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Chernynkaya On January - 12 - 2012

JAM-PACKED! You can access all the past editions of The Daily Planet on the green Category bar on the top of each page under the heading PlanetPOV.

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BUDGET

USDA to shut down 259 offices in cost-saving initiative despite recalls & food safety concerns

Food Navigator:

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said on Monday it intends to close 259 offices, facilities and laboratories across the United States, as part of an effort to save about $150m a year in the agency’s $145bn budget.

 

 

 

BUSINESS

Hostess Brands Goes Bankrupt (Again), Stiffs Workers For a Billion

Daily Kos:

After months of coercive threats, Hostess Brands is filing for bankruptcy for the second time in less than a decade. Hostess has assets galore- 40 odd bakeries with replacement values of $10,000,000 and up, around 400 depots and thrift stores on valuable retail turf that are easily worth at least a million apiece, 10,000 smaller trucks, 1000 big trucks, and 2000 semitrailers worth a few hundred million. Even the odds and ends of the asset inventory are huge- like around a hundred thousand shipping “racks” worth several hundred dollars each and god only knows how many baking pans and such.

Biggest losers in this corporate shakedown are the workers- Hostess owes damn near a billion to the bakers pension fund alone, and there’s a bunch of other pension funds Hostess has stiffed as well. These are hard working folks- less than a hundred Bakers can bake enough bread to feed several million mouths, and it takes only another hundred or so Teamsters to deliver it.

Some background… […[

Bankruptcy number one was filed in the fall of 2004 for no good reason. Interstate had assets galore and was current on it’s liabilities- I pulled up a bunch of their property tax records then and found that they were not only current, but in fact had paid property taxes six months and more early. The nearly five year long bankruptcy produced little improvements in efficiency, only wage and benefit concessions. And despite having just expanded the corporate offices in Kansas City, on emerging from bankruptcy number one the executives changed the company’s name to Hostess Brands and leased some pricey office space in more fashionable Houston.

Hostess has been coercing further concessions around a year now, and the union’s membership have rightly rebuked them. Several months ago Hostess quit making contractually and legally obligated payments to the pension plans completely. Having failed to intimidate their union workers, Hostess has filed for bankruptcy, again. Our pensions are threatened, while the company’s retired executives relax in the wealthier suburbs of Kansas City and other environments… You can look up their swank addresses and maxed out contributions to the republicans at opensecrets.org.

One bankruptcy is… Enough!

This retired Teamster Hostess worker and her brothers and sisters have had enough of “convenience” bankruptcies. It’s time for the bankruptcy courts to say “No” and tell Hostess and similar deadbeat corporations to end the shakedown of their workers and pay up, even if it requires a “clawback” of those millions in unearned executive bonuses. Greedy CEO’s will fleece us again and again… Until we stop them!

 

 

 

Consumer Protection Agency Gets Started on Shadow Lenders. Step One: Mortgage Originators 

The People’s View:

With a director now in place, America’s first ever agency to solely have as its purpose the protection of consumers sprung into action. Their first non-bank target: the mortgage industry. Today, they released an examination procedure to subject non-bank entities associated with a mortgage process – brokers, non-bank lenders (ahem Countrywide before being bought by BofA ahem) and servicers – to the same level of scrutiny the agency has already been providing for bank lenders, ending the area of the mortgage market where the sun don’t shine.

 Until now, a significant part of the mortgage market — which includes independent lenders, brokers, servicers, and others unaffiliated with banks and depository institutions — has not been subject to federal supervision. This “nonbank” mortgage sector included many of the largest subprime lenders during the housing bubble. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act significantly reformed the gaps in federal supervision of the mortgage market by providing the CFPB with authority to supervise a range of mortgage participants.

These product-specific procedures are an extension of the CFPB’s general Supervisory and Examination Manual. The Mortgage Origination Examination Procedures outline the CFPB’s supervisory approach to ensure mortgage originators — lenders and brokers — comply with federal consumer financial laws.

MORE>>>

 

 

 

FACT: 60% of businesses with $1M+ in profits are structured to avoid ALL federal taxes 

WSJ:
StoneMor Partners LP, the publicly traded firm that specializes in running cemeteries, expects to see handsome profits in coming years as baby boomers age and die. But unlike its largest rivals, its corporate tax bill from the federal government will be zero.

StoneMor is among the many businesses organized so they don’t pay a penny in federal corporate income tax. And yet such firms don’t employ an army of accountants to shield profits in complex tax shelters. Their enviable tax position is perfectly legal and has been encouraged by Congress and state governments.

 

 

 

PBS: You Need to Hear This–Do you know who makes your iPhone? 

MR. DAISEY AND THE APPLE FACTORY

Mike Daisey was a self-described “worshipper in the cult of Mac.” Then he saw some photos from a new iPhone, taken by workers at the factory where it was made. Mike wondered: Who makes all my crap? He traveled to China to find out.

LISTEN TO THIS HERE. You may never buy an iPhone again.

 

 

 

ECONOMY

A big thing the Obama Administration could do to boost the economy.

Brad DeLong:

If I were running the Obama Administration right now?

I would immediately recess-appoint Joe Gagnon to be Director of FHFA. I would tell him to expand the portfolios of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by offering everybody in the country a refi of their current consolidated home equity and mortgage principal balance at the conforming mortgage rate–with an appropriate shared-appreciation kicker if the resulting loan amount is not “conforming”, paying due attention not just to credit-market efficiency but to microeconomic externalities.

Ezra Klein:

Mass refinancing: The ‘biggest thing’ Obama can do without Congress: From 2001 to 2003, Glenn Hubbard served as President George W. Bush’s chief economist…. [R]ight now, the candidate who could most benefit from his advice is President Obama. Hubbard is an advocate for using Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to set off a nationwide wave of mortgage refinancing. In a paper co-authored with Columbia economist Christopher Mayer, Hubbard estimates that more than 75 percent of the homeowners with 30-year mortgages backed by Fannie or Freddie are paying interest rates higher than 5 percent. But for the past two years, interest rates have been closer to 4 percent. That means tens of millions of Americans are paying more than they need to every single month…. Those homeowners represent one of the president’s few remaining opportunities to help a substantial number of Americans…. In recent months, the White House has come to an overdue realization: Republicans in Congress will not… work with them on anything big…. This has led to the “we can’t wait” campaign, in which the president maximizes his executive authority to make changes….

A… promising avenue for an impatient administration is to recess-appoint a new director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority — the body that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The FHFA is led by Edward DeMarco, a career civil servant who became acting director when James Lockhart, Bush’s pick, stepped down early in Obama’s term. DeMarco is respected by both sides of the aisle, but he has opposed many of the Obama administration’s efforts to use Fannie and Freddie to help the ailing housing system. The Obama administration waited until late 2010 to nominate its own candidate to lead Fannie and Freddie…. Since then, the Obama administration has worked to move DeMarco in its direction, and achieved some notable successes. But in a white paper released last week, the Federal Reserve echoed the consensus of many housing experts in finding that much could still be done if the authority could be convinced to interpret its mandate more broadly. “Actions that cause greater losses to be sustained by [Fannie and Freddie] in the near term might be in the interest of taxpayers to pursue if those actions result in a quicker and more vigorous economic recovery,” the Fed wrote….

Joe Gagnon, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, [writes:] “this is the single biggest thing the president can do without a vote in Congress. It’s a no-brainer. It’s been a no-brainer for years.”

So isn’t it time to stop waiting?

Failing a recess-appointment of Joe Gagnon to head FHFA, what would I do?

Well, I would fast-track nominate Glenn Hubbard to be Director of FHFA.

I would then send Glenn around to the Republican senators telling them: “Look. Confirm me immediately. I’m a Republican–and a partisan one–and the current political-year benefits from this are shared between Obama and my candidate for President, Romney, and the benefits from this in terms of recovered housing construction and lower nationwide unemployment won’t show up until next year, when we can all credit them to President Romney.”

[Interesting comment]

R. Johnston said…

“If I were running the Obama Administration right now?

I would immediately recess-appoint Joe Gagnon to be Director of FHFA.”

U.S. Constitution, Art II, sec. 3: “[The President] may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them.”

If I were running the Obama Administration right now I’d declare the Senate’s complete failure to properly consider nominations an “extraordinary occasion” and I’d announce that in one week a special session of the Senate will convene and will stay in continuous session 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the Senate takes an up-or-down vote on every nominee who’s been pending for 30 days or more.

I probably wouldn’t be a very good President, but I would treat the Senate with the respect it deserves.

 

 

 

Obama to Unveil New Tax Proposals: Will reward companies that bring jobs back to U.S. 

Reuters:

President Barack Obama vowed on Wednesday to help bring jobs home from overseas and promised new tax proposals to reward companies that invest in America as he launched an election-year effort to show he is tackling high unemployment.

Obama’s latest jobs push appeared timed to steal back the spotlight and draw a contrast with Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, whose rivals have accused him of once being a ruthless corporate raider who laid off U.S. workers and shipped jobs overseas.

Highlighting what the White House touts as a growing trend but which some economists say has yet to gather much steam, Obama put the focus on businesses that have chosen to “insource” jobs from abroad and urged others to follow their lead.

“In the next few weeks, I will put forward new tax proposals that reward companies that choose to bring jobs home and invest in America and we’re going to eliminate tax breaks for companies that are moving jobs overseas,” Obama told business leaders and state and local officials.

The White House declined to give specifics about the new ideas but repeated its call for Congress to enact some of those already put forth, including making a research and development tax credit permanent, allowing businesses to write off new equipment and providing a hiring credit for adding new workers.

Any new tax initiatives would require approval by Congress, where the Democratic president faces continued stiff resistance on tax policy from his Republican foes.

Obama was hosting a White House forum on “Insourcing American Jobs,” a message that could resonate with middle-class voters and unionized workers whose support he will need to win re-election in November.

His push for corporate America to return more jobs to U.S. soil after years of hiring workers in lower-wage countries like China and India ties in with the increasingly populist theme of his re-election campaign.

Obama’s new effort came just a day after Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, won New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary election.

Before seeking public office, Romney headed investment firm Bain Capital that took over distressed companies and sometimes outsourced production to China and other emerging markets. He says his business experience will help him revive the U.S. economy.

At the White House, Obama pressed companies to invest and hire more in the United States instead of moving jobs overseas, saying “labor costs are going up in places like China” while U.S. workers are becoming more productive.

Leaving little doubt that election politics were in play, Obama said he wanted the next generation of manufacturing jobs to “take root in places like Michigan and Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina.” All four are key election battlegrounds.

CARROT-AND-STICK APPROACH?

Lobbyists and congressional aides said Obama is likely to revive many of his earlier international tax proposals and also propose tighter limits on the ability of corporations to avoid taxes by parking profits in low-tax countries.

“I’d envision some type of carrot-and-stick approach that offers tax incentives to firms that keep jobs here while penalizing firms that outsource,” said Greg Valliere, an analyst at the Potomac Research Group.

For several years, Obama has proposed closing what he calls tax loopholes used by multinational firms, including those restricting the use of foreign tax credits, and preventing companies from deferring taxes on income earned abroad.

The administration had been drafting revisions to just the corporate side of the tax code but largely abandoned the effort over the past year after complaints that the tax code needs a massive overhaul and that many businesses file as individuals.

Executives from more than a dozen firms attended the meeting, including Ford Motor Co, computer chipmaker Intel, chemicals giant DuPont and padlock maker Master Lock plus U.S. subsidiaries of technology giant Siemens, engine maker Rolls-Royce and steel maker ThyssenKrupp.

“Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to the country that made our success possible,” Obama said. “And I’m going to do everything in my power to help you do it. We’re going to have to seize this moment.”

But those companies are credited so far with bringing back only modest numbers of jobs from overseas as the U.S. economy still struggles to heal after the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

While rising costs in emerging markets have prompted some U.S. firms to rethink their outsourcing strategy, questions remain whether it will become enough of a trend to start reversing decades of shipping U.S. jobs overseas.

“You don’t see a lot of evidence of it happening in a big way just yet,” said Michael Mandel, chief economic strategist for the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington.

He said a key obstacle was a lack of data comparing competitive advantages and disadvantages of operating in the United States versus foreign markets and he urged Obama to order the Labor Department to conduct studies to fill the gap.

The issue resonates strongly in Midwest industrial states such as Ohio and Michigan that have been hit hard by the 2007-2009 economic crisis and by years of shrinkage in manufacturing jobs.

Republicans vying to challenge Obama in November’s election have hammered him over his economic stewardship, contending that his regulatory policies – including new rules for the financial sector and the overhaul of the healthcare system – have discouraged investment and hampered job creation.

 

 

 

White House Blog: Everything You Need to Know About Insourcing 

What is insourcing?

After decades of watching American companies take jobs to other countries, we’re beginning to see entrepreneurs and manufactures make the decision to keep factories and production facilities here in the United States—or even bring jobs back to the U.S. from overseas.

How do we know this is happening?

For the past 22 months, the private sector has been hiring—to the tune of 3.2 million jobs. In 2011 alone, we saw private companies bring on almost 2 million new workers, more than in any year since 2005.

That’s good news, even if we still have a lot of ground to make up. And if you dive into the numbers (like those compiled in this new White House report), you’ll notice something interesting:

  • Business investment is up, growing by 18 percent since the end of 2009;
  • We’re exporting more goods and services to the rest of the world. As of October, American exports totaled $2 trillion — an increase of almost 32 percent above the level in 2009; and
  • Perhaps most importantly, the manufacturing sector is recovering faster than the rest of the economy. Through the course of the past two years, the economy has added 334,000 manufacturing job, and that’s the strongest two-year period of manufacturing growth since the 1990s.

Each of those facts is evidence of a growing trend of insourcing.

What does insourcing look like?

In addition to the broad trends, we’ve seen a slew of concrete examples of insourcing.

In recent months, large manufacturers like Ford and Caterpillar have announced large investments in U.S. facilities. In years past, these sorts of expansions have been aimed at facilities in Mexico, China, or Japan.

We’ve seen the same thing with smaller manufacturers.

In 2010, KEEN, the footwear designer, opened a 15,000-square-foot facility to manufacture boots in Portland, Oregon—moving production from China to a location just five miles from its corporate headquarters. The company also makes bags in California and socks in North Carolina. After watching costs rise in its Chinese factories, Master Lock began bringing production back to Milwaukee—the same place where the company was founded in 1921.

And it’s not just manufacturers. Service firms ranging from customer support centers to software developers to engineers are deciding to invest in the U.S. for their operations. Even foreign-domiciled firms are making the decision to take advantage of American productivity and innovation. Siemens, for example, spends nearly $50 million each year training its U.S. workforce, and ThyssenKrupp spent nearly $5 billion on its new steel and stainless steel manufacturing and processing plant in Alabama. Investments from companies like these reached $228 billion in 2010, an increase from $153 billion in 2009.

What’s causing it?

The cost of manufacturing in the U.S. is improving in relation to other countries.

We know labor costs are lower in places like China, but in many cases, costs in those countries are going up. At the same time, American workers, who have always been more productive than those in other countries, are becoming even more efficient.In the first quarter of 2009 alone, productivity rose nearly 13 percent.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2002 and 2010, only one of 19 other industrialized countries managed to improve its unit labor cost position in manufacturing more than the United States.

Manufacturers based in the U.S. have also been able to take advantage of a boom in domestic energy production. We’ve seen a surge in American natural gas production, which has lowered energy costs, reduced pollution, and driven investment in the industries that supply equipment to the natural gas sector and those that use natural gas to fuel production—all of which have helped firms make the decision to keep jobs in the U.S.

American service firms are taking advantage of new global markets.

As economies in other nations grow, there’s more demand for U.S. engineers, software developers, researchers, and consultants. At the same time, a range of barriers that once made it hard to market those services across borders have come down. As a result, the United States is poised to expand its trade surplus in services to $146 billion in 2010. Since 2003, that surplus has nearly tripled.

What can we do to encourage it?

If we want to encourage insourcing, there are four things the federal government needs to do:

  • Create incentives for businesses to invest in hiring and expanding;
  • Ensure that U.S. businesses seeking to expand globally have access to new markets;
  • Guarantee that American workers are the mostly highly-educated and best-trained in the world; and
  • Provide the financial and technical support necessary for companies to grow and expand.

The goal of today’s insourcing forum at the White House is to begin the discussion necessary to accomplish all four of those goals.

In the coming weeks, President Obama will put forward new tax proposals to reward companies that choose to invest or bring back jobs to the United States and to eliminate tax advantages for companies moving jobs overseas.

To learn more about things that President Obama has already proposed to support insourcing, check out the fact sheet.

 

 

 

Just 3 in 10 Americans say they are now hearing mostly bad news about the nation’s economy, a new poll says

POLITICO:

In a dramatic change from a few months ago, just three in 10 Americans say they are now hearing mostly bad news about the nation’s economy, according to a new poll out Wednesday.

A majority of Americans — 60 percent — say they are currently hearing a mix of good and bad economic news, the Pew Research Center’s latest News Interest Index survey found, marking a big turnaround from just a few months ago. A very small number, nine percent, say the economic news is mostly good, but that percentage has jumped three points since December.

Republicans’ views of the economy have significantly improved in recent months, pollsters noted. Just 33 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say economic news has been mostly bad as of late, dropping from 45 percent in December and a staggering 72 percent in October. Only two percent, however, say they are hearing mostly good news.

And the number of Democrats saying they are hearing mostly negative news has dropped to 23 percent. In December, 29 percent of Democrats and those leaning Democratic told pollsters the same, and in October, half said the news about the country’s economy was mostly negative. While one percent said they were hearing mostly good news in October, that number has leapt up to 12 percent.

Overall, Americans’ views on the nation’s economic news have shifted considerably since just last summer: Back in August 2011, a whopping 67 percent told pollsters they were listening to mostly negative economic news; just 30 percent said they were hearing a mix of good and bad news; and only one percent said it was mostly good news.

Pew surveyed 1,000 adults Jan. 5-8. The percentage of error is plus or minus four percentage points.

Meanwhile, the positive indicators from Wednesday’s poll were accompanied by welcome economic news from the Federal Reserve, which announced on the same day that the country’s national economic activity grew at a modest to moderate pace during the end of 2011.

The report’s summary suggested “ongoing improvement in economic conditions in recent months” in the late November to end of December period, as well as the most favorable conditions since late spring.

During this period, consumer spending grew in many parts of the country, while the travel and tourism sector also expanded. There were stronger demands in nonfinancial services and growth in manufacturing. Residential real estate markets continued to show sluggish growth, but commercial real estate markets showed signs of improvement, the Fed said.

 

 

 

Food Stamps helped almost 45M low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet in 2011

Center on Budget:

What Is SNAP?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. In 2011, it helped almost 45 million low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet in a typical month.

Nearly 75 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities.

After unemployment insurance, SNAP is the most responsive federal program providing additional assistance during economic downturns.  It also is an important nutritional support for low-wage working families and low-income seniors and people with disabilities with fixed incomes.

The federal government pays the full cost of SNAP benefits and splits the cost of administering the program with the states, which operate the program.

Who Is Eligible for SNAP?

Unlike most means-tested benefit programs, which are restricted to particular categories of low-income individuals, SNAP is broadly available to almost all households with low incomes. SNAP eligibility rules and benefit levels are, for the most part, uniform across the nation. Under federal rules, to qualify for SNAP benefits, a household must meet three criteria (although states have flexibility to adjust these limits):

  • Its total monthly income generally must be at or below 130 percent of the poverty line, or $2,008 (about $24,100 a year) for a three-person family in fiscal year 2012. Households with an elderly or disabled member need not meet this limit.

  • Its monthly net income, or income after deductions are applied for items such as high housing costs and child care, must be less than or equal to the poverty line (about $18,500 a year or $1,545 a month for a three-person family in fiscal year 2012).

  • Its assets must fall below certain limits: households without an elderly or disabled member must have assets of $2,000 or less, and those with an elderly or disabled member must have assets of $3,000 or less.

Some categories of people are not eligible for SNAP regardless of how small their income or assets may be, such as strikers, most college students, and certain legal immigrants. Undocumented immigrants also are ineligible for SNAP.  Most unemployed childless adults are limited to three months of benefits in many areas of the country, though this limit may be waived in areas of high unemployment. For
more information, see A Quick Guide to Food Stamp Eligibility and Benefit Rules, at http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1269. 

How Much Does SNAP Cost?

In fiscal year 2011, the federal government spent about $78 billion on SNAP.  About 92 percent went directly to benefits that households used to purchase food. The remaining 8 percent was used primarily for state administrative costs, including eligibility determinations, employment and training and nutrition education for SNAP households, and anti-fraud activities. About $2.5 billion went for other food assistance programs, such as the block grant for food assistance in Puerto Rico and American Samoa, commodity purchases for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (which helps food pantries and soup kitchens across the country), and commodities for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

MORE>>>

ENERGY

Oil lobby will bury Obama if he doesn’t approve Keystone XL, says analysis 

Grist:

An independent research group has analyzed oil industry contributions to Congress, and figures that President Obama is staring down a $12 million barrel of political opposition on Keystone XL. Some of that is going out in huge chunks — 16 Republican House members and one Democrat have received $100,000 or more in contributions from the oil lobby, and lo and behold, the representatives are all voting just the way their evil overlords would like them to. But the industry is also spreading the wealth around. A total of 118 House members list the oil and gas industry among their top 10 contributors, and most of them are toeing the line as well.

[Research group] Maplight found only two of the 118 members of the House of Representatives who list oil and gas industry among their top 10 campaign contributors opposed fast-tracking the pipeline. The two hold-outs were Ed Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who headed the global warming committee that has since been disbanded by the Republican leadership in the house, and Charlie Bass, a New Hampshire Republican.

Only 10 of the 195 members of the House of Representatives who list the oil and gas industry among their top 20 contributors opposed the bill. In all, the oil and gas industry has given nearly $12m in direct contributions to members of Congress in the last two years, Maplight said.

That means it’s really worth House members’ time to push through Keystone XL approval, and cockblock any attempts to analyze or ameliorate its environmental effects. But, you know, it’s all about jobs! Really!

Here’s the Guardian’s list of House members getting $100,000 or more from oil and gas interests, along with their votes on fast-tracking Keystone XL approval (spoiler: they all voted in favor).

1 – Rep. Steven Pearce [Republican] / AYE / $370,020

2 – Rep. Mike Pompeo [R] / AYE / $333,156

3 – Rep. Bill Flores [R] / AYE / $266,184

4 – Rep. Cory Gardner [R] / AYE / $205,124

5 – Rep. Dan Boren [D] / AYE / $201,800

6 – Rep. John Sullivan [R] / AYE / $179,200

7 – Rep. Jeff Landry [R] / AYE / $176,050

8 – Rep. Tim Griffin [R] / AYE / $164,709

9 – Rep. James Lankford [R] / AYE / $156,760

10 – Rep. Rick Berg [R] / AYE / $151,561

11 – Rep. Michael Conaway [R] / AYE / $136,850

12 – Rep. Tim Murphy [R] / AYE / $133,700

13 – Rep. Dennis Rehberg [R] / AYE / $133,152

14 – Rep. Steve Scalise [R] / AYE / $125,335

15 – Rep. Francisco Canseco [R] / AYE / $121,767

16 – Rep. Pete Olson [R] – AYE – $106,400

17 – Rep. Tom Cole [R] / AYE / $103,400

 

 

 

 Recovery.Gov: New from the Recovery Blog – Nine Million Smart Meters Installed Nationwide 

 

 

 

ENVIRONMENT

IMPORTANT: The difference between climate and weather

ThinkProgress:

Many people, when trying to grapple with global warming are confused by the distinction between climate and weather. A great cartoon by Ole Christoffer Haga shows in simple terms how measurements of global temperatures record natural variability about a long-term trend. A dog meanders on a leash, held by his owner who is walking on a direct and slowly advancing path:

Importantly, this video shows the physical reality that climate isn’t just the average of random weather events. Like the owner of the dog, climate is a fixed system that limits the wanderings of weather. As we change the climate system with greenhouse gases, the owner moves in predictable ways, changing where the dog can wander.

 

 

 

EPA map lets you find out who’s polluting in your town

Ezra Klein:

As the EPA has slowly been crafting its new rules to regulate global-warming emissions, one of the crucial first steps has involved getting a basic sense of where the pollution’s actually coming from.

Back in 2009, the agency required all large greenhouse-gas emitters — any power plant, refinery, or other facility that puts out more than 25,000 metric tons per year — to report their emissions. And today the EPA has unveiled a interactive online map that lets people check out the major polluters in their area (the emissions data are all from 2010). For instance, here’s a map for downtown Washington:

The city’s biggest emitters, not surprisingly, are its power plants, particularly the Benning Road Generating Station (219,199 metric tons), which burns distillate fuel oil for electricity, as well as the GSA Central Heating Plant, which powers most federal buildings. But there are also a few unexpected smaller emitters that make the list, such as the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Naval Research Laboratory, both of which have on-site combustion.

I also narrowed the search down here to locate the 10 largest sources of greenhouse gases in the United States. The top two, as it happens, are both large coal-fired power plants in Georgia, with the Robert W. Scherer Power Plant in Juliette, Ga., taking top honors, putting 22.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the air in 2010.

 

 

 

AP: Most detailed data yet show U.S. power plants responsible for the bulk of pollution blamed for global warming

The most detailed data yet on emissions of heat-trapping gases show that U.S. power plants are responsible for the bulk of the pollution blamed for global warming.

Power plants released 72 percent of the greenhouse gases reported to the Environmental Protection Agency for 2010, according to information released Wednesday that was the first catalog of global warming pollution by facility. The data include more than 6,700 of the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gases, or about 80 percent of total U.S. emissions.

According to an Associated Press analysis of the data, 20 mostly coal-fired power plants in 15 states account for the top-releasing facilities.

Gina McCarthy, the top air official at the EPA, said the database marked “a major milestone” in the agency’s work to address climate change. She said it would help industry, states and the federal government identify ways to reduce greenhouse gases.

The Obama administration plans to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases under existing law. A proposed regulation to address pollution from new power plants could be released as early as this month. Eventually, the EPA will have to tackle facilities already in operation. The largest emitters will be the first in line.

The largest greenhouse gas polluter in the nation in 2010, according to the EPA’s data, was the Scherer power plant in Juliette, Ga., owned by Southern Company. That coal-fired power plant reported releasing nearly 23 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas, in 2010.

Two other power plants owned by Southern were the second- and third-largest polluters nationally: the Bowen plant in Cartersville, Ga., and the James H. Miller Jr. power plant in Quinton, Ala. The plants are some of the largest coal-fired power plants in the country.

American Electric Power, another large coal-fired power producer, has three power plants in the top 20. They are in Rockport, Ind., Cheshire, Ohio, and St. Albans, W. Va.

“This is just another way to identify the largest coal-fired power plants in the country,” said AEP spokesman Pat Hemlepp. “We always assumed we would be No. 1 in greenhouse gas emissions or No. 2 behind Southern Co. AEP and Southern are the two largest consumers of coal.”

Both companies are testing technology to capture carbon dioxide from power plants and pump it underground for storage. But to date, no one has proven that is possible for a commercial-sized power plant.

The other states with high-polluting power plants are Texas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wyoming, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky.

Refineries were the second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, with 5.7 percent of the reported total. The top states in greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and from refineries were Texas, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, and Indiana.

Congress required industries to report their greenhouse gas emissions as part of a 2008 spending bill. Until now, the agency has estimated greenhouse gas emissions by industry sector.

“The information is sure to make companies, localities and specific plants more conscious of their emissions profile and may lead some to lower emissions themselves,” said Paul Bledsoe, senior advisor at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank that works on energy and environmental issues.

Environmental groups welcomed the release of the information Wednesday.

“EPA has scored a touchdown for the public’s right to know about the nation’s largest industrial climate pollution sources,” said Paul Zalzal, staff attorney at Environmental Defense Fund.

 

 

 

Global warming apparently not to blame for this awesome, mild winter. 

THE GIST:

  • La Niña is partly to blame for this winter’s weirdly warm weather across most of the United States.
  • The Arctic Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation explain the drastic difference between this and last year’s winters.
  • La Niña is expected to weaken in the spring, allowing moisture to return to much of the country.

MORE>>>

 

 

 

The Hill: In defense of the Grand Canyon

On Monday, the Obama administration finalized protections to prevent new mining and mineral exploration on more than a million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park. This historic action will save drinking water, wildlife and local communities from the threats of uranium and other hard rock mining.

Unfortunately, before final protections were even announced, efforts to challenge the decision began.  In October 2011, Senators McCain and Kyl introduced the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011 to preempt these protections, and prevent the Administration from limiting mining around this treasured landscape.

The greater Grand Canyon region includes a wealth of natural wonders—many, like the Kaibab squirrel, found nowhere else on Earth.  More than 100 kinds of rare plants and animals call the area home; its scenic vistas are one-of-a-kind.
[…]

The reasons to protect this special place go on, which is why protections are supported by water districts, businesses, local and tribal governments, scientists and hundreds of thousands of individuals from across the country. There is a deep connection between America’s wild places, our people, our national heritage, and the health of our communities. Places like the Grand Canyon are vital pieces of our culture, our history, and our economy.

Unfortunately, there will always be lawmakers like Senators McCain and Kyl who are willing to sacrifice our national treasures to benefit corporate polluters.  With the good news from the Obama administration on Monday, we recognize that permanent protection is needed for the areas around the North Kaibab Plateau, a key part of the Grand Canyon watershed, adjacent to the canyon itself.  Permanent protection for this area will safeguard important sources of groundwater, rare plants and animals, and local tourism economies and jobs. Together with the ban on uranium mining, the creation of a Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument encompassing the North Kaibab could ensure the Grand Canyon area we know and love remains intact for future generations to experience their own trips of lifetime.

While many in Congress continue to neglect or even destroy our natural wonders, President Obama has begun working to protect public lands for the public good. One of President Obama’s first acts as President of the United States was to sign into law protections for 2 million acres of public lands. Last year the Administration announced the America’s Great Outdoor initiative to conserve and restore large landscapes. Now President Obama has an opportunity to build on his Grand Canyon legacy and the protection issued this week. I hope that he will consider the Grand Canyon Watershed as a national monument.

 

 

 

HEALTH

Researcher who touted health benefits of resveratrol in red wine charged with fraud. 

Reuters:

A University of Connecticut researcher who studied the link between aging and a substance found in red wine has committed more than 100 acts of data fabrication and falsification, the university said on Wednesday, throwing much of his work into doubt.

Dipak K. Das, who directed the university’s Cardiovascular Research Center, studied resveratrol, touted by a number of scientists and companies as a way to slow aging or remain healthy as people get older. Among his findings, according to a work promoted by the University of Connecticut in 2007, was that “the pulp of grapes is as heart-healthy as the skin, even though the antioxidant properties differ.”

“We have a responsibility to correct the scientific record and inform peer researchers across the country,” Philip Austin, the university’s interim vice president for health affairs, said in a statement.

The university said an anonymous tip led to an investigation that began in 2008. A 60,000-page report — the summary of which is available at bit.ly/xkyS4A — resulted, outlining 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data. Other members of Das’ laboratory may have been involved, and are being investigated, the report said.

The university has “declined to accept $890,000 in federal grants awarded to” Das, according to the statement, and has begun dismissal proceedings. The university has alerted 11 journals that published Das’ work.

The university said it has been working on the matter with the Office of Research Integrity, a part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health that investigates alleged misconduct by federal grant recipients.

The journals include Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, where Das was one of the editors in chief, and the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

Although many scientists have been skeptical of various claims made about resveratrol, it has garnered significant commercial interest. British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline bought Sirtris, a company that worked on the compound, in 2008 for $720 million but later discontinued work on one version of a drug that mimics its activity because of disappointing results.

A Las Vegas resveratrol maker called Longevinex has promoted Das’ research, and he appears in a lengthy video touting the nutrient as the next aspirin.

Das also shared a 2002 patent on the use of another compound in grape skins called proanthocyanidin to prevent and treat heart conditions.

Other scientists have taken notice of Das’ work, citing 30 of his papers more than 100 times each, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. Last year, he won an award from the International Association of Cardiologists.

Still, one aging researcher said the impact of the fraud on the field will be minimal.

“There are many investigators who are working on resveratrol,” said Dr. Nir Barzilai, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “That doesn’t mean we know the whole truth. But Rome wasn’t built on Dr. Das.”

Das, who could not be reached for comment, said in a 2010 letter to university officials that the investigation was a “conspiracy” against him. The work was “repeated by many scientists all over the world,” he wrote.

“As you know, because of the development of a tremendous amount of stress in my work environment in recent months, I became a victim of stroke for which I am undergoing treatment,” he wrote in a separate letter.

 

 

 

WaPo: Americans are eating less and less meat 

[BTW, what’s a “broiler?”]

Meat eating in the United States is going out of style. According to a Department of Agriculture report, Americans are projected to eat 12.2 percent less meat in 2012 than they did 2007. And it’s not just the weak economy. As Mark Bittman observes, there’s a real long-term trend here: “Beef consumption has been in decline for about 20 years; the drop in chicken is even more dramatic, over the last five years or so; pork also has been steadily slipping for about five years.”

Why is this happening? The Daily Livestock Report blames rising meat prices in the United States. As countries like China and India get richer, they’re eating more meat, which is helping to drive up U.S. exports and making beef, pork, and chicken more expensive here at home. Ethanol also plays a role: Nowadays, American farmers divert bushels and bushels of corn to make fuel, which drives up feed prices and, again, makes meat pricier.

Perhaps just as significantly, though, it does seem that attitudes toward meat are changing. More and more people appear to be cutting back on beef and pork consumption for environmental or ethical reasons. (Although before vegetarians get too excited, one factor that often gets overlooked here is the aging of the population — as the baby boomers get older, they’ve been eating less meat.)

MORE>>>

LA city council votes to require condoms in porn filming

 

 

 

HEALTH CARE

Nearly 500 state lawmakers sign onto SCOTUS brief supporting constitutionality of ACA

Progressive States Network:

Today, a national group of state legislative leaders announced that over 480 state legislators representing all 50 states will file a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow supporting the constitutionality of the health law, arguing that “the minimum coverage provision of the Affordable Care Act is a valid exercise of Congress’s Commerce Clause and Necessary and Proper Clause powers.”

In an announcement today, the Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform, a national group of state legislators focused on advancing health reform at the state level that works closely with Progressive States Network, said that over 480 state legislators representing all fifty states have signed on to an Amicus Brief strongly defending the Affordable Care Act in the challenge currently before the Supreme Court. The brief will be filed this Friday and was prepared and filed in conjunction with the Constitutional Accountability Center.

“The idea that the federal government does not have the power to address a national problem such as the health care crisis has no basis in the Constitution’s text and history,” argue the legislators in the text of the brief.

At a press briefing today, state legislators from around the nation who have signed on to the brief discussed their support for the law and highlighted the positive momentum behind the implementation of the law in their states.

“State legislators must continue their work to meet the growing need for high-quality, affordable health care with confidence, knowing that their implementation efforts will not be delayed or derailed by groundless constitutional challenges,” said Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Washington, Chair of the Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform.

CAC Chief Counsel Elizabeth Wydra said, “Because the Affordable Care Act is supported by the Constitution’s text and history – as well as Supreme Court precedent going back to the Founding era – challenges to health care reform to have a lot more to do with politics than they do the Constitution. After losing in Congress, conservatives are simply looking for courts to give them a judicial do-over. Fortunately, judges across the ideological spectrum – including those appointed by Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan – have upheld the Act as constitutional, and we are confident the Supreme Court will agree.”

“Almost two years after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, and as a pivotal year kicks off, this brief is an incredible statement of support for health law from the states,” added Progressive States Network Executive Director Ann Pratt. “It’s also a sign of how responsible state lawmakers all across the nation are coming together in 2012 to turn the tide from political gamesmanship and attacks to working to protect the gains already made for the health security of families under the Affordable Care Act: one million young adults now newly covered, four million seniors who have received help affording prescription drugs, and a patients’ bill of rights that puts an end to many insurance industry abuses.”

This show of support for the Affordable Care Act is part of a larger demonstration of support for the law taking place across the nation this week, as legislators affiliated with the Working Group announced plans for local events in eight states in the coming days that will highlight the benefits the Affordable Care Act has brought their constituents.

A summary of the Amicus Brief text is available at:

http://www.progressivestates.org/ACAamicus

 

 

 

JUSTICE

Gov. Scott Walker may have violated campaign finance laws 1,115 times

The Political Carnival:

Madison – Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has violated the state of Wisconsin’s campaign finance laws 1,115 times since 2009 by failing to disclose information about contributors who donated more than $100. Walker’s serial offenses include 456 contributions filed in the last 72 hours totaling nearly $284,000. […]

“Scott Walker has improperly reported well over $500,000 in contributions from inside and outside of Wisconsin,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. […]

According to the statutes, each violation of the reporting laws can result in a fine of up to $500, which in Walker’s case could top nearly $557,500. One Wisconsin Now reviewed Walker’s last six campaign finance reports and documented the following violations by Walker. A copy of One Wisconsin Now’s previous complaint is available at:http://www.onewisconsinnow.org/files/OWN%20GAB%20Complaint%20–%20Walker.pdf

Republicans sure know how to pick ‘em.

 

 

 

CNN: Mississippi judge blocks release of pardoned prisoners

A Mississippi judge has issued a temporary injunction that forbids the release of pardoned prisoners, a move that comes after outgoing Gov. Haley Barbour pardoned 199 people.

Of the 199 people that Barbour pardoned on his way out of office, 14 were convicted murderers. Several convicted murderers have already been released.

FULL STORY

 

 

 

Election Law Experts Say James O’Keefe Allies Could Face Charges Over Voter Fraud Stunt

TPM:

Update, Jan. 11, 5:00PM: Mark Zuckerman, a federal prosecutor in the New Hampshire U.S. Attorney’s Office, told TPM he recently became aware of the Project Veritas video and was reviewing it but hadn’t formed any opinion on whether it presented an issue.

It was one of the few — if not the only — coordinated efforts to attempt in-person voter fraud, and it was pulled off by affiliates of conservative activist James O’Keefe at polling places in New Hampshire Tuesday night. All of it part of an attempt to prove the need for voter ID laws that voting rights experts say have a unfair impact on minority voters.

Now election law experts tell TPM that O’Keefe’s allies could face criminal charges on both the federal and state level for procuring ballots under false names, and that his undercover sting doesn’t demonstrate a need for voter ID laws at all.

Federal law bans not only the casting of, but the “procurement” of ballots “that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent under the laws of the State in which the election is held.”

Hamline University law professor David Schultz told TPM that there’s “no doubt” that O’Keefe’s accomplices violated the law.

“In either case, if they were intentionally going in and trying to fraudulently obtain a ballot, they violated the law,” Schultz said. “So right off the bat, what they did violated the law.”

Election law expert Rick Hasen, who writes the Election Law Blog, joked in an email to TPM that O’Keefe’s team should “next show how easy it is to rob a bank with a plastic gun.”

“Who in their right mind would risk a felony conviction for this? And who would be able to do this in large enough numbers to (1) affect the outcome of the election and (2) remain undetected?” Hasen wrote.

Other election experts agreed that the video doesn’t change the substance of the debate over whether the minimal threat of in-person voter fraud is worth the impact that such laws can have on minority and poor voters.

“The fact that activists can engage in a stunt is not a reason for reform,” Samuel Issacharoff, a professor of constitutional law at New York University Law School, told TPM. “It means nothing. Why would anybody want to do this? It proves that they don’t update their dead voter information as quickly as they might, but so what? To pull this off on a large scale, you’d need coordination, and presumably somebody would have heard about it.”

Someone did, in fact, catch on to the scheme when a man dressed in a suit and tie tried to vote as a dead man known to the poll watcher. The man left before police arrived and said the poll watcher would “soon find out” why he tried to vote under a fake name, the Boston Herald reportedTuesday night.

Henry Brady of the University of California told TPM that O’Keefe’s video showed that what he did was “possible” but said that was never really a question. He also said that other techniques short of voter ID — like asking voters to sign a roll when they receive their ballot — would stop the type of fraud O’Keefe’s allies were attempting.

“Yes, this shows it’s possible to do what they did but you have to ask yourself… how many illegal immigrants would risk a jail term to vote illegally?” Brady said. “What they didn’t tell us, were they ever stopped and asked what’s going on here.”

John Samples of Cato told TPM that this would be a political issue and that O’Keefe was “pushing on an open door” because voter ID is politically popular. But he questioned whether it was worth the risk for O’Keefe.

“This is illegal, right? This is fraud and you would think he would actually get into trouble for doing this,” Samples told TPM.

Samples said that O’Keefe’s video could have an impact in the political fight over voter ID laws but “in the judicial fights — and the fight amongst wonks — it wouldn’t change much. The big question for policy always was what was the extent of it, and this doesn’t solve that question.”

The video, first obtained by the Daily Caller, is embedded below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-uVhhIlPk0&feature=player_embedded

Late update: Richard Head of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office issued this statement to TPM: “We became aware of the issue yesterday on election day, and immediately began conducting an investigation. In addition, based upon the information we received yesterday and the information in the video, we’ve initiated a comprehensive review of voting procedures with the Secretary of State.”

 

 

 

Gov. Walker Accused Of Over 1,000 Violations Of Campaign Finance Law, Could Face $557,500 Fine 

ThinkProgress:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) may have violated his state’s campaign finance law over 1,000 times in the 2010 gubernatorial campaign by failing to properly report contributions, according to a new report.

Wisconsin law requires gubernatorial campaigns to disclose information about contributors who give more than $100. Again and again, Walker appears to have skirted that requirement.

One Wisconsin Now examined the Walker for Governor’s finance records and found 1,115 instances where the campaign received contributions of more than $100 but did not properly disclose who gave the money. In total, “Walker has improperly reported well over $500,000 in contributions from inside and outside of Wisconsin,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. According to the group, which has filed a complaint with the state Government Accountability Board, Walker’s violations could result in a fine of $557,500:

The reporting statutes were enacted to give the public a full and timely picture of who is contributing to political candidates and the interests they may be representing. Lawmakers felt this was particularly important in the days preceding a general or primary election. According to the statutes, each violation of the reporting laws can result in a fine of up to $500, which in Walker’s case could top nearly $557,500.

ThinkProgress reached out to the Walker campaign for comment, but had not heard back by publication time. We will provide an update if they respond to the charge.

 

 

 

MEDIA

Aborted Fetuses: The Awkward Guest at Your Super Bowl Party

Mother Jones:

Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry has been running graphic ads of aborted fetuses in key primary states, as my colleague Tim Murphy has reported. Now the gruesome ads are coming to the Super Bowl.

Nothing says “pass the dip” like a bloody fetus. Normally, Terry wouldn’t be able to get these kinds of ads on television. So he’s launching a non-serious campaign for president (running as a Democratic challenger to President Obama) in order to exploit a loophole in Federal Communications Commission rules that requires station to run campaign ads in the weeks ahead of a primary election—no matter how grisly they might be. In the 45 days ahead of a primary and 60 days ahead of a general election, candidates for federal office can run whatever they want on local stations, as long as they pay for the airtime.

Yes, the FCC can try to fine you a half-million dollars for a “wardrobe malfunction,” but bundles of bloody body parts is A-okay.

Terry can’t, however, force the networks to run his ads nationally, as Jezebel points out. So if you live in a state that doesn’t have a primary within 45 days of the Superbowl, you can enjoy your nachos without looking at fetal body parts. (Which, it’s probably worth pointing out, are from late-term abortions; the vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester.) But if you live in a Super Tuesday state or any of the others voting in February or early March, be prepared. The Greeley Gazette writes that Terry and his group have ads “ready to go” in 40 markets.

 

 

 

Rush Limabugh, defending Romney on Bain, is paid $50 mil/year by Bain-owned Clear Channel 

 

 

 

Study Confirms: News Networks Owned By SOPA Supporters… Are Ignoring

Tech Dirt:

While the debates about SOPA/PIPA have been raging all over the internet, and appearing regularly in all sorts of mainstream newspapers, they still have been almost entirely absent from TV news. We’ve discussed this in the past, noting that the major TV news players are all owned by media conglomerates who have been major backers of SOPA/PIPA. There was some indication that cable news was starting to pay attention… but things have gone quiet since then (perhaps upper management sent out a memo…).

The folks over at Media Matters decided to check in on this and have confirmed that the big TV news players have almost entirely ignored it, despite the widespread controversy found elsewhere in the mainstream press:

As the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) makes its way through Congress, most major television news outlets — MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS, and NBC — have ignored the bill during their evening broadcasts. One network, CNN, devoted a single evening segment to it.

The report does note that there have been articles online… but very few TV segments. It also discusses how much attention SOPA/PIPA is getting, concerning all the companies who have come out against it, the media coverage in the NY Times among other places, and the big GoDaddy flip-flop — to highlight that this is a big story making waves.

Despite all of this, the response from American television news outlets has been to almost completely ignore the story during their evening programming. The lone exception was a segment on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer in December, during which CNN parent company Time Warner’s support for the legislation was not disclosed. (Though Fox News Channel has apparently not touched the story during evening programming, conservative/libertarian host Andrew Napolitano has run several segments vocally opposing SOPA on his program, which runs on the separate Fox Business Network.)

It’s postulated that perhaps the issue is the fact that SOPA/PIPA don’t fall along easily scripted left vs. right lines:

The fight over SOPA does not fit into the usual left vs. right narrative that occupies so much of the political horserace coverage with which TV news outlets fill their schedules. Thecosponsors of SOPA come from both sides of the aisle. Likewise, the most vocal opponents of SOPA in Congress are an ideologically diverse bunch, including Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ron Paul (R-TX) and Darrel Issa (R-CA).

Either that… or the corporate folks upstairs don’t want to allow this to become an even bigger story.

Of course, as I was writing this up, Tim Cushing was writing up the same story (coordination, people, coordination!), with an alternate theory — which makes sense too. So, everything below the line is his read on the situation:


Tim Cushing’s analysis: Gray areas seldom make compelling news, especially when there’s no political angle to take. Beyond that, I think the mainstream media silence is also explained by the outdated thought process that still believes that the Internet Is Not Real.

First and foremost, the evening news is generally a broad overview of the days’ happenings. Not only do they not have the time to delve into an issue that mainly affects an “ethereal” service like the web, but they also (ignoring any corporate bias for the sake of argument) have no interest in doing so. The cliche that “if it bleeds, it leads” likely eliminates a war that involves a bloodless dismantling of the internet. The internet is generally trotted out only as an example of how things are bad (online bullying, etc.) or how things are cute/weird (any crossover meme that can be easily brought up, discussed and dismissed forever in less than 60 seconds).

Even though many news teams invite you to follow them on Twitter or Facebook, the connection seems to go no further than that. The percentage of the population that still relies on the evening news to get them caught up on the world is unlikely to care about legislation that affects the internet.

In essence, the internet is still treated like some sort of fad infested with tech-y nerds and thus can be safely ignored when dealing with Real Issues on the nightly news. This attitude is pervasive, both within content companies and among our representatives. The gatekeepers pushing the legislation need the internet as much as it claims it needs them, but they want their own internet, one closer in spirit to The Village than the Wild West.

Our legislators are still amused by their own lack of internet prowess, indicating that they still believe the web to be some sort of “outlier” whose opinions can be easily dismissed. It’s a cognitive gap, but it explains why the mainstream TV news so willingly ignores SOPA and the building momentum of its opposition: it’s just the internet. It can be either humored or feared, but never respected.

 

 

 

The Media’s 2012 Bummer: why journalists hate the idea of a looong race between Romney and Obama. [because it’s all about them.]

Daily Beast:

This is the media’s worst nightmare.

No more wild and crazy candidates?

No more crucial, make-or-break primaries?

Eight long months until the conventions, and only Mitt Romney and Barack Obama to keep us amused?

I suppose it’s possible that Romney will stumble, one of his rivals will catch fire and the GOP race will suddenly become a barnburner again. It’s also possible that Chris Christie will win Dancing with the Stars.

But after Romney’s victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, it’s getting harder to pretend that the Republican nominee might be anyone not named Mitt. And is life really worth living if Super Tuesday isn’t very super? Will news organizations pull most of their reporters from their eating tour of America, forcing them to go home and do their own laundry?

The problem for political journalists, who live for this quadrennial spectacle, is that Romney’s is not the world’s most colorful character. He is steady, measured and cautious. He doesn’t use fiery rhetoric. No one has accused him of being anything other than a faithful husband. When he slips up, he tends to say things like “corporations are people, my friend.”

Now you could argue that a lengthy general election campaign will give the news business a chance to focus on the dead-serious issues facing the country: an ailing economy, unemployment, entitlement reform, soaring debt, Wall Street regulation, the quagmire in Afghanistan.

Right. The political press spent most of 2011 chasing the latest GOP flavor-of-the-month, including those with no prayer of ever occupying the Oval Office. There was the frenzy over Donald Trump, until he blew off the race for Celebrity Apprentice. There was the craziness over Herman Cain, followed by the craziness over Herman Cain’s women. Newt was the hottest candidate around, until he wasn’t. And who can forget the sight of reporters chasing Sarah Palin on her bus tours, or the hyperventilating over whether Christie would plunge into the race, and whether he was too fat to be president.

Coverage of the issues is sometimes embedded in these silly-season stories. The attacks on Romney’s Bain days have sparked a debate about the role of corporate takeover firms. Rick Santorum’s Iowa surge spawned coverage about gay marriage and contraception. Gingrich’s claim that Freddie Mac paid him as a historian cast a spotlight on former officials who peddle influence without assuming the mantle of lobbyist.

But mostly the coverage gravitated toward Newt’s Tiffany account, Trump’s birther charges, Ron Paul’s newsletters, Cain’s checks to Ginger White and whether Rick Perry could memorize three points (with the inevitable sidebars about brain science).

A lengthy campaign featuring Romney and Obama (with maybe Paul hanging on for awhile) will inevitably shift into a lower gear as story lines become predictable and ordinary Americans turn to sports and sitcoms for their entertainment.

Maybe that’s just as well. A new Pew Research survey says 37 percent of Americans think the campaign has gotten too much coverage, while 39 percent say it’s received the right amount.

 

 

 

Matt Lauer actually did a decent job this morning, giving Romney a chance to show again what a heartless bastard he is.

 

 

 

CNN Apparently Waives Its Own Debate Rules To Let Rick Perry Participate

TPM:

CNN now says that Rick Perry is being invited to their debate in South Carolina on January 19, two days before the big primary in which he hopes to make his last stand. This despite the fact that he has not met any of the requirements for participation that CNN made public last week.

“Yes, Gov. Perry will be invited to next week’s CNN debate,” said Edie Emery, director of public relations for Turner Broadcasting Systems, in an e-mail to TPM. “He has met the criteria.”

A follow-up e-mail to Emery, asking which criteria Perry has met, was not immediately returned.

According to CNN’s criteria for inclusion, a candidate must get at least 4th place in either Iowa or New Hampshire, or get 7% support in at least three national Republican or three South Carolina primary polls released in January. The requirements were posted online last Tuesday afternoon, several hours before before the Iowa caucuses began later that night.

Perry came in fifth place in Iowa, and sixth in New Hampshire. And currently, his national andSouth Carolina poll numbers do not show him meeting that threshold, either.

In only two national polls so far in January, from Reuters, and a Gallup tracking poll released January 2, is Perry at 7% support. He is not yet at 7% in any January poll from South Carolina.

Earlier in the afternoon, Perry campaign spokesperson Katherine Cesinger told TPM in an e-mail: “Wanted to let you know that yes, we are planning on participating in the debate.”

Obviously, things would look very bad for Perry, who was once thought to be a frontrunner several months ago, if he ended up being excluded from a major debate.

Wednesday morning National Review reported:

Yesterday, Susan Page of USA Today wondered on Twitter whether Rick Perry would qualify for the CNN debate in Charleston, S.C. on January 19. From all appearances, he seemed ineligible, according to CNN rules. But Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan tells NRO in an email, “Yes, he is participating.”

 

 


Silly ideas of the day, Dylan Ratigan edition

Felix Salmon, Reuters:

Noam Scheiber is raving about Dylan Ratigan’s new book, giving it his highest praise: he calls it “sensible”. Which is maybe not obvious from the title, Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry.

He’s wrong. It isn’t sensible at all. Scheiber says that “one of the more intriguing ideas” in the book comes from Dick Grasso, of all people, who wants to classify a large part of the CDS market as “online gaming” and therefore “null and void”. Which sounds like one of those ideas which sounds great in the middle of your third bottle of wine.

But giving Scheiber (and Grasso, I guess) the benefit of the doubt, I had a look at the page of the book in question. Here it is, page 54, in full:

We must require not only that banks retain more capital but also that when they place bad bets, they pay the price for their losing bets themselves. Otherwise we are stuck with the worst of two economic systems: like a capitalist country, we have private banks that keep their profits. But like a communist country, we have a system where banking losses are charged to the government. Only when we end this corporate communism will we realign the interests of the banks with the investors they serve. The way to do this is debt reduction or cancelation. If the system is so out of control that we can use a computer to fabricate trillions in new money by simply adding some zeros, then surely we can find a way to delete some zeros as well. By definition, if you can print it, you can cancel it.

As we have already seen, a swap can either be an insurance policy that helps to lower long-term costs for a business or a bet by an outsider on whether a given company or country will succeed or fail. Putting swaps on a public exchange would create the visibility for all to see the difference between commodity insurance that is critical to the economy and speculative bets that are not much different from gambling. In fact, Richard Grasso, former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, suggested to me in a personal interview that the speculative bets that fueled the financial crisis could be reclassified legally as online gaming — and then cancelled. His technical explanation: “I believe regulators should require the product to be registered with a central clearing agent (like an exchange) and thus able to be monitored globally to prevent contracts being written in excess of the debt obligations they are designed to insure (corporate or sovereign). This is easily accomplished by [regulators] and Treasury issuing a cross-markets rule adopted by non-US counterparts. Any contracts written outside these requirements would be deemed null and void by regulators as simply online gaming.”

This is exactly the kind of thing we need much less of, at least in book form. It’s fine if you’re just shooting the breeze with a bunch of financially-illiterate friends, but it really doesn’t belong in a volume which aspires to present “smart policy” prescriptions.

I mean, we start off OK, with a standard-issue broadside about privatized profits and socialized losses. Got that. But what on earth is this supposed to mean?

The way to do this is debt reduction or cancelation. If the system is so out of control that we can use a computer to fabricate trillions in new money by simply adding some zeros, then surely we can find a way to delete some zeros as well. By definition, if you can print it, you can cancel it.

I’ve spent the best part of a day trying to work out what on earth Ratigan might be driving at here, and I’ve come to the conclusion that he was probably just high. Never mind the fact that he doesn’t bother to identify which debt he wants reduced or canceled; just admire the elegant way that he proves that debt cancellation is somehow the equal and opposite action to printing money. (In reality, of course, printing money is a way of canceling debts, by inflating them away.)

Even more admirable, in a sense, is the way that Ratigan throws in his “let’s just delete some zeros” idea and then jumps straight to something completely unrelated — the idea of putting all derivatives on exchanges. I mean, it’s not as though deleting zeros willy-nilly would destroy the fundamental nature of capitalism as we know it, and might therefore be worthy of, oh, another sentence or two. We’ve got Grasso to get to!

Of course, we’re not going to get into any nitty-gritty here about the difference between exchanges and clearinghouses, despite the fact that Ratigan’s talking about the former, Grasso’s talking about the latter, and the two are not at all the same thing. And we’ll not spend much time either on the silly idea that anything interesting or systemically important happens at the point at which the notional value of derivatives contracts exceeds the amount of the underlying. (It doesn’t.)

Because even putting those points aside, what Grasso is suggesting here doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of sober thought. (Especially if debt obligations — the underlying bonds being insured — can simply be reduced or canceled by deleting zeros.)

The way that markets and exchanges work, there’s no way that a clearinghouse would ever be able to know whether the counterparties to a derivatives contract had some kind of insurable interest in the underlying. Grasso’s proposal wouldn’t put an end to what Scheiber calls “naked bets”, it would just allow speculators to crowd out genuine hedgers, to the point at which people who did have an insurable interest wouldn’t be able to do any hedging, because the speculators would have got there first and written contracts up to the maximum allowable limit.

Ratigan has a bully pulpit on the television, and his heart is pretty much in the right place. I can see why he’d want to publish a book where he can tease out his policy ideas in detail, while keeping them accessible to his television audience. But it’s irresponsible to boil complex issues down into a simplistic world of good and evil, complete with simplistic solutions (cancel debt! outlaw speculative gambling!). If anything, it plays right into the rhetoric of the Tea Party, which Ratigan hates.

There are big and hugely important issues to be addressed in the global economy; the least we can do is take them seriously. And stop pretending that being harsh on a coterie of banksters would be both necessary and sufficient to solve all our problems.

 

 

 

MILITARY

Obama administration denies any role in killing of Iranian nuclear scientist 

WaPo:

The Obama administration denied any role in Wednesday’s killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist, the latest in a series of events that have exacerbated tensions with Iran.

The assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan was the latest in a year that has already seen new U.S. economic sanctions, threats to bar American ships from the Persian Gulf, an Iranian death sentence to a jailed U.S. citizen and an escalation in Tehran’s uranium enrichment program.

Iranian reports said two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to Roshan’s car of, killing him and his driver. Roshan was a chemistry expert and director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, and the slaying suggested a widening covert effort to set back the Islamic republic’s atomic program.

But US officials said they had nothing to do with it.

“I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters. “We believe there has to be an understanding between Iran, its neighbors and the international community that finds a way forward for it to end its provocative behavior, end its search for nuclear weapons and rejoin the international community and be a productive member of it.”

Earlier, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland wouldn’t answer a question about whether Washington was involved in the killing — or if the administration viewed Roshan as an innocent victim. “I’m not going to speak to who may or may not have done this,” she told reporters.

The attack also came one day after Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz was quoted as telling a parliamentary committee that 2012 would be critical for Iran — in part because of “things that happen to it unnaturally.”

And other Israeli officials, hinted at covert campaigns against Iran without directly admitting involvement.

“Many bad things have been happening to Iran in the recent period,” said Mickey Segal, a former director of the Israeli military’s Iranian intelligence department. “Iran is in a situation where pressure on it is mounting, and the latest assassination joins the pressure that the Iranian regime is facing.”

Iranian authorities blamed Israel.

One former official said the magnetic-bomb attack does bear the hallmarks of an Israeli hit. Current and former U.S. officials say Washington prefers proxies like Israel to carry out operations inside Iran, and that up until two years ago, the U.S. and Israel coordinated actions against Iran closely. But the officials say the White House halted such cooperation after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took power.

The officials, past and present, spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic negotiations.

In the event that a military intervention might be needed to halt Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons capability, they said counterterrorist officials had considered allowing Israel to use the U.S.-Afghan Shindand Airbase, in western Afghanistan, to launch an air strike against Iranian weapons facilities

MORE>>>

 

 

 

OCCUPY

Right-wing documentary targets Occupy

Salon:

Citizens United, which specializes in making documentaries with strong right-wing messages, is currently in production for a film about the Occupy movement, a spokesman for the group confirms to Salon.

The landmark 2010 Supreme Court case that loosened campaign finance restrictions was brought by Citizens United and centered on an anti-Hillary Clinton movie made by the group. Opposition to that ruling has been a consistent message of participants in Occupy movement.

The new film is to be called “Mic Check: The Untold Story of the Occupy Movement.” A participant at Occupy Wall Street recently received an interview request from a Citizens United producer that included this description of the film:

Never in living memory has such a small political movement received such disproportionate attention from the press. Never in living memory has a movement been so widely scrutinized and yet so deeply misunderstood.Is it possible both the left and right have made the error of thinking that the forces behind Occupy Wall Street are interested in democratic politics and problem solving?

In Mic Check: The Untold Story of the Occupy Movement, we’ll look at the roots of the Occupy movement and hear from it undeclared ‘leaders’. We’ll go inside the still existing encampments in Los Angeles and Washington D.C., into the frequently contentious street rallies and hear from participants about their protest, their goals and their vision for the future.

That bolded line is taken almost verbatim from a Weekly Standard article by Matthew Continetti, who argues that Occupy is an attempt “to establish a socialist utopia through revolutionary anarchism” and that the movement must be met with legal and ideological opposition.

The email from the Citizens United producer says that filming is scheduled to be complete by Jan. 13 and adds that she can “arrange a video crew to tape in nearly any city in the US if need be.”

Here’s a taste of the Citizens United style:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPBv1tZhd-E&feature=player_embedded

POLITICS

Newt Gingrich’s anti-Mitt Romney documentary– Here it is. YOWZA!

 

 

 

Gingrich campaign unloads the Romney gaffes – up to and including Seamus

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-4bm5NxqPY

 

 

Gingrich not backing down from his criticism of Romney’s record at Bain 

The Hill:

Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign says it’s not backing down from its criticism of rival Mitt Romney’s record at Bain Capital.

His spokesman strongly denied a report to that effect, calling the story “misleading.”

The article, published inPolitico and headlined “Newt Gingrich on Bain attacks against Mitt Romney: I crossed the line,” is based on a response the former House Speaker gave a voter at a book signing in South Carolina on Wednesday.

“The phrase ‘I crossed the line’ was never uttered from Newt, despite the headline from Politico,” Gingrich spokesman R.C. Hammond said in a statement.

According to the report, Dean Glossop, an Army Reservist from Inman, S.C., warned Gingrich that an argument against free-market principles was a difficult one.

“I’m here to implore one thing of you. I think you’ve missed the target on the way you’re addressing Romney’s weaknesses. I want to beg you to redirect and go after his obvious disingenuousness about his conservatism and lay off the corporatist versus the free market. I think it’s nuanced,” Glossop said.

Gingrich acknowledged that the messaging was difficult, but the campaign insists that he did not intend to imply that he was walking back his criticism.

“I agree with you,” Gingrich said, according to the article. “It’s an impossible theme to talk about with Obama in the background. Obama just makes it impossible to talk rationally in that area because he is so deeply into class warfare that automatically you get an echo effect. … I agree with you entirely.”

The statement from Gingrich’s campaign went on hammer the former Massachusetts governor again over his time at the firm — and defend Gingrich from charges that the attacks were anti-capitalist.

“This issue at hand is neither about Bain Capital, private equity firms, nor about capitalism. It is about Mitt Romney’s judgment and character. It was Governor Romney’s decision to base his candidacy, in large part, on his background as a portfolio manager. Thus, it is entirely legitimate to ask questions about whether he is accurately presenting how he conducted himself during that career,” Hammond said.

The influential Wall Street Journal editorial page denounced the criticism as “crude and damaging caricatures of modern business and capitalism” on Tuesday, saying that “desperate” GOP candidates “sound like Michael Moore,” the left-wing filmmaker and provocateur.

Romney said that Gingrich was putting “free enterprise on trial” while campaigning Monday in New Hampshire.

Romney Financialism Rampant: The Envy Club and the Big Lie

The Desert Beacon:

Former Massachusetts Governor Willard M. Romney will be bringing his troops to Nevada for the upcoming Republican caucuses, and his intellectual baggage with him.  The Washington Post transcribed this illuminating exchange with the former Governor who has made a couple of attempts to secure the GOP nomination for the presidency:

QUESTIONER: When you said that we already have a leader who divides us with the bitter politics of envy, I’m curious about the word envy. Did you suggest that anyone who questions the policies and practices of Wall Street and financial institutions, anyone who has questions about the distribution of wealth and power in this country, is envious? Is it about jealousy, or fairness?

ROMNEY: You know, I think it’s about envy. I think it’s about class warfare. When you have a president encouraging the idea of dividing America based on 99 percent versus one percent, and those people who have been most successful will be in the one percent, you have opened up a wave of approach in this country which is entirely inconsistent with the concept of one nation under God. The American people, I believe in the final analysis, will reject it.

QUESTIONER: Are there no fair questions about the distribution of wealth without it being seen as envy, though?

ROMNEY: I think it’s fine to talk about those things in quiet rooms and discussions about tax policy and the like. But the president has made it part of his campaign rally. Everywhere he goes we hear him talking about millionaires and billionaires and executives and Wall Street. It’s a very envy-oriented, attack-oriented approach and I think it will fail. [emphasis in original]

Governor Romney may have said much more than he intended.  There are two reasons to parse this exchange carefully.  (1) It reveals Romney’s mindset about middle America, and (2) It demonstrates the pernicious quality of the Big Lie of  2011.

First, it’s not the income inequality statistics that are the problem. It’s the trending income inequality statistics that are problematic.  There has been and forever will be income inequality.  Some people have talent and skills for which we will pay more than for the talent and skills of others.   Thus, it’s not the fact of income inequality that is causing contention, it’s the trend that indicates the American middle class is in serious trouble.

The Federal Reserve has taken note of the trend as shown in the following chart:

What Governor Romney brushes off as “envy,” is concern over the widening gap between the purchasing power of disparate income groups.  If we assume that the U.S. economy is at least 67% driven by consumer spending then the reduction of middle income earners buying power is obviously of great interest.  This isn’t about envy, it’s about generating DEMAND for consumer goods and services in the United States of America.

Governor Romney’s misplaced conclusion infers that the operation of the financial markets is somehow of greater importance (hence an object of envy) among those who believe that the financial markets are only one part of the total economy — which includes, of course, other markets:  The housing market; the retail clothing markets; the wholesale and retail grocery markets; the health care market; and the automobile market — to name just a few of our economic components.  Romney’s embrace of  Financialism could not be more glaring.

Secondly, the adoption of the Financialist perspective isn’t helpful:

“…financial instruments become progressively further removed from their role in supporting commerce in the real world and develop a life of their own, a weird shadow dimension, a hall of mirrors, a distorted alternate reality that intersects and reacts with the real economy in unpredictable and destructive ways.”  [Seeking Alpha]

And there are perils in this Hall of Mirrors:

“A system which exalts the most capable financial predator as its highest member will suffer periodic booms and busts – the prey, honest people who work and save and try to invest, become too few and too weak to sustain the predators above them on the feeding chain.” [Seeking Alpha]

This situation isn’t about ENVY, it’s about whether or not we can sustain a capitalist free market economy when the “predators” have drained the capacity of the working people to save and invest.  Financialism makes it all too tempting to replicate Nora Desmond’s reference to consumers in Sunset Boulevard:

“You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!… All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

By the end of the picture no one in the audience could be envious of Miss Desmond’s estate, wardrobe, or swimming pool.  The Financialists face a similar danger — when they’re ready for their close-ups there may be no underlying economy of “wonderful people out there in the dark” to sustain their feats of  financial engineering.  There’s another line from Sunset Boulevard that seems to fit this situation: “The poor dope – he always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool.”

This is the point at which the Big Lie of 2011 is relevant.   Governor Romney represents the bankers who are fighting any restrictions on their financial engineering projects:

“The banking lobby is fighting the implementation of the Dodd Frank Act with every tactic available.  They are fighting the funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the appointment of a director for the CFPB, indeed the entire rationale for the CFPB.  They are fighting the efforts of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to oversee the credit default swap transactions.  They are fighting efforts to monitor the over the counter trading of derivatives.  They are fighting against having oversight of their capacity to create systemic risk.  They are fighting any proposal for an “Orderly Liquidation Authority,” i.e. a plan to wind down bankrupt banks.”

In order to make the argument that we do not need financial regulation reform, that we do not need to protect financial product consumers, that we do not need to oversee the derivatives markets, that we do not need to implement an orderly liquidation process for large bankrupt banks — the bankers need to make it seem as though the financial crisis of 2008 was Our Fault.

Our government was at fault! Our participation in the housing market was at fault! Our over-spending was at fault! And, now it’s Our Envy that must be at the heart of the complaints concerning the machinations of the Financialists and their Hall of Mirrors, and its distortion of our economy.

Governor Romney may not have intended to tip his hand so visibly, but having done so we can be certain of his Financialist perspective, and convinced that he neither understands the nature of the long slog toward economic recovery, nor the essential need to maintain a viable middle class in the process.  Again, “The poor dope – he always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool. “

 

 

 

David Axelrod on Romney’s claim that criticism of inequality is rooted in envy: “It’s what he believes” 

Greg Sargent:

Dems are pouncing on Mitt Romney’s appearance on NBC this morning, in which he said that questions about Wall Street excess are driven by “envy,” and suggested that we should only debate inequality in “quiet rooms.”

Obama adviser David Axelrod emails a response that’s short, but interesting in what it portends about the general election:

Not a gaffe. It’s what he believes. Last week he said “productivity equals income.”

But the point is, it hasn’t for the typical American worker over the last three decades, and, particularly, over the last decade.

This is the central challenge of our time, and he doesn’t get it.

If the Obama campaign intends to frame the campaign around the idea that inequality and economic unfairness are the “central challenge of our time,” and to base the case against Romney on what unregulated capitalism has wrought, this could be epic. The battle will be fought largely over two competing visions of capitalism itself, and of government’s proper role in regulating it, at a time when the public has been more focused on issues of inequality and economic injustice than at any time in recent memory.

[…]

As I said yesterday, Romney’s claim that his brand of capitalism represents the American way has now been panned by bipartisan agreement — a very clear sign of which way the winds of populism are blowing in American politics right now. Indeed, even Frank Luntz is advising Republicans to stop defending “capitalism,” and is telling them to defend “economic freedom” instead.

 

 

 

Romney revives the Big Republican Lie [Another one.]  

Wapo, Matt Miller:

[…]

On Tuesday he added: “I was talking about, as you know, insurance companies. We’d all like to get rid of our insurance companies — don’t want Obama to tell us we can’t.”

Romney’s dishonesty here is breathtaking. I used to think Republicans had taken chutzpah to unsurpassable new heights when they refused on principle to lift the debt ceiling last summer – despite having passed the Paul Ryan budget, which added more than $5 trillion in debt over the next decade.

But Romney may have topped that. He’s saying that President Obama’s Affordable Care Act — which offers people precisely the choice among competing private insurers that Romney’s own health-care reform did in Massachusetts — is instead some cartoon version of socialized medicine.

It’s a blatant falsehood. The Big Republican Lie.

Now, if Rick Perry had said this, you might say that the man just doesn’t know whereof he speaks. When Rush Limbaugh makes such bogus claims, you put it down to the ravings of an entertainer and propagandist. But Romney is a smart man. He’s also supposed to be a serious man, not a huckster. He knows better. Yet he’s made these outrageous false claims repeatedly. So this is a conscious, premeditated Big Lie.

 

 

 

Mitt Romney is a Lying Liar 

Jordan Ashby:

Mitt Romney, who may be under the mistaken belief that his New Hampshire victory means people actually like him, appeared on CBS’s “This Morning” today and unleashed a series of lies that most Republicans haven’t even gone near. Romney’s past suggests he should stay clear of it too.

Mitt Romney, under attack by his opponents over his record of layoffs and restructuring at Bain Capital, said Wednesday that President Barack Obama was also forced to lay off people in the auto industry.

In the general election, I’ll be pointing out that the president took the reins of General Motors and Chrysler, closed factories, closed dealerships, laid off thousands and thousands of workers. He did it to try to save the business,” Romney said on CBS’s “This Morning.”

“We also had the occasion to do things that are tough to try to save a business,” Romney said. “We started a number of businesses, invested in many others and, overall, created tens of thousands of jobs.”

If Romney’s strategy for confronting accusations that he fired people for profit at Bain Capital is to say “yeah, well, the president fired people too!” he’s not going to get very far with that. Because that’s not just a lie. It’s completely absurd.

Many employees did lose their jobs and many dealerships were forced to close when the auto industry was bailed out, however it was General Motors and Chrysler who decided which ones, not the president or his administration. Furthermore, many of those who were laid off were hired back after the dust settled, and if the Obama Administration had done nothing, the entire American auto industry could have imploded.

Another reason this is a losing argument for Mitt Romney is this. Let Detroit Go Bankrupt!

Blaming President Obama for firing people at General Motors was not the only whopper blurted out by Mitt Romney during this segment of CBS’s “This Morning.” There was also this gem of dishonesty.

“We started a number of businesses, invested in many others and, overall, created tens of thousands of jobs.”

He created tens of thousands jobs? What happen to the claim that he created 100,000 jobs?

Oh. This is what happened. It was shredded.

 

 

 

Politico: Romney readies Bain counter-attack.

[…]And they’re rolling out a more aggressive approach from the candidate himself, even as the candidates who’d been waging the Bain battle appeared to be retreating from the rhetoric on Wednesday.

The change comes following three days of stumbling responses from Romney and campaign aides, who admit they were caught unprepared for the explosion of Bain as the dominant topic of the Republican race — “out of nowhere,” one adviser said. And it comes as Romney is aiming to turn his polling lead into a primary win — an early-state hat trick they hope will quickly establish him as the presumptive GOP nominee.

They’ll start with advertisements featuring employees of companies started and rescued by Bain telling their stories — a direct response to the documentary released by the pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC that features employees of four companies closed by Bain that brutally slams Romney as a job killer. That documentary is set to be parceled out into shorter commercials that will air in South Carolina with a $3.4 million ad buy.

Romney adviser Kevin Madden said they’re confident they’ll quash those attacks with their new rebuttal.

“For every scare story that they try to present related to the governor’s experience in the private sector and free enterprise,” Madden said, “we can point to a whole host of successful enterprises that have resulted in job creation and wealth and prosperity.”

It’s part of a shift for the Romney operation from painting his rivals as desperate for slamming him to instead casting their candidate as the standard bearer of traditional Republican economic values.

“Our identification with core Republican principles helps us in the primary,” said one senior Romney adviser, who asked not to be identified. “Being in favor of capitalism is always a major positive in the Republican primary.”

“You’re going to get people saying, ‘But for this company, I wouldn’t have a job,’” the senior adviser said.

Romney has already pivoted from his awkward response over the weekend — including telling voters in New Hampshire that he, too, knew what it was like to fear being fired, from his early days out of business school — to embracing the highlighting of his time at Bain as a positive.

“I’ll be talking about [Obama’s] record when I’m facing him,” Romney said told reporters aboard his campaign plane en route to South Carolina. “And the other guys, they don’t have a record in the private economy, so it’ll be a different, I think, approach.”

And smacking back the suggestion that his rivals are simply leaping on a weakness now that the Democrats would have anyway exploited to the point of killing his candidacy, Romney — who referred to the other GOP candidates as “desperate” in his New Hampshire victory speech Tuesday night — said he is unconcerned with how his record will be portrayed in the primary or the general election.

“We’ve understood for a long time that the Obama people would come after free enterprise,” Romney said on the plane. “A little surprised to see Newt Gingrich as the first witness for the prosecution, but I don’t think that’s going to hurt my efforts. Frankly, if I can’t take a few shots coming from my colleagues on the Republican side, I’m not ready for Barack Obama.”

Romney’s also engaged his surrogates to mount a line of attack that’s been circulating among Republican pundits since the Bain firestorm began at the NBC News/Facebook debate on Sunday: GOP presidential candidates who attack Romney for working in finance are anti-capitalist.

MORE>>>

 

 

Income Inequality Should be Talked About in “Quiet Rooms”I

Mitt Romney was asked by Matt Lauer whether questioning Wall Street practices and the “distribution of wealth and power” in America today is a legitimate issue. He suggested it was nothing more than class warfare and envy.

Dan Amira: “To sum up, for the video impaired: Romney thinks gripes about income inequality reflect nothing but envy, and that such topics should only be discussed in ‘quiet rooms.’ What Romney is saying is, maybe we can debate income inequality and the abuses of Wall Street, if you insist on it, but it’s nothing to get upset about.”

Here’s the video:

 

 

 

Mitt Romney recycles his 2008 attack on Hillary Clinton for use against President Obama. 

Perrspectives Blog:

His Democratic foe, Mitt Romney declared, would “drag America down to Europe’s standards.” His opponent represents, Romney insisted, “the old, classic, European caricature that we describe of big government, big taxation, welfare state.” But those now-familiar slanders weren’t directed at Barack Obama last night in New Hampshire, but against Hillary Clinton in 2007. As it turns out, Mitt Romney has dusted off his old 2008 campaign playbook for his second run for the White House.

For weeks, Governor Romney has assailed President Obama for supposedly wanting to create “an entitlement society” in which “government should create equal outcomes.” As he put it last Tuesday in Iowa, “I think he believes America should become a European-style welfare state.” After his victory in New Hampshire, Romney repeated that Obama “wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society” and “takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe.”

As it turns out, Romney’s anti-Obama rhetoric in 2012 takes its inspiration from a strategy document his campaign created in 2007 to defeat Hillary Clinton.

MORE>>

 

 

 

Another Skeleton in Romney’s Closet H/T KQuark

Jordan Ashby:

In 2004 the state legislature of Massachusetts, which was governed by Mitt Romney at the time, passed a budget which included a provision that would prohibit the use of outsourced labor for the purposes of privatization.

SECTION 21. The first paragraph of section 54 of said chapter 7, as appearing in the 2002 Official Edition, is herby amended by inserting after paragraph (1) the following paragraph:–
(1A) The agency shall prepare a written statement that the services proposed to be the subject of the privatization contract shall not be provided by labor based or employed outside the United States. No agency shall make a privatization contract and no such contract shall be valid if the services provided are from labor based or employed outside the United States.

Mitt Romney feigned concern about the consequences of outsourcing yet, despite his phony reservations, he used his authority as governor to issue a line-item veto of this provision contained in the state budget.

“Offshore Outsourcing
Section 21
I am vetoing this section because it could hurt taxpayers by increasing costs for future or existing administrative operations and make Massachusetts a less business-friendly environment.
–Governor Mitt Romney, June 25, 2004

Of course he would veto a provision that blocks the outsourcing of jobs because outsourcing was his specialty at Bain Capital. He had to look out for the wealth of his old buddies.

Not coincidentally, Massachusetts was 47th in the nation in job creation, with a growth rate of 0.9 percent, during Romney’s tenure as governor.

 

 

 

TA-NEHISI COATES ON MESSENGERS: LOUIS FARRAKHAN AND RON PAUL

The Messenger – Politics: I’ve thought a lot about Farrakhan, recently, watching Ron Paul’s backers twist themselves in knots to defend what they have now euphemistically label as “baggage.”… [L]et us remember that we are faced with a candidate who published racism under his name, defended that publication when it was convenient, and blamed it on ghost-writers when it wasn’t, whose take on the Civil War is at home with Lost-Causers, and whose take on the Civil Rights Act is at home with segregationists. Ostensibly this is all coincidence, or if it isn’t, it should be excused because Ron Paul is a lone voice speaking on the important issues that plague our nation.

I have heard this reasoning before.

As surely as Ron Paul speaks to a real issue–the state’s broad use of violence and surveillance–which the America’s political leadership has failed to address, Farrakhan spoke to something real, something unsullied, which black America’s political leadership failed to address, Both Paul and Farrakhan, in their glamour, inspired the young, the disaffected, the disillusioned….

But as sure as the followers of Farrakhan deserved more than UFOs, anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories, those of us who oppose the drug-war, who oppose the Patriot Act deserve better than Ron Paul….

[T]he dispatches must be honestly grappled with: It must be argued that a man who could not manage a newsletter, should be promoted to managing a nuclear arsenal. Failing that, it must be asserted that a man who once claimed that black people were knowingly injecting white people with HIV, who fund-raised by predicting a race-war, who handsomely profited from it all, should lead the free world. If that line falls too, we are forced to confess that Ron Paul regularly summoned up the specters of racism for his own politically gain, and thus stands convicted of moral cowardice.

Let us stipulate that all politicians compromise. But the mayhem and death which attended the talents of Thomas Watson and George Wallace, renders their design into a school of sorcery all its own. In that light, it is fair to ask that if Ron Paul was willing to sacrifice black people to garner the support of the bigoted mob, who, and what, else might he sacrifice?

I have some thoughts on the matter:

“We quadrupled the TSA, you know, and hired more people who look more suspicious to me than most Americans who are getting checked,” Paul says. “Most of them are, well, you know, they just don’t look very American to me. If I’d have been looking, they look suspicious … I mean, a lot of them can’t even speak English, hardly. Not that I’m accusing them of anything, but it’s sort of ironic.”

Presumably, this too, is just another unfortunate slip. Surely it says nothing about Paul’s actual views.

I do not mean to be unsympathetic here. It is regrettable to find ourselves in this untenable space….

The fervency for Ron Paul is rooted in the longing for a reedemer, for one who will rise up and cut through the dishonest pablum of horse-races and sloganeering and speak directly to Americans. It is a species of saviorism which hopes to deliver a prophet upon the people, who will be better than the people themselves.

 

 

 

No Liberal Hero: Facing The Ron Paul Problem 

Addicting Information:

[…] Disillusionment with the status quo – combined with the buzzwords swirling around a Libertarian campaign –  often strikes just the right chord with frustrated American voters. But while the concept of a Libertarian presidency does have its appeal, there are inherent problems that outweigh the positives.

At the drawing board for what is now America, Libertarianism was based on the moral principle of self-ownership; where individuals possess the right to control his or her own body, action, speech and property. Government’s only role – as generally interpreted by the founders – was to assist its people in defending themselves against outside force and fraud.

“We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.” – From the Libertarian party’s official website.

But while Libertarianism was at the root of the nation’s beginnings, that does not mean it is substantially relevant enough in today’s society to set the course for our future.

Over two-plus centuries, American culture has evolved exponentially in ways that were entirely unfathomable to anyone daring to even attempt to literally change the world in the late 1700s.

Religion, immigration, agriculture, science, technology, business, energy, invention, war, weaponry. Emerging super-powers, a global economy, changing geography, natural threats, unnatural threats, social upheavals, global genocides. Cultural expansion, modern medicine, space exploration, mental discovery….

Our world is nothing that it was during our nation’s humble, noble and often tragic beginnings. And unfortunately – “American” or not – Libertarianism does not bode well against the test of time.

Each places far too much trust in our ability to live a good and reasonable life as Americans without societal checks and balances. For all our cooperative instincts, we are generally still too (or rather have been bred to remain) apathetically uninformed, undereducated and uninvolved to fathom the delicate intricacies of a nation’s best efforts for advancement.

According to the party’s statement of principles, governments “must not violate individual rights, [as] we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals.”

Libertarianism insists that there are only two real factions of American society: the government and the individual – and that the former is the only one that, if too large, powerful and/or overtly ominous, will work to take away an individual’s personal freedoms. But this is simply not true.

On the surface, Libertarianism is supposed to be about individual rights and freedoms, yet when mixed with human nature and compulsion for personal gain, it becomes about business; where the very term “individual rights” becomes a sub-context for “private business”.

It even holds business in a higher regard than basic human and civil rights, as evident in its support for what I like to refer to as “regressive expansion” – a harkening back to pre-1964 Civil Rights legislation as it pertains to corporate America.

“Consequently, we oppose any government attempts to regulate private discrimination, including choices and preferences, in employment, housing, and privately ownedbusinesses. The right to trade includes the right not to trade – for any reasons whatsoever; the right of association includes the right not to associate, for exercise of the right depends upon mutual consent.”

This is not to say that Libertarians are racist or hold racist views. What it does say, though, is that they believe it should be entirely within the rights of an empowered class to allow the empowered to dictate which race, creed or color gets to realize the American dream of freedom and opportunity – two monikers so highly revered by Libertarians.

As perhaps a “lazy idealist,” a Libertarian my be 100% tolerant and supportive of equal opportunity yet hold government’s intercession to guarantee such opportunity – even when presented with historical truths countering their argument – in great disdain.

As such, true Libertarianism would see American communities revert to a time of legal – if only for the sake of not daring to make it illegal – religious, racial or sexual discrimination in the workplace. It would turn a blind eye to whites-only schools, water fountains and restrooms.

Why? Because these all fall under the protections afforded to the American people by the Americangovernment – protections that stand in the face the Libertarian meme of “rights of association.”

A Libertarian nation would constrain rather than free the American public via a social monopoly of oppression at the hands of a non-governmental ruling/rich class. It would make it possible for the rich to control all lands and public commodities and therefore dictate who gets to live where, do what, work how, etc. It would allow for a citizen’s individual rights to be curtailed not by his/her government but by the vast “powers that be” in place of government: corporate bosses, self-organized community and ethnic movements, religions, work houses and other skewed, social conventions.

It would validate the revocation of individual freedoms by nearly any means necessary by placing little-to-no protections under the law that did not have to do with violence and property rights; thereby creating a nation – a world – that is anything but “free.”

As such, the resurgence of American Libertarianism – as personified on a national scale via Ron Paul’s popularity – is a metaphor for many who would rather stifle the legitimacy of a working, Democratic government in favor of “liberty” – allowing for workers to be abused at the whim of overseers, racism to thrive, and powerful theocracies to mandate social norms without the overbearance of government.

As a Libertarian, Paul is in favor of abolishing both the Federal minimum wage and the Occupational Safety and Health Act and “reforming” Social Security virtually to non-existence. He wants the United States to be withdrawn from the United Nations. He supports off shore drilling, constructing more oil refineries and mining on federal lands. He proposes to have no taxes on the production of fossil fuels, and would stop conservation efforts that could be a “Federal obstacle” to building and maintaining refineries. His tax codes would basically stick it to the country’s lowest earners (hardest workers) while placing the richest on a proverbial pedestal.

Socially, he is a nightmare. He believes that sexual orientation is a valid basis for discriminationand that government has no business suggesting otherwise. Yet, in direct contrast, while he has gained wide praise recently for suggesting that the federal government should not regulate who a person marries, he was an original co-sponsor of the Marriage Protection Act in the House in 2004 – legislation that sought to prohibit recognition of same sex marriages across state lines.

He has sponsored legislation to repeal affirmative action, keep the IRS from investigating private schools accusing of using race as a factor in denying entrance, and would seek to deny citizenship for anyone born in the US whose parents are not citizens, and eradicate some of the most “common sense” gun control laws in the country.

The list goes on for anyone with the time to read and the stomach to digest – but the real issue iswhere do we go from here?

In theory, Libertarianism is about the freedom of the individual, but in practice it is often about the freedom to oppress without repercussion and to regress the nation back to a simpler version of itself; a time when social norms prevailed and anything outside the box was simply outcast (there goes that“Archie Bunker syndrome” again).

Voting for Ron Paul would be akin to handing the Tea Party the keys to the White House and a pulpit to advance some of the harshest and regressive legislation and social commentary since the early 20th century.

That is not a country in which I would want to live.

 

 

 

[Great long rant!!] Daily Kos: An open letter to the people who hate Obama more than they love America 

 

 

 

THIS IS A BIG TIME CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUE : Republicans move to control Keystone approval

Reuters:

Congressional Republicans, who are urging President Barack Obama to back the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline, are now working on plans to take the reins of approval from the hands of the president should the White House say no.

North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, whose state is counting on the pipeline to help move its newfound bounty of shale oil, is drafting legislation that would see Congress give the green light to the project by using its constitutional powers to regulate commerce with foreign nations, an aide told Reuters.

After delaying the project past the November 2012 election, Obama was compelled by Congress to decide by February 21 on whether to approve the pipeline that would sharply boost the flow of oil from Canada’s oil sands.

Should Obama reject the project, Senate Republicans would look at a bill that would force the go-ahead so work could begin on the $7 billion pipeline, save for a portion going through Nebraska, where the state government continues work on an alternate route, said Ryan Bernstein, an energy adviser to Hoeven.

He said Hoeven is working on the new approach with other key Republican senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Richard Lugar, David Vitter, Lisa Murkowski and Mike Johanns.

TransCanada Corp’s oil sands pipeline has put Obama in a political bind at the start of what is expected to be a difficult re-election campaign, and has become a useful tool for Republicans seeking to portray Obama as dithering on a project that they say would create 20,000 jobs.

PIPELINE BECOMES ELECTION ISSUE

Environmental groups, an important part of Obama’s political

base, have made defeating the line a top priority. They are concerned about the carbon emissions that come from processing the oil sands, and they argue the project will create fewer than 5,000 jobs.

The White House in November delayed its decision on Keystone to find a new route around environmentally sensitive lands in the Nebraska portion of its route. This effectively punted the decision beyond the November U.S. presidential election.

Republicans struck back by inserting language in the December payroll tax cut bill that gave Obama 60 days to grant a permit for the project or explain why it was not in the national interest.

Republicans hope that rising gasoline prices will increase pressure on the White House as the United States pushes for more sanctions on Iran to discourage countries from buying its oil.

Lugar, top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it does not make sense to slow an oil pipeline from a reliable supplier such as Canada.

“Even if in the future we do not ourselves consume all the Canadian oil imported, having that crude in the U.S. system would give us tremendous flexibility to deal with supply shortages caused by conflict, political manipulation, terrorism, or natural disaster,” Lugar said in a January 6 letter to Obama.

‘ANY AND ALL LEGISLATIVE OPTIONS’ IN PLAY

A spokesman for House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner declined to comment on whether House Republicans would seek to include a new Keystone provision in legislation that will be needed to extend the payroll tax cut that expires on February 29.

The White House and State Department have laid some ground for saying no, said Lee Terry, a Republican representative from Nebraska who is a prominent advocate for Keystone on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

In December, the administration said imposing the 60-day deadline could violate environmental laws, effectively ruling out a permit.

A majority of voters support the pipeline, Rasmussen poll results from late December show, and most labor unions support it too. Saying “no” to the pipeline could turn it into an election issue, Terry said in an interview.

Obama could try to appease both sides by declaring the project is in the national interest, but making a permit contingent on further study of routes through Nebraska.

But Terry said he believes Republicans will consider “any and all legislative options” if the pipeline is delayed further, including but not limited to making it part of the next payroll tax package.

“Right now, I think everything is on the table,” he said.

 

 

 

Daily Kos: Senate confirmations nearly 20 percent lower under Obama than Bush 

[…] The White House and Senate Democrats say the experiences of Mr. Obama’s nominees had become intolerable. In the two years that Mr. Bush had to contend with a Democratic Senate, 740 of his 981 nominees for civilian positions were confirmed, a rate of 75 percent. During the 112th Congress, 285 of Mr. Obama’s 503 civilian nominees have been confirmed, or 57 percent, according to Senate statistics.

In all, 18 Obama nominees have withdrawn their names after their nominations languished for months. For example, Peter Diamond, a Nobel Prize winner in economics, could not get a vote to join the Federal Reserve Board, and Terry Garcia, a top official at the National Geographic Society, gave up on his nomination to be deputy commerce secretary.

Another nominee, Caitlin J. Halligan, spent more than 280 days awaiting a vote on her confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit before it fell to a filibuster.

People still awaiting Senate action include nominees to be under secretary of the Treasury for domestic finance, deputy commerce secretary, deputy secretary of housing and urban development, federal housing commissioner, head of the Corporation for National and Community Service and assistant attorney general for tax policy.

Of course, Senate Democrats had their chance to make a change in procedures to block the GOP’s filibuster strategy, after two years of solid evidence of the GOP’s intent. Having failed to do so, there was little choice for the White House beyond taking the GOP straight on, something it should have done a dozen or so failed nominations ago.

RNC seeks to overturn ban on direct corporate donations to candidates 

The Raw Story:

Emboldened by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the Republican National Committee (RNC) is seeking to increase the influence corporations have over funding American politics.

In a brief filed Tuesday afternoon to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the RNC is seeking to overturn a 1908 law banning corporations from directly giving money to candidates, calling it unconstitutional.

“The complete ban both is over-inclusive to this aim and artificially disadvantages political party and candidate committees,” they wrote. “It is over-inclusive because it bans all corporate donations without regard to the ability of corporate donors to attribute their donations to individuals.”

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling of 2010 continues to have a huge impact on the American electoral process, allowing corporations to spend unlimited money without disclosure in political campaigns through Super PAC groups.

The RNC’s push to allow direct corporate contributions to individual campaigns would only serve to deepen the already-large influence corporations current have in elections.

 

 

 

The eerie parallels between 2008 and 2012

David Weigel:

I’m thinking of a Republican primary. It starts with a candidate (John McCain/Mitt Romney) who ran once before, came in second place, and won over the party’s elite class without winning over its base. Other candidates, understandably unwilling to accept this, line up: An under-funded social conservative (Mike Huckabee/Rick Santorum), an elder statesman who’s walked to the altar three times (Rudy Giuliani/Newt Gingrich), a libertarian who wants to bring back the gold standard (Ron Paul/Ron Paul).

The conservative base is displeased. In the year before the primary, it pines for a perfect candidate. At the end of summer, on (September 5/August 13), it gets him: (Fred Thompson/Rick Perry). The dream candidate immediately rises to the top of national polls, but collapses after lazy, distaff debate performances. When the primaries arrive, he’s in single digits and reduced to attacking the front-runners. But in Iowa, he does just well enough to justify staying in the race.

The social conservative (wins/almost wins, depending on what math you believe) Iowa. Flush with victory, eager to prove himself in all battlegrounds, he spends most of the next week in New Hampshire. But the surge can only take him from the margin of error to (13/9) percent of the vote. The old dream candidate, now a national laughingstock only known for a debate moment (“I’m not doing any hand shows”/”Oops”) has already moved on to South Carolina. He flies to New Hampshire just to participate in a debate, deeply annoying the supporters of (Ron Paul/Buddy Roemer), whose candidate had worked harder there. He polls a pathetic 1 percent, but stays in the race. The field is crowded enough that a horrified base sees how the front-runner, who’s won the endorsement of (Lindsey Graham/Nikki Haley), can win South Carolina with a plurality of the vote.

The Republican base looks at the wreckage and shudders. It can never allow this to happen ever again.

 


Frank Luntz says ‘capitalism’ is a dirty word and Republicans shouldn’t use it 

ThinkProgress:

Last year, Mitt Romney told a Tea Party gathering, “I believe in free enterprise, I believe in capitalism.” Now, Romney’s practice of “vulture capitalism,” in Rick Perry’s words, is coming under attack. As Rush Limbaugh observed recently, “Here we have capitalism being attacked by Republicans, capitalism under assault by Republicans.” In the face of this assault, one of the GOP’s chief strategists is advising Republicans to stop defending capitalism.

Recall, just over a month ago, GOP pollster Frank Luntz offered strategic advice to Republican governors, in which he expressed concerns about the increasing strength of the 99 Percent movement, the Occupy protests, and the waning support for “capitalism.” Luntz told the group that the public thinks “capitalism is immoral. And if we’re seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we’ve got a problem.”

Now, as Romney faces heat from within his own party, Luntz is worried about a “nightmare” scenario where conservatives will go “down the tubes” if they are forced to defend “crony capitalism.” Last night on Fox News, Luntz said the solution is not for conservatives to support a fairer tax system or rid corporate loopholes; rather, just change the language they use:

Conservatives should not be defending capitalism. They should be defending economic freedom. And there is a difference. The word capitalism was created by Karl Marx to demonize those people who make a profit. We’ve always talked about the free enterprise system or economic freedom. Suddenly, they’re trying to defend something that has only 18 percent support.

There’s more than a few problems here. Of course, the Republicans have been long-time defenders of the worst elements of unregulated capitalism. Moreover, conservatives have pilloried Obama for his “war on capitalism,” for wanting to put “capitalism on trial,” and for his purported lack of knowledge about capitalism. As Jeb Bush said succinctly, “I think President Obama has used the bully pulpit as a way to attack capitalism.”

Apparently, Luntz wants the public to believe that Republicans are both the defenders and the opponents of “capitalism.”

 

 

 

South Carolina politics is about as dirty as it gets

ABC News:

“This is not politics, this is garbage.”

South Carolina has a habit of blurring the line. Bob Dole’s 1988 declaration, made on the floor of the U.S Senate, was provoked by a memo implying new Democratic Speaker of the House Tom Foley was “in the closet,” lying about both his sexuality and political plans.

The offending note was authored, in part, by South Carolina’s infamous political hit man Lee Atwater.

But the attack on Foley, who had by then spent more than two decades in Congress, hardly registers in the long line of dirty political deeds committed in or plotted from the Palmetto State.

The most infamous and high-profile attack was scripted by George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, which suggested – through affiliated channels – that then-presidential rival Sen. John McCain had fathered a baby with a black prostitute; was brainwashed during his time as a P.O.W. in the Vietnam War (making him a real-life “Manchurian Candidate”); and that his wife was addicted to prescription pain medication.

President Bush denied any involvement in the smears, but McCain didn’t seem convinced. He lost to Bush handily in the South Carolina primary and never recovered. Upon returning to the Senate, McCain became the president’s most vocal GOP critic, although he did eventually endorse the incumbent during the 2004 campaign.

Indeed, McCain is alleged by Democrats to have called on the same“constituent contact”  group to spread accusations about 2008 rival Barack Obama’s relationship with former Weather Underground leader Bill Ayers.

South Carolina’s governor, the Republican Nikki Haley, got a heavy dose of Palmetto political medicine during her run for office in 2010. Two men came forward during her campaign to say they’d had sexual encounters with the candidate. One of them, Larry Marchant, was working as a campaign consultant for Haley’s opponent, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.

Right-wing blogger Erick Erickson summed up Bauer’s strategy simply: “Ignore the issues, ignore the experience and go straight to calling Nikki Haley a whore.”

This episode unfolded just as Gov. Mark Sanford was preparing to leave office, handcuffed by scandal after disappearing from Columbia to visit his mistress in Argentina. Sanford had originally denied the story, saying he’d taken time off to walk the Appalachian Trail.

As for Haley, the alleged dalliances were never proven. Marchant was fired soon after his allegations fell flat, and the governor was elected by a wide margin. Haley is now one of Mitt Romney’s most prominent campaign surrogates and a decent bet to be in the mix for a shot at the vice presidency if he wins the nomination.

Now, with six candidates still nominally in the race and less than two weeks to primary day, South Carolina in 2012 is an Atwaterian dream.

(“In 1988, fighting [Michael] Dukakis, I said that I ‘would strip the bark off the little bastard’,” Atwater told Life Magazine before he died in 1991.)

So far, less than 24 hours since the polls closed in New Hampshire, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has already called Romney’s former company Bain Capital, “Vulture capitalists.”

“That’s what I want the people of South Carolina to think about,” Perry said.

If Newt Gingrich has his way, they won’t be thinking about, or seeing, much else. The super PAC Winning Our Future, to which the candidate has no official ties, has produced a 27-and-a-half minute video detailing and demonizing Romney’s time at Bain. The plan, for now, is to cut the piece down to commercial-size slices and air them across the state until voting begins.

Not to be outdone, Romney-backing super PAC Restore Our Future has mailed out a flier stating, “Fact: A conservative would not give 60 million taxpayer dollars a year to the United Nations Population Fund, which supports China’s brutal one-child policy. Fact: Newt Gingrich did.”

Rick Santorum has more limited super PAC support, but he has enlisted Christian conservative leader and former GOP primary candidate Gary Bauer to rip Ron Paul on foreign policy. Bauer’s Emergency Committee for Israel produced a minute-long ad, which was posted online Jan. 6 and will begin airing on TV today.

“[Ron Paul] is hostile to our military, hostile to our allies like Israel, and was hostile to great conservatives like Ronald Reagan. He denies that Iran is building a nuclear weapon,” Bauer says. “He blames America for creating terrorism.”

The candidates will meet again in person next Monday at the S.C. GOP Presidential Preference Primary Debate in Myrtle Beach.

 

 

 

UPDATE: The New Hampshire and Iowa GOP electorates were both 99% white.  

 

 

 

Elizabeth Warren Raises Massive $5.7 Million in 4th Quarter

Roll Call Politics:

[…] Warren bested Republican Sen.Scott Brown, who pulled in $3.2 million in the last three months of the year.

Brown ended 2011 with about $12.8 million in cash on hand. Warren had more than $6 million in the bank. Warren’s fundraising figures were first reported by the Boston Globe.

“From all across our commonwealth, people are supporting our campaign and the fight to level the playing field for middle class families,” Warren said in a statement. “With Wall Street lining up against this campaign, already contributing millions and willing to pay any price to try to stop our work, it’s going to take a strong, grassroots effort like this to win.”

 

 

 

Democratic National Convention Bans K Street

Politico:

Access is everything at the Democratic National Convention for K Streeters.

But now a ban on corporate and lobbyist donations — which used to come with tickets to official convention events, hotel suites and other opportunitites to schmooze with Democrats — is trying to limit Big Business’s involvement in the biggest party of the year.

The rules announced last year by the Democratic National Committee forbid the 2012 convention in Charlotte, N.C., from accepting cash from corporations or registered lobbyists, and would cap individual contributions at $100,000. The limits are an outgrowth of the Obama administration’s push to restrict lobbyist and private sector influence on government.

In 2008, the convention raised more than $50 million drawing largely from wealthy donors and corporate contributions.

Already, eight months out, K Street is scrambling to overcome the new restrictions. Hired guns and in-house corporate execs are plotting ways around the new rules to make sure they’ll have a prime opportunity to mingle with party operatives and sherpa senior executives into official convention activities.

“The Democrats have made it inconvenient for corporations to donate to the convention but not impossible,” said Kenneth Gross, a veteran ethics lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Several K Streeters said, rest assured, they will make the most of the event — even if it means a night at the Super 8 Motel instead of the Four Seasons.

That’s a stark contrast from traditional practice at national conventions, where corporations could cut big checks with the expectation that in exchange they’d get perks like hotel rooms, access to key social events and other benefits.

In 2008, the highest level donors — those contributing at least $1 million — got VIP access and credentials to the convention center for events, first consideration to reserve premier venue space for corporate hospitality events, entrée to private events with elected Colorado officials and the members of the executive committee and invitations to all host committee-sponsored events, according to a Denver sponsorship packet. Companies also received recognition in host committee publications, logo placement on the official host committee website and other sponsorship opportunities for delegate gift bags and prominent banner placement in the city or corporate logo on hotel key cards for multiple hotels.

The Republican National Committee has not implemented any limits on lobbyists and corporate donors.

Some lobbyists say they’re looking for ways to get convention access and boost the party despite the new hurdles, although many are grumbling about the challenges.

“I would guess there are going to be companies that figure out, ‘Okay, there’s no real way we’re going to be able to get around the limitation on corporate funding conventions, so what we’ll do is we will just get a block of rooms or condos somewhere near downtown and we’ll pay for that,’” one Democratic lobbyist said. “And then, if there’s a way that our executives or Washington folks can get access to credentials through whatever means, well, we’ll just leave them to figure out what those channels might be.”

Others are threatening to stay home and withhold their help, which makes convention planners worry.

“The rules limit access to what is supposed to be a democratic process. So people who have to be there and want to be a part of the movement are creating work-arounds to make it happen. Hopefully we will reach a critical mass,” said convention consultant LeeAnn Petersen of Conventions 2012. “Right now, operatives are concerned that nobody is actually going to go. That it’s just too complicated.”

MORE>>>

 

 

 

The guy who owns Gold’s Gym is doing some heavy lifting for the GOP this election cycle 

 

 

 

POLLS

Rising Share of Americans See Conflict Between Rich and Poor

Pew Research:

The Occupy Wall Street movement no longer occupies Wall Street, but the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness. A new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults finds that about two-thirds of the public (66%) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor—an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.

Not only have perceptions of class conflict grown more prevalent; so, too, has the belief that these disputes are intense. According to the new survey, three-in-ten Americans (30%) say there are “very strong conflicts” between poor people and rich people. That is double the proportion that offered a similar view in July 2009 and the largest share expressing this opinion since the question was first asked in 1987.

As a result, in the public’s evaluations of divisions within American society, conflicts between rich and poor now rank ahead of three other potential sources of group tension—between immigrants and the native born; between blacks and whites; and between young and old. Back in 2009, more survey respondents said there were strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born than said the same about the rich and the poor.1

Virtually all major demographic groups now perceive significantly more class conflict than two years ago. However, the survey found that younger adults, women, Democrats and African Americans are somewhat more likely than older people, men, Republicans, whites or Hispanics to say there are strong disagreements between rich and poor.

While blacks are still more likely than whites see serious class conflicts, the share of whites who hold this view has increased by 22 percentage points, to 65%, since 2009. At the same time, the proportion of blacks (74%) and Hispanics (61%) sharing this judgment has grown by single digits (8 and 6 points, respectively).

The biggest increases in perceptions of class conflicts occurred among political liberals and Americans who say they are not affiliated with either major party. In each group the proportion who say there are major disagreements between rich and poor Americans increased by more than 20 percentage points since 2009.

These changes in attitudes over a relatively short period of time may reflect the income and wealth inequality message conveyed by Occupy Wall Street protesters across the country in late 2011 that led to a spike in media attention to the topic. But the changes also may also reflect a growing public awareness of underlying shifts in the distribution of wealth in American society.2 According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, the proportion of overall wealth—a measure that includes home equity, stocks and bonds and the value of jewelry, furniture and other possessions—held by the top 10% of the population increased from 49% in 2005 to 56% in 2009.

Perceptions of the Wealthy

While the survey results show a significant shift in public perceptions of class conflict in American life, they do not necessarily signal an increase in grievances toward the wealthy. It is possible that individuals who see more conflict between the classes think that anger toward the rich is misdirected. Nor do these data suggest growing support for government measures to reduce income inequality.

In fact, other questions in the survey show that some key attitudes toward the wealthy have remained largely unchanged. For example, there has been no change in views about whether the rich became wealthy through personal effort or because they were fortunate enough to be from wealthy families or have the right connections.

A 46% plurality believes that most rich people “are wealthy mainly because they know the right people or were born into wealthy families.” But nearly as many have a more favorable view of the rich: 43% say wealthy people became rich “mainly because of their own hard work, ambition or education,” largely unchanged from a Pew survey in 2008.

About the Survey

This report is based on findings from a Pew Research Center telephone survey conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,048 adults ages 18 and older living in the continental United States, including an oversample of 808 adults ages 18 to 34. A total of 769 interviews were completed with respondents contacted by landline telephone and 1,279 with those contacted on their cellular phone. The data are weighted to produce a final sample that is representative of the general population of adults in the continental United States. Survey interviews were conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International, in English and Spanish.

• Interviews conducted December 6-19, 2011
• 2,048 interviews
• Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points for results based on the total sample and 4.4 percentage points for adults ages 18 to 34 at the 95% confidence level.

Moreover, a recent Gallup survey found that a smaller share of the public believes that income inequality is a problem “that needs to be fixed” today than held that view in 1998 (45% vs. 52%). And when asked to rate the importance of various alternative federal policies, fewer than half (46%) say “reduc[ing] the income and wealth gap between the rich and the poor” is “extremely” or “very” important. In contrast, more than eight-in-ten (82%) say policies that encourage economic growth should be high priorities.

Social Conflict in American Life

About two-thirds of the public say there are strong conflicts between the rich and the poor, and nearly half of these (30%) say these conflicts are “very strong.” An additional 36% say these differences are “strong,” while 23% view them as “not very strong.” Only 7% say there are no conflicts between rich and poor Americans, while the remainder does not offer an opinion.

Three other historic social divisions are viewed as less pervasive or contentious. About six-in-ten (62%) say there are strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born, including 24% who characterize these disagreements as “very strong.”

That represents a major change from the Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2009. At that time, a larger share of Americans believed that there were more strong conflicts between immigrants and the native born than between rich and poor people (55% vs. 47%). Today, even though perceptions of disagreements between immigrants and the native born have increased by 7 percentage points in the past two years, this social divide now ranks behind rich-poor conflicts in the public’s hierarchy of social flashpoints.

Two other social divides are viewed as less pervasive or intense. Fewer than four-in-ten (38%) say there are serious conflicts between blacks and whites, including 10% who see these conflicts as being “very strong.” About a third say there are similar disagreements between the young and old (34%, a 9-point increase since 2009).

Income and Perceptions of Class Conflict

The perception that strong and growing conflicts exist between the economic classes is broadly held. Not only do those at the bottom rungs of the income scale agree that there are serious disagreements between the economic classes, but even those who are relatively well-off hold that belief.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of all adults with family incomes of less than $20,000 a year report serious conflicts between the rich and poor—a view shared by 67% of those earning $75,000 a year or more.

Moreover, the perceptions of class conflicts have grown in virtual lock step across all income groups since 2009, rising by 17 percentage points among those earning less than $20,000 and by 18 points among those making $75,000 or more.

The increase is slightly larger among middle-income Americans earning between $40,000 and $75,000. Among this group, the share who say there are strong class conflicts increased by 24 points, from 47% in 2009 to 71% in the latest survey.

Other Demographic Differences

Young people ages 18 to 34—the demographic group most closely associated with the Occupy movement—is more likely than those 35 or older to see “strong” conflicts between the rich and poor. According to the survey, more than seven-in-ten (71%) of these young adults say there are major disagreements between the most and least affluent, a 17 percentage point increase since 2o09.

Baby Boomers ages 50 to 64—the mothers and fathers of the Occupy generation—are nearly as likely to say there are serious conflicts between the upper and lower classes; fully two-thirds (67%) say this, a 22-point increase in the past two years. Among those ages 35 to 49, more than six-in-ten (64%) see serious class conflicts.

While older adults are the least likely to see serious disagreements between the classes, the proportion who express this view increased from 36% two years ago to 55% in the current survey.

Women are more likely than men to say there are serious disagreements between the rich and poor (71% vs. 60%). In 2009, about half of all women (51%) and 43% of men said there was strong conflict between the classes.

Perceptions of Class Conflict Surge among Whites

In the past two years, the proportion of whites who say there are strong conflicts between the rich and the poor has grown by 22 percentage points to 65%. That is more than triple the increase among blacks or Hispanics. The result is that the “perceptions gap” between blacks and whites on class conflict has been cut in half, while among Hispanics the difference has disappeared and may have reversed.

In the latest survey, the difference in the share of blacks and whites who say there are strong conflicts between rich and poor stands at 9 percentage points (74% for blacks vs. 65% for whites). In 2009 the black-white divide on this question stood at 23 percentage points (66% vs. 43%).

Among Hispanics, the gap has closed and may have reversed: In 20o9, the share of Hispanics who said there were serious conflicts between the economic classes was 12 points larger than the share of whites (55% vs. 43%). Today, the proportion of whites who say there are serious
disagreements is 4 percentage points greater than the share of Hispanics who hold the same view (65% for whites vs. 61% for Hispanics), though this difference is not statistically significant.

The Politics of Class Conflict

Democrats and political liberals are far more likely than Republicans or conservatives to say there are major conflicts between rich people and poor people.

At the same time, in just two years the perceptions of class conflict have increased significantly among members of both political parties as well as among self-described independents, conservatives, liberals and moderates.

The result is that majorities of each political party and ideological point of view now agree that serious disputes exist between Americans on the top and bottom of the income ladder.

Nearly three-quarters of self-described Democrats (73%) say there are serious class conflicts, an 18 percentage point increase over those who said that in 2009. The increase among Republicans was about as large (17 percentage points); currently a majority of GOP partisans see serious conflicts between rich and poor.

Views of class conflicts increased the most among political independents, swelling by 23 percentage points to 68% in the current survey. Two years ago, fewer than half of all independents said there were major disagreements between the classes.

Similarly, perceptions of class conflict among ideological liberals increased by 23 percentage points to 79% in the past two years while rising less quickly among conservatives (15 points) or moderates (18 points).

How the Rich Got Wealthy

Americans divide nearly evenly when they are asked if the rich became wealthy mostly due to their own hard work or mainly because they were born into a wealthy family or had connections.

A narrow plurality (46%) believes the rich are wealthy because they were born into money or “know the right people.” But nearly as many (43%) say the rich got that way because of their own “hard work, ambition or education.”

The latest result is virtually identical to the findings of a 2008 Pew survey. It found that 46% of the public believed that riches are mostly the result of having the right connections or being born into the right family, while 42% say hard work and individual characteristics are the main reason the rich are wealthy.3

These competing explanations of wealth are cited by roughly equal shares of all income groups. According to the latest Pew survey, 46% of those with family incomes of less than $20,000 a year believe that luck and connections explain most wealth, a view shared by 47% of those with family incomes of $100,000 or more.

In contrast, attitudes of Republicans and Democrats on this issue are mirror opposites of each other. Nearly six-in-ten Democrats (58%) say wealth is mainly due to family money or knowing the right people. An identical proportion of Republicans say wealth is mainly a consequence of hard work, ambition or having the necessary education to get ahead. Political independents fall in between: slightly less than half (45%) credit personal effort, while an equal share believe family circumstances or connections is the most likely explanation.

African Americans (54%) are more likely than non-Hispanic whites (44%) to see wealth as a consequence of family money or connections, a view shared by 51% of Hispanics. Women in the survey are slightly more likely than men to say wealth is the result of family or connections but these differences are not statistically significant.

Young people are significantly more likely than older adults to believe most wealth is due to family money or connections (51% for those ages 18-34 but 37% for adults 65 or older). However, the views of the “younger young”—those 18 to 25—differ significantly from those who are just a few years older.

According to the survey, less than half (47%) of those 18 to 25 say the rich are wealthy because of reasons other than personal effort or drive, or about equal to the proportion of those 35 or older who share this view. In contrast, a majority (55%) of those 26 to 34 say being born into a wealthy family or personal connections are the main reasons that people are rich.

Views on Wealth, Class Conflict

Attitudes toward the wealthy—specifically, how the rich got that way—are somewhat correlated with views on class conflict.

According to the survey, those who believe the rich acquired their fortunes mainly through their own efforts are significantly less likely than those who hold the contrary view to say there are strong conflicts between the classes (60% vs. 72%).

Expert: Pollsters Undersampled Paul’s Young, Indie New Hampshire Voters 

NPR:

Did pollsters underestimate the strength of Rep. Ron Paul’s New Hampshire support because they didn’t include enough younger voters or independents in their samples?

Yes, argues Stefan Hankin, a Washington, D.C. based pollster in a piece on the Campaign and Elections website.

“The miss on the Paul numbers is a bit troubling. When looking at the polling firms that release their demographics, it is clear that younger voters were under sampled. In the last Suffolk Poll, under 35s were at 7.6 percent; PPP had under 30s at 10 percent. Moreover, both these firms were also off on the sampling of independent voters. PPP had independents at 37 percent and Suffolk had them at 40 percent.”

One exit poll put the percentage of under 30s at 12 percent. Meanwhile, independents comprised 45 percent of voters who turned out.

Young voters are traditionally harder than their elders for pollsters to accurately gauge before an election. They often don’t follow through on voting intentions to the same degree as seniors and more likely to make up their minds later than older voters.

Those factors might have played a role Tuesday in New Hampshire. Hankin makes the point that while the New Hampshire results were fairly predictable, South Carolina should be less so.

“Given Romney’s wide lead in New Hampshire, the under sampling of independents and younger voters didn’t throw the polls off wildly. But in South Carolina, where the candidates are packed much tighter, a similar missampling could be much more consequential.”

 

 

 

SCIENCE

World’s Smallest Vertebrate Discovered

Discover:

SCOTUS

Obama administration putting the squeeze on Scalia in health care case. 

TPM:

On first blush, it seems like a no-brainer that Antonin Scalia will vote to overturn the health care reform law’s requirement that Americans buy insurance: the Reagan-appointed justice is a staunch conservative who’s beloved by Republicans; for what possible reason could he deliver such a devastating blow to his own side and boost President Obama?

The answer: judicial precedent. His own. And the Obama administration has noticed.

In its brief filed with the Supreme Court Friday, the Justice Department cited no fewer than 10 times the 2005 Gonzalez v. Raich case, in which Scalia (and Justice Anthony Kennedy) broke with the court’s conservative wing to hand down what scholars viewed as one of the broadest declarations of federal power under the Commerce Clause: a 6-3 ruling decreeing that Congress may ban a medical-marijuana patient from growing cannabis for personal use in California where it’s legal.

Raich was bound to come up either way as it’s seen as the most relevant precedent to the Affordable Care Act case, but the Obama administration is deploying it to box in Scalia specifically and conservatives broadly. Five separate times in the brief, the DOJ noted Scalia’s concurrence in the case.

“It’s just to say look, you got this right last time, and you were right last time and you should do the same thing this time,” Tim Jost, professor of health law at Washington and Lee University, told TPM.

Although laws about marijuana and health insurance appear to be separate issues, from a judicial standpoint they drill down to the same core question: the extent of the federal government’s constitutional authority to regulate.

The DOJ drew the parallel:

[Angel] Raich claimed that Congress could not regulate her cultivation of marijuana for personal use because she was ‘entirely separated from the market. The Court rejected that artificial limit on Congress’s commerce power, because “marijuana that is grown at home and possessed for personal use is never more than an instant from the interstate market,” (Scalia, J., concurring in the judgment). The same principle applies here. Because of human susceptibility to disease and accident, we are all potentially never more than an instant from the ‘point of consumption’ of health care.

And the jurisprudence in Raich is hardly seen as an outlier.

“The concept here is about a body of laws developed over the last 60 or 70 years that has adopted a very expansive view of federal power,” Orin Kerr, professor of law at George Washington University and a former clerk for Justice Kennedy, told TPM. “The precedents don’t foreclose the idea one hundred percent, but they seem to point relatively directly to the conclusion that the justices will vote to uphold the mandate.”

The Obama administration claims that the exercise of federal power in Raich is at least as legitimate as the insurance mandate, arguing that letting people remain uninsured undercuts regulation of interstate commerce by passing medical costs onto taxpayers. Georgetown legal scholar and outspoken Affordable Care Act opponent Randy Barnett, who represented the plaintiffs in Raich, fears Scalia may buy into this.

Others believe he’ll find a way to oppose the mandate. Their argument goes that Scalia’s decision in Raich was motivated by a partisan desire to “punch some pot smoking hippies in the face,” and that he won’t hesitate to take a different tack when it comes to the health care reform law.

Adam Serwer noted at the time that Scalia may well have an escape hatch: as Judge Henry Hudson noted in his ruling to strike down the mandate, Raich was about regulating “activity” (i.e. growing marijuana in one’s backyard) while the mandate is about regulating “inactivity” (i.e. not buying health insurance). Invoking this could help Scalia fend off charges of inconsistency.

David Rivkin, an outside counsel for the plaintiffs in the health reform case, told National Review he’s “very comfortable” that Scalia will seize upon this distinction to strike down the mandate.

The administration, conscious of this, attacks it as a distinction without a difference: “That effort to fashion an unprecedented limitation on the commerce power should be rejected.”

Scalia’s more recent actions hint that he’s lost his enthusiasm for federal power since Raich: one year ago, he signed onto a dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas on the court’s refusal to hear a case that would provide the justices an opportunity to narrow the Commerce Clause.

 

 

 

Supreme Court Says Churches Can Discriminate Against Religious Employees For Any Reason 

Addiciting Info:

Today, the Supreme Court made a unanimous landmark decision reinforcing the separation of Church and State to the detriment of the disabled.

Ruling on a case from Michigan, the SCOTUS ruled that religious employees could not sue their employer for discrimination. Secular employees, for instance, a janitor, are still protected by the law. This means that anyone working for a church in a religious capacity, like a Sunday School treacher, is at the mercy of that church if it chooses to discriminate against them for any reason at all, even non-religious reasons.

This particular case involves Cheryl Perich, a religious instructor and commissioned minister at the Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Redford, Michigan. In 2004, Perich fell ill and, after a leave of absence, was denied the resumption of her position which had been filled. She had been diagnosed with narcolepsy and threatened to sue if not reinstated under the Americans with Disability Act. The church fired her in retaliation.

In the Courts’ decision, Chief Justice Roberts said:

Allowing anti-discrimination lawsuits against religious organizations could end up forcing churches to take religious leaders they no longer want. Such action interferes with the internal governance of the church, depriving the church of control over the selection of those who will personify its beliefs. By imposing an unwanted minister, the state infringes the Free Exercise Clause, which protects a religious group’s right to shape its own faith and mission through its appointments.”

I happen to agree with this 100%. The government should not have the right to force a church to employ a person, in a religious capacity, that goes against the particular faith of that organization. That could lead to a Fred Phelps in a progressive church or a progressive in Fred Phelps’ church. Obviously unthinkable. Except that Perich was simply looking to resume her job after an unexpected illness. Her religious credentials (for lack of a better word) remained unchanged.

Roberts went on:

“We are reluctant to adopt a rigid formula for deciding when an employee qualifies as a minister. It is enough for us to conclude, in this, our first case involving the ministerial exception, that the exception covers Perich, given all the circumstances of her employment.”

Again, said circumstances being an illness and a desire to have her job back. Under this ruling, the victim of a car accident, a new mother coming back from maternity leave or a cancer survivor can be denied their job if they are employed in a religious capacity.

The conservative tilted court showed a singular lack of courage in refusing to clarify the circumstances under which the so-called “ministerial exception” operates. Said court not having previously shown any hesitation with ruling outside the confines of a case when it advanced the conservative agenda (see Citizens United).

I wonder how the Right will weigh in on this? On the one hand, they insist that there is no separation of Church and State. On the other, if they were no separation, then churches should not be protected from anti-discrimination laws. It should be interesting to see the logic pretzels they twist themselves into.

Read more here.

 

 

UNIONS

Scene outside Indiana Gov Mitch Daniels’ State of State address on stripping union rights

 

 

 

 

WEDGE ISSUES

Michelle Obama on new book: Some want to give her “angry black woman” image 

First Lady Michelle Obama denied reports of tension between her and White House aides, saying people have tried to portray her as “some kind of angry black woman.”

In an interview with CBS News, the first lady said she has not read New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor’s new book “The Obamas,” which depicts her as a forceful behind-the-scenes power player in her husband’s administration who often clashes with the president’s top advisers.

“I never read these books,” Obama told CBS’ Gayle King. “I’ve just gotten in the habit of not reading other people’s impressions of people.”

The first lady denied accusations that she is frustrated and unhappy in the White House, saying “I love this job” and that it has “been a privilege” from day one.

“I guess it’s more interesting to imagine this conflicted situation here and a strong woman. But that’s been an image that people have tried to paint of me since the day Barack announced. That I’m some angry black woman.”

Asked how she deals with that image, Mrs. Obama said “I just try to be me.”

“My hope is that over time people get to know me. And they get to judge me for me,” she said. “That’s why I don’t read these books. Because, you know, it’s a game in so many ways… Who can write about how I feel? Who? What third person can tell me how I feel? Or anybody for that matter.”

The first lady pushed back specifically against reports of friction with the president’s former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

“Rahm and I have never had a cross word. He’s a funny guy,” she said. “I don’t have conversations with my husband’s staff. I don’t go to the meetings. Our staffs work together really well. If there’s communication that needs to happen, it happens between staffs… I can count the number of times I go over to the West Wing, period.”

Mrs. Obama also said she was unaware of the 2010 incident, detailed in the book, when Gibbs lost his temper and reportedly shouted profanities about the first lady. “Robert Gibbs is a trusted adviser. He’s been a good friend and remains so. I’m sure that we could go day-to-day and find things people wish they didn’t say to each other or said. People stumble. People make mistakes.”

 

 

 

Why the Obamas should embrace “The Obamas.”

Ilyse Hogue:

[…] Still, by centralizing the marriage as core to the narrative of the Obama presidency, Kantor is on to something important. Alongside policy concerns, people are hungry to understand the character of the people in charge of our country. Voters don’t expect calmness to prevail in the pressure cooker of politics, and it’s not news to anyone that staffers sometimes lose their tempers or use foul language in the West Wing. But in voters’ never-ending quest to discern the substance and values in a political world littered with gossip and posturing, insight into family relationships provides a critical indicator of integrity, of authenticity, of that intangible quality of character that matters to three of four voters.

The way a candidate approaches marriage serves as one window into the equation of shared values. It’s no accident that GOP opponents have focused as much time attacking Newt Gingrich for his string of divorces and for his decision to leave his second wife while she was hospitalized for cancer as they have on his toxic political record as Speaker of the House. Most Americans cannot picture themselves doing anything similar. Nor is it surprising that Americans have been fascinated by the union between Michele Bachmann and her enigmatic husband, Marcus. From her pronouncement of her own submissiveness in their marriage to his decision to spend the day before the Iowa caucus shopping for dog glasses, the bizarre story of their marriage added to a series of stumbles that ultimately sank her.

In contrast, Kantor portrays the Obamas’ marriage as not only filled with mutual respect and joy but also as reflective of the modern complications and challenges that many Americans face juggling two careers and family concerns. Covering the 2008 election made Kantor aware of how hungry voters—especially coveted women voters—were for this kind of story.

“I was inspired in part to write this book when talking to women voters on the trail in 2008,” she told me in a phone conversation. “I would try to ask them questions about candidates, and they would want to talk about the media. They felt Hillary Clinton was being treated in a very sexist way, and I wasn’t sure that I agreed with that. There’s a kind of nastiness to politics and they were seeing a woman subjected to it for the first time. Still, I could tell there was not enough out there to speak to them and their needs and lives. There was a huge underserved market of readers out there who were perhaps looking for different kind of story [about our leaders].”

Kantor answered these concerns with The Obamas, an honest portrayal of people who are put under unprecedented scrutiny with unusual rapidity. Neither of them had the experience of being from political and wealthy families, like the Kennedys who shared their youth as first couple. Nor had they the practice of presenting their modern marriage to the public like the Clintons had from living in the Arkansas governor’s mansion. The added strain of being the groundbreaking African-American first family would take most people—and marriages—to the breaking point. Instead, Kantor’s story is one of balance and grace, a couple who navigates an almost impossible situation with not only their relationship but their noble aspirations intact.

For a president who has been criticized for holding the public at arm’s length, the portrayal ofhim in the book can add texture to his humanity at a time voters are looking to reconnect to the incumbent. And while pundits speak of a potential enthusiasm gap among women voters, the story of the First Lady’s influence over her devoted husband’s agenda can help give confidence to a coveted demographic that can secure margins of victory in tight races.

Ms. Kantor writes in the book, “Every day, he met with advisers who emphasized the practical realities of Washington, who reminded him of poll numbers; he spent his nights with Michelle, who talked about moral imperatives, aides said, who reminded him again and again that they were there to do good, to avoid being distracted by political noise, to be bold.”

Rather than protesting, the White House should embrace the book as one that admirably depicts the first couple as thriving partners, even as they struggle against the constraints of antiquated roles in leading the country into a new millennium.

 

 

Melissa Harris-Perry’s chapter relating to Michelle Obama here.

 

 

 

MUST SEE Rev Al Sharpton segment: Party Like It’s 1860

http://video.msnbc.msn.com/politicsnation/45964360/#null

 

 

 

Get ready for Super Bowl ads featuring…aborted fetuses. Yep, you heard that right. 

Mother Jones:

Anti-abortion activist Randall Terry has been running graphic ads of aborted fetuses in key primary states, as my colleague Tim Murphy has reported. Now the gruesome ads are coming to the Super Bowl.

Nothing says “pass the dip” like a bloody fetus. Normally, Terry wouldn’t be able to get these kinds of ads on television. So he’s launching a non-serious campaign for president (running as a Democratic challenger to President Obama) in order to exploit a loophole in Federal Communications Commission rules that requires station to run campaign ads in the weeks ahead of a primary election—no matter how grisly they might be. In the 45 days ahead of a primary and 60 days ahead of a general election, candidates for federal office can run whatever they want on local stations, as long as they pay for the airtime.

Yes, the FCC can try to fine you a half-million dollars for a “wardrobe malfunction,” but bundles of bloody body parts is A-okay.

Terry can’t, however, force the networks to run his ads nationally, asJezebel points out. So if you live in a state that doesn’t have a primary within 45 days of the Superbowl, you can enjoy your nachos without looking at fetal body parts. (Which, it’s probably worth pointing out, are from late-term abortions; the vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester.) But if you live in a Super Tuesday state or any of the others voting in February or early March, be prepared. The Greeley Gazette writes that Terry and his group have ads “ready to go” in 40 markets.

 

 

 

Indiana, this is your week. State GOP bill calls for Lord’s Prayer recital each morning in school 

 

 

 

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

Sh*t Nobody Says

 

 

TAKE ACTION

“It’s Viral!” The Movement to Overturn Citizens United Swamps the Internet 

 

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.

– H. L. Mencken (H/T bito!]

Written by Chernynkaya

I am an artist and have lived in Los Angeles all of my life, except for a brief hippie period when I lived in SF. I am currently (semi-unwillingly) retired, but have had several careers.

19 Responses so far.

Click here to leave a comment
  1. I love the Escheresque Daily Planet graphic.

    Lots of news indeed.

    I think the whole Romney argument that voters are just “envious” will go over like Phil Graham calling us a nation of “whiners”.

    Since the rich are doing so well now all we need is a “the fundamental of the economy is strong” from Romney to seal the deal for Obama.

  2. Mitt Romney is Elmer Fudd. Who knew?


  3. SueInCa says:

    I thought Terry Randall was in jail? If he is not, he should be

    • choicelady says:

      As Cher noted, he’s b-a-a-a-a-c-k. He’s been in and out of jail so often they installed a revolving door. He’s only happy when he’s a martyr.

      I’d not mind if someone decided to extend his martyrdom though…

    • Chernynkaya says:

      Sue, he spent a year in jail but was released. What gets me is, how people can game the election system like this. Whatever loophole he’s using needs to be closed.

      • choicelady says:

        Yeah -- I’d agree. But the fetal parts are as likely to be from spontaneous miscarriages as anything. Miscarriages are horrible, too -- but without any human intervention. The contractions can tear a small fetus apart, so the idea that miscarriage is OK but abortions are awful is pretty much not given to these distinctions.

        Terry and his NY state allies got hold of a dead baby probably stillborn NOT aborted, and they carried it around (yuck) claiming it was an aborted child -- which it was waaay to developed to be in NY state. It had been found in the river -- probably dumped by a teen mother -- and for whatever reason, the coroner gave it to them since they SAID they were going to provide a funeral which they never did. They pickled the body instead. But the coroner said it was NOT aborted. So never EVER assume that what you see is real or as claimed.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          I didn’t know that about the fetus. These people are sick! Same as Santorum taking home the stillborn and sleeping with it. Yes, people deal with grief in many ways, but there is something very unwholesome about this obsession with dead baby bodies.

          • choicelady says:

            Santorum harks back to the 19th century when families photographed parents holding their dead infant (and sometimes older children, even adults). The resulting photo was the Memento Mori -- the death memory. Went along with jewelry made from the hair of dead people. I thought that was sad enough, but taking a dead baby home to show your kids -- that goes that extra step toward totally gross and creepy.

            Yeah -- “Tia” the NY folks named the fetus. Put her in a bucket that they wrapped in a large garbage bag. Then they’d drag her out and stick her in people’s faces to gross them out about the evils of abortion -- even though the fetus was NOT aborted.

            Great way to show “respect for life” IMHO.

            • choicelady says:

              OK -- but it ALL beats the “drive in” funeral parlor. That tops the list of really bad taste!

              I’d rather forgotten this film and how incredibly spot on it was about the ways we pretend death can be prettified!

            • Chernynkaya says:


  4. cher, when I heard of the killing of the Iranian scientist, my first thought was Mossad. It wouldn’t surprise me if Mossad was involved. Israel has much more to worry about if Iran does build atomic weapons.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      KT, I’m thinking the same. But to be really honest (and I know intellectually that this is wrong) I think these kinds of actions are not that terrible, if the victim is a bad player. And I know--slippery slope.

      • cher, I was thinking of the old adage about the few must die to save millions. If it was Israel, I can certainly understand their motivations.
        Maybe it was some covert Iraqi team. In today’s world, it’s really hard to say.

      • choicelady says:

        I think it’s part of global reality. It’s the conundrum people faced RE: the SS, Nazis, the assassination attempt on Hitler. If you cannot stop sheer evil before it acts, then what other choice DO you have when it does?

        I limit this to clear and present danger, however, and think the real slippery slope is that it admits two kinds of “White Rose” groups -- those who rose against a global mass killer, Hitler, and those who today assume the name and kill individual abortion providers.

        State sponsored terror or mass killing as in the Sudan and Congo -- is rather a big difference from individual women making individual decisions with individual doctors. But that’s MY distinction, not that of the anti-abortion foes…so that is the slippery slope I worry about.

        • The major distinction for me is that one is a matter of defending a nation from a foreign threat. Iran has made it’s views on Israel very clear.

          • choicelady says:

            KT -- yes, but how far is that from WMD in Iraq? People of sober mind (meaning serious not just not inebriated) say it’s at least a decade before Iran would be close to a weapon. Interviews on NPR today said the death of one man who was involved in procurement of materials would have NO impact on Iran’s program if, indeed, there IS a program. There are thousands more.

            So is Israel’s fear, grounded in poorly developed factual information, justification for murdering one man -- or worse?

            These are the moral and political conundrums that depend entirely on where you stand in the world. I’m not living next door to Iran. Israel is. Doesn’t make them right -- does change the view.

            • Hey CL. I agree with you in principle, but this guy was the director of a uranium enrichment plant. I don’t think there is much doubt that Iran is trying build atomic weapons.
              Whoever killed him probably realized that their actions would not stop Iran, but they wanted to at least slow down the process.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          C’Lady, you’ve articulated my position exactly. As another example, I wish the same fate had awaited A Q Khan.


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