congressional investigation

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Racism Takes A Pivotal Role In Determining Republican Party Immigration Agenda, According To Lindsey Graham


Matt Hildreth works for America's Voice and his tweet (above) about the GOP immigration dilemma went right to the point: are they the Party of Abe Lincoln, the Great Emancipator or the Party of Jeff Sessions, a KKK sympathizer. Yesterday, Ted Cruz (R-TX) warned House Republicans not to support the Republican leadership's plan for comprehensive immigration reform. He called their plan to give legal status to immigrants "amnesty," code among Republicans that the world is coming to an end. “I think it would be a mistake if House Republicans were to support amnesty for those here illegally," he said menacingly… In my view we need to secure the borders, we need to stop illegal immigration and we need to improve and streamline legal immigration. He meant legal immigration for white people. How do I know what he meant? Well, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told me.
For more than a year House Republican leaders have insisted the chamber would act on new immigration laws. And for more than a year, Republicans have done virtually nothing on the issue-- despite intense pressure from activists, business groups, and the nation’s changing demographics.

And although there are a variety of reasons for inaction, one Republican lawmaker recently offered a frank acknowledgement for many members, there’s one issue at play not often discussed: race.

“Part of it, I think-- and I hate to say this, because these are my people-- but I hate to say it, but it’s racial,” said the Southern Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If you go to town halls people say things like, ‘These people have different cultural customs than we do.’ And that’s code for race.”

There are a range of policy reasons for opposing plans to liberalize immigration or to regularize undocumented immigrants in the country, ones revolving around law-and-order concerns and the labor market. But that perceived thread of xenophobia, occasionally expressed bluntly on the fringes of the Republican Party and on the talk radio airwaves, has driven many Hispanic voters away from a Republican leadership that courts them avidly. And some Republicans who back an immigration overhaul, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and one of the Republican Party’s most vocal champions of a pathway to citizenship, acknowledge that race remains a reality in the immigration debate.

“There will always be people [who have] different reasons for opposing the change. We have a history in this country of demagoguery when it comes [to immigration]. You know, ‘Irish Need Not Apply.’ There’s nothing new going on today that’s gone on before. This isn’t the first time that there’s been some ugliness around the issue of immigration,” Graham said.

But Graham said despite that legacy, voters, including strong majorities of Republican primary voters, are lining up behind the idea of citizenship.

“Here’s what I don’t get: When you ask primary voters in a poll would support a pathway to citizenship where you have to learn English, pay a fine and go to the back of the line, it’s 60% in South Carolina,” Graham said. “Nationally, it’s over 70% … it seems through polling, if nothing else, that the Republican Party gets it.”
Meanwhile Boehner, Cantor, Ryan and their team were tepidly pushing back against the Know Nothing extremists like Cruz and Sessions, although adamantly ruling out a path to citizenship.
House Republican leaders are calling for illegal immigrants to be able to “live legally and without fear in the U.S.” after they have met a series of requirements and after “specific enforcement triggers” have been met, according to new principles presented Thursday to lawmakers.

The endorsement of a path to legal status for many of the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants is a significant step toward comprehensive immigration reform for a party that has long resisted policies that some deride as amnesty.

Inside the Republican conference meeting, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) argued it was “important to act” on immigration reform from an economic and national security standpoint. But he drew a clear line and said that if Democrats insist on a faster path to citizenship, the effort will fall apart.

"These standards are as far as we are willing to go,” Boehner said, according to a person in the room. “Nancy Pelosi said yesterday that for her caucus, it is a special path to citizenship or nothing. If Democrats insist on that, then we are not going to get anywhere this year.”

"Having said that,” he added, “I believe these standards represent a fair, principled way for us to solve this issue, beginning with securing our borders and enforcing our laws.”
Back to Matt Hildreth's organization , America's Voice, again. In a report released this week, they predicted that the GOP retreat would determine how the House tackles immigration reform. The Republicans are well aware of the district-level polling that could be a threat to dozens of Republican congressmen over the course of the next 6 years. The 2 takeaways from the report:

Immigration reform is broadly popular in available district-specific polling of Republican-held congressional seats. Available district-specific immigration polling, conducted in the past year by both Democratic and Republican-affiliated pollsters in 25 different Republican-held districts, shows consistent and broad public support for immigration reform. Notably, both likely voters and self-identified Republican likely voters support a path to earned legalization and citizenship as part of a broader immigration fix in district after district. In every district polled, citizenship topped other policy alternatives. In addition to the district-specific polling results, several polls of aggregated congressional district polling assess immigration sentiment in a broader number of competitive House districts. Among Latino voters and all likely voters in these aggregated congressional battleground polls, support is overwhelming on behalf of an immigration reform package that includes a path to citizenship.

The fear that Republican primary voters don’t support immigration reform is overstated-- in fact, Republican primary voters are more pragmatic and pro-reform than conventional political wisdom assumes. The persistent conventional political wisdom that Republican voters are anti-immigration is not borne out by public opinion and polling research. Whether examining immigration in the 2012 presidential primary season or Republican-specific polling conducted during 2013, the GOP base is more open and supportive of immigration reform-- including reform with legalization and citizenship provisions-- than our punditry assumes. Resultantly, the fears over primary challengers due to immigration are more about misplaced perception than actual reality.
Even in a district the Republicans consider completely safe-- like Darrell Issa's-- if the GOP blocks comprehensive reform, the Republican brand is in dire jeopardy and incumbents will start losing their seats. Magellan Strategies found that in CA-49, "74% of likely voters, including 72% of Republicans, support immigration legislation that would 'increase border security, block employers from hiring undocumented immigrants, and make sure that undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. with no criminal record register for legal status. If immigrants were to meet a list of requirements, they could eventually apply for citizenship.'"

The GOP is getting rid of Buck McKeon, who announced he's finally retiring, but the CA-25 GOP has named two notorious right-wing xenophobes as filled with bigotry as he is… and in the face of this devastating information, which makes it look like Lee Rogers will be going to Congress in January, 2015:

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

India's Corrupt, Dysfunctional Politics Comes To California


The first time I got to India, in 1969, I went the hard way-- overland in a VW van from Europe. What a trip, and I stayed in India, Nepal, Ceylon and Pakistan for two years. Over the years, I've been back many times, most recently over the Christmas holidays in 2012. And in the last decade, every time I went, there was some kind of election involving a fascist Indian politician, Narendra Modi, head of India's far right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which, in the right-wing constellation, is as more akin to the Nazi Party than the Republican Party. Imagine Paul Ryan's economic agenda meets genocide. I've wound up blogging about Modi and the BJP from India several times and I always get a lot of animated responses from Indian-Americans on the right of the political spectrum who tell me Modi may be best known internationally for as an anti-Muslim terrorist-- who facilitated (to put it mildly)-- the slaughter of at least a thousand Muslims in 2002, but that they admire him for his economic policies. Remember how fascists excused Hitler;s and Mussolini's quirky excesses? They made the trains run on time. (Never mind what was in the trains.) Modi, they claim, has been very good for Gujarat's economy. Maybe-- for the rich, but certainly not for the millions of poor people in the state. According to wikipedia, while Modi has been boasting of an economic miracle as Chief Minister, Gujarat has been the "13th in India for poverty, 21st for education and 44.7% percent of children under five are underweight and 23% are undernourished putting the state in the 'alarming' category on the Hunger Index… Political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot states that the development in Gujarat has been limited to the urban middle class, whereas rural dwellers and lower castes have become increasingly marginalised. He cites the fact that Gujarat ranks 21st among the 28 Indian states in terms of its Human Development Index, due to the lack of development in rural Gujarat. He states under Modi the number of families living below the poverty line has increased, and that particularly rural adivasi and dalits have become increasingly marginalised."

Because of his role in the massacres of Muslims, Modi has been banned from traveling to the E.U. and the U.S. And here's where the Modi story starts to intersect with American politics. Meet Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, Chicago "businessman" and Modi's man in America. He's behind a SuperPAC working for one thing: rehabilitating Modi in America. He brought 3 shady Republican congressmembers-- Aaron Schock, Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Cynthia Lummis-- to India to meet Modi, complements of his National Indian American Public Policy Institute in Chicago. A few months ago Kumar got slapped down by Republicans in Washington he had bribed when he used their names in a Modi event without their permission. He doesn't understand that bribing congressmen isn't the same thing as owning them.
The Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) has successfully exposed that Narendra Modi’s purported event on "Capitol Hill" as a fraud and an exercise in illegal and criminal misuse of US Government symbols. After five days of phone calls, letters, document verification and hundreds of emails between CAG activists and Congressional staffers, several members of the House Republican Conference whose names had been used to endorse the Modi event have washed their hands off the event. First reports in the media also suggest that the congresspersons were unaware that their names or the Congressional seal were being used to promote the Modi event and that the fraud had been enacted by a an organization called National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI) and one Mr. Shalabh Kumar, a person with a checkered history of ethics violations.

CAG has learned that the office of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has issued a "Cease and Desist" order to Mr. Shalabh ’Shalli’ Kumar and NIAPPI, who are organizers of the event outside Capitol Hill, where Modi is expected to appear via satellite video on November 19, 2013.

The promotional material for the event has illegally used the seal of the House of Representatives as well as names and pictures of the top Republican Leadership without their consent. It purports to have the support and endorsement of the House Republican Conference, a top Republican body chaired by Rep. Cathy Rodgers.

The "Cease and Desist" Notice seeks immediate cessation of all activities to promote the Modi broadcast in the name of Congresswoman Rodgers and the House Republican Conference. Even as the office of Rep. Rodgers issued the "Cease and Desist", other Republicans namely Congressman Sessions moved swiftly to put a distance between themselves and the Modi broadcast. In a statement issued by Congressman Sessions received by CAG via email, Congressman Sessions stated clearly:
"It has come to my attention that the National Indian American Public Policy Institute (NIAPPI) recently used my name and image on an invitation to an event that it is hosting in Washington, DC, on November 19. At no point in time did I agree to attend this event, nor did I approve of the use of my name or image on this invitation. Further, I did not see the invitation until it had been distributed publicly. Had I known that my name and image were on this invitation before it was distributed, I would have requested that they both be removed. Additionally, I have contacted NIAPPI to request that they remove my name and image from this invitation and that they explicitly ask my approval before using my name or image in any of their materials going forward." – U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX-32)
NIAPPI, the key agent behind this misrepresentation and fraudulent promotional tactics, is a Hindu nationalist front organization posing as a public policy institute. It is a resting ground for RSS stalwarts like Bhailal Patel. In the case of this event, Kumar and company tried to run piggyback on an event titled the "Indian American Meetup" that has nothing to do with NIAPPI, and that is indeed taking place inside the Capitol Hill building on November 19. The program schedule for this event clearly shows that neither Mr. Modi nor any functionary of the RSS are scheduled to speak at this event. This GOP "meet and greet" event with Indian Americans was projected as a Modi promotional by Shalli Kumar and the NIAPPI.
And that brings us to the incendiary Ro Khanna campaign against progressive icon Mike Honda in CA-17, a D+20 district that takes in most of the Silicon Valley, much of Santa Clara County and the cities of Fremont, Newark, Sunnyvale and Cupertino. First elected in 2000, Honda has never been reelected with less than 2/3s of the vote and in 2012 he won with 74% (beating Obama's 72%). This year, as we've been writing, conservatives trying to knock off Honda have found an anti-working class fake Dem, Ro Khanna as a patsy. And wealthy Republicans and other conservatives have poured-- literally-- millions of dollars into Khanna's campaign.

Predictably, Khanna has been playing footsie with the proto-fascist Modi forces in the hope of getting money from Kumar's Republican SuperPAC. After consulting the State Department, the weasly Khanna pulled back and Kumar felt he had been stabbed in the back. So he recruited another Indian, this one an outright Republican, Vanila Singh, to run against Khanna and Honda. In California's jungle primary, she will pull votes and support directly from Khanna's conservative and Republican base. The San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci, who has been covering the campaign from the perspective of a Khanna partisan, was upset that Singh tossed her hat into the ring.
If Silicon Valley’s Democrat-versus-Democrat House race wasn’t already combative enough, now a first-time Republican candidate has jumped in and ignited a new drama-- one starring a conservative, wealthy Indian American donor and a politician at the center of ethnic conflicts raging half a world away.

Vanila Singh, a Stanford Medical Center anesthesiologist, says she entered the South Bay contest because it is “time to do my civic duty.”

But critics say the man who recruited her to run, Chicago businessman Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, has a far more divisive agenda.

Born in India and brought to the U.S. as a toddler, the 43-year-old Singh acknowledges she never considered a political career until Kumar, founder of a super PAC, Indian Americans for Freedom, asked in October whether she would be interested in jumping into a race that featured two Democrats-- the seven-term incumbent Mike Honda of San Jose and his main challenger, former Obama administration trade representative Ro Khanna.

Kumar was “a very nice gentleman” seeking “Indian Americans who might be interested in running,” said Singh, who lives in Fremont. After “multiple conversations” with him and other Republican insiders late last year, she filed to run Dec. 26-- one day after switching her voter registration from “decline to state” to Republican.

In recent weeks, Singh met in Washington, D.C., with Kumar, who chairs the Indian American Advisory Council of the House Republican Conference.

“Because of him, I was able to meet the congressional leaders,” Singh said. He also opened the door to introductions to other key players in the National Republican Congressional Committee and the chairman of the California Republican Party, Jim Brulte.

The GOP committee designated her “one to watch” in its national “Young Guns” program to encourage promising candidates.

Kumar-- who did not return phone calls or e-mails from the Chronicle-- told the publication IndiaWest that he approached Singh to be part of a “project” he founded with Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas. Their plan, he told the paper, was to build a GOP congressional “team” that supports a “pro-India” agenda.

Kumar told IndiaWest that had Khanna-- who, like Singh, is Indian American-- been “free of (House Minority Leader Nancy) Pelosi’s whip,” and willing to sign on to his agenda, he would have received the Indian super PAC’s support.

That agenda, according to several Indian American publications, includes securing a visa for the man Kumar has called his “idol,” Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist and leading candidate for prime minister in India’s upcoming elections.

…Kumar’s super PAC could alter the dynamics of the South Bay race, should he choose to back Singh financially. In 2002, the super PAC spent $500,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., including producing an ad set to Middle Eastern music that showed the double amputee Iraq war veteran wearing a headscarf during a visit to a local Muslim community center.

The Republican candidate that year was a Tea Party favorite, Joe Walsh. This year, Kumar is backing another candidate to oust Duckworth-- an Indian American health care executive, Manju Goel.

…Pressed about her views regarding the denial of Modi’s visa, Singh said the U.S. should “take another look” at the decision. “It would be regretful if certain groups that have certain agendas would make the policy for the United States,” Singh said. “U.S. policy came about because people pressured them.”

Her position stands in contrast to Honda and Khanna-- and to Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove (Sacramento County), the only Indian American member of the House-- who have said there is no reason to change the State Department’s ruling.

Singh’s links to Kumar raise alarms for Khalid Azam, a member of the American Indian Muslim Council and longtime resident of the district, home to one of the highest concentrations of South Asians in the nation.

“It is definitively a matter of great concern for the South Asian community-- the Muslim community and the entire Indian community,” Azam said.

Singh’s candidacy is “even more alarming,” he said, because of her activism with the Hindu American Foundation-- a group whose more fundamentalist factions back a Hindu supremacist movement in India.
Many people have questioned how much money is illegally funneled into Kumar's SuperPAC, Indian Americans for Freedom, from Modi supporters in India. The PAC refuses to disclose donors and backs right-wing Republicans with shady money. And now a word from Ro Khanna

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Hey, sports fans, it's raining phony 100s in Super Bowl City!


Plus: "Mullah John Smith" update

No, this isn't the alert for the current wave of phony $100 bills flooding Super Bowl City. Still, I think it conveys the general spirit of the current excitement in the Big Apple.

by Ken

Here in the Big Apple some of us are in the grip of Super Bowl XLVIII Mania. Or I should probably say "here in the Greater NY-NJ Metropolitan Area," since the NJ folk are touchy about being preempted by the Big Apple, what with the game being played in their state -- in East Rutherford's MetLife Stadium, the home of the, er, New York Giants and New York Jets.

Then again, some of us aren't. In the grip of Super Bowl XLVIII Mania, I mean. For some of us it's just a pointless pain, requiring us to keep track of where we can't go until the whole thing blows over.

There's talk of an economic windfall, but I for one don't expect to see any of it. And some contrarian types have been pointing out that any economic activity flying into the area is likely to be more than offset by the economic activity being driven out by the plague festivities.

While much of the talk of the town these days concerns whether and when the temperature will peek above the freezing mark. (The weather folk are optimistic for Super Sunday, but not by much and not much before.) Now it appears that there's evidence of one unquestioned economic inflow into Super Bowl City: of fake money.

(Of course, for some of us, daily routines aren't impinged on in any way by any degree of panic about the legitimacy of those 100s. The closest I've gotten to one in living memory is the image at the top of this post.)

Millions of Dollars in Phony $100 Bills Flooding the Big Apple

By Murray Weiss on January 30, 2014

NEW YORK CITY -- It’s all about the Benjamins.

An international counterfeiting ring has been pumping millions of dollars in phony $100 bills into New York and other cities in the metropolitan area over the past several years, forcing the Secret Service to step up its operation to shut it down, sources told "On The Inside."

Federal officials are tracking the mules who smuggle bogus bills into the country and distributing an alert to New York businesses, banks and security industry personnel that teaches how to detect the fake C-notes, a copy of which DNAinfo New York obtained.

The counterfeit cash appears to have been manufactured on offset printing machines using plates and ink, rather than on more sophisticated copiers, according to Michael Seremetis, the assistant special agent in charge of the New York Secret Service office.

The loot is produced in bulk and bundled into packages that are smuggled in luggage or carried on planes by couriers who get about 40 cents on the dollar to put the fakes into circulation.

"The network is similar to that of the narcotics trade," Seremetis explained. "It is distributed via a sophisticated network that involves several mules who do the passing of the notes here in the tri-state area."

The Secret Service warning says the bills contain a set of five different serial numbers and have two black 7s above the last zero on the lower right-hand corner, above the "100" mark on the back of the bill.

Although the Super Bowl game is taking place in the New York City area, officials are downplaying any connection between those festivities and the timing of their warning -- and insist counterfeiters are not using the big game as a convenient time to pass off their funny money.

The counterfeit cash frequently turns up in clubs, bars and casinos, officials said. Department stores over holiday periods are typical targets.

If you have a phony $100 that is confiscated, you will lose the value of the money but can declare a tax loss at the end of the year, officials said.

"We are asking the public to let us know if they encounter these bills," Seremetis said.

Officials asked anyone with information to call the Secret Service's New Haven office at (203) 865-2449, or the NYPD at 1-800-577-TIPS.  All calls will be kept confidential.


In my post yesterday ("Confidential to Dilbert's CEO: If anybody makes a fuss about your drones-to-terrorists deal, just say, 'Who could have known?'") I suggested some possible emotional supports for those in the throes of varying stages of existential anxiety: a dose of Dilbert for those in merely up to their ankles; the latest Chris Hedges announcement-of-doom post ("The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies") for those in up to their necks or higher. With matters of such high urgency at issue, I fear that I gave unacceptably short shrift to a character who made an appearance -- or at any rate scored an allusion -- in one of the Dilbert strips. I'd like to rectify that now.

DILBERT -- Tuesday (click to enlarge)


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Easiest Question Of The Day: Why Is Henry Waxman REALLY Retiring?


When Henry Waxman retires next year, he will be 75 years old. He will have served in Congress for 4 decades… 40 years! Even before being elected to Congress he had been a member of the state legislature. The man has served his country for a long time. He has 5 grandchildren. This morning he announced his retirement. People are reading much more into it-- as they did when George Miller announced his retirement-- than they should.
The lesson? Democrats aren't really counting on re-taking the House in 2014.

Waxman is the fourth top Democrat on a House committee who has either called it quits or opted to run for another office, and a fifth-- House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)-- said this week that he's still weighing his options.

In other words, about 20 percent of the people who stand to become chairmen if Democrats re-take the House are choosing not to stick around (there are 20 standing committees in the House)-- and possibly 25 percent, if Peterson calls it quits.

"The House Democrats don't think they're going to be wielding the gavels," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told my colleague Paul Kane shortly after Waxman's retirement was announced.
I agree that the House Democrats can't possibly win back the majority with Steve Israel running the DCCC; it's mathematically impossible because he won't target vulnerable Republicans for several reasons-- his deal with the NRCC and his Center Aisle Caucus bullshit agreement. But that isn't why Waxman is retiring. I haven't asked him why he decided to do it-- I stopped talking to him when he backed Bush's illegal attack on Iraq-- but I bet it's for the same reason I retired from Warner Bros. It was time-- time for himself and his family and time to make room for younger generations. Really. Here's what he said on his official House website:
“As I reflect on my career, I am filled with gratitude.  I am grateful for the support of my constituents, who have entrusted me to represent them and encouraged me to become a leader on national and international issues. I am grateful for my supporters and allies, who have worked side-by-side with me to fight for issues we care about: health, environmental protection, women’s and gay rights, and strengthening the ties between the United States and our most important ally, the State of Israel.

…“I first ran for office because I believe government can be a force for good in people’s lives. I have held this view throughout my career in Congress. And I will leave the House of Representatives with my conviction intact. I have learned that progress is not always easy.  It can take years of dedication and struggle. But it’s worth fighting for.

“My parents were scarred by the Great Depression and as a result they were ardent Democrats. They believed in the ideals of this wonderful country and made sure that I had the opportunity to be the first in the family to get a college education. They taught me that the special interests have plenty of advocates; it’s the poor, the sick, and the powerless who need a champion in Congress.  And that’s what I’ve strived to be.

...“There are elements of Congress today that I do not like. I abhor the extremism of the Tea Party Republicans. I am embarrassed that the greatest legislative body in the world too often operates in a partisan intellectual vacuum, denying science, refusing to listen to experts, and ignoring facts.

“But I am not leaving out of frustration with Congress. Even in today’s environment, there are opportunities to make real progress. Last Congress, I worked with Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate to pass legislation that will ease the nation’s growing spectrum shortage, spur innovation in new ‘Super WiFi’ technologies, and create a national broadband network for first responders.  Just last year, I worked on a bipartisan basis to enact legislation strengthening FDA’s authority to stop dangerous drug compounding and to track pharmaceuticals through the supply chain.

“And I am not leaving because I think House Democrats have no chance to retake the House. House Republicans have no compelling vision for the future. The public understands this, and I am confident that the Democrats can regain control of the House.

“The reason for my decision is simple. After 40 years in Congress, it’s time for someone else to have the chance to make his or her mark, ideally someone who is young enough to make the long-term commitment that’s required for real legislative success.  I still feel youthful and energetic, but I recognize if I want to experience a life outside of Congress, I need to start soon. Public office is not the only way to serve, and I want to explore other avenues while I still can.

“I have had a long career and an eventful one-- and I wouldn’t trade any of it. I woke each day looking forward to opportunities to make our country stronger, healthier, and fairer. And I will always be grateful for this honor and privilege.”

Waxman's clear-headed decision is noble and compelling and something we should be toasting him for. There are plenty of Members of Congress who are older and far less capable than he is, who should take his example to heart. Steny Hoyer, Hal Rogers, Ralph Hall, Don Young, Charlie Rangel and Joe Pitts, for example.

UPDATE: So Who's Running?

Political hacks will all discount her-- looking for the usual suspects-- but Marianne Williamson should be able to win this one. People are ready for a fresh face. The non-fresh faces being pushed by the politicos: conservative ex-Republican and EMILY's List monstrosity Wendy Greuel, Fran Pavley (formerly an environmental guru), Zev Yaroslavsky, Debra Bowen. Julia Brownley decided to stay in CA-26, as she should. A couple iof Shrivers are not running. Ted Lieu just took himself out of consideration. Expect another half dozen names by morning. Has anyone heard from Harold Ford, Jr.? Here's a statement from Marianne Williamson on the new development in the race. Read it carefully. Deluded political pundits won't:

The political world was atwitter yesterday over the retirement of Congressman Henry Waxman, who announced he will not run for reelection. Mr. Waxman has had a long and illustrious career as a Congressman, and I join with others in my sincere best wishes for the next phase of his life and career.

Almost as soon as Mr. Waxman’s announcement was made, a great wave of speculation began as to who else will run for his seat. New candidacies have already emerged. And all that is good. Democracy is at its best when a lot of us want to play.

I wish to make very clear where I stand politically in relation to Mr. Waxman’s surprising announcement.

What I spoke of two weeks before his announcement, and what I will speak of two weeks after it, will be the same. I wasn’t running against Henry Waxman, any more than I’m running against any of the specific candidates who will be joining the race now. I’m running against the system that produced them.

We will hear some say, “Oh now, the race has burst wide open!”-- but do not be fooled. America’s traditional two-party rhetoric is not wide open. It is fundamentally narrow and constricted, at the effect of economic intimidation by forces that will only tolerate a little tweaking here and there.

No one should confuse the rash of new candidacies emerging over the next few days as representing a fundamental contest over the future of America. Rather, a very narrow vision of possibilities remains at the heart of our political system: given that huge moneyed forces are going to continue to have their way with us-- grabbing whatever resources they wish, then leaving crumbs to fall on the floor for everyone else to fight over-- here’s how this or that candidate will help build a bigger and better pile of crumbs. We need to do more than fight over crumbs; we need to put the American people back in control of our country’s destiny.

I am running for Congress because I feel in my heart that the political status quo today, instead of protecting the American people from encroachment by an unholy alliance of money and power, has become too often the handmaiden and advocate for that alliance. And at a time like this, there’s only one thing to protect us: ourselves. It’s time for a new American Spring, a pro-democracy movement here in our own country, by which we rid the US government of the undue influence of money, probably through a Constitutional Amendment forbidding it.

A majority of the American people, both on the Left and Right, feel money wields too much influence on our politics. We need to break the chokehold of a system that represents a narrowing of the democratic franchise for the majority of our citizens, by calling the system on what is really wrong. From income inequality to child poverty to GMO’s to our high mass incarceration rate, the most important issues will not be addressed until we deal with the issue that underlies them all. As long as Wall Street owns America, the American people will not.

Please donate what you can to make my candidacy a powerful statement, a dynamic container for a conversation that truly matters, and victorious at the polls in the primary election on June 3rd.

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Can You Tell Someone Is Conservative Just By Looking At Their Face?


Would you ever in a billion years imagine either of these 2 gentlemen is a liberal?

By now, everyone has seen Staten Island Mafia thug Michael "Mikey Suits" Grimm (R-NY) in action at the State of the Union address. You may have missed Sean Hannity though. He was there as a guest of right-wing kook Louie Gohmert (R-TX). And, in fact, Hannity has been threatening to leave New York and move down to Texas, where more people appreciate his anti-democratic leanings-- and where rich people don't pay taxes. When someone on Facebook asked him if he'd consider running for office in Texas, he said, “The answer is yes, I’d think about it. It would either be in Texas or Florida… How does Texas have a $12 billion surplus when they’re in debt up to their eyeballs in Albany?” Yes, Texas' and Florida’s lack of income tax are appealing lures. And speaking of eyeballs, can you tell from looking into Sean's eyeballs and into Mikey Suits' eyeballs-- or even at their faces in general-- that each one is an extreme right wing ideologue? In the academic book written by John Hibbing, Kevin Smith and John Alford, Predisposed, they make a compelling case that it's possible to tell a person's politics just by looking at their face. They start with a simple question: Why are faces so revealing?
If political temperament is biologically based, it makes sense that it is being broadcast by faces. Our faces are constantly, without any conscious input or even awareness, beaming to the world information about our feelings and social intent. Faces are the visual Twitter accounts of our nervous systems, able to distribute information about psychological states quickly and succinctly, and to many people at the same time. At least since Darwin, researchers have recognized that the face provides a universal means of human social communication. We can quickly and accurately assess someone's psychological state-- whether they are happy, sad, ticked off, surprised-- with a glance at his or her face. This form of social communication is so fundamental to human nature that psychophysiologists argue that "without [facial expressions] individuals do not communicate, do not affiliate, do not proliferate, do not interact-- in short, are not social." Indeed, faces are said to "leak" our internal psychological states; we involuntarily smile, frown or wrinkle our noses when we feel joy, disapproval or disgust. Humans may not all speak the same tongue but we are all universally fluent in face. We are also pretty good at detecting facial fibbing. We can usually tell, for example, when a smile expresses real joy or is just being faked for social consumption. Of course, there are people who are really good at faking it (actors, for example), but most people find faking impossible to do convincingly.

Faces do more than provide a way to communicate our feelings about our brother-in-law. They declare membership in socially meaningful groups. Some of this is intuitive. Faces, for example, make it easy to classify someone into a particular gender, racial or age group. Studies also show that people can accurately predict an individual's sexual orientation and even religious affiliation using only facial information. They are able to do this after looking at a face for only a fraction of a second. And the declaration of social affiliations apparent from our faces also includes political orientation.

Some of these studies suggest that people divine political orientation from faces by perceiving them as more or less powerful or socially superior. At least one study finds people think conservative faces look more intelligent. These are purely perceptual judgments, though, and do not actually measure anything about the face. We were interested in exactly what it is physiologically about faces that signals political orientation, and we suspected it might have something to do with the degree of emotional expressivity in a face. One of the aspects of personality known to separate liberals and conservatives (or at least partisan affiliations) is expressivity. For example, two psychologists, James Gross and Oliver John, developed a sort of personality test called the "Berkeley Expressivity Questionnaire" that is designed to measure individual-level variation in emotional expressivity. Democrats tend to score higher than Republicans on this set of items.

If facial expressions are known to be a primary and largely sub-threshold means of signaling emotional states, then it follows that Democrats (liberals) will also tend to have relatively expressive faces. We tested this hypothesis using a technique known as electromyography (EMG), a fancy term for putting sensors on the skin to measure the electrical activity picked up by muscle contractions. The specific muscle measured was the corrugator supercilii, found between the eyebrows. Its job is to furrow the brow. Even if we are not aware the muscle has moved, negative emotions like digest, anger, and fear tend to activate the corrugator; positive emotions tend to make it relax. Corrugator activation or deactivation helps to create the facial expressions associated with many of our primary emotions. Accordingly, we prevailed upon a group of adult subjects to tell us their ideological leanings and later we measured their facial expressivity by the extent of their corrugator activity in response to a variety of positive and negative stimuli. Our hypothesis was that liberals would be more facially expressive than conservatives and that turned out to be half true. Like other EMG studies, we found females, regardless of political persuasion, to be more facially expressive than males. Unlike any other EMG study, we found liberal males to be emotionally expressive at pretty much the same level as females. The most distinctive group by far was conservative males. While corrugator activation in response to the images was significant for everyone else, for conservative males it didn't budge.

Perhaps people are able to discern personality traits and therefore political orientations from images (most of the studies use pictures of males) because stoic, less expressive faces (think Clint Eastwood) signal traits associated with conservatism and sensitive, more expressive faces (think Alan Alda) signal traits associated with liberalism. Certainly these signals are not 100 percent accurate, but they do permit quick judgments that appear to be right more often than they are wrong. This conclusion is supported by another study that took "liberal" and "conservative" faces and created avatars that exaggerated facial features and expressions. The liberal avatar was smiling, with a relaxed corrugator; the conservative avatar had less of a smile and even looked bait frowny. Evidence that political temperaments are instantiated in our biology is found not just in individual-leve variation in our brains or the internal wiring of our automatic nervous systems. Quite literally, politics is also on our faces.

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Elizabeth Warren: "It Hurts... It Just Makes Me Madder Than Hell"


-by Mike Lux

She has always been willing to push for what is right no matter how powerful the lobbyists on the other side are. And it was fitting that the event we did with her was in a church, because the politics she preaches are deeply moral-- the politics not of right and left, but of right and wrong.

President Obama gave a terrific State of the Union speech Tuesday night. His message was broadly progressive in a wide variety of ways, really focused on economic issues which will help low and middle income families, which was great to see.

I was especially delighted by his announcement of a new executive order raising the minimum wage for workers who work for federal contractors, which is an issue that the organization I chair, American Family Voices (AFV), has helped champion. This is long overdue, but I am so happy the President has made this decision. It will improve those millions of low wage workers’ lives, it will improve the way government operates, and it will boost the economy because those workers will have more spending money.

Because everyone else in the political world will be writing about the SOTU today, I am going to write about another political leader, Elizabeth Warren, who I think is creating a new kind of progressive politics that will have a major impact on American politics for years to come.

Most politicians spend most of their speeches telling people all about themselves: the bills they want to sponsor, how effective they are, how courageous they are in standing up to somebody or another. It gets old pretty fast. But some political leaders follow a different path, wherein they turn from talking about “me” and instead talk about "we." They believe in building a movement that will change things rather than just bragging about themselves and furthering their own careers, and because of that they do actually start changing things.

That’s what Elizabeth Warren does; that is who she is. Long before she became a Senator or public official, she was a fierce advocate for consumers and working families who had been chewed up and spit out by the financial (and political) system. She came up out of the movement of activists who wanted to help rebuild the middle class, and make it easier for young and poor people to climb the ladder into that middle class. And she still believes in that movement.

That passion for advocacy was on full display last week at an event in New York that AFV proudly hosted. This was the first big event Warren has spoken at outside of MA or DC since her election, so we were excited she agreed to come to New York for us. But we wanted to do an event that wasn’t just about helping one organization. We wanted an event that would help strengthen the entire progressive cause. Our co-hosts included a wide array of national and New York community organizations, online groups, unions, and issue advocates, and we were delighted to have them all involved. It was the breadth and depth and diversity of the progressive world fully on display, and the crowd was rocking: a sold-out, overflow-seating, people hanging from the rafters, boisterous, excited audience thrilled to be there. Other speakers included our MC Rashad Robinson from Color of Change, New York City Public Advocate Tish James, The Nation magazine’s publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel, and NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. With a great band playing early and late, it was a progressive party done up the way it should be.

As you can see from the video below of the highlights of her speech, Warren gave an incredibly powerful and passionate speech, focused on the progressive movement and helping middle and low income Americans who are getting squeezed economically by the powers that be. She begins by talking about winning our battles together by building a movement, and she ends by showing her commitment to the issues and for struggling working families that gets the crowd on their feet in response. In her incredibly powerful closing, Elizabeth shows as much emotion as I have ever seen her show in a public speech, as she talks about how much it hurts her to think and talk about the people she has met who are being crushed by the economic forces they are facing. But, she says, it also “makes me madder than hell.” And then she talks about how “our time has come” and “we have found our voice.” It is powerful stuff.

The kind of politics Elizabeth Warren represents is at its heart a moral kind of politics. She doesn’t worry about party politics, as she has always taken on the powers-that-be of both political parties. She doesn’t shy away from a tough fight, instead she has always been willing to push for what is right no matter how powerful the lobbyists on the other side are. And it was fitting that the event we did with her was in a church, because the politics she preaches are deeply moral-- the politics not of right and left, but of right and wrong.

She has become an icon for an important new kind of politics, a political movement focused less on the size of government than on, as she talks about in her speech, which side is our government on, everyday people or the rich and powerful. Her willingness to hold both big business and government officials accountable when the playing field is tilted in favor of wealthy special interests is something that has been all too rare in modern American politics, and it is the reason so many people are responding to her the way the crowd in that New York City church was.

And it isn’t just activists who are responding: she is remarkably effective, especially for a first year Senator. It is clear that her calls for tougher Wall Street prosecution drove the bigger, tougher settlements JP Morgan and other bankers have had to agree to in the last year. Larry Summers would be the Fed Chair if it wasn’t for her. Her speech on Social Security was a major factor in taking discussion of Social Security cuts off the table for the time being. And her passionate pursuit of a higher minimum wage have helped create the atmosphere that led to President Obama’s executive order and focus on the issue in his SOTU.

What AFV is seeking to build is a broad national movement around this brand of politics. We want to help Elizabeth Warren and other progressive allies take on the powers that be and fight the good fight for the American people no matter who is on the other side. When she said that “our time has come,” I believe she was right, but only if we join her in the battle. When she said “we have found our voice,” she wasn’t talking about her being the voice of progressives, she was saying we all have to find our voice and join this movement. Join is in that fight by signing up on our website, and enjoy watching Elizabeth Warren at her best. Watch to the end, it is amazing:

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Corporate Trade Agenda That Is Roiling The Hawaii Senate Race


The latest NAFTA-like, jobs-destroying "free trade" treaty, the Transpacific Partnership, could become an issue in the Hawai'i Senate race, where notoriously corrupt New Dem corporate shill, Colleen Hanabusa, is trolling for Big Business cash by backing the TPP and progressive champion and incumbent, Brian Schatz, has grave concerns which he is insisting be seriously addressed.

Hanabusa and the other money-grubbing New Dems have been working with Republicans to push through fast tracking, although pressure from unions and environmental groups have started frightening them. Hanabusa is trying to feign concern for the issues Schatz and other progressives have been bringing up. Here's a copy of the letter he sent Harry Reid last week:
Dear Majority Leader Reid:

I write to you today about the upcoming trade agenda. More specifically, I am writing to express deep concern about the prospect of renewing the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA)-- better known as Fast Track-– that lapsed in 2007. As the TPA that was enacted over a decade ago is inadequate for addressing the complex trade agreements of the 21st century, it is clear that renewal of TPA without substantial reforms would be unacceptable. Instead, TPA must be replaced with a new trade agreement negotiation and approval process appropriate to 21st-century trade agreements and consistent with the constitutional role of Congress in trade.

As you know, the United States is currently negotiating two significant trade agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Together, these two agreements would encompass more than 60 percent of the global economy and more than half of U.S. trade. Prior to the consideration of these agreements, there are a number of trade policy initiatives that will require Congressional attention, including consideration of TPA and reauthorizing the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. As these initiatives come up for consideration, potentially in a package, I believe it is imperative that we improve upon Congressional consultation, while also including provisions to maximize economic and job growth at home.

It has been more than ten years since Congress considered legislation granting Trade Promotion Authority. In that time, the global economy has changed, and with it our trade policy. The trade agreements currently being negotiated are not merely contracts to establish tariff levels between two trading partners. Instead, they are complex economic agreements between large groups of nations encompassing a wide variety of issues ranging from state-owned enterprises to intellectual property. They have profound effects on our nation’s economy and laws and the communities that we represent. As such, the terms of Congressional involvement require a number of reforms. Specifically, the last TPA framework created a Congressional Oversight Group (COG) that has proven ineffective at meaningfully increasing member involvement or understanding of our trade negotiations. We must do better. Any bill reestablishing an expedited legislative process for approving trade agreements must improve upon this consultation body, broaden the scope of members to include those beyond the committees of jurisdiction, improve access to negotiating information for Congress and the public, and institute strong mechanisms to certify that our negotiating objectives are achieved.

I am also concerned about any larger trade package of which legislation spelling out a new trade agreement approval process would be a part. While TAA can be an essential component of our trade policy, we need a broader effort to ensure American workers are competing on a fair and even playing field. A large trade package should also include provisions to promote our nation’s competitiveness. For instance, for far too long our trade policies have hurt our domestic manufacturing sector instead of helping it. We must not allow our global competitors to continue challenging American leadership in manufacturing and innovation. I believe any package should include provisions to address currency manipulation, stronger mechanisms to address unfair labor practices, the ability of communities to preserve their values, strong trade enforcement policies, and innovative solutions to finance improvements to our crumbling infrastructure.

I join my colleagues, Senators Al Franken (MN), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Elizabeth Warren (MA), Christopher Murphy (CT), Bernie Sanders (VT), Tom Harkin (IA), Carl Levin (MI), Jeff Merkely (OR), Jack Reed (RI), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Edward Markey (MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) in expressing these concerns. I look forward to working with you to achieve these goals. I understand that the Senate Finance Committee has taken up legislation on the trade agreement approval process, and as a non-Committee member, I believe that we must use this moment to advance a more comprehensive approach to trade policy that prepares workers and businesses to take advantage of new opportunities and promote domestic production and jobs. We must not return to an outdated and inadequate legislative process for shaping and approving trade agreements. Thank you.
Most Democrats in the Senate have have endorsed him and/or contributed to Schatz's campaign, including Tammy Baldwin, Mark Begich, Michael Bennet, Richard Blumenthal, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Maria Cantwell, Bob Casey, Coons, Joe Donnelly, Richard Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Tom Harkin, Martin Heinrich, Heidi Heitkamp, Tim Kane, Amy Klobuchar, Mary Landrieu, Joe Manchin, Bob Menendez, Jeff Merkley, Chris Murphy, Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor, Harry Reid, Jay Rockefeller, Chuck Schumer, Jeanne Shaheen, Debbie Stabenow, John Tester, Mark Warner, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, Ron Wyden, and Bernie Sanders. It looks like Schatz's letter worked. Earlier today, after much wavering:

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