Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ryan Lizza Is So Serious That He Wrote A Billion Word New Yorker Piece On Paul Ryan Without Once Using The Word "Sociopath"


I would love to be able to report that when you look up "sociopath" in the dictionary, you find a photo of Paul Ryan. But you don't; instead you find a definition of him:
A person with antisocial personality disorder. Probably the most widely recognized personality disorder. A sociopath is often well liked because of their charm and high charisma, but they do not usually care about other people. They think mainly of themselves and often blame others for the things that they do. They have a complete disregard for rules and lie constantly. They seldom feel guilt or learn from punishments. Though some sociopaths have become murders, most reveal their sociopathy through less deadly and sensational means.
Charles Manson
Ted Bundy

Or perhaps this definition fits even better:
A sociopath is mainly identified by there being something very wrong with a person's conscious. They either 1) have a conscious with "holes" in it, 2) they don't seem to have one at all or 3) they are able to completely neutralize their sense of conscious into a perspective that they aren't doing anything wrong.

One thing is for sure: Sociopaths only care about themselves and only see themselves as being "real" or truly human. Everybody and everything outside of themselves are twisted in their mind into mere objects to be used to achieve personal fulfillment.

A sociopath often believes that they are doing nothing wrong or doing something greatly good, due to their egocentricity and grandiose sense of self-worth. They will cold-bloodedly take what they want and do as they please at any expense of anyone in their lives; predators who satisfy their lust for power and control through superficial charm, manipulation, intimidation, and violence.

Obviously this all comes together perfectly for you if, like Ryan, you were ever a devotee of Ayn Rand's tawdry adolescent novel Atlas Shrugged, upon which his entire intellectual development was founded.

(Let me suggest skipping Atlas Shrugged and going straight to Stephen Goldstein's much better novel, Atlas Drugged, which has quite a few stand-ins for Paul Ryan himself as characters.)

Lizza's ponderous Ryan feature starts off badly, with an assurance that Ryan's "mastery" of the budget is almost legendary. Only for Inside-the-Beltway dolts... like Ryan himself, a third rate flim flam man who has managed to take in some 4th rate pundits-- and who don't know much about economics. He does know a lot of greed, selfishness, Madison Avenue marketing techniques and how to persuade gullible journalists and dumber politicians he's a serious figure. Ryan, Ryan assures us, "is embarrassed by the Bush years" and quickly glosses over the fact he "was a reliable Republican vote for policies that were key in causing enormous federal budget deficits: sweeping tax cuts, a costly prescription-drug entitlement for Medicare [the entitlement was strictly for Ryan's financiers on Wall Street, the drug companies and Big Insurance], two wars, the multibillion-dollar bank-bailout legislation known as TARP." Poor boy says he was miserable voting for all those billions and billions trillions and trillions of wasted dollars. You can almost hear Lizza weeping for his suffering. And then he kicks into the major fluffing he's so beloved for around DC.
Unlike most members of Congress these days, Ryan is relatively accessible to reporters. “The key to understanding me is really simple,” he said. “I am not trying to be anybody other than who I actually am.” Even his ideological foes comment on his friendliness and good nature. After his sophomore year in high school, back in 1986, he worked the grill at McDonald’s. “The manager didn’t think I had the social skills to work the counter,” he said. “And now I’m in Congress!”

Last night Ken, contrasting Ryan's miserable sociopathy to the Great Society's enacting of Medicare in 1965, remarked-- unprompted-- that Lizza's puffery was an embarrassingly toadying paean to the increasingly egregious Paul Ryan. "[T]he piece reads as if it came straight out of Frankenryan's PR shop. It's pretty much PRyan's own view of himself and the world he lives in, faithfully transcribed by RyanL as if it were true." Ken and I and Chuck Schumer and Nom Coleman and Bernie Sanders all went to James Madison High School so most of us are pretty much on the same page here. Ken was excited to find the inevitable Ayn Rand walk-on:
His father's death also provoked the kind of existential soul-searching that most kids don't undertake until college. "I was, like, ‘What is the meaning?' " he said. "I just did lots of reading, lots of introspection. I read everything I could get my hands on." Like many conservatives, he claims to have been profoundly affected by Ayn Rand. After reading Atlas Shrugged, he told me, "I said, ‘Wow, I've got to check out this economics thing.'

So we have a budget written by a cretin who was inspired by someone who brags about her utter contempt for Jesus Christ's and his message and everything that's even remotely beneficial about religions. And as Ken points out, "He read and read and read, and managed never to get deeper into 'this economics thing' than the cartoon world of his beloved Ayn." Ken also found the what might pass as the soul of the piece, or the punchline:
When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town's recovery, he didn't disagree. But he insisted that he has been misunderstood. "Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature," he said. "As if we're some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians. It's a false dichotomy and intellectually lazy." He added, "Of course we believe in government. We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports." But independent assessments make clear that Ryan's budget plan, in order to achieve its goals, would drastically reduce the parts of the budget that fund exactly the kinds of projects and research now helping Janesville.

"Um, oops!," he offers. "...[T]his is the man who would at least like to be thought of as the brains, economically speaking, of the House Republican caucus. It's my understanding that PRyan is a lot less popular among House Republicans than RyanL seems to think. Nevertheless, it remains entirely possible, given sufficiently disastrous 2012 election results, that a Republican-controlled White House and Senate as well as House could shove into law some version of PRyan's economic 'reforms.' If there's anyone who isn't terrified by that possibility, I don't know what it would take." At this point, I have to urge all of our readers to take seriously the possibility of helping us defeat PRyan and replacing him with sincere progressive Rob Zerban. You can do your bit here

Jonathan Berstein, sitting in yesterday for Greg Sargent on the Washington Post was also charmed by the "As if we’re some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians” line and pointed out the fatal flaw, RyanL seems to have missed, that PRyan "wants to have it both ways, and far too many deficit hawks let him. Ryan has sold his budget on the basis of deficit fears. Lizza reports that Ryan and other Republicans successfully sold the Ryan plan as the 'only solution' to avert fiscal armageddon."
But Ryan’s budget doesn’t do that-- it isn’t any kind of solution to budget deficits at all-- unless it does what its own numbers inescapably say it will do and completely eliminates the entire federal government except for the military, Social Security, and health programs. If he really does, contrary to what his budget says, want to keep “infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports” along with veterans’ programs, the FBI, the border patrol, and all the other things that the federal government does now-- well, then the deficits remain. And that’s not to mention that Ryan and Mitt Romney also support an entirely unrealistic tax “reform” plan that amounts to huge, specified tax rate cuts that would help the rich and vague, unspecified plans to end many tax credits and deductions, something that’s very unlikely to actually happen since those provisions are extremely popular.

Ryan’s budget leaves all the pain until after the election-- pain that’s only necessary in order to achieve the low tax rates, especially on the rich, that Ryan and other Republicans deem essential. Either Ryan’s fiscal vision really would dramatically cut government, or his numbers don’t add up. In short, Ryan is either a radical or a fraud.

A reminder? Rob Zerban.

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Re. the "'you don't build that' fight," Richard Cohen says: "The president has nothing but truth and history on his side"


"Romney's embrace of tea-party thinking is just ideological womanizing. (He won't call in the morning.)"
-- Richard Cohen, in his latest WaPo column,
"The gap in the ‘you didn't build that' fight"

by Ken

I've just done a quick to check on stuff I've written about Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, and I've turned up such nooks of memory as "It feels creepy agreeing with Richard Cohen, but I agree with him about 'The missing Obama'," from November 2009, but also the less snarky October 2010 "Richard Cohen gets it seriously right about right-wing hate speech."

Now I'm nonplussed to say that his latest column seems to me both seriously right and seriously needed, in an election season that's going to be dominated by nonsensical lies from the Rampaging Right. (Links onsite.)
The gap in the ‘you didn't build that' fight

By Richard Cohen

My boyhood friend Jack became a doctor -- and a conservative. He had gone to public schools, attended college with the help of a government scholarship, went to medical school on the Army's dime, and learned his specialty in military hospitals. He insisted that the government had done nothing for him. In that way, he is both the soul and the wit of the Republican Party.

It was in rebuttal to the Jacks of this world that Barack Obama earlier this month updated John Donne's "No man is an island" by knocking the idea that individual success is always the product of individual qualities, such as industriousness: "Let me tell you something: There are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help."

This observation, so obvious you'd think it didn't have to be stated, was then followed by what became a gotcha sound bite: "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet."

The entire GOP, including its claque in the press, pounced. You would have thought Obama had just belittled self-discipline and other virtues and quoted from "Das Kapital" or, even worse, a ditty by Pete Seeger. To his critics, Obama's version of It Takes a Village was further proof of his commie creds, possibly Islamic as well. Mitt Romney found the line totally -- and I mean like totally -- "disconcerting." As to the charge that Obama was being quoted out of context, Romney declared that "the context is worse than the quote." OMG!

Of course, the president has nothing but truth and history on his side. Every schoolchild in my neck of the woods learned that the Erie Canal, which made New York truly the Empire State, was government-funded -- $7 million appropriated at the insistence of Gov. DeWitt Clinton. The railroads did not come from nowhere and neither did the ports or the highway system. Government played a role. Government has always played a role. If it just got out of the way, the mindless mantra of the tea party's heavy thinkers, we would all be in deep trouble.

Across the mighty ocean, the Economist magazine has taken note of this debate over the role of government and pronounced it healthy in principle but pathetic in execution. Both the right and the left have trivialized this important issue, but conservatives have gone from simplistic formulas to bravely idiotic ones. "American conservatism has grown so angry that it has become a parody of its former self," the magazine says. "Tax cuts are always right (even if they inflate the deficit); government activism is always wrong (even if stimulus helped avert a depression). And the right's hypocrisy when it comes to spending on conservative projects (prisons, the armed forces, subsidies to big business) is breathtaking. George W. Bush presided over a huge growth in government." The Economist, a right-of-center publication, has it nailed.

Romney's embrace of tea-party thinking is just ideological womanizing. (He won't call in the morning.) While in Israel, he mentioned that one of the books that influenced his thinking on foreign affairs is "Start-Up Nation" by Dan Senor and Saul Singer. (Senor is one of Romney's important foreign policy advisers.) It is a good book, mentioned favorably by me in a recent column, and it accounts for why little Israel has become such a high-tech giant. As always, there is no single answer. Large-scale immigration (mostly from Russia) contributed, and certainly the conversion from an essentially socialist economy to a capitalist one has made a huge difference.

But so has the government -- in particular, the army with its own culture of innovation and intellectually elite units devoted to high-tech training and warfare. Graduates of these programs, having satisfied their military obligation, populate Israel's high-tech sector -- and, to Israel's chagrin, America's as well. Israel is the start-up nation because the government helped start it up.

As the Economist notes, this is not a trivial debate. The refusal of the contemporary Republican Party to acknowledge a role for government is linked to an illogical determination never to raise taxes. Obama may be too liberal for some, but the alternative that Romney offers by parroting the conservative GOP line is simply not credible. Prosperity may not always take a village, but it sure doesn't take the village idiot.

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DCCC Doesn't Believe In David vs Goliath Contests-- Especially Not When David Is A Progressive


Caravaggio... way smarter than Steve Israel

Monday morning the DCCC was strutting around like a rooster bragging about the campaign to hold Republicans accountable, running an ad (below) called "The Millionaires," against 23 "Republican Members of Congress who are about to vote for another tax cut for millionaires at the expense of the middle class and seniors." Let's not even get into the cynicism of the DCCC backing Blue Dogs who vote with the GOP on this and leave that for the day after the vote itself (when we can replay a tape of Debbie Wasserman Schultz defending anti-family ConservaDems because she's so proud of her "Big Tent party"). From their press release:
With 100 days until Election Day, House Republicans will vote this week to give people making more than $1 million a year another $130,000 tax break, according to the Tax Policy Center, and once again double down on their failed priorities instead of protecting the middle class and seniors. This past weekend, the DCCC held “Middle Class First” grassroots events in 19 congressional districts to expose Republicans’ plans to put millionaires over the middle class.

...The ads will target the following districts:

     •     Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-01)
     •     Congressman Dan Lungren (CA-07)
     •     Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-10)
     •     Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-36)
     •     Congressman Brian Bilbray (CA-52)
     •     Congressman Steve King (IA-04)
     •     Congresswoman Judy Biggert (IL-11)
     •     Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17)
     •     Congressman Larry Bucshon (IN-08)
     •     Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (MD-06)
     •     Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04)
     •     Congressman Jon Runyan (NJ-03)
     •     Congressman Joe Heck (NV-03)
     •     Congressman Michael Grimm (NY-11)
     •     Congresswoman Nan Hayworth (NY-18)
     •     Congressman Chris Gibson (NY-19)
     •     Congresswoman Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-24)
     •     Congressman Bill Johnson (OH-06)
     •     Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-08)
     •     Congressman Tim Murphy (PA-18)
     •     Congresswoman Kristi Noem (SD-AL)
     •     Congressman Scott DesJarlais (TN-04)
     •     Congressman Scott Rigell (VA-02)

Who are these Republicans? Not many people have heard of any of them. They're basically all a bunch of backbenchers without any power or influence, mostly pathetic freshmen. Fine... someone has to go after them. It's a shame though, that that's all the DCCC goes after! But let's look at the Democrats running in these districts for a second.
•     Scott Ellington (AR-01)- (Obama's score: 39%, Dem 2010- 43%)
     •     Ami Bera (CA-07)- New Dem- (Obama's score: 51%, Dem 2010-43%)
     •     Jose Hernandez (CA-10)- (Obama's score: 50%, Dem 2010- 35%)
     •     Raul Ruiz (CA-36)- (Obama's score: 50%, Dem 2010- 42%)
     •     Scott Peters (CA-52)- New Dem- (Obama's score: 55%, Dem 2010- 39%)
     •     Christie Vilsack (IA-04)- New Dem- (Obama's score: 48%, Dem 2010- 32%)
     •     Bill Foster (IL-11)- New Dems- (Obama's score: 61%, Dem 2010- 36%)
     •     Cheri Bustos (IL-17)- (Obama's score: 60%, Dem 2010- 43%)
     •     Dave Crooks (IN-08)- Blue Dog- (Obama's score: 48%, Dem 2010- 38%)
     •     John Delaney (MD-06)- New Dem- (Obama's score: 56%, Dem 2010-33%)
     •     Teresa Hensley (MO-04)- (Obama's score: 42%, Dem 2010- 45%)
     •     Shelley Adler (NJ-03)- New Dem- (Obama's score: 51%, Dem 2010- 47%)
     •     John Oceguera (NV-03)- (Obama's score: 54%, Dem 2010-47%)
     •     Mark Murphy (NY-11)- (Obama's score: 48%, Dem 2010-)
     •     Sean Maloney (NY-18)- (Obama's score: 52%, Dem 2010-47%)
     •     Julian Schriebman (NY-19)- New Dem- (Obama's score: 53%, Dem 2010-45%)
     •     Dan Maffei (NY-24)- New Dem- (Obama's score: 56%, Dem 2010- 50%)
     •     Charlie Wilson (OH-06)- Blue Dog/New Dem- (Obama's score: 45%, Dem 2010- 45%)
     •     Kathy Boockvar (PA-08)- New Dem- (Obama's score: 53%, Dem 2010- 46%)
     •     Larry Maggi (PA-18)- (Obama's score: 44%, Dem 2010- 33%)
     •     Matt Varilek (SD-AL)- (Obama's score: 45%, Dem 2010- 46%)
     •     Shannon Kelley (TN-04)- (Obama's score: 36%, Dem 2010- 39%)
     •     Paul Hischbiel (VA-02)- New Dem- (Obama's score: 50%, Dem 2010- 43%)

So what would a progressive campaign look like instead of this attempt by "ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel to restock the House Democratic caucus with conservatives?
•     Rob Zerban vs Paul Ryan (WI-01)- (Obama's score: 51%, Dem 2010- 30%)
     •     Lee Rogers vs Buck McKeon (CA-25)-  (Obama's score: 49%, Dem 2010- 38%)
     •     Alan Grayson vs ? (FL-09)- (Obama's score: 60%, Dem 2010- new district)
     •     Wayne Powell vs Eric Cantor (VA-07)- (Obama's score: 44%, Dem 2010- 34%)
     •     Patsy Keever vs Patrick McHenry (NC-10)- (Obama's score: 42%, Dem 2010- 29%)
     •     David Gill vs Rodney Davis (IL-13)- (Obama's score: 55%, Dem 2010- 36%)
     •     Matt Heinz vs ConservaDem Ron Barber (AZ-02)- (Obama's score: 49%, Dem 2010- 49%)
     •     Beto O'Rourke vs Barbara Carrasco (TX-16)- (Obama's score: 64%, Dem 2010- 58%)
     •     Chris Donovan vs ConservaDem Elizabeth Esty (CT-05)- (Obama's score: 56%, Dem 2010- 54%)
     •     Jay Chen vs Ed Royce (CA-39)- (Obama's score: 47%, Dem 2010-33%)
• Darcy Burner vs ConservaDem Suzan DelBene (WA-01)- Obama's score: 56%, Dem 2010-)
     •     Missa Eaton vs Mike Kelly (PA-03)- (Obama's score: 46%, Dem 2010- 44%)
     •     Carol Shea-Porter vs Frank Guinta (NH-01)- (Obama's score: 53%, Dem 2010- 42%)
     •     Ann Kuster vs Charlie Bass (NH-02)- (Obama's score: 56%, Dem 2010- 47%)
     •     Nate Shinagawa vs Tom Reed (NY-23)- (Obama's score: 50%, Dem 2010- 43%)
     •     Aryanna Strader vs Joe Pitts (PA-16)- (Obama's score: 50%, Dem 2010- 35%)
     •     Joe Miklosi vs Mike Coffman (CO-06)- (Obama's score: 54%, Dem 2010- 31%)
     •     Nick Ruiz vs John Mica (FL-07)- (Obama's score: 49%, Dem 2010- 40%)
     •     Sue Thorn vs David McKinley (WV-01)- (Obama's score: 42%, Dem 2010- 50%)
     •     Trevor Thomas vs ConservaDem Steve Pestka (MI-03)- (Obama's score: 50%, Dem 2010- 37%)
     •     Syed Taj vs a Lyndon LaRouche freak (MI-11)- (Obama's score: 50%, Dem 2010- 39%)
     •     Pat Lang vs Steve Stivers (OH-15)- (Obama's score: 46%, Dem 2010- 41%)
     •     Lance Enderle vs Mike Rogers (MI-08)- (Obama's score: 52%, Dem 2010- 34%)

The progressive target list, unlike the DCCC target list, includes vulnerable senior Republicans (Goliaths) like Paul Ryan and Buck McKeon, whose district's Obama won, as well as vulnerable Republican incumbents with national reputations as especially hateful assholes, like Eric Cantor, Joe Pitts, Mike Coffman, Patrick McHenry, Ed Royce, and Mike Rogers. No one ever even heard of any of the DCCC targets beyond maybe the congresswoman in Palm Springs who used to be married to Sonny Bono after Cher and now lives with her braindead husband-- a candidate for the U.S. Senate-- in Florida. It's a pretty unheroic list of targets-- and not even one where there are many "sure things." In fact, some of these people have absolutely no chance of winning whatsoever, like the poor schlemiels running against Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), Larry Bucshon (IN-08), Tim Murphy (PA-18), Kristi Noem (SD-AL), and Scott DesJarlais (TN-04). The money the DCCC will waste in those 5 districts alone could probably make the difference in defeating Paul Ryan, Buck McKeon and Ed Royce, 3 seats ripe for the plucking that the DCCC refuses to contest.

Don't get me wrong... I'm not "against" all the DCCC candidates. The Blue Dogs are the Blue Dogs and no good progressive should even consider voting for one of them under any circumstances. As for the New Dems, it's a case by case decision. New Dems tend to be corrupt, pro-Big Business, anti-consumer and most of them are as worthless as Blue Dogs most of the time-- only without the white KKK robes you can count on from a Blue Dog. As for the others on their list, some of them seem like sincere moderates who are worth supporting if you live in their districts. My problem with the DCCC list is that it very pointedly leaves out all the progressives-- even the ones they claim to be backing, like Ann Kuster, Mark Takano, and Joe Miklosi-- let alone the next generation of progressive leaders like David Gill, Chris Donovan, Nate Shinagawa, Beto O'Rourke, Aryanna Strader, Jay Chen and Nick Ruiz.

The Progressive Caucus should be launching a political action committee in the next couple of days; I have a feeling (a strong one) that they won't be making the same kinds of mistakes Steve Israel and the DCCC are making. Look for some of the "Davids" getting some real backing!

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Blue America Welcomes Sue Thorn (D-WV)


Blue America is proud to be officially endorsing Sue Thorn today. Sue is a grassroots community activist whose ideas about the role of government hearken back to a time when West Virginians very much saw government as a way of balancing the inordinate power of corporations and the wealthy arraigned against ordinary working families. She'll be joining us for a live blogging session at 2pm (EST) at Crooks and Liars. Her opponent is freshman David McKinley, or, as folks in northern West Virginia like to call him, Moneybags McKinley. He's a millionaire member of the top 1% and Blue America wants to help Sue Thorn send him packing. Before coming to Congress, McKinely was already a career politician, working the system to please his dirty-dealing campaign contributors, sleazy coal CEOs and shady special interest groups, at the expense of or the ordinary working families. After a slim victory against his DCCC-backed Blue Dog opponent in 2010, McKinley joined the Tea Party caucus. Now that he’s facing Sue Thorn, a real populist Democrat with widespread grassroots support, he’s proved he’ll say or do anything to get re-elected. Anything? You betcha!
• McKinley ran for office railing against taxpayer-funded mass mailings, or franked mailings, during election years, calling them an “abuse” of taxpayer funds. Now, he ranks as one of the top spenders in the House, spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars mailing constituents campaign propaganda, full of conservative talking points.

• He campaigned with Tea Party rhetoric against big banks and bailouts, then accepted thousands in donations from the banking industry and supported legislation that turns regulatory power over to the bankers.

• McKinley says he is a “Friend of Coal” and claims to support coal miners, but refuses to sponsor coal mine safety legislation along with the rest of the WV Congressional delegation. Mining deaths and rates of black lung disease are on the rise in WV, but McKinley has proved to be a puppet for the profit-hungry coal industry, working in back-room deals to dismantle the EPA, weaken the Mine Safety and Health Administration, and push through anti-regulation bills that would pollute WV communities and poison the water supply.

Sue Thorn was asked to run for Congress because the people of West Virginia's first CD were sick of representation by conservative Democrats who vote with the Republicans and DC insiders who vote to slash safety net programs that benefit working families. Sue is not a career politician. She’s worked in economic development and community organizing and she aims to bring people together, not divide them. When we first spoke with her, we asked why she had decided to run.
“I’m running for Congress because I’m sick of the rich getting richer and the rest of us getting left behind. The extreme conservative Republicans currently controlling the House of Representatives don’t have the middle class in mind. They’re focused on passing bogus legislation that will keep campaign donations coming in from Big Oil, super PACs, corrupt CEOs and greedy special interest groups. At a time when the gap between the rich and the poor in this country is at its highest since the great depression, the House Republicans are recklessly voting for tax break for millionaires. I’m running for Congress because we need to rebuild the middle class.”

This is a winnable race, but Sue won’t be doing it with the help of the DCCC. They’re sitting this one out, after wasting a fortune trying to elect a Blue Dog Democrat in 2010 that the people of WV-01 didn’t want. Sue’s running in a traditionally Democratic district, previously represented by Democrats for over 40 years. She even pulled in 13,000 more votes than McKinley in the primary. But she also has to contend with McKinley’s campaign coffer of $1.4 million. Please consider helping her with a contribution here on our Blue America page.

We need to send the crazy conservative freshmen in Congress back where they came. Let’s start with David McKinley by helping to elect a true champion for regular people, Sue Thorn.

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GMO Labelling-- AgriBusiness Doesn't Want You To Know... And The Senators They Own Are Backing Them Up


Hard to make a choice without information. When I go shopping, I'd like to avoid genetically modified food. Last month the Senate made it a lot harder for me to do that by giving AgriBusiness a big fat wet kiss. The Senate voted 26-73 against an amendment by Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to the Agriculture Reform Act of 2012 that would have permitted states to require that any food, beverage, or other edible product offered for sale have a label on indicating that the food, beverage, or other edible product contains a genetically engineered ingredient. Why is this important? Let's look at what GMO is. This is how the Natural Society defines GMOs:
Genetically modified foods are compromised of organisms (known as GMOs for ‘genetically modified organisms’) which have been genetically altered for ‘improvement’. Biotechnology giant Monsanto is the primary maker of genetically modified seeds, responsible for 90 percent of the genetically engineered seed on the United States market.

The touted reasons for genetically modifying foods vary from making a fruit larger and seedless to resisting pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. Millions of dollars are invested in this bioengineering process annually by many, with Bill Gates most notably investing into Monsanto with 500,000 shares. But are GMO foods really the solution to humanity’s problems, or are they negatively affecting virtually all life on planet earth?

Genetically modified foods have been proven not only to be unhealthy, but also deadly. One review of 19 studies showed that with the consumption of genetically modified foods comes significant organ disruptions, especially in the liver and kidneys. What’s more, however, is that the damage posed by Monsanto’s GMO creations extend even further than public health. In fact, they threaten the environment as a whole. This is perhaps the most concerning effect of GMOs.

Monsanto has created GMO crops that contain something known as Bt, which is a toxin incorporated into the crops with the intention of killing off insects. The usage of the Bt biopesticide within these GMO crops, however, has actually led to ‘mutant’ insect populations which are directly resistant to the biopesticide. Reports state that at least 8 insect populations have developed resistance, with 2 populations resistant to Bt sprays and at least 6 species resistant to Bt crops as a whole. As a result, farmers must spray even more pesticides!

Beyond GM seeds and the Bt pesticide, Monsanto is also the creator of the best-selling herbicide Roundup. The usage of Roundup has spawned over 120 million hectacres of herbicide-resistant superweeds that have destroyed the farmland in which they reside. In addition, much of the soil has also been damaged. Even in the face of these statistics, Monsanto continues to disregard any and all warning signs.

Genetically modified foods present a very real threat to the genetic integrity of both humankind and the environment, and require vigorous longterm research before being unleashed on the public. That is why nations like Peru, France, and Hungary are taking action against Monsanto and GMOs over legitimate health concerns.

Over the weekend Elizabeth Renter of the Natural Society warned us of the top 10 GMO foods to avoid. "Genetically modified foods," she explains, "have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environmental, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It's important to note that steering clear from these foods completely may be difficult, and you should merely try finding other sources than your big chain grocer. If produce is certified USDA-organic, it's non-GMO (or supposed to be!) Also, seek out local farmers and booths at farmer's markets where you can be ensured the crops aren't GMO... With little regulation and safety tests performed by the companies doing the genetic modifications themselves, we have no way of knowing for certain what risks these lab-created foods pose to us outside of what we already know. The best advice: steer clear of them altogether."

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods
1. Corn: This is a no-brainer. If you've watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. "As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn," and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto's GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption.

2. Soy: Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto's herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate was sprayed on soybeans alone.

3. Sugar: According to NaturalNews, genetically-modified sugar beets were introduced to the U.S. market in 2009. Like others, they've been modified by Monsanto to resist herbicides. Monsanto has even had USDA and court-related issues with the planting of it's sugarbeets, being ordered to remove seeds from the soil due to illegal approval.

4. Aspartame: Aspartame is a toxic additive used in numerous food products, and should be avoided for numerous reasons, including the fact that it is created with genetically modified bacteria.

5. Papayas: This one may come as a surprise to all of you tropical-fruit lovers. GMO papayas have been grown in Hawaii for consumption since 1999. Though they can't be sold to countries in the European Union, they are welcome with open arms in the U.S. and Canada.

6. Canola: One of the most chemically altered foods in the U.S. diet, canola oil is obtained from rapeseed through a series of chemical actions.

7. Cotton: Found in cotton oil, cotton originating in India and China in particular has serious risks.

8. Dairy: Your dairy products contain growth hormones, with as many as one-fifth of all dairy cows in America are pumped with these hormones. In fact, Monasnto's health-hazardous rBGH has been banned in 27 countries, but is still in most US cows. If you must drink milk, buy organic.

9. and 10. Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Closely related, these two squash varieties are modified to resist viruses.

Only one Republican, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska backed Bernie Sanders' amendment. All the other Republicans backed Monsanto's diktat that the information be hidden from the public. Figures the GOP would take that stance. What was horrifying was how many Democrats-- including some progressives like Sherrod Brown (OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (MN), Kirtsen Gillibrand (NY), Tom Harkin (IA), and Chuck Schumer (NY)-- sold us out. Even Joe Lieberman (CT) and Joe Manchin (WV) knew enough to vote for disclosure this time! These are the only senators who voted for the amendment:
Akaka (D-HI)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Boxer (D-CA)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kerry (D-MA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Manchin (D-WV)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-NM)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Monsanto gives legalistic bribes to senators from both parties, though they favor Republicans. In the current session, their biggest recipient was retiring Nebraska conservative Ben Nelson ($13,000), although it's worth noting that every single incumbent they contributed to this year voted to keep the information from consumers-- Max Baucus (D-MT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR), Bob Casey (D-PA), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Michael Johanns (R-NE), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Jim Risch (R-ID), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Debbie Stabbenow (D-MI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS). In the 2010 cycle Monsanto spent just over $100,000 in direct "contributions" to senators. Only one, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, got money from them and voted for Bernie's amendment. This year they're doing double-time to elect 3 notorious corporate whores from the House to the Senate: Todd Akin (R-MO), Rick Berg (R-ND), and Denny Rehberg (R-MT).

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Worst GOP Votes In The 112th Congress?


The DC memo being circulated about 16 votes Eric Cantor engineered calls them the "worst" votes in the current session. I'm not so sure this would be my own list-- not by a mile, but it is a way of looking at the hypocrisy of the House Republicans. Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder and, although some of these votes are pretty indefensible from any perspective, not everyone would consider them "the worst." Grassroots Democrats, pretty universally, though, would. These 16 roll calls can easily be used to define for Democrats the danger of a Republican-controled Congress. What makes it even more interesting, of course, is which Democrats, supported by the Beltway Establishment, were part of the bipartisan conservative consensus behind many of them. Let's take a look.

Republicans Voted to Cut Medicare and Assistance for Veterans…

1. Republicans voted to deeply cut Medicare and raise seniors’ health care costs

Background: House Republicans voted to pass a plan that ends Medicare, and replaces it with a voucher program for Americans under the age of 55. This would raise seniors’ costs, reduce benefits, and put private insurance companies in charge of seniors’ health care. Under the House Republicans’ proposed voucher system, seniors would lose the Medicare guarantee of a defined set of benefits and instead simply get an increasingly inadequate voucher. According to the nonpartisan CBO, the GOP plan would increase seniors’ out-of-pocket health care costs by more than $6,000 in 2022. Not a single Democrat broke ranks on the Ryan Budget. Even the worst Blue Dogs and New Dems voted against it-- and so did 4 Republicans.
Source: FY2012 Ryan Budget, H.Con.Res. 34, Vote #277, 04/15/11.

2. Republicans voted against assisting homeless Veterans

Background: In 2011, House Republicans voted to eliminate $75 million from the program that provides assistance to homeless veterans. Again, not even the most pernicious Blue Dog scum broke ranks and backed Boehner and Cantor on this one. In fact, 3 Republicans crossed the aisle in the other direction and voted with the Democrats!
Source: H.R. 1, Vote #147, 02/19/11.

3. Republicans voted to balance the budget on the backs of our Veterans

Background: The measure would have prohibited the House of Representatives or the Senate from considering any balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that could result in a reduction in Veterans’ benefits. Once again, all the Democrats stuck together... and were joined by one Republican, making their position the bipartisan one, not the anti-veteran position Boehner and Cantor were pushing.
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.R. 2560, Vote #605, 07/19/11.

BUT Voted to Protect Their Own Perks and Pay!

4. Republicans voted to keep first-class flights at taxpayer expense

Background: The Democratic Budget would have prohibited Members from using taxpayer funds to purchase first-class airfare or to lease corporate jets. Corporate-oriented Blue Dogs and New Dems generally sided with the Republicans on this one. Most of the de facto anti-populist caucus defected to the GOP including galoots like Ron Kind (New Dem-WI), Jim Himes (New Dem-CT), Kathy Hochul (New Dem-NY) and virtually the entire Republican wing of the congressional Democratic Party that is the Blue Dog Caucus (Barrow, Boren, Chandler, Cooper, Costa, Donnelly, Kissell... right through to Matheson, McIntyre, Ross and Shuler.
Source: Democratic Budget, H.Amdt. 1004, Vote #150, 03/29/12.

5. Republicans refused to cut taxpayer funding for the Member gym, beauty salon, barber shop, and the House dining room

Background: The Democratic Budget would have required the House Administration Committee to cut taxpayer subsidies for the Member gym, barber shop, beauty salon, and House dining room. This was incorporated into the same roll call as #4 above.
Source: Democratic Budget, H.Amdt. 1004, Vote #150, 03/29/12.

6. Republicans voted to protect his/her own salary during a government shutdown, but voted
against the same protections for the troops

Background: This is a result of combining votes on two separate motions to recommit. The first measure would have prevented Members of Congress from receiving basic pay in the event of a government shutdown. The second measure would have ensured that the troops’ pay not be interrupted in the event of a government shutdown.
Sources: (1) Motion to Recommit on H.R. 1255, Vote #223, 04/01/11; (2) Motion to
Recommit on H.R. 1363, Vote #246, 04/07/11.

7. Republicans voted to protect a loophole that allows Members of Congress to personally collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in agriculture subsidies

Background: The Democratic Budget would have limited the amount that Members of Congress can personally receive in taxpayer-funded agriculture subsidies to $26,955 a year-- the same as the limit on outside pay for Members of Congress. (Members already make an annual salary of $174,000.) This was the same amendment and roll call as #s 4 and 5, with 22 Democrats joining their corproate allies in the GOP to protect their own privileges and advantages.
Source: Democratic Budget, H.Amdt. 1004, Vote #150, 03/29/12.

8. Republicans voted to hide giving themselves a tax break

Background: The measure would have required Members of Congress to publicly disclose if they receive a personal tax break from the bill’s small business tax cut. Two of the most egregiously corrupt Members of Congress in history, Blue Dogs John Barrow (GA) and Collin Peterson (MN) abandoned the Democratic position and voted with the GOP on this direct threat to their personal circumstances.
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.R. 9, Vote #176, 04/19/12.

9. Republicans voted to protect taxpayer-funded pensions for Members of Congress who become millionaire lobbyists

Background: The measure would have ensured that Members of Congress who go on to become millionaire lobbyists won’t receive cushy, taxpayer-funded Congressional pensions. Knowing it had no chance of passage anyway, even lobbyist-bound Blue Dogs like Heath Shuler felt safe cynically voting for it. It was a party-line vote, except for Republican Walter Jones, voting with the Democrats.
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.R. 5652, Vote #246, 05/10/12.

10. Republicans voted to protect glossy, self-promotional mailers sent at taxpayer expense

Background: The measure would have cut by 10% the official franked mail component of House Members’ office budgets, known as the Member’s Representational Allowance (MRA). Members of Congress waste over $5 million a year using franked mail to send expensive, glossy, self-promotional mailers to their constituents-- all at taxpayer expense. Communications can be done electronically, and Members can spend their own money on their glossy, self-promotional mailers. This united all the Republicans but Walter Jones but really split the Democrats. 100 voted YES but 79 voted with the Republicans, and it wasn't necessarily an ideological split. Some of the best progressives, like Raul Grijalva, Judy Chu and Barbara Lee wound up voting with sleazy Blue Dogs and New Dems like John Barrow, Mike Ross and Joe Crowley.
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.R. 5882, Vote #367, 06/08/12.

11. Republicans voted to gamble Social Security benefits on Wall Street

Background: The measure would have required that none of the funds in the short-term funding resolution (CR) be used to cut or privatize Social Security, reduce Medicare, turn Medicare into a voucher program, or roll back health coverage for seniors. A straight party-line vote except for Walter Jones (R-NC) crossing over to vote with the Democrats.
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.J.Res. 48, Vote #178, 03/15/11.

12. Republicans voted to give tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas

Background: The measure would have prevented companies that outsource American jobs from receiving the 20% tax deduction in the underlying bill. Again, Blue Dogs Barrow and Peterson were with the Republicans on this one-- and Jones was the only Republican to cross the aisle in the other direction.
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.R. 9, Vote #176, 04/19/12.

13. Republicans voted to protect tax breaks for Big Oil companies

Background: The measure would have repealed tax breaks for major integrated oil companies (i.e., the Big 5) for the 2-week period in the proposed budget resolution. 13 Blue Dogs, New Dems and oil industry shills teamed up against this with the GOP.
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.J.Res. 44, Vote #153, 03/01/11.

14. Republicans voted to keep their government health care while repealing yours

Background: The measure would have required a majority of Members to waive their taxpayer-provided health care in order for repeal of health care reform to take effect. Hoyer (and his tail Ruppersberger) teamed up with 3 of the worst Blue Dogs to vote with the entire GOP against this: Shuler, Ross and Boren, all three of whom are retiring after this year. [Note: Hoyer would like to be Speaker.]
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.R. 2, Vote #13, 01/19/11.

15. Republicans opposed putting fraudsters in the penalty box

Background: The measure would have prohibited the Coast Guard from awarding a contract to anyone convicted of fraud or other criminal offenses including embezzlement theft, forgery, bribery, falsification or destruction of records, making false statements, tax evasion, violating criminal tax laws, or receiving stolen property. Jones voted with the Democrats, who all stuck together, while the GOP moved to protect the interest of their criminally-minded corporate cronies.
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.R. 2383, Vote # 841, 11/15/11.

16. Republicans voted to protect wasteful earmarks

Background: Republicans voted to protect two egregious earmarks: (1) one earmark for a Canadian highway; and (2) one earmark for a wasteful, multi-billion dollar earmark for the powerful Republican Financial Services Chairman Spencer Bachus. Jones voted with the Democrats but 5 corruption-oriented "business Dems" voted with the GOP: Sewell (New Dem-AL), Peterson (Blue Dog-MN), Owens (New Dem-NY), Ross (Blue Dog-AR) and Boren (Blue Dog-OK).
Source: Motion to Recommit on H.R. 4348, Vote #169, 04/18/12.


Can you imagine Medicare being enacted by a zombified Congress that takes a worthless doodysack like Paul Ryan seriously?


July 30, 1965: With former President Harry Truman looking
on, President Lyndon Johnson signs Medicare into law

"After reading Atlas Shrugged, [Paul Ryan] said, 'Wow, I've got to check out this economics thing.' "
-- as told to The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, this week
"Fussbudget: How Paul Ryan captured the G.O.P."

by Ken

We'll come back to the egregious Representative Ryan. First let's pause to ponder the lead story today from history.com's "This Day in History," which my friend Paul kindly passed on: Jul 30, 1965: Johnson signs Medicare into law.
On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs Medicare, a health insurance program for elderly Americans, into law. At the bill-signing ceremony, which took place at the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri, former President Harry S. Truman was enrolled as Medicare's first beneficiary and received the first Medicare card. Johnson wanted to recognize Truman, who, in 1945, had become the first president to propose national health insurance, an initiative that was opposed at the time by Congress.

The Medicare program, providing hospital and medical insurance for Americans age 65 or older, was signed into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act of 1935. Some 19 million people enrolled in Medicare when it went into effect in 1966. In 1972, eligibility for the program was extended to Americans under 65 with certain disabilities and people of all ages with permanent kidney disease requiring dialysis or transplant. In December 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Modernization Act (MMA), which added outpatient prescription drug benefits to Medicare.

Medicare is funded entirely by the federal government and paid for in part through payroll taxes. Medicare is currently a source of controversy due to the enormous strain it puts on the federal budget. Throughout its history, the program also has been plagued by fraud--committed by patients, doctors and hospitals--that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars.

Medicaid, a state and federally funded program that offers health coverage to certain low-income people, was also signed into law by President Johnson on July 30, 1965, as an amendment to the Social Security Act.

In 1977, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) was created to administer Medicare and work with state governments to administer Medicaid. HCFA, which was later renamed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), is part of the Department of Health and Human Services and is headquartered in Baltimore.

As it happens, today is also the day that The New Yorker unleashes on the world an embarrassingly toadying paean to the increasingly egregious Paul Ryan by the increasingly alarming Ryan Lizza. With one or two fleeting exceptions, of which I doubt that Lizza himself grasps the significance, the piece reads as if it came straight out of Frankenryan's PR shop. It's pretty much PRyan's own view of himself and the world he lives in, faithfully transcribed by RyanL as if it were true.

The coincidence of the Medicare anniversary is oddly ironic, because as we all recall from the 2010 election season, Medicare is a program that all the Teabagging cretins managed to forget as they blithered their imbecilic diatribes against government. And the egregious PRyan is one of the more immediate threats in the land to the future of Medicare as well as Social Security.

Early on in RyanL's puff piece, there's a surely unintended glimpse of his status as a made-to-order mark for a self-importantly earnestly geeky self-promoter like PRyan:
Unlike most members of Congress these days, Ryan is relatively accessible to reporters. "The key to understanding me is really simple," he said. "I am not trying to be anybody other than who I actually am." Even his ideological foes comment on his friendliness and good nature. After his sophomore year in high school, back in 1986, he worked the grill at McDonald's. "The manager didn't think I had the social skills to work the counter," he said. "And now I'm in Congress!"

RyanL appears so enthralled by his access to PRyan that he appears to completely miss the chill of that declaration, "And now I'm in Congress!," coming from a man who historically lacks the social skills to work the counter at McDonald's.

We do learn some interesting things about PRyan, like the big-fish-in-a-small-pond world of entitlement he was born into:
Janesville, Wisconsin, where Ryan was born and still lives, is a riverfront city of sixty-four thousand people in the southeast corner of the state, between Madison and Chicago. Three families, the Ryans, the Fitzgeralds, and the Cullens, sometimes called the Irish Mafia, helped develop the town, especially in the postwar era. The Ryans were major road builders, and today Ryan, Inc., started in 1884 by Paul's great-grandfather, is a national construction firm. The historic Courthouse section of Janesville is still thick with members of the Ryan clan. At last count, there were eight other Ryan households within a six-block radius of his house, a large Georgian Revival with six bedrooms and eight bathrooms that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

PRyan makes an enormous effort, and it's completely successful with RyanL, to portray himself as an aw-shucks ordinary feller, a true man of the people. The reality, it appears, is that he has always had an inborn sense of entitlement -- the unearned sense of self of a born princeling.

We learn too that, at age 16, PRyan suffered a trauma from which it seems likely he's never recovered:
[T]he summer of 1986 brought a life-changing event. One night in August, he came home from work well past midnight, and he slept late the following morning. His mother was in Colorado visiting his sister, and his brother, who had a summer job with the Janesville parks department, had left early. Paul answered a frantic phone call from his father's secretary. "Your dad's got clients in here," she said. "Where is he?" Paul walked into his parents' bedroom and thought his father was sleeping. "I went to wake him up," he told me, "and he was dead."

"It was just a big punch in the gut," Ryan said. "I concluded I've got to either sink or swim in life." His mother went back to school, in Madison, and studied interior design; his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer's, moved into their home, and Ryan helped care for her. "I grew up really fast," he said.

One can feel sincerely sorry for little PRyan -- though "a big punch in the gut" does seem a curious way of describing it, especially at this remove in time. It suggests that even grown-up PRyan thinks his father's death was all about him. And despite his description of his supposed accelerated growing up, and with all possible allowance for the great stress of those years, it seems more likely that the upshot was that the little brat never did grow up. If you understand him as being emotionally frozen in time at the age of 16, at which point he was apparently a profoundly maladroit social misfit, lacking the social skills for McDonald's counter work, then I think you've got the profile of the adult PRyan. It's a shame no one put him together with the kind of mental help he clearly needed at the time, but that's water under the bridge now.

Naturally that misanthropic loon Ayn Rand makes her appearance:
His father's death also provoked the kind of existential soul-searching that most kids don't undertake until college. "I was, like, ‘What is the meaning?' " he said. "I just did lots of reading, lots of introspection. I read everything I could get my hands on." Like many conservatives, he claims to have been profoundly affected by Ayn Rand. After reading "Atlas Shrugged," he told me, "I said, ‘Wow, I've got to check out this economics thing.' What I liked about her novels was their devastating indictment of the fatal conceit of socialism, of too much government." He dived into Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Milton Friedman.
My read: He read and read and read, and managed never to get deeper into "this economics thing" than the cartoon world of his beloved Ayn. Howie has written so much here about the breadth and depth of PRyan's economic ignorance that I'm not going to mine that pit here.

Again, there's no indication that RyanL has any clue as to the significance of this next story, set up by PRyan's profession of great hopefulness about developing a good working relationship with the new president, Barack Obama, based on all their similarities. (Well, they're from relatively close parts of the country, and they both like sports, and . . . well, you'll have to read this for yourself.) So imagine his surprise when -- after all those years of savaging Democrats -- poor PRyan finds himself in the president's crosshairs. It's the classic case of an individual with absolutely no insight into or understanding of himself (this is, after all, the man who grew out of the boy who lacked the social skills to work the counter at McDonald's), and doesn't hear a single word that comes out of his ignorant, poisonous mouth.
In mid-April of 2011, in a speech at George Washington University, Obama once again decided to make an example of Ryan. Republicans were finally about to vote on the Path to Prosperity, and the President was eager to offer his opinion. Obama, for nearly the first time in his Presidency, emphasized the ideological divide between the two parties rather than offering bromides about what they shared. The White House invited Ryan to the speech and reserved a V.I.P. seat for him. Obama had personally called Ryan after Republicans won the majority in the House the previous November, and Ryan thought the two might have a rapport. They both liked sports and, because Ryan's district runs along the Illinois border close to Chicago, knew many of the same people. "He's a cerebral guy who likes policy, and he's from my part of the country," Ryan said. "At the beginning, I did have some hope."

Ryan sat in the front row as the President shredded his plan. "I believe it paints a vision of our future that's deeply pessimistic," Obama said. "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don't think there's anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill."

Ryan seemed genuinely shocked. During a radio interview later in the day, he complained that Obama had called him "un-American," and he objected to the charge that he was "pitting children with autism or Down syndrome against millionaires and billionaires" and "ending America as we know it." Ryan told me, "I was expecting some counteroffer of some kind. What we got was the gauntlet of demagoguery."

Alas, poor PRyan, tragic victim of "the gauntlet of demagoguery"!

Finally, there is the one moment when RyanL clearly does see a wee problem with PRyan's self-presentation. Much is made in the piece of PRyan's moving commitment to his home region, and to its bounceback from the devastation of Janesville's abandonment by GM -- no longer as a manufacturing center (nothing is made there now, we're told), but as a distribution center. As we'll see in a moment, even the generally clueless PRyan grasps that such bounceback as Janesville has achieved has been largely attributable to government spending. But . . . .
When I pointed out to Ryan that government spending programs were at the heart of his home town's recovery, he didn't disagree. But he insisted that he has been misunderstood. "Obama is trying to paint us as a caricature," he said. "As if we're some bizarre individualists who are hardcore libertarians. It's a false dichotomy and intellectually lazy." He added, "Of course we believe in government. We think government should do what it does really well, but that it has limits, and obviously within those limits are things like infrastructure, interstate highways, and airports." But independent assessments make clear that Ryan's budget plan, in order to achieve its goals, would drastically reduce the parts of the budget that fund exactly the kinds of projects and research now helping Janesville.
Um, oops!

And this is the man who would at least like to be thought of as the brains, economically speaking, of the House Republican caucus. It's my understanding that PRyan is a lot less popular among House Republicans than RyanL seems to think. Nevertheless, it remains entirely possible, given sufficiently disastrous 2012 election results, that a Republican-controlled White House and Senate as well as House could shove into law some version of PRyan's economic "reforms." If there's anyone who isn't terrified by that possibility, I don't know what it would take.

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Ed Royce, Another Countrywide Bandito From California


These days, when most California voters think about the Countrywide scandal, they probably think about the only congressman seeking reelection who was found to be taking personal bribes-- rather than just campaign contributions-- from Countrywide, Buck McKeon. But on the other side of Los Angeles County there's another longtime Republican incumbent, one who's kept his head down while amassing power, nearly as guilty as McKeon. We've talked about what a sleazebag Ed Royce is before. But since Blue America is getting ready to formally endorse his progressive opponent, Jay Chen, I thought today might be a good day remind people what kind of character Royce is (beyond just all the racism and bigotry).

Royce has long been in the pocket of Wall Street bankers and has collected millions from the financial services and insurance industries he so passionately deregulates. Sitting on a number of financial committees, Royce has very effectively sold himself and his votes to the banks that have been driving this country into the ground. In fact, no California Representative has received more campaign contributions from the financial services industry than Royce ($4,209,456 since 1989 and already $794,605 this cycle alone), and bankers are getting what they paid for.

Royce, one of the few senior Republicans to actually officially join Bachmann's crazy Tea Party Caucus, was Sarah Palin’s choice for chairman of the House Financial Services committee. That was either despite or because of-- who knows-- the fact that, as a ranking member, he championed the deregulation and risk-taking (akin to unregulated casino gambling) that allowed bankers to plunge our country into a second Great Depression. He voted against regulating the subprime mortgage industry, voted against taxing the bonuses of TARP recipients, and he still opposes the Volcker rule despite J.P. Morgan’s $2 billion debacle.

Half a dozen of Congress' shadiest members

But that’s not Royce’s biggest financial secret. A model of what banks have done to infect our congressional halls, Royce was the recipient of the largest amount of donations from Countrywide, receiving a whopping total of $37,500 since 1989. If you haven't been following the Buck McKeon scandal and the name Countrywide sounds familiar, it’s probably because it is-- Countrywide stirred up news outlets back in 2008 when a financial political loan scandal broke out that revealed the mortgage lender to be giving favorable mortgage rates to top politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Countrywide’s campaign contributions weren’t loans, but they were investments. Unfortunately, these “investments” didn’t work, and the failing financial group was purchased by Bank of America soon after.

So what? Though Royce must be upset to see one of his income streams blocked off, he is by no means receiving any less from other financial services and insurance companies. Having received $2,597,049 from banksters and Big Insurance CEOs, Royce has never hesitated to vote for the interests of lobbyists who have pumped immense sums into his career. The concept of "conflict or interest" never seems to cross his mind when it comes to voting for the bandits who have financed his cushy career and lifestyle.

What can we do about this? For your average citizen, stopping top banks from influencing our self-proclaimed leaders is a daunting-- if not impossible-- task. And that's why Blue America doesn't follow the diktats the DCCC tries to enforce on progressive groups and why we're focusing on electing leaders who are responsible and accountable for their actions, and who don’t vote based on the size of their wallets, and defeating Republican culprits like Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, Buck McKeon and Ed Royce, who the DCCC always gives a free pass to reelection.

In the new 39th District, Democratic challenger and small businessman Jay Chen has begun a competitive race against a startlingly vulnerable Royce, who has been uprooted from his financial throne in Orange County and placed into a district that is now 30% Asian American and 30% Latino. Unlike Royce, Chen strives for financial accountability and will make sure that America doesn’t collapse even when big banks do.

A week from tomorrow Blue America will be live blogging at Crooks and Liars with Jay. We'll remind you. Meanwhile, tomorrow, please stop by at 2pm (EST) to meet the newly endorsed Blue America candidate from West Virginia, Sue Thorn. Sue's on the same page as Jay when it comes to protecting consumers, customers and society from predatory banksters-- and they're on this same page as well.

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Will Suzan DelBene's Potential Felony Hand The New WA-01 Seat to Teabagger John Koster?


While Blue America-endorsed progressive Darcy Burner is busy building a grassroots-funded campaign with over 9,000 donors, empty suit New Dem Suzan DelBene and her rich husband are trying to buy the seat, putting over $1.9 million of their own money into the race, dwarfing Burner and the three other Democrats in the race by a 4 to 1 margin. But if the Republican-controlled House Ethics committee has anything to say about it, a DelBene victory in the primary would almost certainly hand the seat over to extreme right-wing Republican John Koster. In 2011, DelBene refused to file the financial disclosure form that all candidates are required to file. Refusing to file the form is a federal felony punishable by up to $50,000 and five years in prison. While no one has filed a complaint against DelBene yet, Republicans will almost certainly go after DelBene in the general election for a seat that many consider to be one of the top Republican pick-up opportunities in the country. When voters are presented with a choice between a Tea Party Republican and a criminal, corporatist Democrat, no one will win.

The big question DelBene's failure to file her disclosure raises is what she might be hiding that would want her not to reveal her finances. Sound familiar? Everyone in America now knows that multimillionaire Mitt Romney is engulfed in a scandal because he didn't release his tax returns and refuses to disclose his assets and finances and DelBene is following that same path. That's not where the comparison to Romney ends, either. DelBene is a serial business failure in every way but one: she made lots of money for herself as she caused nothing but economic devastation around her. Also like Romney, DelBene is a favorite of the Inside-the-Beltway corrupt Establishment and she's gotten the backing of the New Dems and the DCCC has asked donors to keep out of the race, which effectively handed a big fund-raising advantage to DelBene, the only candidate in the race with enough money to self-finance. The comparisons between DelBene and Romney are enough that independent expenditures from Progress for Washington-- a SuperPAC funded by the mother of another Democrat in the race, Laura Ruderman-- repeatedly suggested that there was little difference between the two.

DelBene tries to position herself as a defender of the middle class and as a progressive, but that doesn't even pass a basic laugh test. Progressive groups have lined up to support Burner while the organizations that are supporting DelBene are doing so out of a fear of her massive bankroll and the party establishment's veiled warnings. DelBene lives the life of the quintessential 1-percenter and while she tries to claim that she was poor at one point and had to rely upon financial aid, she spent a lot of time skiing in Vail and attending prestigious private school Choate when her family was supposedly "struggling."

The important concern for November, however, is answering the question of whether or not DelBene is a felon who will be destroyed by the likely massive outside money that will flow into the district to flip the seat to the Republicans. It's hard to see how DelBene can explain away the failure to follow the law. Federal law requires that all candidates file a personal financial disclosure within 30 days of qualifying as a candidate. Qualifying is very specifically defined as having raised or spent $5,000 on campaign expenditures during a calendar year. DelBene passed the $5,000 level in two separate quarters in 2011 and has not, as of yet, filed a disclosure for that year.  

DelBene might argue that she didn't file a disclosure in 2011 because that she wouldn't be required to do so because those funds were leftovers from her unsuccessful 2010 run for Congress. But that would make her spending totals for the year not make a lot of sense:

Q1- $5,138.15
Q2- $857.95
Q3- $1,246.25
Q4- $8,243.38

While you can see the argument that Q1 was the continuation of the 2010 campaign and even Q2, in Q3 the spending starts ramping up again and really ramps up in Q4. Why would it ramp up again in Q4 to pay off 2010 debts? She didn't file to run for 2012 until January and never filed the required 2011 disclosure. Campaigns that are ending have to file a termination report with the Federal Elections Commission and/or a Withdrawal form with the House Clerk's office. DelBene did neither.

So the question is why didn't she submit the disclosure? What is she hiding? How much money will Republicans spend to make this a story if DelBene is the nominee? And just how bad is John Koster, the Republican that will win the seat if DelBene is the nominee?

Koster was endorsed by Ron Paul and agreed with Campaign For Liberty 100% on their 2010 questionnaire, including paranoia over a 'NAFTA Superhighway' and policies pulling the U.S. out of the U.N. and strengthening the gold standard. Koster is a proponent of privatizing Social Security. He wants expanded offshore oil drilling. He rejects the science on human-made global warming. He rejects marriage equality and doesn't even seem to know that there is a federal Defense of Marriage Act. While DelBene certainly shouldn't be a Member of Congress, John Koster really shouldn't be a Member of Congress and supporting DelBene in the primary almost certainly guarantees that Koster will be moving from Washington state to Washington, D.C.

Here's where you can help Darcy Burner win this seat. The polls have tightened up drastically as DelBene has closed in on over a million dollars in self-funded TV advertising. She's running her race like a Republican; she's already joined the corrupt anti-family New Dems and there's no reason to believe that a district like WA-01 should have to chose between two brands of conservatism in November.

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Although Those Countries May Barely Notice, Some Americans May Wonder Why Romney Is Snubbing Italy And Ireland


The verdict is certainly in on Romney's publicity stunt of a sojourn to the land of the Anglo Saxons: unmitigated p.r. disaster. Maureen Dowd used her analysis of it as an opportunity to give Obama a back-handed endorsement: "Romney programmed himself into a robot, so he wouldn’t boil over with opinions and convictions, like his more genuine dad. But if we’re going to have someone who’s removed, always struggling to connect and emote, why not stick with the president we already have? Better the android you know than the android you don’t know." Her column, wasn't nearly as cutting as the U.K. press, which nicknamed him "Mitt the Twit" and delighted in informing the British public that the Conservative officials who met with him found him "apparently devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity." That's our Mitt!

In her Sunday column Dowd explained why he so cautious and scripted in terms of his father's ruined political ambitions. "Mitt began to build his own sterile biosphere, shaping his temperament and political career to make sure he never stumbled into such a costly moment of candor... limiting access to reporters, giving interviews mostly to Fox News, hiding personal data, resisting putting out concrete policy proposals, refusing to release tax returns, trimming his conscience to match the moment, avoiding spontaneity."
Even as he angled to appear Anglo-Saxon and obsequiously vowed to restore the bust of Churchill to the Oval Office, Mitt condescended to the nation that invented condescension. The Brits swiftly boxed his ears for his insolence and foul calumny.

Conservatives in London oozed scorn. Mayor Boris Johnson mocked “a guy called Mitt Romney,” and Prime Minister David Cameron suggested it was easier to run an Olympics “in the middle of nowhere.” Fleet Street spanked “Nowhere Man” and “Mitt the Twit.”

Conservatives on Fox News were dumbfounded. “You have to shake your head,” Karl Rove said. Charles Krauthammer pronounced the faux pas “unbelievable, it’s beyond human understanding, it’s incomprehensible. I’m out of adjectives.”

The alarming thing about Romney is that he has been running for president for years, but he still doesn’t know how to read a room. He doesn’t take anything in, he just puts it out. He doesn’t hear himself the way the rest of us hear him.

In the Mitt-sphere, populated by his shiny white family, the Mormon Church and a narrow, homogenous inner circle, Romney’s image of himself as wise, caring, smart and capable is relentlessly reinforced. That leaves him constantly surprised that other people don’t love what he is saying.

We may wince when the blithering toff, or want-wit, as Shakespeare would say, arrives at the Brits’ home and throws his Cherry Coke Zero can in the prize rose bushes. But what drives his gaffes is his desire to preen over accomplishments.

As a candidate, he’s expected to stoop to conquer, to play a man of the people. But he really wants voters to know that he earned $250 million, and not even in the same business where his dad made a name for himself.

So he keeps blurting out hoity-toity stuff to make sure we know he’s not hoi polloi-- about his friends who are Nascar owners, his wife’s Cadillacs, how he likes to fire people and how he, too, is unemployed. And he builds a car elevator in the middle of an economic slough.

The Brits boxed his ears. Great fun... ho ho. But they don't vote and Americans voters, by and large, don't care that he made a bore and a clown out of himself in London. He didn't do any substantive damage to the Special Relationship, not even by babbling inappropriately about the head of the MI-6. If anything, he helped burnish Obama's image with the British people-- and their Conservative government-- as the right man for the U.S. presidency. Mitt's just a light-weight gaffe machine with a lot of wealthy Mormon friends and a lot of wealthy reactionary friends trying to buy the White House. No harm done. But that wasn't the case in Israel. And I'm not talking about more glaring missteps like scheduling a $50,000/plate banquet on a solemn fast and mourning day, Tisha b'Av and then putting it off for a day and doing a photo opportunity at the Wailing Wall instead. Tisha b'Av is a day of mourning for Jews-- the day Solomon's Temple was destroyed. Of all places and times to schedule a photo op, this was just wrong-- just vulgar and crude. But that's not going to do any substantive damage to the other Special (non Anglo Saxon) Relationship either. At least Bishop Romney didn't start baptizing dead Jews while he was there or-- if he did-- managed to keep it as secret as his 2009 tax returns.

But between all the gaffes, ugly American behavior and slapstick, there was something seriously disturbing and real world problematic-- Romney interfering with delicate, ultra-sensitive foreign policy to make narrow partisan points while overseas. Did he think our Arab allies weren't watching when he went to an Adelson-owned far right newspaper and denounced the new pro-democracy governments in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt? What kind of message was he sending (other than to get the Republican base to vote for him)? As David Kirkpatrick explained to NY Times readers, Romney inserted the Arab Spring into the American elections for the first time. "Romney," he wrote, "discussed the Arab Spring revolts as a problem rather than progress. He asserted against some evidence that the Obama administration had abandoned an agenda of pushing for democratic reform pursued by George W. Bush, and he characterized even the most moderate and Western-friendly Islamists-- those in the political parties leading legislatures in Tunisia and Morocco-- as political opponents. The last runs counter to the Obama administration’s strategy, endorsed by some Republicans in Congress, of building alliances with moderate Islamists where possible." And, as always with Romney, it got worse. "What is this man doing here?" asked Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian negotiator. "Yesterday, he destroyed negotiations by saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and today he is saying Israeli culture is more advanced than Palestinian culture. Isn't this racism?" But Romney, seated next to Jabba-the-Hutt-like Adelson, was determined to say whatever was required to raise money. And seeking to score points back home, he did some anti-Iran saber rattling in Israel, giving Israel's far right a green light to go ahead and bomb Iran and count on help from a Romney government. This alone should disqualify him from even getting the GOP nomination.
President Obama has also affirmed the right of Israel to defend itself but, in contrast to Romney, Obama has warned of the consequences of an Israeli strike on Iran.

"Already, there is too much loose talk of war," Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March. "Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built."

While Romney is left to implicit contrasts with his Democratic opponent, Obama has been focusing on Israel, signing legislation on Friday increasing military and civilian ties between the U.S. and Israel. And he authorized the release of an additional $70 million in military aid for Israel, a previously announced move that appeared timed to Romney's trip.

Pentagon officials have spoken publicly about the difficulty of such a strike and American officials have expressed concern about the destabilizing effect such military action could have in the region, even if carried out successfully.

The goofball who made such a hash out of Bush communications on Iraq policy, Dan Senor, has been tasked with the same job for Romney... and, predictably, with the same results. His Tisha b'Av pronouncement was “If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability the governor would respect that decision." Romney making a fool out of himself in London is one thing... threatening nuclear war against Iran is something else. The man is a danger-- not to Iran, but to America. Let's hope he doesn't start denouncing "the Soviet Union" again when he begins his visit to Poland today, where he's making a blatant play for Polish-American votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio. (I wonder why he's skipping Ireland and Italy.) Romney is, however, expected o offer to add Poland to the visa waiver program in return for Polish-American votes. "Craven" and "opportunistic" barely describe the man's character.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Larry Kissell... Very Sad


If you just discovered DWT or Blue America in the last 2 or 3 years this may sound incongruous, but there was a time we used to cooperate, to one extent or another, with the DCCC. After all, they were trying to elect Democrats, occasionally even progressive ones, and they were the guys with the big bank account holding back the Republican barbarian hordes. Or so we told ourselves.

In 2008 Blue America took a big interest in the Robin Hayes/Larry Kissell rematch. Two years earlier the progressive school teacher Kissell-- with no help from the DCCC-- had nearly bested the multimillionaire incumbent Hayes. The 50/50 vote was Hayes- 60,926; Kissell- 60,597-- a 329 vote difference. Blue America got behind Kissell in a much bigger way than how we supported most candidates. Aside from raising money for his campaign, we gave him tactical advise and, in late October we did the single biggest independent expenditure in our history. Kissell, running on an entirely progressive/populist platform won a smashing victory, clobbering Hayes 157,185 (55%)- 126,634 (45%)... 3 points better than Obama's 53% win over McCain in the district.

But almost as soon as Kissell got to Congress, he started to change. The outspoken progressive champion wasn't quite so outspoken at first. And then he wasn't progressive either. The DCCC got to him and told him that if he hoped to hold the seat, he would have to vote like a conservative. He's a weak, insecure, vane and vacillating man-- and he flipped. He started voting regularly with the Blue Dogs and, shockingly, after the Great Blue Dog Apocalypse of 2010, he actually joined the shriveled, shrunken caucus. Now he has no support among the progressives who elected him in the first place and the Republican-controlled legislature has redistricted him in such a way that he can't possibly win. Recall a minute ago when I mentioned Obama scored 53% in NC-8? Under the new lines, he would have scored 42%. Kissell is toast and he has virtually no chance to beat a corrupt Republican establishment hack named Richard Hudson, who won the GOP primary a couple weeks ago with a gigantic cash infusion of Chinese prostitution money (via Sheldon Adelson and Eric Cantor). A real Democrat would be able to make that work for him. But not Kissell. He has no credibility with anyone. Yesterday Think Progress reported that he's now trying to take credit for the benefits his constituents are starting to get from the Affordable Care Act, even though he was one of the Blue Dogs who voted against it-- and then joined with the GOP to repeal it!
Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC) voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and was one of five Democrats to support repeal of the law earlier this year. But opposition to health care reform hasn’t stopped this two-term Congressman from taking credit for it.

In June, Kissell bragged about helping secure $379,167 in federal money provided by the Act “for a new health care clinic near China Grove in Rowan County.” “I’m glad to have worked to help secure this funding and will continue to make sure that our tax dollars are being spent here at home to put people to work and take care of our citizens,” Kissell said in a release and then dodged reporters who pressed him on the hypocrisy...

Kissell has also “refused to endorse Obama’s re-election bid” and joined Republicans in voting to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.

But guess who loves Larry Kissell? "Ex"-Blue Dog Steve Israel, chairman of the DCCC, won't help endangered progressives who are struggling for reelection-- let alone progressive challengers going up against GOP monstrosities like Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Buck McKeon-- but he sure put Kissell right up on the DCCC Frontline candidates list, making him eligible for millions of dollars in ad money the DCCC will waste on trying to reelect him. Kissell doesn't deserve reelection-- and he certainly doesn't deserve any help from real Democrats. If you contribute to the DCCC, some of that money will find its way into Larry Kissell's campaign. If you want to see a more progressive, pro-family, pro-worker, pro-environment Democrat in Congress from North Carolina, think about Patsy Keever. She's running against corporate whore and deceitful closet case Patrick McHenry in a district that is somewhat bluer than it's ever been-- bluer because the state legislature was trying to make Kissell's district redder. It would be a GREAT trade-off. Needless to say, Steve Israel and the DCCC isn't lifting a finger for Patsy. Once she beat Israel's handpicked recruit, an anti-Choice, antigay conservaDem, the DCCC decided the district was no longer viable. That's how they roll. If you can, please consider making a contribution to Patsy's campaign in NC-10. She has a sterling voting record as an activist and as a state Rep.

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