Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NY-20: Too Close To Call-- Scott Murphy Ahead Of Disco Duck


Republican Jim Tedisco of Schenectady is (or was) the minority leader of the NY State Assembly. He decided to use that position as a stepping stone to the congressional seat in a neighboring district when Kirsten Gillibrand, the second-term representative, was appointed to the U.S. Senate. The district has 70,632 more registered Republicans than Democrats and Bush won it twice. Last November, Obama squeaked by McCain with 51%. When the campaign started, polls showed Tedisco burying an unknown Blue Dog Democrat, Scott Murphy, 50-29%. But one of the most inept campaigns in memory-- even today Tedisco, who can't vote for himself because he doesn't live in the district, sent a text message to voters... but the wrong ones-- steadily shrunk Tedisco's lead and provoked bloody GOP infighting and lots of confusion and costly errors. Tonight the unknown Democrat from Missouri is ahead by 65 votes, although thousands of absentee ballots remain to be counted.

Even before the polls closed, Tedisco, following the Norm Coleman strategy, was in court protesting Murphy's victory. This is a startling and devastating defeat for the GOP, both on the state and national level.
One GOP consultant who isn't working on Tedisco's campaign suggested this race could actually end up being a "perfect storm," leading to calls for the ouster of party leaders all the way up the food chain.

On the line are local leaders like Saratoga County's Jasper Nolan, an early champion of Tedisco and veteran chairman who has weathered several failed coup attempts; state Chairman Joe Mondello, who presided over the meeting at which the 10 county chairs picked Tedisco and was under fire even before the party's historic loss of the state Senate majority last year; RNC's Michael Steele, who was the first to suggest the 20th CD contest would be a bellwether of the national GOP's ability to make a comeback.

That bellwether meme-- and the Republican Party's insistence at nationalizing the race and making it a referendum on Obama and his program-- is at the heart of the GOP disaster tonight. Tim Kaine, head of the DNC had a curt and to the point synopsis of how the race unfolded:
Scott Murphy embraced President Obama's message of change and his plans to fix our economy and create jobs, and as a result  he stormed from more than 20 points down to winning a majority of votes cast tonight. Scott's performance tonight in an overwhelmingly Republican district, where Republicans enjoy a registration advantage over Democrats of more than 70,000, represents a repudiation of the failed politics and policies that Republicans continue to embrace. We are confident that when all the ballots are counted, Scott will expand his lead and become an ally to President Obama in Congress who will help the President create jobs and turn our economy around.

Democratic Party sources estimate that after the counting is done, if trends hold steady, Murphy will increase his lead and beat Tedisco by 210 votes.

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Grayson Says Vote On His Bill Will Show Which Republicans Are "On The Take"


Right-wing reactionaries are trying to paint Alan Grayson's bill as the government setting your salary-- as if you were a policeman or a teacher or a member of the Obama cabinet. But Grayson's "Pay for Performance Act of 2009" sailed right through the House Financial Services Committee, 38-22, with the backing of every single Democrat including a whole pack of Blue Dogs and two conservative Republicans. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Walter Jones (R-NC). The bill, which gives the government power to determine compensation for employees of companies taking government bailouts, is likely to meet stiff resistance in the House next week.

It may get some impetus from revelations that Merrill Lynch gave away 35% of the $10 billion in taxpayer funds it got as bonuses to the 6 and 7-figure management insiders who caused the company to collapse. Grayson is adamant that "you should not get rich off public money, and you should not get rich off of abject failure."
"This bill will show which Republicans are so much on the take from the financial services industry that they're willing to actually bless compensation that has no bearing on performance and is excessive and unreasonable," Grayson said. "We'll find out who are the people who understand that the public's money needs to be protected, and who are the people who simply want to suck up to their patrons on Wall Street."

Grayson has gotten less campaign donations from the financial services industry than anyone else on the Financial Services Committee and, in fact, less than any other member of Congress. The main opponents to his legislation have taken immense amounts of bribes from the banksters, especially ranking Republican Spencer Bachus (R-AL- $3,789,474), Scott Garrett (R-NJ- $1,156,599), GOP House whip Eric Cantor (R-VA- $3,121,188), GOP minority leader John Boehner (R-OH- $3,045,809), GOP lunatic fringe caucus head Jeb Hensarling (R-TX- $2,111,371), Jim Gerlach (R-PA- $1,578,152), Paul Ryan (R-WI- $1,555,321), and Michele Bachmann (R-MN- $756,740, a cheap date for any lobbyist representing extremist ideas).

You can certainly understand why banksters are uncomfortable with Grayson-- and why ordinary working families see a real champion in him:

UPDATE: Rep. Grayson Asks Bailed Out Banksters To Stop Stealing Our Money

He blogged about the bill over at HuffPo today. "...[N]owhere is change more desperately needed than on Wall Street, which is apparently the only place in the world where you can steal from the taxpayers and then bill them for services rendered. So far, taxpayers have spent over $500 billion in direct cash infusions into banks and financial institutions, with guarantees of trillions more. Yet, these companies are still paying their executives lavish sums for driving their companies (and the entire economy) into the ground."

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If You Thought The AIG Bonus Story Was Explosive... Wait 'Til You Hear What Went Down At Merrill Lynch


Will Ken Lewis get a corner cell? With a window?

Matt Renner is breaking the story at Truthout about how the Merrill Lynch Bonus Payments Dwarf AIG's. NY Attorney General Cuomo's office is getting to the bottom of the story but Renner's got a key paragraph that paints a grisly-- pitchfork inspiring-- picture:
In its last days as an independent company, Merrill gave performance-based bonuses exclusively to employees earning $300,000 a year or more and holding a rank of vice president or higher, according to their financial statements. $3.62 billion was handed out to these executives - a sum equal to 36.2 percent of the $10 billion in taxpayer funds that were allocated to Merrill as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) before the bonuses were paid.

So over a third of the $10 billion Bush gave his bankster buddies went directly into the pockets of the incompetent crooks most responsible for the failure of the company! Dennis Kucinich, who chairs the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee is launching an investigation that is likely to result in the firing of Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis, who made the Merrill Lynch deal without letting his shareholders know about the bonuses when they were asked to vote on the merger. (Sign SEIU's petition that calls for the ouster of one of the worst and most dangerous of the crooked banksters in America.)

But that isn't today's only bankster news. TPM has more on Joseph Cassano, the thief who ran AIG's Financial Products division and ran off with a $34 million bonus last month. It looks like the Feds will be able to extradite him from London and arrest him-- but not for theft but, like the way they got Al Capone, on tax charges.
An ABC News investigation found that Cassano set up some dozens of separate companies, some off-shore, to handle the transactions, effectively keeping them off the books of AIG and out of sight of regulators in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

"This is the other very important issue underneath the AIG scandal," said [tax law expert Jack] Blum. "All of these contracts were moved offshore for the express purpose of getting out from under regulation and tax evasion."

Watch the video of the ABC News report. It's starting to look like what Cassano and AIG have been up to is helping set up tax scams so that corporations and very rich people wouldn't have to pay any, a hallmark of Republican economics and something heartily encouraged by the Bush Regime and their apologists inside and outside of Congress.
And as breathtaking as the sum of taxpayer dollars AIG has managed to put down in its post-crisis nationalized afterlife, the zombie insurer might possibly have indirectly scammed the government out of more money back in its Triple-A days. Today the Wall Street Journal explores AIG's euphemistically-named "tax structuring" business in a story about an IRS battle with Hewlett-Packard over an offshore entity -- or what the IRS terms a "sham that lacked economic substance and a business purpose"-- that AIG set up for the company to collect $132 million in tax credits. AIG's tax business, is "even bigger than the credit-default swaps business that led to the company's meltdown," a person "familiar with the business" tells the Journal. But that might be compartmentalizing things: we are beginning to suspect the credit default swap business and the tax "structuring" business were the same thing-- not just because they served the same end.

An attorney and tax shelter expert we spoke with today says AIG FP was one of the biggest players in the business of engineering offshore tax shelters for corporate and private clients that resembled a multibillion dollar tax evasion scheme called Son of Boss (we don't have time to figure out why) that thousands of corporations and wealthy individuals used to book phony capital gains losses and evade most or all of their income taxes in the late nineties and early 00s. The mind-numbing litany of esoteric loopholes such tax shelters employ to concoct said phony losses is something you don't want to hear about at this hour-- trust us-- but they are generally anchored by a set of exotic unregulated derivative securities whose 'notional value' can help fabricate losses that don't actually exist. Which is where Cassano came in-- only, obviously, the losses existed.

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Congress Votes Against Change-- At Least When It Comes To Corruption


Sometimes even a reactionary jerk like Jeff Flake gets something right

It's rare that I agree with far right fanatic Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on anything. The man is so extreme that many in Washington say he's a borderline sociopath. But aside from being extreme on every lame-brained GOP scheme you've ever heard, he's also extreme in his passion against corruption, more so now, of course, that Democrats are in charge in DC. When I was going through yesterday's House votes I came across H.R. 295 for which there is no explanation-- no text, no summary, nothing except a sponsor (Flake) and a number for a "privileged resolution." History will never know what it was or why it was tabled (killed). I called a friend in Congress to ask.

H.R. 295 was tabled 210-173, with only 4 Republicans (including the king of corruption, Alaska's Don Young) joining all but 25 Democrats. Looking at who the 25 Democrats were who voted with the GOP gave me no clue. Aside from the usual batch of reactionary scum who always vote with the Republicans-- Blue Dog assholes like Bobby Bright (AL), Baron Hill (IN), Melissa Bean (IL), Walt Minnick (ID), Brad Ellsworth (IN), etc-- this one drew progressive good-government types like Paul Hodes (D-NH), Tom Perriello (D-VA), Tim Walz (D-MN), Jim Himes (D-CT), and Dave Loebsack (D-IA).

This was Flake's sixth try to initiate an ethics investigation of PMA and how the intersection of earmarks and campaign contributions makes Washington run. Democrats sure were gung-ho about investigating Jack Abramoff-- as they should have been-- but when it comes to Democratic-leaning lobbyists nearly as corrupt as Abramoff... it's a no-go. Sickening.

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Cuba Travel Restrictions Finally Ending?


"Animal Farm" by Tim Rollins + KOS showing in Havana now

My friend Roland loves travel as much as I do. We celebrated Obama's victory with a trip to Mali. Now we're in the middle of planning out a trip to Indonesia, although he's going to visit a friend in Thailand and the two of them are going on to Cambodia for a week in a few days. But his favorite place of all is Cuba; he just loves it. And he's been there three times. He drives down to San Diego, parks his car, takes a taxi to the Tijuana Airport and flies to Havana. Like Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Dick Lugar (R-IN), Roland thinks the travel restrictions, more than a dozen years older than he is, are archaic and useless.

Yesterday's Washington Post points out that bipartisan momentum is growing in Congress to end them. There are still objections-- mostly from reactionary Cuban Americans like Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the notorious Diaz-Balart Brothers in South Florida and corrupt allies with sticky palms like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), but the tide has shifted and President Obama has signaled that it's time for a change in regard to U.S. relations with Cuba. Today the Chamber of Commerce and Human Rights Watch are just two groups that will be part of a news conference on Capitol Hill to plug for lifting the travel ban. Dorgan and Lugar will be joined by Chris Dodd as primary speakers. Ironically, the biggest impediment to progressive is not a rag-tag gaggle of Republican fanatics from Florida and their bribe-happy allies-- no one cares what they think-- but progressive New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, a son of Cuban immigrants will is as much a Castro hater as the kooks like the Diaz-Balarts.
A bipartisan majority in Congress, including farm-state Republicans looking for new agricultural markets, has long advocated lifting the sanctions to some degree. Provisions to ease the restrictions on travel and agricultural sales were repeatedly attached to legislation passed during the Bush administration, only to be abandoned in closed-door reconciliation conferences as the threat of a presidential veto loomed.

The new bill was first proposed two years ago, dying in committee, but this time it has gained 18 co-sponsors, including eight Democratic committee chairmen. Meanwhile, new legislation was offered in the House last week to further loosen trade restrictions for agricultural products.

...Lugar released a report in late February that calls for a dramatic overhaul of U.S.-Cuba policy. "Economic sanctions are a legitimate tool of U.S. foreign policy and they have sometimes achieved their aims, as in the case of apartheid in South Africa," he wrote in a letter accompanying the report. "After 47 years, however, the unilateral embargo on Cuba has failed to achieve its stated purpose of 'bringing democracy to the Cuban people,' while it may have been used as a foil by the regime to demand further sacrifices from Cuba's impoverished population."

Menendez and right-wing hard-liners in the House are in a losing battle to keep the Cold Water against Cuba going. At this point Congress is just following the demands of people like Roland, who are basically ignored them. Did you see the CNN report a couple days ago about the art exhibit of American painters opening in Havana? It was the first since 1986. Art, music, sports, tourism, trade... Congress needs to follow people; people sure aren't following Congress.

This makes a lot more sense to me than Bob Menendez or Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:

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Chris Dodd And Credit Card Protection Legislation


Unlike Republican hypocrites, Chris Dodd opposes usury

Yesterday Jeff Merkley told us that the Senate Banking Committee would mark up the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act. This is a bill written by Committee chair Chris Dodd and co-sponsored by Senator Merkley. The purpose is to help protect consumers from confusing, misleading and predatory practices by credit card companies. Provisions:
•    Protect consumers from “any time, any reason” interest rate
increases and account changes;
•    Prohibit unfair application of card payments;
•    Protect cardholders who pay on time;
•    Limit abusive fees and penalties;
•    Prohibit issuers from using a consumer’s card history with another
creditor to raise interest rates (“universal default” ban);
•    Prohibit issuers from charging interest on debt that has already
been repaid;
•    Ensure that cardholders are informed of the terms of their account;
•    Protect young consumers from aggressive credit card solicitations.

It's ironic that Fox "News" has declared jihad against Dodd and allows Hannity to force his guests to swear an oath that they will always refer to the Senator as a lying weasel. It's doubly ironic because while Dodd has taken a great deal of money from the financial/insurance/real estate sector, he tends to fight for consumers over banksters while Hannity's and Fox's favored politicians-- like John McCain (R-AZ- $32,423,813), Rudy Giuliani (R-NY- $16,632,364), Willard Romney (R-UT- $14,650,907), Miss McConnell (R-KY- $5,013,778), Richard Shelby (R-AL- $4,384,492), Spencer Bachus (R-AL- $3,789,474), Eric Cantor (R-VA- $3,121,188), John Boehner (R-OH- $3,045,809) and Paul Ryan (R-WI- $1,555,321) take the money along with a laundry list of policies from the banksters that they work to enact. Take Dodd's and Merkley's credit card bill. I bet all the GOP whores who gobble up big money from the FIRE sector will vote against it. Fox viewers will never hear a word about it though. Here's a clip Senator Dodd made this morning as he was about to call the hearing to order.

UPDATE: Senate Banking Committee Passes Credit Card Reform Bill

After Chris Dodd got his consumer protection bill through the Banking Committee he blogged about it at My Left Nutmeg.

Although 84 Republicans in the House supported a similar bill, today not even one stinking Republican voted in favor on the Banking Committee. It was a almost pure party line vote with one the banksters worst shills, Richard Shelby, leading the GOP to take up arms against credit card reform. The Republicans on the committee have all been paid off by the banking industry to prevent regulations that would prevent their predatory practices. You think I'm kidding? These are the sleazy batch of crooks politicians who voted for more credit card rip-offs:

Richard Shelby (R-AL- $4,384,492)
Robert Bennett (R-UT- $1,915,892)
Jim Bunning (R-KY- $2,447,635), who is desperate for every bribe he can get his paws on.
Mike Crapo (R-ID- $1,397,092)
Mel Martinez (R-FL- $2,854,110)
Bob Corker (R-TN- $2,682,859)
Jim DeMint (R-SC- $2,073,034)
David Diapers Vitter (R-LA- $1,709,299)
Mike Johanns (R-NE- $644,171, not a reflection of scruples, just that he's been in the Senate for only 90 days)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX- $4,685,238)

The ones in bold will be facing the voters next year. Conservative Democrat Tim Johnson (D-SD-$3,020,966) joined the GOP to vote against working families today. Fortunately he was the only Democrat whose bribes effected his vote and the bill passed 12-11. Miss McConnell has vowed to earn every cent ($5,013,778) the banksters have given him by leading a vigorous filibuster against the legislation.

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Is GM Headed For Bankruptcy Afterall?


Yesterday's big winner was a somewhat surprsed Rick Wagoner whose punishment for failure was a $20 million severance package. (I guess no one read yesterday's NY Times story by Mary Williams Walsh about how positively passe contracts with big payouts are nowadays.) Makes me feel just great that my taxes went to pay for that! Most of the Board of Directors is also going, but the new CEO is Fritz Henderson, Wagoner's #2. His first public statement was that maybe bankruptcy is the best alternative for GM. But what's GM? The product line? The workers? The shareholders? The bondholders? Management? The American automotive industry and GM's contextual place in American society?
Henderson told reporters that the company would still prefer to restructure outside of court, but the level of support Washington is offering would help the company quickly restructure through bankruptcy.

Henderson says GM  needs to work faster and go deeper to get more concessions from bondholders and the United Auto Workers union. President Obama has demanded that GM come up with a better restructuring plan in 60 days in order to qualify for more government aid.

As usual Republicans are confused and all over the map on this, without ideas or leadership. Every Republican has a different critique of Obama's plans, presumably because Limbaugh slept in late today and hasn't given them their marching orders yet.

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Revealed! The 8 Republicans Who Most Hate Women


Even Bachmann voted right on this one!

Almost every time the House gets called into session there are some nonpartisan bills that everybody agrees to-- naming a post office, for example, or hailing a sports team. Yesterday Rep Bobby Rush's bill, H.R. 20 (the Melanie Blocker Stokes Mom's Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression Act), which basically seeks to provide for research on, and services for individuals with, postpartum depression and psychosis, looked like one of those bills. The official summary:
Expresses the sense of Congress that the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health may conduct a nationally representative longitudinal study of the relative mental health consequences for women of resolving a pregnancy in various ways.

Amends the Public Health Service Act to authorize the Secretary to make grants for projects for the establishment, operation, and coordination of effective and cost-efficient systems for the delivery of essential services to individuals with a postpartum condition and their families. Directs the Secretary to ensure that such projects provide education and services with respect to the diagnosis and management of postpartum conditions. Authorizes such projects to include: (1) delivering or enhancing outpatient home-based health and support services; and (2) providing education to new mothers and their families about postpartum conditions to promote earlier diagnosis and treatment. Sets forth grant requirements.

Directs the Secretary to study the benefits of screening for postpartum conditions.

Prohibits the Secretary from utilizing amounts appropriated under this Act to carry out activities or programs that are duplicative of activities or programs that are already being carried out through the Department of Health and Human Services.

When the vote was called the Republican House leadership joined the Democrats in endorsing the bill. Yes, even looks like Boehner and Canter and Blunt couldn't come up with a reason to be against this. 153 Republicans-- all but 8-- joined every single Democrat in voting "yes." So I checked out who the 8 were and was immediately struck with the fact that 7 of them were among the most extreme right-wing, bigoted fanatics in the Congress. (The 8th is Ron Paul, someone who just marches to the beat of a different drummer, a very different drummer.) The 7 women-haters:

Paul Broun (R-GA)
John Culberson (R-TX)
Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
Tom McClintock (R-CA)
Ted Poe (R-TX)
James Sensenbrenner (R-WI)
John Shadegg (R-AZ)

Even the usually obstructionist lunatic fringe female wingers-- Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Mary Fallin (R-OK), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Mean Jean Schmidt (R-OH)-- couldn't bring themselves to vote against this one.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

American Idiot Adapted For Theatrical Presentation


Green Day was always pretty theatrical-- mugging for the fans, lots of eye makeup on stage, exaggerated antics... But now-- just when every Green Day fan in the world is waiting with baited breath for news about 21st Century Breakdown (the new album coming out May 15)-- we hear that Green Day's previous album, American Idiot has been adapted for theatrical presentation.

American Idiot was Green Day's most ambitious endeavor, a musically uncompromised powerful examination of America's all too real underbelly as the age of Bush was reaching its apex. Most critics said it would be too far over rock listeners' heads and would confuse the band's mammoth overseas fan base. Instead it sold over 12 million copies, the band's biggest hit in many years. It's hard to imagine it being adapted to a small stage by the Berkeley Repertory Theater but it opens there on September 4 for a scheduled 3 week run.
Following numerous victories for “Spring Awakening” at the 2007 Tony Awards Mr. [Michael] Mayer and his producing partner, Tom Hulce, approached Green Day about adapting American Idiot for the theater. After two workshops in New York in 2008-- a summer session to try out orchestrations by Tom Kitt (Next to Normal), and a winter session that added choreography by Steven Hoggett (Black Watch)-- the band gave its consent for a full-scale stage production.

For now the creative team is tight lipped about how, exactly, it will translate the libretto of American Idiot into a narrative. As Mr. Armstrong admitted, “It’s not the most linear story in the world.”

But Mr. Mayer said, “If you read it a certain way, you can pull out a multiplicity of voices.” He hinted that a triumvirate of characters referred to elliptically in the album’s lyrics, with names like Jesus of Suburbia, St. Jimmy and Whatshername, would likely emerge as the central characters. All told, he said, the ensemble would include 19 performers playing characters in their early 20s, though no casting has been announced.

I wonder if they'll have someone portraying Bush or Cheney.


Jeff Merkley's Been In The Senate For 3 Months And He Still Hasn't Sold Out-- Not Even A Little


More than with many candidates Blue America supported for the U.S. Senate, it always seemed to us that with Jeff Merkley (D-OR) we were electing one of us-- not some private school millionaire, but a guy from a working family who still sees his goals as helping out other ordinary Americans from working families. His victory over multimillionaire reactionary Gordon Smith in November was one of the sweetest of the cycle. And as soon as he got to the Senate he got busy working with the Obama Administration and his colleagues on creating jobs and turning around the mortgage crisis. His voting record is the most progressive of any new senator Blue America helped elect.

Today John and I asked Senator Merkley to spend some time with us blogging about his efforts to get the country back on the right path by rebuilding and strengthening the middle class. “If we are going to put America back to work and turn this economy around," he explained, "we need to take on the mortgage crisis. Millions of Americans have lost their homes and millions more are teetering on the edge. Each foreclosure not only devastates the family involved, but drives down neighbors’ property values, deepens the banking crisis, and worsens the recession.”
In just a few weeks, Congress will be taking up legislation that addresses this foreclosure crisis. We need to support aggressive efforts to enable families entrapped in high-cost mortgages to negotiate modifications to their loans.
And if mortgage modifications fail, we need to support the ability of bankruptcy judges to adjust the terms of the loan. Bankruptcy judges currently have the power to adjust the terms for loans for yachts and vacation homes-- it’s time to allow the same option for family homes.

This economic crisis started in the broken housing market, and it's not going to end until we fix the housing market.

While Harry Reid has signaled to Republicans and to reactionary Democrats that if they don't budge, he'll jettison the "cram down" legislation the House has already passed. Before joining us in the Crooks & Liars comments section for a chat with the Senator, please take a look at this clip of Jeff on the floor of the Senate explaining why this legislation, the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, is so critical:

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Does Obama Have What It Takes To Be A Truly Transformative President?


Neither the New Republic nor Jonathan Chait is exactly a trusted source but in the former the latter addresses the interesting Republican-pushed question about why Democrats can't govern. Chait, of course, blames Democrats, rather than Republicans, for failures suffered by Clinton, Carter and, he seems to hope, Obama. "The contours of failure," he warns "are now clearly visible" and the fault lies with the congressional arm of the Democratic Party which "remains mired in fecklessness, parochialism, and privilege." I bet Chait wishes they were just like Republicans and did exactly what they were told by Dear Leader, completely abandoning any pretense of being a separate but equal branch of government.
George W. Bush came to office having lost the popular vote, with only 50 Republicans in the Senate. After his disputed election, pundits insisted Bush would have to scale back his proposed massive tax cuts for the rich. Instead, Bush managed to enact several rounds of tax cuts that substantially exceeded those in his campaign platform, along with two war resolutions, a Medicare prescription drug benefit designed to maximize profits for the health care industry, energy legislation, education reform, and sundry other items. Whatever the substantive merits of this agenda, its passage represented an impressive feat of political leverage, accomplished through near-total partisan discipline.

Obama has come into office having won the popular vote by seven percentage points, along with a 79-seat edge in the House, a 17-seat edge in the Senate, and massive public demand for change. But it's already clear he is receiving less, not more, deference from his own party. Democrats have treated Obama with studied diffidence, both in their support for the substance of his agenda and (more importantly) their willingness to support it procedurally.

Let's look for a moment at one of the newly elected Democratic senators, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, one of the first to eagerly join the Evan Bayh anti-Obama bloc. She went running to the media this weekend triangulating against Obama's agenda for change, sounding not unlike North Carolina's highly unpopular (and likely to loose his re-election) Richard Burr. Eager to prove her conservative bona fides, Hagan said that the president's budget proposal is... just fill in whichever talking points you've heard from McConnell, Boehner or Burr lately.
Hagan, drawing a contrast from the nation's top Democrat, said she has been working to limit the growth in non-defense spending in the budget. She questioned the Obama plan that the Congressional Budget Office estimated would place the country under a $1.2 trillion annual deficit even a decade from now.

"I agree with a number of ideas in President Obama's budget, but I was particularly concerned about the deficit spending in his proposal," Hagan said in a speech at the North Carolina Associated Press Broadcast annual meeting at Elon University. "It's completely unsustainable and unacceptable."

Her decision to renounce even some of the popular president's ideas comes as a striking contrast to her campaign last year, when she cozied to his mantra of change as North Carolina voters swept both into office. It underscores her eagerness to depart from the large-government plans of her party even as she tries to influence legislation as a backbencher in Washington's upper chamber.

Americans United For Change is running TV and radio ads in media markets represented by reactionary Democrats like Hagan (as well as North Carolina House members Bob Etheridge and Mike McIntyre):
For eight years, the Bush administration turned our economy into a house of cards.

Last fall, that house came tumbling down.

Now, President Obama has drawn up a budget blueprint that will rebuild our economy on a solid foundation.
Jobs. Health Care. Education. Clean energy. Reform.

On this foundation, we can build real long-term economic prosperity for all Americans.

Call Congress, tell them to support President Obama's budget. Let's all get to work, rebuilding America.

Not exactly a call to arms or declaration of war against right-wing Democrats, but enough to piss off Hagan, apparently. And there are plenty of Democratic electeds just as tone deaf as Hagan-- willfully unaware that the American people just went to the polls and chose "Change" and rejected "More of the Same." Even the right-leaning doofus Obama picked to head the DNC, outgoing Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia has vowed to sign a bill to ban stem cell research!

My friend Andrew pointed me to Robert Kuttner's new book Obama's Challenge as a way of looking at the opportunity Obama has to have a truly transformative presidency, one that would have to include the cooperation of the Kay Hagans and Evan Bayhs in Congress.
Suppose Obama does embrace a transformative program. What are its political prospects? Here is where leadership makes all the difference.

 Although it takes sixty votes in the Senate to break a filibuster, great presidents have demon-strated that a chief executive with a principled position, a compelling program, and a popular mandate can win over opposition votes. LBJ relied on moderate Republicans to enact civil rights laws over the objection of conservative Democrats, and then turned to racially conservative Dixiecrats in his own party to pass Medicare over the protests of Republicans. Lincoln presided over a shifting coalition of Radical Republicans, more prudent Republicans, and moderate borderstate and northern Democrats. One of the reasons he seemed to tack back and forth was precisely his need to hold that coalition together. But as he became a surer leader, he led and his “team of rivals” increasingly followed-- as did the citizenry.
With close to sixty Democratic senators and an increased Democratic majority in the House, Obama will be able to win over Congress if he first wins over the country. That was the pattern with Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. It describes Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt as well.
The numbers are also deceptive. Roosevelt, in his first term when the famous First Hundred Days saw the most sweeping and breakneck enactment of legislation in American history, had just fifty-nine Democratic senators, only about the average of the past eight decades. Johnson had a bigger Senate Democratic majority of sixty-eight at its peak, though like Roosevelt, his nominal partisan majority included at least fifteen racially reactionary Dixiecrats who were a de facto third party inside the Democratic Party (many of whom also held key committee chairmanships).
By contrast, while today’s congressional Democratic Party includes some economic centrists who are fiscally conservative and close to business lobbies, the most conservative Democratic senators-- Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Mark Pryor (Arkansas), Max Baucus (Montana), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), and Bill Nelson (Florida)-- are somewhat to the left of the Dixiecrats that Roosevelt and Johnson had to reckon with. Even the fiscally conservative Blue Dogs are less anti-spending than anti-deficit.

Now the question is, does Obama have what it takes to be a truly transformative leader? The U.S. hasn't had one in quite a while. And thanks to George W. Bush, we're overdue, if not desperate.

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Murtha's Pet Lobbying Firm Is Closing Down-- Arrests To Follow?


Democratic corruption is no more acceptable than Republican corruption

For profit lobbying should be illegal. For profit lobbyists who have bribed elected officials should be harshly dealt with-- and so should the elected officials who have taken their money and done their bidding in return. The Republican Party's 8 year run with Bush in charge gave their leaders, particularly Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt and John Boehner in the House and Rick Santorum and Mitch McConnell in the Senate, an opportunity to systematize a Culture of Corruption. The Democrats aren't as systematic-- but it will only be a matter of time before they're just as corrupt as the Republicans.

Today's NY Times expounds, at great length, on the closing of one of Washington's most egregiously corrupt lobbying firms, PMA. No one has been arrested yet... but that's coming. And it's a fairly Democratic-oriented firm.
And many on Capitol Hill, recalling the scandal that mushroomed around the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, are wondering who else will be ensnared in the investigation as prosecutors pore over the financial records and computer files of one of K Street’s most influential lobbyists, known both for the billions of dollars in earmarks he obtained for his clients and for his open hand toward those he sought to influence.

Former PMA staff members familiar with the inquiry say prosecutors’ initial questions have focused on the possibility that Mr. Magliocchetti used straw campaign contributors-- a Florida sommelier and a golf club executive, for example, appear to have given large sums in coordination with PMA-- as a front to funnel illegal donations to friendly lawmakers, a felony that could carry a minimum sentence of five years.

More alarming to lawmakers and aides, however, is that prosecutors may turn their attention to the dinners at the Alpine and Capital Grille or other gifts they might have accepted from Mr. Magliocchetti-- potential violations of longstanding Congressional ethics rules that could lead to more serious bribery charges if linked to official acts.

Years ago we were always writing about how the House defense appropriations subcommittee-- home of some of the most corrupt congressmen anywhere ("Duke" Cunningham, Jerry Lewis, Duncan Hunter are 3 particularly foul examples from southern California)-- was one of the worst founts of corruption anywhere on Capitol Hill. With the GOP out of power, that subcommittee is headed by a Democrat in the same league, Jack Murtha (PA).
Magliocchetti set up shop at the busy intersection between political fund-raising and taxpayer spending, directing tens of millions of dollars in contributions to lawmakers while steering hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarked contracts back to his clients... [He] helped pioneer the lucrative specialty of helping contractors lobby for military earmarks, the several billion dollars in pet spending items that members of the panel insert in annual spending bills, often with little oversight.

...Since 1998, for example, employees of the firm and its clients have contributed more than $40 million to lawmakers, including more than $7.8 million to members on the House defense spending panel and $2.4 million to Mr. Murtha, its chairman. The same lawmakers, meanwhile, have helped finance hundreds of pet projects sought by PMA clients, including earmarks for more than $300 million in the military spending bill passed last year alone. And PMA, still owned by Mr. Magliocchetti until its collapse, grew into a K Street powerhouse with more than $15 million a year in lobbying fees.

Time for the Democrats to jettison Murtha, Rangel, Kanjorski, the most outrageously corrupt in their party, before they start making criminal types like Boehner and Cantor look like reformers. Today's Moonie Times ran a hit piece, coordinated with nationwide cable TV attack ads, painting Chris Dodd as having solicited legalized bribes from A.I.G.'s top executives.
The message in the Nov. 17, 2006, e-mail from Joseph Cassano, AIG Financial Products chief executive, was unmistakable: Mr. Dodd was "next in line" to be chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which oversees the insurance industry, and he would "have the opportunity to set the committee's agenda on issues critical to the financial services industry.

"Given his seniority in the Senate, he will also play a key role in the Democratic Majority's leadership," Mr. Cassano wrote in the message, obtained by The Washington Times.

Mr. Dodd's campaign quickly hit pay dirt, collecting more than $160,000 from employees and their spouses at the AIG Financial Products division (AIG-FP) in Wilton, Conn., in the days before he took over as the committee chairman in January 2007. Months later, the senator transferred the donations to jump-start his 2008 presidential bid, which later failed.

The cable TV ads, one of which I saw on CNN when I woke up at around 5AM, are typical Republican Party smear pieces. The ad singles out Dodd and President Obama as politicians who have taken money from AIG. Open Secrets gives a fuller and less partisan picture.
In the last 20 years American International Group (AIG) has contributed more than $9 million to federal candidates and parties through PAC and individual contributions. That's enough to rank AIG on OpenSecrets.org's Heavy Hitters list, which profiles the top 100 contributors of all time.

Over time, AIG hasn't shown an especially partisan streak, splitting evenly the $9.3 million it has contributed since 1989. In the last election cycle, though, 68 percent of contributions associated with the company went to Democrats. Two senators who chair committees charged with overseeing AIG and the insurance industry, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), are among the top recipients of AIG contributions. Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee and has collected more money from AIG in his congressional career than from any other company--$91,000. And with more than $280,000, AIG has been the fourth largest contributor to Dodd, who chairs the Senate's banking committee. President Obama and his rival in last year's election, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), are also high on the list of top recipients.

The only other politician besides Dodd, who is the senator from the state AIG's Financial Services division is located in, to get over $200,000 from the company is none other than George W. Bush. Neither the Moonie story nor the deceptive GOP ads mentions that. Nor do they mention that of the $4,374,225 AIG and its employees have donated to politicians between 1989 and 2008, it was about 50/50 between Democrats and Republicans.

Of the current Republican members of Congress the biggest recipients were:

John McCain (R-AZ)- $99,249
John Ensign (R-NV)- $44,569
Richard Shelby (R-AL)- $31,250
Mike Castle (R-DE)- $29,350
Chuck Grassley (R-IA)- $27,750
Arlen Specter (R-PA)- $27,450
Mike Crapo (R-ID)- $24,500
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)- $24,400
Susan Collins (R-ME)- $22,542
Kit Bond (R-MO)- $20,750
Robert Bennett (R-UT)- $17,700
Bob Corker (R-TN)- $15,150
Judd Gregg (R-NH)- $14,500
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)- $13,500
Miss McConnell (R-KY)- $13,200
John Cornyn (R-TX)- $13,000

And this is just a pittance compared to the $2,215,520,643 that the entire finance,/insurance/real estate sector has doled out to federal officials. Take out presidential candidates-- who always get the most money-- and the five current members of Congress who have scooped up the most in just 2008 alone were:

Miss McConnell (R-KY)- $2,387,708
John Cornyn (R-TX)- $2,051,098
Max Baucus (D-MT)- $1,597,925
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)- $1,563,541
Charlie Rangel (D-NY)- $1,364,819

All five, particularly the first 4 have worked hard to deregulate the sector, which is exactly what the companies were bribing them to do. The ad I saw on CNN didn't mention that. And in the House-- where all financial legislation begins-- over time the FIRE sector has showered money on half a dozen top financial powerhouses, each of whom is well known to be a major crook willing to consistently sell out the interests of ordinary American working families on behalf of the special interests who buy their loyalty:

Charlie Rangel (D-NY)- $4,276,926
Spencer Bachus (R-AL)- $3,789,474
Paul Kanjorski (D-PA)- $3,185,464
Eric Cantor (R-VA)- $3,121,188
John Boehner (R-OH)- $3,045,809
Earl Pomeroy (Blue Dog-ND)- $2,810,794

And criminal lobbyists aren't just a federal problem-- not by a long shot. Today's Sacramento Bee ran the first in a series of articles exploring how lobbyists and the companies that employ them press the lever of power. In California the special interests spent over half a billion dollars on lobbying during the current session of the state legislature and it paid off... handsomely.
Makers of chemical fire-retardants poured in more than $9 million to kill a ban on fire-proofing chemicals in furniture that consumer groups say cause cancer.

The Morongo Band of Mission Indians used $4.39 million to muscle through a gambling deal to let the tribe add thousands of lucrative new slot machines to its casino.

The oil industry spent more than $10.5 million to influence the Legislature and state agencies. A 2007 industry association report touted that even in a Democratic-controlled Legislature, "of the 52 bills identified as priorities (in 2007), only three that we opposed were approved by the Legislature."

...Top lobbyists and their employers use the millions to amass armies of advocates to build alliances and cultivate relationships to influence their agenda. They buy meals and gifts and treat policymakers to Disneyland or Kings games. They amp up external pressure by blanketing their targets' constituents with mailers and radio ads.

...Legislators and interest groups alike insist the gifts have no impact on lawmaking.
But Don Palmer, a professor who studies ethics and social responsibility, said human nature suggests otherwise.

"Sociologists call it the 'generalized norm or reciprocity,' " said Palmer, associate dean at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. "We all learned it in kindergarten: When someone is nice to you or generous to you, then you feel obligated to be nice to them."

I wonder if there's some kind of norm that would govern the behavior of a whole industry of criminal types if, say, the 10 biggest givers and the 10 biggest receivers were all on TV, blind-folded and offered a last cigarette before being shot by a firing squad (after a fair trial, of course). On the other hand, there may be a less bloody way to handle this.

Illinois' State Treasurer, Alexi Giannoulias, who plans to run for the Senate seat currently held by Roland Burris, made a smart announcement today:
The election of Barack Obama signaled that [the] age of skewed policies is coming to an end. The change Americans voted for in the 2008 election was a call to take back our government from those few, narrow interests that dominated Washington for far too long.

Today, in that spirit, I am taking a step that no major Illinois candidate from either party has ever taken in a run for the U.S. Senate. It is a decision that advances us one step closer to that change that we all fought for and believed in last November. I will simply say "NO" to contributions from all federal lobbyists and corporate PACs.

These special interests do not represent the interests of most Americans, and they should not be allowed to buy a seat at the table when it comes to deciding critical issues or determining the direction of our nation, especially in the midst of our current financial crisis.

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GM's Rick Wagoner Falls On His Sword-- What About The Banksters?


This morning, President Obama is going to reveal the details of the government's next step in bailing out the auto industry. Yesterday Rahm Emanuel leaked the news that as part of the deal General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, is resigning and that the plans for restructuring from GM and Chrysler don't make the grade. Excellent idea on the firing and important oversight on the restructuring! I can't understand why Obama hasn't done the same thing with the far more venal and far more criminal banksters. Wagoner has been CEO since 2000 and the catastrophic decision to make GM into an SUV company and ignore fuel efficient vehicles was his. He deserves his fate.

When Paulson forced Robert Willumstad out as CEO of AIG as part of the deal to bail them out, they forced Republican hack Edward Liddy on the Board of Directors. It isn't clear yet how Wagoner's successor will be determined but it isn't likely Obama would make the same kind of power play that Bush did with Liddy. GM President Fred Henderson will probably take over on an interim basis.
G.M. and Chrysler have almost exhausted the $17.4 billion in federal aid the two companies have received since December. G.M. has asked for up to an additional $16.6 billion, and Chrysler has requested another $5 billion.

According to people close to the talks, the task force will treat G.M. and Chrysler differently with respect to their restructuring plans and aid requests.

...Mr. Obama, in comments in a televised interview on Sunday, said neither G.M. not Chrysler had yet to meet the conditions of their existing loans.

“That’s going to mean a set of sacrifices from all parties involved-- management, labor, shareholders, creditors, suppliers, dealers. Everybody’s going to have to come to the table and say it’s important for us to take serious restructuring steps now in order to preserve a brighter future down the road,” Mr. Obama said in a taped interview on the CBS news program Face the Nation.

While President Obama did not specify a need to replace Mr. Wagoner at G.M., the president has repeatedly cited mistakes made by management as a contributing factor to the industry’s troubles.

Wagoner makes most of his political donations through the General Motors PAC, although he wrote personal checks to members of both parties, mostly Michigan elected officials. Nationally he tended to give to conservative Republicans like Bush, Gingrich and Ashcroft. The General Motors PAC gave overwhelmingly to Republicans until this year. In 2006 the PAC gave 74% of it's $626,330 in donations to Republicans and it's heaviest non-Michigan contributions went to very conservative Republicans: Joe Barton (R-TX), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Denny Hastert (R-IL), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Bill Thomas (R-CA), George Allen (R-VA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Jim Talent (R-MO). In 2004 the PAC's donations were even more oriented towards right-wing Republicans (76%) and until 2008 the donations have always overwhelmingly favored rightists.

In 2008, with Democrats firmly in control of Washington, despite GM's efforts, the PAC started donating about equally to the two parties. Last year the top non-Michigan recipients were John Boehner (R-OH), John Cornyn (R-TX) and Mary Landrieu (semi-D- LA). And although they were about even on Democrats and Republicans, many of the Democrats they contributed to are Blue Dogs and other corrupt corporate-oriented Democrats like Joe Baca (Blue Dog-CA), John Barrow ((Blue Dog-GA), Melissa Bean (Blue Dog-IL), Marion Berry (Blue Dog--AR), Sanford Bishop (Blue Dog-GA), Dan Boren (Blue Dog-OK), Leonard Boswell (Blue Dog-IA), Allen Boyd (Blue Dog-FL), Don Cazayoux (Blue Dog-LA), Ben Chandler (Blue Dog-KY), Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN), Joe Donnelly (Blue Dog-IN), Bart Gordon (Blue Dog-TN), Baron Hill (Blue Dog-IN), Nick Lampson (Blue Dog-TX), Tim Mahoney (Blue Dog-FL), Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA), Jim Matheson (Blue Dog-UT), Charlie Melancon (Blue Dog-LA), Dennis Moore (Blue Dog-KS), Earl Pomeroy (Blue Dog-ND), Mike Ross (Blue Dog-AR), John Salazar (Blue Dog-CO), David Scott (Blue Dog-GA), John Tanner (Blue Dog-TN), Charlie Wilson (Blue Dog-OH)... almost every single Blue Dog and just a small handful of non-Blue Dog Democrats, mostly powerful high-profile members like Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Charlie Rangel, Rahm Emanuel and Chris Van Hollen.

A careful examination of the GM PAC's contribution patterns, while Wagoner headed the comnpany shows they are very effective-- FAR, FAR more than labor unions-- at picking out members and candidates who are ideologically predisposed to fight for their special interests, with large sums always going to up-and-coming right-wingers like Eric Cantor (R-VA), Paul Ryan (R-WI), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), as well as taking care of any rightist who looks like he's facing electoral trouble-- so donations to losers and near-losers like Phil English (R-PA), Randy Kuhl (R-NY), David Dreier (R-CA), Charlie Dent (R-PA), Sam Graves (R-MO) and Lee Terry (R-NE).

UPDATE: Obama Looking Seriously At Using Bankruptcy Filings To Straighten Out GM & Chrysler

Watch the videos first and then read the interpretation in today's Wall Street Journal. The one thing not to do is go anywhere near Fox News today.

Part I:

Part II:

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bolstered By Their Newest Star, Newt Gingrich, The Catholics Are Attacking


Damn, I wish I had an mp3 of the Pop O Pies classic "The Catholics Are Attacking" so I could turn it into a videoclip starring Catholicism's newest pervert convert, Newt Gingrich. I released it on my indie label, 415 Records, in 1982, when Gingrich was just a Southern Baptist congressional backbencher and still only on his second wife.
They got a big a big contingent
Over 10 million strong.
Someday they're taking over
You know it won't be long

The Catholics are attacking
If the people only knew

They say their girls are virgins
And I believe them too
'cause I have seen the harm
The lack of sex can do

The Catholics are attacking
If the people only knew

They eat no meat on Friday
They have no fun on Sunday
They think they fool themselves
But they feel like shit on Monday

The Catholics are attacking
If the people only knew

The Catholics eating hearty
They're eating Shake 'n Bake
But at the Nazi Party
They eat ice cream and cake
Well they most want your children
Before the age of six
So they can break their brains up
To pull off future tricks

I used to play it, frequently, on KUSF, a Jesuit-owned radio station. They were actually pretty forgiving. Catholics tend to be. In fact, they've announced that all of Gingrich's many sins have been forgiven too, now that he's renounced the Baptist heresy and joined the One True Faith (today).

You see it isn't only a crazed reactionary cardinal and a pacel of child-molesting bishops who're kicking up a shit-storm about Notre Dame inviting President Obama to speak and receive an honorary degree, Newt has been twittering his disapprove as well: "It is sad to see Notre Dame invite President Obama to give the commencement address since his policies are so anti-Catholic values." I'm sure the Catholics are delighted to take whatever they can get, even a bomb-thrower like Gingrich and, besides, he has some experience dealing with being invited-- and unwanted-- at Notre Dame.
A similar kerfuffle erupted over the former House Speaker in 2005 when he spoke at Catholic University. Students then said Gingrich's support for the death penalty and his well-publicized marital infidelities violated the school's prohibition against speakers with positions contrary to Vatican teachings.

Somehow the Catholics never really cared that much about politicians embracing the death penalty and sexual exploits, not the way they get all out of their minds over women's choice. Today Max Blumenthal speculates that Gingrich intends his odyssey from "Republican pariah into a voice of conscience for the badly demoralized conservative movement" to a shot at the worthless Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
Catholic conservatives like Deal Hudson are brimming with excitement. Hudson was the most important Catholic political advisor to President Bush and Karl Rove, founder of the seminal Catholic journal, Crisis magazine, and self-described “theocon,” contends that Gingrich’s conversion represents more than a concession to his wife; it signals a dramatic break from the past, both personally and politically.

“From a Catholic point of view,” Hudson told me, “Newt’s sins no longer exist–they’ve been absolved. He’s made a fresh start in life. So Newt will continue to sin and confess but there aren’t going to be a lot of Catholics who will hold that against him. They understand why being a Catholic makes a difference.”

The Catholics celebrated the absorption of Gingrich with a snide and nasty attack on Hillary Clinton whose respectful visit to the Basilica of Our Lady in Guadalupe they attempted to turn into a typical right-wing political putdown, worthy of Bishop Mussolini.

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Bad News For Democrats: Reactionaries Ed Case And Howard Ahmanson Want Into The Big Tent


Ahmanson & Case: more and worse Democrats, much worse

Once I worked in a Happy Kingdom and when the founder passed away turmoil struck and a flim-flam man came in and gobbled it up. That was the short version of the AOL merger with TimeWarner. The flim flam man is Steve Case, a Hawaiian hustler turned marketing man. From figuring out ways of selling Pizza Hut's cardboard excuse for pizza, Case went to work marketing for a series of video game companies, something that led directly to the creation of AOL. In 2001 Case managed to pull off the scam of the decade, acquiring the leaderless TimeWarner in a stock swap. Two years later he had looted as much as 6 billion dollars from the company and was kicked out. I lived through the tragedy as a president of a TimeWarner division but decided to quit the day I met Case in person for the first time and realized that his vision for the business was to loot and plunder what so many people so much better than him had spent decades building. Nina Munk's book, Fools Rush In: Steve Case, Jerry Levin, and the Unmaking of AOL Time Warner tells most of the sordid story.

Today Case is the head of Revolution LLC-- a holding company that combines a shady credit card operation and a failed on-line health care company (like WebMD) with a resort management company. Case is also one of Hawaii's biggest landowners. A major political donor to both parties, typically he'll give the NRSC $25,000 and a few grand to a handful of right-of-center Democrats, mostly his cousin, Ed Case.

Ed Case is widely viewed in Hawaii as the most opportunistic of all politicians. It's an overwhelmingly Democratic state, so he calls himself a Democrat. This weekend he's in the news because he found another office to run for. Neil Abercrombie, the progressive congressman from Honolulu, is giving up his seat to run for governor, and Case, who was once the reactionary congressman from the rest of Hawaii and gave up his seat to challenge, unsuccessfully, liberal Senator Dan Akaka, now wants Abercrombie's House seat. He says he has the relationships in DC. And if by "relationships," you mean an in with every corrupt lobbyist on K Street, he's correct. "I've been there. I've done it. Hawai'i needs good representation in Washington. I can use my seniority, experience and relationships there from day one and pick up and keep going. Nobody else has that experience mix." Hopefully a more progressive Democrat will step up and challenge Case. Abercrombie, who isn't a Case ally and supported Akaka, said the Democratic Party in his district has a very strong bench. He said, "whoever emerges from the primary, I'm sure I'm going to be in very strong support of no matter who he or she is. I will certainly work with whoever it is to effect President Obama's agenda and to be supportive of the delegation and work with the delegation as governor if I'm given that opportunity."
Case is the first of what could be several Democrats to step up to replace Abercrombie, D-Hawai'i, for a rare open congressional seat. State Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, D-21st (Nanakuli, Makaha), Honolulu City Councilman Duke Bainum, and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann have considered potential campaigns... Case's primary against Akaka upset many traditional Democrats, and the fractures within the party have not entirely healed.

Case would prefer to run for Senate and is said to check the newspaper every day when he wakes up to see if the 85 year old Senator Daniel Inouye died overnight. His campaign against Akaka in 2006 revolved around Akaka's vote against attacking Iraq. Case said that had he been in the Senate he would have supported Bush's proposal to start the war against Iraq. Case was a consistent aisle crosser on important matters while he served in the House and seemed more comfortable voting with Republicans than with Democrats. Although he had one of the worst attendance records of any member of Congress, he consistently supported the GOP on job-killing trade legislation and on special interests legislation like abolishing the estate tax for the super-rich, making it easier for banksters to rip off consumers, screwing over working families on pensions and GOP proposals to shift the tax burden to the middle class. He generally voted with the most reactionary Democrats when they joined the GOP to stifle reform and anyone who likes Chamber of Commerce pawns and Patriot Act-type Dems like Dan Boren and Jim Marshall will be perfectly happy with Ed Case-- especially if xenophobia and war-mongering and making sure that victims of big corporations have no recourse to the courts are your cup of tea to boot.

Short version: Case is exactly the wrong kind of Democrat we need in Congress-- and he has a record to prove it. If you live in California you can't not know of Howard Ahmanson, a religious right kook multimillionaire who's on an anti-gay jihad and gets lots of buildings named after himself. He's equally well known as a philanthropist and for funding Prop 8 and other reactionary Republican initiatives. Well, like Case, he's a Democrat now. He just jumped the fence. He seems to equate being a Democrat to buying a Prius. But he thinks Bush spent too much money but he defines himself as this kind of Democrat: "I like her [Sarah Palin], though I’ll have to confess that I like Bobby Jindal better. I’m now a blue-dog Democrat for Bobby Jindal for 2012." People like Ahmanson and Case should stick with the GOP where their ideas are appreciated.

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Big Gay Rights Victory In Florida


Last week equal rights celebrated a hard fought, well-earned victory in Gainesville, Florida. Voters turned back an anti-gay measure right-wing reactionaries were trying to pass, 58-42%. The week before, one of the student organizers, John Brushwood, gave DWT a preview of the action. Last night he recovered from the week-long victory party and wrote us a note to let us know that they again vanquished the right in Gainesville, birthplace of Tom Petty, Less Than Jake and Against Me and home of the country's third largest university. (In November Alachua County helped deliver Florida to Obama with a devastating 22% loss for McCain.)

Anyway, John, along with his compadres, Garrett Gardener and Eric Conrad, reports that "We crushed amendment 1 by 16 points, and the student vote quadrupled compared to the last city election. It took us a lot of hard work but by using the same tactics we used in '08 and focusing on the solidly progressive but typically low turn out student precincts, we ended up with record breaking results. Our on campus precinct 31 voted 88.27% no. The highest of any precinct in the city. It also cast the second highest total amount of no votes."

The wingers tried to push the amendment as though it were about preventing men from being able to invade women's restrooms but the "No On One" campaign successfully portrayed it for what it always was: an attempt to roll back equal rights for gay people and turn them into second class citizens. Much of the campaign apparatus used to defeat amendment 1 was leftover from the Obama campaign. John and many others will now get down to work electing the only progressive in Florida's U.S. Senate race, Dan Gelber.

The right, of course, isn't giving up. Under the banner of failed and disgraced House Speaker Newt Gingrich's anti-gay crusade, they're whining that by demanding equal rights, gays are imposing their "will on the rest of us." Gingrich is trying to forge a bond between right-wing religionists and the banksters who feel generally very put upon right now because people don't want taxpayer money to fund multimillion dollar bonuses. This is what's left of the GOP.

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Has The Heath Care Industry Bribed Enough Members Of Congress To Prevent Meaningful Reform?


Hysterical health care foe, Mitch McConnell (R-KY- $2,723,168)

Yesterday Blue America hosted a live blogging session with Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards. In the course of answering a question, she brought this up:
On health care-- I’m an original cosponsor of H.R.676 (Rep. Conyers)-- I think we must have a marker for a public plan option however this debate shakes out in the end-- otherwise we never will address cost and we’ll never get to single-payer. Now as you can only guess, the insurers, and for-profit hospitals and all the industry are marching the halls of Congress to keep the basic system that’s in place. So, in these coming weeks after we settle the budget next week, we need an all out push for H.R. 676 so that a progressive voice will be in the mix when the final bill is crafted. We need more co-sponsors on H.R. 676-- so get to work!

Here's an alphabetical list of the most current (the 111th Congress) co-sponsors (principal sponsor is again John Conyers):

Rep Abercrombie, Neil [HI-1] - 2/11/2009
Rep Baldwin, Tammy [WI-2] - 1/26/2009
Rep Becerra, Xavier [CA-31] - 3/17/2009
Rep Berman, Howard L. [CA-28] - 1/26/2009
Rep Bishop, Sanford D., Jr. [GA-2] - 2/23/2009
Rep Brady, Robert A. [PA-1] - 2/11/2009
Rep Brown, Corrine [FL-3] - 3/3/2009
Rep Capuano, Michael E. [MA-8] - 2/23/2009
Rep Clarke, Yvette D. [NY-11] - 1/26/2009
Rep Clay, Wm. Lacy [MO-1] - 1/26/2009
Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO-5] - 2/23/2009
Rep Cohen, Steve [TN-9] - 1/26/2009
Rep Costello, Jerry F. [IL-12] - 2/3/2009
Rep Cummings, Elijah E. [MD-7] - 2/23/2009
Rep Davis, Danny K. [IL-7] - 1/26/2009
Rep Delahunt, William D. [MA-10] - 1/26/2009
Rep Doyle, Michael F. [PA-14] - 1/26/2009
Rep Edwards, Donna F. [MD-4] - 1/26/2009
Rep Ellison, Keith [MN-5] - 1/26/2009
Rep Engel, Eliot L. [NY-17] - 1/26/2009
Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17] - 1/26/2009
Rep Fattah, Chaka [PA-2] - 2/11/2009
Rep Filner, Bob [CA-51] - 2/11/2009
Rep Frank, Barney [MA-4] - 1/28/2009
Rep Green, Al [TX-9] - 2/23/2009
Rep Grijalva, Raul M. [AZ-7] - 1/26/2009
Rep Gutierrez, Luis V. [IL-4] - 1/26/2009
Rep Hastings, Alcee L. [FL-23] - 2/23/2009
Rep Hinchey, Maurice D. [NY-22] - 1/26/2009
Rep Hirono, Mazie K. [HI-2] - 2/23/2009
Rep Honda, Michael M. [CA-15] - 2/11/2009
Rep Jackson, Jesse L., Jr. [IL-2] - 3/5/2009
Rep Jackson-Lee, Sheila [TX-18] - 1/26/2009
Rep Johnson, Henry C. “Hank,” Jr. [GA-4] - 2/3/2009
Rep Kaptur, Marcy [OH-9] - 1/26/2009
Rep Kennedy, Patrick J. [RI-1] - 2/23/2009
Rep Kildee, Dale E. [MI-5] - 2/23/2009
Rep Kilpatrick, Carolyn C. [MI-13] - 1/26/2009
Rep Kucinich, Dennis J. [OH-10] - 1/26/2009
Rep Lee, Barbara [CA-9] - 1/26/2009
Rep Lewis, John [GA-5] - 3/17/2009
Rep Loebsack, David [IA-2] - 3/24/2009
Rep Lujan, Ben Ray [NM-3] - 3/24/2009
Rep Maloney, Carolyn B. [NY-14] - 2/23/2009
Rep Massa, Eric J. J. [NY-29] - 1/26/2009
Rep McDermott, Jim [WA-7] - 1/26/2009
Rep McGovern, James P. [MA-3] - 3/3/2009
Rep Meek, Kendrick B. [FL-17] - 3/24/2009
Rep Meeks, Gregory W. [NY-6] - 1/26/2009
Rep Miller, George [CA-7] - 3/19/2009
Rep Moore, Gwen [WI-4] - 2/11/2009
Rep Nadler, Jerrold [NY-8] - 1/26/2009
Rep Napolitano, Grace F. [CA-38] - 1/26/2009
Rep Olver, John W. [MA-1] - 1/26/2009
Rep Pastor, Ed [AZ-4] - 3/19/2009
Rep Payne, Donald M. [NJ-10] - 3/3/2009
Rep Pingree, Chellie [ME-1] - 1/26/2009
Rep Polis, Jared [CO-2] - 1/28/2009
Rep Rush, Bobby L. [IL-1] - 2/23/2009
Rep Ryan, Tim [OH-17] - 3/5/2009
Rep Schakowsky, Janice D. [IL-9] - 2/23/2009
Rep Scott, Robert C. “Bobby” [VA-3] - 2/23/2009
Rep Thompson, Bennie G. [MS-2] - 2/23/2009
Rep Tierney, John F. [MA-6] - 1/28/2009
Rep Tonko, Paul D. [NY-21] - 1/26/2009
Rep Velazquez, Nydia M. [NY-12] - 2/23/2009
Rep Waters, Maxine [CA-35] - 3/19/2009
Rep Watson, Diane E. [CA-33] - 1/26/2009
Rep Welch, Peter [VT] - 2/23/2009
Rep Wexler, Robert [FL-19] - 2/11/2009
Rep Woolsey, Lynn C. [CA-6] - 1/26/2009
Rep Yarmuth, John A. [KY-3] - 2/23/2009

If you'd like to read the actual legislation, the whole bill is online here. The idea is simple-- Medicare coverage for every American. Here's a summary of what it's supposed to accomplish:
• Every resident of the US will be covered from birth to death.
• No more pre-existing conditions to be excluded from coverage.
• No more expensive deductibles or co-pays.
• All prescription medications will be covered.
• All dental and eye care will be included.
• Mental health and substance abuse care will be fully covered.(1)
• Long term and nursing home services will be included.
• You will always choose your own doctors and hospitals.
• Costs of coverage will be assessed on a sliding scale basis.
• Tremendously simplified system of medical administration.
• Total portability-- your coverage not tied to any job or location.
• Existing Medicare benefits for those over 65 will be vastly improved.
• No corporate bureaucrat will ever come between you and your Doctor to deny your care.

Is your congresscritter on that list above? Yes? Send him or her a thank you note. Not on the list? Call him or her up and find out why. Ask what they don't like about the bill and if they have an answer, ask them if they're forgoing the same kind of health care that we taxpayers give them as part of their jobs.

All the big health care industry folks are out fighting this... big time. They do not want change. Since 1990 the health sector has poured $823,948,241 into direct payments to federal elected officials (not counting the $3,279,855,759 they spent on lobbying since 1998, an amount second only to what the banksters have spent). They're not spending over $4 billion dollars because they are concerned about anyone's health. This money was, pure and simple, pay-offs for politicians to keep a lousy system in place that maximizes profits and minimizes return for taxpayers and patients.

Although most of these legalized bribes went to Republicans, of course, plenty went to Democrats as well ($305,672,383 to Repugs and $259,684,714 to Dems). There are 26 current members of the House who got over a million dollars each. The ones whose names are bolded are not sponsors of the reform bill:

Frank Pallone (D-NJ- $2,498,286)
Charlie Rangel (D-NY- $2,227,304)
Tom Price (R-GA- $2,087,977)
Joe Barton (R-TX- $2,070,012)
John Dingell (D-MI- $2,024,192)
Phil Gingrey (R-GA- $1,755,793)
Steny Hoyer (D-MD- $1,746,448)
Pete Stark (D-CA- $1,724,041)
Roy Blunt (R-MO- $1,599,698)
Edolphus Towns (D-NY- $1,349,022)
Nathan Deal (R-GA- $1,302,932)
Eric Cantor (R-VA- $1,299,674)
Anna Eshoo (D-CA- $1,279,626)
Henry Waxman (D-CA- $1,271,066)
Earl Pomeroy (Blue Dog-ND- $1,201,814)
Dave Camp (R-MI- $1,169,559)
John Boehner (R-OH- $1,162,747)
Michael Burgess (R-TX- $1,156,173)
Ed Whitfield (R-KY- $1,147,680)
Bart Gordon (Blue Dog-TN- $1,144,396)
Ron Paul (R-TX- $1,120,703)
Fred Upton (R-MI- $1,120,252)
Mark Kirk (R-IL- $1,082,616)
Charles Boustany (R-LA- $1,058,536)
Steve Buyer (R-IN- $1,043,899)
Pete Session (R-TX- $1,039,600)

And what about Donna? Individuals connected to the sector have donated $21,975 to her campaign; some contrast! In fact almost all the co-sponsors of the bill have gotten only minimal amounts from the otherwise very generous sector. Al Green (D-TX) has gotten $49,250, Jared Polis (D-CO) $31,305, Eric Massa (D-NY) $45,421, Hank Johnson (D-GA) $49,752, Gwen Moore (D-WI) $39,772, and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) $60,826. They're not exactly fans of populist firebrand Alan Grayson (D-FL) either-- $10,000, probably his children's pediatrician and a couple of wealthy doctors in the neighborhood!

The biggest bribes, though, go to senators who they know will help protect their rip-off scams-- like McCain (R-AZ- $8,595,609), Specter (R-PA- $3,914,733), Baucus (D-MT- $2,797,381), McConnell (R-KY- $2,723,168), Lieberman (I-CT- $2,373,119), Hatch (R-UT- $2,311,744), Alexander (R-TN- $2,056,558), Burr (R-NC- $2,039,094) and Cornyn (R-TX- $1,994,353).

Am I calling them crooks? Am I saying they take bribes from special interests and screwing over American working families in return? Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Don't let them get away with it.

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