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Chernynkaya On February - 16 - 2012

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

New Report: Romney Budget Proposals Would Require Massive Cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, & Other Nondefense Spending

Center on Budget:

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s proposals to cap total spending, boost defense spending, cut taxes, and balance the budget would require extraordinarily large cuts in nondefense programs. For the most part, Governor Romney has not outlined cuts in specific programs. But if policymakers exempted Social Security from the cuts, as Romney has suggested, and then cut Medicare, Medicaid, and all other nondefense programs by the same percentage, balancing the budget and adhering to the Romney spending cap would require cuts of 35 percent in 2016 and 56 percent in 2022. Without the balanced budget requirement, the cuts would be smaller but still massive — 28 percent in 2016 and 38 percent in 2022. (See Figure 1.) These estimated cuts are somewhat larger than those that we published in an earlier version of this paper for reasons that we outline in Box 1 on page 4, including our use of the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) budget and economic projections.

For nondefense discretionary programs — those subject to annual appropriation — these cuts would come on top of the 11-percent cut already in law due to the discretionary funding caps of the Budget Control Act (BCA) that Congress enacted last August. Our estimates of the depth of cuts that the Romney proposals would require are consistent with what Governor Romney himself has said about the required cuts.

These cuts are far deeper than those that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) austere budget plan would require. They would shrink nondefense discretionary spending — which, over the past 30 years, has averaged 3.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and never fallen below 3.2 percent — to just 1.7 percent by 2022.

MORE>>>

 

 

 

Obama’s latest budget would create 1.5 million jobs this year 

The Economic Policy Institute released an analysis today of the programs in President Obama’s newly proposed budget plan which are aimed at boosting job growth. All told, it would yield approximately 1.5 million new jobs in fiscal year 2012, and around 1.3 million in 2013. This would result in a drop in the unemployment rate of 0.5 percent in 2012 and 0.4 percent in 2013, EPI estimated.

This is consistent with the overall macroeconomic strategy of Obama’s budget: boosting demand immediately, while holding off on significant budget cuts until later in the 10 year window. This approach drives up job growth and would leave the economy at a much more robust level of output when the budget cuts finally do hit — and thus much less likely to falter again in response to those cuts.

Also worth noting: This collection of programs in the new budget is a slight reworking of theAmerican Jobs Act that the President proposed last fall, and which the GOP filibustered into extinction.

BUSINESS

Obama campaign crows as GM posts record $7.6B profit

General Motors announced Thursday it made a profit of $7.6 billion in 2011, a record for the company.

“In our first full year as a public company, we grew the top and bottom lines, advanced our global market share and made strategic investments in our brands around the world,” GM CEO Dan Akerson said in a statement.

“We will build on these results as we bring more new cars, crossovers and trucks to market, and make GM a far more efficient global team,” Akerson said Thursday.

GM’s profits have a bearing on the political world because President Obama is using GM’s comeback as part of his reelection pitch, arguing that his controversial decision to bailout GM and Chrysler is paying off as the companies hire workers.

The federal government loaned GM $6.7 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008 and 2009. The company has since repaid the government for some of the money it borrowed, though critics note that the government still owns a large percentage of GM’s shares on the stock market and has not recovered all of the nearly $50 billion it initially pumped into GM.

Republican presidential candidates have criticized the bailout. Mitt Romney wrote in an op-ed this week that Obama should have allowed the two companies to go through a managed bankruptcy.

“The president tells us that without his intervention things in Detroit would be worse,” Romney wrote. “I believe that without his intervention things there would be better.

The news of GM’s profit was cheered by Democrats, who see Romney’s opposition to the auto bailouts as a political winner for Obama.

“GM posted record annual profit,” Obama’s reelection campaign manager Jim Messina tweeted Thursday. “Glad we didn’t let Detroit fail as Romney suggested. Never bet against the American worker!”

With the next Republican primary contests scheduled for Arizona and Michigan, the financial health of GM and the other American auto companies has emerged as a central campaign issue. Romney’s op-ed this week was meant to follow up on a widely-publicized op-ed in The New York Times in 2008 titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”

In the essay, Romney argued that helping the companies when they were on the verge of going bankrupt would be worse for them in the long run than the consequences of bankruptcy itself.
“If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye,” Romney wrote. “It won’t go overnight, but its demise will be virtually guaranteed.”

Despite GM’s profits, the federal government is still one of its biggest shareholders, and reports have said the government has not recovered about $14 billion of the money it lent the company. Those facts have led some conservatives to derisively refer to GM as “Government Motors.”

For their part, Democrats have prominently featured Romney’s 2008 op-ed in campaign ads, and they say the attacks will multiply in the fall if he is the Republican nominee.

GM Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann said the company plans to continue growing in 2012, spending about $8 billion in capital investments.

“We are executing an aggressive product plan that will give customers around the world even more reasons to purchase a General Motors vehicle,” Ammann said in a statement.  “Behind the scenes, we are working hard to eliminate complexity and cost throughout the organization to increase margins in all of our regions, and return Europe and South America to profitability. Overall, we have made good progress and we have more work to do.”

 

 

 

ECONOMY

 

Details Of The Final Payroll Tax Cut Deal

[PDF]

 

 

 

The consumer protection bureau begins to test its new wings

Debt collectors and credit reporting companies are bracing for intense scrutiny after the government’s consumer finance watchdog unveiled a broad plan to regulate financial firms that have largely evaded federal oversight.

On Thursday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed regulations that would allow the agency to supervise those two controversial corners of the finance industry, which have drawn complaints of aggressive tactics and unfair practices.

The draft rule is the most significant proposal yet to emerge from the consumer agency — a symbol of the government’s new regulatory powers and a favorite target of Congressional Republicans — and the first of several efforts to police financial companies that are not banks.

Debt collectors and credit reporting agencies have gone unsupervised by the federal government for too long,” Richard Cordray, the bureau’s director, told reporters on Thursday. “It is time to provide the kind of oversight of these markets that will help ensure that federal laws protecting consumers in these financial markets are being followed.”

The proposal now enters a 60-day comment period. The bureau expects to complete the rule by July, the two-year anniversary of its creation. The rule, like many of the bureau’s actions, could become bogged down in a larger political battle that has bedeviled many regulators in the Obama administration. Republicans have threatened to rein in the consumer agency’s budget and authority.

The bureau, a product of the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul, has a broad mandate to police Wall Street banks as well as the more shadowy corners of the financial industry. Such firms are unmarked territory for the federal government. Until now, state authorities largely have licensed and supervised these companies.

But the agency was hamstrung without a leader at the helm, the result of a bitter battle in Congress over the appointment of Mr. Cordray. Republicans refused to bless his nomination unless Democrats agreed to subject the bureau to stricter Congressional oversight.

In a sharp challenge to Republican lawmakers in January, President Obamacircumvented Congress and opted for a recess appointment of Mr. Cordray. The move empowered the bureau to take on the lightly regulated world of payday lenders, mortgage firms and student lenders. The bureau can also oversee the “larger participants” in industries like debt collection, credit reporting and check cashing.

The bureau began its new effort on Thursday with the proposal to define the largest debt collectors and credit reporting companies. The bureau can also sanction smaller firms that run afoul of federal rules.

Some financial firms, on and off Wall Street, are squirming at the thought of an emboldened regulator. New oversight means rising compliance costs and the likelihood of additional penalties.

I expect increased diligence and increased costs in light of the pronouncement from Mr. Cordray,” said Donald N. Lamson, a former regulator who now works at the law firm Shearman & Sterling. “It would be incumbent on them to beef up those areas that deal with consumer complaints.”

Under the debt collector proposal, the consumer bureau would keep watch over companies that make more than $10 million a year from their consumer business, limiting the scope to about 175 firms. These companies account for about two-thirds of the business in the debt collection market.

The oversight comes after a prolonged upheaval for the industry, which for years has been ensnared in lawsuits and regulatory actions for questionable collection practices. Debt collectors habitually rank as the most common topic of nonfraud consumer complaints at the Federal Trade Commission.

The F.T.C. recently cracked down on debt collectors for harassing consumers, sometimes for money that is not even legally owed. The agency last month levied a $2.5 million fine on Asset Acceptance, one of the nation’s largest debt collectors, to settle accusations that the company deceived consumers.

But the F.T.C.’s powers are limited. While it can sanction a debt collector for violating consumer protection laws, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has authority to root out wrongdoing and keep a closer eye on the industry to try and prevent bad acts.

Consumer advocates cheered the bureau’s proposal on Thursday, saying it was taking a proactive approach to regulation.

You’re looking at problems on the front end rather than going in after the fact,” said Travis Plunkett, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit advocacy group. “You can actually prevent problems.”

The bureau’s plan also takes aim at the largest consumer reporting agencies, defined as companies that make more than $7 million annually from their consumer business. The proposal would capture 30 companies, firms like Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, that account for more than 90 percent of the industry’s business, according to the bureau.

Credit agencies, which produce on-demand reports featuring a borrower’s credit score and history, are inextricably linked to the consumer finance industry. Consumers clamor for favorable reports, a prerequisite for obtaining credit cards, a home mortgage or even a cellphone. But the credit reporting companies have also faced criticism for being overly deferential to creditors at the expense of consumers.

Later this year, the bureau could roll out plans to oversee check cashing companies and other nonbank firms. The bureau saw debt collectors and credit reporting companies as a logical starting point, Mr. Cordray said, because consumers lack the power to shop around for alternative providers. Banks and creditors, not customers, typically select debt collectors and credit reporting firms.

The bureau’s oversight of these industries will largely mirror its supervision of Wall Street. The agency will examine these firms individually and may also order the companies to turn over detailed snapshots of their businesses.

This oversight would help restore confidence that the federal government is standing beside the American consumer,” Mr. Cordray said.

 

 

 

Moyers: Meet the Shameless Plutocrats Choking What’s Left of Our Democracy  

[…] We are drowning here, with gaping holes torn into the hull of the ship of state from charges detonated by the owners and manipulators of capital. Their wealth has become a demonic force in politics. Nothing can stop them. Not the law, which has been written to accommodate them. Not scrutiny — they have no shame. Not a decent respect for the welfare of others — the people without means, their safety net shredded, left helpless before events beyond their control.

The obstacles facing the millennial generation didn’t just happen. Take an economy skewed to the top, low wages and missing jobs, predatory interest rates on college loans: these are politically engineered consequences of government of, by, and for the one percent. So, too, is our tax code the product of money and politics, influence and favoritism, lobbyists and the laws they draft for rented politicians to enact.

Here’s what we’re up against. Read it and weep: “America’s Plutocrats Play the Political Ponies.” That’s a headline in “Too Much,” an Internet publication from the Institute for Policy Studies that describes itself as “an online weekly on excess and inequality.”

Yes, the results are in and our elections have replaced horse racing as the sport of kings. Only these kings aren’t your everyday poobahs and potentates. These kings are multi-billionaire, corporate moguls who by the divine right, not of God, but the United States Supreme Court and its Citizens United decision, are now buying politicians like so much pricey horseflesh. All that money pouring into super PACs, much of it from secret sources: merely an investment, should their horse pay off in November, in the best government money can buy.

They’re shelling out fortunes’ worth of contributions. Look at just a few of them: Mitt Romney’s hedge fund pals Robert Mercer, John Paulson, Julian Robertson and Paul Singer – each of whom has ponied up a million or more for the super PAC called “Restore Our Future” — as in, “Give us back the go-go days, when predators ruled Wall Street like it was Jurassic Park.”

Then there’s casino boss Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, fiercely pro-Israel and anti-President Obama’s Mideast policy. Initially, they placed their bets on Newt Gingrich, who says on his first day in office he’d move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a decision that would thrill the Adelsons but infuriate Palestinians and the rest of the Muslim world. Together, the Adelsons have contributed ten million to Newt’s “Winning Our Future” super PAC.

Cowboy billionaire Foster Friess, a born-again Christian who made his fortune herding mutual funds instead of cattle, has been bankrolling the “Red White and Blue Fund” super PAC of Rick Santorum, with whom he shares a social right-wing agenda. Dark horse Ron Paul has relied on the kindness of PayPal founder Peter Thiel, a like-minded libertarian in favor of the smallest government possible, who gave $900,000 to Paul’s “Endorse Liberty” super PAC. Hollywood’s Jeffrey Katzenberg has so far emptied his wallet to the tune of a cool two million for the pro-Obama super PAC, “Priorities USA Action.”

President Obama — who kept his distance from Priorities USA Action and used to call the money unleashed by Citizens United a “threat to democracy” — has declared if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. He urges his wealthy supporters to please go ahead and back the super PAC. “Our campaign has to face the reality of the law as it stands,” his campaign manager Jim Messina said. To do otherwise, he added, would be to “unilaterally disarm” in the face of all those Republican super PAC millions. So much for Obama’s stand on campaign finance reform – everybody else is doing it, he seems to say, so why don’t you show me the money, too?

When all is said and done, this race for the White House may cost more than two billion dollars. What’s getting trampled into dust are the voices of people who aren’t rich, not to mention what’s left of our democracy. As Democratic pollster Peter Hart told The New Yorker magazine’s Jane Mayer, “It’s become a situation where the contest is how much you can destroy the system, rather than how much you can make it work. It makes no difference if you have a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ after your name. There’s no sense that this is about democracy, and after the election you have to work together, and knit the country together.”

These gargantuan super PAC contributions are not an end in themselves. They are the means to gain control of government – and the nation state — for a reason. The French writer and economist Frederic Bastiat said it plainly: “When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” That’s what the super PACs are bidding on. For the rest of us, the ship may already have sailed.

 

 

 

Weekly unemployment applications drop to lowest level in 4 years

 

 

 

EDUCATION

Nick Kristof: The New Haven Experiment. 

I lost patience with teachers’ unions when union officials in New York City defended a teacher who had passed out in class, reeking of alcohol, with even the principal unable to rouse her.

Not to mention when union officials in Los Angeles helped a teacher keep his job after he allegedly mocked a student who had tried to commit suicide, suggesting that the boy slash his wrists more deeply the next time.

In many cities, teachers’ unions ensured no one was removed for mere incompetence. If a teacher stole or abused a student, yes, but school boards didn’t even try to remove teachers who couldn’t teach.

Before, you had to go smack the mayor in order to get fired,” Reggie Mayo, the schools superintendent here in New Haven, told me.

That’s what makes an experiment under way here so jaw-dropping. New Haven has arguably become ground zero for school reform in America because it is transforming the system with the full cooperation of the union.

One of America’s greatest challenges in the coming years will be to turn around troubled schools, especially in inner cities. It’s the civil rights issue of our age, and teachers’ unions have mostly been an exasperating obstacle.

Yet reformers like myself face a conundrum. Teachers’ unions are here to stay, and the only way to achieve systematic improvement is with their buy-in. Moreover, the United States critically needs to attract talented young people into teaching. And that’s less likely when we’re whacking teachers’ unions in ways that leave many teachers feeling insulted and demoralized.

The breakthrough experiment in New Haven offers a glimpse of an education future that is less rancorous. It’s a tribute to the savvy of Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers and as shrewd a union leader as any I’ve seen. She realized that the unions were alienating their allies, and she is trying to change the narrative.

New Haven may be home to Yale University, but this is a gritty, low-income school district in which four out of five kids qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Eighty-four percent of students are black or Hispanic, and graduation rates have been low.

A couple of years ago, the school district reached a revolutionary contract with teachers. Pay and benefits would rise, but teachers would embrace reform — including sacrificing job security. With a stronger evaluation system, tenure no longer mattered and weak teachers could be pushed out.

Roughly half of a teacher’s evaluation would depend on the performance of his or her students — including on standardized tests and other measures of learning.

Teachers were protected by a transparent process, and by accountability for principals. But if outside evaluators agreed with administrators that a teacher was failing, the teacher would be out at the end of the school year.

Last year, the school district pushed out 34 teachers, about 2 percent of the total in the district. The union not only didn’t object, but acknowledged that many of them didn’t really belong in the classroom.

We all use the same litmus test: Would we want our kid in that room?” says David Cicarella, president of the New Haven Federation of Teachers, the local union. “We all recognize that we need to do something. Tenured teachers who are ineffective — that is an issue. We want to do something about it. But it’s not fair either to blame all teachers.”

Cicarella says that teachers accept that the world has changed. Accountability and feedback are welcome if they are fair, he says, adding: “It’s not O.K. any more to spray and pray.”

So far this year, administrators have warned about 50 more teachers that their jobs are in jeopardy because of weak teaching. That’s out of 1,800 teachers in the district.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. of New Haven says that the breakthrough isn’t so much that poor teachers are being eased out, but that feedback is making everyone perform better — principals included. “Most everybody picked up their game in the district,” he said.

It’ll take years to verify that students themselves are benefiting, but it’s striking that teachers and administrators alike seem happy with the new system. They even say nice things about each other. In many tough school districts, teachers are demoralized and wilted; that feels less true in New Haven.

The New Haven model still doesn’t go as far as I would like, but it does represent enormous progress. And it’s a glimpse of a world in which “school reform” is an agenda and not just a term that sets off a brawl.

If the American Federation of Teachers continues down this path, I’ll revisit my criticisms of teachers’ unions. Maybe even give them a hug for daring to become part of the solution.

 

 

 

ENVIRONMENT

CAP Founder John Podesta and Andrew Light explain why the new climate change deal is a big step

Those concerned about climate change and greenhouse gas pollution have been justifiably frustrated in the last few years. Despite some significant moves by the Obama administration — particularly improving vehicle efficiency and creating incentives for significant investment in wind and solar power — national action has been ground down by partisanship fueled by climate skepticism.

But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton‘s announcement Thursday plants seeds of hope. The United States, with Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, Mexico and Sweden, is launching a partnership aimed at reducing “short-lived climate pollutants” with a focus on methane, black carbon and hydroflurocarbons.

This new coalition to reduce short-lived climate pollutants aims to raise $10 million in the first year to enhance public and private efforts worldwide to reduce these pollutants and scale up as we move forward.

We know the bulk of climate pollution comes from carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels for energy. Mitigating this is essential — but has met fierce resistance from fossil fuel industries.

What is less understood is that carbon dioxide is a relatively long-lived greenhouse gas, with lasting effects. About half of all carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for roughly 100 years, but some 20 percent remains for many thousands of years. It effectively locks in whatever warming we create well beyond our lifetimes.

This fact adds to the political difficulty in reducing these emissions — since the climate benefits of action now are felt decades in the future.

In contrast, gases like methane, black carbon (soot) and many types of HFCs are both shorter lived than most carbon dioxide and stronger in terms of their potential to cause atmospheric warming. Methane, for example, lasts only 12 years, but it has around 25 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.

HFCs can also be much shorter lived, yet hundreds or tens of thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide. The rapid growth in these gases makes the case for action even more urgent. HFCs, largely used as refrigerants, now exert less than 1 percent of the impact on global warming as carbon dioxide, but at current rates they will rise to between a fifth and a quarter of the impact by 2050. Since these gases are used and produced in relatively discrete parts of the economy, they can more easily be substituted with off-the-shelf, affordable technology.

Action now on these gases can have relatively fast benefits. A study in Science last month by an international team of 24 scientists, led by NASA climate modeler Drew Shindell, estimated the effects of initiating 14 methane and black carbon control measures. Combined with other greenhouse gas reductions, these measures would reduce total projected warming by half a degree.

This is significant — given that the international goal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change is to try to stabilize temperature increase caused by humans at 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. These measures would also save millions of lives by improving air quality, and increase crop yields by some 30-135 million metric tons by 2030.

With these benefits, the cost is minimal. Reducing a metric ton of methane costs around $250, while the benefit is worth $700-$5,000.

Clinton’s new partnership is not the first time this administration has proposed action on these pollutants. An initiative by the U.S., Mexico and Canada to reduce HFC emissions under the Montreal Protocol has been blocked over the last few years by a handful of countries.

Thursday’s announcement should help to push that effort over the finish line. If successful, it would garner eight times the emission reductions of the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol.

Action on these short-lived gases is not a substitute for the needed reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. That will require rapidly transforming America’s energy portfolio by developing clean energy, clean energy technology and clean energy services.

But this new initiative is a bold move needed to achieve long-term climate safety for vulnerable people today and future generations tomorrow.

HEALTH

Five Big Facts on Birth Control Not Discussed Nearly Enough by Men in the Mainstream Media

[…]

1. Contraception is basic health care. Virtually all women use birth control at some point in their lives, and that includes 98 percent of Catholic women. A majority supports contraceptive coverage, including a majority of Catholic hospital employees.

2. This “controversy” has awfully strange timing. 28 states already provide for coverage of contraceptives.

3. Churches already have an out. 335,000 religious institutions, including Catholic churches, may refuse to provide contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

4. Contraceptive coverage makes a difference for women. One of three women say they struggle to afford birth control.

5. This is sex discrimination. More than a decade ago the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that an employer’s failure to cover contraceptives is a violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Late last week, President Obama announced a compromise that allows religiously affiliated institutions to not pay for contraceptive coverage, while still ensuring that every woman gets equal access to this basic medical care(private insurance companies will pay).

Yet the bishops continue to attack, revealing their true aims: It’s not about Catholic dollars and “religious freedom,” it’s about refusing all women coverage for birth control. It’s up to women to speak the truth about our health and lives.

 

 

 

 

JUSTICE

 

Federal Court Blocks Demeaning NC Ultrasound Law

Middle District Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Preventing Key Measures of Intrusive and Biased Law from Going into Effect Tomorrow; Court Says Plaintiffs ‘Are Likely to Succeed on the Merits of the First Amendment Challenge’

GREENSBORO, NC – U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles granted in part a preliminary injunction today that will block enforcement of intrusive measures in the new North Carolina law requiring abortion providers to show women an ultrasound and describe the images in detail four hours before having an abortion, even if the woman objects.

Civil liberties advocates, including the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the Middle District of North Carolina on September 29 challenging the constitutionality of the law, arguing that it violates the rights of health care providers and women seeking abortion care.

“We are extremely pleased that the court has blocked this clear attack on the fundamental rights of health care providers providing abortions in North Carolina,” said Bebe Anderson, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “The part of the law that the court blocked not only forces doctors to go against their medical judgment to deliver an ideological message to their patients, but also forces women to lie down and just take it. It’s hard to imagine a more extreme example of government intrusion into the private matters of individual citizens.”

After hearing arguments from both sides on October 17, Judge Eagles issued her order to ensure that key provisions of the law would not go into effect as scheduled on October 26 during ongoing litigation of the underlying constitutional questions. In granting the preliminary injunction, Judge Eagles concluded that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their First Amendment claims that key provisions of the law violate doctors’ free speech rights and that allowing the law to go into effect would inflict irreparable harm on health care providers.

“If the ultrasound requirements were put into effect, this law would place doctors in a murky legal situation and inflict unnecessary harm on women,” said Katy Parker, Legal Director for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “The state should not be using women’s bodies as political pawns, as this law clearly seeks to do. We look forward to continuing our arguments and hope that the court sides with the rights of women and their doctors over the ideological agenda of lawmakers.”

The new law, which the North Carolina General Assembly passed in July over the veto of Governor Bev Perdue, would require abortion providers to perform an ultrasound and place the image in the woman’s line of sight. The provider would then be required to describe the embryo or fetus in detail and to offer the woman the opportunity to hear the “fetal heart tone.” While the law would allow the woman to avert her eyes and to “refuse to hear,” the provider would still be required to place the images in front of her and describe them in detail. The measure would make no exceptions for women under any circumstances, including cases of rape, incest, or those who receive a tragic diagnosis during pregnancy.

“The bottom line is, this law would prevent licensed health care providers from providing patients with the highest quality and most compassionate health care based on their individual needs,” said Melissa Reed, Vice President for Public Policy at Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Inc., one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “Today the court stood on the side of women and health care providers who are faced with personal, private and very complicated medical decisions every day.”

The court’s ruling is available online at www.acluofnc.org and www.reproductiverights.org.

 

 

 

Soldiers suing KBR for knowingly exposing them to toxic chemicals in Iraq. 

 

 

 

Largest Private Prison Bill In History Dies In Florida Senate Despite Million Dollar Lobbying Campaign 

 

 

 

‘Underwear Bomber’ gets life in prison.

 

 

 

MEDIA

Here We Go Again

In 2004, after a year of ferocious criticism, the New York Times published a famous mea culpa, apologizing, sort of, for its relentlessly misleading cheerleading of war against Iraq in the months leading up to that invasion. (Most notoriously, in the front page fictions of Judith Miller, who for her service to country as a “journalist” landed nimbly afterwards at the Manhattan Institute and Fox News, and is currently on the Council of Foreign Relations and a contributing writer to Newsmax. Moral of the story: Jayson Blair’s sin wasn’t that he made shit up, but that the shit he made up wasn’t particularly useful to anyone.)

Since then, the performance of the mainstream media, and particularly the Times, in unquestioningly parroting the bullshit fed to it by the Bush administration and its allies, has become a standard example of the failures of establishment journalism.

Apparently, the Times and the rest of American legacy media learned nothing from that debacle. Today, yet again, there’s a front page NYT story that builds the case that this year’s State Enemy, Iran, is run by unstable monsters who pose a clear and present danger to the good ol’ USA – just like Saddam did in 2002-03:

A string of aggressive gestures by Iran this week — assassination attempts on Israelis living abroad that were attributed to Tehran, renewed posturing over its nuclear program and fresh threats of economic retaliation — suggest that Iranian leaders are responding frantically, and with increasing unpredictability, to the tightening of sanctions by the West.

There’s a lot to unpack in that lede. First of all, it’s far from clear that Iran had anything to do with the bombings cited. The saber-rattling from Tehran turns out to be standard fare: “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran announced Wednesday what he said was his country’s latest nuclear advance, and Iran’s Oil Ministry threatened to pre-empt a European oil embargo by cutting off sales to six countries there.” And, really, do you expect Iran’s leaders to say and do nothing in the face of an unprecedented attempt by the US and its allies to cripple Iran’s economy? Instead, anything less than abject capitulation gets depicted as “unstable” – the standard formulation that America’s enemies, like Saddam, Qaddafi, Castro, Noriega, and many others, are irrational madmen who just might lash out and hurt us if they’re not bombed into irrelevance.

Thing is, the rest of the article really doesn’t support either the headline (“Aggressive Acts by Iran Signal Pressure on its Leadership”) or the lede. First of all, only Israel is blaming the Iranian government outright for the attacks so far, and Netanyahu’s government, which has been threatening war against Iran for years now and especially in recent months, isn’t exactly a neutral observer. So where’s the aggression? And what’s “frantic” or “unpredictable” about any of this? While I’m no fan of Iran’s government, their rhetoric – basically, that they have a right to a nuclear program (which, legally, they do) and that they’ll strike back when attacked (which any government would) – is, in context, pretty predictable. And there’s this:

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, confirmed on Wednesday that she had received a reply from a top Iranian official responding to her invitation to negotiations over the future of its nuclear program. Iran’s Al Alam television said the country had offered to “hold new talks over its nuclear program in a constructive way.”

Iran has used such talks mostly to stall on concessions in the past, and there’s plenty of reason to be skeptical of such offers. Nonetheless, how is that “aggressive” or “frantic”?

The NYT piece, though, is actually quite reasonable compared to some of the dreck being aired on network news. Greenwald has useful overviews of some of the most offensive of these pieces, like this one aired on ABC Tuesday night:

Sawyer begins by warning of “a kind of shadow war being waged by Iran around the world” — based on her blind acceptance of totally unproven Israeli accusations that Iran was behind three bombings yesterday in India, Georgia and Thailand, and without any mention of the constant attacks on Iran over the course of several years by the U.S. and Israel. After seeing video of ABC‘s Martha Raddatz riding on U.S. naval warships into the Strait of Hormuz, we are told by Sawyer — echoing the warnings just yesterday from Alan Dershowitz, Ethan Bronner, and some NYPD official — that “Israeli and Jewish facilities, including those here in the U.S., are on heightened alert,” and then Brian Ross is brought in to warn that “the violence could spill over into the U.S.” as “Jewish places of worship in at least ten U.S. cities have been told that they could be targets.” This, you see, “follows what appears to be the increasingly violent series of attacks by Iran.”

The State Department spokesperson is then brought in “to tie the incidents to Iran”; we hear her warn that “we are concerned about use of international terrorism by Iran or anyone else against Israel or any innocents.” Richard Clarke is then hauled out to say that Iran is sending a signal to Israel that it can retaliate using “its terrorist network.” Needless to say, no contrary information or critical sources are included: no Iranians are heard from and there’s nobody to question any of these accusations. It’s just one-sided, unchallenged government claims masquerading as a news report.

Particularly astonishing here – and reminiscent of 2002-03 – is the completely unsubstantiated suggestion that Iran might target Jewish houses of worship in the US. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the days after 9-11, when government lists of “likely targets of terrorist attacks” included things like a petting zoo in rural Idaho. Iran has no history – none – of direct attacks against US targets. The US, by contrast, has been waging covert operations inside Iran’s border for years now, and then there’s the matter of those murdered Iranian nuclear scientists – attacks widely attributed to America’s special friend, Israel, which used exactly the same method of assassination (magnetic devices attached to cars by a passing motorcyclist) that was used in this week’s bombings. Unlike this week’s bombings, though – which didn’t actually kill anyone – five Iranian scientists are dead at the hands of, presumably, Israel. (Even if Iran is behind this week’s bombings, that would render them retaliations – and less lethal ones – rather than acts of “aggression.”)

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Why Colbert’s unexpected hiatus is sad news for his family + the contraception debate

I’m sorry to hear that production on The Colbert Report is suspended for two days. As some other folks have pointed out, an unexpected hiatus generally means that something bad has happened in a show’s family, so the Colbert team is in my thoughts. And given our continuing conversation about the Obama administration’s contraception rules, I’m particularly sorry to have Colbert out of action right now. Having someone who is seriously, thoughtfully Catholic—Colbert’s taught Sunday school, if you need proof—break down the issue with humor doesn’t just mean Colbert has credibility on the church’s issues and dogmas. It means he can find jokes in the weeds that other people wouldn’t even know are there for the taking: Video Here.

 

 

 

Courtesy of the Liberal Media 

Can you spot the problem with this image?

That’s not a union flag. It’s the Wisconsin state flag. Wisconsin became a member of the union in 1848.

Nice scoop, Politico! Google caches only last for so long hence the screencapture. The story has been deleted.

 

 

 

 

Pat Buchanan Quits MSNBC: I Was ‘Blacklisted, But Not Beaten’

 

 

 

 

POLITICS

 

Birth control hearing on Capitol Hill had all-male panel of witnesses

“These are the witnesses testifying on the birth control benefit right now on Capitol Hill. What is wrong with this picture?” Planned Parenthood wrote on its Facebook page Thursday.

Two thousand comments and nearly 5,000 shares later, it was clear most of the commenters weren’t happy about the nearly all-male panel of witnesses testifying at a Capitol Hill hearing Thursday. Neither was Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who asked why there weren’t more women on the panel. The hearing was to discuss whether President Obama had hurt religious freedoms by a recent mandate that health insurance companies cover contraception, according to the Associated Press. The witnesses included a representative of Catholic bishops and men of other religions.

A spokeswoman for Issa, Becca Watkins, said Thursday that “Rep. Pelosi is either ill informed or arrogantly dismissive of women who don’t share her views.”

Thursday’s hearing, she pointed out, included two women on a later panel, Allison Garrett, the senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University and Laura Champion, a doctor at Calvin College Health Services.

But Minority Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wasn’t happy with the panel either. “Where are the women?” she asked early in the hearing, ABC News reports.

Maloney accused the Republican committee chairman, Rep. Darrel Issa (Calif.), of attempting to “roll back the fundamental rights of women to a time when the government thought what happens in the bedroom is their business.”

“We will not be forced back to that primitive era,” she said.

Issa said another female witness Democrats had requested be added, Sandra Fluke, was ineligible because she was a student at Georgetown, not a member of the clergy. Georgetown is a Catholic University, and does not insure birth control.

If Fluke had appeared, she would have talked about a classmate who lost an ovary because of a syndrome that causes ovarian cysts, according to ABC News. Some birth control helps decrease the risk of the syndrome.

 

 

 

Darrell Issa Compares His All-Male Anti-Contraception Panel To Martin Luther King 

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has been catching flack for holding a panel today relating to women’s access to birth control that featured zero women, but Issa won’t let the fact that few Americans agree with his position deter him. Taking to Twitter this evening, he fired back with a always-appropriate Martin Luther King Jr. comparison:

Indeed, as King knew, the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” and depriving women who work for Catholic hospitals of affordable birth control. Issa’s hearing also featured giant posters of King and other historical greats whose footsteps the panel was apparently following in, like President Kennedy, and Mohandas Gandhi.

But as Adam Serwer points out, King actually wrote that he hoped state and federal governments would appropriate “large sums of money” to educate people about birth control.

 

 

 

Nancy Pelosi To GOP: ‘Duh!,’ Women Should Be Included In A Hearing About Contraception.

 

 

 

The Atlantic: Democrats Walk Out of Tense Hearing on Contraception

Three Democrats stalked out of a hearing on Capitol Hill today over disagreements about the slant and composition of a hearing on birth control and religion. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, chaired by Republican Darrell Issa, is titled “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” Democrats were not pleased with the hearing nor with the panel, which included a Catholic bishop, a rabbi, a minister from the conservative LutheranChurch – Missouri Synod, and two professors, but no women and no progressives.

The liberal blog Think Progress snagged the video above, which shows Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings and Carolyn Maloney taking Issa to task, albeit in relatively calm tones; Cummings complained not only that there were no women, but that there were no representatives of religious groups that had applauded the Obama administration’s mandate that employer provide contraception (labeled as preventative care) or else a compromise reached last week, in which religious employers could opt out of providing birth control, putting the onus on insurers. But things blew up when Eleanor Holmes Norton, the delegate for Washington, D.C., starting speaking and clashed with Issa directly. Shortly thereafter, The Huffington Post reports, Cummings, Norton, and Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat stalked out of the hearing. Outside, Norton decried Issa as running the committee like an “autocratic regime.”

In his opening statement, Issa mentioned that visiting students were attending the hearing. The visitors certainly got an education in the current state of the U.S. Congress.

 

 

 

The GOP rides into the sunset.

[…]

I’m not suggesting that the Republican Party will disappear, nor that a third party will rise to threaten it. No apocalypse, no Zombie Lincoln coming back to regain the brand.

I’m merely suggesting that the GOP that very clearly has little-to-no time for gay people, black people, Latino people, Asian people, not-rich people, not-Christian people, or women people, will, within a generation, have to find a new way to keep big business afloat.

My evidence?

The American people.

First of all, fewer than two-thirds of Americans are non-Latino whites. At a certain point, the percentage of the nearly-40% of Americans who are not-Caucasian who get fed up hearing that they don’t know how to work, speak the language of the ghetto, and/or are threatening our economy will reach a tipping point, and the GOP-as-we-know-it will not be able to get them back.

Second of all, the issues on which the GOP-as-we-know-it is campaigning have simply stopped resonating with most Americans. A wee sampling:

Gay marriage is evil/unnatural/will ruin America: Really GOP? ‘Cause 53% of America disagrees with you. Perhaps more to the point, 70% of Americans aged 18-34 disagree – and according Gallup, that number is up from 54% the previous year. Sixteen points in one year!

Birth control is evil/unnatural/will ruin America: I have to admit, I didn’t see this one coming. Abortion? Sure. But suggesting that there’s something wrong with controlling our fertility even if we’re adults, even if we’re married, even if…? Wow. Sorry, GOP, but even Catholics disagree with you here, even when we take into consideration that (contrary to what we were all saying last week) it’s not quite true that 98% of all Catholic women have used birth control (it’s 98% of Catholic women aged 15-44 “for whom a pregnancy would be unintended and who are ‘at risk’ of becoming pregnant“). Apparently, 61% of Catholics support federally-mandated contraception coverage for religiously-affiliated employers — a percentage identical to that of Americans more broadly. (And even on abortion, we’re not really with you: 57% of Americans think abortion should be legal “in all or most cases”).

Increasing taxes on the wealthy is evil/unnatural/will ruin America: Not only do 72% of Americans disagree with the GOP-as-we-know-it on this, but that includes 55% of self-professed Republicans!

Being not-Christian (in a particularly narrowly defined sense of “Christian”) is evil/unnatural/will ruin America: It is true that 78.4% of Americans identify as Christian (51% Protestant, 24% Catholic, the rest various others manners of Christian) —however, not only do 70% of religiously affiliated people (of all religions) believe that “many religions can lead to eternal life,” but 68% believe that even within their own faith community, “there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion.”

And finally, even the GOP’s central, driving issue — Barack Obama is evil/unnatural/will ruin America – has lost a lot of steam: Today the President has a 47% approval rating (including among Catholics [46%. Let’s not quibble]) — whereas the GOP’s nominee (stop it – it will not be Santorum) currently has a net favorability rating that has dropped to -24%. That’s right: “Mitt Romney’s net favorability rating has plummeted to NEGATIVE TWENTY-FOUR PERCENT.” I’ll be honest – I’m not sure what that means or how it’s even possible, but I do know that “47% job approval” is better than whatever the hell that is.

So, gentle reader, here’s the point: Whether its leaders realize it or not, the GOP is pulling away from the American shore. Way, waaaaay away. As its primary function is to protect the moneyed class and promote the world-view (to which I believe many Republicans sincerely subscribe) that being not-poor is a simple matter of will, the Republican Party will soon have to start shifting its place on social issues if it’s going to stick to its larger goal.

Bottom line, this is good. There will always be rich people who want to protect their hoard from the hordes, but as we chip away at the social issues, we’ll also (unbeknownst to them) be chipping away at the economic ones. The more people who are genuinely enfranchised, the better the power will be distributed.

Other bottom line? It’s up to us to give the GOP the push. If we want the Republicans to stop assaulting the rights and dignity of entire American communities, we need to act on the knowledge that Americans don’t like what they say. Whatever the hell kind of not-Republican you consider yourself to be, you have to get involved with the 2012 election. You can start here, or here, or by picking up the phone and calling your local Democrats.

Let’s regain the House, strengthen our hold on the Senate, sweep through our statehouses and city halls, and show the GOP what America really thinks.

Remember 2010: Elections have consequences. Polls don’t matter, unless people vote.

 

 

 

Greg Sargent: Is birth control fight a Terry Schiavo moment?

The respected Dem firm Democracy Corps has just published an important polling memo that gets right to the heart of why the birth control battle could matter so much in this year’s elections.

The firm’s poll finds that one of the most important factors powering Obama’s gains against likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney has been the President’s improving numbers among unmarried women, a key pillar of the present and future Democratic coalition.

Among this group, Obama now leads Romney by 65-30 — and there’s been a net 18-point swing towards the President among them:

Larger version here. After unmarried women dropped off for Dems in 2010 and were slow to return to the Dem fold in 2011, Obama is now approaching the 70 percent he won among them in 2008.

Unmarried women will be important to Obama’s success at rebuilding his 2008 coalition in time for reelection, something that already seems to be underway, as Ronald Brownstein has demonstrated. The crack Post polling team tells me that the key to understanding this constituency is that it’s complex and diverse; it includes young women who have never married, divorced women, and widows, and it cuts across class, racial, income, and geographic lines.

Various factors — the improving economy; the drawn-out Republican nomination process; the GOP’s sinking approval ratings — already seem to be driving unmarried women back towards Obama. And the pitched battle over birth control could continue to galvanize and unite this group behind him, particularly if Romney is forced to embrace the conservative position. The Greenberg poll also tested the two sides’ position on this issue, and found that 61 percent of unmarried women side with the Democratic one.

Concludes the memo: “We may yet look back on this debate and wonder whether this was a Terri Schiavo moment.”

I don’t know if this debate will have quite that kind of crystalizing effect — one in which an arresting and highly emotional event causes a sudden hardening of mass opinion against a party or ideology. But if Dems play this right, it could encourage the perception that the GOP is backward-looking and lost in a social-issues wilderness, perhaps hastening the already widening gender gap that will be so crucial to the outcome this fall.

 

 

 

Virginia Republicans and Their Vaginal Probe 

Here’s what Virginia Republicans will require if you happen to need abortion services. The transvaginal ultrasound transducer:

Am I being hyperbolic or is this a form of legislative rape?

 

 

 

Santorum Sugar Daddy Foster Friess Gives ‘Gals’ Contraception Advice: Put An Aspirin Between Your Knees

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Santorum camp on Friess: Won’t “make a comment on somebody that doesn’t have any affiliation”

 

 

 

Why Rick Santorum is now viewed in polls as an electable national candidate

Now that the man in the vest is surging in the polls, he’s toning down his talk on homosexuality, gay marriage, and abortion. Meet Santorum 2.0.

On Monday, the gods of campaign scheduling were in full-on prank mode. In Olympia, Wash., Gov. Christine Gregoire signed legislation making hers the seventh state where gays can marry. Less than an hour later, Rick Santorum arrived at the state capital to hobnob with defeated religious leaders. There he was: The sponsor of the Federal Marriage Amendment, the man who’d taken “arrows in the back” to battle gay marriage laws, the guy who was so hated by gay activists that his name had been turned into a frothy sexual slur. What would he say?

He would tell everyone to be respectful and get along.

“There are legitimate reasons that people have to want … to change the law,” he said. “And there are legitimate reasons that people have to want to keep the law in place.” He did not talk about a war on Christianity, or the need to abolish state legislators. “There are ebbs and flows in every battle.”

Later, at a heckler-hassled speech in Tacoma, Santorum barely mentionedthe new law. Protesters—the local Occupy hitching post was a short walk away—shouted  him down whenever they could. Most stories about the rally led with the attempts to disrupt it, not the marriage material.

The Rick Santorum who’s soaring in primary polls looks a lot like the Santorum who lost his 2006 re-election bid by 18 points. Here is a difference: His culture war talk is softer, more implied. He talks up his welfare reform role and his doom-saying about Iran far more than he talks up his stances on homosexuality or Prop 8. He doesn’t need to emphasize it, because the people who acid-test Republicans on social issues know they can trust him. He rallied for Terri Schiavo once; he doesn’t have much else to prove.

That’s gotten clearer since the field was winnowed down to four people. A month ago, when 150 evangelical leaders met in Texas to get behind a candidate, Santorum won easily. “Many, not all, social conservatives, continue to have doubts about whether Romney is a truesocial conservative,” explained Richard Land, an attendee and president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Between Santorum and Gingrich, Santorum was perceived to be the more consistently and reliably social conservative of the two.”

He won that perception, and held onto it, even as his first political career imploded. He held onto it as the Great Recession came and the culture wars faded. How do we know they faded, even among Republican voters?

In a new New York Times poll, only 47 percent of Republican voters say they’re against any legal recognition of gay unions. In the 2008 entrance poll taken of Iowa caucus-goers, only 26 percent said that “the economy” was their top concern. In 2012, the number was 42 percent, with 36 percent saying “the budget deficit” was tops. In the most socially conservative electorate of the primary so far, social issues were looking less critical. Santorum convinced the people he needed, like the Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats, that he was the truest, most electable, social conservative. He didn’t need to rub it in.

Compare how he’s talked about these issues with the ways his rivals—some of them long gone now—have talked about them. When he was struggling in Iowa, Rick Perry put on abarn coat and cut a TV ad bemoaning the scourge of homosexuals and a war on Christianity. Rick Santorum used to talk like that. “I have no problem with homosexuality,” he said in the 2003 interview that produced the “man on dog” quote. “I have a problem with homosexual acts.” He argued that sodomy laws served a purpose, because “if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery.”

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The death of the GOP dog whistle

[…] In the idealized version of the GOP primary, establishment Republicans would curry favor with their Wall Street pals while sending coded dog whistles to their foot soldiers—on race, immigration, reproductive freedoms, etc. Those dog whistles would motivate the GOP base without revealing their true radical nature to the American mainstream. It was a genius system while it worked, one that saw no parallel on the progressive side.

But the days of the dog whistle are over. The election of President Barack Obama created an entire cottage industry trying to prove how un-American and Kenyan he supposedly is, while Republicans like Rep. Pete Hoekstra run blatantly anti-Asian ads. Republicans laugh about electrocuting immigrants who will cut off your head in the desert if they’re not stopped, while passing laws openly hostile to brown people. Attacks on homosexuals have escalated to new hysterical highs as society becomes more tolerant and open to equality.

But really, if there was one dog whistle I thought would persist, it was their hostility toward contraception. I mean, they’ve always hated it. This nonsense is nothing new. As I wrote inAmerican Taliban:

While the laws have changed, and society long ago moved on, the American Taliban clings to its outmoded efforts to eliminate contraceptives. “Sex is a powerful drive, and for most of human history it was firmly linked to marriage and childbearing,” reads the official abstinence policy for Focus on the Family. “Only relatively recently has the act of sex commonly been divorced from marriage and procreation. Modern contraceptive inventions have given many an exaggerated sense of safety and prompted more people than ever before to move sexual expression outside the marriage boundary.” Of course, people have had sex for pleasure long before contraception became available, a cardinal sin for this gang. Alan Keyes, on his MSNBC show “Alan Keyes is Making Sense”, speaking about sexual abuse in the Catholic church, said on April 2002, “We don’t need more voices that are going to somehow get [the bishops] to believe that all kinds of sex outside of marriage and apart from God’s plan of procreation are to be regarded as joyful and wonderful and somehow consistent with Catholic teachings. It is those corrupting voices that exactly kept them from understanding the gravity of what they were tolerating.”
 Joseph Schiedler, the national director of the virulently anti-abortion Pro-Life Action League, is certainly outraged at the notion of sex as joyful and wonderful, “I would like to outlaw contraception. Contraception is disgusting, people using each other for pleasure.”

While conservatives may have been disgusted at sex for pleasure, at least they had the good sense to publicly pretend that their entire motivation was to save fetuses. But of course, that mask is off. What they want is to control female sexuality, and the hell with any candidate who doesn’t scream it from the rooftops.

And that’s the legacy of the 2012 presidential contest. Had Romney won South Carolina, this contest would be over and Romney would be bashing Obama over some bit of wingnut nonsense or another. Instead, we were gifted $10 million from Sheldon Adelson, and this thing continues to get dragged.

And every day that this race continues is a day in which base conservatives demand their candidates—including that former “moderate” Romney—pledge vocal and overt fealty to an agenda so outside the mainstream, that independents are flocking to the Democratic Party.

 

 

 

 

DNC to Romney: don’t bet against America 

 

 

 

 

Politico: Dems target non-profits, cite Rove

Seven Democratic senators Thursday called on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate — or acknowledge that it’s currently investigating — nonprofit, “social welfare” organizations heavily engaged in political activities this election cycle, specifically citing a group run by Karl Rove.

The senators’ letter comes as small number of such groups, known as 501(c)(4) organizations in IRS parlance, have pumped tens of millions of dollars into political communications since the 2010 election cycle, when the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision loosened restrictions on how such groups may raise and spend money during elections.

“It is contrary to the letter and the spirit of the statute for political organizations formed primarily to advocate for a political candidate or to run attack ads against other candidates to take advantage of section 501(c)(4),” the senators wrote this afternoon. “The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.”

The signatories are Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.).

No Republicans participated in the letter, which does not recommend specific nonprofit groups to investigate.

But a related joint statement by the senators’ staffs refers to Rove, a Republican political operative and Fox News commentator by name, alluding to the Crossroads GPS nonprofit organization he helped establish as existing “to elect and defeat specific political candidates.”

It continues: “Elections operations such as Mr. Rove’s should not be allowed to masquerade as charities to take advantage of their tax exempt status and hide their donors from the public. It’s the IRS’s job to enforce the tax code and make sure that ‘social welfare’ organizations are what they say they are.”

Crossroads GPS spokesman Jonathan Collegio appeared nonplussed with the senators’ letter, musing, “We’re referring all calls on this matter to Barack Obama’s super PAC and 501(c)(4).”

Two former Obama staffers, Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, operate Priorities USA Action, a super PAC, and Priorities USA, a related nonprofit.

The Priorities USA groups, which Obama last week personally endorsed, have been struggling to compete with the fundraising juggernaut of Crossroads GPS and sister super PAC American Crossroads, which has set a fundraising goal of $300 million for itself this cycle.

Dan Watson, Udall’s spokesman, says the senators’ request to the IRS isn’t directed at conservative organizations — or any group in particular.

“It’s definitely covering all groups. We will definitely not be targeting one party or another,” Watson said. “The request is across the board.”

The IRS has to date been reluctant to investigate, or at least publicly acknowledge investigating, political activity by 501(c)(4) organizations. Last year, it initiated, then quickly ended, an investigation into donations made to such groups.

An IRS spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

By law, 501(c)(4) groups may engage in political activities so long as politics are not their primary purpose, although campaign reform groups and congressmen alike have previously argued that groups are running afoul of those regulations.

Unlike super PACs, which may also raise and spend unlimited funds on political communications, politically active nonprofits do not have to publicly disclose their donors.


Politico: Rattner challenges Romney to debate 

After days of trading barbs about the success of the auto bailout from a distance, Steve Rattner has a challenge for Mitt Romney: A live debate.

“I welcome that fight, I welcome that argument. I would love to debate any Romney person, any time, on the merits of the auto bailout,” Rattner, Obama’s former car czar, told POLITICO Thursday.

Campaigning ahead of the Feb. 28 Michigan primary, Romney wrote an op-ed in the Detroit News Tuesday calling the $83 billion infusion of federal money to save the state’s automakers a sell out to labor managed by Rattner, “a politically connected and ethically challenged Obama-campaign contributor.”

Rattner accused Romney of “pandering to his base” in suggesting that the federal government should have let GM and Chrysler go through the regular bankruptcy process.

“The alternative that he proposes would never have worked, it would have led to the liquidation of the companies. I’ve spent a lot of time in Michigan and I don’t believe that the average person in Michigan thinks that the rescue operation was a mistake,” Rattner said. “I think that the average person in Michigan thinks that that saved their state.”

Rattner pointed to General Motors’ announcement earlier Thursday that it produced record-breaking profits of $7.6 billion in 2011, up dramatically from the year before. President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign has quickly seized on the data as a yet another sign that its 2009 push to protect the company from liquidation has worked.

“It ultimately should be a very powerful political argument for the president,” Rattner said.

Rattner was in Washington to appear on a panel at the left-leaning Center for American Progress with former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who joined in the criticism of Romney’s attack on the auto bailout — but also cautioned his fellow Democrats against starting to believe that anyone other than the former Massachusetts governor will be the eventual GOP nominee.

Though Rick Santorum is “a true conservative – Newt Gingrich isn’t, Mitt Romney isn’t,” Rendell said, “I absolutely believe it will be Romney.”

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How Corrupt Was Santorum?

And so the vetting gets more serious. Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross remind us that Santorum was ranked, in 2006, as one of the three most corrupt Senators in Washington, mostly for doing things like this:

Perhaps the most jarring detail from his tenure in office is the unorthodox $500,000 mortgage that Santorum and his wife secured on the home in rural Virginia they had purchased for $643,361. According to a series of reports in the Philadelphia Daily News, the mortgage came from Philadelphia Trust Company, a fledgling private bank catering to “affluent investors and institutions” whose officers had contributed $24,000 to Santorum’s political action committees and re-election campaign.

In advertising, the lender said it only offered its preferred rates to well-heeled borrowers who also used their investment services. But Santorum’s public disclosure forms showed he did not have the required minimum $250,000 in liquid assets and was not an investor with Philadelphia Trust. His ability to secure the five-year loan led [Melanie] Sloan to file a complaint under a Senate ethics rule that specifically prohibits members from accepting a loan on terms not available to members of the general public. At the time, a Santorum spokeswoman told the Daily News that the mortgage terms were set at “market rates,” but did not provide further comment.

You can read Sloan’s press release from 2006 (via her organization, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) about the complaint here. CREW also has [pdf] an extensive report on Santorum’s misbehavior justifying his top three corruption ranking. One particularly odious nugget:

Compassionate conservatism redux.

 

 

 

“the government uses grammar to enslave people” | ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Sues Prosecutors For Grammar-Based Conspiracy

A so-called sovereign citizen in Washington, recently sentenced to three years for threatening to “arrest” a local mayor, is now suing federal prosecutors for conspiring against him using poor grammar, or as he calls it, “backwards-correct-syntaxing-modification fraud.”

David Russell Myrland filed a (virtually incomprehensible) lawsuit in federal court in Washington in late January, accusing federal prosecutors and Department of Homeland Security officials of violating his civil rights through “babbling-collusion-threats” and “grammar-second-grade-writing-level-fraud.”

From the filing:

For this federal-judge: David-Wynn: Miller’s-correction of the vassalees-fiction-syntax-grammar-pleadings is with the correction-participation-claim of this babble-indictment-evidence and: bad-probation-syntax=grammar-evidence. (Why did the vassalees do this case with a void-communications?) For the void-drogue-law, void-oath of an office, void-judge’s-oath, void-docking-court-house-vessel in the Washington-state-dry-dock and: void-original-lodial-land-title.

In an attachment to the filing, which looks almost as bizarre at it reads, Myrland added footnotes to each word of the prosecutors’ indictment that correspond to a “syntax-word-key-meaning” — the word’s form of speech.

The lawsuit was filed with the help of David Wynn Miller, who, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, is another “sovereigncitizen” who calls himself the “king of Hawaii” and claims the government uses grammar to enslave people. Miller was also an apparent influence of Jared Lee Loughner, the attempted assassin of Gabrielle Giffords, who wrote in one of his videos that “the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.”

William McCool, the district court executive, wrote a letter to Miller and Myrland telling them that their case has a number of “deficiencies,” including that they had not submitted the proper filing fees, or the In Forma Pauperis form to exempt them from the fee. They have until February 23 to submit the proper forms or their case can be dismissed.

In December, Myrland was sentenced to three years after he admitted to threatening the Mayor of Kirkland, Washington, and sending a series of threatening letters to various other public officials in the city.

He had previously been pulled over in August, 2010 for driving without a license plate, and explained to the police officer that it was because he is “not subject to Washington State Laws,” adding that the officer did not have the legal authority to stop him. The police officer also observed a gun in Myrland’s car, and during a search of Myrland found that he was wearing a shoulder holster for a semiautomatic pistol under his jacket, with two magazines in the holster. Myrland explained it was to “shoot pitbulls.”

Myrland has been linked to a group of Washington-area sovereign citizens who call themselves “County Rangers,” that have recently been facing a slew of various charges for tax fraud, among other things. They have also been linked to Alaska Peacemaker Militia leader Schaeffer Cox.

 

 

 

Romney: Entrepreneurs should just ask parents for money

[…] “The president wanted to encourage solar energy and he thought by taking $500 million and giving it as a loan to a company would do that,” Romney continued. “It did just the opposite. Not understanding the private enterprise system explains why he doesn’t understand that.

“Because my guess is that there are about 100 or more entrepreneurs in America that have ideas for solar energy, and they’re trying to go out and get funding for their business, for their startup for their ideas. Going to venture capitalists and angels and their parents to try and get funding.”

MORE>>>

 

 

 

Rick Santorum 3 times voted against closing a loophole which would stop US companies from doing business in Iran.

 

 

How long until GOPers ask, “If Romney lacks the confidence to debate, what will he do vs Obama?” 

The Romney campaign has been hinting for over a month that it might start declining invitations to candidate debates. It doesn’t come as too big a surprise, then, that the former governor has decided to skip CNN’s March 1 debate in Atlanta.

“With eight other states voting on March 6th, we will be campaigning in other parts of the country and unable to schedule the CNN Georgia debate,” Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “We have participated in 20 debates, including 8 from CNN.”

The March 1 debate is second-to-last debate before Super Tuesday on March 6. There are a total of three debates between now and Super Tuesday.

One could make the case that Romney and his aides aren’t necessarily hiding, but rather, they just don’t see the value in this seemingly endless stream of debates.

But I think that’s a far-too-generous interpretation. Put it this way: if Romney were excelling in recent debates, and wowing Republican voters in every appearance, is there any way in the world he’d consider blowing off such an opportunity? It seems highly unlikely. In fact, for months, Romney was seen as easily the best debater in the field, and at the time, it seemed as if he couldn’t wait for the next one.

Then his rivals started getting applause, and all of a sudden, Team Romney isn’t so sure these debates are such a great idea after all.

The “scheduling” explanation also seems thin. This event in Atlanta was scheduled quite a while ago, and the campaigns knew it was coming. The more likely rationale is that Romney, in a bit of a panic and aware of his dwindling favorability ratings, no longer feels confident that these settings work to his advantage.

There is, however, a risk from bowing out. How soon will it be before Republican insiders start asking themselves, “If Romney lacks the confidence to debate, what will he do when he’s up against President Obama?”

 

 

 

Palin says all positive economic data is fraudulent, part of media conspiracy to reelect Obama 

 

 

 

Marriage equality passes New Jersey assembly 41-33

 

 

 

Marriage Equality Moves Forward in Maryland

 

 

 

POLLS

PPP poll: Obama up big in Michigan, support for auto bailout 52-36

 

 

No contraception mandate? Obama now beating Romney 65-30 among unmarried women, a core constituency

 

 

Independent voters flee Romney…and run to Obama

 

 

Pew Research Center: Share of all current marriages that are either interracial or interethnic has reached an all-time high

 

 

Pew Research Center: Daily Number: 49% of adults ages 18 to 34 say they have taken a job they didn’t want because of economic conditions 

 

 

Wow. Santorum is just crushing Romney in new Ohio poll…

 

 

 

WEDGE ISSUES

Hey guys, I got hold of some GOP 2012 campaign materials:

MORE>>>

 

 

 

Women’s advocacy group calls race-based abortion bill ‘a disgrace’

The National Partnership for Women & Families on Thursday condemned the House Judiciary Committee after it passed a bill to ban sex-based or race-based abortions.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination (PRENDA) Act to the U.S. House in December. The legislation could subject a doctor to up to five years in prison for failing to determine if race or sex was a factor in a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy.

“Today’s actions by the House Judiciary Committee were a disgrace and a betrayal,” Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families, said in a statement.

“The legislation to criminalize abortion on the basis of sex and race is a sham; it is nothing more than an attempt to make it more difficult for women of color to seek abortion care and imprison doctors who provide that care.”

“Appropriating the language of the civil rights movement and the names of its leaders does not give you its moral authority,” Ness continued. “The move to outlaw sex- and race-selective abortion in the United States is gratuitous and unnecessary, which is why many of the leading and most respected civil rights organizations have lined up against this bill.”

The bill claims that immigrants from countries where sex-based abortions are prevalent, such as China, are practicing “female feticide” in the United States and warns that the practice is causing “an unnatural sex-ratio imbalance.”

“Experts worldwide document that a significant sex-ratio imbalance in which males numerically predominate can be a cause of increased violence and militancy within a society,” the bill states.

Arizona enacted a similar law last year.

 

 

 

In 2008, Rick Santorum claimed Mainline Protestants are “gone from the world of Christianity,” led astray by Satan 

Back in 2008, Rick Santorum traveled to Ave Maria University in Florida to deliver an address to students attending the Catholic university founded by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan which he moved from Michigan as part of his effort to build his own personal theocracy in Naples.

Santorum told the students at Ave Maria how lucky they were to be living in a time when God’s Army is more needed than ever because all of the major institutions in society were under attack by Satan.

The audio of Santorum’s remarks is still posted on the Ave Maria website and the bulk of his speech was dedicated to explaining how God had used him, his political career, and even the death of his son Gabrielin the fight to outlaw abortion in America.

But Santorum began his remarks by explaining to the students in attendance how every institution in America has been destroyed by Satan; from academia to politics with even the church having fallen under His sway – not the Catholic church, of course, but “mainline Protestantism” which is in such “shambles” that it is not even Christian any longer:

Text HERE.

AND IN OTHER NEWS…

Why has evolution let drugs be fun?

When I was in a college, a slightly older friend, smart as a tack and admired by all, died from an overdose of nitrous oxide—a drug that recently popped up in the news when it was alleged to have played a role in Demi Moore’s hospitalization. From an evolutionary standpoint, drug abuse is puzzling: Why should people find pleasure in the killing of their own brain cells? Why isn’t the brain wired to reject any actions that would actively cause it harm?

In a perfect world, nature would have already programmed us to avoid self-destructive short-term thrills, and we would be perfectly rational actors, never taking needless risks. Dangerous activities like drug use and reckless driving highlight an important gap between what might seem on paper to be optimal for evolution and biological reality.

The dirty secret is that evolution isn’t, in fact, perfect. It’s just a random process. Over time, it generally produces good results, but there’s no guarantee, because there is no intelligent designer overseeing the show. Instead, evolution sometimes alights upon rather clumsy solutions—what engineers call kluges—that get the job done. Think, for example, of the human spine, a single column that supports much of our body weight. If we had three columns arranged in tripodlike array, we’d have a lot less back pain. But evolution simply never hit on that solution. New systems evolve on top of older systems, even where starting from scratch might objectively make more sense.

Addictions to thrills, drugs, and alcohol result from an imperfect compromise between something very old (dating back hundreds of millions of years, long before humans existed) and something new (dating back no more than a few hundred thousand years, an eye blink in evolution).

What’s old is our reflexive systems. For most of human prehistory, short-term thinking was practically the only thing that mattered: Predator or prey? Fight or flee? Early hominids that made snap decisions like that effectively survived; those that didn’t perished.

Much newer is a different system, one that deliberates and reflects. The trouble is that reflexive systems, because they are older, tend to dominate. If we see a chocolate cake, we eat it, no matter what we might have said at New Year’s about dieting.

The paradox of drug and alcohol abuse is that addicts know that their lives are worse off in the long run. But in the immediacy of the moment, our reflexive systems—precisely because they are so much older—still hold the steering wheel. Maybe in the millennia to come, our deliberative systems will integrate better with our reflexive systems. Until then, balancing short-term pleasure with what makes the most sense in the long run will remain, for all of us, a constant struggle.

 

 

 

ABC News: 95-year-old socialite keels over at fashion show 

[…] Kaplan keeled over midway through the Joanna Mastroianni runway show at Lincoln Center. She was carried out by security as the show went on, taken to a hospital and later pronounced dead of natural causes.

 

 

 

TAKE ACTION

100,000 Sign Petition Demanding Justice Thomas Recuse Himself From Health Care Case 

 

 

 

54k signatures in under 5 hrs! Tell Republicans it’s unacceptable to exclude women on women’s health issues

 

 

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Most women are one man away from welfare.  ~Gloria Steinem

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.

26 Responses so far.

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  1. AdLib says:

    So much to appreciate in today’s edition of Daily Planet but a quick note to say, the GOP “Ads” graphics are so clever, Cher!

  2. Unfortunately unmarried women are one of those groups of low turnout votes, especially the younger they are. Hopefully this time they will realize what is at state.

    Ya gotta love Romney. I swear he has a target on his own foot. He decries the auto bailouts to save an essential industry. He simply cannot understand that the private sector was not coming to the rescue and GM and Chrysler would have to liquidate and lose hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs. The government was truly the loaner of last resort.

    But I digress. Romney would have not bailed out the auto industry but he had no problem with government bailing out the Winter Olympics in Utah. In fact he begged them for money. The funnies part was that crony capitalism including illegal bribes to Olympic officials was the reason the Olympics where in trouble in the first place.

    Great video slamming Romney’s hypocrisy on bailouts.


    • kesmarn says:

      That’s a fine vid, KQ. And what a flashback — the the days when John McCain was actually a whistle-blower and occasionally got it really, really right.

    • Chernynkaya says:

      KQ, unmarried women were a solid part of the Obama coalition in’08, but you’re right that young people don’t vote enough in general, and they’d better. But I think I’ve read some disturbing polling about the youth vote--they are so discouraged by the economy that they might go repub out of the stupidity of youth.

      I was watching Hardball last night and saw that clip of Romney talking about how much he loves Michigan--did you see that? The part where he said the trees were the “right height?” It was unbelievable! Also, for the first time I saw Mittens walking and I never noticed it before but he MINCES!
      Here’s the link to the video--at the 8:00 mark. Just breathtaking weirdness.

      • kesmarn says:

        Cher, if you’re able to come up with the link to that vid, I’d love to watch it. Merci!

      • Of course younger workers have felt the brunt of the recession. There are some fundamental factors for this. Less youths are coming out now with even HS diplomas and employers have access to more experienced workers who would take less now are a couple. But instead of blaming the business they should blame the Repub policies that reinforce these trends.

        Young women especially should factor in issues like the GOP wants to take away their BC and choice. That would force more woman to be single mothers searching for jobs.

        • Chernynkaya says:

          The sad truth is that most of the HS dropouts are Latinos. I don’t have the national numbers on this but in CA fully half of Latinos drop out. I think there are a lot of factors but that community must look inwards and address this. But you are right about the fundamentals. That’s why Obama is working so hard to reform education. I especially like that he wants to make school mandatory until age 18.

          I know there are many reforms needed, but to be honest I think a lot of the reforms need to start with families and society. Not to sound all grumpy-old-man, but when I was a kid, teachers were respected and parents usually baked them up. I’m not saying teachers are always right, but frankly, just staying in school and getting some remedial help would be huge reforms. Ans of course, freaking funding more schools.

          • I agree refocusing on families. I know allot of people attacking the slow recovery point to the fact that people are dropping out of the work place. But allot of those people are a spouse staying home to for the benefit of their kids. If you really think about it adding a job making less than about $30K to the household is almost a wash especially if you need day care. That’s one way people are approaching the new normal which could be a benefit in the end.

            • For one I don’t assume it’s the wife that stays at home and I expect the spouse to pursue their careers at some point. My younger brother was the house husband for over a year during the Bush years when his son was preschool. It’s even a good time for a spouse to get more education in college or in a trade.

              Bottom line I think the paradigms are shifting from families concentrating on making as much money as possible to families reexamining all their priorities including focusing on child care. Obviously all families don’t have that luxury but I also know families tend to live up to or down to their means.

            • Chernynkaya says:

              KQ that’s a tough one. It’s true about the financial wash, and I do think that it’s great for kids to have a stay-home parent.

              But when I was a young mother (I stayed home 2 yrs) my decision to go back to work was smart in retrospect. I invested in my career and by the time our son was out of the house I was a VP. But more important, I was able to support myself when we got divorced. Women must be financially independent. I really don’t think it’s a choice unless one is an heiress.

      • I did see that and the whole thing was terrible uncomfortable and just plain weird. Romney always looks like he’s an alien trying to act human in public settings when he tries to get personal with a group of people.

  3. SallyT says:

    It’s okay, Cher. Don’t give up, just give it a rest. We’ll be here waiting. See you later, friend!

  4. Chernynkaya says:

    Oh for gawd’s sake! I hit the publish button accidentally! I give up. See you guys tomorrow, I hope!


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