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A Closer Look at the Tea Party’s Utopia

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones:

From Benjy Sarlin:

Republican lawmakers are pushing President Obama to put seniors, troops, and bondholders at the front of the line should Congress fail to raise the debt ceiling. The rest? Well, that’s up to him.

….But where will the immediate 44% cut in overall spending needed to avoid default come from instead? Michele Bachmann, who has gone so far as to demand that the debt ceiling never be raised, dodged questions on the issue Wednesday by simply repeating her assertion that Social Security and troop pay be left sacrosanct.

Asked by TPM about what areas might need to be cut offset their proposed guarantees, Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY) offered a similar response, repeating that Social Security, Medicare, military pay, and veterans’ benefits should all be off limits. Pressed to name any savings — furloughing federal employees, shutting down various agencies — that might be preferable, she said her focus was only on calling out Obama’s threats.

Let’s take a brief look at the numbers. The federal government is scheduled to spend about $300 billion in August. Something like $125 billion of that is debt. So if the debt ceiling doesn’t get raised, the government can only spend about $175 billion. Very roughly, here’s spending for the month of August in the areas Nan Hayworth says are off limits:

Social Security = $60 billion
Veterans benefits = $10 billion
Medicare/Medicaid = $70 billion
Interest payments = $20 billion
Military pay = $15 billion

Total = $175 billion

So there you have it. Nan Hayworth is right: we can fund all of these things without raising the debt ceiling. Unfortunately, that’s it. There’s really no other prioritizing necessary. There’s not a single dollar left for any other function of government. Not defense spending, not the FBI, not foreign embassies, not the court system, not prisons, not disaster relief, not unemployment insurance, not the border patrol, not TSA or the FAA, not roadbuilding, not maintenance of any kind, not national parks, and not pensions for retired federal workers. Not anything. And aside from military personnel, every single employee of the federal government will have to be furloughed.

That’s what Nan Hayworth and Michele Bachmann and the rest of the tea party folks apparently want. Quite the small government utopia, isn’t it?



Deep moral issues are at stake in the budget debate

Rev. Rich Nathan, Senior Pastor of the Vineyard Church in Columbus, Ohio for The Hill:

[…] As Christian leaders, we are committed to fiscal responsibility and shared sacrifice. We are also committed to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people. Therefore, we join with others to form a Circle of Protection around programs that meet the essential needs of hungry and poor people at home and abroad.

We agreed to eight principles for ethical decision-making that should guide budget discussions and be used to judge outcomes. These include protecting and improving “poverty-focused development and humanitarian assistance to promote a better, safer world” and ensuring that budget discussions “review and consider tax revenues, military spending, and entitlements in the search for ways to share sacrifice and cut deficits.” And, a fundamental focus on creating jobs since “decent jobs at decent wages are the best path out of poverty, and restoring growth is a powerful way to reduce deficits.”

None of these religious leaders are looking for a job as budget director. But it is clear that the American people see deep moral issues at stake in the budget debate. Because of the ethical nature of the decisions being made, we believe the Christian community and the values it holds are an important part of this debate. As the statement said, it is the “vocation and obligation of the church to speak and act on behalf of those Jesus called ‘the least of these.’” Politicians should know that a growing number of Christians on Capitol Hill and back home in their districts are ready to hold them accountable to these principles.



President Obama abruptly walks out of debt ceiling talks

“Obama lit him up. Cantor sat in stunned silence,” said an official in the meeting. “It was incredible. If the public saw Obama he would win in a landslide.”

President Obama: No, I Didn’t Storm Out Of The Debt Ceiling Talks (VIDEO)

“We’re willing to make <i>changes</i> in entitlements, but only if it strengthens Social Security for that next generation, for that 40 year old steel worker, and in exchange, we’ve got to make sure that folks who have been blessed by this society are giving a little bit back, whether it’s closing corporate loopholes on corporate jets, or oil and gas, or making sure that folks who can well afford it give a little bit more in order to assure that we’re not putting a burden on that steel worker or that senior citizen or that student who’s out there trying to get a student loan.”

There will be no deal or grand bargain. This will end with a whimper.


Quit listening to the pundits. Even me. Listen to your gut on this whole debt ceiling debate. If you shut out the noise and listen carefully to what the players are saying, what you’ll hear is what I said earlier this week: There will be no deal.

Repeat it: There will be no deal.

Republicans won’t bend on the tax cuts. Problem is, they expire at the end of 2012. That’s the President’s leverage. All he has to do is nothing — no cuts, no deal, no nothing — and the deficit will be gone by 2016 anyway.

This is also why Mitch McConnell put out that silly suggestion that the President raise the debt ceiling on his own in three increments over the next 15 months or so.

McConnell’s plan gives the president the ability to raise the debt ceiling through 2012, in three separate increments, by requiring Obama to propose spending cuts greater than each request. Its main virtue is that these hikes would have to pass largely with Democratic support – something that McConnell and others believe will redound to Republicans’ benefit heading into the 2012 election cycle. And, the theory goes, if President Obama offers phony spending cuts, as he almost certain to do, his posturing as the “adult in the room” on entitlements and spending will be exposed as unserious.

But there’s the catch, too: the spending cuts do not have to be real or even implemented in order for the president to get his debt ceiling increases. McConnell acknowledged this at the press conference to announce the plan Tuesday afternoon. ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked: “Does it guarantee you’ll get your spending cuts or not?” McConnell responded: “No, it doesn’t.”

This is because McConnell understands that the debt ceiling must be raised and the 14th amendment solution is still lurking behind the curtain should Congress fail to act.

There will be no ‘grand bargain’. There can’t be. Politically, Republicans would have absolutely nothing to use as leverage in 2012 if one were struck. They didn’t ever plan to strike a deal, they can’t strike one, and so they will either cede to a clean debt ceiling resolution with no strings attached or they will force a constitutional solution.

Republicans thought holding the debt ceiling hostage was a grand way to force the president to cave into their demands. Problem is, he’s not caving. Perhaps his “what part of I won’t sign a short-term deal did you not understand” signal to Cantor is a clue:

I have reached the point where I say enough,” Obama concluded, according to Reuters. “Would Ronald Reagan be sitting here? I’ve reached my limit. This may bring my presidency down, but I will not yield on this.”

If you still feel the need to listen to pundits, listen to this guy. He gets it just right.



The tough choices President Obama would have to make on Aug. 3.

If the debt ceiling is reached, Obama would have to pick and choose programs to fund, reports Zachary Goldfarb: “What happens if President Obama and Congress don’t strike a debt deal? On Aug. 3, the nation would find out, with Obama forced to make a set of extraordinarily difficult choices about what to pay or not pay. By then, the government’s savings account would be nearly empty and the president would be relying on daily tax revenue to pay the nation’s bills. There wouldn’t be enough — in fact, there would be a $134 billion shortfall in August alone. As Obama decided what to pay, he would choose among Social Security checks, salaries for members of the military and veterans, unemployment benefits, student loans, and many other government programs, according to administration officials and an independent analysis by a former senior Treasury Department official [for] George H.W. Bush.”

The Fed is open to launching a new round of stimulus, reports Neil Irwin: “The Federal Reserve is prepared to take new action if the recovery falters, Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said Wednesday, raising the possibility of resuming un or tho dox methods of trying to pump money into the economy. Bernanke expects that the economy will strengthen over the remainder of the year as temporary drags such as higher fuel prices dissipate, according to his testimony before the House Financial Services Committee. But he also acknowledged that there is no way to be certain, and he said that the Fed would act if its outlook proves overly optimistic. His list of possible responses included a new round of Treasury bond purchases by the Fed. Only two weeks ago, the central bank completed a $600 billion effort to support the economy along those lines.”

The Hill: McCaskill on debt talks: ‘McConnell has lost his mind’; GOP a ‘hot, sloppy mess’

The White House’s case for a big deficit deal

Ezra Klein:

[…] That’s led them to offer Republicans a deal that is not only much farther to the right than anyone had predicted, but also much farther to the right than most realize. In addition to the rise in the Medicare eligibility age and the cuts to Social Security and the minimal amount of revenues, it’d cut discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion, which is an absolutely massive attack on that category of spending.

This deal isn’t just a last-ditch effort to save the economy from the damage of a federal default. The White House would far prefer this deal to the McConnell plan, or to the $2 trillion deal that was under consideration during the Biden negotiations. So why are administration officials so committed to striking a deal composed of policies they’ve mostly opposed? Here’s their thinking:

You can’t spend till you cut: The deficit is sucking the oxygen out of everything else in Washington. It isn’t just powerful as an issue in and of itself, but as a response to any significant investments the administration might propose. If you believe we need to do more on jobs, or more on anything, you need finish the deficit conversation. And as an added bonus, if you finish the deficit conversation in a way that convinces the American people you’ve made sacrifices and forced government to live within its means, you have, at least in theory, more credibility when proposing new initiatives that would expand the size of government again.

It’s your only shot at stimulus: A big deficit deal could include mild stimulative measures such as unemployment insurance and an extension of the payroll tax cut. That’s not much, but it’s better than nothing. A small deficit deal, or no deficit deal, won’t include any extensions of stimulus.

It’s a way to control the timing: If you strike a deal that lasts 10 years, you can backload the savings to protect the recovery over the next three or four years. If you don’t strike a deal, Republicans are likely to take out their frustrations on the 2012 appropriations, which is to say we won’t have much long-term deficit reduction, which most economists think we need, but we’ll have a lot of immediate austerity, which most economists think would be poison for the recovery. It’s the worst of both worlds.

Getting Obama reelected is important: The White House believes striking a major deficit deal would be good for Obama’s reelection chances. They also believe that getting Obama reelected would be good for the priorities that Democrats care about. President Mitt Romney’s spending cuts would be worse than theirs, his hostility to taxes would be more implacable than theirs, and he’d repeal or hollow out both the health-care law and financial regulation.

Deficit reduction is good economic policy, both now and later: There’s something close to a consensus view that we need deficit reduction within the next five to 10 years or the odds of the market turning on us rise to unacceptable levels. But many in the White House also believe that a credible commitment to deficit reduction in the long and medium term could help the economy in the short term. In his July 2 radio address, for instance, Obama said, “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.”


Amazon, the Leader of the Tax Cheat Industry

Amazon is known throughout the world as one of the most innovative tax cheats anywhere. It makes its profit largely by allowing customers to avoid state sales taxes and sharing the savings. States are now taking steps to crack down on this scam, requiring Internet retailers with any ties to in-state businesses to start collecting taxes on their sales in the state. California took this route this month.

The NYT had an article highlighting Amazon’s efforts to fight back to protect its loophole, which includes a plan to place an initiative on California’s ballot. In laying out Amazon’s argument, the piece includes an unanswered argument from Amazon, that the law places a huge burden on small Internet retailers by requiring them collect taxes in hundreds of different jurisdictions.

The piece should have reminded readers that there are services that will handle the tax collection for smaller businesses for a modest fee. These services are comparable to the payroll companies that small businesses often rely upon to get tax and benefit payments handled correctly.

Amazon has a history of putting out absurd arguments to protect its tax loophole. It had previously argued that it lacked the technical competence to keep track of the different tax provisions in all the jurisdictions where it sold products. This argument was contradicted by the fact that retailers like Wal-Mart and Target seem to have relatively little problem getting tax collections mostly right. Presumably, the programmers at the these traditional brick and mortar retailers are not that much more competent than the crew at Amazon.

Given Amazon’s history, the NYT should not present its claims to readers without including a response.






The United States Will Never Be Like Greece, # 24,763

The Washington Post, which regularly uses both its editorial and news pages to push for budget cuts, has a front page article today that warns the United States could end up like Greece. The article includes a quote from University of Maryland economist Peter Morici, telling readers that:

“If Congress raises the debt ceiling without a long-term plan for reducing the federal deficit, he added, ‘they’ll never solve the problem, and we’ll end up like Greece.'”

It would have been worth pointing out that the United States cannot end up like Greece because the United States, unlike Greece, has its own currency. Greece is like the state of Ohio. If it has a shortfall it has to borrow in financial markets. Ohio can appeal to the federal government for assistance, just as Greece can turn to the EU, the ECB, and the IMF, but both have to accept whatever terms these bodies impose as a condition for their support.

By contrast, the U.S. government is always free to buy up debt issued in its own currency through the Fed. In principle, this could lead a problem of inflation, however the economy is very far from reaching this point with a vast amount of unemployed labor and under-utilized capacity.

Of course, the U.S. government also has no difficulty whatsoever borrowing in financial markets. It is currently able to sell long-term debt at interest rates just over 3 percent. This means that the people investing trillions of dollars in these markets do not share Mr. Morici’s assessment of the fiscal situation of the U.S. government.

It would have been worth presenting the views of someone who could tell the difference between the United States and Greece in this article.






Privatizing Public Education

This page reveals how ALEC bills would privatize public education, crush teacher’s unions, and push American universities to the right. These bills make education a private commodity rather than a public good, and reverse America’s modern innovation of promoting learning and civic virtue through public schools staffed with professional teachers for children from all backgrounds. Through ALEC, corporations have both a VOICE and a VOTE on specific state laws to change the American education system. Do you?

UW-Madison School of Education Dean Julie Underwood Discusses ALEC

A History of College Grade Inflation

[…] The researchers collected historical data on letter grades awarded by more than 200 four-year colleges and universities. Their analysis (published in the Teachers College Record) confirm that the share of A grades awarded has skyrocketed over the years. Take a look at the red line in the chart below, which refers to the share of grades given that are A’s:

Most recently, about 43 percent of all letter grades given were A’s, an increase of 28 percentage points since 1960 and 12 percentage points since 1988. The distribution of B’s has stayed relatively constant; the growing share of A’s instead comes at the expense of a shrinking share of C’s, D’s and F’s. In fact, only about 10 percent of grades awarded are D’s and F’s.

As we have written before, private colleges and universities are by far the biggest offenders on grade inflation, even when you compare private schools to equally selective public schools. Here’s another chart showing the grading curves for public versus private schools in the years 1960, 1980 and 2007:

As you can see, public and private school grading curves started out as relatively similar, and gradually pulled further apart. Both types of institutions made their curves easier over time, but private schools made their grades much easier.

By the end of the last decade, A’s and B’s represented 73 percent of all grades awarded at public schools, and 86 percent of all grades awarded at private schools, according to the database compiled by Mr. Rojstaczer and Mr. Healy. (Mr. Rojstaczer is a former Duke geophysics professor, and Mr. Healy is a computer science professor at Furman University.)

Southern schools have also been less generous with their grading than institutions in other geographic regions, and schools that focus on science and engineering tend to be stingier with their A’s than liberal arts schools of equal selectivity.

What accounts for the higher G.P.A.’s over the last few decades?

The authors don’t attribute steep grade inflation to higher-quality or harder-working students. In fact, one recent study found that students spend significantly less time studying today than they did in the past.

Rather, the researchers argue that grade inflation began picking in the 1960s and 1970s probably because professors were reluctant to give students D’s and F’s. After all, poor grades could land young men in Vietnam.

They then attribute the rapid rise in grade inflation in the last couple of decades to a more “consumer-based approach” to education, which they say “has created both external and internal incentives for the faculty to grade more generously.” More generous grading can produce better instructor reviews, for example, and can help students be more competitive candidates for graduate schools and the job market.

The authors argue that grading standards may become even looser in the coming years, making it increasingly more difficult for graduate schools and employers to distinguish between excellent, good and mediocre students.

More disturbing, they argue, are the potential effects on educational outcomes.





A look at ALEC & how it shapes anti-EPA legislation in states

L.A. Times:

The nonprofit American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, made up of conservative state lawmakers and corporate executives, crafted the language that has resulted in similar legislation in several states. Watchdog groups are scrutinizing the organization’s practices.

In late January, the Indiana House of Representatives adopted a resolution asking Congress to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to stop regulating carbon emissions, declaring that “EPA over-regulation is driving jobs and industry out of America.” Almost identical resolutions have won at least partial approval in a dozen other states, from Virginia to Michigan to Wyoming.

And it’s no coincidence that the language of these resolutions is similar, describing EPA’s plans to curb air pollution as a “train wreck” that will harm the economy.

n each case, the basic text of the resolutions sprang not from state capitols but from a relatively little-known, Washington-based nonprofit group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Composed of more than 1,500 conservative state legislators and executives of some of the nation’s biggest corporations, ALEC collects millions of dollars in corporate contributions to generate a steady stream of bills and resolutions for state action.

Topics include reducing government regulation, privatizing government services and requiring voters to show proof of identity at polling places.

On Wednesday, a Wisconsin-based liberal activist group, the Center for Media and Democracy, released thousands of pages of internal ALEC documents, including model bills, emails and details of the organization’s internal procedures, which give private-sector representatives a major role in drafting proposed legislation.

“Dozens of corporations are paying millions of dollars a year to write business-friendly legislation that is becoming law in statehouses from coast to coast,” said Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania who is currently president of Common Cause, the government watchdog group.

Common Cause plans to challenge ALEC’s nonprofit status, arguing that it spends most of its resources lobbying, in violation of the rules governing nonprofit organizations.

ALEC spokeswoman Raegan Weber denied the accusation, saying, “ALEC does not lobby. We employ no lobbyists.” And she made the case that having legislators meet with private-sector officials is good for democracy: “Legislators should hear from those the government intends to regulate.”

Left-leaning labor and other groups have their own advocacy organizations. Activists on the left, however, contend that ALEC stands out because it is focused on bringing together legislators and private-sector leaders to draft proposals for state action.

Weber countered that although any member can suggest a bill for consideration, the organization requires final approval from a board consisting only of legislators.

ALEC was formed in the mid-1970s by conservative activist Paul Weyrich and others as a way of influencing state regulatory and legislative decisions. The new ALEC documents reveal that corporations — including Coca-Cola and Koch Industries — pay thousands of dollars annually for ALEC membership and to participate in meetings with state legislators.

The group reported receiving $6.3 million in revenue in 2009, according to IRS forms provided by the Center for Media and Democracy, with only a sliver from legislators’ dues. Weber said that most of the money was raised at the annual meetings where lawmakers and executives meet to discuss issues to target.

“I think you see legislators responding to what is presented at their annual, spring and fall meetings each year,” said Adam Schafer, executive director of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, an association of moderate and liberal lawmakers. Schafer attended ALEC’s meetings last year.

“Whatever they target at those meetings likely will get attention. At last year’s meetings there was a lot of ‘education’ on EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations, which I think motivates legislators to act,” he said.

Legislators from every state are members of ALEC, many of them top GOP officials who champion the group’s causes.

The Indiana bill, for example, was introduced by Republican state Rep. David Wolkins, who is co-chair of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. In Virginia, state Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield said he took the EPA resolution verbatim from the ALEC website after it had been presented to him by the coal industry, according to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

Environmentalists believe that ALEC, working with other conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity, has led an aggressive push to dismantle regional climate agreements. In past months, legislators in Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington introduced legislation with nearly identical language demanding their states pull out of the Western Climate Initiative, which focuses on fighting global warming.

The model text they used is an ALEC document called State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives.

Lawmakers in Iowa, Michigan and New Hampshire took similar steps to abandon their regional accords. In some states, the bills did not muster enough votes, and in New Hampshire, the governor vetoed a bill that passed both houses. Weber said ALEC would continue working on this initiative.

ALEC has clout not only because it has a grass-roots network but because it has more than 300 corporations as members. The organizations pay wide-ranging dues and make substantial campaign contributions to state races.

Common Cause calculated that 22 of ALEC’s key member companies had contributed more than $317 million to state election campaigns over the last decade.

Documents released Wednesday show that ALEC considers private-sector representatives to be “an equal partner” in the organization’s task forces.






Medicaid’s Moment

Kaiser Health News:

In recent years, Medicaid has been the target of unrelenting attacks from Republicans and conservative think tanks. During the Senate debate on the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Robert Corker, R-Tenn., called Medicaid “probably the worst health care program in America.” Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said it was “the most dysfunctional delivery system that exists in the American health care system.” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, labeled it a “health care gulag.” And, back in March, American Enterprise Institute Fellow Scott Gottlieb, a physician, penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled “Medicaid Is Worse Than No Coverage At All.”

Disappointingly, while Democrats are effusive in their praise of Medicare, their silence in response to public attacks on Medicaid has been deafening — during the fight over health reform legislation and since.

All the more important, then, is the study released this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, “The Oregon Health Insurance Experiment: Evidence From The First Year,” written by a distinguished panel of health care economists.

I remember learning in 2008 that the state of Oregon had decided to hold a lottery to determine which uninsured Oregonians would be permitted to enroll in a limited expansion of their state’s Medicaid program. A total of 89,824 persons applied for 10,000 slots.

Although at the time I rolled my eyes at the sad and ludicrous spectacle of a lottery for health security, my colleague at the Harvard School of Public Health, Kate Baicker, and MIT economist Amy Finkelstein, had a different reaction. They saw this as a fleeting and historic opportunity to conduct the gold-standard of empirical research, a randomized controlled trial, to evaluate the benefits of Medicaid coverage versus no coverage at all.

In the U.S. (Europeans, of course, have no reason to study uninsurance), only one significant randomized controlled trial has been done — ever — to study health insurance. It was the 1970s RAND health insurance study, which examined consumer behavior under varied insurance designs (the lead investigator in that effort, Harvard’s Joseph Newhouse, also was involved in the Oregon study). Lack of health insurance was not part of the RAND study design. Now, the Oregon health insurance experiment will join RAND in the pantheon of essential health services research.

There will be many more results, reports and studies to come, but the first report already includes vital findings. The lucky Oregonians newly enrolled in Medicaid experienced:

 A 30 percent increase in the probability of a hospital admission.
 A 15 percent increase in the probability of taking a prescription drug.
 A 35 percent increase in the probability of having an outpatient visit.
 A 25 percent decline in the probability of having an unpaid medical bill sent to a collection agency.
 A 35 percent decline in having any out-of-pocket medical expenditures.
 Across-the-board improvements in self-reported physical and mental health, including “a general sense of improved well-being.”


Moms, Kids Hit Hard As Medicaid Faces Scalpel : NPR

Rep. Ryan argues Medicaid provides poor access due to low payment rates. His solution? Cut Medicaid by $717 billion.




Feds: ‘Nazi Jihadist’ Solicited Extremists To Attack Daycare Centers

Federal prosecutors have charged Emerson Begolly, the Nazi uniform wearing Pennsylvania man being held for allegedly biting an FBI agent who tried to question him about his activity on jihadist websites, with inciting violent attacks in the United States.

An indictment announced on Thursday by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia charges that Begolly used an extremist web forum to solicited others to engage in acts of terrorism and disseminated instructions for making different kinds of explosives that could be used in terrorist attacks.

Begolly allegedly suggested attacks on “civilian planes, financial institutions, military installations, Jewish schools, and daycare centers,” according to the indictment.

While transcripts of some of Begolly’s alleged writings had been filed in federal court in Pennsylvania when prosecutors were convincing a judge not to release him on bail, the new indictment marked the first time he was charged directly with a terrorism-related charge.

According to the writings, Begolly blamed a pedophile minister on his hatred of America and joked that someone at the FBI must have been “drunk” when he was allowed to buy an AK-47.

The new indictment quotes a post allegedly written by Begolly in which he brags about how easy it was for him to get a weapon even though he was on the terrorist watch list.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I have solid PROOF that one can legally purchase a firearm in America even if this person IS on the ‘terror watch’ list, just so long as they are not a convicted felon and are a US citizen over 18!” he allegedly wrote on Nov. 24, 2010. “My advice: As long as you still can, take advantage of this and MOVE… MOVE… MOVE…!!”

Begolly was first arrested in a Burger King parking lot after he allegedly reached for a gun in his pocket and bit two FBI agents questioning him about his online habits.

His lawyers and members of his family have said he has Asperger’s syndrome, a disorder in the autism spectrum characterized by difficulties with social interaction. Begolly’s mother told FBI agents he had been off his medication for two years, according to an FBI agent’s testimony earlier this year.






The New York Times Doesn’t Like Medicare

That’s what readers of the NYT’s box on “issues holding up debt ceiling agreement” would conclude. The box tells readers that:

“Officials have said that the program, which provides health care to people 65 and older, is not sustainable in its current form.”

This is not true. There is no, as in zero, none, official document that says the program is not sustainable in its current form. There are official documents that show the program will need additional revenue at some point. The ACA passed by Congress last year reduced the projected shortfall in the program by more than 75 percent.

As it stands, the projected shortfall over the program’s 75-year planning horizon is less than 0.4 percent of GDP. This is less than one quarter of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.



Chuck Todd: Why Is What TMZ Does Legal, But What Rupert Murdoch Does Illegal?

During an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, NBC’s Chuck Todd offered an interesting take on the News of the World phone hacking scandal and the possible implications it has for certain media outlets on this side of the pond. Will similar publications in the States, he wondered, face the same sort of scrutiny as News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch’s NOTW has?

What has Murdoch done that TMZ hasn’t done and why does what TMZ does, is legal, but what Rupert Murdoch does, it is illegal? What I’m saying is, is this going to — Would this be the beginning of the end of what – basically the horrendous nature of TMZ, National Enquirer, the road that they went down in our world does that put them, does that maybe put them in a place that – more vile, reviled than they are?

NY Mag’s John Heilemann, also on the panel this morning, brought up the point that News of the World’s influence beyond entertainment and gossip and into harder media and politics is unique, adding that you’ll never see a TMZ editor go on to become the White House Press Secretary, making reference to Andrew Coulson, the former NOTW editor turned former Communications Director for David Cameron.

Heilemann continued describing how culture makes a difference:

The really huge difference between America and Britain is this, that the tightness of the establishment in Britain is just — it’s just such a different thing. I lived and worked in London for a number of years and people here can’t really get their head around what a small, incestuous world it is. Here you’ve got a country, a much smaller country, where there’s one real city where most of the people who run the country politically, in law enforcement, in media, they all went to one of two colleges and everybody knows each other. So in this case, the complicity of the establishment, the political establishment, the journalistic establishment, the law enforcement establishment, how they were all, in one way or another, in on this is in some ways the bigger story, an even bigger story than Murdoch himself. It was the culture that created this entire environment.

Watch the segment, via MSNBC:

Want to be a DC columnist? Dana Milbank gives Villager lessons on writing a column about blaming Republicans:  

To some extent, irrationality persists on both sides. Senate Democrats, rather than doing useful work, have been debating a pointless “sense of the Senate” resolution that millionaires should pay more in taxes.

But Republicans have a bigger problem. Even when leaders attempt to be responsible — both House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have said that default is not an option — they are being undercut by their rank and file.

Both sides. Right.






To those “fed up with President Obama” and think he’ll win without your vote in 2012…

The Political Carnival:

It’s early in the election season, and polls are nothing but snapshots, and often not very accurate ones, but… I’m posting one anyway, to make a point.

Many people I’ve encountered in various venues are so bitterly disappointed in President Obama that they have stomped their foot and sworn they will vote for down ticket Democratic candidates only, but hey, the president doesn’t need their vote so they’ll stick by their principles and let the rest of America do their thing. After all, they keep telling me, he’ll win a second term no matter what they do anyway.

Not necessarily.

I started to address the anger from the left in a previous post titled If you’re mad at President Obama, this one’s for you.

As for making a point by withholding an Obama vote, now there are numbers to illustrate why voting against the GOP– while not ideal– is mandatory. Via Taegan:

A new Gallup survey of registered voters finds that they are more likely to vote for the “Republican Party’s candidate for president” than for President Obama in the 2012 election, 47% to 39%. Preferences had been fairly evenly divided this year in this test of Obama’s re-election prospects.

A vote against President Obama (whether it’s a vote for someone else or simply not checking any box) is:

  • A vote for even more legislation that would crush our civil liberties.
  • It’s a vote for seeing a President Bachmann or President Romney on your Tee Vee Box regularly, and knowing they call the shots. Yes, a President Bachmann would be in charge. Think about that.
  • It’s a vote for persecuting– and prosecuting– gay Americans.
  • It’s a vote for rolling back what’s left of our environmental laws.
  • It’s a vote for eliminating the few remaining freedoms relating to reproductive health that have survived the War on Women.
  • It’s a vote for teaching Christianity in our soon-to-be-extinct public schools.
  • It’s a vote for altering history to conform with personal bias.
  • It’s a vote for encouraging bigotry and racism.
  • It’s a vote for an even more conservative/corporate Supreme Court.
  • It’s a vote for people who want to crush unions, crush your independence, crush your voice, crush your privacy, crush you, by making your life a living hell.

Try reversing all of that once it sets like cement.

Since BushCo put their grimy, sleazy, illegal, stupid little stamp on this country, we find ourselves barely able to eke out reversals of their appalling policies. Hell, we can’t even introduce legislation that begins to do that, let alone pass any, even with a Democrat (albeit not a liberal) in the White House and a Democratic majority in the Senate.

So give your time and/or money to congressional candidates, and to local ones, and rally around those who you truly believe in, with gusto. Make change happen, get behind a real movement, find a way to use your anguish and anger constructively.  Go from feeling powerless to powerful by being pro-active. A Progressive Congress is an effective way to achieve our truly small-d-democratic goals.

And then hold your nose (if you are one of the seething Dems out there) and vote for a Democrat who could actually win the presidency, because unfortunately, a vote against him will contribute to a President Perry or President Pawlenty.

And that is truly terrifying.

Making a statement via a protest vote (or non-vote) is one thing. Unfortunately, reality is quite another.



Corrupt reformers


Supposing you really hate Democrats right now. I know a lot of you do. But if it ever occurs to you to think that Republicans might actually do a better job at “reforming” the system, consider this:

The House Oversight Committee’s investigation into the government commission that was supposed to figure out the cause of the the financial crisis appears to have backfired on the Republicans who lead the committee.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and his investigators had been looking into the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission because, Issa said, it went over budget and commissioners and staffers “may have conflicts of interest created by their previous roles in the public and private sectors.”

Issa said he was troubled by “extensive ties of some of the senior staff at a putatively bipartisan commission to partisan Democrat politics” and said the FCIC “served as nothing more than a cheering section for the Administration and congressional Democrats in their efforts to defend a partisan and ineffective financial regulatory reform bill.”

Instead, the documents reviewed by congressional investigators, according to the Democrats’ report on that matter, reveal that Republican commissioners and staffers were improperly sharing the FCIC’s work with outside parties. Dems also say that emails show that one Republican commissioner was trying to use his position on the commission to bolster the GOP’s chances of repealing financial services reform.

Yes, the Democrats are hardly progressive heroes of principle and integrity, to say the least. But there is nothing more fundamentally bankrupt than the GOP. Only people who are intellectually deficient and/or morally putrid could shamelessly flaunt their corruption the way these people do. It may only be a difference of degree, but it’s an important one.



Low Registration Sinks Tea Party Convention

Hard to keep the momentum going if it’s a fake movement.

Organizers of the Freedom Jamboree announced Wednesday that they have canceled the tea party convention planned for this fall, citing low registration.

They had hoped the event would serve as a stage for Republican presidential candidates to court the conservative movement, and two — Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) — had already confirmed they would attend.


Only 62 tea party groups had committed to attending, well under the 350 that Temple estimated would be needed to break even.



Mitch McConnell: We Must Rewrite The Constitution Because ‘Elections’ Haven’t ‘Worked’

Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered what may be the most concise summary of conservative constitutionalism ever spoken — America must rewrite the Constitution to force conservative outcomes because we the people consistently elect lawmakers who disagree with McConnell:

The time has come for a balanced budget amendment that forces Washington to balance its books. If these debt negotiations have convinced us of anything, it’s that we can’t leave it to politicians in Washington to make the difficult decisions that they need to get our fiscal house in order. The balanced budget amendment will do that for them. Now is the moment. No more games. No more gimmicks. The Constitution must be amended to keep the government in check. We’ve tried persuasion. We’ve tried negotiations. We’re tried elections. Nothing has worked. […]

It’s worth noting just what McConnell is asking the American people to choke down. Senate Republicans’ so-called “balanced budget amendment” does far more than simply requiring federal spending to equal federal revenues. It makes it functionally impossible to raise taxes by imposing a two-thirds supermajority requirement — a provision closely modeled after the California anti-tax amendment that blew up that state’s finances. It would also require spending cuts so steep that it would have made Ronald Reagan’s fiscal policy unconstitutional. Ezra Klein rightfully labeled this plan the “worst idea in Washington.”

So there really isn’t any question why the American people refuse to elect a Congress that will force this agenda upon the nation, but McConnell simply doesn’t care. If the American people won’t vote for the kind of government he wants, then we must strip away the people’s ability to choose their own government. Elections haven’t worked.

Sadly, McConnell’s deeply authoritarian plan to take away our ability to choose how we will be governed is part of a much larger conservative agenda to strip American democracy of any meaning and force conservative governance upon the American people:

  • Affordable Care Act Litigation: In 2008, elections didn’t work because we the people elected Barack Obama and gave him the majorities he needed to comprehensively reform the health care system. Conservatives immediately responded with an entirely fabricated constitutional argument against this law that relied on a constitutional theory that no one had ever even heard of before 2009. Even Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a former Scalia clerk and a leader of the conservative states rights movement, rejected this meritless attack on the Affordable Care Act.
  • Killing Medicare and Medicaid: In 1964, elections didn’t work, and the American people gave President Lyndon Johnson the congressional support he needed to enact Medicare and Medicaid. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) would take away the American people’s ability to benefit from this law as well. He claims that the Constitution must be reinterpreted so that the federal government can’t do anything at all about “health care.”
  • Bringing Back Whites-Only Lunch Counters: In 1962, elections didn’t work, and the American people gave Johnson enough votes to pass a ban on whites-only lunch counters. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) disagrees with this outcome, so he would reinterpret the Constitution to make the Civil Rights Act of 1964 unconstitutional.
  • Putting Children To Work: In 1936, elections didn’t work, and the American people reelected President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and gave him an enormous supermajority in Congress. Roosevelt used this mandate to eliminate the exploitation of child labor. Sen. Lee also disagrees with this outcome, and would rethink the Constitution to make child labor laws unconstitutional.
  • Cutting Students Loose: Time and time again, elections haven’t worked because the American people elected a Congress that supports education programs. Numerous members of Congress believe that all federal education programs — from Pell Grants to federal student loans to public school funding — must be eliminated entirely because, in Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) words, “I don’t even think [education] is a role for the federal government, if you read the Constitution.”

In other words, McConnell’s plan to strip we the people of our ability to govern ourselves is only the beginning. The right has a clear and comprehensive agenda to rethink the entire Constitution — and democracy has no part in their vision.



DeMint: Sexually Active Unmarried Women And Gay Teachers Should Be Barred From Classrooms

House Dems Slam ‘Racist,’ ‘Rovian’ Voter ID Laws; Says DOJ Isn’t Doing Enough (VIDEO)

The Obama Justice Department needs to do more to stop states from implementing voter ID bills which disenfranchise minority voters, a coalition of House Democrats and civil rights leaders said Wednesday.

Gathered by the steps of the Capitol, the members of Congress and civil rights advocates slammed what they called a coordinated plan by Republicans to prevent students, minorities and the elderly from exercising their right to vote. They dismissed a frequent argument made by supporters of voter ID laws — that since photo identification is required for plenty of everyday activities, it should be required at the polls as well.

“You wanna know something? Getting a video from Blockbuster is not a constitutional right. Getting liquor from the liquor store is not a constitutional right,” said Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI).

States coming up with these voter ID laws at the same time “was not spontaneous generation,” Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) said. “It was Rovian. This was an obvious Republican attempt to subvert our vote in 2012 and to hurt the President of the United States’ chance of reelection, which is the entire goal of the Republican House — to defeat Barack Obama even if they take down the United States economy while they do it.”

Sixteen states already have laws requiring or requesting voters present a photo voter ID in order to vote and at least 38 states are considering or have recently considered such measures, according to the Lawyers’ Committee For Civil Rights. Indeed, evidence emerged on Wednesday that the conservative state legislative group ALEC had circulated draft legislation for conservative state lawmakers to propose to impose restrictive photo voter ID requirements.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) took a shot at the major networks for not having someone on hand to cover the news conference on voting rights.

“I guess everybody is out covering the story about some nude pictures on the Internet, on Facebook, and yeah even Casey Anthony’s case, when we’re talking about here a very fundamental right that is in jeopardy,” Johnson said.

Moore said that when Gov. Scott Walker — who supported a voter ID bill — ran against her for state assembly back in the 1990s, he told an unnamed Republican colleague that he thought he could beat her because the district was majority white.

“Who do you think he’s trying to disenfranchise? He’s been trying for all these years since 1990 on a consistent basis to institute these voter ID bills,” Moore said.

“I’m proud to stand to you to make sure the Justice Department does what’s right on this and other civil rights issues on which they’ve been absent as of late,” Cohen said.

“We urge the Department of Justice: hear our plea. Take leadership, and respond immediately in these courts,” Rev. Jesse Jackson said.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the Civil Rights Division is monitoring legislative activity in the states as they routinely do.



Obama is still a champion fundraiser, but outside groups will narrow the advantage.




Obama is winning the PR war with GOP over debt ceiling

If Mitch McConnell’s debt ceiling punt proposal was born out of an awareness that Republicans are losing the public relations battle over the debt ceiling, new numbers from Quinnipiac confirm that he would be right.

The poll finds that the public agrees with Obama’s arguments on taxes, which have emerged as central to this fight. A large majority, 67 percent, says the debt ceiling compromise should include tax hikes for the rich and corporations. Only 25 percent side with the GOP position that the deal should only include spending cuts.

What’s more, a plurality accepts Obama’s framing of the issue. Forty five percent think Obama’s revenue proposals constitute “closing loopholes,” versus only 37 percent who see them as “tax hikes.” This is a crucial finding: The GOP strategy seems to have been premised on the idea that Dems would have to blink if Republicans uniformly labeled any Dem revenue proposal as a tax increase, but the public is apparently willing to entertain nuance on the issue.

Also: Americans would blame the GOP over Obama, 48-34, if the debt ceiling doesn’t get raised. And marginally more (45) think not raising it would harm the economy than think raising it would increase spending (43).

There are some bad numbers in here for Obama. Large numbers say his approach will impact the middle class and disapprove of his handling of the economy and deficit, and economic pessimism is running high. The economy may very well trump all in the end, reducing the debt ceiling brawl to minor sideshow status.

But when it comes to the debt limit impasse that’s now consuming Washington, the public now seems to generally view the argument on Obama’s terms.

* Public opinion on Dems’ side of Dems on taxes: Nate Silver runs the numbers and confirms what we all knew already: The GOP’s implacable opposition to any tax or revenue increases is far outside the mainstream. As Silver says, Dems shouldn’t back down in this fight, because public opinion is on their side.



Voters still blame Bush for the country’s economic woes


American voters disapprove 56 – 38 percent of the way President Barack Obama is handling the economy, but by 45 – 38 percent they trust the president more than congressional Republicans to handle the economy, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

The country is in a recession, 71 percent of American voters say, but by 54 – 27 percent they blame former President George W. Bush more than President Obama.


Quinnipiac poll finds more voters would blame GOP on debt

Forty-eight percent of those polled said Republicans would be mainly responsible if the debt ceiling is not raised, compared to 34 percent who said the Obama administration.

Twenty percent of Republicans would hold their party mainly responsible, and 49 percent of the independent voters both parties are trying to attract would put more responsibility on the GOP. Thirty-three percent of independents would put more responsibility on the administration.

The poll comes after Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) offered a stern warning to his party on Wednesday, saying the GOP brand would be destroyed if there was a default on the debt.

Lawmakers and the White House face an Aug. 2 deadline to reach a deal. After that date, the Treasury Department would no longer be able to pay all of the nation’s bills, and businesses and government officials have warned of stern economic consequences.

President Obama on Tuesday said he could not guarantee that Social Security checks would be sent out on Aug. 3.

The economy has been an anchor on Obama’s approval ratings, and several polls have shown voters unhappy with his handling of the economy.

But the Quinnipiac poll shows respondents blame former President George W. Bush much more than the current president for the problems.

Fifty-four percent blame Bush more for the economy, compared to 27 percent who say Obama is more to blame. More than twice as many independents blame Bush than Obama.

By a 56-38 percent margin, voters disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy in the Quinnipiac poll, but they still trust him to handle the economy better than congressional Republicans by a 45-38 percent margin.

The majority of voters disapprove of the way both Democrats and Republicans are “handling their job” in Congress, with Democrats’ approval rating just slightly beating Republicans’ at 28 compared to 26 percent.

Most voters (67 percent) also aligned with Democrats in wanting tax hikes on “the wealthy and corporations” as part of a deficit-reduction package. Republicans have said they would agree to no tax hikes as part of a deal.

Forty-five percent of voters think Obama’s proposals to raise revenues are “closing loopholes” rather than “tax hikes,” compared to 37 percent who think the opposite. But 57 percent of those voters also said the proposals would hurt the middle class.

The president’s job approval rating remains unchanged from a June survey at 47 percent, with 38 percent approving of “the way Barack Obama is handling the economy.”

The poll surveyed 2,311 registered voters nationwide from July 5 to 11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points.



Two Polls Confirm That People Want Tax Hikes in a Debt Deal, As if That Matters

Exhibit A: Gallup finds that only 20 percent of Americans want the debt limit deal to include only spending cuts, with no tax hikes.

Exhibit B: Gallup also finds that only 26 percent of Republicans — Republicans! — feel that way.

Exhibit C: Quinnipiac finds that only 25 percent of voters, albeit 48 percent of Republicans, believe the deal should include “include only spending cuts,” while most believe it should “include an increase in taxes for the wealthy and corporations.” The adherents of the latter position include 66 percent of independents and 67 percent of all voters.

And here’s the beautiful trap that Democrats find themselves in. As it was in 2001, as it was at the end of 2010, higher tax rates on the rich and fewer loopholes for the advantaged (as opposed to tax giveaways for lower-income voters) are very popular. But the opposition party is resolutely against any tax cuts, ever. That doesn’t just make it politically difficult to raise taxes. It shifts the reality in D.C. and the punditocracy. In polls, the Bernie Sanders position of a deal that’s 50 percent tax hikes and 50 percent cuts is the most popular option — 32 percent support in Gallup. In Washington, it’s what the crazy socialist thinks — the rest of us agree that you can’t raise taxes.






There’s Hidden Union Busting in Congressman Issa’s Postal Reform Bill

Act Would Essentially Eliminate Collective Bargaining

Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) recently introduced postal reform bill closely follows the strategy of Republican governors who are using budget problems to attack collective bargaining rights and weaken political opponents. This strategy ignores alternative methods of closing budget shortfalls and instead insists that public employee pay is the cause of budget gaps and that collective bargaining must go.

Rep. Issa’s proposed Postal Reform Act isn’t the frontal assault on collective bargaining being pushed by Govs. Scott Walker in Wisconsin and John Kasich in Ohio but instead closely adheres to the strategy of Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to empower “emergency” managers to unilaterally modify collective bargaining agreements. Such powers effectively end any real ability for workers to bargain collectively.

Rep. Issa’s bill would create a Solvency Authority that can “after meeting and conferring with the appropriate bargaining representative … reject, modify, or terminate 1 or more terms or conditions of an existing collective bargaining agreement.” That’s virtually identical language to the Michigan law that allows the emergency manager to “after meeting and conferring with the appropriate bargaining representative … reject, modify, or terminate 1 or more terms and conditions of an existing collective bargaining agreement.”

The Michigan law, which passed in March, is already being used to attack collective bargaining rights. The emergency fiscal manager of the Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb, issued layoff notices to all teachers in the public school system in April. Bobb then immediately moved to renegotiate the union’s contract. The emergency fiscal management powers granted to Bobb require him to only “meet and confer” with representatives from the public unions, not bargain in good faith—which is required for collective bargaining to have any meaning.

To be sure, the U.S. Postal Service faces significant budget challenges that need to be addressed.[1] USPS reported that it will exhaust its borrowing authority in fiscal year 2011 and be unable to make a mandatory $5.5 billion Retiree Health Benefits Fund payment on September 30, 2011. Collective bargaining isn’t the cause of the problem, however. And there are other viable solutions that don’t require undermining basic rights for workers.

The USPS, a normally self-funding agency of the federal government, has run deficits since FY 2007 due to a provision in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 that requires the USPS to prefund retiree health benefits. The private sector and virtually all other government agencies use the “pay-as-you-go” method to account for retiree health benefits.[2] It isn’t exactly fair to blame collective bargaining for the USPS using a different accounting standard than its competitors, especially since the USPS is required by law to “maintain compensation and benefits for all officers and employees on a standard of comparability to the compensation and benefits paid for comparable levels of work in the private sector.”

The Congressional Research Service determined that without the prefunding provision of the PAEA, the Post Office wouldn’t have had an operating deficit until FY 2009 and only a very small one after that.[3] The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General and the Postal Regulatory Commission argue that the prefunding of retiree health benefits should be reexamined to possibly reduce payments to the Civil Service Retirement System.[4] Other alternatives to bring USPS back into the black include increasing postal rates and expanding the retail operations of USPS.[5]

But instead of considering these alternatives, Rep. Issa appears motivated by an antilabor ideology. The congressman went so far as to call a hearing to criticize the postmaster general for negotiating a contract with a USPS union that saved “only” $3.8 billion over the next four-and-a-half years. Rep. Issa thought the contract should have included even more concessions from the union, arguing that “costs must be reduced to align them with falling mail volume and declining revenue projections.”

Rep. Issa appears to relish scrapping the collective bargaining process and drastically slashing employee benefits. He thinks Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker has the right approach to dealing with budget problems, stating “Governor Walker’s actions to cut spending and address over-compensation of public employees are putting his state government in a stronger financial position.”

Moreover, he rejected the approach of the other prominent Republican bill on this topic—introduced in February by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME)—that addresses the Postal Service’s underlying financial issues without giving emergency managers the power to overturn collective bargaining.

Another example of Rep. Issa’s political agenda is that he chose to intervene in an ongoing case by the National Labor Relations Board before the agency reaches a decision. The NLRB is judging whether Boeing Corp. broke the law when company officials stated they moved an airplane production line to a nonunion plant in South Carolina because employees struck at their Washington facility. Companies have the right to locate plants wherever they want but it’s illegal to retaliate against workers who exercise legally protected rights such as the right to strike.

Rep. Issa held a hearing on June 17, 2011, on the Boeing case and compelled the agency’s general counsel to testify about the ongoing case. Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote in a letter to Rep. Issa that the hearing has “a serious potential for improper interference with a pending case involving private parties and a disturbing disregard for what that interference could mean for the due process rights of those parties.” At the hearing, Rep. Issa clearly laid out his intimidation agenda by warning that Congress “could eliminate the NLRB or take the premise and statutorily change it.”

Rep. Issa’s targeting of postal employees shows that the war on workers’ rights is not just in state capitols but is also at the post office. Any bill that Congress passes to address budget issues at the USPS needs to strip out these nasty and unnecessary attacks on workers. The Postal Service needs real reform and not political maneuvering from the right-wing playbook.

New Hampshire Right to Work Bill copied word for word from ALEC






Rachel Maddow, There Is Much, Much More To The Story of Rick Perry’s Apostles

[…] Perry’s endorsers are not just a random group of radical evangelists making outrageous statements.

These are the apostles and prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation, the biggest international religious movement you never heard of.

C. Peter Wagner, the one in the video clip about the Japanese stock market plunging because the emperor slept with the sun goddess, is probably the most powerful religious leader that you never heard of.

C. Peter Wagner

Peter Wagner is the Convening Apostle of a international network of apostles and prophets who believe they are unifying the church to take control over government and society, and bring about the return of Jesus.  The apostles have a 50-state communications and mobilization network of “prayer warriors,” which is becoming increasingly enticing to right-wing politicians.  Remember Sarah Palin’s repeated thanks to her prayer warrriors?  This was not a generic use of the term, as described in a previous Alternet article by Bill Berkowitz in 2010.

Wagner coined the term New Apostolic Reformation, and describes his movement as “the most radical  change in the way of doing church since the Protestant Reformation.”  The movement primarily draws from the Independent Charismatic sector of Christianity, which encompasses almost 400 million people worldwide and is sometimes referred to as neo-Pentecostal or neo-Charismatic. The latter description is used in the World Christian Trends, the gold standard for statistics for the evangelical missions movement.

Wagner is the brains behind the demon and witch-hunting that is part of Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare, or SLSW, that has drawn interest throughout much of the charismatic evangelical world.  With the aid of some of his top apostles including Cindy Jacobs and Ed Silvoso, Wagner developed and promoted the SLSW techniques of spiritual mapping, warfare prayer, and “Reconciliation” events.  The latter are are claimed to remove the “generational curses” from certain population groups such as Native Americans, African Americans, Roman Catholics, and those of non-Christian faiths.

Sam Brownback’s promotion of the U.S. Senate’s resolution of apology to Native Americans was in coordination with Apostles Jay Swallow, Nigel Bigpond, Lou Engle, and John Benefiel, who believe the removal of a generational curse will bring an end to abortion.

The video clip of Wagner’s claim that the Japanese stock market slump could be explained because the emperor had sexual intercourse with the sun goddess, is from a Wagner video seminar series.  It’s titled Breaking Strongholds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective, and Targeted. The training series is introduced by Jack Hayford, former head of the International Foursquare Gospel, who has played a pivotal role in Pentecostals embracing Wagner’s New Apostolic movement and ideology.

While you may be tempted to chuckle and brush off this sudden onslaught of information about the apostles – their burning of other people’s religious objects and claims that the Statue of Liberty, monuments, and Indian mounds are demonic – don’t.  Chances are the apostles have a prayer warrior group or “Transformations” entity in your city or region.

The Global Day of Prayer initiated by South African Graham Power is a product of this movement and much Religious Right activism in this country has been commandeered by the movement.  Religious Right leaders like James Dobson, former head of Focus on Family, and Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, have participated in events led by the apostles, as have numerous other traditional Religious Right leaders.  American Family Association is sponsoring Rick Perry’s event, whose organizers include leadership of Lou Engle’s The Call and Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer.

International Christian Zionist activism is increasingly dominated by the New Apostolics.  John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and another endorser of Rick Perry’s prayer event, teaches a different end times theology.  However, many of his CUFI directors are New Apostolic leaders and support the aggressive proselytization of Jews and “Israel Mandates” that characterize the movement.

C. Peter Wagner was Rick Warren’s mentor for his dissertation at Fuller Theological Seminary.  That dissertation was the foundation for Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church, which was followed by Warren’s blockbuster book The Purpose Driven Life.  Warren’s dissertation promoted the idea, also advanced by Wagner’s movement, that evangelical churches should not be democratically governed.

Wagner has written about Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. plan as being “Phase One” in a God-given mandate for Christians to take “dominion” or control over the earth. Wagner describes Phase one as, “strategic-level spiritual warfare and associated activities have not been placed front and center.”  This takes place in Phase Two and Phase Three, as Wagner defines it, includes the apostolic/prophetic government of the church, dominion theology, the Seven Mountains mandate, and the great wealth transfer.  The latter is the belief taught by the apostles that there will be an imminent transfer of wealth from the ungodly to the godly. The Seven Mountains mandate is the call for charismatic evangelicals to take control over arts, business, education, family, government, media and entertainment and religion

In the late 1990s, Wagner was finishing up his leadership role in a massive world missions project called AD 2000 and Beyond, which aimed to evangelize the world by the year 2000. Billy Graham served as the honorary co-chair of the effort.  Wagner left his 30-year position teaching Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary to move to Colorado Springs and set up the nerve center of the New Apostolic Reformation.  His partner in this enterprise was Ted Haggard, who would later lead the National Association of Evangelicals.  What could be described as the Pentagon of Spiritual Warfare, was set up in the World Prayer Center adjacent to Haggard’s New Life Church.

Haggard had worked with Wagner in AD2000 and Beyond, and Haggard wrote in his book The Life Giving Church that their worldwide prayer network involved 40 million people at its peak.  Haggard promoted the spiritual warfare ideas of the movement, including conducting “spiritual mapping” of his community of Colorado Springs.  He claimed this effort drove witches out of the town and, in Haggard’s words, resulted in reduced cattle mutilations.  This tidbit can be found in Haggard’s 1996 book Primary Purpose.

While Warren and Haggard became well known to the public, Wagner managed to stay completely out of the limelight as he developed a global religious network.  His apostles in this movement can be found in countries around the world, meeting with presidents, prime ministers, business leaders, and politicians.

Apostles and Politics

In the U.S., in addition to Sarah Palin and Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Jim DeMint, and many others have participated in events led by the apostles.  In Jacksonville, Florida, Kimberly Daniels, a leading apostle specializing in demon expulsion was recently elected to city council – as a Democrat.  In the primaries prior to the 2010 election, Hawaii’s gubernatorial race included two candidates working closely with Apostle Ed Slivoso’s International Transformation Network – Republican Duke Aiona and Democrat Mufi Hannemann.

This is ironic, given that Aiona is Catholic and Hannemann is Mormon.  These two faiths have been literally demonized by the New Apostolic leadership, who have written openly about destroying the icons, artifacts, and relics of these and other religious beliefs. Leading apostles go on spiritual warfare ventures around the world with the goal of taking on the “Queen of Heaven,” described by Wagner as “one of the most powerful spirits in Satan’s hierarchy” and responsible for blocking the evangelization of both Catholics and Muslims.   Wagner has written extensively about one particular venture in 1997 called “Operation Ice Castle,” led by Wagner’s wife and a lead prophetess, and later described as perhaps contributing to the death of Mother Teresa.

In 2008, after Sarah Palin was named as John McCain’s running mate, contributors at published tens of thousands of words documenting Palin’s ties to leadership and activities of the New Apostolic Reformation.  Despite having video and audio documentation, the idea of a specific network of apostles and prayer warriors was treated with derision by most of the mainstream press, and many academics and religion writers.

The video of Palin being anointed by an Kenyan pastor in a ceremony that included calls for protection from witchcraft, was discounted as overblown and part of the Kenyan  pastor’s native cultural heritage.  The reality is that Thomas Muthee was an international leader in Wagner’s network and well known around the world in some circles for his role as a star in movement’s training films called The Transformations.  These movies are produced by George Otis, Jr. and  feature vignettes of communities around the globe that have supposedly been transformed through this prayer movement of the end times. The crowning jewel in this series of transformations is supposedly the nation of Uganda, site of several Transformations movies.

The spiritual mapping and spiritual warfare techniques taught by the movement are the product of Wagner and other western missionaries, as described in an extensive academic treatment of spiritual mapping, written by Rene Holvast.  The overview of my well-worn copy of this resource states, “The reader is presented with a unique insight into Spiritual Mapping as an expression of Americanism, as well as the socio-political concept of Manifest Destiny and U.S. religious marketing.”

Other’s dismissed the investigation of Palin’s association with the apostles as an attack on conservative Christianity.  However, outside of the progressive writers at and PFAW’s Right Wing Watch, almost all of the critical media on the apostles has come from conservative evangelicals. Many evangelicals are opposed to the dominion theology and politicized Christianity taught by the movement, as well as their goal of eradicating denominations and restructuring world Protestantism.

In 2008, Palin’s religious activities were brushed off as either weird, none of our business, or overhyped.  There was little serious effort by the press, including religion writers, to analyze her relationship to a movement that threatens religious pluralism and separation of church and state. Numerous journalists used sources at Charisma Magazine to dismiss the documentation being released by contributors of and other sources.  This was questioning the fox about who ate the chickens.  At that time both the publisher of Charisma, Stephen Strang, and editor, J. Lee Grady, were apostles in C. Peter Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles.

The offhanded dismissal of the apostles has already started.

C. Porter Wagner?

Cathy Lynn Grossman, writing for USA Today, discounted the efforts of Right Wing Watch to expose the New Apostolic network behind Perry’s event.  She implies that Perry should not be held accountable for the evangelists who endorse his event and failed to note that the organizers, not just endorsers, include leaders from this movement.  Grossman referred to C. Peter Wagner, one of the most influential religious leaders in the country, if not the world, as “C. Porter Wagner.”

Grossman states that one source knows that the American Family Association “is running this show.”  It is true that the AFA, designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is financing the event, but they are not the sole organizers of the event.  And I would be a little wary of Grossman’s source, which has a vested interest in how this event is publicized.  Her source was Charisma Magazine.


Are Anti-Abortion Groups Trying to Keep Women Away From the Polls?






Jesus Bandaids – (15 bandaids per box) (Size: 1” x 3” each bandage)

[Actually, I get it.]



Just… no comment:

Bachmann’s “Choot-spa”

Anyway, Seinfeld in Yiddish

Jon Stewart and Jerry Seinfeld: Repression therapy in comedy



“I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.” ~~ Thomas Jefferson

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Cher, An post to share in the DP from the Reid Report. Why do we have to fight both the left and the right with facts?

Barack Obama and the myth of the progressive ‘majorities’

Closing Gitmo: Denied.

In May 2009, only six Senate Democrats voted against denying the president the funds the administration requested to close Gitmo:

Durbin (D-IL)
Harkin (D-IA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Reed (D-RI)
Whitehouse (D-RI)

Who’s not on that list? Russ Feingold, a hero of the angry progressives, and even Bernie Sanders, who some progressives would like to see primary Barack Obama next year. Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd were ill, and Jay Rockefellar abstained. Everyone else sided with Republicans.

Why hasn’t Obama closed Gitmo with a progressive majority, what a failure!

Much more here:


I used to have a lot of choot-spa but my brother-in-law raided my refrigerator and ate it all.


From “On Cataline” by Julius Caesar:

It becomes all men, Conscript Fathers, who deliberate on dubious matters, to be influenced neither by hatred, affection, anger, nor pity. The mind, when such feelings obstruct its view, cannot easily see what is right; nor has any human being consulted, at the same moment, his passions and his interest. When the mind is freely exerted, its reasoning is sound; but passion, if it gain possession of it, becomes its tyrant, and reason is powerless.

This applies to today. Just as it applied then.


No doubt, anger is the biggest block to rationality there is. Then jealousy and hate, which contribute largely to anger.


The best way to make a million in America these days is to drive to the heartland, set up a booth starting a new religion that worships The New Corporate Communism in a Qwikie-Mart parking lot, anoint the heathens with Holy Boehner tears and charge a tithing to view the likeness of Michelle Bachmann on Pringle’s potato chip.


Hey Questinia, so good to see you! Hope all is well with you!

Actually, considering how plentiful Boehner tears are, why not create a fountain for them, like Lourdes, people can make pilgrimages to it and use it’s anti-curative powers to destroy their personal finances or lose their health care.

And people can be charged a lot of money for that which goes directly to corporations who whisper things in Boehner’s ear that make him cry more (“Obama is destroying our country with socialism!”), supplying more Boehner tears to undermine more lives.

Michele Bachmann could open a “Guess Your Gayness” booth with her husband (who I hear has a real gift at this for some reason), Sarah Palin could sell officially red hot branded Palin Sacrificial Lambs and Tim Pawlenty could sell t-shirts with his image next to that of Ross Perot’s old VP nominee, James Stockwell with his memorable quote, “Who am I? Why am I here?”.


1.) Let’s not apply Christian values to the budget.

“Sell all that you own and follow me.”

2.) I agree with Mr.(?) Karoli. “Full of sound and fury signifying nothing”.

3.)President Obama is gonna have A LOT of tough choices. On August 3 and beyond. I know he won’t always make the “right decision” but I trust he will put more thought into it than anyone else, and that’s really all you can ask. We got disagreements but I still support the man.

4.) I was so glad to see that article on Greece. All I’ve heard for a year and a half is how we’re gonna end up like Japan, Greece, or some other country in Europe with .00000000000000000001% of our economy. You CANNOT apply the same rules to us that you apply to the rest of the world. That isn’t arrogance, it’s just a fact. I see so few articles that validate my world view. Thanks Cher. 🙂

5.)This is the “war on education” I’ve been waiting for. Don’t misunderstand me, I don;t wanna see hard times befall the education system but hard times are coming whether I would wish it or not. And, yes,I do have a vote on the education system. And a ton of other things. But most people don’t vote on issues. They vote for whichever fuck can promise them the most bullshit.

6.)That seems to be the American way now a days. In education, business, police work, the military. Don’t spend more money to make better people, just lower the standards. Sure, you’ll get a bunch of fat, racist, uneducated policemen but at least you get policemen, right?

7.)I think a lot of people miss the fact that the EPA makes “suggestions”. The EPA says, “This is fucked up, here’s what we should probably do.” Then Congress does it. Congress passes the laws. The EPA merely cites and enforces regulations related to the law.

8.)Shut up Chuck Todd! You fucking idiot. When I wanna hear from you I’ll shove my arm up your ass and work you like a puppet. ‘Cause that’s what you are.

9.)The sooner both Parties die, the better off we’ll all be. Any system that actively divides the country is a severe detriment to our democracy.

10.)And Obama will be fine. The person who raises the most money wins a vast majority of the time. People are easily bought by 15 second TV ads. Just ask W.

11.)Hope McConnell’s idea doesn’t catch on to the people at large. ‘Cause we will vote for it. We’ll vote for anything that tells us we don’t have to pay taxes. No matter how stupid it is. As per your example, just ask California.

12.)I question the polls that shows Americans wanting tax hikes(of course I question all polls). Go ahead, “raise taxes”. See how long they applaud you. We all say the “right thing” when we know it isn’t gonna happen.

13.)”Money, not morality, is the principle commerce of civilized nations.” ~Thomas Jefferson


My view is that Bachmann will crash and burn. Her shtick cannot hold up. I do not know if we have seen the GOP nominee yet; but, of those we have seen, Romney looks better than any of the rest.


I think that karoli has it right, as does Larry O’Donell.

I see the GOP having a real problem passing a budget, which is SOP in Washington. All this talk about a balanced budger is talk. Congess, basically, cannot pass one. Congress can neither cut spending, nor raise taxes. This Congress is no different.


Just when you think Michelle Bachmann may have become disciplined enough to stay on message and stop with the crazy stuff, she comes out with something else to make my day! “Choots-pah”??? Really?? What a balloon head, as Chris Matthews called her!


Cher, that is the first quote of the day that I have already known. It’s great how many bullets Jefferson gives us against these people that claim reverence to our founding fathers. I fired a few of them off yesterday at my local republican and he quickly changed his arguments to obsessive repetition of the same unsupported assertions but without the founding fathers reference.

Polls should influence policy but until we have all politicians actually care about popular opinion then there is no reason to expect those who align themselves with the top one percent to change their ways.